People & Communities
CASE City Guide: Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok

The world's most visited city in 2013 and winner of Travel and Leisure's "World's Best City Award" for four consecutive years, Bangkok blends past and present in a rich fusion of sight, sound and taste. Following decades of steady growth, the greater Bangkok area now includes nearly 15 million residents and has become a major hub in Southeast Asia. But despite its size, the City of Angels can be easily navigated and offers visitors an astounding range of foods, entertainment and culture.

Meet your guide
Jared D. Kuruzovich, communications manager at NIST International School in Bangkok.   

Interesting or unusual event venues
Bangkok ranks among the very best locations in Asia in the possibilities it offers for event venues, particularly for large-scale exhibitions. The Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (colloquially referred to as BITEC by residents) is the largest, offering more than 550,000 square feet of space and 20 meeting rooms. Though not quite as expansive, the Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld and the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center are both easily accessible and large enough to host major events. All three are easily accessible through public transportation.   For smaller options, virtually every four-star hotel in the city includes at least two or three small event halls, and the largest international schools are always willing to consider hosting conferences or workshops related to education. In addition to NIST International School, Bangkok Patana and International School Bangkok both possess expansive grounds and facilities.  

Favorite hotels
Due to the sheer number of hotels available at all price ranges, it's difficult to single out any one as being the best. The simplest way to select one is to decide on a price-range beforehand and search for matching venues along the BTS line. Due to its central location, it's hard to go wrong with a hotel in the Asok business district, particularly for those adjoining the Asok BTS Station.  

Best times to visit
Thailand's reputation as a sun-soaked tropical paradise is well deserved. Residents often joke that the seasons include hot, hotter, and wet and hot. Those who hate getting wet should avoid the monsoon season that lasts from May to October with the heaviest rainfall occurring in August and September. On the other hand, visitors who enjoy that relief from the heat should visit during mid-April to experience Songkran, the Thai new year celebration that sees the entire country join in a massive, friendly water fight.   Regardless of the time of the visit, travelers should pack light and bring sunscreen. To avoid high temperatures, it is also recommended that you visit during the cooler months of November to January if possible.  

Easiest way to get around
Although it stretches more than 1,500 square kilometers, Bangkok offers many easy options for travel. The BTS (Skytrain) and MRT (subway) lines cover most of the city proper, and additional lines are being constructed to reach outlying areas. With clear maps and signs in English posted at every station, and the occasional Samaritan standing by, they are very visitor-friendly.   Taxis are also very cheap, although they have a reputation as a traffic nightmare for a good reason. However, with fares starting at 35 baht (about US$1), taxis are excellent options for short distances. Buses provide a similarly inexpensive option, yet they are less accessible to tourists due to the lack of English guides. When all else fails, hop in a tuk tuk (motorized rickshaw) or motorbike taxi, and steel your nerves for a race through traffic.  

BangkokLocal customs
Thais love shopping, and you can't go wrong with a visit to one of the many towering malls in central Bangkok. For an exclusive ambiance, visit Terminal 21, CentralWorld, Siam Paragon or one of the many other towering complexes lining Sukhumvit Road. Those seeking a more low-key option may want to visit MBK at the National Stadium BTS Station or, even better, get lost in the massive Chatuchak Weekend Market at the Mo Chit BTS Station. (As the name indicates, though, most of the market is only open on Saturday and Sunday.)   Culture aficionados won't want to miss the famed Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) along the banks of the Chao Praya River, and nearby Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. Day tours of other historic sites near the city can be booked through one of the travel agencies that seemingly appear in every hotel and skyscraper. Don't worry: nearly every one charges the same prices. Visitors seeking something with more action can drop by Lumpini Stadium to watch a muay Thai match amidst a very enthusiastic local crowd.   Bangkok's famed nightlife can be overwhelming, and visitors should take care to avoid getting lost, literally and figuratively. Plenty of venues feature nightly live music in the backpacker paradise at Khaosan Road (best reached by taxi) while countless clubs are tucked away in every corner of the city center. For a quintessential Bangkok experience, visit one of the two dozen or so rooftop bars.  

Final words of advice, welcome Although Thailand boasts an amazingly tolerant culture, visitors should take care to follow a few simple guidelines, even visiting in a city as diverse as Bangkok.

  • The king and royal family should never be spoken of in a negative manner, as it is not only disrespectful, but also illegal!
  • While generally safe, Bangkok requires a healthy dose of common sense like any other major city. Travel in groups when possible, avoid unpopulated areas at night and do not trust every individual who approaches you.
  • Avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. Most Thais are modest in their behavior and dress, and visitors should follow suit.
  • If all else fails in an uncertain situation, smile and withdraw. Thailand is often called the Land of Smiles for a reason: smiling can indicate an apology.