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Bangkok Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Bangkok vacation


neilray
How to pay on the Skytrain 5 stars
I find it can be a bit frustrating on the Skytrain because tickets are issued only from automatic machines and not from any manned counters., The auto machines are usually located around a pillar opposite the cash offices. Its frustrating because these cash offices do not issue tickets, only change and stored value cards The machines only take 10 or 5 Baht coins, no notes ,so unless I have a pocketful of Baht coins, I have to get change.. Grrrrr! Anyway, having got the coins, go to the machine and press for the zone required.. There's a route map with zone numbers alongside the machine. The top price is 40 Baht and the fare comes on the display when you press the appropriate button. So zone one is the lowest price and currently zone 6 is 40 Baht. The machine sends out a plastic ticket which is put into a slot in the barrier. Going in, the ticket comes out of the top of the machine. to be kept. until leaving the system when the machine keeps the ticket. .The stored value tickets offer a higher number of journeys for the price, rather than discounting individual fares.

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neilray
How to Pay on the MRT 5 stars
I do this every day so I don't even think about the automated system on the MRT. But visitors may find the way it works a bit confusing. The system is based around a plastic token which is bought either at an auto touch screen machine (there is an English option, top right), or pay at the ticket counter. Know the stop you want by looking at the maps on the wall - they are also in English and Thai. Either way you get a round disc which is your entrance and exit from the platforms. Going in:, tap the plastic disc on the picture of the train, on the face of the barrier. The gates will automatically open, but beware of bags getting caught behind you. Coming out: insert the disc into the slot on top of the barrier, and again the gates will open. Another option is to buy a stored value card, where you put the card over the top of the train picture, both in and out. Theres a 50 baht deposit for a stored value card, but there is also a small discount on the fare.

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neilray
Keep the Rain off the Train 4 stars
I've been told this is also something passengers can use in London, but definately in Bangkok, the umbrella which has just experienced the odd monsoon downpour will not lead to wet floors on the MRT. On the underground rail system in Bangkok, there are plastic covers for umbrellas, usually just at the escalator entrance. The covers are free, and pasengers are encouraged to use them. I guess that on safety grounds it is better to have dry platforms and trains than potential slip hazards.

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neilray
SMS Food Please! 5 stars
Bangkok is great for food delivery - it may be the same in every big city but I do know that the sms/text food and information services are very good. in Bangkok I use this for for airline tickets from Nok AIr, and there are codes for information from TAT as well. Here are a few numbers to call, but a Thai SIM card is needed. 300 Baht buys a 'beginners pack' with 12Call and then its plain sailing:
For those in dire need of some fast food service (there will be a dleivery charge and maybe a minimum cost order.
Macdonalds: 1711, KFC 1150, Pizza Company 1122
TAT Tourist Info: 1672 Nok Air 1318

There are plenty of others advertised on the Skytrain - just look for the posters.


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neilray
By Train to Chiang Mai 3 stars
Despite the low cost airlines, the train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok still represents good value. It is true that the airfare can be as little as 600 Baht, but any traveller will point to the added taxes, fuel charges and now baggage charges that send that fare up to 2,000 Baht, plus all the security time needed. The train, on the daytime service from Bangkok is just 690 Baht for an air con 2nd class seat or if on a low budget it can be done for 430 Baht (€10) in 3rd class and a fan. That's cheap by any standards and given a preference I would rather spend 12 hours on a train than 9 or 10 on a bus. Its also an interesting journey passing through Ayutthaya, Phitsanulock and Lampang. These are all beautiful parts of Thailand and overlooked by lots of visitors. The train leaves from Bangkok at 8.30am and arrives Chiang Mai at 8.30pm. There are overnight sevices but I think its good to see the scenery - and overnights always make me feel rotten the next day. The State Railways of Thailand information is at www.railway.co.th

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neilray
Shopping out of town 4 stars
Like any city Bangkok has higher prices in the center and tourist areas of the city. These areas are around the Sukhumvit Road, Silom, and maybe even Khaosan Rd. Here the beer will be in the region of 90 Baht for a small Heinekin or Tiger. Compare that with my local open cafe/eatery where I can get a large bottle ( twice the size) for 55 Baht. The supermarkets out of town are also signifcacntly cheaper. The fine food halls in Siam Paragon and Central are very good, if some favourite western food is wanted, but I shop at either Carrefour, Big C or Tops, just out of the city. A good supermarket is the Lotus store at Ratchadprisek, next to the Rama 9 underground station. Here, something a simple like a jar of coffee is less than that found in only a short distance away.

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neilray
One 2 go Again 5 stars
It looks like the low cost airline, One 2 Go is back in business. The website notice says that fligthts are back on schedule as from 15th September and there are arrivals with the airlines code arriving at Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and even Phuket. I thought Phuket had been dropped. Its an ever changing situation so any traveler who is looking to get a cheap price should look at the ailrine website - www.fly12go.com - to find out the latest. Remember that they fly from Don Muang, not Suvunarbhumi airport.. I prefer Nok, but mainly on the basis that the planes have a great paint job!

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neilray
No more free buses 3 stars
It looks lke the free bus rides are over. Possibly they went with the Prime Minister who had the popular, vote catching idea, but was forced to resign because he was paid for appearing on a TV Cookery show. Yes this is Thailand where every day brings a new surprise and a smile. The free buses were a bit difficult to work out anyway, other than they were the old red ones with no air con. Also some fares have gone up and although for the foreign visitor a 2 Baht rise on a 12 Baht fare is not much, for a local this is quite significant. So those looking for a free ride, sorry its pay as you go

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neilray
Are Tuk Tuks any good? 3 stars
Every tourist in Thailand knows that the Thai Tuk Tuk is synonymous with the country and in Asia is quite a unique form of transport. But is it any good? Or more to the point, how does it compare with other methods. I often overhear a Tuk Tuk driver offering a tourist to take them a few miles to an attraction and asking for 200-300 baht, which is absolutely outrageous. A meter taxi would cost half that, but I know there is anovely factor of sitting in the back of a Tuk Tuk. Locals use them to get back from a market when they are loaded up with purchases, but otherwise, I don't see too many locals using them. They are not fast compared with the motorbike taxi abd they are not air conditioned like a proper taxi. They cannot weave between cars in the traffic jams, they are noisy, and you get a mouthful of exhaust fumes every time the Tuk Tuk passes a bus. Otherwise, they're fine. But they are fun!!

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neilray
Effeminate Service 4 stars
This is tricky because I don't want to offend anyone, but last week I was asked to write an article on Thai ladyboys. It occurred to me that many visitors to Thailand can get very confused when being served in restaurants, at cosmetics counters and in many of the other service industries. Simply they are not sure if the person is male, female, very camp, gay or in fact a fully fledged ladyboy. I have trouble at times and I know the country very well. It is a fact that Thailand has a female population of over 70% and there is a high level of female genes in many boys. Some are just very effeminate, whilst others extend that into their sexual orientation. It really doesn't matter here since this is one of the most tolerant societies in the world. But for some foreign visitors it can be a problem for them.

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neilray
Holes in the street 4 stars
One of the major hazards when walking the streets of Bangkok is the pavement or the holes which appear in the pavements. I'm not sure what it is about Thailand and pavements but basically they cannot lay a street pavement without it falling into ruin within a month or two. One newly laid set of pavement slabs only last edone week, in Lard Phrao. Maybe its because no proper foundation is ever used, just sand. But knowing the place gets alot of rain, it would seem logical to put down a firm base. So for visitors not familiar witht the pavements, be very careful, especially at night. The small slabs tend to lift up and create a groove which is ideal for falling into and spraining an ankle. Keep a look out as you go, and never presume the street you are walking along is anything other than a set of slabs laid over a fine sand.

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neilray
The latest reason to be pulled over 3 stars
The supposed military rule of Bangkok is something of a farce and no potential trip to Thailand or the capital should be put off by worries over safety. The MRT have security check as do the skytrain. But new visitors may be intrigued by the number of police road diversions in the major roads of the city. Usually the stops are to check that motorcyclists have helmets, but a new police stop appeared this week. My bus was pulled over by traffic cops and the driver was asked to do a quick blast on the accelerator. An air quality monitor was set up at the side of the road to check the exhaust emissions from the bus. Welcome to Green Bangkok!

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neilray
Great Music in Bangkok 4 stars
Everyone has their own idea of what makes for a good night of music, so I will say now I am unashamingly blues and rock. Thankfully I am quite happy with slightly aging performers and bands who've been around a while. So for really good blues and rock, plus a spot of jazz thrown in, Bangkok offers three very good places: Tokyo Joes on Soi 24 Sukhumvit has excellent blues performers, Brown Sugar in Silom for cool jazz and a mix of those two can be found at The Saxaphone near Vistory Monument.

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neilray
Plugged In 5 stars
Thailand has a very different socket and plug system which travellers ought to know about. I have found the standard multi plug adapter sold at airports fairly useless, so I have bought local ones which cover all possibilities. The supply is standard 220V but the sockets vary from American style 2 flat pins, to a unique 3 pin plug, where two pins are flat and one of the pins is round. Even in Thai hotels it may be that something bought in the country doesn't fit because that hotel only has 2 pin sockets. That's very frustrating so the answer is to go to the supermarket and buy an adapter. They cost about 30 baht and are small cream coloured things with lots of holes in! They even take the British 3 pin plug.

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neilray
Adverts and more adverts 3 stars
Its very noticeable to anyone not used to it that Bangkok is one big advertising venue. There's hardly a space, building or facility where an advert is not placed. The Skytrain has continuous advertising on TV's and every station platform is decked out in banners for health products, conferences and goodies. Even the trains are moving advertising boards for cameras, mobile phones and other electronics. I noticed quite recently that the underground Metro has decided to use the grab handles as potential advertising mediums! After a while we get used to it but some friends of mine where astonished at the number of ads they were subjected to, just standing on a Skytrain platform.

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neilray
Speeding in a Longtail Boat 4 stars
The Chao Phraya River in Bangkok is in many ways the heart of the city. On the river there are ferries crossing from one side to the other, express boats packed to the brim with passengers, huge sea barges coming in from the Gulf of Thailand, and whizzing in between all these vessels are colourful longtail boats. Passengers vary from crates of goods to gas cylinders and tourists. For the tourist passenger its great fun to be racing along the river, seemingly doing quite high speeds as the longtail bounces over the waves created by other boats. But beware of getting too close to the water. I'm not saying the river is polluted but I wouldn't take any chances. Try not to put hands in the water not matter how tempting, and bearing in mind many get soaked from splashed water, it may be a good idea to have some tissues around.

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neilray
A Eerie Sound on the River 5 stars
Every so often, there is the Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phya River in Bangkok, usually to celebrate a special Royal event. It is a spectacular sight with somewhere in the region of 52 long ornate barges, occupied by row upon row of red clad oarsmen. The main event is very grand but the rehearsals are often more dramatic. I was a spectator on the riverbank for the rehearsals one evening and I would recommend anyone who is in Bangkok to take the opportunity to see this. In the darkness the sound of a gentle hum and quiet chanting comes from the boats as they pass in the night. A very eerie sound and sight to witness. The most accurate information on these events is from the Tourist Authority of Thailand.

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neilray
Post It! 4 stars
The Thai Post service has a wide choice of services from the slow Thai Post man on the motorbike who may arrive by 3pm to the courier style Express Mail Service (EMS) which does domestic and international deliveries. I nearly always use the EMS service, which does cost more but I know it will arrive. EMS also has a computer based tracing system. Post offices can be difficult to find, but in many supermarkets and department stores there are postal desks. As an example in Robinsons department store on Sukhumvit, there is a post desk in the basement, near the food hall, and in Fortune Mall in Ratchadaphisek there is one on the third floor. Its probably quicker to ask at the information desk in the malls. An airmail to Europe will cost about 49 baht and EMS will be anything up to 500 Baht depending on weight.

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neilray
Bangkok Nights 4 stars
Bangkok has something of a reputation for its raucous nightlife and I am pleased to report that it is entirely true! The great thing is that there is a wide range of night entertainment from cool jazz to the much publicised dance bars. The jazz you will find in places like Saxophone bar at Victory Monument, whilst the go go bars are still in the same places as they have been for the last 25 years - Soi Cowboy near Asoke, Patpong on Silom Rd, and Nana Plaza. The choice for blues and rock is also in Nana but more on the Soi 4. There is a nice bar called Pedros on Sukhumvit near Asoke where an American guitarist struts his stuff on a Friday night. No matter if you are male or female, always expect to be approached by a Thai lady who will be a friend for life in return for a drink!

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neilray
Thai Years and Dates 3 stars
To say the Thai calendar is a bit confusing for visitors would be an understatement. The dates are based on the Lunisolar Buddhist calendar which is a derivative from the Hindu system. In essence this year, 2008 is 2551, and has been since April, when Thai new Year is celebrated. This is Songkran and one of the biggest festivals in the country, but as with all things in this wonderful country, the dates change. The most frustrating thing I find is when there is an event posted on a billboard the dates such as the 10th are in Roman script and the rest is in Thai and then followed up with the Thai year. So, I can see it’s the tenth day of this year, but what month? I guess I'll just have to learn to read Thai!

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