Bangkok is a fantastic Thailand city that has the infectious energy of many cities across the Far East but an important distinguishing character of its own. Due to the growing importance of the city as an international air travel hub more and more people are passing through, but many do not give the city the time it deserves. Even if you have other places to be, Bangkok is worth at least a day or two so it can be explored and reveal itself beyond the clichés.
Photo by Bruno [BRA]
One thing that can almost entirely ruin a short trip to Bangkok is the weather. If it is too hot or too wet then any time spent outside quickly becomes miserable with the shortest route to shelter being the only viable option. Visitors should be aware, therefore, that the period from November to February is the best time to visit as it is when the city is at its most cool and dry, the perfect conditions for exploration. The months either side of this period are also fine with a scale of enjoyment that declines towards the high summer.
Bangkok has a reputation for being, at the very least, slightly seedy. To an extent this is unfair and it should certainly not dissuade family visitors from coming to the city. The tacky side is certainly there as well, but the same is true of London or New York. More importantly, if you are more interested in the culture of the city and the country then it is also there in abundance. Historic palaces and temples can be explored and there are theatres dedicated to the vibrant traditional culture of Thailand that visitors should definitely make time for.
An important note for first time visitors to Bangkok, especially if you have small children with you, is to be exceedingly careful on the roads. Road safety is not high on the list of priorities for the average Thai driver, most of whom prefer to trust in the good will of fate than common sense. Since the traffic is horrendous anyway a good idea is to get a map and plan in advance a route that avoids the main roads where possible and lets you see the quieter and more traditional side streets.
The side streets are also a great place to try some traditional Thai food. This is generally incredibly tasty and cheap with it. Genuine concerns about the safety of street food can usually be assuaged by following the locals; if they eat it then it’s probably ok. Thai interpretations of other foods and cooking styles are also usually entertaining while still being tasty and can add a surreal atmosphere to the dining table. A good family activity is visiting one of the many cooking schools available so you can impress friends back home with authentic but homemade Thai food.
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