Bangkok facts: Despite the opening in 1999 of the two-line Skytrain and the metro system in 2005, Bangkok continues to suffer from chronic traffic congestion, which usually starts as early as 06:30 and lasts until 10:00. It then restarts at 15:30, when schools are let out, and may continue well into the evening. Late in the rainy season (September-October) flood waters from the north create particular havoc, especially when combined with high tides and tropical storms.
Bangkok facts: The area of Rattanokosin (island, old Bangkok) and Banglamphu are part of the Royal quarter and contain many of the most popular attractions, such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and National Museum; therefore, no mass transit systems have been permitted to penetrate the area. They can only be reached by bus routes and taxi or boat.
Bangkok facts: The Siam square and Silom areas can now be considered the city’s unofficial centre, where the subway intersects and many tourists invariably end up. Over the last three decades, the expat community has based itself in the areas along Sukkumvit Road, which now boasts the biggest cluster of hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping areas. Also known as Ratchaprasong, this area has the country’s plushest malls and attracts the sophisticated and rich. Not surprisingly, the ‘Red Shirt’ protestors chose this intersection and adjourning blocks for their protracted seige in 2010. It ended with the army clearing the area and the retreating protestors setting fire to some of the buildings.
Bangkok facts: Towards the end of the 19th century, during the reign of King Rama V, the Dusit area was laid out with broad boulevards and leafy suburbs. Today, many of the government departments are based here, including Government House, as well as the Vimanmek Palace, the National Assembly Hall and Chitlada Palace (the King’s residence). There is also a zoo and the Royal Turf Club here, too.
Bangkok facts: One of the most famous streets in Bangkok is the backpacker magnet of Khao San Road, which attracts a kaleidoscope of culture from around the world, including bemused Thais. It is one of the liveliest and busiest tourist areas of the city, yet 20 years ago it was nothing more than a cluster of guesthouses that then found their way into the Lonely Planet guidebook, and the rest is history, as they say.
Bangkok facts: One of the most traditional areas of the city, which has retained it’s old character, is Chinatown and Phahurat, where life continues in a timeless fashion. Another area that is on the tourist map for different reasons is Patpong – two streets nicknamed after the original owner in the 1960s who rented the shops out to go go bar owners and wanted to cash-in on the influx of Westerners (mostly GIs on R&R from the Vietnam War).
Bangkok facts: There are believed to be 200,000 millionaires (US$) in Thailand, and 95 per cent of them live in and around Bangkok. The average factory worker salary in Bangkok is 10,000 baht (US$300). A 45m² luxury studio in the centre of the city rents for about 40,000 baht a month. You can eat a bowl of noodles from a pavement restaurant for 30 baht, but a pint of beer sells for 250 baht at a typical Sukkumvit bar! If you’re really feeling flush, you can buy a Maserati, Bentley or Ferrari in the new Siam Paragon shopping mall near Siam Square… but be prepared for the 250 per cent duty!
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