Bangkok ThailandBangkok, 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 ArrivalEvery 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.
TransportationBangkok 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.
WanderingOn 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.
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.
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.
SummaryThe 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.