Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm & Zoo

There is something uniquely Thai about Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. I am not sure that the animals are abused as such, but they are certainly not treated with ‘reverance’ in the way that Western zoos apsire to. Infact, this isn’t a zoo at all. It’s a farm. There are around 40,000 to 100,000 crocodiles at any time, depending on whose figures you believe. Eventually they will all be processed into handbags, shoes and steaks. All of which can be purchased on site, including on a plate in the restaurant.

Opening the farm to the public, holding shows and the addition of other animals, is a sideline. Farmers in the West are only just waking up to the need to diversify, this is diversification Thai style.

Anyway, no shortage of visitors to this attraction. Its about 28kms from central Bangkok. To get there take a taxi, a tour, or a bus – from On Nut BTS station buses 25, 507, 508 and 511 will take you right to the entrance. It opens daily from 8am to 6pm and costs 300 Thai Baht ($10) for adults and 200 Thai Baht ($6.7) for children.

The main attractions are the crocodile wrestling shows and the elephant shows. They take place throughout the day for a duration of approximately 30 to 40 minutes a show. The crocodile show involves young Thai men putting various body parts in the crocodile’s mouths, picking them up and other stuff generally considered inadvisable with large dangerous reptiles. The elephant show has the large beasts doing tricks including playing football and walking the tightrope.

The ‘zoo’ covers 3,000 acres. There is a mini-train which takes visitors around the various enclosures. The animals on show include tigers, lions, chimpanzees, leopards, pythons and camels. If you still crave more interaction with the animals then you can get in the enclosures with the crocodiles. Well, OK, one crocodile to have your photograph taken. You can also feed the crocodiles. It costs 20 Baht (67 cent) for a chicken carcass.

Depending on your perspective this is either a good day out, a slightly weird experience, or a lesson in how South East Asian people tend to view animals. Thailand never fails to be thought provoking, and the crocodile farm is likely to make you think. Bring a peg for your nose. It smells, and not of roses.

If you want to go on a tour of Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo Isango do one. They pick you up at your hotel at 1pm. The tour lasts 4 hours and includes entrance fees and english speaking guide. The tour costs $30 a head. Click on the button below to find out more.

Driving in Bangkok


As anyone who has been to Bangkok will tell you, the roads are chaotic. There are taxis, cars, trucks, tuk tuks and motorbikes to contend with. If that is not enough, street vendors have a habit of moving off the sidewalk onto the road. The rules of the road in Thailand are similar to elsewhere in the world, but the rules and the enforcement of these rules seem inadequate to deal with the traffic in the capital. Here are some tips for driving and parking in Bangkok.

The Rules of the Road

1)    Drive on the left.
2)    The legal age for driving is 18.
3)    15 year olds can drive motorbikes under 110cc.
4)    Always carry your driving license and copy of the vehicle registration document.
5)    Either a Thai driving license or an International driving license is valid.
6)    It is compulsory to wear a seat belt in the front seats.
7)    Motorbike riders must wear a helmet.
8)    It is not compulsory for children to be in a child seat.
9)    All driving fines should be paid at the local police station.

Tips for Driving in Bangkok

The one thing that everyone will tell you about driving in Bangkok is to avoid the rush hours, especially in busy areas such as Sukhumvit and near Hualamphong train station in China town. In the morning the busy time is between 6.30am and 9.30am and in the afternoon between 5pm and 7.30pm.

The other vital tip for driving in Bangkok is to watch both sides. Motorbikes zip between cars. Pulling out and opening a car door can be fraught with hazard if you are not alert.

Another good piece of advice is to know your route. If you miss your turning it can be very hard to turn around (legally), and you can lose lots of time.

As you get to know the city you will realize that some traffic lights take several minutes to change from red to green. If you are planning a car journey you should try and avoid these lights or factor in extra time.

Thai people are famous for being polite and gentle. This is not quite the case on the road. The high stress of the roads means that often the only way to get onto a busy road is to throw caution and manners to the wind and nudge your nose out. If an oncoming driver slows slightly take this as an invitation to join the traffic, if not then don’t push your luck.

Police in Bangkok have to buy their fuel, gun, their bullets and even their motorbike. They have a very small salary. Despite this, they do a decent job of keeping peace and order in the Big Mango. Everyone knows that if you get pulled for a driving offense, the fine down the police station would be 500 Thai Baht, whereas an ‘on the spot fine’ might be 400 Thai Baht or less. If you get pulled the best advice is to ‘play it by ear’. Don’t be cocky.

If you get in an accident then you should swap details. It is the law that every driver should have at least third person insurance. Don’t get angry – it is very rude in Thailand to lose your cool and can lead to an unfortunate escalation in violence.

Tips for Parking

It is obvious where you can and can’t park in Bangkok. Along side streets it is fine to park on the road. The fear is more to do with having your car stolen or broken into.

Most of the big hotels have parking for residents. The big shopping centers like MBK also have car parks. It is worth using car parks where possible as they are cheap and offer protection for a vehicle.

There isn’t a parking compare site for Thailand. Information for prices, number of available places and locations is patchy and inconsistent. It is best to ask Bangkokers for advice and to check forums.

Parking in Suvarnabhumi Airport is divided into short stay and long stay. The short stay is connected to the airport terminal and costs 25 Thai Baht an hour or 250 Thai Baht a day. The longer stay car park is far from the terminal and costs 200 Thai Baht a day. Your car is in the sun all day and less secure. Most foreigners pay the extra 50 Baht a day and use the closer car park.

Conclusion

It is easy to hire a car at the airport. A car can be very convenient in Thailand and gives you access to some great destinations that are otherwise hard to get to. However, if you are a tourist on a short visit, save yourself the heart ache and take taxis and public transport – it is cheap and far less stressful.

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Not the biggest attraction in Bangkok, but to my mind one of the best.

The Jim Thompson House is a wonderful example of Thai architecture right in the centre of commercial Bangkok. The house is made up of a collection of traditional Thai teak wood buildings lovingly reconstructed on the canalside near Siam Square. The 6 structures each come from different parts of Thailand with the oldest building dating back to the early 19th Century.

The house was created by American businessman Jim Thompson in the 1950s. The project owes much to Jim’s early career as a New York architect. When the Second World War broke out Jim embarked on a new career in the service of the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, undertaking intelligence activities all over the world. When the war ended Jim ended up in Bangkok and after a stint redesigning the Oriental Hotel he started a business exporting Thai Silk. He is credited with turning Thai silk into an international brand and the Jim Thompson Company remains today a major exporter of Thai silk products around the world. There is a shop at the Jim Thompson House where you can buy high quality silk products.

During his time in Bangkok, Jim Thompson was a major player in the local social scene. The house was built as a setting for his famous dinner parties attended by the rich and famous, great and good, as they passed through Bangkok. The house is a major throwback to the romance of colonial Indo-China. It is now a museum kept in pretty much the same state as when Jim left it. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the Malaysian jungle in 1967 adding to the legend of Jim Thompson.

Jim Thompson was a voracious collector of art and antiquities and they adorn the house. He also gave careful thought to the garden which I can only describe as being uniquely Asian and jungle-like.

There is a pretty good restaurant at the Jim Thompson House as well,which is fitting considering his preoccupation with throwing dinner parties. It’s open for lunch from 11am to 5pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm. You have a choice of sitting inside or on the verandah by the pond.

To get to the Jim Thompson House take the sky train to National Stadium BTS station. It’s a short walk from there. The address is 6 Soi Kaseman 2, Rama 1 Road. It’s open from 9am to 5pm and costs 100 Thai Baht for adults ($3.3) and 50 Thai Baht for children and students.

If you fancy seeing some nice Thai architecture, and fulfilling your dreams of experiencing the glamour of colonial Indo-China, it’s well worth the trip.

Vimanmek Palace

This is one of Bangkok’s more low key attractions. A beautiful wooden building in a large garden with not too many tourists around. I find the Vimanmek Palace a nice antidote to the hectic nature of much of Bangkok.

The Palace was constructed in its present location, the Dusit Garden, in 1900. Originally the palace had been built on the island of Koh Sichang. The King at the time liked to visit this island which was thought at the time to be a very healthy location. The King stopped visiting after an incident in which the French army briefly embarked on a military occupation of the island following a trade dispute. No longer in use, the building was brought to Bangkok and served as the Royal Place in the early part of the 20th Century.

The building is the world’s largest golden teak wood structure. It has three storeys and 81 rooms, many of which are open to the public. The design of the building is an interesting mix of European neo-classical design and traditional Thai architecture. This mix of styles is carried on in the interior – there is an eclectic range of antique furniture, glassware and porcelain. As is so often the case, the art and architecture reflects the spirit of the time. This is nowhere more true than the Vimanmek Palace which reflects the opening up of Siam to the outside world at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The Palace fell completely into disuse in 1932 following a military coup which put an end to absolute monarchy in Thailand. The transformation of the Palace into a functioning attraction occurred in the 1980s under the patronage of the current Queen of Thailand. Inside the Palace there are now a series of exhibitions and memorabilia relating to King Rama V. These exhibits dedicated to one of Thailand’s most important kings (he made lots of social reforms) were intended to revitalize the building and add more interest for visitors.

We say pay it a visit. It’s a 20 minute walk from Thewet Chao Phraya Express Boat pier. You can pick up the Express Boat at any of the piers along the river, although if you are coming by Skytrain go to Saphan Taksin BTS station to transfer to Sathorn Pier. Probably though you will want take a taxi unless you are short on funds. To get in it costs 100 Thai Baht ($3.3). Its open 8.30am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday). Slightly oddly you have to join a free compulsory tour around the Palace. When you have finished the tour hang around in the garden and enjoy the traditional Thai dancing which happens daily at 10.30am and 2pm.

One last thing, dress smartly. They won’t let you in shorts, short skirts, ripped jeans or t-shirts. This is a Royal Palace after all.

Koh Kret

Koh Kret is something of an oddity. A traditional community, no roads, no traffic, and yet in Bangkok. Its an oasis of calm in a frenetic city.

Koh Kret in an island in the Chao Phraya river, about 20km north of central Bangkok. It was created in 1722 by the creation of a canal where there is a wide bend in the river. This new island was settled over time by people from the Mon community under the encourage of the Thai government.

Koh Kret hasn’t developed at the same rate as the rest of Bangkok. Whilst tourism has started encroaching on what has been for centuries an isolated community the island retains a lot of its rural charm. It doesn’t have any roads and cars. There are some concrete paths and concrete by the ferry port but that’s it. You need to walk or cycle to get around and bikes are available to hire. People live in smaller houses like they do in the countryside.

The Mon people have a distinctive cultural identity. They are famous for their pottery and this is the main industry on the island. There are lots of pottery shops on the island and a pottery museum which is open from 9am to 5pm. They also have a distinctive cuisine. Notable dishes are deep fried flowers and a Mon version of tempura served in a banana leaf bowl.

Koh Kret is fairly small covering an area of approximately four square kilometers. It’s roughly square with each side around 2kms long. You could walk all the way around the island in 1.5 to 2 hours. This is a nice stroll and it takes in the island’s main sights. There are several temples constructed in a distinctive Mon style. The main temple is Wat Poramaiyikawat and there is a small arts and crafts museum next door. The other temples though are perhaps more interesting as they are older and one has a large reclining Buddha.

Getting to Koh Kret from central Bangkok is a bit of a trek, although well worth the effort. The best way to get there is to take to the river. Pick up the Chao Phraya Express Boat from any of the piers along the river. If you are coming by skytrain go to Saphan Taksin BTS station which is adjacent to Sathorn Pier for the Express Boat.

If you get up early enough in the morning you can get a boat virtually all the way. ‘Green Flag’ express boats run to Pak Kret Pier from 6.15 am to 8.15 am. After that time the boats stop one pier earlier at Nonthaburi Pier.

From Pak Ket Pier it’s a short walk to another pier at Wat Sanam Neua for a quick 2 Thai Baht ferry ride to Koh Kret island. If you have to get off at Nonthaburi Pier we advise getting a taxi. Simply tell the driver you want to go to Koh Kret and they will take you to the ferry pier for the island, its not far.

Return Chao Phraya Express Boats run from Pak Kret Pier from 3.30pm to 6pm. A much easier journey than it may sound, and not at all expensive.

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day then a trip to Koh Kret is ideal. It is also possible to find basic accommodation on the island. Thankfully, there are no big hotels, just small mom-and-pop guest houses.

Wat Saket and the Golden Mount

Wat Saket is one of my favourite temples in Bangkok. Its on the top of a man made hill, known as the Golden Mount. The hill took a fair bit of effort, and several attempts, to build. The first attempt, in the early 19th Nineteenth Century collapsed. The land in this part of Bangkok is low lying and consequently water logged and soft. Another attempt was made at the end of the century and with the addition of some concrete support stayed in place.

The temple itself is not what people come here for. It’s small without much of note inside, although the Chedi (which is an Indian style spire) is pretty cool. It’s covered in thousands of old mosiac tiles. The Chedi is a recongisable landmark clearly visible from ground level. The panoramic view is what makes the temple great. For a long time it was the highest point in Bangkok, and is still the best vantage point in ‘Old Bangkok’.

Like all the best temples, its a bit of a trek to get there. This a good or bad thing depending on your perspective and your frame of mind. Before you even consider climbing the mount you need to get there. It’s not on the skytrain or metro system, although it is on the Canal Taxi network (Khlong Saen Saep) which we have written about previously. The temple is located inconveniently between the modern Siam Square area and the Khao San area. If you are relatively fit you can walk from the Khao San Road, otherwise it requires a  taxi journey to get there, or a local bus trip.

Once you get there the trek doesn’t stop. You have 318 steps to climb to ascend the 80 or so metres to the temple on the top. Probably best to avoid the midday heat if you aren’t properly acclimatized. Once you get there you need to pay 10 Thai Baht to go through the temple to get to the observation deck.

This is a working temple. 300 or so monks live in the temple grounds at the base of the temple. On your way up pause for a little while to take in the small details in the jungle style gardens at the entrance. There are lots of small shrines. Apparently lots of people have been buried here over the years. Some of the graves are meant to be plague victims. We can’t verify this, but we reckon there must be families of the dead still living in the area as people regularly bring offerings and flowers.

The temple is open 8am to 5pm. Except for early November when there is a festival to mark Loi Krathong, which is broadly speaking the Thai version of Christmas, involving a candlelight procession up the stairs at night. It is a great thing to see if you get the chance. There is a small fair and fantastic atmosphere for a week.

If you only have a short time in Bangkok and want to see Wat Saket as well as a number of other important cultural and historical places  we recommend doing the Isango ‘Buddhist Temples and Klongs Tour’. You are picked up at 8am from your hotel  and returned to your hotel at 5 pm. All fees are included as well as lunch and an English speaking guide. The tour takes you to the Grand Palace, the emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Wat Saket. It also includes a canal tour. It is a full day out and great value for $100 per person. For more details or to book now click on the button below.

Bangkok for kids (Part 4) – Dreamworld

Dreamworld Bangkok is Thailand’s answer to Disneyland.

The Disney Corporation probably isn’t losing sleep over the competition from this amusement park though. No-one would come to Bangkok to visit in the same way that they would travel to Florida. However, credit where credit is due – if you are 10 years old or younger you will love it.

The park is open from 10 am to 5pm on weekdays, and 10am to 7pm on weekends. It gets busy during school holidays in Thailand with predominately Thai visitors. Whole families go and make a real day out of it. The entrance fee is 450 Thai Baht per person ($15), although children under 90cm get in for free.

The park features over 40 rides and family attractions. They put on shows and have cartoon characters wondering around entertaining the children. In addition there is a big lake and a cable car. Inexpensive food outlets abound. Overall not a bad effort.

The park is split into three areas: Dream Garden, Fantasy Land and Adventureland. The big rides are imported from the West and include Grand Canyon (white water raft ride) Sky Coaster (brand new roller coaster) Super Splash (log flume) Hurricane (a large swing ride).

There are other attractions such as Snow Town, with artificial snow, and boats for the lake. There is also a go-kart track for which you must pay an additional fee.

Dreamworld is on the outskirts of Bangkok. The address is: 62 Moo 1, Rangsir-Ongkarat Road, Thonyaburi, Pathumthani. Taxi drivers will know where to take you. You could also go by bus. Either take Bus 188 from Mor Chit (Northern Bus Terminal) or Bus 538 from Victory Monument.

For a completely hassle free trip book a tour of Dreamworld through Isango. They pick you up from your hotel at 8am and bring you back at 6pm, with a Thai/Western buffet thrown in the price.

For more information about family days out in and around Bangkok visit our sister website: www.bangkok4children.com

book tour of Dreamword

 

Siam Niramit Show

Siam Niramit is one of the world’s largest stage shows with a cast of over 100 performers. This award winning show ranks as one of Bangkok’s major attractions. The 2,000 seater theater is filled nightly.

The Theater is is located to the north of the Sukhumvit Road. The closest public transport station is the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT (Metro) Station. It is about a 20 minute walk from the Metro station to Tiamruammit Road where the Theater is located.

Shows start daily at 8pm and run for approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. The cost is 2,000 Thai Baht ($66.7) for ‘Golden Seats’ and 1,500 Thai Baht ($50) for ‘Standard Seats’. For an extra 350 Thai Baht ($11.7) you have a buffet meal of Thai and Western food before the show. Guest reviews suggest the buffet is actually quite good, and beer and wine is on sale.

The doors open at 5.30pm and there are other attractions in the grounds of the theater that are worth visiting. The big attraction is the ‘Village of the Four Regions’ which has examples of wooden homes from the four regions of Thailand. There are performers demonstrating traditional crafts. There are also small shows put on outside, such as dance performances. The children will really enjoy the elephant shows which are put on every night. Elephants rides are available for a small additional cost.

The show itself is split into three distinct acts, each featuring several set changes and numerous special effects. The idea, which they have achieved pretty successfully, is to give an overview of Thai History, culture and spiritualism and demonstrate how beliefs and superstitions play a central role in Thai life – a big task in 80 minutes, and this is how they achieve it:

Act I: Journey Back into History -Depiction of life in Ancient times in each of the four regions of Thailand

Act II: Journey Beyond Imagination – Depictions of the three spiritual realms of ‘Fiery Hell’, ‘Mystical Forest of Himapaan’ and ‘Blissful Heaven’.

Act III: Journey Through Joyous Festivals – Examples of Merit Making festivals re-enacted such as the Loy-Krathong celebration.

If you prefer you can go with a tour to see Siam Niramit. Isango have tours at competitive prices. They pick you up at your hotel at 6pm and bring you back after the show. The tour costs $74. To book or find out more click on the button below.

book tour of Siam Niramit

Canal Taxi Boat (Khlong Saen Saep)

Not for the faint-hearted, or anyone with mobility difficulties, however if you are up for a bit of fun and adventure this is a speedy and cheap way to get around Bangkok.

Bangkok Canal Taxi Boats, or Khlong Saen Saep as it is known in Thai, run a distance of 18km from Bankapi to the North of Sukhumvit,then parallel to the Sukhumvit Road, through to Pratunam, past Siam Square and onto Wat Sa Ket (the Golden Mount). Tickets cost 10 to 20 baht depending on the distance and boats run from 5.30am to 8.30pm.

The reason I say this is not for the faint-hearted or people with mobility difficulties is the taxi boats can be an uncomfortable and smelly wet experience. It is a bit difficult getting on and off. There is a step up from the boats and they bob around in the water. Once you are in you shelter behind plastic sheeting occasionally getting damp with less than wholesome canal water when other boats pass.

However, this said there are upsides to using these boats, as 40,000 to 60,000 of the the locals do every day. They go where other transport systems, except buses which move at snail’s pace, don’t go. One failing of the sky train and the metro system is that it doesn’t go toward the Khao San area. The Khlong Saen Saep will take you to Wat Sa Ket,which is a hop skip and jump from the Khao San area. Also it’s fun and you get to see things you won’t see any other way. There are communities, historic bridges and wooden houses not visible from the road side. Like all the best travelling experiences, you have to put with the bad to get the good. Rewarding.

The Khlong Saen Saep has two lines, converging on the Pratunam Pier. The NIDA line has 24 stops and runs east from Pratunam. This is the line to take from Pratunam to get to Sukhumvit and onto Ramkhamkeng University to the north of Sukhumvit. The other line, the Golden Mount Line line, runs from Pratunam Pier through to the Golden Mount to the west, with 6 stops.

Here are some piers you might want to stop off at:

Phan Fa Pier: for the Golden Mount

Ban Krua Nua Pier: for the Jim Thompson House

Nan Nua Pier: for Sukhumvit soi 3

Thong Lo Pier: for Sukhumvit soi 38 and the RCA entertainment zone

Train spotting in Bangkok

Thailand is a great place to travel by train and there are lots of opportunities for train spotting in Bangkok. There are many types of tain in operation, from the ultra modern trains used in the sky train network, to the steam trains used on special routes such as the trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi.

Hualampong Train Station

Hualamphong Train station is the main train station for Bangkok. It has its own MRT metro stop making it easy to reach. The station itself opened in 1916 designed by Italian architects Mario Tamagio and Annibole Rigotti. The station is in my opinion magnificent, and a visit provides a glimpse of a vibrant slice of Thai life.

The station has 14 platforms with around 130 trains arriving and departing every day. The station is also the terminus for the Eastern & Orient Express plying the route to Singapore.

One of the great features in the station is the massive stain glass window at the end of the platform. Go for a visit even if you aren’t travelling somewhere by train.

Thonburi Railway Station Musuem

Located on the other side of the river from the main train station, this is the place to visit to see steam engines. You can get there by public transport via the Chao Phraya Express boat. Get off at the Railway Station Pier.

You will find this locomotive house near Siriraj Hospital. It is walking distance from the river bank. The museum is on the site of the former Thonburi railway station built in 1900. This station was destroyed during the Second World War, and the Thonburi station was rebuilt 1km to the east in 2003. This new station is the starting point for the line to Kanchaburi.

What remains of the old station is now a storage/maintenance shed for 5 fully functional steam engines owned by the State Railways of Thailand. These magnificent Asian steam engine are still used for special occasions and specific routes. Tourists are more than welcome to visit.