Thailand’s historical and cultural center, and main political and financial spot, Bangkok is the capital and most populous city in the Asian country, with a population of over 8.2 million inhabitants, and a metropolitan area encompassing over 14 million people (12% of the country’s population). Situated on the margins of the Chao Phraya River, on the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok was elected by the Global Destination Cities Index, on a survey ordered by Mastercard, the best destination among Global Cities in 2013 – and has always been part of the list of 10 best destinations – besides having been elected the “Best City in the World” for four consecutive seasons, between 2006 and 2010, by the Travel + Leisure magazine, thanks to its pleasant tropical climate as well as its incredible tourist spots, which include palaces, museums and a fantastic floating market and exhibit the cultural contrasts between East and West.
Bangkok is an intense metropolis: from the sacred to the profane, going from the cult of and respect for Buddhist traditions to the ostentation of a bustling nightlife, charming tourists from all over the world with the preservation of thousand-year-old temples that co-exist with the most modern shopping malls. Especially during the high season, in a sunny winter with very little rain, between the months of November and March, although the month of April – the warmest in the year – attracts visitors due to the Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year. It’s worthwhile noting that Brazilians with a passport valid for at least six months from the date of their flight to Bangkok don’t need a visa for a stay of 3 months (90 days) in the country. For accommodation, it’s best to opt for a hostel, inn or hotel (there are good options, independent of how much you can afford) in the ancient center of the Thai capital.
What to visit in Bangkok
Starting with the ancient center, Rattanakosin, visit the Grand Palace, which dates from1782 and was the king’s residence for 150 years and today is the administrative center of the Thai government. There you will see the Chakri Mahaprasat (Grand Palace Hall) with a mixture of Italian Renaissance and Thai architecture, home to the Wat Phra Kaew Temple, with its emerald-eyed Buddha. However, some say that the city’s most incredible temple is the Wat Pho, with a recumbent Buddha 46 meters long, and a garden with rows of golden Buddhas. Another famous temple is the Wat Arun, famous for its 70 meter tall tower, highly detailed and decorated, both outside and inside.
As for Bangkok’s museums, don’t miss the incredible Bangkok National Museum, with the country’s largest collection of artworks and artifacts. There, be enchanted by the statues of Buddha, of different ages and sizes, and know the oriental side of the city. On the other hand, the western and high tech Museum of Siam exhibits the paradoxical Thai culture, from royalty to Buddhism, to contemporary fashion and cuisine. On the city streets, don’t fail to go to the floating markets around the canals, with shopping both on land and on boats. Outstanding are the Damnoen Saduak, the Amantawa and the Taling Chan.
At the Chatuchak , tourists have access to over 8 thousand stands in order to take home a piece of Bangkok: from clothes, decorations and antiques to works of art. At J.J. Green, and at Ratchada Rot Fai Train, nocturnal markets, besides shopping you can relax to the sound of live music while enjoying appetizers and typical drinks. For important acquisitions of international brands, visit the gigantic MBK, a six-floor mall with excellent prices for technological items, and the beautiful Siam discovery Mall, with its theme floors.
The fantastic Bangkok cuisine
Bangkok offers what’s best in Thai gastronomy. And you don’t need to go to the most expensive restaurants in town to experience it. The delicious options are available at small street stalls or simple family establishments. Don’t miss sampling the classics: crabmeat omelets; chicken stew with rice; pad thai, rice noodles with bean sprouts, peanuts and eggs (accompanied by pork, shrimp, or chicken); noodle soup with beef and seafood; roast duck; papaya salad and herb-stuffed fish; wagyer with tomatoes and pecorino cheese; and, lastly, the classic Thai dessert, consisting of mangoes and sweet rice.
How to move around in Bangkok
Well prepared to receive tourists, Bangkok has several tours that can be done on foot, although taxis are cheap, and there’s also the option of taking a Grub, a kind of Thai Uber, a better choice than a charming and expensive tuk-tuk. As for public transport, the buses have challenging, roundabout routes for tourists, while the subway isn’t very useful for the main tours. On the other hand, we highly recommend the BTS skytrain, which takes you to the Siam malls, the Chatuachak market and the Bangrak area. Another good option is the small boats that sail on the Chao Phraya River that cuts through the city.