Before the days when jet travel became the norm most people’s only experience of distant parts of Asia was in film and magazine.
One of the most exotic countries of the world is Thailand (formerly Siam) in the Indo China Peninsula of South East Asia. The famous Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway Show and film from the 1950s ‘The King and I’ was based upon the diaries of an English Governess working for the King of Siam in Bangkok in the 1860s. Bangkok has intrigued people ever since and holidays in Bangkok and Thailand are extremely popular. Bangkok will surprise and entertain, sometimes frustrate the visitor but the experience of a visit will leave every tourist richer for the experience.
The core city has over 8 million people and almost as many again in the immediate area, a river delta that has meant many of the attractions of the region are on water or best seen from it. The traffic makes journey on land slow in all hours of day and night. Fortunately the rapid transit system has reduced the pressure on Bangkok’s roads while there is a rail link from the airport into the City. The Sky Train stops in Siam Square, the nearest Bangkok has to a centre. There is a good deal of pollution in the city but such is its charisma and magnetism of a holiday to Bangkok that it is quickly forgotten. Those that can’t can escape them in Bangkok’s largest park, Lumphini Park in Silom.
The City can be confusing; the script, the different ways the same word is spelt and the fact that street names change periodically even on a straight road. The best a tourist on a holiday in Bangkok can expect to do is to get to the correct district; there are fifty in all. Once in the right area it is best to ask. That said the Chao Phraya River is the landmark and locations in relation to the River is one way to get your bearings.
The historic centre is on Rattanakosin Island in the Phra Nakhon District; the Grand Palace and the City Pillar Shrine are the major landmarks and there are many important Buddhist temples. Wat Phra Kaew which contains the Emerald Buddha is one of the first ports of call that every visitor should see. The famous reclining Buddha is in Wat Pho. Wat Arun is the third of the most notable temples on offer. There are others located close by if there is time left in the day; the Golden Mount is worth an hour if time permits. Tourists on a Bangkok holiday need to balance the constraints of hot weather with religious requirements when dressing for walking around the many temples. The mystery of the disappearance of the American Jim Thompson in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia in 1967 is unsolved but his complex near Siam Square remains a tourist attraction; traditional Thai wooden architecture. Thompson was widely attributed with revitalising the silk industry after the Second World War. Other museums are worth a visit; the Bangkok National Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum.
It is not just history and culture that brings visitors for Bangkok holidays. The City is full of fine restaurants, some which allow for diners to leisurely cruise the waters while enjoying unique Thai cuisine rich in flavour. Bangkok is famous for its nightlife, some a fairly dubious nature. Shopping malls and markets serve customers day and night. There are a huge number of street vendors while holidays to Bangkok would not be complete without a visit to the Taling Chan Floating Market. Dinner cruises combine fine Thai cuisine with traditional cultural performances though the river is not always s clean as tourists might like. Thai Boxing, Muay Thai, developed as a form of self defence and it is worth going to one of the two venues in Bangkok to see some bouts which take place with a background of Thai music. Once again Rattanakosin is one of the alternatives. Cultural dancing, a Thai massage, culinary classes or a soothing spa bath after a busy day, the range of activities to enjoy during a Bangkok holiday is rich and varied. The Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin has around 8,000 stalls, the largest market in Southeast Asia.
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