Buzzing, humid and exotic, Bangkok is the larger-than-life city where magnificent temples, historic markets, skyscrapers and rooftop bars create an intoxicating vibe that’s hard to resist.
A blend of the traditional and the modern, Bangkok’s every street has a surprise in store. Ramshackle buildings crouch next to striking holy shrines, which are overlooked by modern hotels and offices.
But traditional Thai life is never very far away. Saffron-robed monks weave among the morning rush hour to collect alms; communities dwell in stilt houses by the Chao Phraya River, eking out a living using centuries-old skills.
Most visitors begin in Rattanakosin, drawn by the Grand Palace and Wat Po. It’s here the Chao Phraya River separates the city proper from its old capital Thonburi, a spot where quiet, narrow canals and floating markets illustrate why Bangkok was once called the ‘Venice of the East.’
Banglamphu, the city’s backpacker hub, still draws visitors to the non-stop action of Khao San Road, while the markets and restaurants of Chinatown lie just south. North is the leafy district of Dusit, home to Vimanmek Mansion and numerous government buildings.
East of the canals is modern Bangkok, a hive of activity with countless businesses, markets and shopping malls, handily connected by the BTS Skytrain. Around Siam Square and Victory Monument, and up to Sukhumvit Road, is where Bangkok’s top hotels, restaurants and bars vie for attention.
The weekend market at Chatuchak remains an essential Bangkok experience. Locals, tourists and ex-pats flock here on the weekend to bargain for household goods, souvenirs, clothes and original Thai art before grabbing a bite to eat or a quick leg massage.
Those heading straight for Thailand’s beaches, or to the countryside of the north, miss out on experiencing one of Asia’s most exciting, ever-changing capitals.
Spend a few hours in its charm and it’s easy to see why the great South East Asian gateway is one of the world’s most visited cities; spend a few days in Bangkok and become hooked for life.
When to travel
Thailand has a tropical climate so it is generally very hot, particularly between March and May with April being the hottest month (30°C/86°F). The monsoon season runs from May/June to October, when the climate is still hot and humid with torrential rains. Rain in the south typically continues until December. The best time for travelling is November to March as the monsoon season is over and the hot temperatures of Thailand’s summer are yet to arrive. The southern islands like Koh Samui are best from June to September where temperatures average around 27/28°C (81/82°F).