Posted on 26/11/2016

#Society #Thailand

Finding a new perspective on Bangkok

Under the shadow of the skyscrapers and high-rises buildings that power out of Bangkok's skyline is a heady mix of frenetic markets, crawling traffic and sacred golden temples.

Bangkok

Bangkok has a population of 11 million people and 605 square miles of towering high-rise buildings that teeter up to 304m-high. - Potowizard / 123RF

Bangkok

The city has a multifaceted culture with a lot to offer. - Pranodh Mongkolthavorn /123RF

Bangkok

Bangkok is ever-modernising, with its illuminated skyscrapes and the traffic at a standstill below. - lakhesis / 123RF

Bangkok

Bhumibol Bridge, also known as the Insutrial Ring Road Bridge, elevates traffic over the Chao Phraya and the city's many waterways. - platongkoh/123RF

Bangkok

The Chao Phraya, the backbone of a network of canals, has earned the city the nickname 'Venice of the East'. - Prasit Rodphan / 123RF

Bangkok

The city is often subject to 30C temperatures, unrelenting even at night. - Mongkol Chakritthakool /tungphoto/123RF

Bangkok

The Bangkok Expressway is just one of many transport options in this modernising city. - Rapisan Swangphon / 123RF

Bangkok

With its many contrasts, it is one of the few cities in the world where urban exploration is so rewarding. - Weerayut Ranmai / 123RF

Bangkok is vast. With a population of 11 million people and 605 square miles of towering high-rise buildings that teeter up to 304m-high, it can be overwhelming at ground level. But what about witnessing the City of Angels from above?

Bangkok's scale and density make it a city where urban exploration is rewarding but tiring. Bustling streets lined with food markets, megamalls, golden Buddhist temples and slow-moving traffic, boats on the great Chao Phraya River - all this can be overwhelming when you're on the same level.

For the big spenders, the best way to see Bangkok's bustling streets from above is by helicopter. A variety of tour companies offer the experience, including skydance which charges just under 2,000 for a 50-minute tour of the city.

For the rest of us, luckily, Bangkok is full of fantastic sky bars and restaurants all promising unique views over the city night or day. The famous Sky Bar is located on the 63rd floor of Bangkok's Lebua hotel and offers open-air panoramic views over the city. You'll also find great views at Blue Sky - on top of the Sofitel Centara Grand in Ladprao district - and a closed view at Three Sixty for a rainy day.

In Bangkok, if anything is worth doing it should have a sense of snk (fun). And the residents, who conduct so much of daily life on the city's streets, bring this by the bucket load. So once you've explored the skies, it's worth coming down to ground level to explore from a more traditional angle.

When it comes to Bangkok's food scene, forget the white tablecloth. Thai food, with its intense mix of flavours and spices, is one experience but eating it from the food cart of a bustling street is something else. And with immigration bringing every regional Thai and international cuisine to the capital, Bangkok's food scene is a truly diverse experience that displays the best of what Thailand has to offer.

WHERE TO STAY

Ratanakosin is one of quietest and most traditional areas of Bangkok, where the best temples in the city can be found. Perched on the left bank of the Chao Phraya, the floodlit illuminations of the Temple of Dawn can be seen on the opposite shore. The neighbourhood is home to the capital's three major sights - the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the National Museum.

For a taste of modern Bangkok head to Banglamphu, a former backpacker-only area that has recently matured, offering stylish hotels and elegantly converted traditional houses - although the crash-pad hostels for those on a budget have not disappeared. Young Thai locals and international visitors come here for the trendy bars and clubs but, when the hangover has settled, the big-ticket sights of Ratanakosin remain within walking distance.

As is the hallmark of any major city, Bangkok has its own Chinatown and, for true urbanites, this is the only place to be. Bangkok's most hectic neighbourhood is home to chaotic, noisy street life, bright lights and endless gloomy alleyways where half the fun lies in getting completely lost.

Siam Square is Bangkok's shopping district, with local labels and international juggernauts such as Gucci and Chanel all competing for customers in one of the neighbourhood's huge malls. Opulence can be found in Siam Square's hotels, that only range from upscale to luxury, and the shopping centres that harbour some of the city's best restaurants. This area also has the best transport connections in the city - and as a city that is notorious for its traffic jams, this is quite the bonus.

WHEN TO GO

Most visitors to Thailand will say that the weather is one of three things: hot, very hot and unbearably hot. With daytime temperatures in the hottest city in the world often exceeding 30C throughout the year, it isn't difficult to see why.

Meteorologists, on the other hand, define Thai weather in three seasons: the hot season (March to June), the rainy season (July to October) and the cool season (November to February). The highest humidity shrouds the city from April to May and September to October, while the rains arrive between May and October, bringing cloudy conditions and, for many, a sigh of relief.

Inevitably, winter is Bangkok's coolest time of year and thus its peak tourist season. For fewer people and relatively cool weather, go in November or February, just outside peak times. Alternatively, the frequent rains between May and October send many travellers in search of drier ground so these are good times to find deals on airfares and hotel rates.