A great staple Bangkok Street food for Thai people is Khao Kha Moo. You will find this all over Thailand. Every street has a stall. It is great value, at between 30 to 45 baht (1 to 1.5 USD) a plate. If you are hungry you can even ask for a big portion by adding the words ‘Pi Set’ which means special in Thai, to the end of the name of the dish.
You will spot Khao Kha Moo stalls by the whole chicken and pieces of pork hanging up behind a glass container. This puts some foreign visitors off as they think it is unhygienic. However, this is a mistake. The meat is generally cooked in the morning on an industrial scale by catering suppliers and then purchased on the same day by the street vendors. The food is really popular so always gets sold out in a day. The meat isn’t hot when you eat it, but that doesn’t matter as the ambient temperature is warm anyway.
Khao Kha Moo shops actually sell a variety of dishes. We have listed the main ones below:
Khao Kha Moo
This is stewed pork leg with pickled vegetables over rice. It comes with a broth and a red chilli sauce.
Khao Man Gai
This is boiled chicken with uncooked cucumber over rice. It comes with a broth and a slightly sweet black chilli sauce.
Khao Man Gai Tort
The same as Khao Man Gai, but the chicken is deep fried with breadcrumbs.
Khao Moo Daeng
Stewed pork leg with crunchy fried pork leg cut into chunks and sliced slightly sweet Chinese sausage. The whole mix of meats comes on rice with a hot red sticky sauce. Yummy!
Khao Moo Grop
Crunchy fried pork leg cut into chunks served on rice. Sometimes served with a sweet red sticky sauce, although normally accompanied by a bowl of broth, and green chilli sauce.
If you are really lucky when you visit Bangkok you will get to see a Royal Thai Barge Procession. We say you are lucky because this is one of the world’s great spectacles, up there with the Kumbh Mela or a British Coronation, and it doesn’t happen very often – the last one was in November 2007.
The Royal Thai Barge Procession has a long history dating back some 700 years. The procession originally took place on the river in Ayutthaya, the old capital. When the capital moved to Bangkok so did the procession. This was only ever an occasional occurrence, never annual or scheduled at regular intervals. The dates when it happens are auspicious and often also mark significant events. The procession stopped altogether with the dissolution of absolute monarchy in 1932. The current King revived the tradition in 1957 to mark the start of the 25th Century in the Buddhist calendar. During the King’s 60 year reign the procession has only occurred a further 15 times.
The procession involves 52 traditional, and very old, wooden barges. These barges are impressively large and ornate. The largest barges are propelled by 50 oarsmen. The total crew for all the barges in the procession is 2,082, all Royal Thai Navy personnel dressed in traditional uniforms. Taking part in the procession is considered a great honour for sailors and the competition to take part is fierce.
The 52 barges are made up 4 royal barges, one containing the King, and 48 escort barges. The four royal barges, each built during the reign of a different King, are displayed in the National Museum of Royal Barges, which is on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Each of the four Royal Barges has different prow design: Swan, 7 headed Nakkharat (mythical creature), Naga and Garuda. All 52 wooden barges are stored on land to limit their deterioration, and are only ever in the water for a procession or a rehearsal.
There had been a procession scheduled for 11 October 2011 but it was cancelled due to river conditions. It was then rescheduled for December 2011 but got cancelled again because the great flood in Bangkok. The rumour is that the procession is now going to be rescheduled for 2012, but we are not sure of the month at the moment. Keep your eyes on the news about this, if you can get to Bangkok on the day then this will be your chance to witness something special.
This article doesn’t promote or condemn Go-Go bars, or prostitution more in Thailand or elsewhere. Our readers are smart enough to make their own minds up. All we want to do is to explain the facts.
Go-go bars in Bangkok and other big cities are generally bars with a stage in the middle and seating around the sides, with booths at the back of the room. Drinks come at a slight premium and they rarely charge an entry fee. The girls dance in skimpy clothing to loud music.
For these bars the economics work like this. The girls get no salary but free food and board. For this basic package a girl has sales targets to achieve. Generally what happens is they are required to sell a certain number of ‘lady drinks’ each month. A lady drink is an overpriced drink which the patron must buy the girl if they want to engage them in a prolonged conversation. The girls generally must also make a certain number of ‘bar fines’ in a month (2 or 3 is a normal sales target). A bar fine is the money a customer must pay to the bar to take the girl back to their hotel. The girl then gets paid by the customer directly for whatever ‘service’ she then goes on to provide.
The big issue is one of exploitation. Exploiting people is wrong. The answer to the question of whether the girls are exploited isn’t obvious though. Bear with us, we explain why by running through different types of exploitation:
Exploitation of a minor – Definitely goes on, not that frequently in Go-Go bars. The girls tend to be over 18.
Economic exploitation – Difficult question to answer. On the one hand most of the girls involved in this kind of business come from the poor North-East of Thailand and are in Bangkok to earn money to send back to their hard up families. The other side of the coin is that for a healthy young Thai woman it is not difficult to find work in Bangkok, or indeed in most other parts of Thailand. The girls aren’t driven into the industry because they have no other opportunity to earn money. There is a big difference in potential earnings between working in a restaurant (around $300 a month, maybe less), and working in a Go-Go bar (perhaps an average of $900 a month). $300 isn’t much, and the girl in the restaurant is probably working very hard for 8 to 10 hours a day, but they can live on it – most of Thai people live on a comparable wage.
Exploitation by drugs – big drug problem, much more so than outside the industry. The favored drug is ‘yaba’ (methamphetamine and caffeine) that helps the girls stay awake, and distanced from what is happening to them.
Exploitation by family – the girls don’t come to Bangkok with the intention of doing this kind of work. The families know how the money they receive is come by; but in our opinion it isn’t normal for the girls to be sent away by their families with the express intention to work in a Go Go bar.
The damage to the girls themselves is obvious. Many suffer from the drug use and alcohol. Many have mental health issues. Not pleasant. But is it immoral? This is a big part of Thailand. It is not just foreign influence either. The biggest market is Thai men. But can something be called ‘right’ just because it is part of someone else’s culture?
Anyway, food for thought we hope. Sorry, if you came to the site searching for nude photographs.
Sampeng Lane, or Soi Wanit 1 as it has been renamed, is a narrow street running for about 1km in Bangkok’s China Town. From 9am to 6pm the street hosts a lively and diverse wholesale market which is well worth a visit for an authentic slice of Thai life and some good shopping. Getting there involves either a taxi ride, or some walking and a bit of perseverance. The nearest stop on the modern public transit system is the Hua Lamphong stop on the metro line and then a 10 minute walk. You can also get there by the Chao Praya Express boat stopping at either Ratchawongse or Memorial Bridge Piers. You can pick up the Chao Praya Express Boat from the Taksin Bridge Pier which is by the Saphan Taksin sky train station.
Sampeng Lane has a long and interesting history closely connected to the permanent Chinese community which appeared in the late 1700s. The Chinese had close trading links with Thailand at the time and some merchants settled in the City. Whilst the other city dwellers at the time favoured living on boats on the river, the Chinese started building brick houses on solid ground, with the centre of this community being Sampeng Lane. By the late 1800s Sampeng Lane had become a notorious centre for vice in the City with the street featuring numerous opium dens, gambling houses and brothels. Even today the term ‘woman of Sampeng’ is Thai slang for a prostitute of Chinese origin.
Today the opium dens and brothels have gone, and what remains is the city’s most vibrant wholesale market. If you go bear in mind you need to buy in quantities of 5 or 6 items or more. The price of many items is often fixed and marked on the products so no haggling is necessary. If you have lots of presents to buy, perhaps lots of small gifts for colleagues in the office back home, this is a good place to come and shop. If you have visited the tourist markets of Patpong and the Sukhumvit Road this will also be interesting for you as you can check out what mark ups the traders are putting on their goods, as more likely than not this is where they came to buy what they are selling.
The market is roughly divided into sections. At the very eastern end you find lots of shoe shops, then moving east you find accessories like jewellery, watches and hats etc. Towards the centre of Sampeng Lane you find stalls selling things like ceramics, lanterns and paper products. As you travel to the western end you start to move out of China Town and into Little India and the choice of products increasingly turns to fashion and fabrics. For many shoppers this textile and fabric market area, with around 1,000 shops and stalls, is the highlight of the market with great bargains on wholesale silks and cottons. Right at the far western end the street turns into an Indian bazaar.
Have fun and work your way patiently through the crowds. It can be a bit intimidating, but remember the street is regularly bisected by streets where you can duck in and out of the market to eat, drink, rest or respond to any other call of nature.
Royal City Avenue, or the RCA as it is known locally, is THE place in Bangkok for young hip Thais to go clubbing. The RCA is located on a Soi called Royal City Avenue which is between the Rama 9 and Ratchadapisek Roads (both of which run parallel to the north of the Sukhumvit Road). It is a collection of bars, clubs, art house cinemas, a bowling club and even a golf driving range, many of which are housed in a single sprawling building. This area has grown in recent years to other nearby buildings.
Mainly popular with Thai university students and young office workers, the RCA is an officially designated ‘nightlife zone’ which means it has later opening hours than many other venues in the city. The downside of this appellation is that it is also highly regulated. You need to bring your passport as there are ID checks for most venues, and if drugs are your thing be careful as the police have being doing raids recently and conducting drug tests on the people on the club. This doesn’t happen frequently, but it does happen.
Places open and close quickly. It is hard to keep track of the venues. This is our list of what is currently there. Apologies if it has changed by the time you get there:
Old Leng: Chinese themed bar with a 1980s cover band (2am closing)
Route 66: Massive four-dance-floor club with a Hip Hop focus (2am closing)
Flix: Electro/House club (2am closing)
Slim: Hip-Hop and RnB club (2am closing)
HOBB: Stands for ‘House Bar of Bangkok’. This is a cool bar with live bands (2am closing)
Ezze: Techno club (2am closing)
The Overtone Music Club: Mini concert hall attracting big name Thai bands (2am closing)
No Space: Avant garde club with Indie Rock bands and art exhibitions at the weekend (open only when events or exhibitions are on).
808: Busiest nightclub in the RCA with electro and house music (3am closing)
Inch: 2,500 person capacity club with 2 dance floors: one for live music, one for Hip-Hop (1am closing)
Jazzit: Thai/Italian nightclub with deep house music (2am closing)
Baroque Club: 3 live bands nightly (2am closing)
Cosmic cafe: Live Indie bands (2am)
This list isn’t exhaustive. It is well worth exploring RCA as you are sure to find something to suit your style of venue and taste in music . The RCA is also home to Bangkok’s only 2 lesbian bars and a go-kart track as well as numerous places to eat. Fun fun fun.
Silom is a lively and exciting part of Bangkok. It is the financial centre of Bangkok with the stock exchange and head offices of Thailand’s major banks. Silom also has lots on offer for tourists.
Here is our run-down of some of the best bits.
Visitor attractions in Silom
Sri Mariammam Hindu Temple
Silom Road (corner of Pan Road). Open 6am 8pm. Free Admission.
Built in the 1860s by Tamil immigrants this lively and colorful temple is the main place of worship for Bangkok’s Hindu community. Well worth a visit.
Lumphini Boxing Stadium
Rama 4 Road by Silom MRT station. Open Tues and Fri (18.30) and Sat (16.30 and 20.30). 1,000 to 1,200 Baht entry
Thailand’s top boxing stadium. A must-see for Muay Thai fans. The best fights take place from 8pm on Friday nights.
Pat Pong Night Market
Soi Patpong on Silom Road. Open 19.00 to 24.00.
Lively night market in red light district. The place to buy fake watches, sunglasses and designer bags.
Junction of Rama 4 Road and Ratchadamri Road
140-acre park, popular with the local Thais. Popular with fitness enthusiasts who jog, cycle and do aerobics in the park. There are many food stalls and a good fresh food market at the weekends. This is a great place to experience a slice of Thai culture.
Great Restaurants in Silom Area
The Mango Tree, on Soi Tantawan, Surawong Road – Fantastic Thai food Sanghai 38, on the 38th Floor of the Sofitel Hotel, 188 Silom Road ?Awesome Cantonese food
Vertigo Bar – Top floor of Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 South Sathorn Road Sky Bar – Top floor of State Tower, 1055/111 Silom Road
Jim Thompson Store, 9 Surawong Road – Thai silk shop Silom Galleria, 919/1 Silom Road – Shopping mall with over a hundred shops and stalls selling art, antiques and gems
Wat Arun is the probably the most beautiful and atmospheric temple in Bangkok. It is certainly our favourite. It isn’t big, but it is beautiful and the location on the banks of the Chao Phraya River adds to the romance.
To get to the temple you should take to the river. Pick up the Chao Phraya Express Boat either in Khao San at the Phra Ahtit pier or from the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station and transfer to the nearby pier. Alight from the express boat at Tha Tien pier and then take another ferry across the river to the Thonburi side. This ferry goes every 10 to 15 minutes, it cost only 2 baht a trip (0.06 USD) and takes less than 5 minutes. The temple is open every day from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
The main feature of this temple is the central prang which is a Khmer style tower, and the four smaller the prang grouped around it. The central prang is approximately 80 meters tall and is striking against the river, particularly so at the dawn. Wat Arun in fact means the Temple of the Dawn – Aruna being the Indian god of the dawn.
The Prang are ornately decorated by pieces of porcelain. The construction took place between 1810 and 1850 and the porcelain is reputed to have come from the Chinese trading ships visiting Bangkok. These ships used broken porcelain as ballast which was dumped on the river bank before the ships made the return journey to China with goods and raw materials from Thailand. If this is true, it makes the temple a very early example of recycling in architecture and is testament to the skill of the craftsman who managed to create perfectly matched recurring designs throughout the temple complex using what was in essence, rubbish.
If you want to enjoy the romance of the temple at dawn you should try booking a room at the superb Sala Arun hotel on the opposite bank. There is an uninterrupted view of the temple from several of the guest rooms and the river side dining terrace and cafe.
Wat Po (also spelled ‘Wat Pho’) is one of the oldest and largest temple complexes in Bangkok. It situated next door to the more visited Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Less tourists visit and they are missing out. Wat Po isn’t on the Skytrain or Metro network, but you can get there on the Chao Phraya Express Boat from the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station. Wat Po is a short walk from Tha Tien Pier. Entry is 100 Thai baht (3.3 USD) and it is open from 8am to 5pm every day. Please don’t listen to the Thai men hanging outside trying to tell you the temple is closed – they are conmen who want to take you on a tour or to a gem shop.
Set in grounds of over 80,000 square meters, the temple is made up of two walled compounds with 91 chedi (stupas to use the Indian terminology) in the open spaces between. Large parts of the Temple complex are functioning places of worship and education. The Temple is considered to be Thailand’s first public university, with courses on traditional Thai massage and medicine. The massage school is considered the top place to study Thai massage and attracts large numbers of Thai and foreign students to take the rigorous and respected courses.
The main attraction is the reclining Buddha which is the largest in the world. Ornately decorated in gold leaf, this statute is a massive 46 meters long and 15 meters high. Very impressive, and worth the entrance fee in its own right. When you go be sure to buy a bucket of copper coins and carefully place one in each of the 108 brass bowls running the length of the statue. 108 is an important number in Buddhism, and it is believed to give you good luck.
Another feature to point out is the 150 or so depictions of the epic story of Ramakien on the outer walls. These are hand painted scenes from the Thai national epic, Ramakien, which is a version of the Hindu epic The Ramayana. This tells the story of Rama’s struggle to rescue his wife Sita who has been kidnapped by the demon king Ravana. The painted scenes are an artistic masterpiece and an important part of Thailand’s cultural heritage.
If you are interested in Thai history and culture and would like to get more out information while visiting Wat Pho a good option is the Isango City Temple Tour. For $23 the tour takes in Wat Pho as well as Wat Tramit and Wat Benjamaborpitr, some of the most important cultural sites in Bangkok. All entrance fees are included and you get a knowledgeable English speaking guide to explain about the places visited. The tour is from 8am to 12pm and includes all transfers. For more information click on the link below:
Wat Traimit is the home to the world’s largest solid gold statute. This statue is well worth the trip to this temple which is near the main train station in Chinatown, Bangkok. The temple is walking distance from the metro station which serves the Hua Lamphong Train station. In addition to the statue itself the temple has an interesting exhibition about the Chinese community in Thailand on the second floor and an exhibition about the statute on the third floor.
This Buddha statue has an interesting history. It has been in Bangkok for about 200 years and was originally housed in a very small temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. At this stage the monks didn’t know it was made of gold because it was covered in a layer of plaster. In 1955 the temple where it was housed was demolished to make way for development and the statute was moved by crane to its current site. During the move there was an accident and the statue was dropped in the temple grounds and left overnight during a rain storm. In the morning the Abbot inspected the statue and peeled away the cracked plaster to reveal the gold underneath. What he found was some 5.5 tonnes of gold in this 3 meter tall statue.
The origins of the statue are not known. The best guess, because of the style of the statue, is that it was cast in the thirteenth century. It is believed to have come from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya which was regularly besieged by various invading foreign forces such as the Burmese. The layer of plaster was probably added to the statue to disguise it from the foreign invaders.
The unfortunate side to this story is that this discovery led to a craze of smashing clay Buddha images in Thailand by people hoping to make similar finds. Many ancient artifacts have been destroyed for this reason.
The temple is open from 8am to 5pm, except Mondays when it is shut all day. Admission is currently 40 baht (approximately 1.4 USD). Like all Thai temples, admission will be refused if you are wearing shorts, mini-skirts or vest tops.
If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, as with any city, it can be difficult to work out which part of the city to stay in. This article is designed to be a quick guide. Basically, for tourists the Bangkok city can be broken into five parts. Each has it pros and cons, which we have listed for you below.
Khao San Area
Khao San is the original backpacker area of Bangkok near the river and the tourist attractions of old Bangkok like Wat Po and the Grand Palace.
Pros of Khao San
Cheap accommodation and food
Lively with bars and clubs
Not far away from areas where people live in old fashion houses
Very accessible to tourists with English spoken widely and lots of amenities like ATMs and Internet shops
Cons of Khao San Area
If you are a bit older the young and exuberant backpackers might annoy you
The area isn’t connected to the skytrain or metro system making travel a bit more difficult
If it is luxury you are looking for, you won’t find it here
Hotels we recommend staying in the Khao San area (click on the links to read more about each place)
As you can see, each of the 5 main areas has something to recommend it, and something to perhaps put you off. When I stay in Bangkok I often spend a couple of nights in one area and then move to another area.