takes out fourth place in Getaway
's best-value travel destinations in 2010. With the Aussie dollar buying nearly 16 percent more than last year, Dermott Brereton shows us just how much bang for your buck you can get in Bangkok in a 24-hour visit.
Bangkok is the capital of the Kingdom of Thailand, one of the world's top tourist destinations. It is the world's 22nd largest city with an official population of more than six million but with so many unregistered migrants, it is more likely 15 million.
If you have a 24-hour stopover in this buzzy, busy city, Getaway has some tips for you to make the most out of it.
Needless to say traffic is extremely heavy and it is quicker and less stressful to travel along the canals. A longtail boat cruise along the Chao Phraya River and the city's canals will give you the feeling of what the city was like 100 years ago. Floating markets have been a feature of the canals since Bangkok became the royal capital in 1782. People will come alongside your boat and try to sell you their wares. Don't forget: always bargain, it is expected.
It's a grand way to see the city's architectural highlights, and the holiest place in the country, the Grand Palace. If you have time for just one thing to see in your stopover, this has to be it.
The Grand Palace served as the official residence of the King of Thailand from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. The current and adored king, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, now resides in Chitralada Palace, but uses the Grand Palace for ceremonial occasions.
The palace sits on the east bank of the river and exudes grandeur. Other approaches are protected by a defensive 1900m-long wall.
Visitors must be appropriately dressed to enter this holy of holy places and if you have dressed in shorts for the day, you can rent a pair of long pants right outside.
The adjacent Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is an architectural wonder of gilded chedi seemingly levitating above the ground. It has polished orange and green roof tiles, pillars encrusted with mosaics and rich, marble pediments. It was influenced by the style of the Italian Renaissance.
Shopping is always on the list of visitors to Bangkok and you can find pretty much anything you want on Sukhumvit, Thailand's longest road. Shop for jewellery, ready-made clothing or tailors who can knock-up a suit in 12 hours, silk in every colour imaginable and homewares and copies of just about everything.
If you fancy something a little more comfortable than struggling with the chaos and heat of the streets, there are some swish, air-conditioned malls you must visit. The best way to reach them is by sky train, gliding above the congested traffic below.
MBK Centre has eight floors with more than 2000 shops, 150 eating establishments and a huge cinema complex. It is an Aladdin's cave for shoppers. You can pick up clothing, cosmetics, shoes, jewellery, leather goods, accessories, paintings, electronics, toys, luggage and of course, souvenirs.
Other major shopping centres are Siam Square, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon.
Siam@Siam Design Hotel is a newcomer in the hotel stakes. The four-star hotel has affordable rooms and is central to shopping and business areas. It has 203 rooms, rooftop pool, dining and bar options and an all-day restaurant and pub.
For night adventures, visit Lumpini Night Bazaar which has lots of stalls, music and street food. You might like to take a tuktuk ride to Pat Pong Road which has loads more stalls selling items you have seen everywhere else, and some awfully sleazy clubs and bars. If you take a tuktuk, make sure you set the price before hopping in.
For a nightcap and a place to escape the noise of the streets, visit the Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel. You will float 61 floors above the streets of Bangkok and enjoy the views and solitude after a cram-packed day.
Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand.
Siam@Siam rooms start at around $182 a night.
Banyan Tree Hotel rooms start at around $175 a night.
For further information
444 Phayathai Road
Siam@Siam Design Hotel
865 Rama 1 Road
Ph: +66 2 217 3000
Fax: +66 2 217 3030
21/100 South Sathon Road
Ph: +66 2 679 1200
Fax: +66 2 679 1199
Visas: Australians may stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa.
Electricity: 220V with European plug of two circular metal pins or Japanese plug with two parallel flat blades.
Time zone: GMT +7.
Currency: The baht.
International dialling code: +66.
Travellers should be "in date" for the standard Australia and New Zealand immunisation schedules. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, speak to your doctor or visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.
Top 10 best value places for Australians to visit
- US dollar up 20.95 percent
- Mexico peso up 20.80 percent
- Taiwanese dollar up 17.15 percent
- Thai baht up 16.18 percent
- Singapore dollar up 14.86 percent
- Japanese yen up 13.92 percent
- British pound up 12.98 percent
- Indonesian rupiah up 11.59 percent
- Euro up 9.78 percent
- Swiss franc up 9.64 percent
Source: Expedia.com.au. Figures reflect appreciation in the Australian dollar against world currencies over six months to October 2009.