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Bangkok is a bustling, balmy city that stretches along both sides of the Chao Phraya River. Thailand’s capital has much to offer; here are some recommendations on what not to miss (and what to avoid):

I stayed at the Hotel Shangri-La Bangkok and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. It’s a staggering luxury lodge on the shore of the Chao Phraya, with a magnificent pool and beautiful main floor and lobby. Rooms are comfortable and clean; just make sure to ask for a room with a river view.

Tuk tuk” taxis, three-wheeled rickshaws, are the way to ride in Bangkok. Tuk tuks are an incredibly affordable form of transportation – but make sure to negotiate the price with the driver before the ride starts, and insist you be taken directly to your destination, as drivers often take passengers on detours to tourist shops. The only con of these tiny taxis is that riding around for long periods of time in the open city air can make one feel congested after a while.

For shopping, my recommendation is Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market. Make sure to go early, as it can get very crowded and hot. This is a great opportunity to buy, well, almost anything! The market is huge and each booth (there are over 15,000 to visit) has something different to offer. I bought ropes of authentic Thai flower lights at an amazing price, a fraction of the price I’d pay at home. If you’re looking to skip the heaving market and want to shop in a more luxurious setting, then check out Siam Paragon luxury shopping mall.

One sight that’s not to be missed is the view from atop The Dome at State Tower. Located on the 63rd floor of this soaring building is Skybar (you may recognize it from recent ads for Bombay Gin). I recommend you visit the bar for a drink (try the caipirinha made with brown sugar), then give in to the glowing lights of Thailand and indulge in one of the world’s best city views.

You cannot go hungry in the city of Bangkok! There are a slew of restaurants of all price ranges that serve the best pad Thai you’ll ever have. However, I must note one exceptional restaurant that did not serve Thai food called Vino di Zanotti. I highly recommend you take a short break from all that Thai cuisine and dine at this hot little Italian bistro.

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Sateev July 29, 2009 @ 2:55 p.m.

Let them eat cake! The Shangri-La is one of Asia's finest (and most expensive) hotels, and certainly luxurious. You could forget you are in Thailand easily. Of course it wouldn't do to be reminded of the third-world, except in small, recoverable doses. And by all means, take a tuk-tuk! You will pay several times what you need to pay to get ANYWHERE in Bangkok, guaranteed, but hey, it's AUTHENTIC! That is, IF you get where you originally wanted to go. Those gem shops and the 'special holiday' deals are the tuk-tuk driver's meal ticket when he picks up a clueless foreigner. Chatuchak IS a good suggestion, but mind your valuables. Pickpockets and scams abound. But most of all, thanks for the tip on Pad Thai (Pad being likely pronounced as in 'Dad'). I always thought you had to go to Nicaragua for Pad Thai. Who knew? Maybe next time, try seeing a little bit of the real Thailand, let alone Bangkok...


BangkokJim July 29, 2009 @ 10:39 p.m.

Sateev nailed it on the head. If you are going to Bangkok with the intention of burning as much money as possible on accommodation, is there any need for a recommendation? If so, the Oriental is probably the most interesting of the lot because unlike the Shangri-La it boasts some semblance of history and heritage (Somerset Maugham and George Orwell once stayed there, presumably while writing about Southeast Asia). As for the tuk-tuk's, they are indeed fun and authentic, but there is no way a foreigner will ever get a rate that is less than an air-conditioned metered taxi, unless of course you fall into the gem scam business that Sateev mentioned briefly. If someone tells you they'll take you around Bangkok for 3 hours for only 50 cents, you should be able to figure out what is going on. Take a tuk-tuk once, for a short distance, and then insist on metered taxis from then on out.


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