The transformation Krung Thep, the current Royal capital of Thailand, from reverential and serene Eastern shrine into the exciting brash, brazen and swollen metropolis of today's Bangkok began in the late twentieth century.

BANGKOK

Bisected by the Chao Phraya River, most of its historic sights are to be found on the east bank.



With a rich heritage and so much of real worth to offer the visitor, it is a sad fact that, in western consciousness, Bangkok is now most famous for its notorious sex trade, in large part a by-product of American military involvement in Vietnam, when Thailand was used as a base of operations, with Bangkok’s Patpong district and coastal Pattaya utilised for ‘recreation’ resources for recuperating soldiers with dollars to burn.

Following the withdrawal of American forces, sex tourism would readily fill the gap. With comparable pay in in agriculture and factories far below that of the potential GI and tourist dollars, the impoverished of Bangkok and the countryside were easily drawn into the ‘industry’.

Whilst the colossal sums involved inevitably engender much corruption which hampers change, nowadays fed up with the tarnished reputation of their country and spurred to action by the corrosive effect of the sex industry upon their youth, the Thais are beginning to bring tighter controls over the trade, which one can only hope, will in time, lead to something of a renaissance of the Capital’s translated name, ‘City of Angels.’

RATTANAKOSIN DISTRICT

Best explored on foot, Rattankosin district, home to many fine examples of traditional Thai architecture, is the most photographed area of Bangkok, and houses the magnificent Grand Palace complex, embodying harmonious design elements evolved from Thai, Khmer, Chinese, British, French and Italian architecture.



Other remarkable sights in this area include several ornate temples, such as Wat Phra Kaew, home to the emerald Buddha and modelled in the style of ancient Siam, Wat Pho and its monumental reclining Buddha, two universities and the National Museum.

THONBURI DISTRICT

Across the Chao Phraya river, Thonburi has few buildings of note to explore, other than Bangkok’s tallest temple, the beautiful Wat Arun, and the magnificently decorous vessels housed in the Museum of Royal Barges, but does reward the visitor with a more relaxing and residential aspect, than that found in the city centre.



Thonburi is most appreciated by visitors taking in the vistas on a river cruise around its many canals, and visiting the floating markets at Wat Si and Taling Chan. Although the markets nowadays cater principally to the tourist market, the waterways impart a genuine sense of the Thai lifestyle of old.

THE OLD CITY

Leading east and north from Rattankosin, can be found the areas encompassing Dusit, Chinatown and little India, which include many of the city’s landmarks, such as the Giant Swing, the Democracy Monument, Golden Mount, and Dusit Park, housing Parliament House, the Throne Hall and Dusit Zoo, as well as a bewildering array of temples.



The Sampeng area of Chinatown, once famous for its opium and gambling dens, now offers imported Chinese goods, gold jewellery, Pak Khlong Talad flower market, and the city's best known markets, Talad Kao and Talad Mai. The famous and fabulous Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit is also found here.



PRATUNAM AND PATHUMWAN

Further eastwards the districts of Pratunam and Pathumwan are the heart of downtown Bangkok, full of modern shopping malls, designer stores and foreign embassies. Siam Square, the Snake Farm, Lumphini Park, and the National History and Imaging Technology Museums are among its attractions.



PATPONG AND SUKHUMVIT

Home to the notorious red-light district, Patpong is now a tamer if still rather trashy version of its former self, full of garish neon, techno beat and counterfeit products. If nightlife is your thing, although still tinged with a sleazy edge, more authentic nightspots can be found in Sukhumvit Road. By day, the area also offers the additional attractions of Kamtheing House Ethnological Museum and ‘Emporium’, Bangkok’s premier shopping mall.  

OUT OF TOWN

Beyond the inner city, a few other attractions include the vast Chatuchak Weekend Market, which caters for over 400,000 visitors every weekend, with virtually every type of goods on sale. Dream World theme park and Safari World will delight the kids, though the former is not as impressive as western equivalents. East of the city, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a popular tourist attraction, which featured in a memorable and largely comedic scene in the James Bond movie, 'The Man with the Golden Gun'.



Rama lX Royal Park with its botanical and ornamental gardens provides a peaceable and green escape from the city streets, while the splendid modern era creation of the ‘Ancient City’ is a popular attraction to the south of Bangkok, set in lush gardens and waterfalls designed to mirror the shape of Thailand, housing over a hundred historically authentic replica monuments, some of which are full-scale, from 15 centuries of Thailand’s history.



Nearby the 'Ancient City' is the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm, and its collection 60,000 crocodiles, including the world’s largest. Though not to everyone’s taste, the farm is nevertheless highly popular, and gives an opportunity to see a great variety of crocodile species up close, purchase crocodile-skin products and a chance to sample crocodile meat.

TRANSPORT

Travellers with Haivenu can always rest assured of private transport to any of their chosen destinations as an intrinsic part of their tour itinerary, but sometimes it makes for a pleasant surprise just to go exploring a city and its environs without a pre-arranged plan.



Taxis are in abundance in Bangkok, though it is wise to always check the meter before your journey starts. Also in great abundance, the iconic Tuk Tuks and motorcycle taxis, both of which can provide a fun, if noisy and slightly wild, journey through the city and, depending on your disposition, possibly also a little scary!



Modern alternatives are the Metro system and the elevated ‘Skytrain’, which affords good views over the city. Waterborne taxis, Chao Phraya express boats and cross-river ferries are convenient methods of seeing the city from another perspective.