Wednesday, January 6, 2010



Jim's Bangkok Tips (updated Jan. 2017)

Important! Check that your passport has 6 months left on it from the date of your arrival in Thailand, a requirement for entry.

Get the app MAPS.ME on your iPhone, then download the map of Thailand. I just discovered this recently and found it incredibly helpful getting around Bangkok, a very complicated city.

Get Nancy Chandler’s map of Bangkok on Amazon. The graphics are a bit cutesy but it’s full of great information.  Updates--lots of good info--are posted here:

At the airport, ignore anyone offering you taxi services and follow signs downstairs to 'public taxis'. Tell the dispatcher where you're going. You get a ticket and will be shown to a metered cab. You pay 2 tolls in addition the the meter fare if the taxi takes the freeway (say yes if he asks). Give money to the driver at the tollbooths (around 40 baht each).

Check for flights to Asia, for cheap flights within the region; also and—these small airlines often do not show up on sites like Travelocity. is a Malaysia based airline serving smaller towns in SE Asia.

A good website about Bangkok—

Drink lots of water and have a good supply of moist towlettes--it's hot and humid there.


Check this website-- which describes the various areas of Bangkok with hotel recommendations.

Check for all hotel bookings in Asia. is another hotel site I frequently use. Booking online is almost always lots cheaper than just walking into a hotel.

When booking a hotel, try to get something near to public transportation--the Skytrain (known as BTS, which, when spoken as in English, most taxi drivers will understand), metro or the riverboat.

You may have heard of Khao San Road, but don't stay there unless the idea of a non-stop international frat party sounds good. For single travelers, it might be fun.

We've stayed all over town, but we often return to the Bossotel, which is close to both Skytrain (Saphan Taksim stop) and river boat (Sathorn stop), reasonably priced and quite comfy, with a pool and nice breakfast--around $50/night. Hotels in Bangkok can be great bargains. Make sure to get a room with windows facing the street--some face interior airshafts. 
Another charming place we liked, near to the Grand Palace is the Baan Dinso, in an old wooden house. (Make sure it's the Baan Dinso on Trok Sin--they have a branch nearby but not as good). 
Staying in Chinatown is fun, especially since it avoids the trouble of getting a cab out of there at night---drivers are notorious for overcharging. The area between Yowarat Road and the river is great for exploring. We stayed here and loved it:
We liked the somewhat old fashioned, large Asia Hotel, near to Siam Square. You can walk directly from the hotel onto the skytrain. The area behind the hotel is good for exploring.
Right across the street from Wat Pho is the Royal Tha Tien Village---nothing royal about it, but it's quite nice (lots of wood) and a real bargain--great coffee at their nearby café.

I plan to stay here on my next trip: I've noticed this old wooden house perched over the river for years, and now it's a B&B. And it's located inside the grounds of a Buddhist temple!


Taxis are very cheap, but you might spend lots of time sitting in traffic. Tuk-tuks are fun once, and then you realize they cost way more than taxis, you don't see much because of the low roofs, and you get to breathe in all the exhaust fumes. The above ground Skytrain (BTS) and underground metro (MRT) are very useful as is the riverboat.


Any guidebook will give you the greatest hits (Grand Palace, Jim Thompson House, Chinatown, e.g.), but here's my list than includes some Top 10 stuff, plus other off-the-beaten-track suggestions. What I love to do most in Bangkok is just wander through different neighborhoods. There is always a surprise. (Find these all on google maps or

Don't miss Wat Pho, the best of all the temples (you'll be templed-out fast) which is covered in ceramic tiles. 

Not far from Wat Pho is the lovely Saranrom Park for a chill-out moment.

One of my favorite things to do is to take the public canal boat from behind the Golden Mount (also known as Wat Sakhet) along the klong (canal) Saen Saep to the commercial shopping district (Pratanum stop). 

Shopping malls: I can't imagine recommending a visit to a shopping mall anywhere else in the world, but those in Bangkok are exceptional--like going to an amusement park. My favorite is Central World (be sure to visit the supermarket in the 7th floor!), which is best approached from the Chit Lom sky train stop. You can enter the mall from the elevated walkways--very sic-fi. 

Behind Central World is the Centara Grand Hotel, whose Red Sky Bar has amazing views--go before sunset. Very James Bond. 

The Erawan Shrine, across from Central World is a Buddhist shrine where you can see traditional dancing around 6pm every night. It's quite a sight, right in the midst of the busiest part of the city.

Pak Klong Talat is the wholesale flower market, which comes to life very late at night--nice after-dinner outing. 

Don’t miss the Bangkokian Museum, in an old house—a slice of the past. 273 Soi Charoendrung 43, Bangrak (open Wed.-Sun. 10 to 4). If you’re lucky (and she’s still alive) you’ll meet the elderly owner. This was our favorite of the old houses.
M.R. Kukrit’s house is another good one, more elegant, as is Jim Thompson’s house.

Bumrungrad International Hospital is a stop on the 'medical tourism' route, and where you should go if you have any health problems.


After years of experience, we've learned that the best Thai food is found on the streets. We have never gotten sick. You will see food being sold all over. My advice is--if you seem something tempting, try it! At worst, I've had some dull food, but often it's great. Something I eat every day in Thailand (sometimes twice a day) is green papaya salad (som tom), sold from pushcarts on the street. They will ask how many chilies you want--my limit is two (and I like hot food, but those Thai chilies are HOT!).

Lots of places set up a night with tables and chairs on the street--ask at your hotel for best street food areas, or you will just see them--if it's busy, it means it's good. 

The Chatuchak Weekend Market is fun for craft-y shopping (get there before noon). There's lots of food here, but just a few blocks away is the Or Kor Tor Market , an amazing display of all kinds of food, which you can eat there. It's right at the Kamphaeng Phet metro stop (the underground metro is known as MRT). 

In terms of 'real' restaurants, I can't think of one that has truly impressed me. Many Thai restaurants seem to be mostly for tourists (I think when Thais go out they want Italian or Chinese food) and it's often 'dumbed down' (less spicy). We did have a good meal at Baan Chiang, not far from the Bossotel--in an old wooden house. 

Check out this article:


We finally went to Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand, on this last trip and loved it. We took the train (90 minutes). The best part of the visit was staying at this hotel:
Ruen Tub Tim, is on a no-car island just a short boat ride from the main attractions. It was a magical experience to stay in this old Thai house (some attached rooms are new but in the same traditional style). The food at the night market at the boat stop was fantastic. If you go by train, call ahead to arrange for them to meet you at the riverboat dock, which is just a block away from the train station. Arrange for a boat ride around the big island to visit the old temples and palaces.


SOI means alley or small road. Important roads (Samsen, Charoen Krung, Silom, Sukhumvit) have lots of sois off them in numerical order--odd numbers on one side, even on the other, so an address might read ’12 Samsen soi 4’, which means building number 12 on the 4th soi off Samsen Road. Most address just have the soi number, not the building number—you just head down the soi until you see what you are looking for.
THA means pier.
THANON is another word for road
TALAT means market

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