Bangkok Thailand will surprise you. The hustle and bustle of a huge city with modern skyscrapers, high end malls, and brand new Toyota taxi’s happily coexists with Buddhist temples, monks, a revered monarchy and ancient tradition. Not far out of town, you will find rice paddies and vast fields of coconut palms – but you will find the workers with cell phones and children with braces on their teeth. Underneath the exterior you will also find the loving, smiling Thai people. Gentle souls, who somehow greet the millions and millions of tourists who are lucky enough to visit each year. Tourism is a major industry and the common language with tourists is English. It’s fun to play charades or Pictionary when you can’t communicate.
But the tourists also come because it is an inexpensive vacation. We recently stayed (for one night) in a 4 star hotel for just under $50 USD. Our lovely little hotel was booked – where we pay just $23 USD including breakfast – and we got to see how the other half lives. Pretty swanky for our tastes! Gorgeous Thai silk scarves are from $2.75 to $4.00 and a meal out for two is less than $10. And it’s great Thai food!
Bangkok has it all. Street vendor’s selling inexpensive t-shirts line many of the tourist areas, but there are also world class museums including the National Museum of Thailand ($5 entry fee), and more ancient Temples than you can imagine.
Relatively new to Bangkok are signs that proclaim “Buddha is not for decoration!” It is disrespectful to buy a Buddha head to grace your mantelpiece at home or put at floor level anywhere. No Buddha dog beds, t-shirts, or paintings. You will see Buddha statues for sale, but they are meant to be used on an alter for praying. (We had no idea!)
A remarkable thing about Bangkok and all of Thailand, for that matter, is the traffic. They drive on the left and traffic rules seem to be merely suggestions. Drivers weave in and out, often crossing the line into oncoming traffic. They let other cars cut in their lane and squeeze through impossibly small spaces. Everyone is calm. There is no road rage and somehow it all works. Pedestrians crossing a busy street, wait for a tiny break in traffic – put out a hand to the oncoming car and scoot across. This takes some getting used to. We would never rent a car in Bangkok! You can cross town in an air conditioned taxi for about $5 – much less in a tuk-tuk.
Everyone will tell you not to drink the water and ask for drinks without ice. First of all, water served at your table is always in a bottle. We have drinks with ice all the time and have never had a problem. Our hotel hostess tells us that all ice is made from bottled water, so no problem. And unless you come from another tropical climate, living without ice in this hot and humid city will be impossible.
After all my travels, I have to say I’ve never felt so safe as in Bangkok. But this means I don’t walk down a dark alley at night and exercise due caution protecting my purse and valuables. I travel at night in a group.
The top photo is a small view of the amazing Wat Pho Temple, right near the palace. If you see nothing else in Bangkok, and what a shame that would be, please see Wat Pho. We were astounded at the art work and the huge golden reclining Buddha.
Zoom in and out on the map below to see attractions. Wat Pho is marked for you.