Given the sheer size of Bangkok and the city's ethnic and cosmopolitan diversity, it's not surprising that certain areas have become a reflection of their inhabitants. Chinatown is vibrant and colourful, completely different to nearby Khao San Road with its backpacker brigade and the commercial hubs of Siam or Silom.
Certain areas have also become much more popular because of their unique attractions, accessibility to public transportation, shopping and nightlife offerings. These are the areas where hotels of every breed and size are located, and it's important to familiarise yourself with an area before choosing where to stay.
Sukhumvit Road is actually 400 km long – the longest road in Thailand. But it's the first few kilometres in downtown Bangkok that are of interest to most visitors. It's cosmopolitan and modern, with shopping, dining and nightlife experiences that hold their own among the best in the world. Sukhumvit is also where many affordable tailors ply their trade, and where raunchy Nana Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (Soi 21 and 23) with their go-go bars are situated.
The Skytrain runs along Sukhumvit Road, and there's also an interchange with the underground. (Read more...)
The Siam area is the heart of shopping in Bangkok, home to mega-malls like MBK, Siam Paragon, Siam Centre and Siam Discovery. The two Skytrain lines also meet here, making the area a hub of commercial activity. Siam Square is where hip Thai teenagers converge, a maze of alleys with hundreds of small clothing boutiques, bookstores, music shops, language schools and eateries.
Close by is also CentralWorld, Southeast Asia's largest lifestyle mall, and the Ratchaprasong intersection for upmarket shopping at the Gaysorn Mall, Amarin Plaza and Peninsula Mall. With so many shopping and dining options scattered around, it's no wonder the area is also home to many good hotels – from the affordable to five-star establishments. (Read more...)
By day, Silom is a business centre, and by night it transforms into a nightlife, dining and shopping area that has a worldwide reputation. The pavements of Silom Road and the parallel-running Suriwong Road are littered with vendors selling anything from counterfeit goods to handicrafts – all an extension of the very popular Patpong Night Market.
It is at the latter where you'll find the seedy side of Silom; the very go-go bars with the shows that have made Bangkok so (in)famous. Prices are generally high at the Patpong Night Market, and tourists should also be careful not to get ripped off at the bars and clubs. Soi 2, Soi 4 and Soi Twilight cater for a predominantly gay crowd. Silom at night is always busy and in your face; perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely worth checking out at last once. (Read more...)
The Riverside in Bangkok is where the city's historic roots lie. The banks of the Chao Phraya River are littered with classic attractions like The Grand Palace, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Phra Kaew. It represents a forever-changing scene with commuters in river-taxis, ferries and heavily-laden barges slowly chugging upstream.
For centuries the lifeblood of the city, the river and scenery along its banks are charming and fascinating at the same time – home also to some of the city's finest five-star hotels like the famous Oriental Hotel, The Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotel. One of the best ways to experience it, apart from staying here, is with a magical dinner cruise at night. (Read more...)
Other interesting areas of Bangkok include Chinatown, lined with exotic gold shops and markets that generally sell in bulk, the backpacker haven Khao San Road, the Old City area (Rattanakosin) to be close to historical attractions, Pratunam for its wholesale markets, Chatuchak that's home to the world-famous Weekend Market, and fast-developing areas like Ratchadapisek. Each of Bangkok's areas has a unique character and something that gives it special appeal – be it in the things you can do there or the sights to take in. But they all have one thing in common; an energy that is uniquely Bangkok. (Read more...)