A journey of the five senses perpetuates 

while travelling in the congested capital of the mystical land of Thailand. To some, Bangkok is the premier business destination and an important strategic point between the far and middle east. To balding white men, Bangkok is the place for cheap booze, cheaper food, and cheapest love (know what I mean?). To Gators like me, Bangkok cusps around all senses, covering all needs, and most importantly, being among the Gods of global cuisines.
If the Gods were based on world cuisines rather than Roman or Hindu sentiments, Thai food would be the Goddess of Sensuality. It would indeed represent balance, intricacy,  and an infatuation of tender coconuts.

“City of Angels”

The Thai peeps show amorousness for both their culture and the King, as well as equal ardor to the Great Buddha. The spicy aromas, meaty smells, and incense scents turned the gator on big time.

Bangkok’s life was focused around the water; conventional individuals lived on bamboo-flatboats along the waterway, while skimming merchants meandered the water to offer foods grown from the ground. The main stone structures based ashore were sanctuaries and royal residences. In the nineteenth century, Western forces consolidated quite a bit of Southeast Asia into their pioneer domains. Ruler Rama IV and V felt that the best way to keep Siam autonomous was to modernize the nation along European lines. Customary waterways were topped off and transformed into streets. Ruler Rama V moved the home of the King to Dusit and laid out that area’s terrific roads along European lines.

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City of Fishes ?

Bangkok truly began to culminate after World War II. The monetary focus moved from the systematic arranged city of Rattanakosin in an eastbound course, leaving Bangkok without an undeniable focus. Bangkok built up itself as the driving force behind Thailand’s new part as a recently industrializing nation from the 1980s onwards. Quick monetary development has pulled in movement from the wide open, with a large number of Thais moving here from Isaan to bring home the bacon.

This quick development transformed Bangkok into a standout among  the most cosmopolitan and incident urban communities in Asia; additionally guaranteed various issues. A wide crevice has risen between the individuals who benefit from monetary movement, and the individuals who went to the city from the wide open looking for work. Bangkok’s apparently endless traffic proceed as the new Skytrain and metro are not by any stretch of the imagination associated with the other public transport systems available.

Anyway, on to the guide now.

 

To and Fro

By virtue of it’s location, Bangkok is one of the most easily accessible locales on the globe, and can be driven to, sailed to, or flew to. Reptiles like me occasionally swim to Bangkok during the fish-rich seasons for the amazing catch and the rare human who ventures out into deep reptilian waters. However, the easy way is to Fly in to Bangkok.

(Don’t make the mistake of going to the wrong Airport. There are two which serve Bangkok)

 

Suvarnabhumi Intl. Airport

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The duty-free at the BKK airport.

A very Indian sounding name, the roots of which can be traced to the hardcore Indian culture influence on the Buddhist culture.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is used by all airlines in Thailand except for Nok Air, Orient Thai and Air Asia, which use the old Don Muang Airport. Both these airports are about 30 km (19 mi) from the city centre, so be prepared for a long ride to get into the city. Also allow at leastthree hours to connect between them, as they are far away from each other and there is heavy congestion on the roads.

Suvarnabhumi offers all facilities you would expect from a major international airport. There’s a transit hotel, ATMs, money exchange, restaurants, tax-free shops, an observation lounge and even a “redemption booth”, very reassuring for karmically challenged passengers. There are about 50 dining venues spread over the terminal building. The one that sounds most interesting probably is Panda Ready To Eat, but the cheapest place for a meal is Magic Food Point on level 1, near gate 8. There are a few stores in the check-in area, including a convenience store and a post office; however, the real shopping experience awaits visitors on the other side of immigration in the departure area, where the number of shops and duty free outlets leaves you wondering whether you are in an airport or a mall. There is not much to see at the observation deck on the seventh floor, since the steel structure of the roof blocks most of the view.

The duty free shops offer a wide range of almost every international brand. The prices are not competitive.

There are plenty of ways to get into the city from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Most people opt for the Airport Rail Link, by far the fastest way to get into downtown, although taxis are also reasonably priced by world standards.

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Suvarnabhumi Airport

Located on the basement level of the passenger terminal, the Airport Rail Link offers a high-speed train service to downtown Bangkok. It’s also a way of avoiding Bangkok’s horrendous rush hour traffic, particularly when it’s raining. Trains run 06:00-23:59 every day and travel at an amazing 160km/h (100mph). Two different services are operated:

  • The non-stop Express Line brings you directly to either Makkasan or Phaya Thai station in 15/18min for 150 baht one way, with plenty of space for luggage. As of December 2014, the express line service to Phaya Thai has been suspended indefinitely so you must take the City Line to connect directly to the BTS Sky Train.
  • The slightly slower City Line is a commuter rail line that stops at all stations. Trains leave every 15min, and after Makkasan station it continues to Ratchaprarop and Phaya Thai stations.

 

Ordinary metered taxis are available on the first floor (one floor below arrivals). Follow the “public taxi” signs that lead to the outside of the airport premises, queue up and state your destination at the desk (English is understood).

There are free shuttle buses from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muang Airport every hour between 05:00-23:00. You have to show them your flight ticket to board. At Suvarnabhumi Airport, get on the bus at gate 2 or 3.

 

WATCH OUT

Watch out for ‘helpful’ touts hovering nearby the main taxi desk who will lead you across the road to legitimate taxis. These drivers will refuse to use the meter by saying there is heavy traffic and will charge a phenomenal price supposedly based on distance and number of passengers – for instance, they will quite brazenly tell you it will cost 2,500 baht to take two people to the city centre.

 

VISA

Thailand offers a VISA on Arrival service for people flying into its shores, and it grants 30 day unlimited access to the country’s premier sights and cuisines.It costs around 400 baht, so be sure to have cash on you while commuting here.

There are countries to whom this service isn’t available, and can be checked here.

 

Transport

INTRA CITY

The myriad cityscape has a somewhat disorganized public transport system. Tuk-Tuks and taxis are readily available and pretty cheap for the average traveler, and are by all means easy on the pocket. The city, like many developing cities, suffers from paralytic traffic jams periodically throughout the day. In rush hours, it may be worthwhile combining public transport by different means. For example: soar over traffic jams by skytrain to the station closest to your destination and thereafter take a taxi for the final leg.

Bangkok is one of the most interesting cities in the world and is known to be number one for scenery.

SKYTRAIN

You must have 5 or 10 baht coins to purchase Skytrain tickets from vending machines, so hold on to them. At most stations there is a single touchscreen machine that will accept 20, 50 and 100 baht notes, but there is often a queue to use it. Some stations have ticket counters which will change your large bills so you can purchase tickets from the vending machines. Fares range from 15 to 52 baht depending upon how many zones you are travelling. Consult the map (in English) near each ticket machine. If you do not have coins, queue for change from the staff at the booth. If you are in town for several days (or going to make several visits during the next 30 days), weigh your options and consider a rechargeable stored-value card (from 100 baht, with a 30 baht refundable deposit and a 30 baht non-refundable card cost)

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Skytrain

METRO

Tourists do not use the metro as much as the Skytrain, but there are some useful stops. The terminus at Hua Lamphong provides a good access to Yaowarat. If you’re going to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, don’t get out at Chatuchak Park, but go one stop further to Kamphaeng Phet as it drops you right inside the market.

Metro tickets are not interchangeable with Skytrain tickets. Rides start from 16 baht and are based on distance; pre-paid cards of up to 1,000 baht are also available. For single ride fares, a round plastic token is used. It is electronic: simply wave it by the scanner to enter; deposit it in a slot by the exit gate leave.

BOAT

What good is a river system with no boat transportation present ?
Along the river, there are tourist boats which stop at a different subset of piers, offer commentary in English and charges 150 baht for a day pass. Single tickets are 40 baht. The boats are slightly more comfortable and may be worth considering if you want to cruise up and down the most important tourist sights. They only operate once per 30 minutes and stop running by 15:00. Be careful as they may tell you the (cheaper) orange flag regular boat is not coming for quite a while (as they are aggressively touting for business), but sometimes this is not the truth. If you want the tourist experience with guide and (very) loud speaker commentary, often unintelligible, then this is the one for you. However, be aware that you are fully entitled to enter the public piers (the ones with the blue lettering on white background with pier numbers on them) and get the orange flag boat as these are public places and you don’t need a ticket before boarding the comfortable and speedy orange-flag boat.

P.S We Alligators LOVE to swim here, so beware.

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Floating Market

 

MOTOR CYCLE TAXI’s

Imagine weaving through rows of stopped vehicles at 50 km/h (30 mph) with mere centimetres to spare on each side, dodging pedestrians, other motorbikes, tuk-tuks, stray dogs and the occasional elephant while the driver blithely ignores all traffic laws and even some laws of physics. Now do the same while facing backwards on the bike and balancing a large television on your lap, and then you can qualify as a local — though you might die in the process. Imagine your loved ones arranging to ship your dead body home from Bangkok because you took a dangerous risk you were warned not to.

Prices are negotiable before you ride but is the best way when the traffic is not flowing as well as usual in Bangkok.

 

TUKS-TUKS 

Finally, what would Bangkok be without the much-loathed, much-loved tuk-tuks? You’ll know them when you hear them, and you’ll hate them when you smell them — these three-wheeled contraptions blaze around Bangkok leaving a black cloud of smog in their wake. For anything more than a 5-10 min jaunt or just the experience, they really are not worth the price but it can still be enjoyable for people that come to Thailand — and, if you let them get away with it, the price will usually be 4 or 5 times what it should be anyway (which, for Thais, is around 30% less than the equivalent metered taxi fare).

On the other hand, you can sometimes ride for free if you agree to visit touristy clothing or jewellery shops (which give the tuk-tuk driver fuel coupons and commissions for bringing customers). The shops’ salesmen are pushy, and try to scam you with bad quality suits or “gems” that in fact are worthless pieces of cut glass.

 

INTER CITY

The largest, busiest, and most modern terminal is the Northern Bus Terminal,  also known as Mo Chit 2. The upper floor serves the Isaan region in the northeast of Thailand; the ground floor serves Northern Thailand, and buses depart to Pattaya, Chonbhuri, and other Thai holiday destinations. The bus terminal is a fair hike from BTS station Mo Chit or MRT station Chatuchak Park. Motorbike taxis do the trip for a fixed 30 baht fare (bargaining is pointless), while tuk-tuks charge whatever they feel like — when bargaining, remember that a real taxi with air-conditioning will cost you about 45 baht (assuming little traffic).

Buying tickets here is reasonably easy; find a window with your destination written on it (in friendly Roman letters), pay the fare in big numbers on the same window, and you’ll get a ticket on the next available departure. Note that blue writing means 1st class, red means 2nd class (avoid on longer trips).

 

STAY

Bangkok has a vast range of accommodation, including some of the best hotels in the world — and some of the worst dives too. Broadly speaking, Khao San Road is backpacker city; the riverside of Silom and Thonburi is home to The Oriental and The Peninsularespectively, often ranked among the best in the world (and priced to match). Most of the city’s moderate and expensive hotels can be found in Siam Square, Sukhumvitand Silom, though they also have their share of budget options.

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Ambassador Hotel was were I stayed.

When choosing your digs, think of the amount of luxury you want to pay for — air-conditioning can be advised, as temperatures don’t drop below 20°C at night. Also pay careful attention to Skytrain, metro and express boat access, as a well-placed station or pier could make your stay in Bangkok much more comfortable. In general, accommodation in Bangkok is cheap though. It’s possible to have a decent double room with hot shower and air-conditioning for about 500 baht/night. If you want more luxury, expect to pay around 1,500 baht for a double room in downtown. Even staying at one of Bangkok’s top hotels only sets you back around 5,000 baht — the price of a standard double room in Europe.

Sukhumvit Road is the premier road racing through the atria of Bangkok, and presents business and luxury stay options.

Siam is the Shoppping center and if your only reason to travel to Bangkok is for the shopping, this is the area you must target.

Khao San Road is for the backpackers and one bag travelers of the world, while also being in the historically locale of the city.

 

The famed Bangkok One Night.

One Bangkok hotel phenomenon of note is the guest fee of around 500 baht added to your bill if you bring along a newly found friend for the night. Some hotels even refuse Thai guests altogether, this is especially common in Khao San Road. These rules are obviously aimed at controlling local sex workers, which is why hotel security will usually hold onto your guest’s ID card for the duration of the visit, but some hotels will also apply it to Western visitors — or, more embarrassingly, try to apply it to your Thai partner. Look for the signs, or, if in doubt, ask the staff before check-in.

 

 

THE FIVE SENSES SHOWDOWN

Because visiting the City of Angels is the most incredible sensory experience.

 

SEE and TOUCH

Your gaze shifts from the street food stalls to the lined faces of the street sellers and passers-by, to the constant traffic jams of multicoloured cars, to the bright colours of the tuk-tuks and of the majestic religious temples.
You pass from the typical confusion of the big city to the inner peace of the people gathered to pray inside the spiritual buildings. And the passage is really quite short: sometimes, all it takes is a step over the threshold. A truly amazing contrast.
The Royal Palace is one of the must-see places in Bangkok: a multitude of temples, a jubilation of colours, an explosion of the senses.

Take the boat taxi for a never before experience, and starting with the first station –

Disembark at the Phan Fa Lilat terminus near the Golden Mount. As in all parts of Bangkok, beware of helpful locals or “tourist police” recommending other sites or advising sites are closed to a certain time! If your accommodation is around Khao San Road, you can just get here on foot. To your left, you’ll see a small bridge with oncoming traffic, and a large bridge with multi-lane traffic. Cross the large bridge, pass the white Mahakan Fortand cross the street for Wat Ratchanaddaram, one of Bangkok’s unappreciated temples. Entry is free (although a recommended donation of 20 baht is requested), just take your shoes off and climb into the tower for a bird’s-eye view of Rattanakosin.

Golden Mount

The temple is built on a huge man-made hill, and provides all-compassing views of Bangkok from the top. Enter the inner shrine, purify your senses, let the bucolic serene calm them down and take in the newly-found spirituality.

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Grand Mount

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Every corner of this place is a source of inspiration, but this doesn’t justify snapping away with your camera as if there were no tomorrow – and this is something I’ve learned over time. My advice is to breathe in the local atmosphere, immerse yourself in it, feel a part of the place you are in. Inside the temples, my advice is to try closing your eyes and listening to the voice of your soul. It sounds like madness written here, I know, but the East holds a special essence that really enables you to get yourself in focus.
Only once you have achieved a minimal awareness of the place in which you are will it be possible to find the inspiration for taking pictures from the soul. The sort of photos that, once you’re back home, are also good for the heart.

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The Grand Palace

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Vimanmek Mansion

Located in Dusit, both the Throne Hall and Vimanmenk teakwood mansion are open to the public as museums. Although they are very popular touristy attractions in Bangkok, they are well worth a visit.

Wat Arun

Across the river from the Grand Palace complex is Wat Arun, a temple stupa that’s also referred to as the Temple of Dawn. One of the highlights of visiting Wat Arun is climbing the steep staircase.

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Chinatown

Bangkok has a strong Chinese influence no matter where you are in the city, however the area of Yaowarat, is where a concentration of Chinese originally settled. Yaowarat is a center of commerce and industry, always busy and energetic, and you can explore markets and eat an astounding array of delicious Thai and Thai Chinese food.

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A view of Chinatown.

Shopping in Bangkok

Shopping in Bangkok is an experience to thrill and delight the most discerning of shoppers – whatever it is you’re looking for. From the gleaming chrome and towering size of modern, air-conditioned malls, to the hustle and bustle of its famously buzzing street markets, Bangkok has all kinds of places to blow your baht. With everything from antiquities and the latest pair of trainers to designer jewellery available, Bangkok has an equally exhaustive, and potentially exhausting, variety of things to buy.

This is an exhaustive list, and the Gator shall redirect you here.

Or Tor Kor Market 

To get to the Or Tor Kor Market we take the MRT Subway to Kampaeng Phet Station. Its about a twenty minute ride from the Sukhumvit Station at Asoke and opposite the famous Chatuchak weekend market. We visited lots of markets while in the city, the Klongtoey Market that is in a not so nice area, the Asok Market which is teeny weeny and hidden behind the Terminal 21 shopping center. We also visited some neighborhood markets that only open one day a week. But the best (and cleanest) market in all of Bangkok to eat real Thai Food and buy the nicest looking fruits and flavor the perfect durian is the Or Tor Kor Market. The white tiled floors and airy ceilings make it cooler and breezier than other places in the city and you can walk around and eat for hours.

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That dish was soo grood.

Khlong Toey Market

One of the main central fresh wet markets in Bangkok is Khlong Toey. You can find nearly every ingredient imaginable for cooking Thai food within this market, and if you love food or cooking, it’s a great place to explore when you’re in Bangkok.

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Floating Market 

There are a number of different floating markets around Bangkok, but my favorite, that’s located within the city is Khlong Lat Mayom. Along with just being a pleasant area to walk around, and you can even take a boat ride tour, the market is made for food lovers.

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Bangkok Zoooo

It was a pleasant surprise to go here after all the harsh stories we head of the Bangkok. We managed to spend over four hours walking around this zoo. Not only did they have a lot of different animals, including some not found in many zoos around the world (and some new ones to us), but also quite a number of each animal in a lot of cases. For example there would have to be about 50 cranes, 50 flamingos, 6 tigers. I could go on. We particularly liked looking at the monkey breeding program they had. The monkeys were beautiful and looked so happy and healthy. The zoo is large, has refreshments (even a 7-11, so you dont have to pay extortionate prices), boats you can hire, play areas, etc etc. The grounds are well maintained and the fee was only 150THB each to enter. I would definitely recommend this zoo, it shone well above our expectations.

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Crocodile Farm, Bangkok

So the Alligator’s allies are present here. But, this farm was the disappointment of the trip.

This is a tired, run-down attraction where animals are kept in very poor conditions. The zoo enclosures have little to keep the animals interested – in particular the apes’ only entertainment seems to be begging food off visitors – they sell you bananas to feed them. The shows have been described by others previously – the crocodile show is not great entertainment, watching drugged crocodiles humiliated by the money-grabbing keepers seemed to appeal top many in the audience, but it certainly wasn’t for me. The elephant show was a little easier to watch – the two elephants used seemed to be enjoying themselves, although what it takes to train them in the first place, I don’t know.
Overall, I would not return and would not recommend. In other countries, a place such as this would be closed down by the authorities.

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LEL.

 

TASTE and SMELL

Writing a section on the what the city has to offer will not do justice to it. The monstrosity of food in Bangkok deserves a separate Blog post, which shall be covered in a later post.

For the purposes of this guide however,

There are around 50,000 places to eat; not only thousands of Thai restaurants, but a wide selection of world-class international cuisine too. Prices are generally high by Thai standards, but cheap by international standards; a good meal is unlikely to cost more than 300 baht, although there are a few restaurants (primarily in hotels) where you can easily spend 10 times this.

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Sukhumvit by far has the best restaurants of Bangkok, though prices tend to be high. Practically every cuisine in the world is represented here, be it French, Lebanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, or fusion combining many of these together in a quirky, but delicious mix. Bangkok’s Italian town is Soi Ton Son near Siam Square. Of course, for those on a budget, street stalls abound with simple Thai dishes at around 30 baht. There are especially plenty of budget restaurants in Khao San Road.

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Barbequed Pork Meat

There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in the more tourist-friendly parts of town (especially in hippie district Khao San Road). Vegetarian dishes are also readily available on the menus of regular restaurants. On request, even typical street restaurants will easily cook a vegetarian equivalent of a popular Thai dish for you. Ask for “jay” food to leave the meat out of the dish. For example, “khao pad” is fried rice and “khao pad jay” is vegetarian fried rice. For vegans, the most common animal product used would be oyster sauce. To avoid it, say “mai ao naam man hoi”. Be aware that all street noodle vendors use animal broth for noodle soup.

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Khao Pad

Don’t miss out on a cold ice cream in hot Bangkok. Western chain stores Dairy Queen andSwensen’s have booths in many malls and shopping centres. Or better yet, try an exotic fruit-flavoured ice cream at an Iberry shop. Their ice creams are tasty, cheap and safe to eat.

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For Muslims, looking for Halal food, fortunately there is no problem. Most of KFCs sell Halal chicken. A lot of vendors on street food understand the term ‘Halal’ so it is always better to ask. A frown on their face on answering this question would indicate an absence of Halal Food. Tourists looking for Halal street food must disembark BTS at Ratchthewi station in direction of Phaya Thai and turn left on Petchaburi Road where lines of local Halal food outlets and cart food are located.

 

DRINK and HEAR

Bangkok’s nightlife is infamously wild, but it’s not quite what it used to be: due to recent social order campaigns. Most restaurants, bars and clubs are now supposed to close at 02:00 AM.

One of Bangkok’s main party districts is Silom, home not only to perhaps the world’s most famous go-go bar strip Patpong, but plenty of more legitimate establishments catering to all tastes. For a drink with a view, the open-air rooftop bars of Vertigo and Sirocco are particularly impressive. A large number of superhip and more expensive bars and nightclubs can be found in the higher sois of Sukhumvit, including, Q Bar, and Narz.

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SAFETY

Bangkok is a generally safe city to travel in, and until you’re not asking for trouble, the locals will be friendly and helpful.

However, it is the city of scams, and one has to be aware at all times to prevent any unforeseen incidents towards oneself.

  • Always beware of tuk-tuk drivers offering all-day tours for prices as low as 10 baht. You may indeed be taken on a full-day tour, but you will end up only visiting one gem and souvenir shop after another. Don’t buy any products offered by pushy salesmen — the “gems” are pretty much always worthless pieces of cut glass and the suits are of deplorable quality.
  • Be highly skeptical when an English-speaking Thai at a popular tourist attraction approaches you out of the blue, telling that your intended destination is currently closed or offering discount admissions.
  • Another trick is for a well disposed Thai individual to approach a visitor and give an arrangement of prescribed areas to visit, including no less than one shop, and much volunteer to stamp them on your guide and arrange a reasonable tuk cost to take you to these destinations. At the primary area, commonly a decent, out of the way sanctuary, a man supplicating will strike up a discussion and ask you where you’re going. After seeing the store on your schedule, he will reaffirm the quality and guarantee you he purchases from that point frequently. These stories can be extraordinarily definite, and incorporate mobile phone pictures or even receipts. These men are not fair-minded however, but rather part of an involved plan, working with the primary man to inspire you to purchase set apart up diamonds or low quality suits.
  • Beware of a very overweight Western woman who approaches you with a story about how her luggage has just been stolen and needs money to get home. For several years now, she has usually lurked around the tourist attractions in Bangkok looking for prey.

 

 

All in All, The Alligator recommends traveling to Bangkok for a worldly, five-sense touching experience.


Obviously, there is a lot of Bangkok not covered in this guide. Infact, no guide or book can cover the essence of a city in mere pages, as a cityscape transcends emotions beyond white paper.  Hope this blog was of great use to you, if you do plan your Bangkok trip using this, post in comments to let the Alligator know of your experience:)

Published by Shauryä Malwa