The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) is designed to promote Thailand and provide information on tourist areas. Head office: 1600 New Pethcaburi Road, Makkasan, Rathcathewi, Bangkok; Tel (+66) 02 250 5500.
BangkokTourist is responsible for promoting Bangkok as a tourist destination as well as supporting tourism activities involving Thai customs and culture. They have multiple offices throughout the city.
It is hard to imagine Bangkok as only a small trading centre and port community on the Chao Phraya River as little as 200 years ago. Today, with its striking temples, impressive palaces, colourful floating markets and amazing shopping opportunities, it is deservedly one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
One of Bangkok's most scenic and relaxing areas, the riverside is best visited both at day and at night. Take one of the water taxis and be part of the scenery or sit back and enjoy a drink at one of the many riverside cafés. Watch heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury hotels with a cold lime soda or icy Chang beer.
A particularly fun excursion can be to take the express boat from Sathorn Central for 15 baht and then enjoy the hour long trip to Nonthanburi (N30). This trip takes about an hour - as you head away from the more popular riverside attractions enjoy watching the locals pottering about their everyday life along the River.
Location: Yaowarat Road in Samphanthawong district; centred on Sam Pheng Lane
Chinatown is both colourful and exotic and can appear a little overwhelming on your first visit. Take the time to wander around and just soak up the atmosphere. This is a great place to buy gold, jewellery and beads as well has material and bags. If you can, be sure to visit during major festivities like Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival.
Hours: The grounds close at 15:00
Directions: Catch one of the river taxis to Pier Tha Chang (N9)
Admission: Entry is 500 B for foreign visitors; Thais are permitted to enter for free.
The sacrosanct grounds of Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew were built in 1782 and for 150 years were the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court. Wat Pra Kaew is home to Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the sacred Buddha image carved from a single block of emerald (although it is in fact jade). The Grand Palace attracts thousands of visitors each day (it gets so busy at times it is impossible to move) with its stunning design and elaborate detail.
Shoulders, knees and ankles must be covered and open toes shoes are not permitted.
Location: Thanon Kamphaeng Phet, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Chatuchak Weekend Market is South-East Asia's largest weekend market. The market houses more than 8,000 market stalls, and on any given weekend it is expected to receive more than 200,000 visitors.
For more information on markets, refer to our section on "Shopping".
It's hard not to smile at the dozens of colourful traditional wooden row boats passing by, each full with fruits, vegetables or flowers. Food vendors are ready to offer boat noodles or skewers of meat or freshly cooked fish. Floating markets are one of the most photographed images associated with Bangkok and Thailand.
For more information on markets, refer to our section on "Shopping".
Khao San Road (KSR) is the home of backpackers. Travellers from every corner of the world make the most of cheap accommodation, cheap food and cheap beer. It's quieter and more palatable to visit during the day and is a good place to buy cheap market style clothes without visiting the chaos of Chatuchak. The fun (or not - depending on your viewpoint) starts when the sun goes down. Many bar staff wear t-shirts that proudly declare "We do not check ID".
Address: Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Directions: Take a river taxis to Pier Tha Thien (N8) and then catch one of the commuter ferries across the River.
Tel: 66 2 891 2978
Admission: 50 baht
The name means "Temple of Dawn" and it is one of the most famous temples in Southeast Asia. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, it is representative of the ancient Khmer style. Often referred to as the "tea cup temple" thanks to the glazed porcelain which can only be seen up close, if you are brave you can climb the steep steps to the third level (this is as high as visitors are permitted). From here, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the sites along the River.
Shoulders and knees must be covered.
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, Thailand 10200, Thailand
Directions: Catch one of the river taxis to Pier Tha Thien (N8) and the wander through the market. (Note: hold your nose as the dried fish is a specialty product and the smell can be quite pungent) and you will immediately catch sight of the glistening gold roof.
Hours: Saturday 8:00 am-5:00 pm
Tel: 66 2 226 0335
Admission: 100 baht
Famous for its magnificent reclining golden Buddha, Wat Pho is also home to many murals, inscriptions and sculptures. The oldest Wat in Bangkok resides in a landscaped garden with stone sculptures, stupas and the traditional famous Thai massage.
Shoulders must be covered when viewing the Buddha.
An hour outside of Bangkok, passenger trains pass through this market up to eight times a day. Only 300 metres long, the market is actually held on train tracks. Vendors are only given 3 minutes warning of the next train - it is great fun to watch the speed they can pack their stalls up and then unpack when the train has passed.
There are so many different tours available in Bangkok. Investigate your options and find the right tour for you.
Pick your tours carefully and think what sights would benefit from the help of a guide. Whereas the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho can all be seen easily without a guide, perhaps a guide would add to the experience explaining the history behind the temples you would not otherwise appreciate. However some companies offer tours to places like MBK - although overwhelming for a first time visitor is a guide necessary for a shopping centre?
Thailand also loves to celebrate festivals. Famous festivals include:
Asanha Bucha: Usually taking place in July, this celebrates Buddha's first sermon and is one of the most important Buddhist festivals. The day is observed by donating offerings to temples.
Chinese New Year: This is one of the most vibrant and exciting festivals in Thailand. Although not a public holiday, the Chinese community usually takes the day off to allow them time to pray to the gods and pay respects to their ancestors. On the night of New Year, adults will hand red envelopes "ang-pao" with pocket money inside them to children as a gift. Oranges are usually exchanged on New Year's Day. It takes place on the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month.
Loy Krathong: This festival takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar - usually November. Loi means to float and a krathong is a lotus shaped container which floats on the water. Therefore, this festival can be described as a floating crown, a floating bloat or a floating decoration. Some offices will have competitions to see who can make the best krathong. The krathongs are floated on the Chao Phraya River, along khlongs or in lakes in parks.
Phi Ta Khon: An annual July festival, this is held in the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the local Isan belief in ghosts and spirits.
Songkran: Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and is celebrated between 13th -15th of April. The celebration is in fact a mass water fight - Thais roam the streets armed with water pistols or buckets of cold water. When you are wet, you will then usually be covered with cheap talc. Though it may not sound it, the throwing of water is a gesture of respect by capturing the water after it has been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing to bring good fortune.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival: Held in Isan, this involves an elaborate parading of candles to wats in preparation for the rainy season on Asanha Bucha day which falls on the day before the start of Buddhist lent and is determined by the first full moon of the eighth lunar month.
Valentine's Day: Not strictly a festival, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Thailand. Street carts selling food are swapped for ones selling big bouquets of flowers, and school children exchange stickers with each other.
Vegetarian Festival: This festival is mainly celebrated in Phuket (35% of the population is Chinese), but if you are in Bangkok, head to Chinatown. Held over a nine day period in September/October, many street stalls will sell only vegetables and vegetarian foods. They signal they are a part of the celebration by decorating their stalls with red and yellow flags. In Chinatown, people dress in white to visit the temples. Things become a lot more hard-core in Phuket where many religious devotees will perform self-mutilation on themselves, impaling their cheeks, backs and legs.
It is rare to receive a discount in Thailand as a foreigner. To the contrary, dual pricing exist which means foreigners are charged more than Thais for the same product or attraction. For example, entrance to the Grand Palace is 500 baht for foreigners, even residents, but is free for Thais.
However there are some places, that if you show them your work permit or a Bangkok bank card they will grant you the "local price" such as Ocean World in Siam.