l;ylfu8iy[ Sawatdee krap !
Please note: This is still a draft page (June 2002).
Welcome to Krung Thep - di6'gmr
- the original City of Angels in the beautiful
kingdom of Thailand also known as the Land of Smiles.
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As a starter get yourself the Lonely Planet Guide for Bangkok (either the one for all of Thailand or just Bangkok) it does indeed contain invaluable information and is a great buy. Another great book is from the Travelers' Tales series, this one on Thailand. An excellent book that has won awards and is in its second edition as of June 2002.
A good and substantial site for general information (hotels, attractions, maps, restaurants etc.) is Bangkoksite.com
Note: all Thai Baht to US$ conversions have been done at US$1.00
= 44 Thai Baht
South East Asian Site of the Northern Illinois University: This site is HUGE! (+500 MB plus, +26,000 files) and apparently is the complete intensive Thai course that the university teaches. It includes images, sound files, dictionaries etc., an exceptional free site, not even the Linguaphone course at US$400 comes close to this.
Learning Thai: a nice compact site in comparison to the one above.
If you want to be a real suicidal daredevil you can take a ride on one of the motorcycle drivers for hire that go for 10 Baht upwards depending on traffic, the more traffic the more they charge the logic being that while you do indeed risk life and limb you get to your destination quickly when otherwise you would be stuck in traffic for hours. I have heard it said that some people pay these maniacs extra to drive slowly! They in turn say that the most dangerous thing on the road are old rich women in huge cars who do not know how to drive. ;-)
The Bangkok Transport System better known as the SkyTrain or BTS is a very quick, cheap, air-conditioned and convenient method of getting around the newer centers of town along Sukhumvit and northwards to the Mo Chit where the weekend market is located or to the Chao Phraya river to catch the cheapest thrill in Bangkok, the 8 Baht river ride, see below. It is a big shame though that the Silom line has not been extended into the old part of town. I heard various reasons for this, lack of money and the desire to keep the old part of town as is, I think it is the former after the financial collapse of 1997. Prices range from 10 - 40 Baht, you must pay by coin in order to get a boarding ticket, you will find change windows at every BTS station.
Lots of transportation info can be found at: Bangkokian
BTS info is at: BTS Home Page
I like Techno/House music and apparently so do quite a bit of the locals. There is a relatively new dance club on Sukhumvit Soi 12 called Ministry of Sound which I presume is based on the club with the same name in London. The place is amazing! The latest in Light and Sound technology, the lasers are really cool. The couple of times I went to it I had a blast.
Entry fee is 500 Baht (300 Baht Sunday - Thursday) per person and that includes 2 drinks. This is very expensive by Thai standards but the place was packed with locals, which is great otherwise you might as well have stayed in your home country. The place opens at 22:00 till about 2:00. Strange hours if you ask me but then these supposedly apply to ALL night locations, though they are not necessarily enforced, depending on the owners relation with the police.
If you have not already done enough during the day then head out to Patpong. I am certain you have heard of the more nefarious side of the place but it has turned into a tourist mecca for fake goods. Shoes, Belts, Jeans, Rolex Watches, Hermes Handbags, Cool Shades, you will find it all, fake of course. The prices that are first asked for by the sales people at Patpong are ridiculous, don't be fooled into paying too much, remember you are not buying quality you are buying a cheap imitation made of inferior materials, so pay for what you get not what other people may think you have bought. So if you are asked to pay 300 Baht for a belt you can get it for about 120 Baht - if you manage to drive a hard bargain. Polo Shirts go for around the same and are not of cotton but a blend of about +50% polyester. I do not recommend buying them, I regret having bought the few I did (at 120-150 Baht), and just ended giving them away.
If you want some tips on the fine art of bargaining try this site: Into Asia
There are hundreds of traditional Thai massage places in Bangkok.
However I have a favorite chain, they have 7 places all over the city and
one at the airport, and are called LEK. You can get a 1-hour foot
massage for 300 Baht (US$ 6.80), try to get that back home. I averaged
about one visit every other day, whence I would recline in comfortable
(there were about 7 in a row at the store across of the Novotel Siam Sq.),
sip my chinese tea, and drift off while my feet, and calves were given
a thorough massage, heavenly! Some people actually fall asleep it
is so relaxing. And don't be stingy, these women work hard for their
money and still earn a pittance in comparison to us farangs. So give
generously if you had a good massage; I usually tipped another 100 Baht
(US$2.30) which for me came to a total of Baht 350, I got a 50 Baht quantity
discount in case you were wondering :-D
Traditional Thai Massage:
There are many varieties head & shoulder to full body massage with/without oil. My favorite place is next to LEK mentioned above across from Novotel Siam Sq. It is called Palace and they have been around for over 20 years! Several people I know who went there gave excellent recommendations. I had a head and shoulder massage but the girl who did it was very good, 300 Baht for 1 hour. Two friends of mine had a full body massage for 500 Baht for 2 hours and loved it. The full body oil massage is supposed to be great but I never tried it, 1200 Baht for 2 hours (the extra expense is for the oil and I think you can also shower in the place). Again, tip generously if you got a good massage, it is good for your Karama! Porn (I know, I know, they do have strange nick names and apparently are not aware of what they mean in English) is an excellent masseuse at this place.
The temple at Wat Po near the Grand Palace has a whole public massage
school and will give lessons for a few hundred Baht. Something fun
to do I have heard though have not tried it myself. Lots of tourists
National Museum : Detailed site with maps, and images of the extensive collection of Traditional and Historical Thai articfacts.
Vimanmek Teak Mansion : Nice single-page with historical information and pictures of this very interesting building.
In case you are a vegetarian like I am then you might want to check out this page at happycow.net No, I do not eat fish, fish are not vegetables contrary to some peoples belief!
Here is another link to vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok: Link
Excellent Thai food. My friends and I are vegetarian and the cook just threw something together that was amazing. We paid about 450 Baht each (all in) which is outrageous by local standards of 20-30 Baht street vendor meals. But relative to prices back home it was a bargain for the quality of food. The equivalent in London at Busaba Eat Thai would cost about 1300 Baht and the food is not as good!
5/1 Sukhumvit Soi 24
About 80 meters up the street on the left.
BTS stop: Phrom Phong (take the SE exit and walk about a block and Soi 24 will be on the right)
Good Indian Cuisine at reasonable prices
Sukhumvit between Sois 5 and 6
BTS stop: Nana (take the NW Exit and it is right on your right)
There is a good little Thai curry place just of the south eastern exit
on the BTS Siam Square station. I don't recall the name but they
have a vegetarian menu that you specifically have to ask for, several times,
in case they say they do not have it, not all the staff are aware of it.
Another place: Name (eludes me),
This place was recommended by Lonely Planet Bangkok but my friends and I did not think much of it, the food was only average and prices were too high for this quality.
- An online site to actually buy items form this marktet: jjweekendmarket Gives you an idea of what you can find in the market.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
- Walking Tour of China Town (Looks suspiciously like a copy out of the Lonely Planet Bangkok book including the map)
Other picture links:
Cheapest Thrill in Bangkok: Take an 8 Baht river ride in a Thai River bus. Get there by the BTS Silom line, get off at the Saphan Taksin Station at the southern end of the line and walk to the river, 100 meters, and take a boat up river to somewhere around Wat Arun.
Telephone Calls and Internet Cafés
Telephone calls overseas are expensive in Thailand! To save money go to one of the small local shops that advertise international direct dialing. They are all over the place in the side streets of Sukhumvit.
Internet cafés are all over the place. Prices range from 15 Baht/hour all the way to 1,000 Baht/hour (no this is not a typo!). The further out of the city center you go the cheaper it gets. Along Sukhumvit Rd. at about Soi 31 and upwards prices are in the 60 Baht/hour range. The Emporium shopping mall has a nice open style internet cafe for 80 Baht/hour and you can get a nice cup of coffee/cappuccino. Closer to Siam Square in the MBK Mall there is a cafe on the 7th floor for 40 Baht/hour (but you need earplugs to last long up there across a video arcade!). Others recommed the cafe in the World Trade Center (it never is crowed). Of course you can always go to the business center in your hotel and pay 250 Baht for 15 minutes!
Note: Minimum charges apply almost everywhere so check first.
Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about Bangkok or would like recommendations about a particular venue and I will gladly try to find out what I can. Email me: Websheikh
S c a m s
One last word of warning. There are numerous scams going on in Bangkok, as everywhere in the world, remember the well known Nigeria scam that still is fooling people out of £10,000s annually. I ran into one of the more common variety more than once. It goes like this.
You are on you own somewhere admiring the wonderfully ornate Thai Wat architecture when someone approaches you in a very friendly manner. This someone can be either a Thai (man or woman) or even a Farang (foreigner - I met an American who was in on this scam) and will strike up a friendly conversation. Eventually this conversation gets around to 'business' - Gem Stones. Thailand is a well known market for gems. A good scamster will make it seem as if you were the one who brought up the subject of gems. He will then tell you that he is making a killing on gems, mainly saphires, by buying them cheaply in Thailand and then selling them to well know jewelry stores in the West and making a profit of 200-300%! Risk Free!! He will even name you well known Jewelry chains stores, Wemp, Zales, Christies etc. and say that he and his colleagues have good business contacts with them and that if you take your gem stones to these stores and say that you are coming from so and so you will get paid a better price and make even more profit. But here is the catch. You have to buy the gems today. Why? Because it is the last day of a once-in-a-lifetime sale that the government (trying to make is sound legitimate) is allowing at the well known Export Center (BTW - there are dozens in Bangkok). Individuals will never be allowed to buy at the whole sale prices ever again!! Hurry!!!!
Sounds too good to be true? It is. You end up buying 'gems' that are then only worth a tenth of what you paid for them. Good luck with a refund!
Out of curiosity I went to one of these Export Centers (Expo Centah as they say). The minute I walked in I must have surprised everyone because I did not wait for the guy outside to be able to ring the bell to alert everyone inside that another customer/victim was arriving. They (about 8-9 people) must have been having a slow day as they all seemed to have been napping. I asked to see the certificates of the store and the ones I would get if I bought some gems. The ones I was shown looked worse than anything I can get out of my color printer at home! I suppressed a laugh and just looked around being the only 'customer' there at the time. In under 5 minutes they had figured out that I was not falling for the scam and they ALL lost interest and just ignored me. It was quite amusing.
This is just one of the scams going on. It is easy to avoid being hassled by this scam, you invariably will be asked how long you have been in Bangkok, say 2 weeks or more, these scamers like to prey on new arrivals because they rightly assume that the longer you've been in Bangkok the more likely you will have heard about this scam.
I can also understand why they exist. Without justifying their actions put your western life style in perspective to theirs, who earn only a pittance compared to your river of money. An average Thai will earn about 5,000-10,000 Baht = US$113-226 a month in Bangkok or about US$3.80-7.60 a day, and even less outside of Bangkok. This is less than 33% of what a German auto-factory worker makes in an hour!! All they are trying to do is share in your relative wealth. Thus I firmly believe in generous tipping for good service even when most travel guides advise that it is not a wide spread practice in Thailand. And don't be stingy! Enough moralizing. :-)
Bottom Line: Be wary of buying anything expensive in Thailand unless you know 100% what you are doing.