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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Ten things I like most about Bangkok

Woolly hats

People wear woolly hats when the temperatures drops to 31 degrees celsius, including taxi drivers and bar tenders.

Khao San Road

The best nightlife centre in East Asia, from 9pm onwards seven days a week this jamboree of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and informal food stalls, mixed in with souvenir stalls, reverberates until dawn. Although nightlife in Bangkok is supposed to close at 2am each night, an exception seems to be made for the Khao San Road. The area, in the Old Town, is difficult to get to because the regular metro and Skytrain do not run there. However it is well worth the effort because of the thumping music and jolly atmosphere.

After 2am the atmosphere becomes a little more raucous. It is possible to go on until 8am or later if the desire takes you.

Khao San Road used to be the province of backpackers and cheap hostels but now all that has changed. The atmosphere has become much more polyglot, with Thais and foreigners alike from around the world coming to party here. Some of the restaurants and hotels and of better quality these days, and nowhere does the alcohol flow so cheaply and freely. Nor elsewhere is there such a bursting, exciting experience on the streets, in which cocktails are sold in plastic buckets.

My personal favourites are the Golf Bar; the Taste of India restaurant - the best "English" curry for thousands of miles; and the Tinidee Hotel, recently opened at the time of writing that provides near-five star service for four star prices.

The bookstore on the 3rd floor of Siam Paragon

Siam is a three-building mammoth shopping centre at the Skytrain stop of the same name and the three buildings are connected by walkways. One of the three shopping centres is called Siam Paragon, and on its third (top) floor you will find an amazing English language bookshop in which you can get lost for hours. It has a fantastic collection of popular and academic books alike.

Bangkok Christian Hospital

Run by Christians, an important but discreet community in Bangkok, the Bangkok Christian Hospital must be one of the best hospitals in Indochina if not the world. Any treatment is available there at the highest standards and most reasonable prices, and on short notice. It is run as an efficient corporation but without your feeling the impact unnecessarily on your wallet. All medical staff are incredibly professional and you are never left to wait too long. It puts most countries' medical systems to shame.

Bangkok taxi drivers

At the time of writing the Thai police are implementing a policy of requiring all taxi drivers to accept all rides and to charge all fares on the meter. Bangkok taxi drivers used to have a terrible reputation but in the face of a Police crackdown they have all suddenly become extremely honest.

Laughing gas

Every medical paper you research will tell you that using laughing gas recreationally is dangerous, and in theory it is illegal in Bangkok. Nevertheless it is available - under regulation of a sort, in plain sight of the Police - at a number of establishments on Khao San Road in particular where you enjoy a balloon of laughing gas with your beer.

Nana Entertainment Plaza

Once a giant brothel run by criminal gangs, the Police have smartened up this enormous complex of small bars full of girls in their underwear. The live sex shows are out; the prostitution is also largely gone although it is available if you want it. So are shows involving frogs, pingpong balls and other grotesque things. Nana is now, if not entertainment for all the family, appropriate for men, women and couples and involves paying for overpriced beer and watching girls dance around on stages to different themes: cowboy, gothic, Japanese, Korean, etcetera. It has all become a lot more harmless and fun, and very heavy policed so there are no longer dangers of being drugged or ripped off as used to exist.

The giant sign at the airport

There is a giant sign at the principal international airport warning incoming visitors "DO NOT OFFEND BUDDHA" with an image of Lord Grand Buddha smiling at you. Look for it on the right as your taxi screams out of the airport megacomplex on one of those elevated roads of which Bangkok is full.

Law and order

Standards of law and order are vastly higher than they used to be all over Thailand. Bag snatching is taken is incredibly seriously as is violent crime of any type. The Police are omnipresent (there are Police stations across Bangkok) and the Police will try to be helpful if you need their services. They will no longer ask you for corrupt payments (as they once did). Stay away from all illegal drugs.

The Maeklong Railway Line Market

A market that sells souvenirs and bric-a-brac on a working railway line, the entire shopping arcade is moved whenever one of the scheduled trains passes. An experience all of its own.

You do not need to go there with an organised tour. A Bolt taxi will get you there and back from central Bangkok.

Buddha Daily Blessing Tour

This superlative tour takes you round different statues of Lord Grand Buddha (of which there are many in Bangkok) and you spend the day blessing them. It is a unique experience and uplifts the soul after all the laughing gas and buckets of cocktails on Khao San Road.


Tuk tuk drivers

These motorised cabins still abound allegedly as a form of cheap unlicensed and unmetered taxi - but in the days of Bolt and strict Police regulation of taxi drivers, they remain unreformed dinosaurs. Local people never used tuk tuks and neither should you. You are guaranteed to be substantially overcharged every time, and lucky if the driver takes you to the place you want to go. Modern taxis use GPS and tuk tuk drivers generally do not have this.

The government improvements of the taxi system do not seem to have applied to tuk tuk drivers, who presumably will eventually be eliminated as inconsistent with modern GPS and mobile phone driven private driving services.

Marijuana stores

A few years ago Thailand legalised marijuana and now Bangkok is awash with stores selling the stuff. It is ubiquitous and these stores are full of people with their minds stoned who barely speak. Avoid them. They offer nothing you can't get at home.

Soy Cowboy

This is one of Bangkok's seedier red light districts, with old fashioned brothels and more evidence of exploitation of women. If you want to see more light-hearted and adequately regulated fun of this nature, go to Nana, which is a truly exhilarating experience now surrounded by five star hotels; stay away from Soy Cowboy.

Patpong was another region of central Bangkok once notorious for the sex trade but it has mostly cleared up and it is now a large night market plus some five star hotels and some decent restaurants. It is no longer the centre of vice that it once was.


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