If you are one of the middle-aged unattractive men travelling solo or in clammy packs to the Thai capital, look away now. ManCon travel editor Neil Sowerby’s guide concentrates on Bangkok’s vibrant culture
Reclining Buddha1 The Grand Palace
DAZZLING centrepiece of any trip. Overwhelming in its intricate splendour, if truth be told. Gasp at the gilt and detail. Built in 1782 – and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government – it remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. Within the palace complex are several impressive buildings including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains the small, very famous and greatly revered Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century. The robes on the Buddha are changed with the seasons by HM The King of Thailand, and forms an important ritual in the Buddhist calendar. Thai Kings haven’t lived here since the start of the 20th century, but it is where all royal ceremonies are held. If you are lucky, you might catch one.
2 Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
LOCALLY known as Wat Chaeng, this stunning temple is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. Reason for the name? After battling out of ancient capital Ayutthaya, besieged by thee Burmese, King Taksin reputedly arrived at this temple as dawn was breaking. During his reign, the renovated Wat Chaeng was the chief temple, even hosting the revered Emerald Buddha. The spire (prang) of Wat Arun on the banks of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok's world-famous landmarks. Over 70 metres high, it is intricately decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain. Lit up at night.
3 Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
THIS temple is the largest in Bangkok and famed for its huge and majestic reclining Buddha measured 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf. The Buddha's feet are 3 metres long and exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious 'laksanas' (characteristics) of the Buddha. Wat Pho is a good place to discover traditional Thai massage (see No.8). Cost is around 120 baht for half an hour or 200 baht per hour.
4 Khlongs (Waterways)
ESCAPE the frenetic pace of modern Bangkok by taking to the great river and the many waterways off it, which earned it the soubriquet 'Venice of the East'. Passengers leap on and off the river taxis, which barely pause at the landing stage, but after that sit back and avoid the city’s perpetual traffic jams. But is the backwaters, where we went on a traditional long tail boat trips, that beguile. Many canals were drained or filled because of the risk of cholera they posed, or to make way for roads. Along those that remain little trade passes, but the banks are crowded with life going on in perilously crooked houses. Boat vendors haul upon alongside to sell you a variety of refreshments and other goods. A motorised long boat with driver, seating 12 people, can be hired for 3,000 baht (£60) for an hour, which makes it an affordable romantic proposition for a couple.
5 Jim Thompson House
ON the edge of a canal, too, the Saen Saeb, this is the much-visited legacy of the enigmatic Jim Thompson, an expatriate American, who revived the quality Thai silk industry and disappeared mysteriously in the Malaysian jungle in 1967. The alleged former CIA agent, who provided the costumes for the film, The King and And I, left behind this lovely garden compound comprising six traditional Thai teakwood houses transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Ban Krua community. It is full of the objets d’art he collected. It’s all very quirky. Two wall niches display a 17th Century standing Buddha and a wooden hand-carved figurine, a Belgian chandelier hangs from the ceiling, while Italian marble tiles bring lightness to the dark wood interior. But it is the decorative wall hanging detailing the Buddha’s progress to enlightenment and the dazzling porcelain that show where the collector’s heart lay.
6 Ladyboys show
THAILAND’S katoeys,or ladyboys, are some of the most beautiful – and convincing – transvestites or transsexuals in the world, mostly embraced by tolerant Thai society. It is even believed they bring good luck. All this is helped by the high reputation of gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. many Mancs are familiar with the ladyboy shows that have toured over here, but the place to get the true flavour is Bangkok. Expect a package featuring Hollywood glam and disco diva to shows based around exotic Oriental legends, all presented with extravagant sets and costumes, and a deal of charm.
7 Take a tuk tuk ride
LIVE dangerously and get around quicker! Tuk tuks are a smelly, noisy, uncomfortable and hazardous form of transport on Bangkok's jam-packed, polluted streets, but no visit to the capital would be complete without experiencing a ride in one of these motorised rickshaws. Warning: don't be fooled into thinking that tuk-tuks will be cheaper than taxis. They aren’t be and if you are quoted a ridiculously low price then beware, scam ahead.Before getting on board tell the driver destination and agree a price.
8 Visit Chatuchak Market
THIS place is stfilingly hot, crowded, noisy, dirty and is a hotbed for the illegal wildlife trade, but there Chatuchak Market is still not a place to be missed. There are thousands of stalls selling clothes, trinkets, furniture, plants, food and anything else you can imagine, but be prepared to haggle for that bargain. The vendors will inevitably demand a high price initially.
9 Get a massage
THERE’s so much choice of Thai Massage on offer, but remember, it's quite different to most other forms of therapeutic massage and tends to be invigorating rather than relaxing, incorporating yoga style postures to relieve stress and improve blood circulation. It’s usually practised in open-fronted shops or location shere you can see massage in progress. Note to the naive: you’ll get something invigorating in a different way if you go through a door offering “soapy” or “sexy” massage! Quite different and to be avoided. Wandering the streets, you’ll be offered foot and chair massage at cheap prices. Much less rigorous but relaxing.
10 Eat street food
BANGKOK probably has more places to eat than any other city in the world due to the profusion of food stalls. Typically, they consist of a push cart with a gas ring and a variety of ingredients hanging in a glass case. Sometimes these stalls are fixed to the side of a motorbike. Often the stall will specialise in just one type of dish As Thai food is cooked at a very high heat level and food is chopped into small pieces, food at these stalls is quite safe and as the turnover of food is very fast, very little is left hanging around for long. Noodles are a good option. Or you could try insects. More for the intrepid foodie tourist. Typically you have a choice of locusts, grubs and beetles. Crunchy. Enjoy.
... Or you could just wander around
BANGKOK is an exhausting city, so taker your time – and take in the various atmospheric districts. Experience Chinatown by walking up Soi Isara Nuphap from Ratchawong Pier. Dusit Park is the city’s most delightful opens space with a variety of museums, including one housing King Bhumipol’s own photographs. The charming Old Farang Quarter, site of the original 19th century port and home to Bangkok’s iconic Oriental Hotel. Finally, Khaosan Road, the backpacker’s ghetto and manic magnet for every young traveller passing through, with its cheap eateries and budget accommodation. Just don’t expect to get to sleep.
Thai Airways flies daily to Bangkok from £598* per person (inclusive) for return economy. It also has a good-value internal Domestic Discover Thailand Airpass (valid for three months from date of issue) costing US$278 for 3-internal flight coupons with additional coupons available at US$92 each. Further information: 0844 561 0911; www.thaiairways.co.uk or e-mail email@example.com.
Ethad, flying out of Manchester are currently offering return Coral Economy Class returns to Bangkok from £592 return. For more details, visit www.etihadairways.com.
I met with Yvette Vaucher today who was the first woman to climb the north face of the Matterhorn.…Read more
I'd have preferred it if this article had fewer details about the Cote d'Azur and more about the…Read more
For God's sake, why put flights to Zurich, which is hours and hours away. The nearest airport is…Read more
Hi, I'm wondering if there was in fact some typo's with the breathing/pacing figures above...…Read more