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Brendon shopping at the markets
The Palace

Bangkok stopover

Thursday, April 8, 2004
This is the ultimate Bangkok stopover guide … see all the sights in one jam-packed day.

Many flights between Australia to Europe pass through Bangkok, and it really is a good place to stop, shop and maybe take off for one of the well-known beach areas of Thailand.

There's no denying that Bangkok is hot, humid, fume-filled, fast and noisy, but there is something wonderful about it. It could be the shopping, it could be the gentle people, it could be the tuk tuk rides, gentle cruises along the Chao Phraya River or just a mixture of the lot.

The new Skytrain is definitely the go. It is clean, cheap, fast and air-conditioned. Two lines are up and running and an unlimited day pass costs around $5. Can't beat that!

The Chatuchak weekend market at the southern end of Chatuchak Park can be reached by bus or Skytrain. It is enormous, with almost 9000 vendor stalls and 200,000 visitors each day. As you might imagine, the variety of goods on sale is staggering — you can buy chickens and snakes, opium pipes and herbal remedies, Thai and western-style clothing in colourful silk and cotton and unlimited items for the home. Of course there are crafts of wood, ceramic, wicker, paper and metal, antiques and musical instruments, and this is the place where you can put your bargaining skills to the test.

If you feel peckish, there's some delicious food to be had and a few unusual things you might like to try such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, cockroaches and worms. If you run out of cash, there are a couple of banks, foreign exchange booths and ATMs.

The Grand Palace compound's ground was consecrated in 1782, the first year of Bangkok rule. It has more than 100 buildings representing royal history and architectural experimentation. King Bhumibol, the world's longest serving monarch, and Queen Sirikit live elsewhere, and visit the palace only on special occasions. Visitors are expected to be modestly dressed.

The biggest building is the Chakri Mahaprasat which was designed in 1882 by British architects. It is a blend of Italian Renaissance and Thai and each wing is topped by an ornate spire.

The Golden Temple is covered with pieces of real gold mosaic from Italy and houses authentic relics of Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is one of the country's most sacred sites. To most Thais, it represents a deep spiritual connection to their faith, and has done so for 800 years. Carved from a jade-like stone, it is only 66cm high and displayed in a huge glass case.

Thanon Khao San guesthouse area is a very cheap and cheerful place to shop. Five cents a minute on the Internet; $1 for a curry, $15 for a room and endless cheap audio tapes, books, jewellery, beads, clothing, T-shirts, tattoos, body piercing and just about anything else you can think of. Food there is fresh and delicious.

In daylight hours, Patpong Road is a normal, bustling Bangkok road of restaurants, bars and traffic, but come 8pm, vendors set up their stalls and it becomes one of the city's busiest market places, selling copies of just about everything.

There are department stores and air-conditioned malls, and it's probably fair to say, if you can't find it in Bangkok, it hasn't been invented yet.

Lumphini Park is the city's largest and most popular with a large central lake, well-tended lawns, wooded areas and walking paths. In the early morning, hundreds gather to practise tai chi, vendors of Thai and Chinese medicines set up for the day and little paddle-boats and rowboats bob about on the lake.

Lumphini Stadium is there and it is easy to see by the hundreds of motorbikes when kickboxing is on. Called Muay Thai, it is known as the art of the eight limbs — two fists, elbows, feet and knees — it is accompanied by drums and pipes and is an art using only the most effective offensive and defensive moves.


Bangkok, capital of Thailand


Qantas flies daily to Bangkok. Return economy airfares start at $1057 from Melbourne, $1073 from Sydney, $1137 from Brisbane, $1261 from Adelaide, $1542 from Perth and $2363 from Darwin per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing, but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Qantas Holidays has twin share accommodation in Bangkok starting at $35 per person per night. Grand Palace entry costs around $10 per person and is open each day.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Tourism Authority of Thailand
Ph: (02) 9247 7549
Qantas: Ph. 13 13 13
Seafood Market & Restaurant Co. Ltd, 89 Kukhumvit Soi 24, Sukhumvit Road, KLONGTOEY Bangkok 1011
Ph: 259 6691 661-1255-9

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