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Bangkok - Where To Stay?

For most tourists alike, the first choice of location to stay while in Bangkok are Sukhumvit and Pratunam tourist areas. Well, the choice is simple. These 2 areas are shopping havens for most people especially ladies. For those who favoured the many temples throughout their entire stay, there is other option to stay in Bangkok city to enjoy temple tours besides avoiding the city traffic jams. Of course it doesn't mean that there will be no shopping at all throughout the day. The idea of this column is to relate travel experience to all veteran and new visitors to try something new if the primary purpose is to visit temples. Put shopping as the secondary objective as there're plenty of time to do after 3pm as most shopping centers and night markets remains open till very late.

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Bangkok city is well known for its massive traffic jams. Practically the traffic does not stop even at 4am in the morning if you pay enough attention. The best way to avoid jams is to use alternative mode of transportation, the ferry. Therefore, the solution is to stay close to the Chao Phraya River. It is not a bad idea after all because you get nice views during a river cruise to your destination and avoid expensive taxi meters or the cut-throat "tuk-tuk" during peak hours.

Riverside Hotels and Accommodation

Several important landmark temples are located along the Chao Phraya River bank. They are Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Rakang Kositaram (Somdej Praputtajarn Toh), Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha Grand Palace), Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho Reclining Buddha), and Tha Pra Chan (the famous amulet market). As you can see in the photo map, places of Buddhist interests are plenty along the river.

There are plenty of hotel accommodation to choose from along the river. Most of the 5 stars hotel e.g. Shangri-La, Royal Orchid Sheraton, The Peninsula, Oriental costing THB5,000 per night are easily found here. The same goes for a clean budget accommodation costing THB 1,200 per night.

Room view from Orchid Sheraton

River map view

The best hotel accommodation area to stay along the Chao Phraya river with short walking distance is Si Phraya or Saphan Taksin jetty. Take for example if you should travel using the ferry system from Si Phraya jetty to Wat Rakang will only take approximately 20 minutes. The ferry will be hopping from one stop to the other and I can assure you it's an enjoyable ride after many times using this ferry service.

Khao San

The other alternative location to stay and yet still near to famous temples within the city surrounding is Khao San. This place was featured in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Khao San is famous for Western backpackers and tourists. Surely there're plenty of pubs and nightlife in Khao San but that is not the sole intention to stay around here for those in the Dharma path.

Khao San is close proximity to Wat Rakang, Wat Suthat, Wat Intharaviharn, Grand Palace, etc. Inexpensive budget hotels with clean bed and shower are plenty here. From the hotels in Khao San you can easily take taxi or the infamous "tuk-tuk" to go visiting the temples. If you are travelling single it is much better to hire a "motorcycle taxi" to save you time and avoid the daily massive traffic crawl.

Amulet talismans inside most Bangkok Taxis. Your journey is bound to be very safe.  

Vast array of food choices at Khao San
Although you may find plenty of Western restaurants and pubs in Khao San but that does not mean there are no Asian food. You can find descent local Thai foods at Rambutri Road that is just a short walking distance next to Khao San. A plate of tasty Thai noodle with a bottle of Pepsi cost only THB40. 

Khao San Road almost never sleep at night with plenty of fun parties along its many bars. If you don't mind the noisy music environment past midnight, this is a place for you to experience.

Sukhumvit Vicinity

Khao San vicinity will remain my top preferred choice of stay in Bangkok if your sole intention is in visiting temples.  The other popular choice for most tourists is Sukhumvit area in the city center where most tourists will not give a miss to Chatuchak Market that opens only on weekends.

The sky train BTS is the most popular mode of transport to avoid the crawling traffic jams if you decides to stay in a city hotel.  It's difficult to find temples around Sukhumvit as it's sprawling with major shopping centers and businesses.  If you have no choice but to tag along your travel partner to stay in this area, then you may have a chance to drop by at Wat Tad Thong that is conveniently reachable using the Sukhumvit Line route.  This temple is located right in front of Ekamai BTS Station. Of course there're also plenty of hotels in Sukhumvit ranging from budget to 5 stars depending on your preference choice.

The hustle and bustle of city life in Bangkok is a truly amazing experience and one will not get bored with it apart from visiting the many famous temples acquiring merits and and at same time adding amulets to your collection.

What To Bring Along?

When visiting temples in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand, it is worthwhile to consider suitable items to be included inside your travel gear. Firstly, a good weatherproof backpack with padded shoulder strap to store your valuables including newly acquired votive tablets from the temples you have visited. Next is a pair of comfortable walking sandal/shoe that you can easily slip on when needed. This will be very convenient during temple visits because many times you are required to remove shoes before entering Thai temples particularly sermon halls as this is the local custom. Avoid sneakers or sport shoes that have shoe laces because it’s inconvenient and time consuming to remove and put on especially if you are visiting more than 1 temple in a single day.

Most temples opening hours start from 8.00am till 4.00pm. It is good to keep a close check on a reliable wrist watch so that you can plan ahead of time and respect Bangkok's traffic jams to avoid disappointment. For me, I am keeping time with my excellent timepiece Kinetic Divers' 200M that have power reserve up to 6 months…HaHaHa!

Lastly, a good camera may not necessarily be the bulky and heavy D-SLR to snap memorable pictures during your tour. For me, a small but yet very sharp e.g. Panasonic Lumix camera is ideal to take many crisp images. For the more photo eager enthusiasts, a good D-SLR camera e.g. Nikon or Canon could be the ultimate choice.

Our personal preference is the Panasonic Lumix compact digital camera and recently we have added the Nikon D3100 to produce all SimplyBuy's votive tablets and temples' photographic images.

Apart from western and local Thai food and cybercafes to check your e-mails, downloading photos from your camera and sending it home to loved ones, Khao San is also famous for the vast array of tailor shops. You can practically custom tailored your suit and business wears and get it all done within 24 hours. The prices are also very reasonable depending on your budget and requirement. After all Bangkok is famous for its bespoke trade. Sometimes it is better to get tailor-made shirts than buying ready-made shirts as they may cost less. If you are keen, you can give a try at my favourite tailor. Friendly and service oriented tailor Boss Style (Lotus) at 117, Khaosan Road, Banglumphoo. Look for the man in this picture for fine quality workmanship and good service.  Just a point to note that most tailors in Bangkok are friendly Nepalese.

If you are seeking amulet accessories e.g. amulet casings, stainless steel chains, magnifying loupes, amulet showcase boxes, etc. should visit Bangkok’s famous amulet marketplace at Tha Pra Chan nearby to the Chao Phraya riverside.  This may not be an ideal place to visit for non-hobbyist and ladies due to its humidity and often jam-packed with many amulet enthusiasts.  It is a good idea to visit this amulet market after visiting nearby Wat Mahathat or after visiting Wat Rakang that is just right across the river.  Beware that most amulet hobbyist can spend hours at this market and you may lose track of time.  This place is worth visiting and you may experience some good bargains.

For the first time temple goers, I hope the above recommendations will serve your travel plan well. Best of luck and enjoy your temple visits.

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