Bangkok, known in Thai as กรุงเทพมหานคร (pronounced: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), is the capital of Thailand and its largest city. However, saying that it is the largest Thai city doesn’t do justice, because Bangkok literally dwarfs the country’s second largest city of Chiang Mai. With a population above 8 million people, Bangkok is over forty times more populous than the beautiful Chiang Mai. Cities which have such position in their countries are called primate cities, and Bangkok is considered “the most primate city in the world”.
Bangkok is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It also has a large expat community and is popular among all kinds of “digital nomads” who use it as their base. Despite being such a large city with a bustling economy, Bangkok is not particularly expensive. One could even say that it offers great value for money. However, in the recent years the Thai Baht appreciated quite significantly against major currencies, which makes staying in Thailand more expensive if you’re a foreigner, or farang, as they say in Thailand. Still, Bangkok is nowhere as expensive as for example London, New York or Paris, and it also has a lot to offer to travel photographers and to tourists in general.
If you’d like to have a look at the map, here it is:
(Krung Thep Maha Nakhon)
Don Mueang (DMK)
Bangkok is famous for many things, but as a travel photographer you will probably be most interested in the rich cultural heritage of the Thai capital city. It has been the capital of Thailand (or Siam) since 1768: first as Thonburi (today part of Bangkok) and since 1782 as Rattanakosin. Rattanakosin Island is located in the center of Bangkok, on the Chao Phraya river and bordered to the east by several canals that were used as moats. This area is where several of Bangkok’s most important attractions and historic landmarks are situated: the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) or Yaowarat Road (Chinatown).
Bangkok offers many great photo opportunities, and if you come from a country in the Western world or influenced by the Western culture, it will seem quite exotic to you. Although the city is very modern, there are still many sights that you won’t see in your home country: for example all the beautiful Buddhist temples or the floating markets.
People are quite friendly and violent crime is not common. The worst thing that happened to me in Bangkok was being overcharged by a taxi driver. I suspected he was giving me a grand tour of the city, instead of driving from the station directly to the hotel. After an overnight flight I was too tired to protest. The charge was the equivalent of approx. USD 15. Not a big loss, it probably should have been around 7 dollars, but I was glad I was finally at the hotel and could rest. Later, I learned how to deal with Thai taxi drivers. My tips are: never admit to them that it’s your first time in Bangkok, try to find out in advance on the Internet the approximate fare and insist that they turn on the meter. If they don’t turn it on, just get off, if they make a fuss, tell them that you’re calling the police. Even when some of them might attempt to scam you (and even this is not particularly common), I found them not to be aggressive in any way and I think in most cases they would like to avoid a confrontation. In this respect, Bangkok is much safer than Phuket in the south of Thailand, which is notorious for its taxi and tuk-tuk mafia.
You don’t even need to take taxis very often in Bangkok, because the city has decent public transportation: subway, Skytrain, buses and the boats on the Chao Phraya river. The main problem of public transportation in Bangkok is that the network is not so dense yet and there are still many places which you can’t reach with public transport. However, this is constantly improving and the new infrastructure is very good. For example the famous Skytrain is relatively inexpensive, clean, fast and it is the best way to move around the center of the Thai capital.
Speaking of new infrastructure, the new airport in Suvarnabhumi is just fantastic. This modern airport is a major international hub and you can get there from many places all over the world. If you haven’t been there yet and ask me if it’s worth it, I would say: yes, definitely!
And here are some great spots in Bangkok on our map:
Have a look at some of my photos taken in Bangkok:
This is another photo from the magnificent Wat Phra Kaew / Grand Palace complex in Bangkok. These fiercely looking statues are called yakshas. They are spirits representing the forces of nature in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The one on the right, with the green face, is called Thotsakhirithon or ทศคีรีธร in Thai script. I haven’t managed to establish the identity of his red-faced companion. Do you know his name? Please let me know.
The golden spire in this picture is called a stupa or a chedi. This stupa belongs to Wat Phra Kaew, in English known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is one of the most popular places in Bangkok and I think every tourist should see it. […]
Wat Arun, also known as Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (somehow I prefer the shorter version), is a Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river in Bankgok, Thailand. According to Wikipedia and other sources, it was named after Aruna – the Hindu god of dawn. I don’t quite understand why a Buddhist temple would be named after a Hindu deity. […]
This is another Bangkok sunset, taken from the place where I was staying, one day after this photo. Not much of a sunset, if you can’t see the sun, you might say. Indeed, even though it might have been the clearest during my stay in Bangkok, it was still very hazy. […]