In our Bangkok guide we'll talk about the main areas in the city you should be aware of. Bangkok is one of 77 provinces in Thailand (there are technically 76 provinces, or changwat, and Bangkok is a separate administrative area). Bangkok is then divided into 50 districts known as khet, each of which is then further divided into sub-districts known as khwaeng (those divisions are known as amphoe and tambon in all provinces outside of Bangkok). Nevertheless, short-term tourists to Bangkok usually spend time in just a few of these districts, and on a daily basis road names or less formal neighborhood names appear to be used more often than official district names.
When you are deciding where to stay it is useful to consider the following observations: Much of the nightlife, shopping and tourist attractions are generally found the around Sukhumvit, Silom and Rattanakosin, making these good areas for those on a brief stay visit. Siam is also a popular area especially for shopping. Bangkok provides all forms of accommodation, from five-star international chain hotels to smart luxury resorts, budget hotels, intimate guest houses and a growing number of hostels offering both dormitories and private rooms.
The area along the Sukhumvit Road, which is by the way Thailand's longest road, interesting for visitors. The areas range from Nana up to Ekkmai BTS stations and runs through downtown Bangkok offering a variety of interesting neighborhoods, they're all conveniently located next to the Skytrain (as well as the MRT station Asoke) and most are close to Bangkok's famous shopping malls in the areas (Emquartier, Terminal 21), as well as a wide selection of street food and drink opportunities. This is a rapidly developing part of the city, with condo hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping malls popping up all around the places.
Silom and neighboring Sathorn are two main roads located between the Chao Phraya river and Lumpini Park. This is Bangkok's main business area and is also a destination for nightlife fans, offering plenty of shopping options, a huge selection of restaurants, and easy access to the Skytrain, subway and river.
Rattanakosin’s old-town neighborhood, which is officially named after the district of Phra Nakhon and includes the Banglamphu neighborhood–brings you close to famous Buddhist temples and other tourist attractions such as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun as well as the backpacker’s area of the Khaosan Road. However it is somewhat cut off from Bangkok's main public transport (BTS / MRT) and shopping area.
There is also a great deal of places to stay along the river, and where you will find many of Bangkok's best hotels. It's easy to get by boat to many of the top tourist destinations and many hotels have their own shuttles dropping people off at Skytrain station. The riverbanks have become more and more the place where fancy restaurants and glittering shopping malls (Icon Siam) are located.
Other areas are becoming increasingly more interesting for tourists such as Ari, Huay Khwang etc. however please keep in mind that Bangkok is a metropolis with more than 8 million people always traffic congested, therefore you want to avoid being stuck in the traffic in location too far away from your interests.
There is a wide variety of public transportation in Bangkok and in our Bangkok guide we will go trough the most popular, visitors are most likely to use the BTS Skytrain, MRT subway, taxis, and tuk-tuks.
The BTS and MRT run every day from early morning to near midnight (although MRT stations close at 11.30pm). Tickets can be bought from machines on both platforms before catching the trains. Remember that inside the BTS or MRT food and drink are not allowed.
The BTS Skytrain has two main routes, the Sukhumvit line running from north Mo Chit to east Kheha and the Silom line running from west National Stadium to south Bang Wa – both lines converge at Siam station which is the exchange point.
The MRT subway, meanwhile, has two lines; the blue line currently runing from Hualamphong in the south (the main railway station to catch trains going all around the country) to Tao Poon in the north. After Hualamphong an extension has been added up to Lak Song and finally to Phuttamonthon. Meanwhile, the purple line runs from Tao Poon to Khlong Bang Phai, but that line may be of less interest to tourists than it is to commuters.
Taxis are numerous and easy to flag down anywhere in the city–but drivers are notoriously capricious, and scams are rife, so having them to actually go to your destination can prove something completely different. Always insist on the meter fare, which is inexpensive, and get out and flag down another vehicle if the driver refuses. An application which makes life much easier to tourists is Grab Taxi. Download it on your smartphone and will be able to select the route and car. The fee will be displayed on the smartphone and you won’t have problems explaining where to go or haggling.
Tuk-tuks are found mostly in tourist areas, around temples and other attractions in the neighborhood of Rattanakosin, and also in tourist popular areas such as Sukhumvit and Silom – again, they are renowned for overcharging foreign tourists who are unaccustomed to local prices, so come up with a little knowledge of what to pay and then decide on a fare before getting on.
Apart from taxis and tuk-tuks, the most convenient way to get from downtown Bangkok to Rattanakosin can be by catching a boat on the river, taking the Chaophraya River Express Boat (opt for one with the orange flag at the back of the boat) from the Sathorn pier adjacent to the Saphan Taksin BTS station (on the Silom line) and get off at the Phra Athit pier.
Both Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Muang (DMK) airports have taxis and a variety of buses to famous places in Bangkok. From Suvarnabhumi, you can also catch the Airport Rail Link from the airport to Phaya Thai station, where you can link to the BTS Skytrain, while Don Muang has a main railway station just across the road, where you can take the train to Hualamphong station; and a bus directed to Mo Chit BTS station.
Bangkok's main roads are known as thanon, as in Sukhumvit Road locally known as Thanon Sukhumvit. Numbered alleys (often quite large) are called soi, as in the nightlife-heavy Sukhumvit Soi 11. Most sois have names as well as numbers, but these are usually used only for larger sois. Trok, which are tiny lanes or alleys, is the smallest of all, but most visitors are unlikely to come up against too many of these.
In Thai cuisine, there are five basic tastes which can be described as following: spiciness, softness, bitterness, saltiness and sweetness – and diners usually are going to share a variety of dishes that combine these flavors along with complementary textures. Lemon grass, basil, coriander, galangal, chilli, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk and fermented fish sauce are just some of the hallmarks that bring these tastes to life.
One of Thai cuisine's less popular delights is yam or salad Yam comes in several forms – with noodles, meat, seafood or vegetables accompanied by lime juice and chilies. Among salads there are yam som oh (pomelo), yam hua plee (banana flowers), and yam plaa duk foo (deep-fried catfish).
They are sold everywhere especially in street stalls, noodles come in a number of varieties –including kway tiaw (made with rice flour) and ba mii (egg noodles) – and cooked with soups (nam), with gravy sauce (rat na) or stir-fried (haeng, "fresh" or "fried"). A delicious mix of noodles (usually is kway tiaw), eggs, tofu and spring onions, sprinkled with ground peanuts and lime, and sometimes spiced with tiny dried shrimps. Other staple foods include fried rice (khao phat) and cheap, one-dish meals served on a steamed rice bed, especially khao kaeng (with curry).
Curries or Gaeng
Thai curries or commonly known as (kaeng) have as a base different curry pastes: complex blends of herbs, spices, garlic, shallots and chilli peppers bind together with pestle and mortar. The use of some of these spices, as well as coconut cream, has long been imported from India; with soup consistency, curries that do not use coconut cream are usually less sweet and thinner. While some curries, such as kaeng karii (mild and yellow) and kaeng matsaman ("Muslim curry" with potatoes, peanuts and typically beef), still show their origins, others have been adapted to Thai tastes, including kaeng khiaw wan(sweet and green), kaeng phet (red and hot) and kaeng phanaeng.
Not many Thais are vegetarian (mangsawirat), but if you can get understood, you can always get an alternative to what's on the menu; just ask the cook to remove meat and fish: "mai sai neua", "mai sai plaa". You may end up eating plenty of unexciting vegetable fried rice and phat Thai without shrimps, but you should be able to get veggie versions of most curries in better restaurants. The two ingredients you will need to consider sacrificing on are the fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste that are central to most Thai dishes; you can be sure to avoid them only in the vegan Thai restaurants mentioned below, and in tourist spots serving specially prepared Thai and Western veggie dishes.
Famous Regional Dishes
Many of northern Thailand's specialties originated in Burma, including the famous khao soi, which features both boiled and crispy egg noodles plus beef, chicken or pork in a curried coconut soup; and kaeng hang lay, a ginger, turmeric and tamarind pork curry.
Typical of Isaan (North-eastern part of Thailand) is a sticky rice (khao niaw), which for north easterners Thais replaces the regular rice.
Usually served in a bowl of rattan, it is eaten with the fingers, rolled up into small balls and dipped in chilli sauces. While barbecued chicken on a stick (kai yaang) can be found everywhere throughout Thailand, it originated in Isaan, and is especially delicious in its home area.Raw minced pork, beef or chicken is the basis for another popular Isaan and northern dish, laap, a salad that is subtly mint and lime flavored. A similar northeastern salad is nam tok, with grilled beef or pork and roasted rice powder from its refreshing blend of complex tastes which literally means, "waterfall."
Southern Thai cuisine shows a distinctive Malaysian and Muslim dimension as you are near to the border, especially in its most famous dish: khao mok kai, the local variant of biryani: chicken and rice cooked with turmeric and other Indian spices and served with chicken soups.
Among the most popular desserts (khanom) you will find luk taan cheum, a jellied concoction of lotus or palm seeds that float in a jasmine-scented syrup or other aromatic flower. Coconut milk is a characteristic of most other desserts, especially delicious coconut ice cream, khao niaw mamuang (sticky mango rice), and royal Thai cooking special cocoon custard (sangkhayaa) cooked inside a small pumpkin whose flesh can also be consumed.
Freshly squeezed fruit juices such as lime (nam manao) and orange (nam som) that often come with already added salt and sugar, are particularly popular especially upcountry. Typically, the same places will also produce fruit shakes, combining bananas (nam kluay), papayas (nam malakaw), pineapples (nam sapparot) and others with liquid sugar or condensed milk. Fresh coconut water (nam maprao) is a great thirst-quencher – just like pandanus-leaf juice (bai toey); Thais are also very keen on freshly squeezed sugar - cane juice (nam awy), which is sickeningly sweet.
Soon landing in Bangkok for the first time and not really sure what should be done and what are the must see in the city of Angels? Check our Bangoko guide, here there are just a few of the must-see destinations if it’s your first time in Bangkok, or even Thailand.
The most famous royal palace and which host the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand, the Grand Palace–which houses Wat Phra Kaew, or the Emerald Buddha Temple–is an absolute must-do for any first-time visitor to Bangkok. There's no doubt that the whole complex is awe-inspiring, a stunning example of architecture from the new Rattanakosin period of Thai history.
Originally built during King Rama I's reign in 1782, the Grand Palace complex contains a number of buildings that are still used in royal ceremonies today, although the royal family is no longer living here. The Hall of the Chakri Maha Prasat combines the Italian Renaissance style with golden Thai chedi-like spires and contains the ashes of previous Kings.
Admission tickets are a bit expensive at 500 baht–free for Thai nationals who enter either through a separate queue at the main entrance or through a back entrance, which non-Thais can't use. The ticket can also be used to get access to the Vimanmek Mansion in nearby Dusit district within seven days. The dress code of the Grand Palace is stringent and extends to both men and women; if you find yourself in somewhat revealing clothes, you will be asked to hire something more appropriate before being allowed in.
Furthermore, disregard anyone who tells you that the Grand Palace is closed –scammers are numerous outside and near the building, the aim is probably to get you on a Tuk tuk where you will be taken to a cheap gem shop and where you will spend a fortune while the drivers gets a big commission. If you are staying in the Banglamphu area, you can walk to the Grand Palace – or from elsewhere take the Chaophraya express boat and get off at the Tha Chang Pier. Regular admissions from 8.30-11.30am and from 1.00-3.30pm.
The Wat Arun on the other side of Chaophraya River translates as the Temple of Dawn, but interestingly enough this its beauty can be best admired at sunset from the opposite bank of the river. This was King Taksin's former royal temple where he stopped early in the morning (hence the name) to worship the image of the Buddha as he arrived by boat to move the Thai capital from Ayutthaya to Thonburi. To get there take the Chaophraya express boat to the Tha Tien pier and then a cross-river ferry to the temple. 8.30am-5.30pm daily; 100 baht entry, free for Thai nationals.
Wat Pho is also another amazing temple; the reclining Buddha represents his moment of ascension to nirvana, and you can also achieve some good fortune by dropping a coin into each of the 108 pots reflecting its 108 characteristics as shown in the statue. But like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho gets very busy during the day and entry is 100 baht (free for Thai nationals), it is also the place of the 100 years old Traditional Thai Massage School.
Many Bangkokians have some degree of Chinese ancestry, so it's no wonder that Chinatown–or Yaowarat –is as sprawling and vibrant as the rest of Bangkok. Chinatown can be admired for the endless array of delicious food, both at street stalls and more sophisticated restaurants, as well as the general hustle bustle, countless gold shops, and many worth visiting temples such as Wat Traimit. Yaowarat hosts the annual vegetarian festival's Bangkok center when you will find plenty of irresistible meat-free dishes to try on the street side. To get here under your own steam, walk or grab a taxi or tuk-tuk from nearby Hualamphong MRT station.
If there is one shopping experience that first-time Bangkok visitors can’t miss, it's Chatuchak. Often affectionately known as JJ, this is ostensibly the largest outdoor weekend market in the world–and there is definitely no doubt it is huge! The saying goes that if at Chatuchak you can't find it, it probably doesn't exist. Here you'll find food, clothing, home furnishings and pets, and just about everything in between–the market is at its best on Saturdays and Sundays, when it's open from 9 am to 6 pm, but a more limited number of stallholders are also opening from 6 pm to midnight on Friday evenings. BTS Mo Chit, MRT Kampaeng Phet and MRT Chatuchak Park offer an easy access to the extensive market.
So you are heading to Bangkok and you are wondering how much of the local language knowledge is really necessary? Is more than Sawadee krap and sabai dee mai required? Especially Sabai Dee Mai which translates as are you fine? is one of Thai first must know for tourists. Sawadee which is probably second most often picked up word stands for “Hello” although it is also used when leaving as “bye”. Many tourists also come to know the word ' aroy'–or' delicious'– to describe the vast array of amazing Thai food that they have enjoyed during their stay in Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand. The vast majority of visitors from overseas get along perfectly well with just those three words–or even fewer in many cases–but, just like anywhere else in the world, making an effort to learn can make a whole world of difference.
While many people claims that English, at least in Bangkok, is spoken enough for tourists to be able to get around as a short-term visitor it is not always the case. Although English language skills in younger generations are gradually becoming more widespread, it is perhaps still something of an overly generous assessment. It is true that a good amount of English is spoken by the wealthiest middle and upper classes, many of whom have been privately educated either in Thailand or abroad. However, most Bangkokians still speak little to no English. And that may be understandable because, given the perception that downtown Bangkok is of a glittery, outward-looking global metropolis of the 21st century, most ordinary Thais do not have the chance to interact with English-speaking foreigners in their everyday lives and work.
While there are undoubtedly exceptions, randomly pulling out a whole reel of conversation-starters and impressively advanced vocabulary, you're much better off assuming that the average street vendor or taxi drivers English skills could well stretch to just a few words that enable them to earn a living when working with tourists. When you travel further out of the tourist-looking central Bangkok and into the more local and suburban areas of Bangkok, you should expect those skills to be reduced even further.
Speaking a few words of Thai will win you the hearts of friendly vendors who are likely to give you a discount on your lunch, or maybe a little extra treat, after you attempt to talk in Thai. It could also become a protection against unscrupulous vendors trying to overcharge tourists. Even saying a word or two of Thai can give them the impression (true or not) that you live here or just know your stuff, and maybe you're somebody they're better off not trying to cheat.
Remember to use the correct polite particle at the end of each sentence (which helps eliminate the need for the word ' please')–'ka' when you're a woman, or' krub' when you're a guy.
- Sawasdee ka/krub, sabai dee mai ka/krub
สวัสดี ค่ะ/ครับ สบายดีไหม ค่ะ/ครับ
Hello, how are you?
- Korp-khun ka/krub
- Cheu arai ka/krub
What’s your name?
- Ah-yoo tao rai ka/krub
How old are you?
- Bpen khun prathet arai ka/krub
Which country are you from?
- Nee tao rai ka/krub
How much is this?
- Lot raka noi dai mai ka/krub
Can you discount the price, please?
- Ao ah-nee ka/krub
I’ll take this one, please.
- Man paang/took ka/krub
- Mai sai toong/lord ka/krub
No bag/straw, please.
- Mai dtong torn ka/krub
Keep the change.
- Mii bang yoi mai ka/krub
Do you have (small) change?
- [Hawng-naam/tanakarn/satanee rot fai] yoo nai ka/krub
[ห้องน้ำ/ธนาคาร/สถานีรถไฟ] อยู่ไหน ค่ะ/ครับ
Where is the [toilet/bank/train station]?
- Bpai [dtalat] ka/krub
ไป [ตลาด] ค่ะ/ครับ
I’m going to [the market].
- Bpert meedter hai noi ka/krub
Turn the [taxi] meter on, please.
- Kor-tohd ka/krub
- Mai bpen rai ka/krub
No worries/no problem.
- Mai kao jai ka/krub
I don’t understand.
- Poot thai mai dai ka/krub
I can’t speak Thai.
- Poot thai dai kair nidt noi ka/krub
I can only speak a little Thai.
- Poot pasa [ang-grit] dai mai ka/krub
Can you speak [English]?