A Visit To The City Of Bangkok - Capital Of Thailand
Capital Of Thailand - Here We Come!
The year was 1989. The month was March. The airline was Thai Airways International. The destination was Bangkok, my favorite city.
I had previously visited this city several times, and so I gladly selected Bangkok, in terms of overseas destinations, as my first preference for a holiday.
The capital of Thailand is referred to by the Thais as "Krung Thep." This is a shortened version of a very long name! (Scroll down to the very bottom of this page for the full version!)
Another term used by the Thais and well accepted by many visitors is "The City Of Angels!" The mood was simply great and I was eagerly looking forward to another visit to Krung Thep.
On boarding the flight I was fortunate enough to have had a window seat although I had not asked for one.
At that time smoking was allowed on board, and so prior to take off, the regular announcement "fasten your safety belts, and put your seats upright," I had already fastened my safety belt. Why wait until you are reminded? The announcement also included that extra " ... and please extinguish your cigarettes."
Thai Airways Inflight Safety
On Board The Flight
Captain Somboon welcomed us on board and assured us that all is well and we should touch down at Don Muang International Airport on schedule.
"Cabin crew to your stations ... TG take off in one minute" he snapped.
The aircraft accelerated on the runway, and through my window, I could see the ground beneath us fall away gradually. Very soon were over the cotton fields.
The busy cabin crew never fail to notice a single request for attention. They get about their tasks with much diligence.
They are one hundred per cent Thai nationals, and are always conscious that they are representing their country.
All of them speak proper English. However, a few of them speak with an accent typical of their own language.
The meals are served with those surprise extras. The food served on board Thai Airways appeases hunger at any level! My preference of tea to coffee is followed up with a request for more sugar.
How can just one sachet of sugar sweeten a cup of tea? I need a minimum of three sachets, and always the cabin crew obliges me.
The on board music is interrupted occasionally for an announcement which refers to the geographic location we are approaching, or some technical details like "we are cruising at a ground speed of 1100 knots, which is approximately 520 miles per hour."
The constant hum of the engine reminds you that you are on board an aircraft. As always the in-flight magazine is colorful and contains all the information on Thailand that a visitor could use. The hours pass by unnoticed.
Well, it's Captain Somboon again! "Attention ladies and gentlemen, we have now commenced our descent to the city of Bangkok, and in twenty minutes time we hope to land at Don Muang International Airport." "Passengers who are leaving us in Bangkok, we hope you enjoyed your flight, thank you for flying Thai Airways International. We look forward to seeing you once again."
He went on to say that sunny weather had been reported in Bangkok and the present temperature was twenty eight degrees centigrade. Wow! Bangkok, here we come!
Immigration And Customs
As I exit the aircraft and walk towards immigration, I could clearly hear the "aircraft-on-ground" announcement referring to the flight which has brought me here.
Don Muang International is a very busy airport, and so announcements of arrivals and departures are heard non-stop. I really relish this. The announcements here are usually in English, Thai, Mandarin, Japanese and Malay.
This flow of announcements stops occasionally to accommodate the greeting meant for passengers arriving into Thailand. "Kor-ton-rap-su-prataet-Thaai." This means welcome to Thailand.
Along the corridors which lead to immigration are many advertising boards informing visitors of the various hotels, guest houses, restaurants, footwear merchants, perfumeries, round tours and almost everything that would be of interest to a visitor to Bangkok.
A large sign located in a prominent spot just above eye level says, "Welcome To The City Of Angels!"
I pick up a few brochures that contain information on Bangkok. Well, these brochures are frequently updated and come in pretty handy.
On board the flight, half-way through the journey the cabin crew distributes immigration cards. Having them duly filled up beforehand is rather convenient. That's just what I did before the final announcement for landing was made.
When I queue up for immigration I already have my documents ready. What they need is the passport and the filled-up immigration card.
The officer at the counter examines my passport, and places the "permitted to land" stamp on it. He staples something on to my passport and hands it back to me. This will be removed when I leave Thailand.
At that time, nationals from 39 countries could remain in Thailand for 30 days without an entry visa. For nationals of other countries the visa could be stamped on arrival. However, there are a few countries of which the nationals should have their visas stamped before embarking. This could be done at the Thai Embassy or consulate in the country in which you reside.
I then head for the conveyor to pick up my luggage. On all my previous journeys to Bangkok, my luggage consisted of just one travel bag which rarely contained nothing more than a pair of shorts, my shaving items, toothbrush, toothpaste, a liquid disinfectant, and of course a towel. I never use towels provided by hotels whatever grade the hotel belongs to.
On all occasions I bring back home more than one bag, well filled up of course!
Tourism In Thailand - Shopping In Thailand
Thailand gives priority to inbound tourism by constantly upgrading and maintaining the services required by visitors.
Colorful brochures describing all levels of accommodation, tours within Bangkok, and to other parts and of Thailand are available in abundance at the arrivals terminal.
Many Europeans find shopping in Thailand quite rewarding. The prices are relatively low and also the local products are of a very high quality.
I pick up my bag, clear customs, and head for the bank counter. Krung Thai Bank welcomes visitors with a leaflet containing information on all their products, their contact numbers, addresses of their other branches in Thailand and a whole lot of information useful to visitors.
Onwards To The City
I tear off two American Express hundred dollar leaves from the rectangular AmEx wallet, which comes along with the travelers' checks.
I had requested the teller clerk for some ten and twenty Baht bills as well. From experience I know this would come in handy. On en-cashing them I make my way to the escalator.
I had some coins with me from my previous visits, and I used some of them in the telephone box. The guest house that I phoned, said to me that there were rooms available, and they would hold one for me for an hour.
I know where to go, how to go, and exactly what to do when in Bangkok. I am no stranger here. This is certainly not my first trip, remember?
I know very well that if you go upstairs to the departure lounge, and exit from there, the taxi fare would be cheaper.
This is because, taxis which bring departing passengers to the airport would prefer to take someone back to the city for a low fare than to return empty.
As I came on to the main porch, I see a taxi heading in my direction from a few meters away after dropping a couple of departing passengers.
I hailed him and he slows down, pulls down the shutter, listens, responds, and opens the door at once.
I hurriedly throw in my bag and then get in. He did not actually stop, as the policeman was blowing his whistle discouraging him from doing so lest he blocks other traffic.
I had offered 150 Baht to the city, to an area called Pratunam and he agreed.
The name of the guest house I am heading for, is Borarn House. Located at the end of Rajprarop Road, off Soi Wattanasin in Pratunam.
Borarn House is good looking from outside as well as inside. Not meant for the traveller on a tight budget, a room costs 900 Baht with breakfast. That would work out to be approximately US$ 24.00.
It's great to be back in Bangkok again. The morning traffic, the smell of motor fuel, the crowds, the facades of buildings familiar from previous visits, the names of establishments, and the three wheeler taxis, known as tuk-tuk, all of them were screaming at me that I was back in Thailand.
In less than an hour, we reached the guest house. I paid the driver 20 Baht extra and he bid farewell wishing me a pleasant stay.
This was my second visit to Borarn House. The first one was with my sister during Christmas around fifteen months back.
Borarn House was tastefully decorated with items from the past depicting Thai history which adorned the reception area.
The rooms were air conditioned, neat and clean with television and a mini fridge. The bathroom had hot and cold shower.
When I checked in it was around 10.30 am. This particular hotel is usually not too strict with the check in and check out times.
In my case the meter for my stay will start ticking from 12 noon onwards.
There are so many things to do in Bangkok, so I freshened up fast, changed clothes and immediately set out ... on foot of course!
All my previous visits to Bangkok were memorable ones. Shopping in Bangkok is an attraction to every visitor.
Bangkok offers to the visitor excellent quality clothes and footwear. These are of course made in Thailand for export, as well as for local consumption.
A pair of really good denim jeans could be purchased for around 199 Baht whereas shirts meant for office wear for around 150 Baht. A US Dollar at that time was around 37 Baht.
Pratunam - A Shopping Area
When I reached the main road which was just a few meters away, I headed straight for a tea kiosk. That was the refuelling I needed. Now it was onwards into the heart of Pratunam.
There were these wayside stalls, tiny boutiques, and alleys which lead to surprise locations like wholesale boutiques selling retail at just a fraction higher than the wholesale price.
On the wayside, the busy vendors displaying their wares, call out to customers to have a look. When a little interest is shown, a lot of encouragement comes your way. They want you to at least have a look at their wares.
A common phrase used by these merchants is "you see, you no like, you no buy!" Well, if you don't buy, they are not disappointed. Another customer comes along who does.
Most of the wayside stalls retail clothes, dresses for ladies as well as for gents. These are tactfully and skillfully displayed.
One particular region displays denim pants in rows and rows of hangers, categorized in the various shades, sizes and styles. This area spans over three hundred meters and is exclusively for denim jeans.
Then comes the t-shirt corner. Apart from the t-shirts displayed in hangers, you are certain to come across open stalls where a large variety of t-shirts in all colors are piled up one on top of the other, and constantly being re-shuffled by the vendor while calling out encouraging phrases to passers by. Some stalls have them neatly stacked, categorised by order of size and color.
In between these open stalls, you are sure to come across miscellaneous items like toys, kitchen utensils, curios, cutlery and crockery, printed posters of excellent quality, musical instruments, music cassettes and more.
What excites the shopper is the very large quantities which are on display. Another important aspect of this shopping area is, they keep shuffling these stalls around, such that you wont find the same stall in the same location for long. Instead you will find some other temporary shop selling a different item which would be of equal interest to you.
There is also a large department store in Pratunam called Indra Market. It has a different name as well which I forget right now. This department store is worth a visit since very often they have a sale of certain selected items at ridiculously discounted prices. This is done to make way for new stocks.
Banglampoo - For Footwear
The area called Banglampoo is famed for footwear. There is an abundance of shoe shops in Banglampoo. Footwear made in Thailand is highly durable and are of good quality.
Even their designs are unique. A particular shoe shop run by a husband and wife team contains an exciting range of footwear for gents as well as ladies. To add to this, there are leather bags, hand bags, sling bags, and belts too.
China Town is within walking distance from Banglampoo for someone on holiday who is willing to explore on foot.
I never did explore China Town a great deal as I did not have much interest in ornamental stuff and curios. Most of what I noticed here were paintings, vases, lanterns with Chinese characters painted on them, and so on.
It was many years later, when I started learning Feng Shui, that I realised that the stuff I had seen in China Town were Feng Shui enhancements.
I guess I was fortunate that I, at that time did not know any Feng Shui. Had I known even a little Feng Shui, I would have gone berserk over there and would have purchased enough ornaments to fill a ship!
Phahurat is known as Indian Market. This area also like Pratunam has many wayside stalls retailing everything from clothes to electrical items. However my interest here is around the tailoring shops. These tailoring shops have a good selection of materials.
You just select the style from their catalog and the material from their display, and they take your measurement immediately.
Within a few hours your suit is either delivered to your hotel room, or you pick it up from them at an appointed time. Their tailoring is really of good quality and is cheaper than in Singapore.
Pronounced "bo-pay," Bope Market is essentially a wholesale market. Known as the market across the bridge, here too you find, clothes, footwear, and miscellaneous items. Retail buying is also possible in some of the shops here.
The main department chain stores in Bangkok are Indra Market, Merry King, Robinson and of course Mahboonkrong. Mahboonkrong is a must for every visitor to Bangkok. It's also one of the biggest retail stores in Bangkok.
Chatu-Chak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak weekend market functions, as the name suggests only on weekends.
It is said that Chatuchak is a combination of all the shopping markets in Bangkok put together, and prices are astonishing low.
In addition to this fact, bargaining is expected and naturally the prices are negotiable.
Chatuchak is also supposed to be one of the largest of the weekend markets in the whole wide world.
Mind you, there are well over 10,000 stalls which present a wide range of items such as clothes, books, shoes, ornaments, utility items, animals, glassware, cutlery, crockery, wooden items, furniture, carpets, mats, jewellery, toys, ... the list goes on and on ...
They open at 7am on weekends only, and go on until late in the evening.
Chatuchak is a shopper's paradise indeed and is definitely a must for visitor to Bangkok.
Right now, since the launching of the Skytrain system, getting to Chatuchak is a lot easier as the terminal known as "Morchit" is just where Chatuchak is located.
Remember that Chatu-chak is a weekend market, open only on Saturdays and Sundays. So make sure that your stay in Bangkok includes at least one Saturday or one Sunday.
Like in all the shopping areas in Thailand, the Chatu-Chak weekend market also offers the visitor opportunities to snack or have a complete meal.
There are dozens of food and drink stalls distributed throughout Chatu-Chak where you could get fruit drinks and snacks.
Quench That Thirst
Evenly distributed are the fruit drink stalls where business is brisk. The business of quenching thirst becomes a priority after just an hour or so of being on the streets of Bangkok. Conveniently you find fruit drink stalls everywhere. It is a common sight to see these fruit drink vendors buying crushed ice from suppliers who cart around large quantities of ice blocks along with a mechanical device which crushes the ice.
Naam-map-prau-on means coconut water. King coconuts are sold in every corner and are delicious, nutritious, and is really a quality thirst quencher. They cut off the top of the fruit and insert a straw and hand it over to you. The next step is "slurp-slurp-slurp." However I prefer to "glug-glug-glug" without making use of the straw because the thirst is such that you would not mind part of your face getting wet by the king coconut water!
Bottled water is also available everywhere, in every boutique which sells coke, sprite, and other similar drinks. Bottled water is my second option, the first being coconut water.
Hungry Already? Try Some Thai Food!
Wayside restaurants serve delicious Thai food and Chinese food. There are many Indian and Pakistani restaurants too.
Especially in the shopping areas there is an abundance of restaurants, with the aroma of food almost challenging you!
Coffee shops in most tourist hotels serve European, Japanese and Mexican food.
Doing Business In Thailand It's Business As Usual Technology Investments In Thai Banks
Judging from the number of retail outlets providing a multitude of consumer goods and services for the locals as well as for tourists.
Bangkok is a place where a great deal of commercial activity takes place.
There are many night bazaars in Bangkok, some of them being only seasonal, to cater to shoppers who are occupied in their places of work during the day.
The three main banks in Thailand are Krung Thai Bank, Thai Farmers Bank, and Thai Military Bank.
These banks have outlets in almost every corner of the city and at the International Airport.
If you are a businessman and have the intention of doing business in Thailand, it would be wise to seriously explore the possibilities on an official level.
There are certain formalities that need be adhered to as well as many qualifying factors. A proper definition from the right sources would protect you from future inconveniences.
It's always best to start off on the right track and in the right way. That is one way you could go a long way.
Business In Thailand
Thailand has some of the biggest garment producing factories in the world and the market is growing. The garments produced in Thailand are not only for export but for the local consumers as well.
Bangkok, Thailand is a great place to invest in a business.
Even if you wish to invest your money in an ongoing business, these banks are very well geared to provide you with all the necessary support.
They have products to suit the needs of every type of investor.
English - Spoken In Thailand
In Thailand, English is spoken but not widely. Although those in the tourism industry, airlines, banks, export field, and some vendors communicate well in English, you may occasionally come across a Thai who does not speak much or any English.
It would be advisable to have a knowledge of some basic Thai phrases. The wayside stalls also sell books and cassettes on basic Thai and Thai for foreigners.
However, I would advise you to explore the bookshops in Bangkok for this purpose.
I have a pretty good collection from my seven visits to Bangkok!
So far I have made seven visits to Bangkok, my last one being in the year 1996. I hear from recent visitors that much has changed.
They have a new mode of transport called sky trains, and the prices of goods are not all that low as it was then.
Don Muang International Airport is no longer the main gateway to Thailand. The new airport which was opened two years back is really magnificent they say.
The name is Suvarnabhumi, and it is further away from the city than Don Muang International Airport. Now Don Muang serves as a domestic airport.
Anyway, I am looking forward to my next visit in December this year, after which, I shall update this hub. Until such time it's "Laeow cher kan na krap!"
December came but I did not visit Thailand as scheduled.
This was due to the fact that the main entry point to Thailand, Suvarnabhumi Airport was closed at that time due to some political unrest within the country.
However keep watching this space for updates.
Some Useful Links
Krung Thep Is The Shortened Version Of ...
Well, possibly the city with the longest name on this planet is the city of Bangkok. The Thais call it Krung Thep, and this is the much shortened version of the real Thai name, which happens to be ...
"Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Boworn Ratan Akonsin Mahintar Ayudhyayama Hadilopono Paratanaraj Thaniburirom Udomrajni Wesmahar Satar Namorn Pimarn Avatar Satit Saktti Yavisanuk Amphrasit."
Well I know this by heart and I have had many interesting moments taking about it!
One of them was on a flight from Jakarta to Bangkok. A young Singaporean lady who was seated next to me expressed an interest in knowing more about the city I was heading for.
I obliged, and when it came to the point where I pronounced the full version of the city's name, she thought I was making it up! She wanted me to say it several more times and was paying careful attention each time I repeated it! ... Lol!
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