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Bangkok Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Bangkok vacation


neilray
Biking it Round Bangkok 5 stars
Bikes are not such a common sight in Bangkok and cycling is not something I do too often - traffic fumes, and general craziness on the roads make it a hazardous activity, but there are opportunities to take to the two wheels on an organised trip. Spiceroads and Bangkok Bike Tours do trips to parts of Bangkok not normally reached and travel in groups - leader up front and a safety cyclist bringing up the rear help to make the cyclists secure. The trips include the Floating Market, and Bangkok Jungle. Lasting just a day and rated as easy cycling these trips are amongst some very serious cycling journeys such as Chiang Mai to Bangkok and places further afield such as Cambodia and Laos. The website is www.spiceroads.com

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neilray
Quality Apartments 5 stars
Most of these big apartment residences were originally designed for expats living in Bangkok, but over the years as newer places have sprung up the likes of Centrepoint Petchburi have turned to doing short term rentals,, just like a hotel. This one near Pratanum Centre is withing walking distance or a short motorbike taxi to the Skytrain and the rooms are really big. In the studio room there is a good size area for cooking with a microwave, there is a DVD player, a big TV and a huge bed. All the rooms have a decent size balcony, and there is a nice swimming pool and gym. In all its tremendous value for money. Bookings have to be done through an agency such as www.bangkok.com or www.asiarooms.com

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neilray
How many is that on the motorbike! 3 stars
I am often amazed at the amount the Thai motorcyclist can get on his or her motorbike. Full size gas cylinders are common passengers, as are huge boxes, dogs,and of course people. There is a regulation in Thailand that everyone should wear a helmet and there are many occasions when checkpoints are set up to stop law breaking culprits. But last week I was newly astonished to see Dad, driving, Mum at the back, 1 child in the middle and the youngest baby sat between all members of the family. I was equally amazed to see two police motorcyclists sit and stare as the family went past. Only Mum and Dad had helmets, but beware all travelers to Bangkok - wear a helmet!

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neilray
Free Travel 3 stars
In a recent announcement there are to be certain services around Bangkok and on train routes to the provinces which will offer free travel. The buses will be the non air conditioned versions and the train offer applies to third class carriages only. This is going to appeal strongly to the less well off who have to travel to their villages in the north or south of Thailand. There is no distinction on travel between locals and foreigners, so for anyone who cannot afford the 100 or so Baht fare to Korat, then joining the locals and on the free bus or train is an option. The offer will last until December this year and does not cover the privately run Skytrain or the Bangkok Metro.

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neilray
Simply the Best 5 stars
Bangkok is graced with some excellent hotels and those properties along the Chao Phya River are amongst the finest the city has to offer. The Peninsula on the northern bank, with its dedicated ornate ferry across the river, and the Shangri La on the opposite side are fine establishments. However for real history, pomp and top class facilities, the Oriental remains out on its own. Voted as the Best Hotel in the World on numerous occasions, the hotel has a guest list which includes great writers, film stars and royalty. Despite its high room rates,, there are opportunities to sample special culinary events such as the Sunday lunch, which will not cost a fortune.

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neilray
Airline problems 3 stars
I am sure this will not be the first piece of information on airline problems, but the low cost carriers are in for a hard time. As of this weekend 18h July, the first of the cheaper carriers in Thailand has announced a pospontment of services. One2Go finally made the decision to stop operations as from this weekend, and have withdrawn all services. Travelers should check with the air line if the have already booked as flight and for those looking to make domestic trips in Thailand, the three on offer now are Thai, Air Asia and Nok. One 2 Go have been using aircraft which have a very heavy fuel comsumption thus have had sharp rises in their operating costs to the extent their losses have become huge.

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neilray
The Market of all Markets 4 stars
Thailand has its fair share of markets, in the street, at night, in shopping mall basements. Just about anywhere a stall can be set up, there is one. But the market of all markets is the one at Chatuchak in Bangkok every weekend. Its called the Weekend Market, open only on Saturday and Sunday. This is where I buy crockery, lighting, maybe a few clothes - but just about anything can be found here. From cute puppies and parrots to evil looking weaponry. Plates to polo shirts. There are plenty of eatiing places in the market, which is a maze of indoor and outdoor stalls - it's easy to go in from one end and lose track of where you are. One piece of advice is to take plenty of bottled water as the market always seems very hot and humid. To get there take the Skytrain to Mo Chit on the Sukhumvit line (last stop) or the Metro to Chatuchak Park, the next to last stop heading in the Bang Sue direction.

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neilray
Venue Guides 5 stars
Thailand has something of an obsession with magazines, yet it is rare to see anyone reading on a commuter journey, unlike London. Most of the magazines seem to be read whilst standing at the magazine racks in book shops such as B2B. For the English reader it can be very frustrating as magazine headlines are in English and then inside its all Thai script. But fear not, if looking for venues and gig guides. There are two main guides published and these can be found in places like Starbucks, Villa supermarkets and Black Canyon Coffee houses. The publications are: BK Magazine, and Guru which have listings of events and venues, There is also The Bangkok Bugler and Bangkok Trader which are English free mags/newspapers.

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neilray
Duty Free on Arrival 5 stars
Visitors coming into Thailand from Europe may well be tempted to stock up on booze at their departure airport, be it Heathrow, Frankfurt or Amsterdam. My advice is to wait until arriving at Suvunarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok. The duty free prices in the airport are much cheaper (for spirits anyway) than those found in Europe. A 1 litre bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey is 650 Baht or €12, and a litre of Bombay Gin about 800 Baht. The duty free shop is just on the left immediately before immigration. The perfumes and cosmetics may be less of a good deal, but I stock up every time I come into BKK at a fraction of the cost of UK prices. The allowance is 1 litre of spirits.

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neilray
Too Many Cigarettes 4 stars
I don't smoke but I have been told that brand cigarettes in Thailand are fairly cheap and certainly less than the duty free prices at Europe’s major airports. So this tip is all about bringing in more cigarettes than is permitted under Thai regulations. Its not worth it! If the cigarettes are found, the fine is 4 times the value of the item. That is the paid duty free price and in one case I know of amounted to some 45,000 Baht or €850. That is not a good way to start a holiday especially if the cigs can be bought in a local shop for less. The customs people assume the cigarettes are going to be sold, and of course the suspicion is that the confiscated goods 'disappear' But whatever, best leave that idea at home!

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neilray
Is that marmalade you are carrying sir? 4 stars
Countries nowadays have become very nervous about food. Since Mad Cows, Bird Flu chickens and SARS almost every country is quick to announce that they are clean as a whistle - its all the other countries we have to watch out for. South East Asia is no different and neither is Thailand. Bringing in foodstuffs is risky and can be an expensive business. One visitor I know thought he would bring back some jars of marmalade and quite openly had them is his carry on bag. The bag was x rayed and the health department official confiscated his marmalade and fined him 2000 Baht for the pleasure. That works out at €18.5 per jar -. possibly the most expensive marmalade around

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neilray
Yellow Monday in Bangkok 5 stars
Plenty of visitors to Bangkok cannot help but notice the Monday mornring commute into the city. I suppose I 'm used to it, but it has nothing to do with packed underground trains, or equally packed overhead rail carriages. Its all the yellow. Only on Monday is it evident that the population of this city have all decided to put the same coloured polo shirt on. The fact is simple. The yellow shirt is a sign of loyalty to The King and last year in the year of the Kings 80th Birthday, someone announced that to demonstrate the subjects loyalty they should wear yellow on Mondays. What has transpired is that 8 months on, Bangkokians are still wearing the yellow on a Monday. It is quite an amazing sight as thousands of yellow shirted people of all ages ages, men and women,go to work.

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neilray
driving with the phone 3 stars
I was as surprised as anyone when the new law was announced last year. Thai people were horrified. The new law was that it would become illegal to drive and talk on the pone at the same time. This law has been active in Europe for some time, but in Thailand, just about every driver I have ever seen spends quite some time chatting as they drive. Many saw this as another ploy to extract more money in fines, and in a country where drivers are never that sure if an offence has been committed, it’s easy to understand why. The answer has been quite simple - many drivers went out and had their car windows tinted a bit darker! But bear this in mind when driving that rented car in Thailand.

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neilray
Leave 3 days clear 3 stars
Traveling to Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam is a real pleasure and one which I enjoy doing at least a couple of times a year. But unless the traveler is from one on the local countries such a Thailand, Laos or Cambodia, then a visa is needed. The best place and most efficient consul is in Bangkok where a visa is normally issued in three working days. In a region where money talks it is possible to have this process speeded up by the passing over of a few thousand Baht extra. A lot of travel agencies will do flights and arrange a visa at the same time, but the passport has to be left with the agency for a few days. It does save having to wait in the Vietnam consul, which has got to be a good thing. As an aside, The consul will close for an entire week over Chinese New Year - I don't like to ask why.

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neilray
Alchohol Free Birthday 5 stars
Apart from election days in Thailand there are other occaions when its impossible to get a drink, or even buy it from a local convenience store. The signs are in Thai, but seeing ropes or chains across the 7-11 booze fridge suggest that the day is going to be alcohol free. There are various important Buddhist days which vary from year to year, but there is one date when the chances of buying a drink are minimal. That is The Kings Birthday, the 5th December. The entertainment places are closed, but there are various celebrations in the city to mark this important day. One of the nicest occasions I have enjoyed was in Sukhumvit Road when I was invited to join a crowd of Thai people in the celebration for The King. I was given a lit candle and we listened to Thai music - all very impromptu and welcoming

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neilray
Thai National Anthem 5 stars
Thailand has a rousing national anthem. Unlike in many countries nowadays the anthem is respected and the people of all the cities of the country recognise the anthem, wherever they may be. The anthem is played on the radio and television at 8 in the morning and 6 in the evening, every day of the year. I have joined others in the city to stop walking and wait until the anthem has finished before moving on. In movie theatres, visitors must remember to stand and listen to the anthem before the movie starts. The anthem is played after the showing of various aspects of The Kings life.

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neilray
Radios in the city 3 stars
For commuters of the worlds major cities the iPod or MP player is an essential requirement for the boring journey home. Gap year student travelers particularly would seem to have to travel with the main accompaniments of iPod, mobile phone and ATM card. Life is that bit more familiar. However there are some good English radio stations in Bangkok, which play both Western and Thai music. I would encourage anyone traveling through South East Asia to try to listen to some of the local stations. The DJ talk may be in Thai, or it may be in English, but more often the music is modern western. Try just twiddling around on the mobile phone and find what there is out there – it may be a surprise.

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neilray
Tricks on the Motorbike Taxi 4 stars
I use the motorbike taxi as little as possible on the basis that it is dangerous. Others disagree and say the drivers are safe and careful. Whichever view is supported there is no doubt that they are quick. But there is a knack of riding pillion on a 150cc Honda with thin tyres. If as with me, the passenger is over 2 metres and of heavy build it would be safe too assume the driver would have some difficulty in keeping everything on an even keel. Not so, and whatever the passenger must not do is try to help by putting his or her feet on the ground. Keep your feet up off the ground, even when the bike is stopped at the lights. And keep the knees tucked in as the bike will maneuver between cars and the occupants of those cars do not like having their wing mirrors bashed by foreign bike passengers!

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neilray
Golf with your caddy 5 stars
For anyone who enjoys a good round of golf, then Thailand is wonderful. There are good locations around Bangkok, in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. The courses are well kept, lush with plenty of challenges. There is one big difference in playing golf here and that is the players have to have a caddy to carry the clubs. Usually female, these caddies know the courses as well as anyone. They often offer advice as well. A golf cart is useful to have since walking these courses can be quite tiring and as with any exercise in this part of the world, water is a must. Tipping is normal for the caddies

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neilray
Whistle Blowers in Car Parks 3 stars
I've never quite worked this one, other than if I'm staying in a place near a car park, it can drive me mad. It is the whistle blowing car park man, who spends his entire day blowing his whistle. What the code for "straight ahead", "stop" and "watch out, you are about to hit a bus" is I’m not sure. And maybe the car park whistler doesn’t know either . There seems no particular consistency to the whistling it is just a constant cacophony of whistle noise. I decided some time ago that when these guys get home they probably whistle to the family rather than having a conversation

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