Temples, street food, shopping and nightlife: Bangkok has thrills for all tastes
Whatever your pleasure, Bangkok, nicknamed the Big Mango, will indulge it: whether you’re seeking cultural highs at Buddhist temples, retail hits in shiny malls or getting lost among the labyrinthine back sois (streets). In Bangkok you can book into a sumptuous day spa for THB3,000 and find a foot massage for THB300; you can eat fancy cuisine at award-winning restaurants, and graze on the most delicious street food you’ve ever tasted.
With no distinct centre, the layout of Bangkok is chaotic to the uninitiated. Choose a hotel close to the BTS skytrain or MRT station and you will soon navigate your way with ease. Once you’ve ticked off the temples and the malls, head to the city’s oldest areas to get a slice of the real Bangkok. Chinatown, with its bustling markets and ubiquitous street food is the city at its most intense, while the district of Dusit offers genteel, tree-lined boulevards and quaint Sino-Portuguese architecture. Backpacker haunt Khao San Road is by no means authentic Thailand, but its permanent holiday vibe means there’s always fun to be found.
In Bangkok, the key is to let go. Adhere to the Thai saying of mai pen rai (what will be) and attitude of sanook (easygoing fun) and you won’t fail to enjoy this sprawling, bewildering and utterly alluring city.
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When to go
Thailand’s weather is often described as hot (November-February), hotter (March-April) and wet (May-October), and there are slight regional variations. Bangkok is a year-round destination, although April is extremely hot with temperatures shooting up to 40°C, and the months of September and October are often subject to flooding. The cool season, with its blue skies and breeze is the most enjoyable – but it’s also the city’s busiest period.
There are 18 public holidays a year in Thailand, during which most businesses close, but shops and restaurants in tourist areas stay open. Songkran, the Thai New Year and the biggest holiday, falls mid-April.
Flying with Jetstar
Jetstar flies direct to Bangkok from Singapore, Hanoi, Melbourne and Fukuoka. You can connect via these cities from other Jetstar ports in Australia and South-East Asia.
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Bangkok’s reputation for gridlock is justified – traffic can be a nightmare, especially at peak hours and in the rain. The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS skytrain) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are clean, efficient and cheap – use them whenever possible. Taxis are cheap and plentiful; you may need to insist the driver uses the meter. Tuk tuks are fun, but noisy and polluting so they’re best kept for shorter journeys. While there may be temptation to ride one of the city’s motorbike taxis, keep in mind you won’t be covered by your travel insurance if there’s an accident.
Travel time 40 minutes
Taxi Approx THB250-350
Train 15-minute non-stop journey from the airport to City Terminal at Phaya Thai. THB150 per trip.
Limousine transfers to the city can be arranged at the Limousine Service Counter on arrival.