Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok, as Murray Head says, "Oriental setting and the city don't know that the city is getting."

Originally a small village in the 1400s, it became the seat of power when the capital city of Ayutthaya was sacked in 1767 and the King moved the everything here. From its beginning as a trading post, Bangkok has an interesting history in a country with the distinction of never falling under the control of an European nation. It grew its own trade regionally until World War II.

After WW2, they city received major rebuilding investments from the USA and then after the Vietnam war ended, from Japan. Bangkok grew fast and chaotically (reflected by the traffic situation), and now is home to a huge banking and export industry as well as 10 million people, and yes... a crazy number of brothels, but it is so much more than that.

The Arrival

Every trip I have taken, I have flown into Suvarnabhumi Airport after connecting in Kuala Lumpur from Singapore or directly from Tokyo and Helsinki. I found an old co-worker from Starwood Hotels was just leaving to Vietnam, and we had a quick meetup in the airline counter area. Once I left the airport, I got on the train to downtown, and then the monorail brought me close to my hotel, the JW Marriott on Sukhumvit Road.

I typically take the train; I have taken a cab once, and it was so much longer of a trip due to the constant traffic. The costs are significantly different too, and the amount of scams for a cab ride are intense and difficult to navigate your first time here.
Financial district, east of downtown The 2016 virus running around
There are many machines to get your BTS (monorail) passes, but most use coins as the one for bills or credit cards (and I do mean the ONE) always has a line This is my primary mode of getting around, take the BTS (or the MRT which is the subway) to get close, then it's the shoe leather express


Bangkok has many modes of transportation, several of which I don't like to use unless I have to. Taxis are a gamble unless arranged by your hotel, that's about the only way I will use them anymore. Tuk-tuks are never really a good option, the attempts to scam you with alternate destinations are basically endless and universal. The bus, well, there are many buses, and some look like they stopped being safe back in 1965, and nobody told anyone so they just kept driving them. There are other ones that are quite modern and if you can deal with the traffic wait times, it's an option to get out to farther away places.

Then there is the monorail, the subway, and the national rail. This is what I see (besides flying) as the best way to get to farther cities, especially up north.
The old (and still the most used) train station.  Central area of Bangkok Pay attention here, they do run pretty reliably though Many different types of coaches and engines, a result of gifts over the years from many countries
Those are not change machines but sim card machines On the train, the AC car.  It was a very interesting ride No slums like rail-side slums.  Full families living here and still going off on motos or buses to work to make ends meet


On my first real trip to Asia and I was burning money like mad over the past 2 weeks, so I decided to walk up Sukhumvit to the Hard Rock for pins instead of a cab. Back in 2016, they used to have a night market along the sidewalks which were still crazy crowded long after the workday ended for the rest of the world.
New, Old, Knockoff, it's all here So crowded, I felt like I was in Blade Runner
I usually go back to the hotel before it gets too late; it's always hot and humid and the moisture screams up after sunset.

I like to walk a lot, so I took the subway to as close to the Royal Palace and major temples as you could during that time, and then walked to them. Along the way were multitudes of little shops catering to all kinds of needs on the north edge of Chinatown. Each is very focused but this is how the local economy is set up, and it does work.
Old sewing machines still in major use.  Rugged is valued over the latest features Produce Tea
Mending, done right on the street while you wait if you want
Raise your own food, then you know what quality it is.  Some things can be suspect in food markets Traditional pharmacy
Very popular with the Chinese population
I have also visited the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest market in Thailand. This is a level of insanity and discovery that I am having difficulty understanding how anyone finds what they are really shopping for instead of just happening to stumble across it in the dozens of tight passages hidden throughout.
Sign, marginally helpful.  No matter what the internet says, nothing really happens here before 10:00am It goes on and on and on and on and this is less than a quarter of it This is basically a loose guide, you still have to hunt up and down the passages, past what was been stated are pickpocket strongholds, to find things you want
Shoes, they may be Converse, or they may be not.  Welcome to Asia All silk flowers, really nice looking ones, now you know where Pier 1 used to get these things
Endless, and almost random vendor stalls So, when you visit friends who were kids in the 1970s and their parents brought back things like this from vacations, well, they are interesting, but many are not culturally accurate, just churned out for tourist sales This I liked, very calming and engaging
There are real antique stalls, I do not know the exact rules on exporting antiquities from Thailand, this could be problematic without paperwork Centralized (there are many smaller spots) dining area with all kinds of Thai dishes and reasonable (but not totally local) prices
Now you see that 6 foot item you want to bring home, but are like 'I can't check this on the plane'.  Well, they have the solution right here
Not only is the market here, it's part of a large shopping area, and a very interesting area of flea markets I found that carry all kinds of things. Western banality seems to sell well here.
This feels like what you'd be used to in a multi-stall antique mall back in the USA.  Only really open after 10am, but the guard was distracted so Rob snuck in
The temps get pretty extreme on the high end all year long and you will feel it walking about, and when I finally got to Wat Pho temple grounds, where people promptly tried to scam me with a tuk-tuk ride.
Saranrom Royal Park, it's pretty nice Lots of Buddhas, but I could only take pictures of a few.  Rules
Respect the Buddha, I guess a lot were not
Just north of the temple is the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, the temple on the palace grounds. I encountered scammers trying to sell fake admission tickets to the Palace at a non-real entrance.
Ceremonial guard.  The real ones were in barracks with machine guns by the entrance Sadly pictures are not allowed in a lot of the palace
Depictions of the battle that made Siam a major player
BIG temple buildings.  Proximity to the King helps, I am sure My favorite picture I have ever taken.  The paradox of ancient and modern just grabs me
After leaving the palace, I walked around the central park and along the river to some markets on Khaosan Road
Cooler by the water Massive river you never heard the name of.  Chao Phraya Yeah, markets can have just junk too
Then, while it was 102 degrees, well, I made the long walk back to the subway station of Hua Lamphong. I basically went from 7-eleven to 7-eleven buying a drink, finishing it, and hitting the next one, nonstop. I have not sweat so much since I was in the Army.
The democracy monument.  Not sure how relevant that is lately This temple is named Loha Prasat.  These street side temples are everywhere. I mean if I turned around and threw a rock, I'd hit another one too.  Not much different than the southern USA with their churches Got a moto?
A museum of the old prison complex which was, from what I hear, better than the new prisons
There are actually a very large number of parks in the city. Many are dedicated to monarchs or their spouses. The green spaces have lower temperatures than the city and streets around them.

Wachira park is a very large space in the northern side of the city, attached to Queen Sirikit Park and Chatachak Park. Somewhat wild, feels very remote, and the largest park complex in the city limits.
No, I don't know what this says Yes, that is indeed an actual water monitor walking around freely in the park.  Those who know, stay away
Various areas of sculpted gardens in the wilderness type mix In Chatachak park, it has seats, I guess that makes me happy?
Very large lake in the center of the park which is more geared to families with children and walking around in a more refined natural area


The scams run hot and heavy near the tourist spots. Just walk away, don't even engage. If someone comes up to you to start a conversation, 99.999% of the time it's a scam, don't feel bad.

Speaking of hot, yes, it's the tropics. You will sweat. It's not really walkable for most people, although the subway does get much closer to the temples and palace now via Sanam Chai stop. The main modern areas of the city are totally mass transit friendly, and they have to be. A cab will make you want to blow your brains out. The traffic does not clear for any man. It can take 20 minutes for 1 mile.

It was my first trip there, and I was pretty put off by the pervasiveness of the sex trade in the financial district. These are the best hotels in the city and the streets around them are, well, what you would expect from watching movies about Bangkok. Don't let that put you off (or if that's your thing I guess you've found it), there is so much more to Bangkok. Real night clubs, real nice bars and lounges with cheap drinks. 5-star hotels that know how to pamper guests at regular hotel prices here. Astounding shopping with only marginally horrible prices compared to USA for our goods. Markets that are actually the place to find used, or "3rd shift" items made during the off time in the real factories, or outright fake.

Several museums, and at least one really interesting one which I have documented and is related to this post below.

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