Thailand has always been one of New Zealand's most popular travel destinations (2nd after London, according to MasterCard's Annual Travel Study released in June 2015) and a trip to Thailand is not complete without a visit to its capital city, Bangkok.
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B angkok is known as a city of
contrasts, with modernity/ western influences and national heritage/ Buddhist influenced culture blending surprisingly well together. The city is rich with excitement and delight at every turn. One of the good examples lies right in Bangkok's CBD, with a serene Buddhist temple - Wat Pathum Wanaram, set in the middle of Bangkok's biggest shopping area of Siam – Ratchaprasong.
Visitors to Bangkok will be amazed by the variety of attractions and activities Bangkok has on offer. Besides hundreds of spectacular Buddhist temples, there are cultural attractions, museums, bustling Chinatown, luxury shopping malls, floating markets, tantalising street food, fine dining restaurants, romantic rooftop bars, relaxing wellness spas, etc. Bangkok is surely a destination for all types of traveller.
Must visit Buddhist temples in Bangkok include Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). As these three temples are located near one another, visitors with limited time can easily visit them all in one trip.
The Grand Palace, The Royal Barges National Museum and Jim Thompson's Thai House provide a better understanding of Thailand's history and culture. Other interesting museums which are worth visiting include Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), Museum of Floral Culture (a museum featuring unique exhibits of important floral cultures from civilisations across Asia) and a group of museums at Siriraj Hospital i.e. Siriraj Bimuksthan Museum, Forensic Medicine Museum, Congdon Anatomical Museum and a few smaller ones.
From Bangkok, you can take a day trip to many attractions such as Ayutthaya Historical Park (one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites) in Ayutthaya, Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram, Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima, Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi and the Ancient City in Samut Prakan.
For those of us who love shopping, Bangkok has a variety of shopping experiences from luxury shopping malls to bargain fashion malls and weekend markets. Major luxury malls include Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Central World, Central Embassy and EmQuartier. Bargain shoppers should check out Platinum Fashion Mall, MBK, Chatuchak Weekend Market and Asiatique the Riverfront.
For those who have more time, a Thai cooking class is one of the best souvenirs you can bring home from Thailand. It will last an entire lifetime and require no extra luggage.
Tips: The best means of public transport to avoid traffic are BTS Sky Train, MRT Subway and Chao Phraya River Ferries. Those traveling from the Airport into the city can use the Airport Link Train.
Less than a 2hr drive east of Bangkok is Pattaya, a resort city in the Chonburi provence.
With plenty of attractions and activities, it is the perfect destination for family holidays as well as adventure enthusiasts. Besides its fame as a resort city, with its variety of accommodations to fit all budgets, world – class golf courses together with the famous Thai hospitality.
Pattaya beach is lined with hotels and restaurants. The beach is divided into three sections i.e. North, Central and South. The northern section is generally more tranquil whereas the central and southern areas are packed with hotels, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. Jomtien Beach is Pattaya's main beach which is popular for windsurfing and other water sports. To the north of Pattaya Bay is Wong Prachan Beach which is quiet and good for swimming.
Ko Lan and Ko Sak, two small islands which can be reached by a 45min ferry ride or 15min speedboat ride from mainland Pattaya, are great places for snorkelling, scuba diving and viewing coral reefs in glass bottomed boats. Ko Phai, another small island further behind Ko Lan, is one of the best scuba diving sites in this part of Thailand with superb coral reefs.
Other attractions for the whole family include Pattaya Floating Market, Cartoon Network Amazone - the world's first Cartoon Network themed waterpark, Flight of the Gibbon - Asia's #1 Zipline Eco - Adventure Canopy Tour, Nong Nuch Tropical Garden, Art in Paradise – a Trick-Eye 3D Museum. Animal lovers should check out Pattaya Underwater World and Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Si Racha, about 45min drive from Pattaya.
For those who are interested in culture, don't miss Thai Thani Art and Culture Village and the Sanctuary of Truth - a gigantic wooden construction covered with exquisite architectural carvings which reflect an ancient vision of Eastern Philosophy, and Alangkarn Theatre – a modern-Thai Multi Dimension Extravaganza Show.
For lovers of adventure and extreme sports, there are plenty of activities on offer e.g. parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing, wake boarding, mountain biking, go kart driving, motor racing, abseiling, bungee jumping and sky diving.
But we are here for the golf and for golfers, with so many high-quality courses and exceptional value for money, Pattaya is Asia's top golfing destination. Examples are Laem Chabang International Country Club, Siam Country Club, and many more.
Finally, Pattaya offers a variety of shopping and dining options; from outlet malls to large duty-free shops and from Thai street food to international fine dining. Since Pattaya is home to international expats who work at the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, supermarkets here are full of local as well as imported produce. The best fresh market is Nong Mon Market in Bang Saen, which is half way between Bangkok and Pattaya. The market is the best place to buy food and souvenirs of Chonburi, from fresh and dried seafood, to local delicacies such as steamed fish in curry paste, crab roll, sweet sticky rice in bamboo pipe and many more.
Thailand is also ridiculously cheap. The hotels and golf courses are specifically designed around tourists and visitors, so if you have a caddie (with some courses they are mandatory) remember to tip them well. For many of them it is their sole source of income, and it is still cheap by our standards.
Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, Buddhist temple in the Dusit district of Bangkok, Thailand.
Wat Pho, Buddhist temple complex in the Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok.
Wat Arun in Bangkok, Temple of Dawn.
Banyan Tree, Vertigo & Moon Bar.