Bangkok is one of Asias most cosmopolitan cities. Created as the Thai capital in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, Bangkok is a national treasure house and Thailands spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
Bangkok exceeds 1,500 square kilometres in area and is home to one-tenth of the country's population. Major tourist attractions include glittering Buddhist temples, palaces, timeless Venice of the East canal and river scenes, classical dance extravaganzas, and numerous shopping centres.
How to get there
Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 3.50 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 8 and 18 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at bookshops and the TAT office.
Taxis cruising city streets are metred. They charge a minimum of 35 baht for the first 3 kilometres, and approximately 5 baht per kilometre thereafter. Make sure you have change, as taxi drivers often dont! Passengers must pay tolls in the case of using an expressway.
These three-wheeled open-air motorised taxis are popular for short journeys. Fares must be bargained in advance. Minimum fares, for journeys of up to 3 kilometres, are approximately 30 baht.
BTS Sky Trains
BTS sky trains ply along Sukhumvit, Silom and Phahonyothin roads. The routes connect Bangkoks leading hotels and major shopping areas such as Siam Square, Silom, Ratchaprasong and Chatuchak Weekend Market. The fare ranges from 10-40 baht according to the distance. For more information, contact the Bangkok Mass Transit System at tel: 0 2617 7300 or visit www.bts.co.th
Taxis that are even more unusual, though equally convenient, are the river taxis that ply the Chao Phraya River. Some are just cross river ferries, but others serve the many landing stages on both banks and cover a route that goes up as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi.
Bangkok Songkran Festival
The traditional Thai New Year is an occasion for merriment all over the city, but most notably at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, where the revered Phra Phuttha Sihing image is displayed and bathed by devotees. In the Wisutkasat area, a Miss Songkran beauty contest is held and accompanied by merit-making and entertainment. Khao San Road, Bang Lamphu area is also one of the high-spots in the city to experience the water-throwing activities between locals and tourists.
H.M. The Kings Birthday Celebrations
H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the worlds longest reigning monarch is well beloved and deeply respected by all Thais old and young. The occasion of his royal birthday provides his loyal subjects the opportunity to express their reverence for him. All over the country, buildings and homes are elaborated and the area around the Grand Palace is spectacularly illuminated.
H.M. The Queens Birthday Celebration
To display their loyalty and to honour Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on the occasion of her royal birthday, the Thai people decorate their houses and public buildings. Around Bangkok, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the area around the Grand Palace and other well-known locations are bedecked with coloured lights and magnificent adornments.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
An ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, in which farmers believe is able to forecast the abundance of the next rice crop. The event is a result of a series of ceremonies that are conducted by Phraya Raek Na, portrayed by a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives who wears colourful traditional costumes. This ceremony was re-introduced in 1960 by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered the official commencement of the rice-growing season.
Trooping of the Colours
Their majesties the King and Queen preside over this impressive annual event, held in the Royal Plaza near the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn. Dressed in colourful uniforms, amid much pomp and ceremony, members of the elite Royal Guards swear allegiance to the King and march past members of the Royal Family.