Bangkok is the capital and largest city of Thailand. It is considered as one of the worlds 22 mega cities. It offers plenty of historical and cultural wonders. Today it has one of the fastest rates of construction of high rise buildings. Currently it is the most densely populated in Southeast Asia. Moreover, it is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and a vibrant city with dazzling temples, shopping haven for bargain hunters, hawkers stalls offering exotic food, noisy markets, teak palaces, bars etc.
It is said that there's really no bad time to visit Thailand's capital, rain and extreme heat are less frequent between November and February. April is only recommended to those with portable air conditioners, while October brings the heaviest rains - these are probably the best times to be out of Thailand. The tourists flock to Bangkok in December and August, while the least crowded months tend to be May, June and September.
This was my first time to travel "out of the country". My hubby and I took the Philippine Airline package and it was pretty neat. Package inclusions a free daily buffet breakfast, private transfers to and from the airport and a half-day city tour. We stayed there for 4 days / 3 nights. We went there on September of 2002. Bangkok was stiflingly hot!
A funny thing happened at the airport, we were mistaken for Singaporeans by a Filipino couple. We just laughed and told them that we're also Filipinos.
We picked some of the latest edition of the maps that we saw at the airport. We had exchanged our US dollars at their Foreign Currency Exchange facility.
We stayed at First House Hotel, a three star hotel that offers good value standard accommodation. The hotel is well-situated in Pratunam area, a place well-known for its street markets, bazaar and local vendors. It is also near the World Trade Center, now renamed Central World Plaza. The largest shopping mall and office complex in Bangkok.
Bangkok has an extensive bus service with routes serving every part of the city. There are both air-conditioned blue buses and non air-conditioned red and green vehicles, which provide an extreme cheap way of getting around town.
One of the advanced type of urban railway is the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), an elevated heavy rail system.
Bangkok metered Taxis are available. Make sure the driver turns on the meter, especially if you're starting from the airport. Always have an exact amount, as taxi drivers don't often give change. Some drivers often charge tourists way over the odds for a journey that would cost only a few baht.
Passengers must pay tolls in the case of using an expressway. Please take note that most of the drivers don't speak / understand English.
They also have Motorcycle taxi. This is only for the adventurous one but extremely popular among Bangkokians because of the traffic congestion. Fares must be bargained in advance.
They have river taxis but these are just cross-river ferries.
The most popular is Tuk-Tuk, a three wheeled open- air vehicles taking two passengers (three or four at a squeeze), best for shorter trips and settle the fare before proceeding.
Beware! Most of these motorcycles are tourist traps especially along the temples and other tourist areas. Including the people offering an unsolicited advice and help. Though they may give legitimate locations and places, these people actually want to lead you to a jewelry shop or any other shops for you to buy stuffs, which in turn give them commissions from those shops.
We used the tuk tuk to get around the city and here's some of our tuk-tuk tourist trap experience on three separate occasions.
First ride, the driver brought us first to a jewelry shop before proceeding to our own destination. We ended up buying two big sterling silver rings, which cost us P3,500.00.
Second ride, the driver brought us to a tailoring shop without informing us. The confusing part was that we thought it was the place where we wanted to go. Anyway, the shop was selling expensive garments like silk and other stuff from India, which I think was triple than the original price. Guess what? The driver was a little bit irritated when we told him we didn't buy anything.
Third ride, We told the driver where we wanted to go and he nodded. As we were traveling along the street, he told us that he would drop us first to a shop. And I thought, "Oh no, here we go again!" (patience, patience).
We told him in a nice way with a big smile plastered on our faces, "Sorry but not now. We are not interested and we are in a hurry." But the driver kept on insisting, and we kept on repeating what we said. He continued to ignore us and we were whisked away to his planned destination. We really got pissed off and we shouted at him at the top of our lungs, "STOP! STOOOOOOP!!!" That was the only time he halted his motorcycle. We left immediately and looked for another tuk-tuk. We must have caused a commotion as locals where looking at us. Some of these drivers are really annoying! So beware!
Other information and tips:
Currency the Baht. Notes: 1,000 Baht (grey), 500 Baht (purple), 100 Baht (red), 50 Baht (Blue), 20 Baht, (green/grey and (grey). Coins are silver 1, 5, 10 Baht.
ATM Machines available at most banks and shopping centres throughout the city. Thai Baht only. ATMs generally have Thai and English language displays and will accept most internationally recognized foreign cards. Many ATM's will also accept cards under CIRRUS, Maestro, VISA or Mastercard system.
Trevelers Cheques / Credit Cards:
Most traveler checques can be cashed at banks. Take your passport or ID. Mastercard and VISA are widely accepted by major banks, restaurants and shops. AMEX, Diners are tend to be accepted only at upmarket venues.
Open Mon.-Fri. from 9:30am to3:30pm, except public and bank holidays.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE CENTRES
Operate in most tourist areas from 7:00am to 9:00pm, everyday, including holidays.
BE AWARE THAT:
There is a deep reverence for the Royal Family and you will find portraits of the Royal Family in shops and offices. At the cinema you must stand for the national anthem before the film is screened.
Thais don't normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture. A 'Wai' is the traditional Thai greeting of placing the hands together. Generally a younger person wais an elder, who returns it. DON'T initiate a 'wai', only reply to one. Do not 'wai' servants and children.
You should dress neatly in all temples. Don't go shirtless, in shorts, hot pants, spaghetti straps, etc. Remove your shoes when entering a private Thai home, a Buddhist temple.
Buddha images large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred. Don't take photographs or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.
It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.
Thai's regard the head as the highest part of the body and do not appreciate anyone touching them there, even as a friendly gesture.
DON''T drink the tap water. Bottled water is available everywhere.