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Bangkok Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Bangkok vacation


neilray
Fish - Are they overated? 3 stars
I reckon the fish of South East Asia are overated. Take the Grouper which is for sale as a barbacued job on most street corners of Bangkok. It looks very grand and is a big looking fish. But theres hardly anything inside.It's just bone with a thin layer of meat. And usually grilled to a frazzle at that. I see lots of fish in all sorts of guises on the street stalls and now am rarely tempted. However if proper fish and chips is something which would go down well, try the Offshore on Soi 23, Sukhumvit. Just past Siam Twins on the left side from Sukhumvit this is one of the few fish and chip shops in Bangkok. But having said that Thai fish cakes are excellent!

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neilray
Metro Checks 3 stars
Thailand does have something of a terror problem in the south of the country around Yala and the Malaysian border. To try to combat any activites here in Bangkok there are security checks on the underground in and occasionally on the Skytrain. At every entrance to the underground Metro there is an officer who will ask to look inside bags. I remember some people made complaints about this when it first started (as usual it was the foreign community) and my immediate reaction was one of amazement. Would they rather have the situation as with London a few years ago? If theres nothing to hide then showing a security man the contents of a bag should not be a big deal.

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neilray
Sorry no beer today, or tommorrow 5 stars
There are days in Bangkok when a strange atmosphere comes over the city and everywhere in Thailand.. On the Sois, in the night spots of the city and the entertainment areas such as Nana, the lights are off and people wander aimlessly wondering what to do. Its election time, and whether it is a local or national, all bars are shut from the evening before the election to the day after. This odd law dates back to the time when politicians used to visit villages, get the entire population drunk and then get them to vote for their party the next day. This seems a perfectly reasonable arrangement to me, but the Thai government thinks otherwise. So, look out for election dates - no drinking, no clubbing, no nothing.

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neilray
Drinks out of time 3 stars
Another one of Thailand’s odd laws is to do with the sale of alcohol. In Europe and many countries buying a few cans of beer is fairly straightforward, but not here. I am not allowed to buy a beer from 12 to 2pm and then from 5.30pm until - well I think it’s all night, but I'm not sure. Try to get a beer from the main supermarket like Lotus Tesco or Big C or even a 7-11 at these times , then there’s a problem and you may be asked to put it back on the shelf if the times not right. But the bars are open all afternoon and you can buy anything you want for the rest of the day!

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neilray
Priority For The Monks 4 stars
In Thailand the Buddhist monk is held in great reverence. At morning markets in the Thai parts of town, even Bangkok, monks will wander amongst the stalls where food will be donated to the monastery. The fact that many young men gain some education and moral learning by spending time as a novice is enough for the common people to want to help. A very noticeable feature of Thai life is that on any form of transport there will be signs and notices indicating priority for monks. It may be seating in a preferred area of an airport, or on the Bangkok Metro it is the first seat nearest the door. On the river express boats, there is a section just for monks and I have seen women and older people stand to allow a young monk to sit down. It’s as well to recognize the importance of the Buddhist monk in Thai society and try not to sit in their seats!

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neilray
Racing Down The River 5 stars
River racing has long been a traditional sport in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Every November the Chap Phraya River in Bangkok hosts a national competition for teams from the provinces. It’s a great spectacle which I have enjoyed over the years, but there are more ‘genuine’ events held in other parts of the country, with the one on the Mekong as the best. Held in October the racing involves more local teams. These are not small boats, they are long and crewed by something like 50 oarsmen. They gather terrific speed and would match any Oxford or Cambridge crew. Bedecked in their team colors this is a spectacle not to be missed.

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neilray
Thai Massage at the Wat 5 stars
Thai massage is something of an institution in the country. No matter where I am in Bangkok I am never far away from a spa or massage shop. One of the delights of having a haircut in this city is that there is always a head massage included. Nobody ever asks if that’s what is wanted, it just happens. Depending on the shop, the session can also include shoulder and arm massage as well. Many of the Thai masseurs are trained at Wat Po, and to see and enjoy the experience of a real massage this is the place to go. The Thai Massage School operates from here and it is possible to sign up for a basic course in Thai Massage for 8,500 Baht

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neilray
Down by the Pool (table) 4 stars
It would be fair to say that a fair percentage of the western population of Bangkok spend a good deal of their time socialising in the many bars of the city. Everyone has their favourite and usually the people who go to a particular bar regularly become friends and often its games of pool which bring people together. Pool in Bangkok is quite a big sport on an amateur level and very competitive. There are plenty of teams who are made up of 'farangs' (foreigners) and Thai players. Earlier this year I found myself playing pool two nights a week and one playing darts. It’s a hard life sometimes. So, for the visitor, if the fancy takes you, drop into a bar such as Popeye on Soi 22 Sukhumvit, and put your name up. Within no time, you will have a new set of friends - this is one of the most sociable cities in the world.

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neilray
Hip Ops to Teeth Whitening 5 stars
Medical tourism is on the increase in Asia as more and more people realise they can get more done for less when it comes to medical treatment. Thailand has been at the forefront of this boom and I for one have taken advantage of the dentistry skills available. At a fraction of the cost of that in the UK, I have had a lot of root canal work done, as well as fillings and rebuild jobs. My dentist was trained in Chiang Mai and she sings Thai songs as she works. It’s all very pleasant and at 1000 Baht a session, extremely good value. Some of the hospitals in Bangkok look more like five star hotels and are staffed by surgeons and doctors whose training has been the very best.

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neilray
Children and exhaust fumes tip 5 stars
This is something of a serious topic and one which I have tried to point out on many occasions. Bangkok has a justifiably bad reputation for pollution. No one would dispute that and whilst there are great efforts to clean the place up, it will take time. What bothers me is when I see children, usually western, being pushed along the pavements in a buggy. The level they are at is exactly the same level as the exhaust pipes of some of the worst offenders for the pollution, the old and decrepit buses. I would certainly not like to be down there breathing in the muck being pumped out. So, my appeal is for parents to keep their kids up high and away from the road level.

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neilray
Shopping Style Bangkok 5 stars
Out of the Sukhumvit Road area around Soi 3 to Soi 23 where the street traders sell anything as long is it has a posh logo on it, there are three very smart shopping malls. These are the places where the logos are real and the prices reflect genuine quality. By far the most popular is Siam Mall, right on the doorstep of the Skytrain Siam (CS) station. Extremely well heeled, the mall has all the major brands on show – Gucci and Prada amongst others. In the basement there’s a top supermarket where western food addicts buy sausages at 60 Baht each. Another brand new mall almost next door to Siam is Central World, and again this has the best of shops, as well as offices and a convention centre. The final place is a bit older and is further down the Skytrain line at Phrom Phong station (E5). This is The Emporium with another department store and good restaurants. No one can ever say shopaholics would be short of places to spend their time in Bangkok

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neilray
Hi Tech Thailand 4 stars
Thailand and Bangkok in particular is very much into all the latest hi tech gizmos and nowhere is a population so dedicated to mobile/cell/hand phones - whatever you want to call them. There are scores of telecomms shops but nowhere better for both the mobile or any computer gear than Fortune Mall. Sandwiched bewteen the Fortune Hotel and the Lotus Tesco supermarket there are three floors of phones, laptops, hardware, software and everthying in between. Its a nerds paradise and on a Sunday the place is packed with people buying yet more phones and computers. The pirate software business flourishes here and despite attempts to stop Bill Gates from earning his royalties, there has never been any success in stopping the trade. Say no more. The mall opens around 11 am so no point in getting there too early, and finishes about 8 or 9pm. There are good coffee shops, a food hall on the ground floor, internet cafes and travel agencies. To get there take the Metro to Phra Rama 9 and follow the signs for IT Mall/Fortune.

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neilray
A Tipping Tip for Thailand 4 stars
I don't know anywhere else in the world, the US apart, where the tipping culture is so strong, as in Thailand. Anyone and everyone expects a tip. People often ask me, how much should I tip the waitress? Well 20 Baht is the norm and a taxi driver will get the change if its around 15 or 18 Baht. I do have some sympathy with the taxi drivers at the moment with the higher fuel costs but the cars all run on LPG, so I'm not sure. The craziest tip I have been asked for was when I was locked out of my room one night and the security guard said I could sleep on the office sofa. He woke me at 6 am and then wanted me to pay for the priveledge of a night on a lumpy sofa with a load of mosquitoes. I gave him 50 Baht but I knew he expected more. Bear in mind a meal in Bangkok can cost as little as 20 Baht, so a 100 Baht tip is enough for a week of meals, If the person has been exceptional, fair enough, but that's generally not the case - they just expect to be given a tip!!

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neilray
Local v Import Beer 4 stars
A favourite subject of mine, and after years of research, I am something of an authority on Asian beer and in particular, that sold in Thailand. Asked what my favourite would be and I would say Leo. Its brewed by Singha and was thrown together very quickly when Thai Beverages brought out a cheap, "one for the masses" beer, called Beer Chang. Chang took a huge market share and Singha had to fight back. Leo is not sold everywhere in Bangkok, especially the tourist spots and the big western style pubs. Its very much a locals drink, and its not unusual to see a group of guys sitting around with bottles of Leo at their side.(Unfortunately those guys are often motorbike taxi drivers!) One thing is for sure it is never Heinekin or Carlsberg. Leo will cost 38 Baht for a large bottle from the 7-11, and 70 Baht in an outside eatery. Great value considering they are selling a small Heinekin for 90 or 120 Baht in the bars on Sukhumvit!

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neilray
A Day out to Cambodia 5 stars
I have to sometimes do a 'visa run' It doesn't matter who it is, any visitor has to leave Thailand to stay here after 30 or 90 days - it's bonkers, we know. My friends and I lose the will to live when we start to discuss the logic of this rule. Suffice to say, the visa run is a way of leaving the country and comng back in a day at low cost. The best one I have found leaves from Ekamai Soi 63,at 9.30am just by the coffee house on the corner. Its a very smart bus with big comfortable seats. The trip out to Cambodia takes 4 hours, so there is a stop on the way, at exactly the 2 hour mark. The 2 ladies who work for the tour company will have phoned through a lunch order so when its time to get back on the bus, a fried rice or whatever is waiting on the seat. We then complete the journey and at the border town, exit Thailand. The tour ladies then gather all the passports, walk across into Cambodia and 30 minutes later return with them complete with a Cambodian Visa. We (the bus passengers) then walk back into Thailand, and here is one of the funny things. I am given a tour bus ticket for Angor Wat which the immigration man stamps. He knows I've not been to Angor Wat, as do I, because I've been stood outside his office for 30 minutes! My passport is stamped with a re entry to Thailand and we all come back to Bangkok arriving about 6.30pm. Job done. Bonkers? Yes! Cost is 2200 baht including visa, bus service and fictitious trip to Angor Wat

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neilray
Was that an elephant I just saw..? 3 stars
Yes is the answer, and in the life of Bangkok seeing an elephant in the streets is quite normal. To date I have seen parrots on heads, elephants and a man walking a hog, complete with harness. The elephants are something of a tourist thing and they are manouvered up and down the tourist Sois with their mahouts, selling food. The idea is you feed the elephant, buying the food off the mahout and then have a picture taken with said elephant who clearly would love to be providing his own meals somewhere around Chiang Mai. But so be it, children love this and parents are always happy to get that photo opportunity.

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neilray
Boating in Bangkok on the Khlongs 4 stars
It used to called the Venice of Asia, but those days are numbered as Bangkok fills in the waterways with more concrete in an attempt to relieve the already overcrowded roads. Canals which used to be an intergral part of the local transport system are dissapearing. There are still a good number of longtail boats rushing up and down those canals and many Bangkokians rely on these to get to work. It has to be said that the Bangkok Khlongs are not the cleanest and are a bit smelly, so I have never had the tempatation to put my hand in the water. The boat stops are easy to see from bridges such as the one near the Ratchadphrisek junction. There are tourist guided tours, but to join the communters is the best way of using the boat system

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neilray
Water Dispensers 5 stars
Water is vital in the tropical climate of South East Asia and I don't think any traveller needs to be reminded of the need to keep hydrated - especially walikng around the city. A bottle of water is a must, but there is no need to keep buying new supplies from the convenience store. Near most apartment blocks or in Sois (small roads) there are water dispensers from which the water costs a fraction of that bought in a shop. Its the same stuff and for 1 Baht I get a litre bottle filled. Anyone spending some time in Bangkok should get hold of a five litre container and that at a cost of 5 Baht , will keep most people going for quite a while. Just look out for the machines - they are about 2 metres high and have a water company name on them.

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neilray
Food delivery 5 stars
One of the great food happenings in Bangkok in recent years has been Food By Phone. The other recent newcomer to this concept is Chef Xpress, so I have now have no reliance on one outfit. Its for when I just don't feel like going out to eat, and theres nothing in the fridge. I call 02 6634663 and order from the FBP book which now has 86 restuarants in its collection and 39 different cuisines. The choice is staggering - from an English breakfast to Japanese Sushi there are over 5,000 dishes to choose from. Chef Xpress is making headway into this business so the competition is fierce. A man on a motorbike will appear within the hour and I pay him for the meal plus the delivery charge of 60 Baht. There is a zone system and outside the inner city around Sukhumvit the delivery goes up to 80 Baht. Its a great service and has saved the day on many occasions

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neilray
Good Western Grub 5 stars
After a while eating noodles and rice, rice and noodles,there comes a need for good old western stodge. For the Brits its a plate of bangers and mash, for the Americans maybe a, real beefbuger, and our German friends might like some schnitzel. There are places in Bangkok which have such delights with three English style pubs offering all these and more The London Inn on the corner of Soi 33 Sukhumvit is one. Just along the road on the opposite side is The Dubliner, by Washington Square and then there's The Black Swan, almost below the Asoke skytrain station. All serve really good western food (as well as Thai) but don't overorder - the portions are huge, especiallly at the Dubliner. Not cheap but very good when the need arises!

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