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Bangkok Resumo


  • Wildly cosmopolitan hyper-city with tons to see and do
  • Deeply entrenched street-food culture, the envy of foodies worldwide
  • Night markets mean there's always a budget-friendly activitiy on hand
  • Gorgeous historic sights, including some of Buddhism's holiest temples
  • Shopping galore, from indie stalls at Chatuchak Market to megamalls
  • Efficient, clean, and cheap metro and skytrain system
  • High-end hotels bookable at lower rates than other world capitals
  • Nightlife has something for everyone -- from chic and stylish to seedy
  • Some of the world's most famous rooftop bars with city views
  • Cheap hub for airfare across Thailand and Southeast Asia
  • Most workers in tourism industry speak passable English


  • Traffic is some of the world's worst -- gridlock lasts all day
  • The metro and skytrain don't go everywhere you want
  • Weather is hot and sticky almost year round
  • Some say it's polluted, but we've seen way worse
  • Sex tourism and human trafficking continue to be concerns
  • Don't get caught with drugs -- penalties are harsh

What It's Like

Bangkok is many superlatives, and it lives up to almost all of them -- for better or worse. It's crowded and hot, the air quality is frequently poor, and traffic is unbearable. However, buried within that chaos is amazing food, an incomparable street scene, nightlife that would make a drug kingpin blush, centuries of history, and even a magical quiet moment or two. Keep in mind that this is urban Thailand at its most fevered pitch. Skyscrapers glitter and skytrains zip overhead. Crowds pack the narrow sidestreets, which are known as sois. Smells from streetside grills and food stalls linger amid the traffic fumes. However, for those willing to brave the sensory overload -- and with a hearty urban disposition -- Bangkok is packed with rewards.

Officially incorporated in the late 18th century, Bangkok has been a hub of culture since the 1400s. As the Thai capital, the city is home to the country's revered monarchy -- in fact, speaking ill of the royal family has landed plenty of people in trouble with the authorities. In the oldest part of Bangkok, Rattanakosin, the Grand Palace serves as the royal seat -- it's a massive complex that's also home to the sacred Emerald Buddha and there's a strictly enforced dress code while on the grounds. Just a 10-minute walk from the palace is the city's famous reclining Buddha at Wat Pho -- this temple complex tends to be less crowded and is especially scenic in the late afternoon. The rowdy backpacker ghetto, Khaosan Road, is also in Rattanakosin and draws plenty of tourists in its own right. Don't let the partying get too out of hand, though -- despite the city's tolerant attitude toward most nightlife, drug penalties here are some of the stiffest in the world and sex trafficking is a major concern.

Bangkok is a sprawl and it can take a bit of savvy to know where to find the good stuff. Luckily, most areas of interest are relatively central. Silom and Sukhumvit are both are packed with shopping, nightlife, and abundant dining options. During the day, Silom is the business heart of the city, while at night foodies hit up trendy restaurants on Convent Road or the food stalls under the area's skytrain. For something racier, Patpong Night Market -- one of the city's most famous red light districts -- is also nearby. Here, stripper bars and live sex shows stand side-by-side with the city's LGBT nightlife and vendors peddling t-shirts and tapestries. 

Sukhumvit Road serves as Bangkok's traffic-clogged commercial spine and is lined with some of Bangkok's biggest malls, like Terminal 21. The sois leading away from the main artery are packed with a dizzying array of international bars and dining, though it's worth heading a bit farther out for a taste of how trendy Bangkokians spend their days and nights. The Thong Lor neighborhood, for example, is home to some of the city's chicest bars and upscale eateries.

Still, it's Bangkok's street and market culture that keeps it atop of most travelers' lists, and there's no better place for retail therapy than Chatuchak Market. Over 8,000 stalls make up what is one of the world's largest markets, with entire sections devoted to everything from authentic vintage gear to chic indie designers to home goods to pets. Thousands of locals and tourists alike spend their weekends here -- thankfully, there are plenty of sweets, coffeeshops, and street food-style vendors to keep everyone fed between all of the bargain hunting.

Where to Stay

In a city as massive as Bangkok, choosing where to stay takes on outsized importance, though its legendarily low hotel rates mean that upscale hotels are within reach of even most thrifty travelers. Those in town on shorter trips will likely want to stay in the city's older area -- Rattanakosin -- near the Grand Palace and Khaosan Road. This makes visiting Bangkok's major sites a relative breeze and puts the Chao Phraya river right at the doorstep. Private water taxis and ferries ply the river, in part making up for the lack of nearby mass transit, and there are some funky boutique hotels in the area, like Inn A Day. Those looking for a little more atmosphere could investigate Bangkok's vibrant Chinatown, which is within walking distance of the metro and main train station -- the Shanghai Mansion is one of our Chinatown favorites, with its sleek and stylish interiors and prime location. 

Those wanting to be in the middle of the city should stay along Sukhumvit Road, which becomes Ploen Chit Road as it moves west. There are an almost innumerable number of hotels packed into this area -- from the elegant luxury rooms at Hansar Bangkok to modern budget digs like ibis Bangkok Nana. Malls are all around and night markets stretch along the street in the evening -- but be warned that certain areas, like the Nana Night Market and Soi Cowboy, will make some visitors blush. As an added bonus, this area is well connected to the rest of the city by skytrain and metro.

Silom is an alternative for those wanting to be close to the city's trendiest dining and wildest nightlife. Several luxury stalwarts call the area home, like Le Meridien Bangkok, though plenty of quaint properties are packed in the area as well. The Lullaby Inn -- with its charming, artsy design -- is a sure bet for the area. Just beware that Silom is home to the Patpong red light district, which travelers will either find exciting or terrifying depending on their inclinations.

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