Edition 11th Edition
Release Date Sep 2014
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4 How to Use This Book
easy-to-use Top Sights features provide in-depth
sections coverage of the city’s very best sights.
Plan Your Trip WAT PHRA KAEW & GRAND PALACE
Your planning tool kit Look for these symbols to quickly identify listings:
Photos, lists and suggestions to
help you create your perfect trip. 1 SIGHTS 3 ENTERTAINMENT
5 EATING 7 SHOPPING
6 DRINKING & 2 SPORTS &
Your complete city guide NIGHTLIFE ACTIVITIES
Top Sights features, in-depth
All reviews are ordered in our authors’ preference,
reviews and local tips. starting with their most preferred option. Additionally:
Understand Sights are arranged in the geographic order that
we suggest you visit them and, within this order, by
Get more from your trip author preference.
Learn about the big picture, so you
Eating and Sleeping reviews are ordered by price
can make sense of the city. range (budget, midrange, top end) and, within these
ranges, by author preference.
These symbols give vital information for
Your at-a-glance reference each listing:
Vital practical information to help
you have a smooth trip.
Sustainable or green recommendation
No payment required
plus % Telephone number s Swimming pool
h Opening hours v Vegetarian selection
full-colour p Parking c Family-friendly
map section n Nonsmoking g Bus
a Air-conditioning f Ferry
i Internet access d Train
W Wi-fi access
254 254 255 255
Key on p256 Key on p256 e# 0 e# 0 500 m 500 m
0 0 0.25 miles 0.25 miles
A AB BC CD D E ij ij EF FG GH
See map H
67 67 See map
ÿ# ÿ# p257
Santichaiprakan Santichaiprakan Th Prachathipatai
Th Samsen Th Prachathipatai
Park Th Samsen banglamphu
5ÿ#9#ú3(K6K2hhl0loonnggT4#þRBh8oaPpPnhagK#æ2#úrlrraa8kum1An1pgthh) uiSt o4i 162115#ý5ÿ#ÿ#9#ú(ÿ#KKhhl5loo8nnggTRBhoaPpnhgKrlraaumAnpgthh) uiSt o4i 162115#ýÿ##úÿ# banglamphu
1 MChaaeoNPahmra(yTBa1haanPghlarma Aphthui)t f#ú#MChaaeoNPahmra(yTBahaanPghla#þrma Apht#æ2#úhu8i)t1f#1#ú 53 ÿ# 53 ÿ# 11
# # Th Wisut Kasat
2 68 68 Th Wisut Kasat
Soi 4 Soi 4
banglamphu 3 See map
banglamphu p252 29 48 29
National #ú20 58
Soi Chana Soi Chana
SapPhharna SPoinmKdleato Th Prachathipataiÿ# ÿ# 22
SapPhharna SPoinmKdleato Th Prachathipatai60 60
Th Phra Th Th Sipsahm Hang ÿ# Soi Baan Pan Thom ÿ#62 4S9oi#þBaan Pan Thom 49 #þ Tourism Tourism
NationalTh Th Sipsahm Hang Street 38 û# Th Phra Sumen ÿ#62 Authority Authority
Theatre 38 #û of Thailand of Thailand
Chao Ú# 16 Th Phra Ú# 16
Chao Sumen #ï ï#
RTTahhtKcSahosiamnbi det Th Kasab
hg hg Th Chakraphatdi DTh C3hakrapPhhaotndgi D3
Phra Seven Spoons Seven Spoons
Phra (60m) (60m)
Pin Th Din So Th Ratchadamnoen Nok For symbols used on maps, see the Map Legend.
Pin Th Din So
Th Ratchadamnoen Nok
Th Ratchadamnoen Th Ratchadam5#1noen
44 Klang 51 ÿ# 66 ÿ# 66 Thÿ#Nakhon Sawan 4 Sawan 4
# 47 #þ00000000000000000000550000000000á#ÿ#5000000000000000000000000000000 T4h7Rþ#0000000000at00000000005c5h0000000000aá#ÿ#5d0000000000a0000000000m0000000000noÿ#7e1n 65 Th 5
37#û 23#ú #á 10 37#û 23#ú #á 10 ÿ# 71 Nakhon
Thammasat Thammasat Khlong LaTwThthABtusraadnaansgat 39 #û 39 #û Kla nTghâ#R1a2tchadamnoâ#en8KTlahnLgâ#an12Luang Th Lan Luang
University University Khlong LaTwht Atsadang Trok Sa-Ke Trok Sa-Ke â# 8
Th Na Phra That
5 Th RatchadTahmNnaoePnhrNaaiThat5 ú# #ú f#(TChaanPahl aTanxFisa)V#h 9 Tha Phan Fah
Wat Th Ratchadamnoen NaiSLaunMaanamgWhaatthat f#(Canal Taxis)
Th Tanao 54 ÿ# 24 54 ÿ# 24 V# 9
Mahathat Th Tanao Trok Sin 18 18
#ú Trok Sin #ú Khlong Saen Saeb 5 Khlong Saen Saeb
Sanam Ú# 17 Ú# 17
Luang Th Din So
Th Din So Th Mahachai
Bangkok Th BoriphatBangkok Golden 1 7 2 WSaakteGtMoolduennt 1 7 2 Wat
City Hall Th MahachaiCity Hall Mount Ú# Ú# Ú# Ú# Ú# Ú# Saket
Th Mahan6o#Þ0000000000000000000p 00000000000000000000000000000000000000á#000000000000000000014000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000Th0000000000000000000M0000000000000000000ahTTahhn6BMoa#Þ10000000000000000000pam5hr0000000000000000000æ#aunn0000000000000000000á#go0000000000000000000pM1e40000000000000000000ua0000000000000000000nÿ#g00000000000000000005000000000000000000070000000000000000000TThhBM#úa1#úam52hr#æ23aunn1gopMeuanÿ#g 4T5h7
6 6 6 6
Th Na Phra Lan Th NaTPhhLrakLManeuang Th Lak MeuaTPhnhguPthhroaneng #ú TPhhuPthhroaneng #ú #ú 31 Th Bamrung Meuang
Th Ratchini #ú22
Th Ratchini Bamrung Meuang
Th Sanam Chai ÿ# 56Th1B9am#úru2n7g Meuanÿ#g 56Th1B9am#úru2n7g Meuang TThhSiBriurPahpohnga
Th Sanam Chai Khlong Ong Ang
Khlong Ong Ang
RatcShoai sak #æSoi Ban Baat #æSoi
KO RATANAKOS7IN KO RATATNhAKKaOnSlaINya Namit Th Kanlaya Namit TNhaFkuhaonng 3 Ú# TThhSiBriurPahpohnga#Þ 13 3 Ú# #Þ 13 Ban Baat
TNhaFkuhaonng Wat Wat 7
jiSee map jiSee map
A AB BC CD D E E F F G GH H
Plan Your Trip 1 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
“All you’ve got to do is decide to go
and the hardest part is over.
TONY WHEELER, COFOUNDER – LONELY PLANET
THIS EDITION WRITTEN AND RESEARCHED BY
PPllaannYYoouurrTTrriipp page 1 4
Welcome to Bangkok.......4 If You Like….....................18 Gay & Lesbian
Bangkok’s Top 10.............6 Month by Month............ 20 Bangkok........................ 37
What’s New.....................13 With Kids........................ 22 Entertainment............. 39
Need to Know.................14 Eating............................ 24 Shopping. ..................... 43
Top Itineraries................16 Drinking & Nightlife... 33 Sports & Activities.....48
Explore Bangkok 52
Ko Ratanakosin & Siam Square, Pratunam, Sukhumvit. ...................133
Thonburi........................ 56 Ploenchit & Greater Bangkok..........145
Banglamphu.................. 76 Ratchathewi..................103
Thewet & Dusit.............. 88 Riverside, Silom & Day Trips from
Chinatown...................... 95 Lumphini....................... 118 Bangkok...................... 156
Sleeping....................... 17 7
Understand Bangkok 193
Bangkok Today............ 194 People & Culture.........205 The Sex Industry in
History......................... 196 Eating in Thailand........212 Thailand........................219
Survival Guide 223
Transport......................... 224 Language..........................236
Directory A–Z...................229 Index................................... 242
Bangkok Maps 250
M G THERIN WEISE / GETTY IMAGES © AUSTIN BUSH / GETTY IMAGES ©
(left) Wat Phra Kaew CARLINA TETERIS / GETTY IMAGES ©
p58 Join the pilgrims at
the Emerald Buddha.
(above) Chinatown p95
Explore bustling streets
(right) Noodle soup
p214 Sample Thai
Thewet Siam Square,
& Dusit Pratunam,
Ko Ratanakosin Sukhumvit
& Thonburi p133
Silom & Lumphini
©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
Same same, but different. This
Thailish T-shirt philosophy sums
up Bangkok, a city where the
familiar and the exotic collide like
the flavours on a plate of pàt tai.
Full-on Food Urban Exploration
Until you’ve eaten on a Bangkok street, your With so much of life conducted on the
noodles mingling with your sweat amid a street, there are few cities in the world
cloud of exhaust fumes, you haven’t actually that reward exploration as handsomely as
eaten Thai food. It can be an overwhelm- Bangkok. Cap off an extended boat trip
ing mix: the underlying flavours – spicy, with a visit to a hidden market. A stroll off
sour, sweet and salty – aren’t exactly meat Banglamphu’s beaten track can wind up in
and potatoes. But for adventurous foodies a conversation with a monk. Get lost in the
who don’t need white tablecloths, there’s tiny lanes of Chinatown and stumble upon
probably no better dining destination in a live Chinese opera performance. After
the world. And with immigration bringing dark, let the BTS (Skytrain) escort you to
every regional Thai and international cui- Sukhumvit, where the local nightlife scene
sine to the capital, it’s also a truly diverse reveals a sophisticated and dynamic city.
It’s the contradictions that give the City of
The language barrier may seem huge, but Angels its rich, multifaceted personality.
it’s never prevented anybody from lov- Here climate-controlled megamalls sit be-
ing the Thai people. The capital’s cultural side 200-year-old village homes; gold-spired
underpinnings are evident in virtually all Buddhist temples share space with neon-lit
facets of everyday life, and most enjoyably strips of sleaze; slow-moving rivers of traf-
through its residents’ sense of sà·nùk (fun). fic are bypassed by long-tail boats plying
In Bangkok, anything worth doing should the royal river; and streets lined with food
have an element of sà·nùk. Ordering food, carts are overlooked by restaurants on top
changing money and haggling at markets of skyscrapers serving exotic cocktails. As
will usually involve a sense of playfulness – Bangkok races towards the future, these
a dash of flirtation, perhaps, and a smile. contrasts will never stop supplying the city
It’s a language that doesn’t require words, with its never-ending Thai-ness.
and one that’s easy to learn.
KIMBERLEY COOLE / GETTY IMAGES ©
Why I Love Bangkok
By Austin Bush, Author
Admittedly, there are some things – the hot weather, the pollution, the political instabil-
ity – that make Bangkok a less-than-ideal city. But there’s so much more that makes it
amazing. I love the food. What other city has such a full-flavoured, no-holds-barred,
insatiable, fanatical approach to eating? I love old Bangkok. Districts such as Banglamphu
and Chinatown still carry the grit and character of the city that used to be. And I’d be lying
if I didn’t also say that I love new Bangkok – don’t we all have a soft spot for megamalls
For more about our author, see p272.
Top: Traditional dancer at Erawan Shrine (p106)
6 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
FROEMEL KAPITZA / GETTY IMAGES ©
Open-air Dining (p24) Jim Thompson House (p105)
1 Bangkok’s reputation as a polluted city 2 The late American entrepreneur Jim
belies its forte as an outdoor-dining Thompson used his traditional Thai-
capital. Despite the modern conveniences style home as a repository for Thai tradi-
of air-conditioning and contemporary tions and artwork. Thompson mysteriously
cafes, some of the most memorable meals disappeared in 1967, and today his former
in the city also called the ‘Big Mango’ are home is a museum – one that every visitor
had at the open-air markets and food secretly wishes to live in for a day or more.
stalls. Forget about three square meals: in Why? Rooms are adorned with his exquisite
Bangkok, locals snack throughout the day, art collection and personal possessions,
packing away at least four meals before including rare Chinese porcelain pieces and
sunset. It would be rude not to join them. Burmese, Cambodian and Thai artefacts,
and the garden is a jungle of tropical plants
BELOW: STREET EATS IN CHINATOWN (P101) and lotus ponds, converging in the epitome
of the traditional Thai house.
1Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit
KIMBERLEY COOLE / GETTY IMAGES ©
INGOLF POMPE / GETTY IMAGES © PAUL BEINSSEN / GETTY IMAGES ©
8 PL AN YOUR TRIP B an g ko k ’ s Top 1 0
PL AN YOUR TRIP B an g ko k ’ s Top 1 0
WIBOWO RUSLI / GETTY IMAGES ©
Banglamphu (p76) Chatuchak Wat Pho (p63)
3 Easily Bangkok’s most 5 The grounds of Wat Pho
charming neighbour- (p147) claim a 16th-century
hood, Banglamphu is the birthday, predating Bang-
city’s former aristocratic 4 In a city obsessed with kok itself. In addition to
centre, once filled with commerce, Chatuchak being the country’s biggest
minor royalty and river- Weekend Market takes the temple, Wat Pho is home to
side mansions. Today the prize as Bangkok’s biggest a school of traditional Thai
old quarter is dominated and baddest market. Silks, medicine, where on-site
by antique shophouses, sneakers, fighting cocks massage pavilions facilitate
backpackers seeking R&R and fighting fish, fluffy pup- that elusive convergence of
on famous Th Khao San, pies and souvenirs for the sightseeing and relaxation.
civil servants sauntering insatiable fa·ràng (West- Still not impressed? Let us
between offices and lunch erner) – if it can be sold in not forget Wat Pho’s pri-
spots, and Bangkok’s pre- Thailand, you’ll find it here. mary Buddha – a reclining
dominant enclave of bohe- From everyday to clubby, figure that nearly dwarfs
mian artists and students. clothes dominate much of its sizeable shelter. Sym-
Vendor carts and classic the market, but this being bolic of Buddha’s death and
restaurants make a patch- Thailand, food and drink passage into nirvana, the
work quilt of Banglamphu, also have a strong and re- reclining Buddha measures
offering ample options for freshing presence, making 46m and is gilded with gold
a roving stomach. The area Chatuchak as much about leaf, making it truly larger
is also home to some of the entertainment as it is about than life.
city’s best bars. shopping.
1Ko Ratanakosin &
TOP LEFT: TH KHAO SAN (P82) 1Greater Bangkok
Shopping (p43) Chinatown (p95)
6 Even avowed anticonsumerists weaken 7 Forgive us for positing that Bangkok’s
in Bangkok. One minute they’re tout- Chinatown is something of an Asian El
ing the virtues of a life without material Dorado. The neighbourhood’s main artery,
possessions, the next they’re admiring the Th Yaowarat, is crowded with gold shops –
fake Rolex watches and mapping out the sealed glass-front buildings that look more
route to MBK Center (p113). Bangkok’s like Chinese altars than downtown jewel-
malls, however, are just a warm-up for the lers. Likewise, the Buddha statue at Wat
markets, the cardio workout of shopping. In Traimit has more gold than you’ve likely
this city, footpaths are for additional retail ever seen in one place, and the pencil-thin
space, not for pedestrians. In addition to lanes that branch off Talat Mai are decked
Chatuchak Weekend Market – one of the with gold-leaf-coated goods. Throw in the
world’s largest markets – Bangkok is an es- blazing neon signs and smoky, open-air
tablished destination for bespoke tailoring, kitchens and you have an urban explorer’s
and has its own emerging fashion scene. fantasy.
GREG ELMS / GETTY IMAGES ©
BELOW: MBK CENTER RIGHT: WAT TRAIMIT (P97)
PL AN YOUR TRIP B an g ko k ’ s Top 1 0
KYLIE MCLAUGHLIN / GETTY IMAGES © 11PL AN YOUR TRIP B an g ko k ’ s Top 1 0
PRASIT PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES © Mae Nam Chao
8 Mae Nam Chao Phraya
(Chao Phraya River) is
always teeming with activity:
hulking freighter boats trail
behind dedicated tugs, river-
crossing ferries skip across
the wake, and children prac-
tise cannonballs into the mud-
dy water. You can witness this
from the shore (ideally from
Ko Ratanakosin or Thonburi),
from a chartered long-tail
boat or while on the deck of a
river taxi. Regardless of your
vantage point, as the blinding
sun slips below the horizon of
an evening in serene streaks
of reds and golds, sooty Bang-
kok suddenly looks beautiful.
LEFT: WAT ARUN (P67)
1Ko Ratanakosin &
PL AN YOUR TRIP B an g ko k ’ s Top 1 012 ROY HSU / GETTY IMAGES ©
Thai Cookery Schools (p50) RICHARD I’ANSON / GETTY IMAGES ©
9 Why let a plump tummy be the only sign
of your visit to Thailand? Instead, spice
up your life – and your dinner-party menus –
a little by learning to create the kingdom’s
zesty dishes in your own kitchen. Cooking
schools in Bangkok range from formal af-
fairs for amateur chefs to home cooking for
the recipe-phobic. Everyone always has a
grand time, visiting a wet market, fumbling
with ingredients, tasting the fruits of their
labour and trotting home with new cooking
2Sports & Activities
10 If the idea of no-holds-barred water-based warfare appeals to you, make a point
of being in Bangkok during April. With origins in an ancient religious practice of
Buddha images being ‘bathed’, in recent decades the celebration of the Thai lunar New
Year has evolved into a citywide water fight. Foreigners, especially well-dressed ones,
are obvious targets, and the majority of the mayhem occurs on Th Khao San. In addition
to water-throwing, festivities include open-air concerts and visits to Buddhist temples.
z Month by Month
©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd 13
Hotels on Ko Never Ending Summer
Ratanakosin Achingly hip Thai restaurant that could
turn heads in London or New York City.
Formerly home to lots of atmosphere and (p122)
many attractions (not to mention great
river views) yet a dearth of accommoda- Terminal 21
tion, over the last couple of years several New mall where shopping comes second to
new hotels and guesthouses have sprung taking selfies. (p143)
up in the heart of Bangkok’s historical
district. The sexiest of these are Inn A Day Maggie Choo’s
and Sala Rattanakosin, but there are also Bangkok’s new speakeasy that everybody
several handsome and good-value options, knows about. (p128)
such as Royal Tha Tien Village, Chetuphon
Gate and Arom D Hostel. (p180) Nuer Koo
Street-stall influences and fine-dining
Asiatique flavours in a mall address. (p109)
A unique riverside location and heaps of
hip vendors, restaurants and photo-ops For more recommendations
have made this Bangkok’s most-talked- and reviews, see lonelyplanet.
about market. (p130) com/bangkok
Finally, a reason to eat in Chinatown that
isn’t hawker-based. (p101)
A fun new bar taking its hints from Thai-
land’s past. (p140)
Opposite Mess Hall
This new, lauded opening is the latest to
follow the trend of eclectic, international-
style dining. (p139)
Loy La Long
Tiny, trendy, retro-themed boutique hotel
elevated over Mae Nam Chao Phraya.
14 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
Need to Know
For more information, see Survival Guide (p223)
Currency Daily Costs Advance Planning
Thai baht (B) Budget: less than Three months before Book
1500B a room at a smaller boutique
Language hotel, especially if visiting dur-
¨¨Dorm bed/basic guesthouse ing December/January.
Thai room 250–600B One month before Make reser-
¨¨Street-stall meals 200– vations at nahm (p127); if you
Visas 500B plan to stay in Thailand longer
¨¨One or two of the big-hitter than 30 days, apply for a visa at
International air arrivals receive sights 500–600B the Thai embassy or consulate
30-day visa; 60-day visas avail- ¨¨Get around town on public in your home country.
able from a Thai consulate before transport 20–100B One week before Buy clothes
leaving home. appropriate for hot weather;
Midrange: 1500B to book lessons at a Thai cooking
Money 3000B school.
ATMs widespread; 150B foreign- ¨¨Flashpacker guesthouse Useful Websites
account fee. Upmarket places or midrange hotel room
accept Visa and MasterCard. 800–1500B ¨¨Lonely Planet (www.lonely
¨¨Restaurant meals 500– planet.com) Destination
Mobile Phones 1000B information, hotel bookings,
¨¨Most, if not all, of the big traveller forum and more.
GSM and 3G networks available sights 500–1000B ¨¨BK (www.bk.asia-city.com)
through inexpensive pre-paid ¨¨Get around town on public Online version of Bangkok’s
SIM cards. transport and occasional taxis best listings magazine.
100–300B ¨¨Bangkok 101 (www.
Time bangkok101.com) Tourist-
Top End: more than friendly listings mag.
Asia/Bangkok (GMT/UTC +7 3000B ¨¨Bangkok Post (www.
hours) bangkokpost.com) English-
¨¨Boutique hotel room 3000B language daily.
Tourist Information ¨¨Fine dining 1500–3000B
¨¨Private tours from 850B
Tourism Authority of Thailand ¨¨Get around town in taxis
(TAT; %1672; www.tourismthai 300–800B
land.org) National tourism
Bangkok Information Center
(%0 2225 7612-4; www.bangkok
tourist.com) City-specific tourism
office; staffed booths throughout
WHEN TO GO °C/°F Temp Rainfall inches/mm
Late December/ 40/104 20/500
early January is the 30/86 16/400
coolest time of year 20/68 12/300
and peak tourist sea- 8/200
PL AN YOUR TRIP N eed to K no w
son. Go in November 10/50 4/100
or February for (rela-
tively) cool weather 0/32 0
and fewer people.
JF MAM J J A S OND
Arriving in Getting Around Sleeping
¨¨BTS The elevated Skytrain Travellers are spoilt for
Suvarnabhumi International runs from 6am to midnight. accommodation options in
Airport The Airport Rail Link Tickets 15B to 52B. Bangkok, with the added
runs a local service (45B, 30 ¨¨MRT The metro runs from benefit that much of what’s
minutes) to Phaya Thai station 6am to midnight. Tickets 16B available is excellent value.
and an express service (90B, 17 to 40B. If you’re on a budget, dorm
minutes) to Makkasan or Phaya ¨¨Taxi Outside of rush hours, beds can be had for as little
Thai stations; both run from Bangkok taxis are a great as 250B, while cheap rooms
6am to midnight. Meter taxis bargain. Flag fall 35B. start at about 600B. There’s
run 24 hours and cost approxi- ¨¨Chao Phraya Express River a wide choice of midrange
mately 200B to 300B plus 50B boats run from 6am to 10pm, hotels and an astonishing
airport surcharge and tolls. charging from 10B to 40B. number of top-end places.
¨¨Klorng boat Bangkok’s Be sure to book ahead if
Don Muang International canal boats run from 5.30am you’re arriving during peak
Airport There are two bus lines to 8.30pm. Tickets from 10B tourist season (from ap-
from Bangkok’s de facto budget to 20B. proximately November to
airport: bus A1 makes stops ¨¨Bus Cheap but slow and February) and are keen on
at BTS Mo Chit, while bus A2 confusing way to get around the smaller, boutique-type
makes stops at BTS Mo Chit and Bangkok. Tickets 5B to 30B. hotel.
BTS Victory Monument (30B,
hourly from 9am to midnight). For much more on Useful Websites
Meter taxis from Don Muang getting around,
also charge a 50B airport sur- see p226 ¨¨Travelfish (www.travelfish.
charge, and trips to town start at org) Independent reviews of
approximately 200B. budget and midrange places,
with lots of reader feedback.
For much more on ¨¨Airbnb (www.airbnb.com)
arrival, see p224 Yep, Bangkok is covered here.
¨¨Lonely Planet’s Hotels &
ENGLISH IN BANGKOK Hostels (www.lonelyplanet.
com/hotels) Find reviews and
Don’t know a lick of Thai? Don’t worry: Bangkok is well make bookings.
stocked with English speakers. Street-stall vendors, shop ¨¨Trip Advisor (www.
owners and taxi drivers generally speak enough English tripadvisor.com) An
to conduct a basic transaction. If there is a communica- overabundance of Bangkok
tion problem, though, Thais will find someone to sort listings.
things out. Thais are patient with (and honoured by) at-
tempts to speak their language; with just a few phrases, For much more on
you’ll be rewarded with big grins and heaps of praise. sleeping, see p177
16 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
Day One Day Two
Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi (p56) Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit
& Ratchathewi (p103)
M Get up as early as you can and take
the Chao Phraya Express Boat north M Take the BTS (Skytrain) to National
to Tha Chang to explore one of Ko Ratana- Stadium and start your day with a
koson’s museums such as the Museum of visit to the popular and worthwhile museum
Siam, as well as one of its must-see temples, that is Jim Thompson House. Follow this
such as Wat Pho. by exploring nearby Baan Krua or by mak-
ing a wish at the Erawan Shrine.
Lunch Plunge into authentic Bangkok-
style street food at Pa Aew (p73). Lunch The MBK Food Island (p110) is
an ideal introduction to Thai food.
Riverside, Silom & Lumphini (p118)
Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit
R Refresh with a spa treatment at & Ratchathewi (p103)
Health Land or soothe those over-
worked legs with a traditional Thai massage R Walk, or let the BTS escort you,
at Ruen-Nuad Massage Studio. After through Bangkok’s ultramodern com-
freshening up, get a new perspective on mercial district, stopping off at linked shop-
Bangkok with rooftop cocktails at Moon ping centres including MBK Center, Siam
Bar. Paragon and Siam Square. Make time for
a sweet snack at Gourmet Gallery or an
Dinner nahm (p127) serves what is afternoon cuppa at the Erawan Tea Room.
arguably the best Thai food in Bangkok.
Dinner Try Thai food with a modern
Riverside, Silom & Lumphini (p118) twist at Sra Bua (p111).
N If you’ve still got it in you, get danc- Greater Bangkok (p145)
ing at Tapas Room or head over to
Telephone Pub or any of the other bars in N If it’s Tuesday, Friday or Saturday,
Bangkok’s lively gaybourhood. For a night consider catching a Thai boxing
that doesn’t end until the sun comes up, match at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, or
bang on the door at Wong’s Place. make a point of schlepping over to eastern
Bangkok’s RCA (Royal City Avenue) to check
out fun clubs such as Cosmic Café or Slim/
Day Three Ancient City (Muang Boran; p150) PL AN YOUR TRIP To p I tine r a r ies
Day Four ANDY’Z ART’S WORK / GETTY IMAGES ©
Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi (p56) Greater Bangkok (p145)
M Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat M If it’s a weekend, take the BTS north
to Tha Chang and set off on a long- for a half-day of shopping at the
tail boat tour of Thonburi’s canals. Alter- Chatuchak Weekend Market. Other-
natively, combine canals and the culinary wise, consider a half-day excursion outside
arts with a visit to Amita Thai Cooking the city to the provincial-feeling Non-
Class. thaburi Market, the man-made island of
Ko Kret or the recreated ruins at Ancient
Lunch Enjoy the air-con and spicy City (Muang Boran).
noodles at Coconut Palm (p74).
Lunch Chatuchak Weekend Market
(p147) has cheap and tasty food stalls.
Banglamphu (p76) Chinatown (p95)
R Spend the afternoon shopping at R Recover from the market in the
the Th Khao San Market and relative cool of the late afternoon
visiting the surrounding sights such as before taking the MRT (metro) to China-
the Golden Mount and Wat Suthat. town to visit the home of the Golden Bud-
Or, if you’ve got energy to spare, book an dha, Wat Traimit, and the Chinese-style
afternoon or night bike tour of the area Wat Mangkon Kamalawat. Consider
popping over to Phahurat to sample that
Dinner Take a temporary break from neighbourhood’s South Asian feel, or if
Thai food at Nasir Al-Masri (p138).
with Velo Thailand or Grasshopper Dinner Follow our walking tour (p100)
Adventures. of Chinatown’s best street eats.
Thanon Sukhumvit (p133) you’re there after dark, the flower market
at Pak Khlong Talat.
N End the night with a Thai-themed
cocktail at a cosy local such as Banglamphu (p76)
WTF or Badmotel, or a street-side Sing-
ha at Cheap Charlie’s. If it’s still too early N Make the brief taxi ride to
for you to turn in, extend the night with a Banglamphu and begin the evening
visit to nightclubs Grease or Arena 10. with drinks at Madame Musur, followed
by a rowdy live music show at Brick Bar
or dancing at Club. If bedtime is irrel-
evant, head for the shishas (water pipes)
and dance floor of Triple-D.
18 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
If You Like…
Temples Wat Arun Predating Bangkok, Museums
this temple makes the best
Wat Phra Kaew The granddaddy of a unique riverside location. National Museum An occasion-
of Thai temples – not to mention (p67) ally dusty but wholly worthwhile
the home of a certain Emerald Wat Mangkon Kamalawat The survey of Thai history. (p69)
Buddha. (p58) epitome of the hectic, smoky, Museum of Siam A fun sum-
Wat Pho If you haven’t seen the noisy Chinese-style Buddhist mary of the Thai people and their
ginormous reclining Buddha temple. (p98) culture. (p68)
here, you haven’t seen Bangkok. Sri Mariamman Temple Bangkokian Museum A pre-
(p63) The main Hindu temple in served house that’s a time-warp
Wat Suthat One of Thailand’s Bangkok practically leaps from back to the Bangkok of the early-
biggest Buddhas and equally the street, taking all comers. to-middle 20th century. (p120)
impressive floor-to-ceiling temple (p120)
murals await visitors here. (p79) Songkran Niyomsane Forensic
Medicine Museum & Parasite
Museum Not for the faint of
KAY MAERITZ / GETTY IMAGES ©
Bhuddhaiswan Chapel, National Museum (p69)
heart: a queasy look at the Boats For more top Bangkok PLAN YOUR TRIP If You Like…
more graphic side of death. spots, see the following:
(p69) Chao Phraya Express Boat The ¨¨Eating (p24)
slow but steady – not to men- ¨¨Drinking & Nightlife
Architecture tion scenic – way to get around (p33)
Bangkok. (p227) ¨¨Entertainment (p39)
Riverside Architecture Ramble Long-tail boat tour of ¨¨Shopping (p43)
Follow our walking tour, which Thonburi canals Race through ¨¨Sports & Activities
takes in some of Bangkok’s the narrow, wooden-house- (p48)
most notable secular structures. lined canals of Thonburi, James
(p123) Bond–style. (p68) Sampeng Lane Explore the
Jim Thompson House Beauti- Chao Phraya Cruise Dinner on narrow lanes that spread from
ful former home that brings the deck of a cruise ship is an this market alley in the heart of
together Thailand’s past and admittedly cheesy, yet obliga- Bangkok’s Chinatown. (p99)
present. (p105) tory Bangkok experience. (p125) Amulet Market One of
Ban Kamthieng A perfectly Royal Barges National Bangkok’s most bizarre markets
preserved northern-style Thai Museum A riverside museum is also a great destination for
home – right in the middle of that’s home to some of the most aimless wandering. (p68)
modern Bangkok. (p135) ornate boats in the world. (p70) Church of Santa Cruz Get lost
Ancient City (Muang Boran) in the winding, elevated lanes
See models of Thailand’s most Hipster Haunts surrounding this Thonburi
famous structures without hav- church. (p99)
ing to leave the greater Bangkok Never Ending Summer The
area. (p150) Thai restaurant that’s almost Art
too cool to eat at. (p122)
Eating Like a Local Opposite Mess Hall This res- Jim Thompson House Antique
taurant has international cred to Thai-style house crammed
Likhit Kai Yang Where locals match its cuisine. (p139) with beautiful works of art from
fuel up before the big moo·ay Grease New nightclub where across Southeast Asia. (p105)
tai (Thai boxing; also spelt muay celebs and wannabes mix and 100 Tonson Gallery Housed in
thai) match. (p93) bump. (p140) a villa, 101 Tonson is regarded
MBK Food Island Do the local Badmotel Modern lines and as one of Bangkok’s top com-
thing by forgetting about ambi- Thai kitsch draw Bangkok’s ‘in’ mercial galleries. (p107)
ance and focusing on the food crowd to this bar. (p140) Bangkok Art & Culture Centre
at this mall-based food court. Talat Rot Fai Witness every Thai Contemporary art meets com-
(p110) youth subculture at this open- merce in the centre of Bangkok.
A Taste of Chinatown Take our air market. (p150) (p106)
food-based walking tour and Tang Gallery Private gallery
you’ll see why Thais are willing Urban Exploration featuring the work of contem-
to cross town for a bowl of porary Thai and Chinese artists.
noodles. (p100) Talat Mai Blaze your own path (p121)
Pa Aew An open-air curry stall in this web-like riverside neigh-
that excels in the flavours of bourhood. (p98)
Bangkok and Central Thailand.
20 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
Month by Month
TOP EVENTS tourists, February is images, today’s celebrations
Chinese New Year, a clever time to visit resemble a citywide water
January/February Bangkok. fight. The most intense bat-
Songkran, April tles are fought on Th Khao
Vegetarian Festival, 3 Kite Flying Season San – don’t carry anything
September/October you don’t want to get wet.
Loi Krathong, November During the windy season,
Wat Saket Fair, from the middle of Febru- May
November ary to early April, colourful
kites battle it out over the May and June mean the
January skies of Sanam Luang and beginning of the rainy
Lumphini Park. season in most parts of
The weather is still Thailand, and some of
relatively cool in Bangkok, z Makha Bucha the festivals during these
and the number of foreign months have origins in
tourists remains quite Makha Bucha is held on the this significant occasion.
high. full moon of the third lunar
month (late February to z Royal Ploughing
z Chinese New Year early March) to commemo-
rate the Buddha preaching Ceremony
Some time from late Janu- to 1250 monks who came To kick off the official
ary to late February, Bang- to hear him ‘without prior rice-planting season in
kok’s large Thai-Chinese summons’. It culminates early May, the crown prince
population celebrate their with a candlelit walk presides over this ancient
lunar new year, called đrùđ around the main chapel at Brahman ritual held at San-
jeen in Thai, with a week every wát. am Luang. It culminates in
full of house cleaning, lion sacred white oxen plough-
dances and fireworks. The April ing the earth and priests
most impressive festivities, declaring it a good or bad
not surprisingly, take place This is the height of year for farmers.
in Chinatown. Bangkok’s hot season,
so it should come as no z Visakha Bucha
February surprise that the Thais
have a festival that Visakha Bucha, on the full
With relatively revolves around splashing moon of the sixth lunar
comfortable (although water on each other. month (May or June), is
increasingly warm) considered the date of the
temperatures and few z Songkran Buddha’s birth, enlighten-
ment and parinibbana
Songkran is the Thai New (passing away). Activities
Year, and although it has are centred on the local wát,
origins in a religious prac- with candlelit processions,
tice of ‘bathing’ Buddha chanting and sermonising.
July (September or October), is held at Wat Saket and PLAN YOUR TRIP Month by Month
this Chinese-Buddhist the Golden Mount around
Thailand’s rainy season is festival, called têt·sà·gahn Loi Krathong. The temple
well under way during this gin jair, sees street-side grounds turn into a
time, and tourist numbers vendors serving meatless colourful, noisy fair sell-
are correspondingly low. meals to help cleanse the ing flowers, incense, bells,
The most significant body. Most of the action is saffron cloth and tonnes of
event of the season is a in Chinatown: look for the Thai food.
Buddhist holiday ushering yellow banners and white
in the rains. clothes. December
z Asanha Bucha & October The coolest month of
the year sees a handful
Khao Phansa Bangkok is wet during of outdoor festivals and
Held on the full moon of October, so festivals are events. Tourist numbers
the eighth lunar month few on the ground. are at their peak, but
(July or August), Asanha this is arguably the most
Bucha commemorates 3 World Film pleasant month to visit
the Buddha’s first post- Bangkok.
enlightenment sermon. Festival of Bangkok
The following day, young More than 80 films are z King’s Birthday/
men traditionally enter shown at this increasingly
the monkhood and monks popular film festival (www. Father’s Day
sequester themselves in worldfilmbkk.com), which Celebrating King Bhumi-
a monastery for three has an emphasis on Asian bol’s birthday (5 December),
months (known as Khao cinema. For popular films, the city is festooned with
Phansa). book ahead. lights and large portraits of
the king. In the afternoon,
September November Sanam Luang is packed
for a fireworks display that
September is the wettest The rain’s (mostly) segues appropriately into a
month in and around stopped, the weather’s noisy concert with popular
Bangkok, and as a result (relatively) cool, the Thai musicians.
most festivals alternate crowds are low, and the
between being held festivals are plentiful: 3 Phra Nakhon
indoors or taking place November is one of the
directly on water. best months to visit Si Ayuthaya World
Bangkok. Heritage Fair
3 Thailand A series of cultural per-
z Loi Krathong formances and evening
International Swan sound-and-light shows
Boat Races On the night of the full among the ruins of the
In late September, more moon of the 12th lunar World Heritage Site in the
than 20 international month, grà·tong (boats former Thai capital, Ay-
teams race traditional made of a section of banana uthaya. Late December.
Thai-style long boats in trunk) are floated on Mae
various classes (the larg- Nam Chao Phraya. The 3 Concert in the
est has 55 paddlers) along ceremony is both an offer-
Mae Nam Chao Phraya in ing to the water spirits and Park
Ayuthaya. a symbolic cleansing of bad Free concerts from the
luck. Bangkok Symphony Or-
5 Vegetarian chestra are performed
1 Wat Saket Fair Sunday evenings (from
Festival 5.30pm to 7.30pm) be-
During the first nine days The grandest of Bangkok’s tween mid-December and
of the ninth lunar month temple fairs (ngahn wát) mid-February at Lumphini
22 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd
With Parks & Playgrounds
There aren’t a whole lot of Central Bangkok’s biggest park (p122) is a
attractions in Bangkok meant trusty ally in the cool hours of the morning
to appeal directly to the little and afternoon for kite flying (in season –
ones, but there’s no lack of locals February to April), boat rentals and fish
willing to provide attention. This feeding, as well as stretching of the legs
means kids are welcome almost and lungs. Nearby, kids can view lethal
anywhere and you’ll rarely snakes become reluctant altruists at the
experience the sort of eye-rolling antivenin-producing Snake Farm (p121).
annoyance often seen in the West.
OLIVER STREWE / GETTY IMAGES © In addition to the animals, Dusit Zoo
(p92) has shady grounds, plus a lake in
the centre with paddle boats for hire and a
small children’s playground.
It’s not exactly a zoo, but kids can join
the novice monks and Thai children at Tha
Thewet (Map p257; Th Samsen; h7am-7pm;
bus 32, 315, fTha Thewet) as they throw food
(bought on the pier) to thousands of flap-
Play Centres & Amusement Parks
For kid-specific play centres, consider Fun-
arium (p144), central Bangkok’s largest, or
the new and impressive KidZania (p117).
Alternatively, Siam Park City (p154), Safari
World (p154) or Dream World (p154) are
all vast amusement parks found north of
If you’re visiting during the rainy season
(approximately from June to October), the
brief-but-daily downpours will inevitably
complicate things, so you’ll need a few
indoor options in your back pocket.
MBK Center (p113) and Siam Paragon
(p111) both have bowling alleys to keep the
older ones occupied. The latter also has
an IMAX theatre and Siam Ocean World
(p106), a basement-level aquarium. All of
these malls and most others in Bangkok
have amusement centres with video games,
small rides and playgrounds (they’re often
located near the food courts).
Snake handling, Dusit Zoo (p92)
NEED TO KNOW PLAN YOUR TRIP With Kids
Bambi (www.bambiweb.org) A useful resource for parents in Bangkok.
Thorn Tree Kids To Go forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) Questions and
answers from other travellers with children on Lonely Planet’s community forum.
Bangkok.com (www.bangkok.com/kids) This website lists a dizzying array of things
to do for kids.
Bangkok Doll Factory & Museum Infants
This somewhat hard-to-find museum Nappies (diapers), international brands
(p107) houses a colourful selection of tradi- of milk formula and other infant require-
tional Thai dolls, both new and antique. ments are widely available. For something
more specific you’ll find the Central Chid-
Kid Friendly Museums lom (p117) as well stocked as anywhere on
earth (there’s an entire floor devoted to
Museum of Siam kids). In general, Thai women don’t breast-
Although not specifically targeted towards feed in public, though in department stores
children, the Museum of Siam (p68) has they’ll often find a changing room.
lots of interactive exhibits that will appeal
to kids. Eating
Dining with children in Thailand, particu-
Madame Tussaud’s larly with infants, is a liberating experi-
Siam Discovery Center has a branch of this ence, as Thai people are so fond of kids.
famous wax museum (p116). Take it for granted that your babies will
be fawned over, played with – and even
Ancient City (Muang Boran) carried around – by restaurant waitstaff.
Outside of town, this open-air museum Consider this a much-deserved break, not
(p150) recreates Thailand’s most famous to mention a bit of free cultural exposure.
monuments. They’re linked by bicycle
paths and were practically built for being For the widest choice of food, child-
climbed on. friendly surroundings and noise levels
that will drown out even the loudest child,
Practicalities you may find the food courts of Bangkok’s
many megamalls to be the most comfort-
Many hotels offer family deals, adjoin- able family dining options. Highchairs are
ing rooms and (in midrange and top-end rare outside expensive restaurants.
hotels) cots, so enquire specifically. Car
seats, on the other hand, are almost impos- Because much of Thai food is so spicy,
sible to find, and even if you bring your there is an entire art devoted to order-
own most taxis have no seatbelt in the ing ‘safe’ dishes for children, and the vast
back. Taxi drivers generally won’t temper majority of Thai kitchens are more than
their speed because you’re travelling with willing to oblige. Many a child in Thailand
a child, so if need be don’t hesitate to tell has grown up on a diet of little more than
them to cháh cháh (‘slow down’). gaang jèut, a bland, Chinese-influenced
soup containing ground pork, soft tofu and
For moving by foot, slings are often a handful of noodles, or variations on kôw
more useful than prams, as Bangkok side- pàt, fried rice. Other mild options include
walks are infamously uneven. kôw man gài, Hainanese chicken rice, and
jóhk, rice gruel. For something bland, big
hotels usually sell their baked goods for
half price after 6pm.
24 ©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd KYLIE MCLAUGHLIN / GETTY IMAGES ©
Amphawa Floating Market (p165)
Nowhere else is the Thai reverence for food more evident than in Bangkok.
To the outsider, the life of a Bangkokian appears to be a string of meals
and snacks punctuated by the odd stab at work, not the other way around.
If you can adjust your mental clock to this schedule, your visit will be a
delicious one indeed.
PLAN YOUR TRIP EATINGNEED TO KNOW
INGOLF POMPE / GETTY IMAGES © Price Ranges
Prices are for the cost of a meal (a main
dish and a drink), as indicated in eating
$ less than 150B
$$ 150B to 300B
$$$ more than 300B
Food stall, Chatuchak Weekend Market (p147) Opening Hours
Bangkok’s Dining Scene Restaurants serving Thai food are gener-
During the last couple of decades, Thai ally open from 10am to 8pm or 9pm.
food has become internationally famous, Foreign-cuisine restaurants tend to keep
and Bangkok is, not surprisingly, the best only lunch and dinner hours (ie 11am to
place in the world to eat it. From roadside 2pm and 6pm to 10pm).
stalls to restaurants with Michelin stars
in their eyes, the whole spectrum of Thai Bangkok has passed a citywide ordi-
food is available here. Bangkok is home to nance banning street vendors from setting
its own unique cuisine, and because of its up shop on Mondays.
position as a cultural and literal crossroads,
just about every regional Thai cuisine is Reservations
available in the city as well. More recent
immigration to the city has resulted in a If you have a lot of friends in tow or will
dining scene whose options range from be attending a formal restaurant (includ-
Korean to French, touching on just about ing hotel restaurants), reservations are
everything in between. recommended. Bookings are also recom-
mended for Sunday brunches and dinner
If you’re new to Thai cuisine, check out cruises. Otherwise, you shouldn’t have a
our crash course on Thai food (p212) before problem scoring a table at the vast major-
digging in. ity of restaurants in Bangkok.
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that
tipping is not obligatory in Thailand. Some
people leave roughly 10% at any sit-down
restaurant where someone fills their glass
every time they take a sip. Others don’t.
Most upmarket restaurants will apply a
10% service charge to the bill.
Where to Eat & Drink with a cluster of food vendors, metal tables
Prepared food is available just about every- and chairs, and some shopping as an after-
where in Bangkok, and it shouldn’t come as dinner mint.
a surprise that the locals do much of their
eating outside the home. In this regard, as a For impromptu drinking and snacking,
visitor, you’ll fit right in. Bangkok also has an overabundance of
modern cafes – including branches of sever-
Open-air markets and food stalls are al international chains. Most serve passable
among the most popular dining spots for takes on Western-style coffee drinks, cakes
Thais. In the mornings, stalls selling cof- and sweets.
fee and Chinese-style doughnuts spring up
along busy commuter corridors. At lunch- There are, of course, restaurants (ráhn
time, diners might grab a plastic chair at ah·hăhn) in Bangkok. Lunchtime is the
yet another stall for a simple stir-fry, or pick right time to point and eat at the ráhn
up a foam box of noodles to scarf down at kôw gaang (rice and curry shops), which
the office. In Bangkok’s suburbs, night mar- sell a selection of pre-made dishes. The
kets often spring up in the middle of town more generic ráhn ah·hăhn đahm sàng
(made-to-order restaurant) can often be
26 ASHOK SINHA / GETTY IMAGES ©
ADX COLLECTIONS / GETTY IMAGES © (Above) Pàt tai, a traditional dish of thin
rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, bean
sprouts, tofu, egg and seasonings.
(Left) Seafood đôm yam, a spicy-and-
Eating by Neighbourhood
TheweBtre&ezDy usit Greater Bangkok
riverfront dining Regional Thai
(p93) cuisine and
Classic, old-school PLAN YOUR TRIP EATING
(p81) Siam Square, Pratunam, Sukhumvit
Ploenchit & Ratchathewi Cuisine from
ú# every country
Mall-based food courts
Chinatown (p109) (p136)
street eats #ú #ú
(p101) Riverside, Silom
#úam C hao Phraya
Everything from hotel
restaurants to street carts
recognised by a display of raw ingredients dish. If that fails, turn to the language chap-
– Chinese kale, tomatoes, chopped pork, ter (p236) and practise your Thai.
fresh or dried fish, noodles, eggplant, spring
onions – Bangkok is of course also home to dozens
and offer a standard repertoire of Thai and of upscale restaurants, many of which are
Chinese-Thai dishes. As the name implies, attached to hotels. For the most part, those
the cooks will attempt to prepare any dish serving Thai cuisine have adjusted their
you can name – a potentially difficult op- recipes to suit foreign palates – for more
eration if you can’t speak Thai. authentic food you’re much better off eating
at the cheaper shophouse-style restaurants.
The most common type of restaurant On the other hand, upscale and hotel res-
in Bangkok – and arguably the most deli- taurants are probably the best places in
cious – is the shophouse restaurant. The Bangkok for authentic Western-style food.
cooks at these places have most likely been If this is outside your price range, you’ll
serving the same dish, or a limited rep- be happy to know that there’s also a huge
ertoire of dishes, for several decades, and spread of midrange foreign restaurants in
really know what they’re doing. The food today’s Bangkok, many of them quite good.
may cost slightly more than on the street,
but the setting is usually more comfortable Local Specialities
and hygienic, not to mention the fact that In Bangkok, geography, the influence of the
you’re eating a piece of history. While such royal palace and the country’s main mi-
restaurants rarely have English-language norities – Chinese and Muslims – have all
menus, you can usually point to a picture or served to shape the local cuisine.
PLAN YOUR TRIP EATING28
BANGKOK’S BEST BITES
David Thompson is a Michelin-starred chef and a best-selling author; he’s also head chef
at Bangkok restaurant nahm (p127).
Classic Bangkok-Style Dishes
I like some of the dishes in Chinatown, whether it be the oyster place I adore, Nai Mong
Hoi Thod (p100), or whether it be noodles with fish dumplings or with roast duck; Ъoo
pat pong gàriì (crab fried with curry powder), when done well, is bloody delicious and
accessible. And pàt tai – well, you can’t really escape from the cliché, however delicious
it might be.
Best Food ’Hood
It depends on what I’m looking for. Chinatown, for smoked duck or noodles. But if you
want to eat Thai food, you need to go to the markets. Bangkok still has some remnants
of the city or villages that it was. For Muslim food you can go down near the Oriental
Hotel (Haroon village), or for Portuguese cakes, you can go to Santa Cruz.
It changes all the time. I like Krua Apsorn (p83). It’s local. It’s good. It’s unreformed. It’s
not too precious. They cook for Thais, they feed Thais and it is Thai.
Of course, Or Tor Kor Market (p151). Even though it’s sanitised, its soul has not been
expunged from it as it’s modernised. There’s some great stuff there.
Best Eating Advice for a First-Time Visitor
Just bloody well eat it – don’t think about it – just eat it. It’s so unlikely you’ll get sick, but
you will kick yourself for not actually just diving in. Go to places that look busiest, be-
cause they’re busy for a reason. And a bit of food poisoning, well that adds local colour,
CENTRAL THAI CUISINE dressing. Try it at Kimleng (p83), in Bangkok’s
The people of central Thailand are fond of Ðôm yam Lemon grass, kaffir lime leaf and lime
sweet/savoury flavours, and many dishes juice give this soup its characteristic tang; fresh
include freshwater fish, pork, coconut milk chillies or an oily chilli paste provide it with its
and palm sugar – common ingredients legendary sting. Available just about everywhere,
in the central Thai plains. Because of the but it’s hard to beat the version at Krua Apsorn
region’s proximity to the Gulf of Thailand, (p83).
central Thai eateries, particularly those in Yen đah foh Combining a slightly sweet crimson-
Bangkok, also serve a wide variety of sea- coloured broth with a variety of meat balls,
food. Chinese labourers and vendors intro- cubes of blood and crispy greens, yen đah foh is
duced a huge variety of noodle and wok- probably both the most intimidating and popular
fried dishes to central Thailand as many as noodle dish in Bangkok. Available at Soi 10 Food
200 years ago. Centres (p124) and many street stalls.
Gaang sôm Central Thailand’s famous ‘sour soup’
Must-eat central Thai and Bangkok often includes freshwater fish, vegetables and/or
dishes include the following: herbs, and a thick, tart broth. Available at Poj Spa
Pàt tai Thin rice noodles stir-fried with dried Gŏo·ay đĕe·o reu·a Known as boat noodles
and/or fresh shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and because they were previously served from small
seasonings, traditionally served with lime halves boats along the canals of central Thailand, these
and a few stalks of Chinese chives and a sliced intense pork- or beef-based bowls are among the
banana flower. Thip Samai (p81), in Banglamphu,
is probably Bangkok’s most lauded destination
for the dish.
Yam Ъlah dùk foo Fried shredded catfish, chilli
and peanuts served with a sweet/tart mango
most full-flavoured of Thai noodle dishes. Try a PLAN YOUR TRIP EATINGrecipe), are a dying breed. Banglamphu restaurant
bowl at Bharani (p136). Chote Chitr (p82) serves an excellent version of
RAFFAELE NICOLUSSI (WWW.MADGRIN.COM) / GETTY IMAGES © the dish.
ROYAL THAI CUISINE
Another significant influence on the city’s
kitchens has come from the Bangkok-based Immigrants from southern China have been
royal court, which has been producing influencing Thai cuisine for centuries, and
sophisticated and refined takes on central it was most likely Chinese labourers and
Thai dishes for nearly 300 years. Although vendors who introduced the wok and sev-
originally only available within the palace eral varieties of noodle dishes to Thailand.
walls, these so-called ‘royal’ Thai dishes are They also influenced Bangkok’s cuisine
now available across the city. in other ways: beef is not widely eaten in
Máh hór With origins in the palace, this is a Thai Bangkok due to a Chinese-Buddhist teach-
appetiser that combines chunks of mandarin, ing that forbids eating ‘large’ animals.
orange or pineapple and a sweet/savoury/pep-
pery topping that includes pork, chicken, peanuts, Thai-Chinese dishes you’re likely to run
sugar, peppercorns and coriander root. Available across in Bangkok include the following:
as part of the set meal at nahm (p127). Kôw kăh mŏo Braised pork leg served over rice,
Ъlah hâang Dried fish combined with sugar and often with sides of greens and a hard-boiled egg,
crispy deep-fried shallots, served on top of slices is the epitome of the Thai-Chinese one-dish meal.
of watermelon – this ancient and refreshing pal- Available at the Soi 10 Food Centres (p124) and
ace recipe is available at Mangkud Cafe (p74). other street markets.
Kà·nŏm bêu·ang The old-school version of these Kôw man gài Chicken rice, originally from the Chi-
taco-like snacks comes in two varieties: sweet and nese island of Hainan, is now found in just about
savoury. every corner of Bangkok. We particularly like the
Mèe gròrp Crispy noodles made the traditional version served at Boon Tong Kiat Singapore
way, with a sweet/sour flavour (a former palace Hainanese Chicken Rice (p136).
Bà·mèe Chinese-style wheat and egg noodles
typically served with slices of barbecued pork,
Food stall, Chatuchak Weekend Market (p147)
PLAN YOUR TRIP EATING30 FLASH PARKER / GETTY IMAGES ©
a handful of greens and/or wontons. Mangkorn
Khăo (p100), a street stall in Chinatown, does one ANDREA PISTOLESI / GETTY IMAGES ©
of Bangkok’s better bowls.
Săh·lah·Ъow Chinese-style steamed buns, served Top: Gaang mát·sà·màn (‘Muslim curry’)
with sweet or savoury fillings, are a favourite Middle: Soups at a street stall
snack in Bangkok. Bottom: Fried seafood snacks
Gŏo·ay đĕe·o kôo·a gài Wide rice noodles fried
with little more than egg, chicken, salted squid OLIVER STREWE / GETTY IMAGES ©
and garlic oil is a popular dish in Bangkok’s
Or sòo·an Another Bangkok Chinatown staple,
this dish combines a sticky, eggy batter topped
with oysters. Nai Mong Hoi Thod (p100) does
what is arguably Bangkok’s best take on this dish.
Gŏo·ay jáp This dish consists of an intensely
peppery broth and pork offal; look for it on our
food-based walking tour of Chinatown (p100).
Muslims are thought to have first visited
Thailand during the late 14th century.
Along with the Quran, they brought with
them a meat- and dried-spice-based cuisine
from their homelands in India and the Mid-
dle East. Nearly 700 years later, the impact
of this culinary commerce can still be felt
While some Muslim dishes such as
roh·đee, a fried bread similar to the Indian
paratha, have changed little, if at all, others
such as gaang mát·sà·màn are a unique
blend of Thai and Indian/Middle Eastern
cooking styles and ingredients.
Common Thai-Muslim dishes include the
Kôw mòk Biryani, a dish found across the Muslim
world, also has a foothold in Bangkok. Here the
dish is typically made with chicken and is served
with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce and a bowl
of chicken broth. We love the version served at
Sà·đé (satay) These grilled skewers of meat prob-
ably came to Thailand via Malaysia. The savoury
peanut-based dipping sauce is often mistakenly
associated with Thai cooking. Typically available
at street markets such as Soi 38 Night Market
Má·đà·bà Known as murtabak in Malaysia and In-
donesia, these are roh·đee that have been stuffed
with a savoury or sometimes sweet filling and
fried until crispy. Available at Roti-Mataba (p83).
Súp hăhng woo·a Oxtail soup, possibly another
Malay contribution, is even richer and often more
sour than the ‘Buddhist’ Thai đôm yam. Try the Cooking Courses PLAN YOUR TRIP EATING
dish at Muslim Restaurant (p122). Bangkok has a number of great cooking
Sà·làt kàak Literally ‘Muslim salad’ (kàak is a courses (p50) that are geared towards
somewhat derogatory word used to describe visitors wanting to recreate the cuisine at
people or things of Indian and/or Muslim origin), home.
this dish combines iceberg lettuce, chunks of firm
tofu, cucumber, hard-boiled egg and tomato, all Food Markets
topped with a sweet peanut sauce. If you take pleasure in seeing food in its
Gaang mát·sà·màn ‘Muslim curry’ is a rich raw form, Bangkok is home to dozens of
coconut-milk-based dish, which, unlike most traditional-style wet markets (p28), ranging
Thai curries, gets much of its flavour from dried from the grungy to the flashy.
spices. As with many Thai-Muslim dishes, there is
an emphasis on the sweet. Longstanding Muslim
Restaurant (p122) does a good take on the dish.
Roh·đee This crispy fried pancake, drizzled with
condensed milk and sugar, is the perfect street
dessert. Get yours on the street or at Roti-Mataba
PLAN YOUR TRIP EATING Lonely Planet’s Top Best for Old-School Best for Dessert
Choices Thai Dining
Eat Me (p126)
nahm (p127) Upscale Thai that’s Muslim Restaurant (p122) Old Siam Plaza (p101)
worth every baht. Ngwanlee Lung Suan (p126) Gourmet Paradise (p110)
Eat Me (p126) Modern, interna- Sanguan Sri (p109) Nang Loeng Market (p93)
tional dining in a gallery setting. Roti-Mataba (p83) Little Beast (p138)
Krua Apsorn (p83) Rich central Ming Lee (p74)
Thai fare in a homely setting. Best Riverside Views
Jay Fai (p83) Decades-old Best Foreign Cuisine
shophouse serving flash-fried Restaurants Sala Rattanakosin (p74)
masterpieces. Mangkud Cafe (p74)
MBK Food Island (p110) Cheap, Jidori-Ya Kenzou (p138) Steve Café & Cuisine (p94)
cheerful and tasty: Bangkok’s Little Beast (p138) Samsara (p101)
best food court. Nasir Al-Masri (p138) Lord Jim’s (p124)
Myeong Ga (p139)
Best by Budget Appia (p138) Best Buffets
$ Best for Vegetarian Four Seasons Sunday Brunch
Pa Aew (p73) Baan Suan Pai (p152) Rang Mahal (p136)
Nai Mong Hoi Thod (p100) Saras (p136) Marriott Café (p136)
Nuer Koo (p109) Arawy Vegetarian Food (p81) Sunday Jazzy Brunch (p136)
Muslim Restaurant (p122) Chennai Kitchen (p124) Lord Jim’s (p124)
Likhit Kai Yang (p93) Chocolate Buffet (p128)
Chennai Kitchen (p124) Best for Regional
Thai Cuisine Best Food Markets
Likhit Kai Yang (p93) Or Tor Kor Market (p151)
Kai Thort Jay Kee (p126) Supanniga Eating Room (p137) Nonthaburi Market (p150)
Shoshana (p83) Mallika Restaurant (p111) Talat Mai (p98)
Samsara (p101) Jay So (p124) Nang Loeng Market (p93)
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao
Long Bao (p109) Best for Bangkok-
Thanon Phadungdao Seafood Style Food
Taling Pling (p125) Pa Aew (p73)
Poj Spa Kar (p83)
$$$ Thip Samai (p81)
Little Beast (p138) Nang Loeng Market (p93)
Le Normandie (p124)
AUSTIN BUSH / GETTY IMAGES ©
Cheap Charlie’s (p140)
Despite what your dodgy uncle told you, having a good time in Bangkok
does not necessarily have to involve ping-pong balls or the word ‘go-go’. As
in any big international city, the drinking and partying scene in Bangkok
ranges from classy to trashy and hits just about everything in between.
The Scene common for the men in brown to switch on
Bangkok is a party animal – even when on a the lights in clubs and bars way before most
tight leash. Back in 2001, the Thaksin admin- folks’ bedtime, or at least before dawn.
istration started enforcing closing times and
curtailing other excesses that made the city’s Bars
nightlife famous. Since his 2006 ousting, the Bangkok’s watering holes cover the spectrum
laws have been conveniently circumvented from English-style pubs where you can com-
or inconsistently enforced; several years on, fortably sit with a pint and the paper to chic
the post-coup party scene has shown signs dens where the fair and beautiful go to be
of restoring Bangkok to its old position as seen more than imbibe. Bangkok is one of
Southeast Asia’s fun master – a role uptight the few big cities in the world where nobody
Singapore almost usurped. But it’s not un- seems to mind if you slap a bar on top of a
PLAN YOUR TRIP DRINKING & NIGHTLIFE NEED TO KNOW auto exhaust, and tasty dishes absentmind-
edly nibbled between toasts.
Bangkok bars don’t have cover charges,
Since 2004, authorities have ordered most but they do generally enforce closing time
of Bangkok’s bars and clubs to close by at 1am, and sometimes earlier if they sus-
1am. A complicated zoning system sees pect trouble from the cops.
venues in designated ‘entertainment areas’,
including RCA, Th Silom, and parts of Th If you want to drink your way through
Bangkok’s best nightlife zone, take our
Banglamphu pub crawl (p85).
Sukhumvit, open until 2am (sometimes as Nightclubs
late as 4am), but even these ‘later’ licences Bangkok’s club scene is as fickle as a ripe
are subject to police whimsy. mango, and venues that were pulling in
thousands a night just last year are often
Smoking only vague memories today. Clubs here also
Smoking has been outlawed at all indoor tend to burn strong and bright on certain
(and some quasi-outdoor) entertainment nights – a visit from a foreign DJ or the mu-
places since 2008. sic flavour of the month – then hibernate
every other night.
Most rooftop bars enforce a dress code – What used to be a rotating cast of hot
no shorts or sandals. This is also the case spots has slowed to a few standards on the
with many of Bangkok’s dance clubs. sois off Th Sukhumvit, Th Silom, Th Ratch-
adapisek and Royal City Ave (RCA) – the
ID city’s ‘entertainment zones’ – which qualify
The drinking age in Thailand is 20, for the 2am closing time. Most places don’t
although it’s only usually dance clubs that begin filling up until midnight. Cover
ask for ID. charges can run as high as 600B and usu-
ally include a drink or two. You’ll need ID
Wine Whinge to prove you’re legal (20 years old); they’ll
Imported wine is subject to a litany of card even the grey-haired.
taxes, making Thailand among the most
expensive places in the world to drink If you find 2am too early to call it a
wine. A bottle typically costs 400% of its night, don’t worry – Thais have found curi-
price back home, up to 600% in upmarket ously creative methods of flouting closing
restaurants. Even domestic wines are times. Speakeasies have sprung up all over
subject to many of the same taxes, the city, so follow the crowds – no one is
making them only marginally cheaper. heading home. Some places just remove
the tables and let people drink on the floor
Other Resources (somehow this is an exemption), while
To keep crowds interested, clubs host other places serve beer in teapots. If it
weekly theme parties and visiting DJs seems strange…welcome to Bangkok.
that ebb and flow in popularity. To find out
what’s on, check out Dude Sweet (www. For live music, traditional performances
dudesweet.org), Club Soma (www.facebook. and Bangkok’s infamous ‘adult’ entertain-
com/clubsomaparty) or Paradise Bangkok ment, see our Entertainment chapter (p39).
(www.zudrangmarecords.com), all organisers
of hugely popular monthly parties, or local Drinks
listings rags such as BK and the Bangkok Bangkok is justifiably renowned for its
Post’s Friday supplement, Guru. food and nightlife, but markedly less so for
its beverages. Yet drinks are the glue that
skyscraper (although it’s worth noting that fuse these elements, and without them,
most rooftop bars enforce a dress code – no that cabaret show would be markedly less
shorts or sandals). entertaining.
But many visitors associate Bangkok BEER
with the kind of bars that don’t have an ad-
dress – found just about everywhere in the Advertised with such slogans as ‘Ъrà·têht
city. Think streetside seating, plastic chairs, row, bee·a row’ (‘our land, our beer’), the
Singha label is considered the quintessen-
tial Thai beer by fa·ràng (Westerners) and
locals alike. Pronounced sĭng, this pilsner
claims about half the domestic market. ‘jelly beer’ – beer that has been semi-frozen PLAN YOUR TRIP DRINKING & NIGHTLIFE
The alcohol content for Singha beer is a until it reaches a deliciously slushy and
heady 6%. It is sold in brown glass bottles refreshing consistency.
(330mL, 500mL and 630mL) with a shiny
gold lion on the label, as well as in cans SPIRITS
(330mL). It’s also available on tap as bee·a
sòt (draught beer) – slightly tastier than Thai rice whisky has a sharp, sweet taste –
either bottled or canned brew – in many not unlike rum – with an alcohol content
Bangkok pubs and restaurants. of 35%. The most famous brand for many
years was Mekong (pronounced mâa kŏng),
Singha’s biggest rival, Beer Chang, but currently the most popular brand is the
pumps the alcohol content up to 7%. Beer slightly more expensive Sang Som (actually
Chang has managed to gain an impressive a rum). Both come in 750mL bottles called
following mainly because it retails at a sig- glom, or in 375mL flask-shaped bottles
nificantly lower price than Singha and thus called baan.
offers more bang per baht. Boon Rawd (the
maker of Singha) responded with its own There are also more expensive barley-
cheaper brand, Leo. Sporting a black-and- based whiskies produced in Thailand,
red leopard label, Leo costs only slightly which appeal to the can’t-afford-Johnnie-
more than Beer Chang but is similarly high Walker-yet set. Brands include Blue Eagle,
in alcohol. 100 Pipers and Spey Royal, each with a 40%
Dutch-licensed but Thailand-brewed
Heineken comes third after Singha and Thais normally buy whisky by the bottle
Chang in sales rankings. Similar ‘domestic and drink it with ice, plenty of soda water
imports’ include Asahi and San Miguel. and a splash of Coke. If you don’t finish
Other Thai-brewed beers, all at the lower your bottle, simply tell your waiter, who will
end of the price spectrum, include Cheers write your name and the date on the bottle
and Beer Thai. More variation in Thai beer and keep it for your next visit.
brands is likely in the coming years as
manufacturers scramble to command mar- Drinking & Nightlife by
ket share by offering a variety of flavours Neighbourhood
¨¨Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi Romantic
To the surprise of many foreigners, most riverside drinking.
Thais drink their beer with ice. Before you ¨¨Banglamphu Rowdy Th Khao San is one of the
rule this supposed blasphemy out complete- city’s best areas for a night out.
ly, there are a few reasons why the Thais ¨¨Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit &
actually prefer beer on the rocks. Thai beer Ratchathewi Bangkok’s most central zone is
does not possess the most sophisticated home to a scant handful of bars.
bouquet in the world and is best drunk as ¨¨Riverside, Silom & Lumphini Bangkok’s
cold as possible. The weather in Thailand gaybourhood has fun bars and dance clubs for
is often extremely hot, so it makes sense all comers.
to maintain your beer at maximum chill. ¨¨Sukhumvit This long street is home to
And lastly, domestic brews are generally Bangkok’s most sophisticated bars and clubs.
quite high in alcohol and the ice helps to ¨¨Greater Bangkok Suburban RCA is the city’s
dilute this, preventing dehydration and one best clubbing strip; good live-music venues dot
of those infamous Beer Chang hangovers other regions.
the next day. Taking these theories to the
extreme, some places serve bee·a wún, or
Lonely Planet’s Top Best Bars for Best Bars & Clubs for
Choices Thai-Style Drinking Late-Night Fun
PLAN YOUR TRIP DRINKING & NIGHTLIFE WTF (p139) A sophisticated yet Co-Co Walk (p111) Wong’s Place (p128)
friendly local boozer. Bangkok Bar (p140) Triple-d (p84)
Hippie de Bar (p84) Retro- Nung-Len (p140) Narz (p141)
themed bar in the middle of Th Telephone Pub (p127) Levels (p141)
Khao San. To-Sit (p112)
Moon Bar (p128) Bangkok’s Best Bars &
best rooftop bar. Best Cocktails Nightclubs in Which
DJ Station (p127) Gay nightclub to Be Seen
that’s fun for all. Hyde & Seek (p112)
Slim/Flix (p153) The epitome of Soul Food Mahanakorn (p139) Badmotel (p140)
the club alley that is RCA. Opposite Mess Hall (p139) Maggie Choo’s (p128)
Alchemist (p141) Grease (p140)
Bangkok’s Best Diplomat Bar (p112) Demo (p140)
Nightclubs Route 66 (p153)
Best Bars with Views
Tapas Room (p128) Best Rooftop Bars
Club (p84) Roof (p75)
Grease (p140) Long Table (p141) Sky Bar (p128)
Funky Villa (p140) Viva & Aviv (p128) River Vibe (p101)
Nung-Len (p140) River Vibe (p101) Phra Nakorn Bar & Gallery
Q Bar (p141) (p84)
Best Bars with Food Red Sky (p112)
Best Bars for Roof (p112)
Relaxed Chilling Viva & Aviv (p128) Sky Train Jazz Club (p113)
Wine Pub (p113)
Rolling Bar (p86) Madame Musur (p84)
Taksura (p86) Phra Nakorn Bar & Gallery
Tuba (p140) (p84)
Shades of Retro (p140) Badmotel (p140)
Above 11 (p141)
©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd 37
Gay & Lesbian
Bangkok has a notoriously pink vibe to it. From kinky male-underwear
shops mushrooming at street corners to lesbian-only nightclubs, as a
homosexual you could eat, shop and play here for weeks without ever
leaving the comfort of gay-friendly venues. Unlike elsewhere in Southeast
Asia, homosexuality is not criminalised in Thailand and the general
attitude remains extremely laissez-faire.
Gay Men at tourists are popular venues for observing
Gay people are out and ubiquitous in Bang- gender-bending.
kok. Yet gay male (and lesbian) couples, like
straight couples, do not show public affec- For more, see our interview with a trans-
tion, unless they are purposefully flouting gender activist (p112).
Lesbians Beneath the party vibe, serious issues remain
Although it would be a stretch to claim that for Bangkok’s vast and visible population of
Bangkok’s lesbian scene is as vibrant as its LGBT people. After the government’s initial
male gay scene, lesbians have become more success slowing the progression of HIV
visible in recent years. It’s worth noting that, among the general population, there are
perhaps because Thailand is still a relatively new signs of an epidemic among young gay
conservative place, lesbians in Bangkok gen- men. Transgender people are often treated
erally adhere to rather strict gender roles. as outcasts, same-sex couples enjoy no legal
Overtly ‘butch’ lesbians, called tom (from rights and lesbians have the added burden
‘tomboy’), typically have short hair, bind their of negotiating a patriarchal society. In short,
breasts and wear men’s clothing. Femme Bangkok’s LGBT community may party as
lesbians refer to themselves as dêe (from they please, sleep with whomever they want
‘lady’). Visiting lesbians who don’t fit into one or even change their sex, but they do so
of these categories may find themselves met without the protection, respect and rights
with confusion. enjoyed by heterosexuals – particularly het-
Transgender People Gay & Lesbian by Neighbourhood
Bangkok is famous for its open and visible
transgender population – known locally ¨¨Riverside, Silom & Lumphini Lower Th Silom is
as gà·teu·i (also spelt kàthoey). Some are Bangkok’s unofficial gaybourhood.
cross-dressers, while others have had sex ¨¨Greater Bangkok Th Kamphaeng Phet and the
reassignment surgery – Thailand is one of Lamsalee Intersection on Th Ramkhamhaeng are
the leading countries for this procedure. For- suburban Bangkok’s gay zones.
eigners seem to be especially fascinated by
Thai transgender males as they often appear
very feminine, and gà·teu·i cabarets aimed
38 PLAN YOUR TRIP GAY & LESBIAN BANGKOK Lonely Planet’s Top Best Camp & Drag
NEED TO KNOW
DJ Station (p127) Quite pos- Playhouse Theater Cabaret
Websites sibly one of the most legendary (p113)
¨¨Bangkok Lesbian gay nightclubs in Asia. Mambo Cabaret (p154)
(www.bangkoklesbian. Telephone Pub (p127) Long- Balcony (p127)
com) The city’s premier standing bar right in the middle Calypso Bangkok (p130)
website for ladies who of Bangkok’s pinkest zone.
Best Gay Nightclubs Best Gay- & Lesbian-
¨¨Utopia (www.utopia- Friendly Hotels
asia.com) Publisher G Bangkok (p127)
of the Utopia Guide to Castro (p153) Babylon (p127)
Thailand, covering gay- Fake Club (p153) LUXX XL (p185)
friendly businesses in Baan Saladaeng (p186)
18 Thai cities, including Best Gay & Lesbian Rose Hotel (p186)
Bangkok. Its website is Bars
also a good, if slightly
outdated, source of Balcony (p127)
information. Bearbie (p127)
Duangthawee Plaza (p127)
Look for gay-themed
entertainment tips in local
listings rags such as BK
the Bangkok Post’s Friday
supplement, Guru (www.
Varying locales play
host to weekend-long
‘circuit parties’. Visit G
com) to find out when and
where the next one is.
PETER STUCKINGS / GETTY IMAGES ©
Dancers at Sala Rim Naam (p130)
Although Bangkok’s hyper-urban environment caters to the inner philistine
in all of us, the city is home to a diverse but low-key art scene. Add to this
dance performances, live music, some of the world’s best-value cinemas
and, yes, the infamous go-go bars, and you have a city whose entertainment
scene ranges from – in local parlance – lo-so (low society) to hi-so (high
Live Music chee·wít (‘songs for life’), makes appearances
As Thailand’s media capital, Bangkok is the at a dying breed of country-and-western bars
centre of the Thai music industry, packag- decorated with buffalo horns and pictures
ing and selling pop, crooners, lôok tûng of Native Americans. Several dedicated bars
(Thai-style country music) and the recent throughout the city feature blues and rock
phenomenon of indie bands. Music is a part bands, but are relatively scant on live indie-
of almost every Thai social gathering; the scene performances. Up-and-coming garage
matriarchs and patriarchs like dinner with bands occasionally pop up at free concerts
an easy-listening soundtrack – typically a where the kids hang out: Santichaiprakan
Filipino band and a synthesiser. Patrons Park (Th Phra Athit), Th Khao San and Siam
pass their request (on a napkin) up to the Square. For more subdued tastes, Bangkok
stage. An indigenous rock style, pleng pêu·a also attracts grade-A jazz musicians to several
40 See p210 for more on traditional Thai
NEED TO KNOW dance.
PLAN YOUR TRIP ENTERTAINMENT Opening Hours Gà·teu·i Cabaret
Live music venues generally close by 1am. In recent years, watching men dressed
A complicated zoning system sees ven- as women perform tacky show tunes has
ues in designated ‘entertainment areas’, become a ‘must-do’ fixture on the Bangkok
including RCA (Royal City Ave), Th Silom tourist circuit. Calypso Bangkok (p130),
and parts of Th Sukhumvit, open until Mambo Cabaret (p154) and Playhouse
2am, but even these ‘later’ licenses are Theater Cabaret (p113) host choreographed
subject to police whimsy. stage shows featuring Broadway high kicks
and lip-synched pop tunes.
Bars in the various red-light districts
are open until 2am. Cinemas
Hollywood movies are released in Bang-
Reservations kok’s theatres in a relatively timely fashion.
Reservations are recommended for promi- But as home-grown cinema grows bigger,
nent theatre events. Tickets can often be more and more Thai films, often subtitled
purchased through Thai Ticket Major in English, fill the roster. Foreign films
(www.thaiticketmajor.com). are sometimes altered by Thailand’s film
censors before distribution; this usually
See p208 for more on the ins and outs of involves obscuring nude sequences.
the Thai music scene.
The shopping-centre cinemas have plush
Most bars and clubs close at 1am, but VIP options. Despite the heat and humidity
this is subject to police discretion. The on the streets, keep in mind that Bangkok’s
drinking age is 20 years old. movie theatres pump the air-conditioning
with such vigour that a jumper is an ab-
Traditional Theatre & Dance solute necessity. Ticket prices range from
The stage in Thailand typically hosts a 120B to 220B for regular seats, and more
kŏhn performance, one of the six tradi- than 1000B for VIP seats.
tional dramatic forms. Acted only by men,
kŏhn drama is based upon stories of the Bangkok also hosts a handful of annual
Ramakian, Thailand’s version of India’s film festivals, including the World Film
epic Ramayana, and was traditionally Festival of Bangkok (www.worldfilmbkk.
staged only for royal audiences. Places to com) in October.
watch kŏhn include the National Theatre
(p75) and Sala Chalermkrung (p102). See p209 for more on Thai film.
The less formal lá·kon dances, of which Moo·ay tai (Thai Boxing)
there are many dying subgenres, usually Quintessentially Thai, almost anything
involve costumed dancers (of both sexes) goes in moo·ay tai (also spelt muay thai),
performing elements of the Ramakian and the martial art more commonly known
traditional folk tales. If you hear the din elsewhere as Thai boxing or kickboxing. If
of drums and percussion from a temple or you don’t mind the violence, a Thai boxing
shrine, follow the sound to see traditional match is well worth attending for the pure
lá·kon gâa bon (shrine dancing). At Lak spectacle: the wild musical accompaniment,
Meuang (p70) and the Erawan Shrine the ceremonial beginning of each match
(p106), worshippers commission costumed and the frenzied betting.
troupes to perform dance movements that
are similar to classical lá·kon, but not as The best of the best fight at Bangkok’s
refined. two boxing stadiums. Built on royal land at
the end of WWII, the art deco–style Ratch-
Another option for viewing Thai classical adamnoen Stadium (p94) is the original
dance is at a dinner theatre. Most dinner and has a relatively formal atmosphere.
theatres in Bangkok are heavily promoted The other main stage, Lumpinee Boxing
through hotels to an ever-changing clien- Stadium (p154), recently moved to a new
tele, so standards are poor to fair. The per- modern home north of Bangkok.
formances at Sala Rim Nam (p130) come
recommended. Admission fees vary according to seat-
ing. Ringside seats (from 2000B to 3000B)
are the most expensive and will be filled
with subdued VIPs; tourists usually opt for the image presented by much of the West- PLAN YOUR TRIP ENTERTAINMENT
the 2nd-class seats (from 1500B to 2000B); ern media, the underlying atmosphere of
diehard moo·ay tai fans bet and cheer Bangkok’s red-light districts is not one of
from 3rd class (1000B). If you’re thinking illicitness and exploitation (although these
these prices sound a bit steep for your aver- do inevitably exist), but rather an aura of
age fight fan (taxi drivers are big fans and tackiness and boredom.
they make about 600B a day), then you’re
right – foreigners pay several times what Patpong (p130) earned notoriety during
the Thais do. the 1980s for its wild sex shows, involv-
ing everything from ping-pong balls and
We recommend the 2nd- or 3rd-class razors to midgets on motorbikes. Today it
seats. Second class is filled with numbers- is more of a circus for curious spectators
runners who take bets from fans in rowdy than sexual deviants. Soi Cowboy (p142)
3rd class, which is fenced off from the rest and Nana Entertainment Plaza (p142) are
of the stadium. Akin to a stock-exchange the real scenes of sex for hire. Not all of
pit, hand signals communicate bets and the love-you-long-time business is geared
odds fly between the areas. Most fans in towards Westerners: Th Thaniya, off Th
3rd class follow the match (or their bets) Silom, is filled with massage parlours for
too closely to sit down, and we’ve seen Japanese expats and visitors, while the im-
stress levels rise to near-boiling point. It’s mense massage parlours outside of central
all very entertaining. Bangkok attract Thai customers.
Most programs have eight to 10 fights of See the Sex Industry chapter (p219) for
five rounds each. English-speaking ‘staff’ background on Thailand’s sex industry.
outside the stadium, who practically tackle
you upon arrival, will hand you a fight Entertainment by
roster and steer you to the foreigners’ ticket Neighbourhood
windows; they can also be helpful in telling
you which fights are the best match-ups ¨¨Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi The area to
(some say that welterweights, between visit for Traditional Thai performances, both
61.2kg and 66.7kg, are the best). To avoid scheduled and impromptu.
supporting scalpers, purchase your tickets ¨¨Banglamphu Home to some of the city’s best
from the ticket window, not from a person live-music venues.
outside the stadium. ¨¨Thewet & Dusit This is where you’ll find the
city’s oldest Thai boxing stadium.
See the boxed text on p93 for more on ¨¨Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit &
the history of moo·ay tai; for the inside Ratchathewi Gà·teu·i (transgender) cabaret and
scoop on the fighters and upcoming pro- Bangkok’s best cinemas.
grams, see www.muaythai2000.com. ¨¨Riverside, Silom & Lumphini Traditional Thai
Go-Go Bars ¨¨Greater Bangkok Bangkok’s ’burbs are where
Although technically illegal, prostitution you’ll find some of the city’s best live music and
is fully ‘out’ in Bangkok, and the influence its other premier Thai boxing stadium.
of organised crime and healthy kickbacks
mean that it will be a long while before the
existing laws are ever enforced. Yet despite
42 Best for Western- Best for Traditional
Style Live Music Performance
Lonely Planet’s Top
Choices National Theatre (p75)
Sala Chalermkrung (p102)
PLAN YOUR TRIP ENTERTAINMENT Brick Bar (p86) Tabletop danc- Ad Here the 13th (p86) Sala Rim Naam (p130)
ing to live Thai pop – right on Th Titanium (p142) Siam Niramit (p154)
Ratchadamnoen Stadium Saxophone Pub & Restaurant Best Cinemas
(p94) The country’s premiere (p113)
venue for Thai boxing. Apoteka (p141) Paragon Cineplex (p111)
Living Room (p142) Bangkok’s Rock Pub (p113) House (p154)
best and classiest locale for Sonic (p142) Scala (p111)
live jazz. Lido (p111)
Best for Thai-Style Best for a Quirky Best for Moo·ay Tai
Live Music Night Out (Thai Boxing)
Raintree (p113) Tawandang German Brewery Ratchadamnoen Stadium
Tawandang German Brewery (p154) (p94)
(p154) Rock Pub (p113) Lumpinee Boxing Stadium
Parking Toys (p153) Hollywood (p154) (p154)
©Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd 43
Prime your credit card and shine your baht, as shopping is serious business
in Bangkok. Hardly a street corner in this city is free from a vendor,
hawker or impromptu stall, and it doesn’t stop there: Bangkok is also
home to one of the world’s largest outdoor markets, not to mention some of
Southeast Asia’s largest malls.
Markets & Malls and convince tourists that they need a citizen
Although the tourist brochures tend to of the country to circumvent tricky customs
tout the upmarket malls, Bangkok still lags regulations. Unsurprisingly, the gem world
slightly behind Singapore and Hong Kong in doesn’t work like that, and what most tour-
this area, and the open-air markets are where ists end up with are worthless pieces of glass.
the best deals and most original items are to By the time you sort all this out, the store has
be found. closed and changed names, and the police
can do little to help.
Antiques Tailor-Made Clothes
Real Thai antiques are rare and costly and re- Many tourists arrive in Bangkok with the
served primarily for serious collectors. Every- notion of getting clothes custom-tailored at
thing else is designed to look old and most a bargain price. While this is entirely pos-
shopkeepers are happy to admit it. Reputable sible, there are a few things to be aware of.
antique dealers will issue an authentication Prices are almost always lower than what
certificate. Contact the Department of Fine you’d pay at home, but common scams such
as commission-hungry túk-túk (pronounced
Arts (Map p257; %0 2221 4443; www.finearts. đúk đúk; a type of motorised rickshaw) driv-
go.th; 81/1 Th Si Ayuthaya) to obtain the required ers, shoddy workmanship and inferior fabrics
license for exporting religious images and make bespoke tailoring in Bangkok a poten-
fragments, either antique or reproductions. tially disappointing investment.
It’s worth noting that trading in bona fide The golden rule of custom tailoring is that
antiquities might not be either ethical or, you get what you pay for. If you sign up for
in your country, legal. For more on this is- a suit, two pants, two shirts and a tie, with
sue and the campaign to preserve Southeast a silk sarong thrown in, for just US$199 (a
Asia’s cultural heritage, see Heritage Watch very popular offer in Bangkok), chances are it
(www.heritagewatchinternational.org). will look and fit like a sub-US$200 wardrobe.
Although an offer may seem great on the
Gems & Jewellery surface, the price may fluctuate significantly
Countless tourists are sucked into the prolific depending on the fabric you choose. Supply-
and well-rehearsed gem scam, in which they ing your own fabric won’t necessarily reduce
are taken to a store by a helpful stranger the price by much, but it should ensure you
and tricked into buying bulk gems that can get exactly the look you’re after.
supposedly be resold in their home country
for 100% profit. The expert con artists (part Have a good idea of what you want before
of a well-organised cartel) seem trustworthy walking into a shop. If it’s a suit you’re after,
PLAN YOUR TRIP SHOPPING NEED TO KNOW bring a favourite garment from home and
have it copied.
Set aside a week to get clothes tailored.
Most family-run shops are open from Shirts and trousers can often be turned
10am to 7pm daily. Malls are open from around in 48 hours or less with only one
approximately 10am to 10pm. Street fitting, but no matter what a tailor may tell
markets are either daytime (from 9am you, it takes more than one and often more
to 5pm) or night-time (from 7pm to mid- than two fittings to create a good suit. Most
night). Note that city ordinance forbids reliable tailors will ask for two to five fit-
street-side vendors from cluttering the tings. Any tailor that can sew your order in
pavements on Mondays, but they are less than 24 hours should be treated with
present every other day. Counterfeits
One of the most ubiquitous aspects of
Scams shopping in Bangkok, and a drawcard
for many visitors, is fake merchandise.
Thais are generally so friendly and laid- Counterfeit clothes, watches and bags line
back that some visitors are lulled into a sections of Th Sukhumvit and Th Silom,
false sense of security, forgetting that while there are entire malls dedicated to
Bangkok is a big city with the usual copied DVDs, music CDs and software.
untrustworthy characters. While your Fake IDs are available up and down Th
personal safety is rarely at risk in Thailand, Khao San, and there are even fake Lonely
you may be unwittingly charmed out of Planet guides, old editions of which are
the contents of your wallet or fall prey to made over with a new cover and ‘publica-
a scam. tion date’ to be resold (often before the
new editions have even been written!).
Bargaining Fakes are so prominent in Bangkok that
there’s even a Museum of Counterfeit
At Bangkok’s markets and at a handful of
its malls, you’ll have to bargain for most, if Goods (%0 2653 5546; www.tillekeandgibbins.
not all, items. In general, if you see a price com/museum/museum.htm; Tilleke & Gibbins,
tag, it means that the price is fixed and 26th fl, Supalai Grand Tower, 1011 Th Phra Ram III;
bargaining isn’t an option. admission free; hby appointment only; mKhlong
Toei exit 1 & taxi) where all the counterfeit
Counterfeits booty that has been collected by the law
firm Tilleke and Gibbins over the years is
Bangkok is ground-zero for the production on display.
and sale of counterfeit goods. Although
they may seem cheap, keep in mind that The brashness with which fake goods
counterfeit goods are almost always are peddled in Bangkok gives the impres-
shoddy. sion that black-market goods are fair game,
which is and isn’t true. Technically, knock-
Shopping Guide offs are illegal, and periodic crackdowns by
the Thai police have led to the closure of
Bangkok’s intense urban tangle some- shops and the arrest of vendors. The shops
times makes orientation a challenge, and typically open again after a few months,
it can be difficult to find out-of-the-way however, and the purchasers of fake
shops and markets. Like having your own merchandise are rarely the target of such
personal guide, Nancy Chandler’s Map crackdowns.
of Bangkok (www.nancychandler.net)
tracks all sorts of small, out-of-the-way The tenacity of Bangkok’s counterfeit
shopping venues and markets, as well as goods trade is largely due to the fact that
dissects the innards of the Chatuchak tourists aren’t the only ones buying the
Weekend Market (p147). The colourful stuff. A poll conducted by Bangkok Univer-
map is sold in bookstores throughout the sity’s research centre found that 80% of the
city. 1104 people polled in Bangkok admitted to
having purchased counterfeit goods (only
should it be single- or double-breasted? 48% admitted they felt guilty for having
How many buttons? What style trousers? bought fakes).
Of course, if you have no idea, the tailor will
be more than happy to advise. Alternatively,
AN INSIDER’S TIPS ON SHOPPING IN BANGKOK PLAN YOUR TRIP SHOPPING
Nima Chandler of Nancy Chandler Graphics (www.nancychandler.net), whose colourful
maps are some of the best guides to shopping in Bangkok, shares her Bangkok shopping
Your favourite Bangkok market? For visitors, Chatuchak Weekend Market (p147)
remains my top recommendation, but personally I prefer quirky smaller markets cater-
ing to locals, such as the Flashlight Market (p98) just north of Chinatown on Friday and
Saturday nights, where collectibles of all kinds are on sale. My most bizarre find there: an
antique popcorn machine.
Your favourite Bangkok mall? MBK Center (p113), the market in a mall, as I describe
it. It’s one of the few that has retained a distinctly Thai atmosphere within, unlike the
gleaming malls nearby, which could be anywhere in the world. More importantly, MBK’s
vendors do carry ‘fa·ràng [foreigner]-size’ clothing. Highlights for visitors: silly shirts and
beachwear in the southern end of the 3rd floor and the cheap food court and crafts on
the 6th floor.
Where’s a good place to go for Thai handicrafts? Chatuchak Weekend Market (p147)
is probably the most popular for arts and crafts, but I find it much easier and fulfilling
to shop for crafts at ThaiCraft Fair (p143). ThaiCraft is a self-financed social enterprise
dedicated to helping maintain and promote traditional Thai arts and crafts direct from
the villages, under fair-trade practices. Favourite finds: yoga-mat-carrying bags with
tribal motifs, necklaces made of recycled materials, wonderful woven baskets and silver
A good place for quirky souvenirs? Propaganda (Map p270; %2664 8574; 2nd fl, Siam
Discovery Center; h10am-8pm; jNational Stadium or Siam), a Thai brand gone international
with cheeky, sometimes naughty, modern design products, such as a ‘Help’ wine stopper
(with a drowning swimmer’s hand raised) and an emergency wedding ring, which comes
on a credit-card-sized plastic card and can be popped out when needed.
Other than Jim Thompson, what are some high-quality Thai brands visitors should
seek out? The 3rd floor of Siam Center (p115) houses several top Thai fashion designer
Where’s a good place in Bangkok for antiques? River City (p130) is home to several
antique galleries, selling both real and reproduction antiques. We recommend serious
antique buyers do some research before visiting, however, as several top dealers only
offer private appointments.
Any insider tips for approaching Chatuchak Weekend Market? When you see some-
thing you know you’ll love, buy it, as it can be difficult to retrace your steps back to a shop
in this market. Plan to use the restrooms in advance – lines can be long, and in the ladies’
room, women often line up by stall rather than in turn. Stop to rest and drink water every
hour. Chatuchak can be a draining experience, especially during the hot season. Try to
stay until closing, then enjoy an early evening drink at Viva’s (p148) while watching the
market transform itself into something else after dark.
It’s worth pointing out that some abusive labour conditions, circumvents
companies, including even a few luxury taxes and takes jobs away from legitimate
brands, argue that counterfeit goods companies.
can be regarded as a net positive. They
claim that a preponderance of fake items If the legal or moral repercussions aren’t
inspires brand awareness and fosters a enough to convince you, keep in mind that
demand for ‘real’ luxury items while also in general, with fake stuff, you’re getting
acting as a useful gauge of what’s hot. But exactly what you pay for. Consider yourself
the argument against fake goods points lucky if, after arriving home, you can actual-
out that the industry supports organised ly watch all of season four of the Simpsons
crime and potentially exploitative and DVD you bought, if the Von Dutch badge
on your new hat hasn’t peeled off within a
PLAN YOUR TRIP SHOPPING week, and if your ‘Rolex’ is still ticking after Minimum purchases must add up to 2000B
the first rain. per store in a single day and to at least
5000B total for the whole trip. Before you
Bargaining leave the store, get a VAT Refund form and
Many of your purchases in Bangkok will tax invoice. Most major malls in Bangkok
involve an ancient skill that has long been will direct you to a dedicated VAT Refund
abandoned in the West: bargaining. Con- desk, which will organise the appropriate
trary to what you’ll see on a daily basis on paperwork (it takes about five minutes).
Th Khao San, bargaining (in Thai, gahn Note that you won’t get a refund on VAT
đòr rah·kah) is not a terse exchange of paid in hotels or restaurants.
numbers and animosity. Rather, bargaining
Thai-style is a generally friendly transaction At the airport, your purchases must be
where two people try to agree on a price declared at the customs desk in the depar-
that is fair to both of them. ture hall, which will give you the appropri-
ate stamp; you can then check them in.
The first rule to bargaining is to have a Smaller items (such as watches and jewel-
general idea of the price. Ask around at a lery) should be carried on your person, as
few vendors to get a rough notion. When they will need to be reinspected once you’ve
you’re ready to buy, it’s generally a good passed immigration. You actually get your
strategy to start at 50% of the asking price money at a VAT Refund Tourist Office (%0
and work up from there. If you’re buying 2272 8198); at Suvarnabhumi International
several of an item, you have much more Airport these are located on Level 4 in both
leverage to request and receive a lower the east and west wings. For how-to info, go
price. If the seller immediately agrees to to www.rd.go.th/vrt/howwill.html.
your first price you’re probably paying too
much, but it’s bad form to bargain further Shopping by Neighbourhood
at this point. In general, keeping a friendly,
flexible demeanour throughout the transac- ¨¨Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi Shopping here
tion will almost always work in your favour. is limited to the amulet vendors and traditional
And remember: only begin bargaining if Thai medicine shops that line Th Maha Rat.
you’re really planning on buying the item. ¨¨Banglamphu Home to a couple of souvenir
Most importantly, there’s simply no point shops, not to mention the street-side wares of
in getting angry or upset over a few baht – Th Khao San.
Thai locals, who inevitably have less money ¨¨Chinatown Street markets with a flea-market
than you, never do this. feel.
¨¨Siam Square, Pratunam, Ploenchit &
Tax Refunds Ratchathewi Simply put: malls, malls and more
A 7% Value Added Tax (VAT) applies to malls.
most purchases in Thailand, but if you ¨¨Riverside, Silom & Lumphini The place to go
spend enough and get the paperwork, the for antiques and art.
kindly Revenue Department will refund it ¨¨Sukhumvit Upscale malls and touristy street
at the airport when you leave. To qualify to markets.
receive a refund, you must not be a Thai ¨¨Greater Bangkok Bangkok’s best fresh and
citizen, part of an airline air crew or have open-air markets lie a fair hike outside the city
spent more than 180 days in Thailand dur- centre.
ing the previous year. Your purchase must
have been made at an approved store; look
for the blue-and-white VAT Refund sticker.
Lonely Planet’s Top Taekee Taekon (p86) Best Food & Drink PLAN YOUR TRIP SHOPPING
Choices Tamnan Mingmuang (p131)
Sop Moei Arts (p143) Nittaya Curry Shop (p86)
Chatuchak Weekend Market Chiang Heng (p130)
(p147) One of the world’s largest Best for One-of-a- Or Tor Kor Market (p151)
markets and a must-do Bangkok Kind Souvenirs Maison Des Arts (p131)
MBK Center (p113) The Thai Ban Baat (p78) Best for Music
market in a mall. Flashlight Market (p98)
Thanon Khao San Market Thai Nakon (p86) ZudRangMa Records (p143)
(p86) Handicrafts, souvenirs House Of Chao (p131) DJ Siam (p115)
and backpacker essentials. Talat Rot Fai (p150) Kitcharoen Dountri (p147)
Siam Square (p115) Ground
Zero for Thai teen fashion in Best for Cheap Stuff
Sampeng Lane (p99)
Best Markets Best Thai Fashion Pratunam Market (p115)
Labels Phahurat (p98)
Soi Lalai Sap (p132)
Asiatique (p130) It’s Happened To Be A Closet
Talat Rot Fai (p150) (p116) Best for Gadgets
Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Flynow III (p116)
Market) (p98) Tango (p116) Digital Gateway (p115)
Talat Mai (p98) Senada Theory (p115) Fortune Town (p155)
Nonthaburi Market (p150) Pantip Plaza (p116)
Best Tailors Siam Paragon (p115)
Raja’s Fashions (p142) Best for Antiques
CentralWorld (p115) Rajawongse (p142)
Siam Paragon (p115) July (p131) River City (p130)
Siam Center (p115) Nickermann’s (p142) House Of Chao (p131)
Siam Discovery Center (p115) Pinky Tailors (p116) Talat Rot Fai (p150)
Emporium (p143) Ricky’s Fashion House (p142) Flashlight Market (p98)
ZudRangMa Records (p143)
Best Housewares & Best for Books
ThaiCraft Fair (p143) Dasa Book Café (p143)
Nandakwang (p142) Asia Books (p115)
Doi Tung (p116) RimKhobFah Bookstore (p87)
STEPHEN J BOITANO COLLECTION / GETTY IMAGES ©
Street massage on Khao San Rd (p82)
Seen all the big sights? Eaten enough pàt tai for a lifetime? When you’re
done soaking it all in, consider some of Bangkok’s more active pursuits.
Massage and spa visits are justifiably a huge draw, but the city is also
home to some great guided tours and courses, the latter in subjects ranging
from Thai cookery to meditation.
Spas & Massage service and style. And even within the enor-
According to the teachings of traditional mous spa category there are many options:
Thai healing, the use of herbs and massage there’s plenty of pampering going around
should be part of a regular health-and-beauty but some spas now focus more on the medi-
regimen, not just an excuse for pampering. cal than the sensory, while plush resort-style
You need no excuse to get a massage and it’s spas offer a menu of appealing treatments.
just as well, because Bangkok could mount
a strong claim to being the massage capital The most common variety is traditional
of the world. Exactly what type of massage Thai massage (nôo·at păan boh·rahn). Al-
you’re after is another question. Variations though it sounds relaxing, at times it can
range from store-front traditional Thai mas- seem more closely related to Thai boxing than
sage to an indulgent ‘spa experience’ with to shiatsu. Thai massage is based on yogic
techniques for general health, which involve
pulling, stretching, bending and manipulating