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.
AT OR NEAR THE AIRPORT
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. $$. 333
Choet Wutthakat Rd., Don Muang, phone 566-1020, fax 566-1914.
Comfort Airport Hotel�Just less than a mile from the
airport (1.5 km) and providing free shuttle service (with 24-hour
advance notification). Business center, swimming pool and
restaurant. $. 88/117 Wiphawadi-Rangsit Rd., phone 552-8921, fax
Central Plaza Hotel�Probably the poshest hotel within
the airport radius (only 15 minutes away, though in heavy traffic
it could take an hour). Part of a six-story complex that includes
a shopping center, convention hall, golf course and parking lot.
Great view of Chatuchak Park (which isn�t too far away for a
morning jog) and the Bangkok skyline. Pool, gardens, lounge,
restaurants and business center. Pickup and delivery service to
airport available for 800 baht. $$$. 1695 Phahonyothin Rd., phone
541-1234, fax 541-1087.
ON THE RIVER
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
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
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
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
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
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; $$$ = 500baht-1,250
baht; and $$$$ = more than 1,250 baht.
BEST IN TOWN
Sala Rim Naam�Probably the best Thai restaurant in the
whole country. Owned by the Oriental Hotel, this exquisitely
furnished traditional Thai pavilion sits across the river from it.
Diners arrive by private boat. The dinner show starts at 8:30 pm
and features traditional dance and theater. Daily 1-2 pm and 7-11
pm. Reservations suggested. $$$$. Major credit cards. 48 Oriental
Ave., phone 236-0400.
Baan Khanitha�A quaint, old house with gardens in a
quiet location. Royal (refined) Thai cuisine and regional dishes,
including green curry with coconut tips. Daily 11:30 am-2 pm and
6:30-11 pm. Reservations recommended for dinner Saturday and
Sunday. $$$. Major credit cards. On the east side of Bangkok,
Sukhumvit Road, Soi 23, phone 258-4181.
HOT AND TRENDY
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.
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. $$. Most major credit cards. 155 Ratchadamri Rd.,
Whole Earth�Terrific Thai vegetarian fare with an
Indian influence. There are a few meat and seafood entrees as
well. Two locals: The smaller, cozier one is at 93/3 Soi Lan Suan,
off Ploenchit Road, phone 252-5574. It�s a stroll to a
half-dozen live music bars. Much larger and more secluded is the
branch at 71 Sukhumvit Soi 26, phone 258-4900. If you�ve got
children, choose this one: Since every item is cooked to order,
the wait can be long, but the kids can play out in the garden. At
both restaurants, you can sit on floor cushions, as in the old
days (but it�s not required). Both of these fall into the $$
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. $$$. Most major credit cards. 13/3 Sathorn Tai Rd., phone
Mayflower Restaurant�At the Dusit Thani Hotel, the
Mayflower serves highly praised Cantonese specialties in a fine
colonial-style room decorated with Chinese antiques. Roast
suckling pig is a house specialty. Vegetarian dishes are
excellent. Dress code. Daily 11:30 am-2 pm and 6-10 pm.
Reservations suggested. $$$. 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
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.
$$$. Most major credit cards. On the eastern edge of the city,
past the Ambassador Hotel, at 32/8 Sukhumvit, Soi 19, phone
ADDITIONAL DINING EXPERIENCES
The Ayutthaya Princess�One of the dining highlights in
Bangkok. Built to resemble a royal barge, this floating restaurant
provides dinner cruises with traditional Thai culture shows. The
food is great, and despite the large size of the boat (seats 170
persons), the service reflects the high standards of the boat�s
owner, the Shangri-La Hotel. Daily cruises depart at 7 pm, return
at 9:30 pm. Dressy. $$$. 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. $$$. Most major
credit cards. 20/10-11 Soi Rumrudee, Ploenchit Road, phone
Bourbon Street�Fun and boisterous, this restaurant
serves Creole and Cajun dishes, Mexican food and home-style fare.
Specialties include gumbo, jambalaya, tacos, chili and barbecued
ribs and chicken. You can wear your grubby jeans, since it�s in
a frankly grubby karaoke-massage area. Daily 7 am-1 am. $. Most
major credit cards. Washington Square, Sukhumvit, Soi 22, phone
Cafe at the Park�Thai and other cuisines served in a
glass-enclosed corner of the Century Park Hotel. You feel like
you�re eating in an air-conditioned park. Try the lunch or
dinner buffet. On Friday and Saturday nights, a large, fresh
seafood selection is added. Open 24 hours. $$. 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.
LATE NIGHT DINING/BREAKFAST
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
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
http://www.thailine.com. 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
LANDMARKS AND HISTORIC SITES
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
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
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,
PARKS, GARDENS AND ZOOS
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
AMUSEMENT OR THEME PARKS
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
BEST DEPARTMENT STORES
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.,
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
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.
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
Chao Phraya Tower Shopping Arcade
boutiques, leather shops, Thai silk shops and art galleries. Daily
10 am-7 pm. 23 Rongnamkhaeng Lane (next to the Shangri-la Hotel),
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.
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
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.
UNIQUE OR UNUSUAL
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
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.
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
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.)
NIGHTCLUBS AND DANCING
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,
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.,
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.
TAVERNS AND PUBS
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,
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.,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.