Destinations Magazine

Why Bangkok is Still Worth Visiting

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw
Bangkok Still Worth VisitingThe success of ‘Hangover 2’ may or may not be responsible for the current crop of cheap flights to Bangkok that seem to be flourishing online. But perhaps the film doesn’t fill you with confidence about a city that’s increasingly portrayed as a seedy tourist-trap? That side of it is certainly very real, but if you’re willing to spend a little time searching, you can still find many rewarding things in Thailand’s capital city.  (Photo "Temple" by t8club)
We visited in July 2010 and found it a vibrant center of fun. It helped that we stayed at the famously quirky and atmospheric Atlanta Hotel. Founded by an eccentric German expat, it’s run as an institution rather than a business. Their vegetarian restaurant is as good as any we found in seven months of travel. Prices are low and bad behavior is not tolerated. The hotel’s attitude toward the seedier sides of Bangkok is encapsulated in the big signs decrying sex tourism, announcing zero tolerance for drug abuse.
Bangkok Still Worth VisitingThe Atlanta sits to the east of the centre, rather than out by the (in)famous Khao San road, so you’re nicely removed from the bustle. It may seem like a hassle to cross the center when you’re visiting the Wat Phra Keow temple and its adjoining palace, but you only have to do it once. The skyscrapers of modern Thailand gradually give way to equally grand stupas of the ancient world before you disembark for the temple. There are many spectacular temples in SE Asia, but Phra Keow can justly claim to among the very best, with its enormous reclining Buddha, intricate Hindu reliefs, and forbidding statues of temple guardians. Next door’s modern palace rather pales in comparison. The area around here is more or less reserved for young backpackers is most definitely seedy, so if you don’t want that, move on.  (Photo "Laying Buddha" by guitargoa)
Closer to the center of the city, just down from Siam Square, is the Jim Thompson House, a museum of old Thai structures collected by the American businessman who helped revitalized the Thai silk industry during the mid 20th century. Its Colonial architecture provides a wonderful setting for the hotchpotch collection of curiosities, which range from the evocative to the esoteric. Staying east-central also allows a better look at modern-day Thailand from a local’s perspective. With fewer tourists around, there’s more chance to enjoy the markets at your own pace with a little less hassle. There’s also the chance to see some genuine backstreets as you wander around.
Bangkok Still Worth VisitingIf you do crave home, there’s still plenty of fast food – you just have to share the restaurants with friendly Thai families instead of Westerners. There are mega-malls, but even these carry their own history now, following the ‘red-shirt’ riots. Just underneath the Siam Square mall there’s a warren of independent and quirky fashion shops, mainly selling to Thai teenagers. The clothes may not be your cup of tea, and the sizes may be a little tiny, but the designs are more interesting than you’ll find in Camden Market. (Photo "Floating Market" by unswortg)
After Pattaya we’d been dreading Bangkok, fearing another few days of seedy boredom with people who shame our culture and image as visitors to a great country. But by the time we left, our attitudes had changed completely and we felt sad to board the train.
This post was a guest post by Sophie Collard (@QunoSpotter).  Sophie is a travel writer who you’ll find writing about places to travel or people she’s met while on her travels.  She’s traveled in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia and loves how train travel gives a sense of distance and changing landscape.  Check out Sophie on Twitter and find out more about her incredible adventures!

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