Bangkok Travel Guide
With at least 20 rooftop bars in Bangkok, how could you possibly choose where to catch a breeze and a buzz? You could hop over to Sky Bar at the Lebua hotel, made infamous in The Hangover Part II. You could knock a few back at the equally impressive open-air Vertigo restaurant and Moon Bar, which offer awe-inspiring vistas from the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Bangkok. At most of these places, prices are sky-high — but you can still find a bargain if you look hard enough.
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When you visit Bangkok, you'll quickly realize that public transportation is pretty cheap. When using a metered taxi, rates starts at 35 baht (just over a dollar) for the first two kilometers and increase by about 2 baht for each kilometer after. This means that to jump from neighborhood to neighborhood is only a couple of bucks, and if you're in no rush, fares on the subway (MRT) and skytrain (BTS) are under 60 baht ($2) for all one-way trips.
If you're staying along the river and are looking to visit a destination up or downstream, such as the Grand Palace, taking a water taxi is a very good option both in terms of convenience and ambiance. Just as you should never take a taxi that's not metered in Bangkok, you also have to be careful of water shuttles that could cost you more.
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First-time visitors to Bangkok will no doubt be pointed in the direction of the Grand Palace as a must-see tourist attraction, and such was the case for us this week. It was a last-minute decision, and when we arrived, the complex was hot, crowded, and there was very limited explanation on site. We quickly realized that a little bit of research would have gone a long way towards a better experience. With that in mind, here's a rundown of what you should know before visiting:
View looking south down the Chao Phraya River
A few weeks ago, we told you what you needed to know about the military curfew in Thailand. Well, worry no more, because the restriction is officially gone and nightlife is back to normal across the country. With that news in hand, we arrived in Bangkok this week, very anxious to see what the city felt like during this time of military control.
Aside from one humvee we passed on the highway that appeared to simply be a standard transfer between bases, we haven't seen one sign of anything out of the ordinary. No tanks, no soldiers, and no protests. All the shops, attractions, restaurants, and bars are operating as normal. If someone who didn't read the news came here right now, they would have no idea that anything had happened in the first place.
Those currently or with plans to travel to Thailand this summer will want to stay up to date on the latest regarding the military coup and subsequent curfew. Here's the latest on what's happening across the Pacific:
· The curfew has been completely lifted in Phuket, Pattaya, and Koh Samui, and all businesses are running as usual.
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Last time we checked-in on the political protests happening in Bangkok, a few airlines had reduced service to the Thai capital. Even though there's no immediate cessation of anti-government protests in the near future, can travelers still consider Bangkok as a safe destination this season?
Interestingly enough, Thai Airways hasn't said much when it comes to reduced flights or travel waivers. There is a warning on their website that, due to road closures, they recommend leave 4 hours early before a scheduled flight. Apart from that, operations are running as per normal and as if nothing was actually happening in the city center.
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Nok, a budget airline based in Bangkok, called up Playboy Thailand and collaborated with the men's publication to choose the "10 Hottest Bunnies" to star alongside Nok's colorful fleet of Boeing 737s (and ATR 72s) for a 2014 calendar. There's no word on the cost of the calendar, but it's safe to assume that passengers may buy them onboard Nok's flights.
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The political unrest currently underway in Bangkok has convinced at least three airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Hong Kong Airlines, to reduce the number of flights into Thailand's capital during the second half of January and February.
"We've learned that Singapore Airlines plans to cut 19 flights between Jan 14 and Feb 25. Cathay will probably follow suit because passengers are uneasy about the political situation in Thailand," Suvarnabhumi Airport General Manager Rawewan Netrakavesna told the Bangkok Post. Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said that Hong Kong Airlines was probably going to cut about 60 flights as well.
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On the banks of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River sits one of the city's most dramatic temples, Wat Arun. It's really hard to miss if you've hopped one of the tourist boat rides up or down the river, and virtually impossible to ignore if you're staying in one of the riverside hotels dotting the banks.
"Wat Arun" translates to "Temple of Dawn" and, if you are lucky enough to see the temple glisten in the rising sun's light, you'll understand why. Thought to have been originally built in the 17th Century, the Khmer-reminiscent towers can be spied from most everywhere in the neighborhood as they keep a watchful presence not only over the river, but the Bangkok Yai District.
If you've been to Thailand, or any other Buddhist country in the region, you know monks going about their daily activities wrapped in saffron-colored robes is a fairly common occurrence. Since Bangkok is the only Thai city with some sort of public train system, it is quite regular to see the monks saving some bhat and hopping on the city's light rail or subway system.
While not very extensive, the city's public transport system is very easy to use and, at about 40 US cents per trip, is even easier on the wallet, no private jets here. It makes complete sense for anyone to use the train system, from '9 to 5'-ers to school kids on their way to class. One thing to keep an eye out for, however, is the occasional monk on his way to a local temple for his devout duties. They actually have their very own reserved seats, as you can see in the sign above.
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If you prefer to travel the 'beaten path' and visit cities that see more than their fair share of tourists, you may want to rethink your itinerary since there has been a shift in where the planet's travelers are heading. It's actually Bangkok, and not New York, that reigns as tourist capital of the world.
The figures are based on a recent survey put forth by Mastercard. The Global Destinations Cities Index lists the Thai capital as tops for foreigners coming to see the sights, eclipsing London, Paris and New York.
Don't let the title put you off, this post isn't NSFW. Cabbages & Condoms is a portfolio of restaurants in Thailand that serves up delicious Thai cuisine while nonchalantly discussing the importance of safe-sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
Okay, we agree this might not be the best dinner-party topic, but it's all for a greater cause.
We recently checked out the Bangkok outpost and were pleasantly surprised to find mannequins outfitted in fashion made from condoms and birth-control pills—kind of like Project Runway meets a local clinic-turned-restaurant. Seems like a natural progression, right?