Arriving at Bangkok Airport the immigration and customs process works very smoothly, it is a beautiful airport with amazing shopping and eating. There is no need to worry about the tales of taxi scams as there is a taxi desk which is well signed down a level from the arrivals. They ask where you are going and you are allocated a metered cab. If you arrive at the old airport used by Air Asia there is also an organised taxi service all using their meters.
If you are in the new part of the city the Skytrain is great for getting around, it is a bit slow and stops and starts a bit but it gets you above the traffic, you can then get to the old part near the Grand Palace by River Boat. The Skytrain stop is Saphan Taksin and the River Boat pier is Tha Sathon or Central, an easy change.
There are different types of River Boats, the ordinary ferry costs 15 Baht and there is a more expensive tourist one, stopping less with some commentary. The boats only run till 7.30 in the evening so after that if you want to get to the old part or to Banglamphu and Khao San the backpackers area, you will need to use a taxi. Using these boats you have to be very quick to get on and off as they do not hang around.
If you use taxis it helps to have the address you want in Thai, make sure they put their meter on and when it all goes smoothly which it does 90% of the time it costs between £1 and £2 to cross the city. If you have a problem get out and find another one, there are loads.
Tut-tuts, well people say not to use them but they are part of the Bangkok experience get one and specify where you want to go and the price. For example we went from Wat Po to the Grand Palace entrance for 50 Baht, probably far more than they would expect but worth every Baht in the heat.
People will stop you near any major attraction and tell you ” it’s shut”, ignore them it’s not, heaven knows what they think they will gain by this. Also ignore people telling you to use other boats apart from the River Ferries, they are great to use.
As usual check the web sites www.booking.com and www.venere.com, on our first visit we chose to stay near the Grand Palace and were not disappointed, it was fine for getting to all areas and had a great local feel to it with places to eat and drink nearby. Aurum The River Place, Tha Maharat is a lovely boutique hotel on the riverside five minutes from the River Boat Stop N8. The rooms are excellent, we paid a bit more for a river view and the staff were wonderful. The breakfasts served in the garden are excellent, the attention to detail is top notch, a real gem.
The second time we chose to stay in Banglamphu where there are loads of options for eating and drinking and a river boat stop nearby. Lamphu Tree House Hotel, 155 Wanchat Bridge, Phrachatipatai Road, Phranakhonr is a gem of a place on a canal about fifteen minutes walk from the madness and mayhem of Khao San Road, book at www.lamphutreehotel.com. The facilities are excellent with rooms in the main building where there is a pool and also in an extension five minutes away. The quality for the money is exceptional and includes a good breakfast selection
Banglamphu and Khao San, this area can be reached by River Boat Ferry, stop N12. Khao San is a ten minute walk via Soi Chana Songkhram & Soi Ram Butri which are full of bars, restaurants, and places to have foot massages. Khao San itself is a night market, full of bars and places to eat, as is the next street, Soi Rambutan which has a more chilled feel.
Brown Sugar, 469 Phrasumen Road, Banglamphu is a very well known jazz venue in the city and recently moved to these premises which are five minutes from the Lamphu Tree House Hotel. The live music on one night we went was excellent and on the second evening reasonably good, the food is average and the service while well meaning can be a bit slow but still a good place, also the café part is good for breakfast.
Hemlock, 56 Thra Pha Athit, is a lovely restaurant with really unusual Thai dishes, very cheap and very chilled. The service is not overly friendly but it is very popular because of the quality of food.
Good Story Bar and Restaurant, 72 Phra Athit Road, is in a great street for bars and cafes far more relaxed than nearby Khao San Road. Good Story does reasonable food, both Thai and European in a relaxed atmosphere.
Escapade Burgers & Shakes. 112 Phra Athit Road, is on the list of “in” places in the city and this tiny converted shop house is the business, the burgers with truffle and cheddar are awesome and they mix cocktails with no list, or try the Estrella Inedit Beer.
Villa Cha Cha, or something like that, is a barbeque restaurant in Khao San, great fish and seafood and very cheap.
Chote Chitr 146 Th Phreang Phuton, listed as Bamglamphu but a short walk from the Grand Palace so handy for lunch before you tackle Wat Pho. This seems to be in loads of articles and well worth it, small but friendly service with great Thai food, and incredibly reasonable prices.
Sala Arun 47-49 Soi Tha Thiem Maharat Road, just near Wat Pho and opposite Wat Arun is slightly confusing as there seem to be two hotels next door to each other, one has a riverside restaurant which we tried one lunchtime and although it was quiet the food was good and the view great. The other newer hotel Sala Rattanakosin has a rooftop restaurant with an excellent reputation, unfortunately it was fully booked the night we tried to go.
The Deck, at the Arun Residence Soi Pratu Nok Yung, also just off Tha Maharat has views of Wat Arun, they do both Thai and European food but we were not impressed with the service this time . On the 4th Floor they have a bar called Amoroso which is a fabulous place to sit and have a drink, it doesn’t open until 6pm.
Mu-I Bakery & Dimsum, Sukumvit 101, is on the edge of Chinatown and it is surprisingly difficult to find places to eat in the area and this was a real find, great dim sum, lovely service and spotlessly clean.
In the new part of the city there are numerous shopping malls all with food courts. The best area is Siam Square and the Skytrain stop is National Stadium, this is also the stop for Jim Thompson’s House, see below, do not miss out eating in the restaurant there, the food is excellent, the surroundings lovely and the service good.
If you visit the “Entertainment” area of Patpong, Skytrain stop Sala Daeng, there is a very good market as well as the rather sleazy bars but there are lots of other places. Food choices did not seem great but on the main drag there is always a street vendor doing some amazing claypot prawns for next to nothing.
Rolling Bar, Wan Chat Bridge, is two minutes from the Lamphu Tree House Hotel and is a lovely bar on the same canal with a mix of locals and visitors, very friendly staff and a lovely escape from the streets.
Brown Sugar, 469 Phrasumen Road, Banglamphu, is a very well known jazz venue, see restaurants above, and is good for a drink and some live music.
Sawardee in Soi Rambutan is a back packing hotel with a bar and restaurant and is a very relaxed place for a drink as is Orchid Village in Soi Chana Songkram, there is a good small local bar just down the street on the other side from Orchid Village.
If you visit the “Entertainment” area of Patpong Skytrain stop Sala Daeng, there is a very good market as well as the rather sleazy bars there are loads of places where you can sit and have a beer.
Take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and a 5 minute walk takes you to State Tower, Thanon Silom where 275 metres up are Skybar (standing) or Distil (reclining), Distil probably has the best views and great cocktails.
Beer, beer and beer, this is definitely what you see drunk most often in Bangkok, the best known brand is Singha which is what you find in Thai restaurants in other countries. The next one is called Chang and there is an advertising slogan “get more bangs for your baht” this relates to the fact that Chang is stronger than Singha which is stronger than your average lager at home. So beware as on a hot Bangkok night the chilled beers slip down easily. There is a third brand Leo and you will find in a lot of bars that there are girls selling the beer and they are dressed in a uniform of the beer company, so do not ask the Singha girl for a Chang !
Beware of drink carts in the streets selling cheap cocktails as the spirits used may well not be proprietary brands and there have been reports of deaths of visitors from drinking adulterated spirits.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, can be reached from Ferry Stop N9, and are essentials on the list of major sites.
Wat Po can be reached from Ferry Stop N8, and Wat Arun can be reached from the same stop by using the cross river ferry from the pier next to the River Ferry.
Chinatown, can be reached from Ferry Stop N5, head to the Soi Charoen Krung 16, Trok Itsaranuphap, the food market is like stepping back in time try Dim Sum from stalls as you walk then find a street food stall and pull up a plastic chair.
Jim Thompson’s House, Soi Kasemsan 2 , Th Rama, should not be missed, it is a group of six Thai teak houses beautifully furnished, with a lovely shop specialising in silk, and a great restaurant. They have buggies to pick you up and take you back to the National Stadium Skytrain stop. If you need to cool down after that do some Mall shopping at Siam Square.
Nittaya Curry Shop, 136-140 Th Chakhraphong just by Khao San is reputed to be the best place to buy Thai Curry sauces, vacuum packed to bring home.