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BANGKOK, with a skyline of soaring pagodas and modern high-rises, reveals itself as both a spiritual center and dynamic commercial capital. However, its economic fortunes reflect those experienced by most of the Asian Tigers�countries whose economies surged forward in the 1980�s, only to collapse under the weight of mismanagement and reckless borrowing. For the tourist from the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada, this means that Bangkok�s singular attractions can be experienced at a much more favorable exchange rate, as even the posthaste hotels and restaurants scramble for guests.

Where to Stay

Bangkok�s hotels are concentrated in three major areas: along the Chao Phraya River, in the entertainment and business districts between Silom Road and Suriwong Road, and along Rama I Road and Sukhumvit Road. We have concentrated on hotels in the sprawling central area of a sprawling city.

Because of the economic crash in 1997, Bangkok today is overflowing with very nice hotels frantically competing to fill rooms. The code below reflects quoted �rack� rates; take them with a grain of salt. With the possible exception of The Oriental at the peak of the peak season (December-January), walk-ins should easily be able to secure a 30%-40% discount.

Following is a sampling of the accommodations recommended by our correspondents; it is not intended to be a comprehensive list. Expect costs to fall within these guidelines, based on the standard rate for a single room: $ = 1,500 baht-3,000 baht; $$ = 3,000 baht-4,500 baht; and $$$ = more than 4,500 baht.


Even if you�re staying elsewhere in Bangkok for most of your visit, hotels near the airport are often a good idea for your last night, so you won�t have to worry about traffic delays as you head for your flight out.

Amari Airport Hotel�The only hotel connected to the main airport terminal. Take the covered pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway and follow the signs (or the hotel will send a free shuttle to pick you up). The rooms have soundproofing, and the facilities include good restaurants, a pool, health club, business center and conference rooms. Warning: Foreigners are charged at least double the Thai rate; it�s more productive to bargain about this on the phone instead of in person. $$. 333 Choet Wutthakat Rd., Don Muang, phone 566-1020, fax 566-1914.

Comfort Airport Hotel�Just less than a mile from the airport (1.5 km) and providing free shuttle service (with 24-hour advance notification). Business center, swimming pool and restaurant. $. 88/117 Wiphawadi-Rangsit Rd., phone 552-8921, fax 552-8920.

Central Plaza Hotel�Probably the poshest hotel within the airport radius (only 15 minutes away, though in heavy traffic it could take an hour). Part of a six-story complex that includes a shopping center, convention hall, golf course and parking lot. Great view of Chatuchak Park (which isn�t too far away for a morning jog) and the Bangkok skyline. Pool, gardens, lounge, restaurants and business center. Pickup and delivery service to airport available for 800 baht. $$$. 1695 Phahonyothin Rd., phone 541-1234, fax 541-1087.


The Oriental Bangkok�One of the most famous hotels in the world, this sublime property sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Superb cuisine, world-class accommodations, two pools, squash court, health club, business center. Unrivaled service and�as far as facilities are concerned�if you can�t find it here, chances are it doesn�t exist. At least stop by to have a drink and say you�ve been there. $$$. 48 Oriental Ave., phone 236-0400, fax 236-1939.

Shangri-La�Next to the Oriental Bangkok, in a sleek high-rise. Less formal than the Oriental but equal in surroundings, facilities and service. Rooms in the new Krungthep Wing are the best. Pool, health club, tennis, squash, 24-hour business center. Helicopters from the airport arrive at its door. $$$. 89 Soi Wat Suan Phlu, Charoen Krung Road, phone 236-7777, fax 236-8579.

Montien Riverside�Another deluxe property, only a few years old. All the expected modern conveniences, plus massage, sauna, nightly seafood barbecue on the terrace, five restaurants, executive floor with concierge services. The fortune-teller on the third floor is well regarded. Not the usual riverside location, but far to the south, close to Rama IX bridge and expressway access. $$. 372 Rama III Road, phone 292-2999, fax 292-2888.

Marriott Royal Garden Riverside�The newest Thonburi riverside hotel, this has an attractive low-rise design with luxe appointments, shopping arcade, a half-dozen restaurants (including Benihana�s river dining cruise). The hitch? The shuttle boat allegedly crosses every half hour to Oriental pier, but it�s not often enough. $$. 257/1-3 Charoen Nakorn Road, Thonburi, phone 476-0021, fax 460-1805 or 476-1120.

Royal River Hotel�Posh, affordable rooms on the river, rather remotely located north of the city, but close to a riverboat express stop. Extensive facilities, including a health club, pool, good cuisine, business services and transport to the airport. The rooms facing the river are great; otherwise stay downtown. $. 670/805 Charansantiwong Rd., Bangkok Noi, phone 433-0300, fax 433-5880.


Dusit Thani�Centrally located near shopping, entertainment and business districts and next to Lumpini Park, this large high-rise was inspired architecturally by the stupa�a Buddhist shrine. It�s probably the oldest high-rise luxury hotel, rivaling some of the big-name hotels with its facilities and grand styling. Pool, health club, golf driving range, great restaurants, business facilities and white-glove service (that sometimes borders on the cursory). Rooms on the upper floors facing the park are the best. Transportation to the airport available. $$$. 946 Rama IV Rd., phone 236-0450, fax 236-6400.

Royal Orchid Sheraton�On the banks of the Chao Phraya River, a beautifully luxurious international hotel with 24-hour business center, two swimming pools, recreational facilities, children�s playground, bars, restaurants (including the fine Indian restaurant Bukhara), ballroom, shopping arcade, riverside terraces and boat landing. $$$. 2 Captain Bush Lane, phone 266-0123 or 237-0022 (from the U.S. and Canada, 800-325-3535), fax 236-6646.

Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok�In a good central location on the corner of Ratchadamri and Ploenchit Roads, near embassies and a large business-and-entertainment district. This giant hotel offers everything on a grand scale. Pool, hoards of restaurants, business facilities and excellent service. Perks for the business traveler include butlers and complimentary cocktails. Fitness center with outdoor Jacuzzi, squash, tennis and classes in aerobics and martial arts. Transportation to the airport available, including helicopter service. $$$. 494 Ratchadamri Rd., phone 254-1234, fax 254-6308.

Mansion Kempinski Bangkok�Small and intimate, with a luxurious residential feel, in a convenient location just off the main thoroughfare. Museum-quality art and antiques lend a soft, elegant touch to the decor, but the usual amenities are here as well: pool, health club, good restaurants and extensive business services. Transportation to the airport is available. $$. 75/23 Sukhumvit Rd., Soi 11, phone 253-2655, fax 253-2329.

Regent Bangkok�In a prime location near embassy row and adjacent to one of the larger financial districts, this is the businessperson�s address in Bangkok. Superb service and elegant accommodations. Pool, large health club including squash courts and a sauna, some of Bangkok�s best restaurants and comprehensive business facilities. The Thai restaurant draws locals. Ask for a room overlooking the pool or Bangkok Sports Club. Don�t let the elegant decor prevent your asking for a deep discount. Airport transportation available. $$$. 155 Ratchadamri Rd., phone 251-6127, fax 253-9195.

Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit�One of the newest luxury hotels taking over central Sukhumvit. The many amenities include a well-regarded Italian restaurant. Pool with piped-in underwater music has a section for lap swimming. Two phone lines in every room, 24-hour business center. Walking distance to Queen Sirikit Convention Center. $$$. Sukhumvit Road, phone 653-0333, fax 635-0400.

Sukhothai Bangkok�On parklike grounds near both entertainment and business districts, this low-rise, Mediterranean-style hotel showcases Thai art (and Thai hospitality). Handsome architecture and design, sublime dining and top-notch service complement the extensive leisure and business facilities. Pool, health club. Airport transportation available. $$$. 13/3 Sathorn Tai Rd., phone 287-0222, fax 253-2275.

Siam Inter-Continental�In a park-starved city, the 26 acres/11 hectares of landscaped gardens and grounds are this hotel�s most attractive feature. The hotel, which resembles a Thai warrior�s helmet, boasts jogging trails, a driving range and putting greens, as well as volleyball, badminton and tennis courts. A popular Sunday brunch buffet is served by one of its restaurants. Two pools, health club, business facilities. Best rooms are on the ground floor facing the gardens. There�s a perennial construction mess on Rama I Road. Airport transportation available. $$. 967 Rama I Rd., Pathumwan, phone 253-0355, fax 253-2275.

Montien Hotel�A first-class hotel set in the heart of the entertainment district, not far from the central business district. Polished service, pool, health club, business facilities and transportation to the airport. $$. 54 Suriwong Rd., phone 234-8060, fax 236-5218 or 236-5219.


Royal Hotel�One of the city�s oldest and most historic. The only one located in the old royal district, it�s within easy walking distance of the National Museum, Grand Palace, Sanam Luaang, Thammasat University, many temples and monuments, riverboat piers, Saen Saep canal, Banglampoo market and Kaosan Road street stalls. Swimming pool, 24-hour coffee shop and room service. There are meeting rooms�but this is a hotel for tourists, not business travelers. TV is only in Thai-language. No hotel-run airport transportation, but the Airport Bus stops nearby. $. 2 Ratchadamnoen Ave., phone 222-9111, fax 224-2083.

Comfort Inn�Modest hotel with an excellent staff and very good rates, especially for longer-term stays. Good location on the tourist belt. Some of the staff are fluent in English and quite helpful. Indian restaurant, transport service, excellent security. $. 153/11-14 Sukhumvit, Soi 11, phone 251-9250 or 251-0745, fax 254-3562.

Narai Hotel�Excellent economy choice in a good central location. Well furnished and decorated, helpful and efficient staff. Business services, pool, rooms for nonsmokers, rooftop restaurant and pizzeria. $. 222 Silom Rd., phone 252-0121, fax 255-1769.


Aside from those countless ramshackle food stalls selling spicy treats around the clock, Bangkok is full of restaurants offering the best cuisine from every region on the map. You�re apt to find restaurants offering Indonesian rijstaffel, Indian malai kofta, Hungarian goulash, Mexican flan and even Wiener schnitzel served in a biergarten.

Diversity aside, however, you�ll miss the boat to this culinary port if you don�t taste the local specialties. Most people agree that eating Thai food is one of the more sensual dining experiences. Be sure to try the sweet gaeng kiew wan (green curry) or tom yam kung (a sour and spicy soup with prawns), local favorites. Those with mild palates beware of anything described by the term preek (it means it�ll be fiery hot). Generally, any Thai food is going to seem hot by Western standards, so be sure to tell the chef you want it mai pet if you prefer a gentler experience!

Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a dinner for one and not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than 250 baht; $$ = 250baht-500 baht; $$$ = 500baht-1,250 baht; and $$$$ = more than 1,250 baht.


Sala Rim Naam�Probably the best Thai restaurant in the whole country. Owned by the Oriental Hotel, this exquisitely furnished traditional Thai pavilion sits across the river from it. Diners arrive by private boat. The dinner show starts at 8:30 pm and features traditional dance and theater. Daily 1-2 pm and 7-11 pm. Reservations suggested. $$$$. Major credit cards. 48 Oriental Ave., phone 236-0400.

Baan Khanitha�A quaint, old house with gardens in a quiet location. Royal (refined) Thai cuisine and regional dishes, including green curry with coconut tips. Daily 11:30 am-2 pm and 6:30-11 pm. Reservations recommended for dinner Saturday and Sunday. $$$. Major credit cards. On the east side of Bangkok, Sukhumvit Road, Soi 23, phone 258-4181.


Harmonique�This is like dining in someone�s antique-strewn home. Very popular for excellent Thai cuisine, eaten indoors or in the courtyard. Sample some of the �dishes from the past� and the homemade ice cream. Reservations advised. Open daily 10 am-10 pm. Reservations advised. $$. 22 Charoen Krung Rd., Soi 39 (near the GPO), phone 237-8175.

Spasso�Known for its Italian food. However, better known because it�s the hip destination of the more agile members of the hi-so (from English �high society�) who come here to be seen on the dance floor. U.S. bands can be relied upon for danceable, middle-of-the-road rock. Dress conservatively. Nightly 6 pm-2 am. $$. Credit cards. Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, 494 Ratchadamri Rd., phone 254-1234.


Baan Thai�A great place for the first-time visitor. Beautiful gardens outside a Thai-style house including a pond with monster catfish and carp. Inside, tables are sunk into the floor, the floor becomes your seat, and your feet drop into a comfortable space underneath. A Thai menu is served piping hot, and there�s a floor show of Thai music and dancing on two stages. Beautiful traditional costumes illuminate these traditional, dramatic pieces. Daily 7:30-10 pm. Show starts at 9 pm. Reserve to secure the best seats. $$. Most major credit cards. Set back in Soi 32 next to the Rex Hotel on Sukhumvit, phone 258-5403.

Cabbages and Condoms�Great Thai food and a friendly atmosphere, despite the gimmicky decor and clientele that�s exclusively tourists. It�s run by the Population and Community Development Association, whose chief is known internationally for his innovative contraceptive and AIDS campaigns. The restaurant is decorated with condoms from all over the world. Dine inside or outdoors in a lovely garden. All profits go to population control and AIDS research. Reservations recommended in the evening. Daily 11 am-10 pm. $. Visa. Soi 12, off Sukhumvit, phone 252-7349.

Khing Khao�Here�s a chance to try Chiang Mai and Lanna cuisine, if you�re not heading up north from the city. Heavy on the pork sausage. Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 am-10:30 pm. $$. No credit cards. Sukhumvit Soi 22, immediately off Sukhumvit Road. Phone 259-5623.

Na Phra Lan�The perfect place to reward yourself after a morning doing the Royal Palace and environs. It�s an art cafe. The art on the walls and the artsy clientele come from nearby Silpakorn University. Basic, nicely presented Thai food. Monday-Saturday 10 am-10 pm. $. No credit cards. 18 Na Phra Lan Rd., phone 221-2312.

The Spice Market�In the Regent Hotel, informal, with a setting that looks like an old market scene. Renowned chefs serve up traditional Thai and regional fare. Daily 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 6:30-11 pm. $$. Most major credit cards. 155 Ratchadamri Rd., phone 251-6127.

Whole Earth�Terrific Thai vegetarian fare with an Indian influence. There are a few meat and seafood entrees as well. Two locals: The smaller, cozier one is at 93/3 Soi Lan Suan, off Ploenchit Road, phone 252-5574. It�s a stroll to a half-dozen live music bars. Much larger and more secluded is the branch at 71 Sukhumvit Soi 26, phone 258-4900. If you�ve got children, choose this one: Since every item is cooked to order, the wait can be long, but the kids can play out in the garden. At both restaurants, you can sit on floor cushions, as in the old days (but it�s not required). Both of these fall into the $$ range. Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa.


L�Opera�Good Italian food in an unpretentious setting. Fresh seafood and produce, good wine selection and reasonable prices. A bit out of the way on the eastern edge of town, but worth the trip. Daily 11 am-2 pm and 6-11 pm. $$. Most major credit cards. 53 Sukhumvit, Soi 39, phone 258-5606.

Le Banyan�Bangkok�s premier French restaurant offers both traditional and nouvelle cuisine in a lovely, colonial-style house with gardens. The wine list is astounding (and so are the prices). Dress up. Monday-Friday 11:30 am-2 pm and 6:30-11 pm, Saturday and Sunday 6:30-11 pm. Reservations suggested. $$$$. Most major credit cards. 59 Sukhumvit, Soi 8, phone 253-5556.

Stanley�s French Restaurant�Near the center of town and the Imperial Hotel, Stanley�s offers fine European dining. Eat on the terrace or inside in the air-conditioning. Lots of local movers and schmoozers at Sunday brunch. Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 6-10:30 pm. $$$. Most major credit cards. 20/20-21 Soi Ruamrudee, Ploenchit Road, phone 250-1613.

Terrazzo�In the Sukhothai Hotel, in the southern part of the city, this is one of the finest Italian restaurants in Thailand. Supremely elegant, with wonderful service and homemade pastas. Extensive wine list. Dress up. Daily noon-2 pm and 6:30-11 pm. $$$. Most major credit cards. 13/3 Sathorn Tai Rd., phone 287-0222.


Mayflower Restaurant�At the Dusit Thani Hotel, the Mayflower serves highly praised Cantonese specialties in a fine colonial-style room decorated with Chinese antiques. Roast suckling pig is a house specialty. Vegetarian dishes are excellent. Dress code. Daily 11:30 am-2 pm and 6-10 pm. Reservations suggested. $$$. Most major credit cards. 946 Rama IV Rd., phone 236-0450.

Tan Dinh�New, but very ambitious. It�s associated with the Vietnamese restaurant of the same name in Paris. Small but very rich menu that includes frog, goose and duck. Extensive, pricey wine list. Elegant decor. Daily 11 am-2:30 pm, 6-11 pm. $$$. Credit cards. Ruamrudee Village, 20/6-7 Soi Ruamrudee (off Ploenchit Road), phone 650-8986.

Bukhara�Excellent Northern Indian dishes in a rustic setting with views of the Chao Phraya River. Tandoori specialties and live Indian music nightly except Mondays, 7-8:30 pm. You could live for a week in India for the price of a dinner here, but your meal is well worth every penny. Daily noon-2:30 pm and 7-11 pm. Reservations requested for dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. Royal Orchid Sheraton, 2 Captain Bush Lane, phone 266-0022 or 266-0123.

Shin Daikoku�Every hotel has its obligatory Japanese restaurant; this is one of the best outside the hotel set. Shin Daikoku�s renowned chef serves sashimi, sushi and teppanyaki-style dishes. Lots of private rooms. Daily 11 am-2:30 pm and 6-10:30 pm. $$$. Most major credit cards. On the eastern edge of the city, past the Ambassador Hotel, at 32/8 Sukhumvit, Soi 19, phone 259-9980.


The Ayutthaya Princess�One of the dining highlights in Bangkok. Built to resemble a royal barge, this floating restaurant provides dinner cruises with traditional Thai culture shows. The food is great, and despite the large size of the boat (seats 170 persons), the service reflects the high standards of the boat�s owner, the Shangri-La Hotel. Daily cruises depart at 7 pm, return at 9:30 pm. Dressy. $$$. Most major credit cards. 89 Wat Suan Phlu, Charoen Krung Road, phone 236-7777.

Wit�s Oyster Bar & Restaurant�The only oyster bar and restaurant in town. Typical British cooking with the freshest ingredients. Besides oysters, expect steak and kidney pie, Stilton soup, spotted duck and fish and chips. Excellent collection of spirits. Open 11:30 am-10:30 pm. $$$. Most major credit cards. 20/10-11 Soi Rumrudee, Ploenchit Road, phone 252-1820.

Bourbon Street�Fun and boisterous, this restaurant serves Creole and Cajun dishes, Mexican food and home-style fare. Specialties include gumbo, jambalaya, tacos, chili and barbecued ribs and chicken. You can wear your grubby jeans, since it�s in a frankly grubby karaoke-massage area. Daily 7 am-1 am. $. Most major credit cards. Washington Square, Sukhumvit, Soi 22, phone 259-0328.

Cafe at the Park�Thai and other cuisines served in a glass-enclosed corner of the Century Park Hotel. You feel like you�re eating in an air-conditioned park. Try the lunch or dinner buffet. On Friday and Saturday nights, a large, fresh seafood selection is added. Open 24 hours. $$. Most major credit cards. Rajaprarop Road, phone 246-7800.

Seafood Market�You enter this restaurant through an active fish market and select your entree from dozens of large fish tanks. Next, you enter a small market area where a clerk helps you select salads and vegetables. Now, choose a bottle from the wine rack. Give instructions on how everything should be cooked to the cashier. Then sit at your table under the stars and wait for your meal to arrive. If you can�t bear to look your dinner in the eye while it�s still swimming, go straight to a table and order from a standard menu. $. 89 Soi Sukhumvit 24 (Kasem), Klongtoey, phone 661-1252 or 661-1253, fax 261-2073.

Panthong Seafood Restaurant�Specializing in Thai food and seafood, this is another restaurant where you select your dinner as it swims in front of you. Thai dance and cultural shows are performed as you eat. Select an indoor table or one in their lovely outdoor garden. $. 133 Pan Rd. near Silom, phone 234-6687.


You can always get something to eat late at night at the Ambassador Hotel (Soi 11). The sidewalk restaurants that spring up every night but Wednesdays often run until 4 or 5 am. (Thai customers will insist you join their party.) Probably every luxury hotel and nearly every economy hotel runs a 24-hour coffee shop.

For a bit more class, try the Greenhouse Restaurant (open 24 hours) at the Landmark Hotel, 138 Sukhumvit, phone 254-0404, ext. 4105. The Narai Hotel boasts an excellent restaurant that�s also open 24 hours. 222 Silom Rd., phone 237-0100.

Old Dutch Cafe�A real breakfast treat for late risers and one of the best values in Bangkok. A gut-stuffing breakfast for 85 baht consists of three eggs, bacon, cheese, ham, turkey, sausage, french fries, rolls, orange juice and all the Dutch coffee you can drink. At night, try their famous cheese fondue with wine. Cozy and rustic, even though the remainder of this soi is dedicated to sex tourists. Open 10 am till late. 9/3-4 Sukhumvit, Soi 23 (just outside Soi Cowboy), phone 258-9234.


In the past few years, cybercafes proliferated in Bangkok, but since 1997 they�ve also been folding at a rapid clip. You can find a somewhat accurate listing of internet cafes in Thailand at Listed below are a few that look is if they may hang on.

If you just want to retrieve or send e-mail, try the price-competitive venues on Kaosan Road, haunt of the budget tourist. Rates start at about 3 baht per minute, or 150 baht per hour. (Elsewhere, expect to pay double.) If you need advice, there�s only one option, however: Cyberia.

Cyberia�Fairly busy hangout. Fresh coffee, beer, wine. Free e-mail accounts. Open daily 10:30 am-11 pm. 654/8 Sukhumvit Rd. (corner of Soi 24), phone 259-3556 or 259-3557, e-mail [email protected].

The Cafe�Tiny, but smart and elegant. Modem plug-ins for laptops. Terrific range of coffees and teas. Surawong Road near Soi Thaniya, e-mail [email protected].

Cyber Cafe�Open 24 hours daily. 300 baht per hour. Don Muang International Airport, 3rd Floor (opposite John Bull pub), phone 535-5671, e-mail [email protected].


You need not travel far in Bangkok to find the trappings of modern civilization giving way to historical treasures. The Grand Palace, a fantastic complex with gilded stupas (domelike shrines to Buddha), is a living monument where people go to pay homage to the Buddha and their king. The National Museum houses Thai art and artifacts from Neolithic times forward. Performances of traditional religious and court dances take place at the Thai Cultural Center, a polished modern venue. The Erawan Shrine offers a glimpse of the old rituals manifested in daily life.

Air-conditioned buses and taxis are convenient ways to tour Bangkok. But consider cruising the river and canals on a modest long-tail boat, or go for broke on the five-star yacht The Oriental Queen. If you�re walking�which may be the best way to experience Bangkok�wear comfortable shoes and take a good map.


Along with the National Museum and the Sanam Luang field, the initial nine historic sites below are all in the same area�the old royal city, where the king and a vast number of relatives ran the country until 1932. You could conceivably cover these on foot in a single day. But due to the heat, you might want to catch a tuk-tuk or taxi between a few of them.

Wat Banchamabophit is in the Dusit area, walking distance from the zoo and Vimanmek Palace. Wat Trai Mitr is on the eastern edge of Chinatown, a stone�s throw from Hualampontg Railway Station.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. The Grand Palace is the most famous structure in all of Thailand. Originally built for King Rama I in the late 18th century, it has evolved into a vast, golden city, a temple compound and a mecca for this country�s predominantly Buddhist population. Wat Phra Kaew, the most important structure inside the walled compound, houses the Emerald Buddha. Carved from a single block of jade, this ancient, holy object rests on a magnificent altar and is said to be a protector of whoever possesses it. Often the booty of war since its discovery in the 15th century, the statue was last looted from Vientiane by King Rama I.

A few rules for visiting the Grand Palace: no shorts or sleeveless shirts; no photography inside the building that houses the Emerald Buddha; women must not touch the monks! Open daily, but occasionally closed for ceremonies and other occasions. Don�t save it for your last day (most people want to see it more than once). 8:30 am-3:30 pm. Admission: 125 baht. Entrance is on Na Phra Lan Road, phone 222-0094 or 222-6889.

Wat Po. Next to the Grand Palace, this is one of Bangkok�s oldest temples and it�s famous for its numerous ceramic-tiled stupas and gold-plated reclining Buddha. (Check out the mother-of-pearl inlay on the soles of his feet!) Daily 8 am-5 pm. Admission: 10 baht. Thye Wang and Sanam Chai Road, phone 222-0933.

Lak Muang. A small temple that contains the foundation stone of the city, this attracts many locals who believe the stone has the power to grant wishes. If you�re lucky, you may see traditional lakhon dancing in the nearby open-air sala. The dancers have been paid by the faithful whose wishes have been granted by the foundation spirit. Open 24 hours daily. Free. Located on Sanam Chai Road (between Chareon Krung Road and Bam Rung Muang Road) on the east side of the Grand Palace.

Wat Suthat. Located a mile east of the Grand Palace, this temple from the mid 1800s is an interesting blend of Thai and Chinese architecture. It houses some lovely Buddhist relics and ornate murals. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Admission: 10 baht. Tri Thong and Bam Rung Muang Roads.

Wat Saket. Built in the late 1700s, Wat Saket is one of the oldest temples in the city. Its grounds served as a cremation site for common people. It�s easy to spot because of a prominent landmark�the Golden Mount�that rises on its grounds. It looks like a yellow cement hill and is believed to house Buddhist relics. It�s worth climbing up for the view. Open daily 8 am-5 pm. Admission is 10 baht. Entrance to Wat Saket between Boriphat Road and Lan Luang Road, south of Democracy Monument.

Democracy Monument. Trapped in a huge traffic circle, this monument with its 24-ft-/7-m-high granite wings is an easy landmark to spot. It was built in 1939 to celebrate the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. The designer was much inspired by Italian fascist architecture. In the area between here and Sanam Luang, democracy demonstrators were massacred by the army in 1973, 1976 and 1992. The offerings at this monument honor these dead. Ratchadamnern and Lan Luang Roads, Baan Lampoo, 1 mi/1.6 km east of the Chao Phraya River.

Wat Benchamabophit. Splendid, symmetrical architecture, with gold and lacquer decorations. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Admission: 10 baht. Sri Ayutthaya Road, phone 281-2501.

Wat Tri Mitr houses the famous 14th-century Golden Buddha. Primarily of gold, it weighs more than 10,000 pounds. It was discovered under an unremarkable cement veneer in 1954, where it had lain hidden for hundreds of years. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Admission: 10 baht. Traimit Road.

Erawan Shrine. Next to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, it�s a small, simple, open-air sanctuary containing a four-headed bronze Brahman sculpture that�s highly revered by Buddhists worldwide. Built by the hotel for good luck, the modest little shrine has become a Buddhist mecca. Because of miracles attributed to the goddess at this site, Buddhists from around the world come to make offerings and requests, usually in matters of love or in hopes of winning the lottery. The shrine is one of the best places to see traditional religious dances. Get up early to see the dancers commissioned by people who are making sincere offerings. Open 24 hours. Free. Corner of Ratchadamri and Ploenchit Roads across from Gaysorn Plaza.


The National Museum. This is the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country, from Neolithic times to the present. Wednesday-Sunday 9 am-noon and 1-4 pm. Admission: 40 baht for foreigners, 20 baht for Thais. Next to the National Theater and Thammasat University, 4 Na Prathat Rd., phone 224-1333.

The National Gallery. Near the National Museum and not as impressive, this gallery exhibits contemporary and traditional works of art. Admission: 10 baht. Wednesday-Sunday 9 am-4 pm. 4 Chao Fa Rd., phone 281-2224.

Vimanmek Mansion Museum. The world�s largest teak house, built by King Rama V in the late 1800s as a summer palace. With 100 rooms, it�s a fine tribute to Thai architecture and art. You can�t walk around on your own. Instead there are free guided tours, in English, every half hour, starting at 9:30 am. At 2 pm there�s a free demonstration of Thai dance in the foyer. Open daily 9:30 am-4 pm. Admission: 50 baht. Next to the Dusit Zoo, on Ratchasima Road, phone 281-1569.

The Jim Thompson House. Another fine example of Thai architecture, this one filled with rare art and antiques once owned by the U.S. citizen who revitalized the silk industry in Thailand. Since his puzzling disappearance in 1968, his former residence has become a popular tourist attraction. Admission is 100 baht for adults, 40 baht for children. Open daily 9 am-4 pm. 6 Soi Kaseman 2, Rama I Road, phone 215-0122.

The Shed of the Royal Barges. North of the Grand Palace, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the Shed houses gilded vessels once used for war and currently used by the king for ceremonies of religious importance. Similar to ancient Viking boats but more ornate, these royal yachts are a spectacle even on land. Klong (canal) tours often stop here. Daily 8:30 am-4:30 pm. Admission: 30 baht, but if you want to take pictures, it�s an additional 100 baht for a permit. Klong Bangkok Noi, phone 424-0004.


Lumpini Park. Bangkok�s foremost park offers profuse exotic greenery to shade you from the afternoon heat. Jogging track and two lakes with rowboat rentals (40 baht per hour). Daily 5 am-8 pm. Free. Rama IV Road.

Out toward the airport is Chatuchak Park. This huge expanse of landscaped grounds, with a jogging track and a large lake where you can rent rowboats (40 baht per hour), is a great place to visit before or after shopping at the Weekend Market. Daily 5 am-9 pm. Free. Phahalyothin Road.

Sanam Luang. These large, oval, open grounds are best enjoyed in the evening. Aside from a ring of trees around its perimeter, the park offers little escape from the afternoon sun. Kite flying and watching sunsets over the gilded Grand Palace are favorite activities. Across from the Grand Palace.

King Rama IX Royal Park. Set on 200 acres/80 hectares, this park was opened to commemorate the current king�s 60th birthday. It offers botanical gardens and great spots for picnicking. Lying 15 mi/24 km outside the city center, it�s a bit inconvenient but worth the drive if you�re yearning for cleaner air, and it�s far less crowded than the three listed above. Daily 6 am-6 pm. Admission: 10 baht. Soi Udomsuk, Sukhumvit Soi 23.


Except for Magic Land and the Snake Farm, all the destinations listed below can be reached by daily bus tours from hotels and agencies all over town. They�re often in combinations. One popular package, for example, will take you to the Saduak Damnoen Floating Market, the Rose Garden and Samphran Elephant Grounds.

Magic Land. Some good rides and games for kids. Daily 10 am-6 pm. Admission: 60 baht adults, 50 baht children. On the north side of town, out toward the airport, 72 Phahloyothin Rd., phone 579-0806.

Samphran Elephant Grounds & Zoo. Set within landscaped gardens and ponds on the outskirts of Bangkok, this is the best place in Thailand to see elephants in action. Daily shows feature everything from the reenactment of an 18th-century Thai battle with soldiers and armored elephants to circus-style antics and elephant-polo matches. Also see a crocodile show, a small zoo and an orchid farm. Shows start at 10 am weekdays, 12:45 pm on weekends. Daily 8 am-6 pm. Admission: 220 baht adults, 120 baht children. Petchkasem Road, near the Rose Garden, phone 284-1873.

Rose Garden. A beautifully landscaped resort with orchid and rose gardens, aviaries and a re-created Thai village. Offers a spectacular one-hour cultural show with all the Thai trimmings�dance, martial arts, religious ceremonies and elephants. Open daily 8 am-6 pm. Admission: 200 baht. 20 mi/32 km west of Bangkok.

Crocodile Farm. Every taxi driver assumes that the crocodile farm is the one reason you came to Bangkok and will pester you to death about it. If you yearn to see crocodiles, the Crocodile Farm has more than 30,000 of them. Daily shows and lots of interesting exhibits. Open every day 7 am-6 pm. Admission: 300 baht. Samut Prakarn, phone 387-1166.

The Snake Farm, near the city center, is great fun for kids and adults alike. Run by the Red Cross as a center for collecting venom (to make antitoxin), you can watch as handlers milk poison from cobras, black mambas and other fearsome snakes. Daily shows 10:30 am and 2 pm. 30 baht adults, children free. Adjacent to the Red Cross Building, corner of Rama IV and Henri Dunant Roads, phone 252-0161 or 252-0162.

Safari World. Twenty minutes outside of Bangkok, Safari World contains two smaller parks: Marine Park and Safari Park. Safari Park offers drive-through viewing of Asian and African animals as well as daily shows (at 9 am, 1 pm and 4 pm) featuring birds, orangutans and elephants. Marine Park has dolphins and sea lions. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Admission to Safari World: 400 baht for foreign adults, 280 baht for Thai adults, 300 baht for foreign children, 180 baht for Thai children. Admission to Marine Park: 240 baht. Admission to Safari Park: 160 baht plus 400 baht for a show. 99 Raminda 1 Rd., Minburi, phone 518-1000, ext. 232.


Chao Phraya River and Canals. See another side of Bangkok by exploring its waterways. Small waterside markets and countless homes line the banks of these busy channels. Charter boats are plentiful. You can hire them independently or book them through reliable tour companies. The docks (tha) close to the Royal Orchid Sheraton and the Shangri-La, as well as Tha Tien�close to the Royal Palace�are good places to hire them. Fares depend on your bargaining power, but 300 baht for a tour of a few hours would be a good price, no matter the number of passengers. Klong Bangkok Noi, Klong Chak Phra and Klong Sanam Chair, Wat Arun and the royal barges are worth exploring. Other transportation choices are water taxis and long-tailed boats.

If you have the energy, Chinatown can be fun to visit, with its beautiful traditional Chinese temples, multitudes of shops and constant activity. This is one of the busiest parts of Bangkok: Many of the roads narrow to one lane and crisscross the canals, and there aren�t many traffic lights, so be careful when crossing the street. For a quick walk-through, begin at the intersection of Pahurat and Ban Mo Roads, just south of Wat Po, and walk east until your feet get tired. Chances are you�ll run out of steam before Chinatown runs out of streets. The pink-tinged Nancy Chandler map includes a detailed map of Chinatown�s delights.


Major Home Travel Agency, in the city center near the Indra Hotel, offers dependable sightseeing tours to the temples, museums, canals, river markets and all major tourist attractions. Average cost for half-day tour is 300 baht-400 baht per person. 120/13 Rajprarop Rd., phone 250-1685.

Marvel Holidays is a dependable enterprise offering good local tours. Guides speak English and other languages. For a very small service fee, they can arrange train travel. Good prices. Talk to Sawat Napol, Managing Director. 58/4 Soi Damnoenklangtai, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, phone 222-2695 or 225-6095, fax 225-6095.

World Travel Service specializes in early-morning boat tours to the floating markets. Leave the Oriental Hotel�s pier at 7:40 am and return by noon. 450 baht a person. Reservations required. 48 Oriental Ave., phone 236-0400.


Though not as well known for shopping as Hong Kong or Singapore, Bangkok is actually a great shopping city, with everything from international retailers offering haute couture to street vendors selling �antique� opium pipes and phony Rolex watches (that may be confiscated�with no compensation�by customs agents). Bangkok�s most popular exports are its lovely silks and silk products, jewelry, celadon pottery, lacquerware, masks, carvings and antiques. If a price seems too steep, chances are you can talk it down. The language barrier isn�t a problem: Every street vendor carries a calculator, and without a word spoken, the calculator passes hands sometimes six or seven times before a settlement is reached. Treasure hunters won�t want to miss the Weekend Market at Chatuchak Park, on the north end of the city. Silom Road, near Patpong Road, is a hive of activity every night.


You�ll find an especially large concentration of shops up and down Silom and Suriwong Roads. Small shops abound in Chinatown, north of the Grand Palace.

Note: Be very cautious when buying antiques. Thais are not only famous for their excellent fakes, but government regulations are very strict concerning the exportation of genuine antiques, especially religious items (the export of Buddha images, old or new, is forbidden). If you do find something you like and it is authentic, be prepared for a mountain of paperwork. Before you can take the item out of the country, you�ll need approval from the Fine Arts Department, which can take up to a month to obtain. Some reputable shops provide this service. The government agency called The Fine Arts Department is on Na-Pharathat Road, phone 221-7811.

Erawan Antiques, near the river, sells quality antique furniture, religious artifacts, bric-a-brac and reproductions. They�re always willing to discuss the price. Monday-Saturday 9 am-6 pm. 148/9 Surawong Rd., phone 235-8981.

Krishna�s Asian Treasures is a delightful shop where snarling lions, serene Buddhas and erotic ladies peek out of every corner. Four floors of antiques, semi-antiques and reproductions. Balinese wood carvings, Burmese wall hangings, Ceylon masks, Indian and Nepalese jewelry, plus quirky things from local artists. 137/6-7 Sukhumvit Rd., between Soi 9 and 11, phone 253-7693 or 251-6867, fax 253-5792.

At the River City shopping complex, many of the shops on the upper floors specialize in antiques and bronzeware. It�s on the riverside, between the GPO and the Royal Orchid Sheraton, on Yotha Road. Phone 237-0077.


Many of the finer art galleries are located in upscale malls, big hotels (where exhibits come and go) and foreign embassies. Check the daily English-language newspapers, The Bangkok Post and The Nation, as well as Metro Magazine, for current exhibits.

Akko Collectors� House can usually be counted on for paintings of good taste and accomplishment. Monday-Saturday 10 am-7 pm and by appointment. 919/1 Sukhumvit Rd. (between Soi 49 and Soi 51), phone 259-1436.

About Cafe & About Studio concentrates on photography�the only gallery to do so. Exhibitors are Thai and resident foreigners. On occasion, this is a setting for performance art and alternative bands. Monday-Friday 9 am-6 pm and by appointment. The cafe is open later and on weekends. 402-B Matreejit Rd., Pomrap (near Hualampong Railway Station), phone 623-1742 or 623-1743.

Carpe Diem Galleries mainly showcase foreign artists�Western, Asian and Westerners who are working in Asia. Daily 10 am-5 pm. 806/1-2 Sukhumvit (Soi Thonglor), phone 714-9903.

Ruang Pung Art Community provides space for the most fringey, dissident artists�installations, performance art, sculpture, whatever. Not members of the academy. Sometimes there�s alternative music. Saturday and Sunday only, 11 am-6 pm. Opposite Section 13 in the Weekend Market, Chatuchak Park, phone 513-7225.


SOGO Department Store, an outlet of the Japanese chain, is near the Erawan Shrine, Amarin Plaza and the Ratchadamri Road intersection. McDonald�s at ground level. Brimful of quality goods and apparel. Pleasant restaurant, too. Daily 10 am-8 pm. 494 Ploenchit Rd., phone 255-0831.

Robinson Department Store, near the end of Silom Road, past Patpong, combines a supermarket (with garden-fresh vegetables), a restaurant and an extensive dry-goods area. It�s a popular local hangout as well. Daily 10 am-10 pm. 2 Silom Rd., phone 235-0471.

Narayana Phand isn�t quite a department store, but it�s large, government run and sells every type of traditional handicraft, from nielloware to basketry. Daily 10 am-8 pm. 127 Ratchadamri Rd., across from the World Trade Center, phone 255-4328.

Central Department Store is a popular shopping center in the heart of the Silom Business district. Good quality merchandise with good prices. Silom Complex, 191 Silom Rd.


Oriental Plaza is exclusive, with international fashions, art galleries and jewelry. Daily 10 am-6 pm. 301 Charoenkrung 38 New Rd. (next to the Oriental Hotel), phone 236-0411.

Chao Phraya Tower Shopping Arcade offers designer boutiques, leather shops, Thai silk shops and art galleries. Daily 10 am-7 pm. 23 Rongnamkhaeng Lane (next to the Shangri-la Hotel), phone 237-0077.

On the other end of town, near the Siam Inter-Continental and Siam Square, is Siam Center, a huge complex filled with restaurants, flower shops and such names as Gucci, Lanvin and Polo. Daily 10 am-10 pm. 965 Rama I Rd., phone 251-1890.

Mah Boon Krong Center (MBK), also next to Siam Square, is a window on popular culture. (Not that you�ll find much to buy, unless you�re looking for plastic shoes, polyester dresses and counterfeit watches.) But it�s very Thai and always bustling, while the upscale malls seem to echo. On the upper floors, dozens of shops are dedicated to the second-most important status symbol: the mobile phone (the first being Mercedes). We recommend the new and used camera shop, Fotofile, on the ground floor. Daily 10 am-9 pm. Southwest corner of Phyathai and Rama I roads, phone 217-9111.

Seacon Square. Few will want to waste an entire day battling traffic in order to visit this remote, American-style mall. It�s not far from the BITEC convention center, though, and bibliophiles will enjoy DK Books, reputedly the biggest bookstore in Asia. Seacon Square is the only city structure that�s wheelchair accessible. 904 Srinakarin Rd., Prawet, phone 721-8888.

Pantip Plaza is the ultimate source for electronics�a five-story mall with shop after shop selling computers and electronic gear. Usually there�s nothing (except pirated software) that can�t be gotten cheaper in Hong Kong and much cheaper in the U.S., but due to the baht devaluation, computers and printers are temporarily at bargain prices. But you must know precisely what you want; salespeople know nothing about their products. No demonstrations.

Take a taxi there. Most shops open around 10 or 10:30 am; and although they�re open to 8 pm, don�t go later than 3 pm unless you want to spend hours in a traffic gridlock. New Petchburi Road between Phyathai and Ratchaparop Roads (close to Pratuunam Market and Amaari Watergate Hotel).

The World Trade Center encompasses many shops, restaurants and an ice-skating rink. On the sixth floor are two movie theaters with six screens, a vegetarian restaurant and Pam-Pam�a quiet Internet cafe in a fast-food shop. The Japanese department store in this center, Isetan, attracts few shoppers, but its supermarket bears investigation. Daily 10 am-9 pm. 4 Rajdamri Rd., phone 255-9400.


Teck Heng Bookstore is a great place to browse: good selection of English- and foreign-language books on Asian affairs, art, culture and religion, as well as old maps, prints and European and U.S. periodicals. Monday-Saturday 10 am-8:30 pm. 1326 New Rd. (between Oriental Avenue and Silom Road, close to the Oriental, Shangri-La and Sheraton hotels), phone 234-1836.

Look for English-language books at the numerous outlets of Asia Books and DK Books. Headquarters shop for Asia Books is at 221 Sukhumvit Rd., phone 252-7277; outlets invariably crop up in glossier shopping malls. Headquarters for DK Books is at 904 Moo 6, Srinakarin Road at Seacon Square, phone 393-8040. Yes, it�s remote, but it�s enormous and boasts books in many languages and on many Asian subjects.

Foreign-language books are expensive in Thailand. If you want to grab one or two good secondhand ones, go to Elite Book House. They also carry lots of English-language periodicals. Monday-Saturday 10 am-5 pm. Past Villa Supermarket, near Soi 33, 593/5 Sukhumvit Rd., phone 258-0221.

A half-dozen shops and stalls on Kaosan Road in Banglampoo are good sources for used books, mostly paperbacks. Buy, sell or exchange books in English, Japanese and European languages. Open daily roughly 10 am-9 pm.


Despite the growing number of shopping centers and malls, the floating market persists as a Thai phenomenon. Merchants� paddleboats floating down canals and winding rivers are loaded with vegetables, fruit and flowers.

Several waterside markets can be found along the Chao Phraya River. Talaat Thaywait, a plant and flower market open all week, is in the north end of town on Sam Sen Road near the National Library. Banglampoo Market is on Chakrapong near Sanam Luang and the Democracy Monument, and Talaat Bangrak is on New Road, near the Taksin Sathorn Bridge at the south end of town. Another floating market is located west of Highway 338 on Klong Chak Phra. All are reachable by boat or taxi.

A famous open-air market is the vast Weekend Market at Chatuchak Park, off Phahonyothin Road near Lard Prao. This authentic Asian-style bazaar offers handicrafts, clothes, antiques and plenty of delicious food. Periodically Chatuchak is raided by authorities for the sale of endangered animal species. The colorful Nancy Chandler map includes a map of this market that reveals all the treasure sites. Open Saturday and Sunday, early to late. Prices are negotiable. Pahon Road, across from the northern bus terminal.

A similar market assembles Sundays at Wat Mahat, near the river between the Grand Palace and Thammasat University. 7 am-5 or 6 pm.

Near the Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut) is Phak Klong Talaat. Fresh produce and flowers are brought there by boat every morning from the farms of Thonburi.

But the most famous floating market by far is Damnoem Saduak, which keeps outgrowing locations and moving on. It�s now outside of town, 65 mi/105 km south in Ratchaburi Province. It�s overwhelmed by tourists but is considered better or perhaps more photogenic than floating markets closer to town. Bus tours can be booked in Bangkok. They leave early enough to beat the traffic and stop in various locations to let you take pictures. If you plan to spend a few days in Kanchanaburi, it�s quicker to take a Damnoen Saduak tour from there.


Jim Thompson�s Thai Silk Shop is probably the most famous and reputable silk shop in Thailand. The shop bears the name of the man who revived the silk industry in Thailand in the 1940s. Branches can be found in a number of upscale malls. Daily 9 am-9 pm. 9 Surawong Rd., phone 2344-9004.

Another revived art that has captured international attention is celadon pottery, named for its translucent, jade-colored glaze. Thai Celadon specializes in vases and ornamental pieces. Daily 9 am-6 pm. 18/7 Sukhumvit, Soi 21, phone 258-3920.

Duriyaban Co. is a family-owned store that has been selling traditional Thai musical instruments for generations. It�s at 151 Tanao Rd., north of Democracy Monument, phone 281-6736.


Still known as �Sin City,� Bangkok is a gritty source, unfortunately, for commercial and exploitative sex. Patpong I and II are two infamous streets running parallel to each other between Silom Road and Surawongse Road. In the Patpong area and in the establishments on Soi Cowboy and at the Nana Plaza (at Soi 4 and Washington Square), there�s plenty to see for the curious, but extreme caution is advised if you frequent the bars. AIDS is rampant (more than 800,000 Thais are infected); consorting with strangers is not only hazardous to your health but also an invitation to theft of your wallet.

You�ll find trendy Thais eating, drinking and resonating to music off upper Silom Road (around Silom Soi 2 and Soi 4)�the hub of a very trendy area. Just north of Lumpini Park, Soi Sarasin and Soi Lang Suan echo with the sounds of blues and jazz and soft rock every night of the week, drawing 30-something professionals. Soi Thonglor (Sukhumvit Soi 55) is similar, but with a higher standard of cuisine. Royal City Avenue (RCA) is a phenomenal concentration of theme bars, discos, clubs, outdoor cafes, art galleries, pop music, hip-hop and techno�not to mention an authentic Sardinian restaurant. Far-flung Rachadapisek Road appears to be turning into a Las Vegaslike strip. The Bamboo Bar, in the Oriental Hotel, is one of the finest jazz venues outside of Chicago or New Orleans. If you want to catch music and jokes that appeal to most Thais (i.e., ordinary, country-bred types), persuade a Thai friend to bring you to some of the live middle-of-the-road lam and luuk thung clubs, such as those along New Petchburi Road: The mood and lyrics recall U.S.-style country music.


Calypso Cabaret is a campy, Las Vegas-style revue featuring dance, song and burlesque performed by a �slew of lovely ladies� (actually, they�re men). This might not be everyone�s cup of tea, but the show has a touch of class. Reservations suggested. Nightly 8:30 pm and 9:45 pm. 300 baht, including one drink. Full bar. All credit cards. Asia Hotel, 296 Phyathai Road, phone 261-6355.


Spasso�s, on the lobby level of the Grand Hyatt Erawan, offers lively rock bands in an elegant setting. Not a great place for conversation, but you can communicate on the dance floor. Booze flows; so does your cash. Italian cuisine in the restaurant. 10 pm-2 am nightly. Credit cards, no cover. 494 Ratchadamri Rd., phone 254-1234.

The Bamboo Bar entertainment invariably consists of an accomplished female jazz singer from the U.S. and an accompanying pianist. Very civilized atmosphere. Music starts at 10 pm. Pricey drinks. Dress up; this is one of Bangkok�s most luxurious clubs. Credit cards, no cover, one-drink minimum. The Oriental Hotel, Oriental Lane, phone 236-0400.

Hard Rock Cafe hosts the best Top 40, soul, rock and reggae cover bands in Bangkok. It�s popular with Thais and foreigners alike. Credit cards, no cover. Food, booze and beer. Nightly music 8:30 pm-1 am. Siam Square, 965 Rama I Rd., phone 251-0792.

Raintree looks like a hunting lodge, with stuffed skins and stag heads. But the musicians play an infectious brand of socially critical folk rock��songs for life� (pleng pleua cheewit). Nightly 6 pm-2 am. No credit cards. 116/64 Rangnam, off Phyathai Road (south of the Victory Monument), phone 245-7230.

Saxophone Pub and Restaurant is an old favorite of expats and Thais alike. The purely jazz format has been relaxed to allow some blues and rock to sneak in. Casual atmosphere. Credit cards. 3/3 Victory Monument (southeast side of circle), Phyathai Road, phone 246-5472.

Witch�s Tavern is a lounge bar with very comfortable seating, good food and polished jazz, plus a bit of pop music. Visiting musicians are invited to join jam sessions on Sunday afternoons. Open daily 11 am-2 pm and 5 pm-1 am. Credit Cards. 306/1 Sukhumvit, Soi 55 (Soi Thonglor), phone 391-9791. (This neighborhood hosts many good small restaurants, music bars and two art galleries.)


CM2, a play on the name Siam Square, is a multithemed spot with different �entertainment zones.� Nightly 7 pm-2 am. Credit cards. Novotel Siam, Siam Square, Soi 6, phone 255-6888, ext. 2549.

DJ Station attracts the trendier gay set. It�s packed on weekends. The 200-baht cover includes two drinks. 8/6-8 Silom, Soi 2, phone 266-4029.

Phoebus Amphitheater Complex. Described as looking like Moonbase Alpha, this club boasts the most up-to-date lighting, laser and sound technology in the world. Rock music, always packed. Nightly 9 pm-2 am. Rachadapisek Road, phone 245-5545.

Phuture is new, very trendy, high-tech and not cheap. Part dance club, part theater. Even Aqua has performed on the premises. Late in the evening, deejays take over with house and techno. Frequented by TV stars and the children of �influential people.� Nightly 9 pm-3 am. 500 baht cover charge, includes two drinks. Visa. 91/9 Ratchadapisek Rd., phone 693-8022.

The Rome Club is an institution�going on 25 years now�but with one of the best sound systems and deejays that make sure everyone keeps dancing. Gay and straight crowd. Drag show at midnight. Nightly 7 pm-3 am. Credit cards. 90-96 Silom, Soi 4, phone 233-8836.

Taurus is another rare survivor, a perennial favorite of models, TV stars and children of the idle rich. Quality live Thai bands in one part, club with chart and house music in another. Sushi restaurant and video arcade as well. Nightly 6 pm-2 am. 500 baht cover fee, includes two drinks. Credit cards. Sukhumvit, Soi 26, next to Four Wings Hotel, phone 261-3991.


Bobby�s Arms is a British-style pub, perhaps the only one in Patpong where women will be halfway comfortable. Serves food, spirits and beer. Dixieland on Sunday afternoons. Daily 11 am-1 am. Credit cards. 2 Soi Patpong, phone 233-6828.

In the popular Sarasin area, Old West Saloon puts on the face of the frontier, with Thais interpreting country-western music. Clientele is white-collar Thai and foreign residents. Serves food, spirits and beer. Nightly 6 pm-1 am, music starts at 8 pm. Credit cards. 231/17 Soi Sarisan, phone 252-9510.

Wine Wild Why? is a very Thai bar with a Thai clientele, despite the easy-listening and pop jazz background music. It�s convenient if you�ve been scouting Chatuchak Park�s weekend market. This road is just south, and it�s full of other quirky bars and friendly drinkers. Close also to Central Plaza Hotel. Nightly 5 pm-2 am. No credit cards. 421 Kamphaengphet Rd., phone 272-4783.

El Gordo�s Cantina, striving for a Tex-Mex ambience, is an odd place to go on a Thai vacation, but you�ll feel comfortable bringing your children. Live Tex-Mex, Cajun and bluegrass with dobros, kazoos and other funny instruments. Touristy. Daily 11 am-1 am. Credit cards. 130/8 Silom Rd., Soi 8, phone 237-1415.


Though early mornings are pleasant, Bangkok�s steamy climate is a deterrent to those who enjoy watching and participating in sports. Some of the major hotels offer air-conditioned sports and fitness facilities, but the sport that�s increasing in popularity is one that is necessarily played out of doors: golf. More than 20 courses are within close reach of the city.

Thai boxing (which allows kicking) is the country�s most famous sport. Matches are held every night. At Lumpini Stadium, east of Lumpini Park on Rama IV Road, matches are on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.


For a map of all the golf courses, including telephone numbers, contact Al Eberhardt, Letter-Ads, 25/2 Sukhumvit 31, phone 258-4654, fax 259-4854. Map can be delivered to your hotel.

The Royal Dusit Golf Course is the most convenient course to the city. Championship 18-hole course, par 66. Daily 6 am-6 pm. Fees: Monday-Friday 320 baht, Saturday and Sunday 530 baht. Phitsanuloke Road, phone 281-4320.

The Krungthep Kritha Golf Course, 15 mi/24 km east of the city center, offers an 18-hole or nine-hole course. Daily 5 am-5 pm. Fees: Monday-Friday 300 baht, Saturday and Sunday 500 baht. 516 Krungthep Kritha Rd., Hua Mark, phone 374-6063 or 374-0491.

Unico Golf Course, 15 mi/24 km east of the city, near Krungthep Kritha Golf Course, is a championship 18-hole course, par-72. Daily 5:30 am-4 pm. Fees: Monday-Friday 535 baht, Saturday and Sunday 1070 baht. 47 Mu 7 Krungthep Kritha, Prawet, Phra Khanong, phone 377-9038.


The Hilton Hotel, in the city center, has an extensive recreation center with tennis courts, squash courts, gym (featuring weight machines, free weights, treadmills and stationary cycles), large swimming pool and restaurant. Daily 7 am-10 pm. 300 baht for nonguests. 2 Witthayu Rd., phone 253-0123.

World Club is the best of the private clubs, with a giant gym, free weights, cycles, treadmills and aerobics classes. No pool. Near the Grand Hyatt in the center of town. Daily 8 am-8 pm. 350 baht. 97-121 Bangkok Bazaar Center, Ratchadamri Road, phone 251-7647.

The YMCA, on the south side of the city, has a pool, a badminton court and an outdoor gym with free weights. Daily 7 am-9 pm. 75 baht per day. 27 S. Sathorn Rd., phone 287-2727.

Colony Sauna is a predominantly gay health club with swimming pool, steam room, sauna, gym (free weights, treadmills, cycles and weight machines) and a restaurant. Daily 3 pm-midnight. 200 baht. 117 Soi Charoensuk, Sukhumvit Soi 55, phone 391-4393.


Massage is a Thai tradition for both men and women, taken for granted as one of life�s simple joys. Traditional massage is an ancient and honorable profession that�s a bit more bone bending than Westerners often expect. Once you have enjoyed (survived) a traditional Thai massage, you�ll be completely relaxed. Thai massage should cost approximately 150 baht per hour and can be found in many traditional massage parlors. One is Buathip Thai Massage, 4/13 Soi 5, Sukhumvit Road, phone 255-1045.

The well-regarded Bodie Care, near the north end of Surawong Road, offers a two-hour massage. Daily 10 am-midnight. 38/8 Surawong Rd., phone 233-4144. Close by, across from Thaniya Plaza, is Eve House, which serves only women. 150 baht per hour. Daily 7 am-9 pm. 18/1 Suawong Rd., phone 266-3846.

Massage is taught as well as given at the Wat Po, Bangkok�s oldest temple. A 30-hour course in the traditional southern style is taught for 4,500 baht (in addition to the daily entrance fee). A half-hour massage costs 100 baht. Thye Wang and Sanam Chai Road, phone 221-2974.

Many hotels also have legitimate massage services; ask at yours.


Sathip Swimming Pool, on the eastern edge of the city, offers a lap pool, as well as tennis and badminton courts. Daily 8 am-midnight. 250-baht membership fee, 40 baht per visit. 140 Sukhumvit, Soi 56, off Sukhumvit Road, phone 331-2037.

Queen Sirikit Park (also known as Benjasiri Park) boasts a large, relatively new, outdoor public pool near the rear of the park. Enter on Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 22 and Soi 24. Get here midday when school is in session and you can swim laps. Daily 10 am-8 pm. Membership costs 40 baht per year, plus 15 baht per visit. Children not yet age 16 enter free. No phone.


Rowboats and paddleboats can be rented at both Lumpini Park and Chatuchak Park for 40 baht an hour.


Lumpini Park, Chatuchak Park and Sanam Luang are popular with joggers in the early morning and early evenings. Avoid the parks after dark.

Hash House Harriers is the ever-popular running club. Bangkok H3 is known affectionately as the drinking club with a running problem. Contact Randall Burke on his mobile phone, 01-406-8896, or try Todd Wilkie (phone 865-7137) or Frank Allum (phone 01-925-4344). This predominantly expatriate group organizes fun runs several times a week. Ask also about monthly mountainbike rides outside of Bangkok.


For current information on sports events in Bangkok, check the sports sections of The Bangkok Post and The Nation, or call the Sports Promotion Organization of Thailand, phone 377-6423.

The following clubs sponsor horse races every other Sunday: The Royal Bangkok Sports Club, 1 Henri Dunant Rd., phone 251-0181; and The Royal Turf Club of Thailand, 183 Phitsanuloke Rd., phone 280-0020. Races begin at 12:30 pm and admission is 50 baht-100 baht.

Lumpini Stadium, near Lumpini Park, hosts Thai kickboxing matches every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 6 pm. 100 baht. Rama IV Road, phone 252-8765.

The National Stadium, in the city center, offers a range of spectator sports, including soccer matches. Rama I Road, phone 214-0200.

Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium is another site for Thai kickboxing. 1 Ratchadamnoen Rd., phone 281-4205. Bouts on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Day Trips

To Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand. Founded in AD 1350, it remains an archaeological treasure with an extensive collection of temples (some well maintained) and Buddhist relics. About 55 mi/90 km from Bangkok via Highway 340. Take a bus from the north/northeastern bus station, near Chatuchak Park (Phaholythin Road, phone 271-0102). Buses leave nearly every hour, and the cost is 50 baht-100 baht. The entrance fee to the historical park is 200 baht. This is an easy day trip. There are some good restaurants near the park that suit Western tastes, should you be tiring of Thai food.

The Oriental Hotel offers an all-day tour of Ayutthaya via the Chao Phraya River on its exclusive yacht The Oriental Queen. This is a pricey tour, but the lavish surroundings, excellent food and knowledgeable guides are worth it. Depart by bus and return by boat, or vice versa. 1,400 baht per person, includes lunch (available either direction). Reservations required. Daily 8 am-5 pm. 48 Oriental Ave., phone 236-0420.

To Kanchanaburi/River Kwai, famous for the Death Railway and the prison camps that populated the area during World War II. (Malaria is endemic in this area, so take plenty of insect repellent and use it liberally.) Numerous sightseeing possibilities include a museum dedicated to the Allied prisoners of war and Asian laborers who died there, as well as a train ride on the Death Railway. There are also restaurants on floating rafts and places to shop. The recent discovery of Neolithic burial sites has increased the historical importance of this area. Contact the tourist office to find out which local tour companies arrange trips to the burial grounds.

The area is 80 mi/130 km from Bangkok via Highway 323�less than two hours by car or bus and less than three hours by train. Buses leave from the Southern Air-Conditioned Bus Terminal in Thonburi, the bus station on the west end of the city, across the river from the Grand Palace (Charansantiwong Road, phone 435-1199). There are early morning departures at 6 and 7 am�the best times to leave to avoid traffic and to allow for a full day in Kanchanaburi. Going by train is difficult in one day and not recommended, although the rail journey is lovely for those who want to stay overnight.

You�ll see one- and two-day bus tours to Kanchanaburi sold at travel agencies all over Bangkok. They usually include lunch, a visit to an Allied cemetery and a ride on an old train along a short, very scenic stretch of renovated Japanese track. Admission fees to the several museums might be additional.

To Damnoem Saduak. The famous floating markets in Damnoem Saduak (about 65 mi/105 km south of Bangkok) are small commercial waterways abuzz with activity every day of the week. World Travel Service, among many others, offers early morning boat tours. Leave the Oriental Hotel by bus, then transfer to a boat for the 15-minute trip to the main market. Return to Bangkok by 6 pm. This trip includes a cultural show and lunch at a nearby resort. 1,300 baht per person. Reservations required. 48 Oriental Ave., phone 236-0400.


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