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Laem Chabang is the port for either Bangkok or Pattaya. Bangkok is over 2 hours away to the north by bus while Pattaya is closer and about an hour away to the south. Pattaya is a beach resort town popular with Russians, Japanese and Europeans.
Bangkok is actually a culmination of two distinct identities, the standard soul of Thailand having its extended and fascinating background the frantic, modern metropolis store the newest trends both Eastern and Western. The Two blend together remarkably well-probably the most jarring juxtapositions of old and new in some manner appear sensible. Bangkok is not only the finest city in Thailand, however the most enchanting, having a couple of from the country's most incredible temples and shrines. The city's energy is palpable, especially throughout the evening, when traffic discloses just a little, its famous areas get began, and everything seems illuminated-in the proudest monuments towards the seediest streets.

Where Your Cruise ship Dock
Cruise ships likely to Bangkok sometimes pier at Klong Toey and frequently at Laem Chabang, regarding the dimensions the ship. Laem Chabang is a large commercial port with not much in the area. You can buy souvenirs and get a massage at the cruise terminal and there is a shopping center, Harbor Mall, on the main road by the entrance to the port with a Tesco/Lotus supermarket. Your cruise ship may provide a shuttle to Pattaya dropping off at Siam Bay View Hotel between Soi 9 & 10 and near Mike Shopping Mall and Central Festival Mall. Official port website here http://laemchabangport.com (English and Thai) but no cruise schedule. Klong Toey Port is within the Chao Phraya River and lands you right in the center of Bangkok city. Only the smaller sized cruise ships can navigate up to now within the river.
Making your way around most regions of Bangkok is pretty easy. Take advantage from the Skytrain, the subway, as well as the river express watercraft to avoid the city's massive gridlock. Taxis and tuk-tuks (small, open, three-wheeled taxis) are affordable, but drivers may not speak much British.

Old City and Thonburi. When Ayutthaya was trapped and pillaged with the Burmese in 1766, Thonburi increased being Thailand's capital. The Thais call Bangkok Krung Thep (Capital of scotland- Angels), too as with 1782 King Rama I moved his capital for the Old City, approximately the Chao Praya River.

Grand Structure This can be Thailand's most revered place then one of the favorite. The dwelling and adjoining structures only got more opulent as subsequent monarchs added their particular touches. The reasons are for sale to site site visitors, but no structures are-they are utilized only for condition occasions and royal occasions. Just east in the Grand Structure compound might be the town Pillar Shrine, that consists of the inspiration stone (Lak Muang) that distances in Thailand are measured. The stone is believed being resided up with a spirit that pads the well-being of Bangkok. Beware the ever-present local disadvantage males, frequently fitted in official-searching clothes, who'll make an effort to convince the structure is closed that you've to purchase tickets from their website. Don't consider anybody before you are practically already inside the structure, since this is where the real entrance is. Proper attire (no switch-flops, shorts, or bare shoulders or midriffs) is required, however when you forget, they loan unflattering but more sensible t t shirts and shoes within the entrance. Sana Chai Rd., Old City. Admission charged.

National Museum There's no better place to obtain acquainted with Thai history in comparison to National Museum, which holds one of the world's best collections of Southeast Asian art. A lot of the pieces of art within the northern provinces are actually moved here, departing up-country museums searching somewhat bare. There is a pretty good possibility to follow along with Thailand's extended history, beginning using the ceramic products and bronze ware in the Stop Chiang people (4000-3000 BC). Na Phra That Rd., Old City. Admission charged.

National Gallery Despite the fact that it doesn't get just as much attention since the National Museum, the gallery's permanent collection (modern and traditional Thai art) might be worth spending some time to find out you'll find also frequent temporary shows from across the country and abroad. Chao Fa Rd., Old City. Admission charged.

Royal Barge Museum These splendid ceremonial barges are berthed round the Thonburi side in the Chao Phraya River. The watercraft, produced at the begining of part of the 1800s, take the kind of mythical creatures inside the Ramakien. Most likely probably the most impressive might be the red-colored-colored-and-gold royal vessel referred to as Suphannahongse (Golden Swan), employed by the king on special occasions. Produced in one little bit of teak, its measurements are about 150 foot and weighs in at in at more than 15 tons. Fifty oarsmen propel it over the river, based on two coxswains, flag wavers, together with a rhythm-keeper.Tip: Khlong Bangkok Noi, Thonburi. Admission charged.

Wat Arun (Temple of Beginning)
If you climb to the top of the prang just before sunset, you are rewarded with an unforgettable view as the sun sinks over the Chao Praya River. Even if you don't plan to be doing any climbing, sunset is really the time to take in this place in all its glory.Wat Arun is something of a triumphant complex, dating back to ancient battles between the former Siam and Burma. Having fallen to the Burmese, Ayutthaya was reduced to rubble and ashes. But General Taksin and the remaining survivors vowed to march "until the sun rose again" and to build a temple there. Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, was that temple. It is where the new king later built his royal palace and a private chapel.Hours: 8:30am-5:30pm daily Admission: 20 baht Location: Arun Amarin Rd
When the riverside place is inspiring at sunrise, it's a lot more wonderful toward dusk, when the sunset throws amber tones inside the entire area. The temple's design is formed, getting a square courtyard that consists of five Khmer-style prangs. The central prang, which reaches 282 foot, is ornamented by four attendant prangs at all the corners. All five are covered in mosaics created from broken items of Chinese porcelain. Energetic site site visitors can climb the steep steps to the peak lower level for your view inside the Chao Phraya the less ambitious can linger inside the small park with the river, a peaceful spot to gaze across within the city. Arun Amarin Rd., Thonburi. Admission charged.

Dusit  More than almost every other neighborhood inside the city, Dusit-north of Banglamphu-seems calm and orderly. Its tree-shaded boulevards and classy structures truly befit the district that holds Chitlada Structure, the condition residence in the king and full.

Wat Benjamabophit (Marble Temple) Built-in 1899, this wat can be a well-liked by photography fanatics because of its open spaces and light-weight, shining marble. Statues in the Buddha line the courtyard, as well as the magnificent interior has crossbeams of lacquer and gold. It's also a seat of learning that draws in Buddhist monks with intellectual yearnings. Nakhon Pathom Rd., Dusit. Admission charged.

Vimanmek Structure The spacious grounds within Dusit Park include 20 structures you can check out, nevertheless the Vimanmek Structure, considered the greatest golden teak structure in the world, is often the highlight. The mansion's original foundation remains on Koh Si Chang two several hours south of Bangkok inside the Gulf of Thailand, where it absolutely was built-in 1868. In 1910 King Rama V had the comfort in the structure gone after its present location plus it offered as his residence for five years because the Grand Structure have been fixed. The structure is extensive, exceeding 80 rooms. Another 19 structures are the Royal Family Museum, with portraits in the royal family, as well as the Royal Carriage Museum, with carriages together with other automobiles employed by the country's monarchs using the age groups. Admission includes everything for that reason as well as the classical Thai dancing suggests that occur mid-morning and mid-mid-day. Proper attire is required (no shorts, tank tops, or sandals). Ratchawithi Rd., Dusit. Admission charged.

Chinatown This busy area is full of many areas, teahouses, little restaurants hidden every occasionally, and endless traffic. Like lots of the old City, Chinatown is a good place to wander around. Yaowarat Road might be the main thoroughfare, which is crowded with jewelry shops. Pahuraht Road, that's Bangkok's Little India, is stuffed with textile shops the majority of the Indian merchant families relating to this street are actually for many years.

Wat Traimit (Temple in the Golden Buddha) The specific temple has little architectural merit, but away and off to its side can be a small chapel that consists of our planet's greatest solid-gold Buddha, cast about nine centuries ago inside the Sukhothai style. Weighing 5½ tons and standing 10 foot high, the statue is synonymous with strength and that could inspire probably the most jaded person. It's thought the statue was introduced first to Ayutthaya. When the Burmese would sack the city, it absolutely was covered in plaster. 220 years later, still in plaster, it absolutely was regarded as as worth almost no if the have been moved to another Bangkok temple inside the 19 fifties it wound up in the crane also it was simply left inside the grime with the trades-people. Every morning, a temple monk who'd imagined the statue was divinely inspired visited start to see the Buddha image. Using a crack inside the plaster he saw a glint of yellow, and very soon found that the statue was pure gold. Gleam great museum that follows a history in the Tha Chinese that's highly worth likely to. Tri Durch Rd.,

Jim Thompson's House Formerly an artist in New You'll be able to City, Jim Thompson ended up in Thailand within the finish of World War Ii, carrying out a stint becoming an officer in the OSS (a business that preceded the CIA). Right after other business efforts, he moved into silk which is credited with stimulating Thailand's moribund silk industry. The wealth of the project alone may have made him a legend, nevertheless the house he overlooked is yet another national treasure. Thompson imported regions of several up-country structures, some as old as 150 years, to produce his compound of six Thai houses (three continue being the same as their originals, including particulars in the interior layout). With true appreciation together with a connoisseur's eye, Thompson then furnished these with exactly what are now priceless items of Southeast Asian art. Adding to Thompson's prestige is his disappearance: in 1967 he visited the Malaysian Cameron Highlands for just about any quiet holiday also it never was have been told by again. Soi Kasemsong 2, Rama I Road, Pathumwan. Admission charged.
Grand Palace
If you only visit one major historical tourist attraction in Bangkok, this should be the one. The royal compound lives up to its name, with spectacular structures that would put the most decadent modern monarchs to shame. It's also the home of Wat Phra Kaeo, which houses the Jade (or Emerald) Buddha.
Built in 1782, the grand palace was the royal residence for generations and is still used for important ceremonies and accommodating heads of state. Dress modestly when visiting the Grand Palace, which basically means covering your arms and legs and avoiding any sloppy attire. Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm daily
Admission: 500 baht; additional 100 baht for audio guides (available in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, and Japanese).
Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon
Wat Pho
Located immediately south of the Grand Palace precinct, Wat Pho makes an excellent addition to your tour, provided your feet are up for more walking. Also known as or Wat Chetuphon), the temple was built by King Rama I and is the oldest and in Bangkok. It has long been considered a place of healing, and was famous centuries ago for its pharmacy and as Thailand's first "university," both established by King Rama III. You can get a Thai or foot massage at the traditional medical school on the premises, but the prices are significantly higher than what you will find at massage parlors elsewhere in the city.
Today Wat Pho is best known for the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, where you'll find a statue so big (45 m long and 15 m high), it cannot be viewed in its entirety only appreciated in sections. The soles of the feet, inlaid with a myriad of precious stones, are particularly interesting with the 108 signs of true faith. Also look for the long earlobes signifying noble birth, and the lotus-bud configuration of the hand to symbolize purity and beauty. Hours: 8:30am-6pm daily Admission: 100 baht Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District

Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha
Sheer luck (or lack thereof) makes this attraction special. During the 1950s, the East Asiatic Company purchased the land around the temple. A condition of the sale was the removal of a plaster statue of Buddha, but the statue proved too heavy for the crane being used. The cable parted and the figure was dropped, being left overnight where it fell. It happened to be in the rainy season, and when next morning some monks walked past, they noticed a glint of gold shining through the plaster. The coating was removed, revealing a 3.5 m Buddha cast from 5.5 tons of solid gold.
All attempts to trace the origin of this priceless statue have so far failed, but it is assumed to date from the Sukhothai period, when marauding invaders threatened the country and its treasures, and it became common practice to conceal valuable Buddha figures beneath a coating of plaster. No one knows how it came to Bangkok, but here it stands available for the admiration of visitors from all over the world.
Wat Suthat
Wat Suthat, adjacent to the Great Swing, is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Bangkok's Buddhist temples. Three kings had a hand in its construction: it was begun soon after the coronation of Rama I (founder of the Chakri dynasty) in 1782, continued by Rama II, and completed ten years later by Rama III. Apart from its delightful architecture, the temple boasts some exceptionally interesting wall paintings. Wat Suthat is less popular than some of the other temple complexes in the city, so you'll enjoy a more peaceful and intimate experience here.
Hours: 8:30am-9:00pm daily Admission: 20 baht - Location: Bamrung Muang Road, Sao Chingcha, Phra Nakhon
Giant Swing
In the center of the busy square in front of Wat Suthat stands one of Bangkok's most eye-catching sights, the 27 m high teak frame of the so-called Giant Swing. This used to be the focus of a religious ceremony held every year in December after the rice harvest. Teams of three took turns to balance on a dangerously narrow board and be swung 25 m or more off the ground "up to Heaven", at which point they would attempt to catch a bag of silver coins in their teeth. King Rama VII banned the contest in 1932, following a number of fatal accidents.
National Museum & Wang Na Palace
History buffs in particular will want to devote at least half a sightseeing day to the national museum, if not more. Until the mid-1970s, this was Thailand's only museum, which explains why its collection is so big. Fortunately, just about every exhibit is labeled in Thai and English and guided tours are also offered in English, so you won't miss out on any of the country's fascinating ancient and contemporary history.
The old Wang Na Palace built by Rama I remains essentially as it was, and stands as a testament to Thai history. Visitors can see regalia, religious and ceremonial artifacts, ceramics, games, weaponry, musical instruments and the Viceroy's throne, as well as an impressive collection of Buddha figures arranged according to period. Location: Na Phra That Road, Bangkok
Chatuchak Market
Bangkok's sprawling weekend market is the largest in the world. Here shoppers find everything from jewelry and religious icons to animals and delicious street foods. There are 15,000 stalls, offering just about anything you can dream up. This is a great place to mingle with locals and immerse yourself in everyday Thai life, so arrive early and clear your schedule for the rest of the day if you want to do this place justice. Location: Adjacent to the Kamphaengpecth Station (MRT), about 5 minute walk from Mochit Skytrain (BTS) Station and Suan Chatuchak (Chatuchak Park) Station (MRT)
Official site: http://www.chatuchak.org/

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
For an even more interesting market experience, you can arrange a tour to Damnoen Saduak, a famous floating market located in Ratchaburi (about 1.5 hours outside Bangkok). The popularity of floating markets once earned Bangkok the nickname "Venice of the East", bear in mind that this has now become something of a tourist trap, so don't expect an exclusive morning of shopping by boat. But you will be able to buy fresh and delicious foods and interact with locals in an authentic way. Hours: 6am-noon daily
Official site: http://www.tourismthailand.org/See-and-Do/Sights-and-Attractions-Detail/Damnoen-Saduak-Floating-Market--989

Khao San Road
This is Bangkok's infamous backpacker district, a neighborhood jam-packed with guesthouses, food vendors, clothing stalls, and travelers from every corner of the globe. You'll need to tap into your patience when hanging out here because, while it is colorful and exciting in its own way, the crowds and scents and blaring music can test even the calmest soul. But it is a great place to pick up a few pairs of the baggy fisherman pants - the perennial staple of every backpacker's wardrobe when trekking through Thailand, browse the treasures in a used bookstore, and dig into some delicious Indian food from a neighborhood restaurant.
Jim Thompson House
The historic home of a "self-made American entrepreneur" who disappeared while traveling in Malaysia now stands as a relic of an older time in Bangkok. Jim Thompson settled in Thailand after spending time there as a serviceman around the end of WWII. He was a prominent figure in the Thai silk industry and was awarded the Order of the White Elephant, a significant honor given to foreigners who have made contributions to Thailand. Thompson's home has been turned into a museum offering insights into his life and business, as well as the history of the city and the Thai silk industry. Hours: 9am-5pm daily, last of the compulsory guided tours leaves at 5pm Admission: Adult 100 baht; Students 50 baht -- Address: 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road Official site: http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/life/index.asp
Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park provides visitors with a green oasis amidst the traffic and chaos of Bangkok. Hang out on one of several lawn areas, enjoy the shade of a Chinese pagoda, or take a boat out on the lake. Lumpini Park is a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the contrast of the tranquil park with the skyscrapers rising all around it. Note that the park has been the site of anti-government protests that have occasionally turned violent in the past, so be sure to check on the current status before visiting. Hours: 5am-9pm -- Admission: Free. Location: Rama IV Road, between Ratchadamri and Witthayu (Wireless) roads, with entrance gates on all sides
Terminal 21
The name might lead you to think this is a transport hub, but it's actually a shopping mall. And you might be wondering why you would want to visit a shopping mall for kick while traveling. Well, Terminal 21 has a special flair - even by Thailand's shopping standards. Every floor of the mall has been themed to a different international city. Enter at the level of the BTS station and you'll be in Paris; go up a floor and it's Tokyo; another floor and you're staring at the iconic red phone booths of London. The Caribbean, San Francisco, and Istanbul also figure into the design theme.
Other malls of note include the high-end Siam Paragon, and adjacent Siam Discovery, which has more moderately priced chains and fun cafes (including one decorated entirely with teddy bears and toy soldiers).
Street Food Stalls
In order to experience Bangkok, you have to try to the cuisine. You'll have no trouble at all finding vendors to tempt you with treats, and you haven't really done the city without chowing down on grilled meats and fish, soups, fresh fruit, and myriad other dishes. This is a quintessential Thailand experience, tucking into a delicious (if mysterious) meal, surrounded by the chaos and heat of the city.
Suan Pakkard Structure An amount of antique teak houses, built towards the top of posts, complement undulating grass and twinkling lotus pools as of this compound. Inside the Lacquer Pavilion, which sits serenely powering a garden, there's gold-covered paneling with moments within the existence in the Buddha. Academics and historians still debate exactly how old the paintings are-whether or not they have been in the reign of King Narai (1656-88) or perhaps in the very first reign from the present Chakri Empire, founded by King Rama I (1782-1809). Other houses display porcelain, stone heads, traditional pieces of art, and Buddha statues. 352-354 Sri Ayutthaya Rd., Phaya Thai. Admission charged.

M.R. Kukrit Pramoj Heritage House. Former Pm Kukrit Pramoj's house reflects his extended, influential existence. After Thailand increased to become constitutional monarchy in 1932, he produced the country's first political party also it was pm in 1974 and 1975. (Possibly he practiced for the role 12 years earlier, because he came out with Marlon Brando just like a Southeast Asian pm inside the Ugly American.) He died in 1995, and of his living quarters-five interconnected teak houses-remains maintained. Throughout his existence, Kukrit was dedicated to safeguarding Thai culture, and also the house and grounds are monuments with a bygone era the region is stuffed with Thai and Khmer art and furniture from various periods. The designed garden having its Khmer stonework is yet another highlight. It needed Pramoj thirty years to create the house, therefore it is no wonder you could spend the higher part of every day wandering around. S. SATHORN Rd., 19 Soi Phra Pinit, Silom. Admission charged.
Tips and Tactics:
Be prepared to bargain. This applies as much to taxi rides as market shopping, if not more so. Taxi drivers in Bangkok are notorious for overcharging, so agree on a price before getting in. Or, insist that they use a meter.
Take advantage of public transportation. Even with an honest cabbie, rides can get expensive in Bangkok's traffic. Bangkok has a good public transportation system, with both above-ground and underground trains covering a good portion of the city. Buses can take awhile, prone as they are to getting stuck in said traffic, but the trains provide a quick, easy, and cheap way to get around. The system is user-friendly and takes little time to figure out, so take advantage of it while you're in town.
Watch out for scams. As mentioned above, taxi drivers often try to overcharge or insist that their meters don't work. Use your judgment and walk away from anyone who doesn't seem trustworthy. There are plenty of cabs in Bangkok; you'll get the next one. Another scam to watch out for involves a driver or supposed tour guide who agrees to take you one place and starts making stops along the way, usually at a gem store. They get a commission when they bring in tourists, but these places are often overpriced and not worth visiting. Insist that the driver take you to original destination, or tell them you're leaving. This will usually get things back on track, but again if it doesn't, you'll find another cab quickly enough.
The city's most broadly used shopping areas are Silom Road and Surawong Road, and you will uncover quality silk Sukhumvit Road, that's wealthy in leather goods Yaowarat Road in Chinatown, where gold souvenirs abound and along Oriental Lane and Charoen Krung Road, which have many antiques shops. The companies around Siam Square at the Earth Trade Center attract both Thais and individuals using their company nations.
Bangkok pulls in shoppers from all over the world, clamoring to find bargains at the endless streetside stalls or in the new ultrachic, brand-name boutiques. High-quality goods at very reasonable prices are available, if you look hard, but any discussion of shopping in Thailand must be prefaced with a warning about shopping scams. If you encounter problems with any merchants, take their business card and contact the Tourist Police (tel. 0678-6800, or the hot line at 1155), or report the incident to your hotel concierge.
Where To Buy
Shopping is a real adventure in Bangkok. The big markets are a visual onslaught (don't miss the Weekend Market), and there are great upmarket gift and antiques dealers as well as small souvenir stalls scattered about town. Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok is available at bookstores throughout the city for 250B and has detailed insets of places such as Chinatown and the sprawling Weekend Market. Below is a breakdown according to the top shopping areas.
Toward the River -- Charoen Krung (New) Road is full of goodies: antiques stores, jewelry wholesalers, and funky little galleries. Keep your eyes open, and you might stumble on a gem as you browse shop windows, especially at such places as Lek Gallery, at number 1124-1134 (tel. 02639-5871), near Soi 30, which has decorative items and furniture that are downright sexy. The art and antiques shops at the low-rise mall known as River City (tel. 02237-0077), on Charoen Krung Soi 38, have a great selection of porcelain, wood carvings, jewelry, and silk, but some outlets are overpriced (avoid the tailoring shops here, as the low standards of craftsmanship do not warrant the big bucks). If you're in the market for antiques, you need to know your stuff, as rumors warn of many fakes on sale. Close to the Oriental Hotel is OP Place (tel. 02266-0186), featuring a heap of high-end shopping venues, from stores selling expensive designer luggage to jet-setter jewelry stores and amazing antiques, carpets, and fine silver tableware (much of which is Tiffany-like quality). In the same soi as the Oriental Hotel are some of the city's better tailoring shops and, in the Mandarin Oriental itself, look out for exquisite one-off jewelry pieces at Lotus Arts de Vivre, or pop into the branch of Jim Thompson's for great silks.
Sukhumvit Road -- This area is lined with shops from one end to the other, as well as some of Bangkok's biggest shopping malls. For fine silk, stop in at Almeta (20/3 Sukhumvit Soi 23; tel. 02204-1413 or 02258-4227; www.almeta.com), a rival to Jim Thompson's. Celadon House, at 8/3-8/5 Ratchadaphisek Rd. (tel. 02229-5193), near the Asok BTS, carries attractive celadon ceramic.
For men's tailoring, there are many shops along Sukhumvit sois 11 and 19. Most ship your order off to have clothes made in a factory, and quality is iffy, so bargain like mad. Ambassador Fashion (28-28/1 Sukhumvit Soi 19; tel. 02253-2993) has been in the business for years and is near the Asok BTS.
At night, the entire road fills up with night market stalls. Down at Soi 5, you will find endless supplies of wooden toys, crafts, and suitcases. After Soi 11, the pavements get packed with clothes, souvenirs, and surf wear. At Soi 15, there's the excellent Asia Books (tel. 02252-7277); it's close to Robinson's Department Store (tel. 02651-1533), which is the place to shop for quality brands. It has a fair range of midrange luggage, children's wear, ladies' fashions, T-shirts, and brand-name sunglasses, though clothing sizes will not normally extend to oversized European or American sizes.
Silom & Surawong Roads -- This area is packed with shopping malls and vendors -- you'll find any number of jewelry shops, silk retailers, and plenty of touristy tailors, but few places in this area are top-notch. Check out the main store of Jim Thompson's (9 Surawong Rd.; tel. 02632-8100); a factory outlet is 5 minutes away down Surawong Road, as well as at 153 Sukhumvit Rd., Soi 93. Silom Complex (tel. 02632-1199), next to Sala Daeng BTS, contains the Central department store (www.central.co.th), which sells well-known brands of casual clothing such as Giordano and Esprit. On the second floor of Central, there's a Marks & Spencer store from the U.K., selling food and clothing -- it's a great stop if you can't find any local fashions that fit or if you need things such as thermal underwear for your return trip. Right across the road from Silom Complex is the 24-hour British pharmacy Boots (tel. 02233-0571), which you should visit for such things as European prescription drugs and contact lens cleaner. Watson's (no phone), a similar Hong Kong-based pharmacy, is just at the entrance to Silom Complex.
The Patpong Night Market, which runs between Silom and Surawong roads, sells mostly counterfeit goods.
What To Buy
Antiques -- Buying antiques to take out of Thailand is tricky. Authentic antiques are more than 200 years old (they must date from the beginning of the Chakri dynasty in Bangkok), but these days most items are good reproductions that have been professionally "distressed" -- even the Certificate of Authenticity can be a forgery. If you do find something real, remember that the Thai government has an interest in keeping authentic antiquities and sacred items in the country, and will require special permission for export.
By law, Buddha images are prohibited from export, except for religious or educational purposes; even in these instances, you'll still have to obtain permission from the Department of Fine Arts to remove them from Thailand. This rule is little enforced, though, and the focus is more on antique Buddhas than those you'll find in tourist markets.
Almost all the reputable antiques stores in Bangkok are along the endless Charoen Krung (New) Road (centered along the section on either side of the post office), but many of these are shamelessly priced for wealthier tourists, and most items are Chinese, not Thai. River City and OP Place are both convenient places to hunt for art and antiques, as you can hit several stores within an hour, but neither quality nor authenticity is guaranteed.
Department Stores & Shopping Plazas -- Bangkok's downtown looks more and more like urban Tokyo these days. The size and opulence of Bangkok's many malls and shopping areas are often a shock to those who imagine Bangkok to be an exotic, impoverished destination. Sipping cappuccino at a Starbucks overlooking a busy city street may not be what you've come to Asia to find, but to many it is a comfort (especially after long trips in more rugged parts of the kingdom). The truth is that malls are focused as much on today's consumer-obsessed Thai youth as anywhere else you'll visit; these hallowed halls of materialism are (sadly) much closer to the pulse of the nation than the many temples foreign visitors are keen to experience. Malls are where most wealthy Thais hang out, meet friends, dine, and shop. Below are some more highlights:
CentralWorld (tel. 02635-1111), on the corner of Rama I and Rachadamri roads, is a great place to buy slightly funkier upmarket brands and cool gadgets, as well as to visit some of the city's slickest Internet cafes. It contains Zen and Isetan stores and is crowned with a fab food hall and, of course, a bevy of cinemas. Open daily 10am to 9pm. The Chit Lom and Siam BTS stations are both nearby.
Emporium (tel. 02269-1000) stands proudly on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 24. Bangkok's first luxury shopping mall, this old-timer still offers the top designer outlets from Gucci to Prada and Sony to Walt Disney (there are cinemas on the top floor). The food court on the top floor covers just about any craving. Open daily 10am to 10pm. It's connected to Phrom Phong BTS.
Erawan (next to Grand Hyatt Erawan, at the corner of Ratchadamri and Rama I rds.; tel. 02250-7777) is a swanky, mercantile mecca that's truly glamorous but never crowded. Such brands as Coach rub shoulders with such fashion stores as Club 21 and the city's top watch shops. Drop in on Urban Kitchen, with a basement area that features a range of foodie shops and diners. The top floor is dedicated to an alternative health center, offering treatments such as colonic irrigation. Open daily 10am to 10pm. Take the Chit Lom BTS here.
Mah Boon Krong, or MBK (tel. 02217-9111), lies at the intersection of Rama 1 and Phayathai. This massive megamall, in fact, is a mass of small shops, fast-food joints, and tiny vendors -- try to imagine a cross between a street market and a shopping mall. The Tokyu Department Store is within the mall, and it attracts teenagers and tourists due to its bargain-priced local fashions, accessories, and gadgets, along with its huge array of tourist souvenirs on the lower floor. Cinemas are at the top. Open daily 9am to 9pm. Take the BTS to the National Stadium.
Panthip Plaza (tel] 02254-9797), on Phetchaburi Road, is an older, rather scruffy mall that's dedicated to all things electronic. Among the shoddy bootleg software, there are stacks of innovative gadgets, as well as shops selling secondhand or new and affordable computers, mobile phones, or components for either. Not much English is spoken, but it may not matter if you are into IT and can speak fluent Nerdish. Open daily 10am to 8pm. It's a 10-minute walk from Ratchathewi BTS.
Siam Paragon  (tel. 02690-1000), on Rama I Road, is one of those glitzy malls that just goes on and on. Downstairs is Siam Ocean World, where kids can watch the sharks swim; above are floors of brand-name stores such as Hermès, MNG, Zara, and Shanghai Tang. The mall also has an entire floor of fun eateries, as well as a top-class food hall, a department store, and even a gymnasium. Open daily 10am to 10pm. There's direct access via Siam BTS.
Fashion & Tailoring -- Bangkok has some small, independent designers of its own, who create Thai-influenced fashions that look good back home. Nagara, Kloset, Fly Now, Grey by Greyhound, and Anurak are all well-established local labels producing great ready-to-wear items for men and women. It's certainly not Parisian haute couture, but the designs are fresh and original, and prices will be a fraction of those in designer boutiques back home. If you want really unique clothes or accessories, have a trawl around Siam Square for the latest Thai styles -- but don't expect European sizes!
If you want to check out the more cutting-edge, contemporary Thai design scene, Thong Lor (Sukhumvit Soi 55) has a great array of yuppified boutiques catering to younger, well-heeled Thais. Such places as J Avenue (Thong Lor Soi 15), a small, trendy mall, and the yummy Greyhound Café (www.greyhoundcafe.co.th) there attracts Thailand's yuppies on weekends.
Tailors may be widespread in popular malls such as River City and in Sukhumvit Road's Soi 11 and 19, but remember, this is not Hong Kong and -- as all the concierges of major hotels repeatedly attest -- Thailand's back-street tailors aren't perfect. Men's shirts normally pose no serious problems, but ambitious ladies' wear can be a disaster when designs skills are limited and fabric quality is poor. Paying a knockdown price often leads to shoddy workmanship and cloth; don't risk the roughly 3,500B you'll have to pay when it all goes wrong. The rule of thumb is, expect to pay 60% of prices in Europe or the U.S. for something decent, and always schedule at least two fittings, with an English speaker present. Only very few places, such as World Group (tel. 02238-3344), in Soi Oriental (off Charoen Krung Rd.), can cope with precise cutting or copying of garments. You will pay a high price for their expertise, though -- around 15,000 to 30,000B.
Gifts, Crafts & Souvenirs -- Street vendors throughout the city are a good source of affordable and fun souvenirs (though they are currently banned on Mon, for street cleaning). The best stalls are along Sukhumvit Road, beginning at Soi 4, and on Khao San Road. Little of the stuff sold there is unique, but the prices are great, and many people stock up on gifts such as mango wood bowls, chopsticks, candles, incense, or small decorative lamps made of mulberry paper or coconut shells. Impressive brass, bronze, and pewter items, as well as fine celadon (green ceramic ware), are all available in many outlets on Sukhumvit and Charoen Krung (New) roads.
Up on Sukhumvit Road, the Emporium boasts a dazzling range of beautiful crafts and textiles on its penultimate floor. Mah Boon Krang (MBK) has a lower ground floor, stuffed with very reasonably priced gifts and handicrafts, carvings, and castings. The North Thailand-based charity Mae Fah Luang has a boutique in Suan Lum Night Market, selling upmarket textiles and home decor items. If you are already on your way home, fear not -- it also has duty-free boutiques located at Suvarnabhumi International Airport and a few of the larger provincial airports, such as Chiang Mai's.
Jewelry -- Sapphires, rubies, garnets, turquoise, and zircons are mined in Thailand, and nearly every other stone you can think of is imported and cut here. Thai artisans are among the most skillful in the world; work in gold and silver is generally of high quality at very good value. If you're interested in a custom setting, bring a photo or drawing of what you'd like and prepare to discuss your ideas at length.
You'll find gemstone, silver, and gold stores in every part of town. Head to the Silom Galleria (tel. 02630-0944) mall, on Silom Soi 19, for over 100 outlets specializing in jewelry, art, and antiques. Around Charoen Krung (New) Road, you'll find the wholesalers of gorgeous semiprecious stones. Gold is sold in Chinatown; try the lower end of Silom and Khao San roads for silver in bulk. The Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (6th Floor, Jewelry Trade Center; 919/1 Silom Rd.; tel. 02267-4315; www.aigsthailand.com) is useful for verifying the quality of cut stones (although it's not an appraiser) and also runs courses in gem identification and jewelry design. The TAT and the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association have created an organization called the Jewel Fest Club (www.jewelfest.com). Check out their website to find which shops are members of this reputable organization.
Market Goods -- Visiting Bangkok's many markets is as much a cultural experience as it is a consumer experience; goods come in from all corners of the kingdom, and bargaining is a fast and furious experience. Smaller markets with fewer tourists are great for wandering. Try these: Bangrak Wet Market, behind the Shangri-La Hotel, is an early-morning gourmet's delight. Pratunam Market, at the intersection of Phetchaburi and Ratchaprarop roads, is a big wholesale center, with a vast array of inexpensive clothing. Pak Klong Talad, near Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge), on the fringes of Chinatown, is home to Bangkok's cut-flower market, with huge bouquets of cut flowers passing through here all day and all night. Most tourist markets are generally open daily from 6-11pm; exceptions are noted below.
A word of warning: Cheap goods flood many markets in Thailand, and Bangkok is no exception. Most market stalls, such as those in Patpong, are filled with stalls of brand-name handbags, sneakers, and watches, all of which are fake. Though some tourists revel in getting cheap brand-name items for a few bucks, doing so can result in dire consequences.
Silk -- There are numerous silk outlets throughout the city, from shopping malls to the lobbies of international hotels. Synthetics are frequently sold as silk; if you're in doubt about a particular piece, select a thread and burn it -- silk should smell like singed hair. Sometimes only the warp (lengthwise threads) is synthetic, because it is more uniform and easier to work with. For some of the city's priciest silk, try such outlets as Jim Thompson's (9 Surawong Rd., near Silom; tel. 02632-8100), or the Thai silk specialists Almeta (20/3, Sukhumvit Soi 23; tel. 02204-1413 or 02258-4227). They can even offer "silk a la carte," whereby silk is woven to the customer's desired weight and dyed to a particular shade. Products include silk wall coverings, silk fashions, bed linen, and casual wear.
One of the best outlets for cottons from all over the world, as well as chiffons and silks, is the Cynosure, which was about to move into new premises at the time of this update. Check out their website (www.cynosurebangkok.com), for new contact details. Their products include ornate brocades, linens, and rainbow-hued satins, as well as top-class Chantilly laces, along with sequined and beaded fabrics. Expect to pay top price for what, in effect, is the cream of the crop.

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