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Bangkok & Around

Thailand's capital city, known to Thais as "Krung Thep" (the City of Angels) is one of the world's most exciting cities. It holds the essence of the Thai spirit, and is very much the heart of the country. Without doubt, this fast-growing metropolis of roughly 10 million people has something to offer to everyone. Its lively collection of nightlife venues, markets, shops, restaurants, magnificent "wats"(temples), museums, palaces and parks will assure that you never get bored.

Bangkok is not just one of Asia’s most exciting cities; it is a great place to discover a unique culture. Where else can you take a canal-boat from your ultra-swanky designer hotel to a floating fruit market around the corner before arriving at a golden Buddhist temple? Shop, spa, eat, drink, and party: Bangkok has it all.

Many people rush in and out of Bangkok on their way to beaches or to Chiang Mai or Indochina where they expect to discover the real Asia. Those in the know will tell you that the real Asia is right here in Bangkok. We recommend you to spend at least two and preferably three nights here to get below the surface of our amazing capital city.

Where to stay in Bangkok?
There is a wide spectrum of accommodation choices so let us advise you on the best. First decide if you want to stay by the river or in the city. Then whether you want a big smart address or a boutique residence. We have been getting very good feedback from clients who have booked our interesting independent hotels listed below.

Near the River
If it’s your first visit to Bangkok and you are visiting purely for leisure you really should stay on the riverside. There is a wide choice of big name hotels offering various degrees of comfort but for an intimate encounter with Thai hospitality why not try Navalai, a new mid-range property situated close to the Grand Palace and Wat Po. For a step up in luxury, we highly recommend The Mandarin Oriental and the classy The Peninsula. Lebua, with spacious rooms and super-hip restaurants such as Sirocco and Breeze, is a great place to base yourself while discovering the City of Angels. Also recommended in the old town and not far from the river is the eight-room Old Bangkok Inn. The Marriot Riverside is also a very pleasant lowrise resort on the river offering all the necessary facilities.

City Hotels
In the city center several boutique and modern options can be found. For a unique boutique stay at a reasonable price, we recommend Ariyasom. A more upscale boutique hotel is The Eugenia, a charming property with loads of character. Families, business travelers, or those seeking a bit more independence will enjoy InterContinental and Hansar Bangkok areas right in the heart of Bangkok. For modern options with a touch of style, we highly rate The Sukhothai and the smart Metropolitan, sister hotel of the London style-setter. We also like Triple Two on Silom Road while further east is the lesser-known The Davis, which offers excellent rates. If you want to stay in a brand name five-star then Sheraton Grande, the St. Regis and Grand Hyatt offers everything you could possible need, including a fabulous wine bar with great city views.

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What to see in Bangkok?

To complement the modern travelers' love affair with the unusual and experiential travel, Global Travel & Tours offers a range of new and interesting tours in Thailand that take you off the well-worn tourist trails and focus on the wonders of Thai culture. First time visitors should undoubtedly see The Grand Palace but you should also join one of our many day trips, which involve canal-boats, a walk through the markets or a visit to a little known museum.

If you have enough time in the capital then take a day trip by boat through the canals to Koh Kret Island where you can explore the old pottery villages by foot or bike. Try and join at weekends when the island’s market is at its liveliest. Otherwise a great day out is a tour up to Amphawa, visiting the famous floating market area and beyond to the little known villages, orchards and temples that surround Bangkok. More glamorous, and just as rewarding, is a day trip aboard one of the many luxury cruise boats to Thailand's ancient capital city of Ayutthaya. For your first dinner in Bangkok we suggest joining an evening dinner cruise on the Manohra Boat in Bangkok.

Around Bangkok
Looking for nature but don't have the time to fly to the north of Thailand? Kanchanaburi (a couple of hours' drive from Bangkok) offers great jungle accommodation where you have a real wilderness feeling and can do long or short treks and even elephant riding or bamboo rafts. If you need your comforts then stay at the charming River Kwai Resotel, or if you are looking for adventure try the Jungle Rafts or even Hin Tok River Camp, a small, newly built tented resort on the river side that offers luxury tents (including air-conditioning, timber flooring and shower with hot water) and an excellent choice for nature lovers. For a real adventure try going as far as Sangklaburi. The accommodation is a little basic but the rewards are great scenery, charming towns and a combination of Thai, Burmese, Mon and Karen culture. We have a number of package tour ideas or build a visit to Kanchanaburi into your tailor-made tour of Thailand.

Khao Yai National Park is another excellent place to experience Thailand. You can trek through the jungle to see wild elephants and a wide range of flora and fauna. Alternatively you can spend the day cycling through vineyards and sampling award winning wines at the various different wineries in the area. Our accommodation recommendations include The Village Farm and Winery or the luxurious and beautifully designed Kirimaya Resort, which is complete with an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicalaus.

For those in search of a truly romantic and luxurious experience, a three-day, two-night cruise to Ayuthaya aboard the well appointed Anantara Song teak rice barge is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy exquisite candlelit dinners, morning temple tours and cruising along the fascinating River of Kings. Or why not take the Mekhala Cruise, another rice barge but a more affordable option, to Ayuthaya and then continue touring through Central Thailand.

Bangkok – Attractions

The Grand Palace
Every visitor to Bangkok should see the magnificent buildings within the Grand Palace compound to get a feeling of the grandeur architectural style. Since the founding of Bangkok as the Nation’s capital by King Rama I, The Grand Palace has been the major architectural symbol of The Thai Royal Family. In the present time, The Royal Family resides at Chitralada Palace while The Grand Palace is used for ceremonial purposes. The main buildings within the Grand Palace compound were built for King Rama V, who was the first Thai King to travel to Europe. Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat, built in 1877 by King Rama V as his Royal Residence, is the most highly recognized architectural landmark of the Nation. The central Throne Hall, which was formerly used for the reception of foreign envoys, is flanked by reception areas decorated with galleries of portraiture. The central room on the second floor is used as a shrine for the reliquary ashes of Kings Rama IV, Rama V, Rama VI, Rama VII and Rama VIII.Borom Phiman Mansion was also constructed during the reign of King Rama V. When his son, King Rama VI ascended to the throne, he had it improved for use as his residence. The three succeeding Kings also resided here at one time or another. The Siwalai Gardens, where the office of The Royal Household Bureau is located, were used for receptions as well as a recreation area for the royal women and children. Maha Monthien Prasat houses The Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where ceremonies of the Court usually take place in front of the throne surmounted by its canopy of nine tiers of white cloth.

Wat Po
This is possibly the most interesting temple in Thailand as it combines history, medical science and is a center for meditaion and traditional massage training. Its official name is Wat Phrachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam Ratchaworamahawihan, although it is commonly called Wat Po. Founded during the 16th century, Wat Pho is most famous for the golden reclining Buddha that measues 46 metres and has feet inlaid with mother-of pearl. This is the main attraction that draws visitors to the temple. In more modern times, Wat Pho has gained international recognition as a meditation centre and for the traditional Thai massage that is both practiced and taught here. Traditionally, temples were the schools as there was no formal education system, with monks providing basic lesson in both spiritual and secular subjects. King Rama III turned Wat Po into a major centre for learning in botany, geography and history. Bas reliefs around one of the main buildings depict the story of the Ramakian which is the Thai adaption of the Indian Ramayana. For those interested in traditional Thai medicine, there is a pavilion that serves to both impart knowledge and provide treatment. The walls have marble tablets describing basic anatomy and treatments. In the late afternoon, traditional medicine practitioners are there to dispense herbal mixtures. Nearby, there is a cloister where you can have a traditional Thai massage for a very small payment.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Make sure you set aside one late afternoon to see and photograph this imposing sight at sunset with the Chao Phraya River in the foreground. These photographs will bring back beautiful memories of Bangkok. The temple was built during the Ayutthaya period and was originally called Wat Makok after the name of the local village Tambol Bangmakok. It means "Village of Olives". Wat Arun gets its name from Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn, hence its common name The Temple of Dawn. The location of the temple is in the area that used to be occupied by the palace of King Taksin who re-established the Siamese Kingdom after the fall of Ayuttaya more than two hundred years ago. The main Buddha image is believed to have been designed by King Rama II. Wat Arun, often called The Temple of Dawn, is one of the most remarkable visual identities of Bangkok. The imposing Khmer-style prang or tower is 67 metres tall and decorated with bits of porcelain that was used as ballast by boats coming from China. It is surrounded by four smaller prangs. Construction of the prangs were started by King Rama II and completed by King Rama II. The central balcony is an ideal spot for looking across the river to The Grand Palace and The Temple of The Emerald Buddha. Each year at the end of the three-month lent period for Buddhist monks, H. M. The King or his appointed representative travels down river in a Royal Barge Procession to present new robes to the monks. This ceremony is called Royal Tod Kathin.

Vimanmek Mansion Museum
This is the world's largest golden teak building located in the compound of the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road. The three-storey royal mansion has 81 rooms, halls and ante-chambers containing fin de siecle royal memorabilia. A guided tour in English is provided to visitors. Other beautiful buildings in the same compound display various items and art objects; for example, H.M. King Bhumibols photography, H.M. Queen Sirikits collection of handicraft masterpieces created by rural people, paraphernalia of rank and portraits, old clocks, ancient cloth, and royal carriages.

Wat Traimit
Wat Traimit, thought to date from the 13th century, would hardly rate a second glance if not for its astonishing Buddha image, which is nearly 3m (9 3/4 ft.) high, weighs over 5 tons, and is believed to be cast of solid gold. It was discovered by accident in 1957 when, covered by a plaster image, it was dropped from a crane during a move. The impact shattered the outer shell, revealing the shining gold beneath. This powerful image is truly dazzling and is thought to have been cast during the Sukhothai period. It was perhaps covered with plaster to hide it from Burmese invaders. Pieces of the stucco are also on display at the site.

Jim Thompson Museum                                                                                                                             
This exquisite collection of traditional Thai house stands as a museum to the man who revived the Thai silk industry after the Second World War. The story of James H.W. Thompson is one upon legends are made. After serving in the U.S.A. armed forces, Jim Thompson settled in Thailand and found the tremendous opportunity to re-establish the Thai silk industry. In recognition of his services to the country, he was bestowed the royal award of The Order of the White Elephant. The company he founded, Jim Thompson Thai Silk, is recognized worldwide for its brilliant creations. He was an avid collector of Asian artifacts and antiques and The Jim Thompson’s House is possibly the epitome of his collection. Before his mysterious disappearance in the Cameron Highland in Malaysia in 1967, his house was the talk of the town where he entertained his friends and visitors including the like of Somerset Maugham. The house sits on approximately a half acre of land on Mahanak Canal. Ban Khrua village where his silk weavers lived and worked. Is just on the other side of the canal. To build the house he gathered 6 original traditional teak structure from different parts of the country and brought carpenter from Ayutthaya who completed the house in 1959.The gardens are equally impressive with a lush tropical jungle imitating nature’s haphazard beauty right in the center of the city. Jim Thompson’s connoisseur collection of antiques and artifacts is on permanent exhibition, making this a magnificent museum of the lifestyle of the legend.

National Museum
A visit to the National Museum reveals the history of Thailand And how people lived during the different periods. It gives you a view through the windows of the past. The National Museum, located on the opposite side of Sanam Luang to The Grand Palace, was established in 1887 by King Rama V. The foundation collection was previously stored at The Grand Palace. The original building was formerly the palace of a vice-ruler. King Rama VII placed it under the administration of the Royal Institute of Literature, Archeology and Fine Arts which has evolved to be the Fine Arts Department. New buildings were constructed in 1967 and other historical buildings relocated to the museum grounds. The Buddhaisawan Chapel was built in 1787 to enshrine a revered northern Buddha image called Phra Buddha Si Hing. The interior has exceptional murals, while the building itself is a fine example of Rattanakosin religious architecture. Tamnak Daeng is another building that has been moved to the Museum. This Red House was originally the residence of an elder sister of King Rama I. Furniture and other items from early Bangkok times. The National Museum collection encompasses a wide range of religious and secular art found throughout the country. Items from pre-historic times, through the Srivijaya, Dvaravati, Khmer Kingdoms and the Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods of Thai history. These include Neolithic tools, painted pots and bronze objects unearthed in the northeast. Thai Buddhist art exhibits feature images in stone, bronze and terracotta as well as illustrated scripture books manuscript cabinets and votive plaques. The Museum also has a large collection of miscellaneous items such as Thai and Chinese ceramics, theatrical costumes, palanquins, weapons and assorted items used in royal households.

Royal Barge National Museum
The Royal Barge Procession is one of the most spectacular events in the world. It is performed occasionally during the Tod Kathin Buddhist Festival when H.M. The King delivers new robes to the monks at Wat Arun. It was also seen by millions of viewers around the world when it was specially staged for the 2003 APEC Conference in Bangkok and broadcast live to the participating countries. These ornately decorated boats are maintained by the Royal Thai Navy and docked at The Royal Barge National Museum on Bangkok Noi canal on the Thonburi side. The most impressive and important boat is the Kings personal barge, Suphanahong which was built in 1911. It is 46 metres in length hewn from a single tree and covered with intricate gilt carvings and colourful pieces of glass. The design is representative of a mythical swan. The crew consists of 54 oarsmen who paddle in time to the rhythmic beat of a drummer. The Royal Barge fleet consists of 52 vessels. Each is a masterpiece of marine and traditional craftsmanship. They feature a variety of figureheads on their bows, including a sacred Garuda, Hanuman and the seven heads of Naga. Information the fleet travels in rows five abreast and more than one kilometer from the leading barge to those at the rear. These are propelled by 2,082 specially trained naval personnel A visit to The Royal Barge National Museum will give you an insight into the colourful culture of Thailand.

Wat Benchamabophit
To stand at the main gateway and look upon the Monastery of Five Kings is a sight to behold. The perfect symmetry and proportions must inspire admiration of this architectural masterpiece. Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram is known to foreigners as The Marble Temple as its exterior is clad in Carrara marble. Very talented The Prince Naris, a son of King Rama IV, designed the main building which was completed during the reign of King Rama V. The interior crossbeams are decorated with lacquer and gold. The walls of the spacious inner courtyard are lined with a large collection of bronze Buddha images. The canal in front and to the left hand side has ornate bridges. It is advisable to come in the early morning to see local people offering alms to the monks as they do not go outside as monks at other temple do.  Stand at the main entrance to the compound and watch the pigeons take flight. If you can’t be there at this time, go at sunset when the main doors are illuminated. This is another sight well worth witnessing.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
The world-famous Chatuchak Weekend Market covers more than 35 acres and boasts 15,000 shops and stalls. A true ‘must’ on any trip to Bangkok, the market is the one place where you can buy almost anything—at really low prices. Be forewarned: go early. This is paradise for bargain hunters. Every Saturday and Sunday, 9,000 individual booths are open selling an infinite variety of goods. It is just about impossible to go to Chatuchak Weekend Market and not buy anything. There is just about everything that bargains hunters, home makers, pet lovers or just browsers can imagine. Handicrafts are everywhere including pottery, hand-made glass models of the Royal Barges, fluffy toys, colourful tropical fish, singing birds puppies of many breeds, furniture and lots of new and second hand clothing, shoes, handbags, belts. There is so much on offer that even international home decor wholesales come here to shop. Music lovers can find unique traditional Thai musical instruments being sold direct by the artisans who have crafted them to make the pleasing sounds. One rule for all shoppers to observe is bargain, bargain, and bargain. This is part of the fun and also gets you the best prices. Chatuchak Weekend Market has interesting products from all over Thailand as well as things from far off lands. You should allow the best part of a whole day to explore the many stalls. You never know what you will find. But this is work that will make you thirsty and puckish, so take a break here and there to cool off with a fresh fruit juice or feast on delicious Thai dishes such as Pad Thai, barbecue chicken, noodles and sweets.

Siam Paragon                                                                                                                                               
No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at this massive retail complex that sells everything from luxury sports cars to exotic perfumes and from books in six languages to gourmet foods. Five floors of shops –some of them as large as a soccer pitch, plus cinemas, make Siam Paragon an event.

Traditional Thai Puppet Theater (Joe Luis)                                                                                             
Forgo with the assumption that puppet shows are for children, because this one-hour theater promises to enthrall individuals of every age. Watch the story of the Ramakien unfold every evening and follow the adventures of the noble prince Rama, his beautiful bride Sita and their whimsical companion Hanuman. It is recommended that guests arrive early to observe the making of traditional masks and costumes worn in the performance.

Siam Niramit
Lights, camera, action! This record-breaking extravaganza attracts throngs of admirers every night, which is no surprise to those who are in the know! Breath-taking special effects and over 150 performers promise to spellbind audience members as they are transported through seven centuries of Siamese history. This is a definite must-see for theater and history buffs!

The Rose Garden
For a property the size of the Rose Garden - it sprawls over 70 acres - it is remarkable how smoothly the different parts flow into each other. It is truly organic in design as three generations of owners and community have put their passion and energy into making the Rose Garden less like a set of attractions and more like a community destination. It is also mind-boggling to think of the range of experiences and encounters that happen here every day - from cultural shows to river boat rides, and from cooking classes to seminars and theme evenings. Discovering the Rose Garden is like uncovering a destination that caters to every possible mood and desire of its customers. To really discover it all, you just have to keep coming back.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market                                                                                                            
There are countless floating markets throughout the country, many within a couple of hours’ of the capital. The colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddle along congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruit and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. There is lots of chatter and activity – bargaining is common – that’s all part of the fun -- but don’t expect to get the price down more than a few baht. The most famous of the floating markets is Damnoen Saduak, about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. Our tour further includes a visit to Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakorn Pathom, supposedly the largest pagoda in Southeast Asia.

Khlongs (Canals)
The 'Venice of the East' nickname in fact predate Besso's scribblings by hundreds of years. However, though it is unclear when exactly the phrase was born, it is clear that no tourist guide since (book, person or website) has been able to resist this captivating cliche. Like Burma's 'Mandalay', it evokes the romance of the Orient, only Bangkok-style: of languid sampans drifting down tree-lined canals, of stoic locals living next to them in floating wooden shophouses, of city life before the advent of tuk-tuks and traffic jams. Having stayed an independent province until it was merged into Bangkok in 1972; Thonburi – the old Bangkok capital situated on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River – has avoided much of the modern development seen elsewhere. Its man-made network of khlongs, including Khlong Mon and Khlong Bangkok Noi, retains much of their ramshackle charm. Forget the over-crowded ferries. Forget the tourist hordes, the overpriced souvenirs, and the whole money-making charade. For a real sense of how people in Bangkok used to live, in stilted shacks, old wooden townhouses and dilapidated lean-tos – and still do – try them Bangkok Thonburi Khlongs.

Siam Ocean World
A new attractions in downtown Bangkok. Open in December 2005, Siam Ocean World will be the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia.  With world-standard exhibits and features, the aquarium comprises a 270-degree acrylic under ocean tunnel, a panoramic oceanarium with a 360-degree view through a 10.5 metre diametre fishbowl, an 8-metre deep reef tank and a rainforest display. More than 400 species or 30,000 marine animals including Penguins, Blue Ring Octopus, Gray Nurse Sharks, Elephant Nose Sharks, Leafy Sea Dragons and Giant Spider Crab can be seen. 

The westernmost province of Thailand has not only gained fame for its strikingly beautiful landscape - characterized by impressive waterfalls and caves, tranquil river scenery and verdant national parks - but also for its tragic history. During World War II Asian laborers and allied prisoners of war were forced to build the Burma-Siam Railway through the province. The most famous reminder of this tragedy is the "Bridge on the River Kwai," which was immortalized in books and the motion picture of the same name.

This ancient city was the capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767, a period now perceived to be the country’s Golden Age. A port town once admired for its international trade and culture, it is now home to two museums, as well as many beautiful temples that reflect the past glory of this historic city.