Bangkok, A City for Everyone

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It’s one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificient temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets, and a vibrant lifestyle that has something for everyone. Vatsala Devi shows us why Bangkok is fast becoming a city of the world.

High-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat, and naughty nightlife are some of the words used to describe Bangkok, but beneath this façade lies a city that is rich in culture, arts, and tradition.

Bangkok, located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River is the dynamic capital of Thailand and also the largest city in the country with a population of over 11 million. This wealthy city ranks as the 22nd-most populated city in the world and receives approximately 15 million visitors annually, who flock the city to witness and experience the country for themselves.

We may call it Bangkok, but to Thais, it is also known as Krung Thep, which means City of Angels. The name, which was bestowed on the city in the year 1782 by King Rama I, was also the name of the ancient capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. After 15 years of war, General Taksin assumed the throne, but was later executed and replaced by General Chakri, who as king took the name of Rama I. The new king moved the capital to a village across the river which was then composed mostly of Chinese traders and was known as Bangkok, which translates as “Village of Wild Plums.” Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house functioning as Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.

Fast-forward to present days and Thailand is one of Asia’s gems. A vacation to Thailand is incomplete without a visit to this modern city humming with nightlife and attractions to stimulate even the most jaded travellers. More than anywhere else in the country, Bangkok expresses Thailand’s uncanny ability to blend the old with the new. This lends a thrilling sense of discovery to one’s sightseeing and adds an element of surprise when exploring the city.

Retail Therapy, Spiritual Bounty

Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise, as the city possesses large markets and huge shopping malls spread out all over the city. Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally “shop ’till you drop.” The 35-acre area of Chatuchak is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer.

A visit to Bangkok is never complete without a visit to the floating markets. What was once a normal way of life, floating markets throughout Bangkok have now turned into a novelty form of entertainment and are extremely popular to visit on the weekends for both locals and foreigners. The colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddle along congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruits and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. The most famous of the floating markets is Damnoen Saduak, about 100km 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.

Apart from the shopping and entertainment, Bangkok offers a wealth of temples that attract tourists for their historical background and architectural work. All temples are a unique part of the city and offer some spectacular craftsmanship, but one temple that should certainly be visited is the Wat Arun (temple of Dawn) situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Given the beauty of the architecture and the fine craftsmanship it is not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. The spire (prang) on the bank of Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok’s world-famous landmarks. It has an imposing spire over 70m high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns.

Party All Night


Bangkok is famous for its great nightlife: the city comes to life after sunset and offers round-the-clock entertainment. Although it has a reputation for being wild and rowdy with areas as famous as Patpong, Nana, or Soi Cowboy, over the years its image has grown to include relaxed, safe, and enjoyable areas, too. Rapidly establishing itself as Asia’s capital of cool, Bangkok’s diverse nightlife scene features everything from excellent live music and good jazz clubs to ultra-cool bars, trendy clubs, and great restaurants. One of Bangkok’s hotspots is Soi Cowboy (named after the cowboy hat-wearing African-American who opened the first bar here in the early 1970s). This red-light district has a more laid-back, carnival-like feel to it than Patpong or Nana Plaza. Flashing neon illuminates a colourful streetscape comprising mainly middle aged expats, Japanese and Western tourists, and, of course, sexily dressed girls trying to lure patrons into one of the go-go bars that line the streets.

Bangkok Bites

Food is very much a part of your Bangkok experience, and Thailand’s worldfamous food needs little introduction, as its profusion of exotic flavours and fragrances make it among the most coveted of global cuisines. As a walk through Bangkok forcefully reminds you, these flavours and fragrances are seemingly inexhaustible. Shophouse restaurants and food carts can be found on almost every street corner, at pavement eateries with fold-up tables and chairs, and in the narrowest of lanes. In fact, the smell of food seems omnipresent in this sprawling metropolis. There’s a lot more to it than Phad Thai or red, yellow, and green curries. For starters, the variety is vast – be prepared to see some strange-looking dishes, too. Moreover, absolutely nothing goes to waste: pork innards, chicken feet, even creepy-looking insects are fair game.

All in all, Thai food is not just a culinary feast, but an unrivalled adventure. Food stalls on the streets of Bangkok can look a little intimidating to foreigners, but they provide convenient, delicious and cheap meals.

Ultimately, it is from the people that Bangkok most derives its unique flavour. Fun-loving and easy going, they possess a rare tolerance which imbues the city with a real sense of freedom. It may appear at times hectic, yet what finally comes across is Bangkok’s good-natured acceptance of life with all its idiosyncrasies. Thailand’s “City of Angels” is indeed a magic place where possibilities are limited only by the imagination. If you’ve not yet paid a visit, this burgeoning city should be on your own Expat Excursion list!

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