An electric train slides slowly through a dusty yard, inches from apparently deserted market stalls. Within seconds of its passing retractable canopies are being pulled back over the line and the place is alive with patrons as if nothing had interrupted their morning shopping trip. This is Bangkok, a place so tightly packed full of life and surprises that its no wonder it has a reputation as the most exciting city in Asia.
There’s a certain oriental mystique about some parts of Bangkok, particularly heritage sites such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and a traditional Thai lifestyle persists in many of the city’s outer areas. But there’s an unmistakeably modern feel to the rest of it, and a miasma of music and dazzling neon advertise the host of lively bars, clubs and an unimaginable number of alternative entertainments that have made Bangkok a city of dreams.
Where to stay
Bangkok’s tourist influx has created a wide range of top hotels all competing in a number of areas; the Peninsula Hotel, Le Meridien and the Sheraton Grande are three of the best, all housed in superb modern buildings with a wide range of facilities and excellent service reputations.
Where to eat
Le Normandie has a reputation for fine French cuisine and some of the best food in Bangkok; it’s also a popular spot for business lunches. Nadimo’s Lebanese is something of a local institution with a strong following of repeat clientèle.
What to see
Both the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, the temple containing the Emerald Buddha, can be visited in the same afternoon on the banks of the Chao Phraya. A short day-trip out of town will take you to the Floating Market west of Bangkok, which is a breathtaking insight into Thailand’s cultural heritage.