Bangkok, Thailand is a surprisingly clean city that is easy and inexpensive to get around. The subway and elevated trains are an excellent way to get around from many of the hotels to the tourist areas. From the Sukhumvit Station (which is the central subway station) the cost to get to the last stop at Hua Lamphong, located near the main train station costs about 28 BHT per person. The subway runs about every 8-10 minutes and is clean and safe. Announcements of stops are also done in Thai and English. The subway is scheduled to open a line to the airport in 2010, but depending on where you need to go, a taxi may be required as no large bags are allowed on the main subway/elevated train lines.
The Bangkok International Airport is about 45 minutes outside of the city. The city bus is available, but a taxi is probably the best choice. There are many independent operators in the terminal trying to get business, but it is best to go to the lower level public taxi stand to get a legitimate taxi. Negotiate your price in advance or insist the meter is turned on when starting the journey! Also, pick up a free Bangkok map at the airport. The free maps are detailed with subway lines and stations, hotels and attractions, but may have a charge at some hotels.
When visiting the sites, the subway or elevated train is the most inexpensive way to get around for those willing to walk a bit or take a tuk tuk. From Hua Lamphong MRT a Tuk Tuk (golf cart type vehicle) will cost about 50 BHT to Pier 4(Marine Harbor), or it is about a 1 km walk. From Pier 4, take the water taxi to Pier 7 (Tha Tien) for about 13 BHT per person, is about 1 block from Wat Pho.
When visiting Bangkok, there are many sites to visit. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a great place to go for souvenir shopping and to try some of the local dishes at the lowest prices! Located right on the subway line, it is easy to access. The merchandise stalls are packed in tight maze, making it difficult to navigate. There are numbers above several entrances to keep track of location. There are very general maps available, showing the general location of specific types of merchandise and based on the entrance numbers.
The Wat Po is the location of the Reclining Buddha, as well as many other Buddhas. Women should not wear shorts or skirts above the knee or show shoulders. Sarongs are available to borrow as a skirt or shawl. The Reclining Buddha is enormous! Lines are common on weekends, making it more difficult to get a good angle to take photos of the length of the Reclining Buddha! Wat Po is also home of the Emerald Buddha, which is much smaller and no photos are allowed. After a day of admiring the architecture, history and Buddhas, stop by the Massage School for a Thai Massage. 225 BHT allows for an amazing 30 minute Thai Massage, which is given in a large room with groups of ‘beds’ lined up. Admission to Wat Po is 50 BHT per person – A must do!
The Grand Palace is another must do and will take most of a day to explore! Beware of scam artists around the Palace advising that the Palace is closed for an event, that you are not dressed properly, etc. The main entrance to the Palace provides the dress code and shirts and pants for the men and a sarong for the women can be rented for 250 BHT (returned when the garment is returned) or purchased for 250 BHT per item. The architecture and detail of the Grand Palace grounds requires time to properly admire. Guided tours and recorded self-tours are available, providing history and detail.
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) is located across the Chao Phraya River at Pier 7. For 3 BHT there is a ferry across the river every 10-15 minutes. Admission to Wat Arun is 50 BHT and allows a very steep climb to midway up the Wat, providing an excellent view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. The steps are uneven, some very high and very steep, but worth the careful climb up and down! The is also the opportunity to put on traditional Thai costumes for photos and some souvenir shopping.
Bangkok is a wonderful place to visit and completely safe to do individually, unless you prefer the guided tour.