Bangkok: Asia’s Cosmopolitan Masterpiece
Thailand’s capital city is everything you could hope for and more, combining historical charm with the modern convenience expected by the present-day business traveller
As Thailand’s economic, political and cultural capital, Bangkok plays the perfect host to business travellers and tourists the world over. With its diverse combination of modern convenience and old-world charm, the ‘city of angels’ can often be overwhelming due to the sheer size of it, boasting a population of over 11 million inhabitants and by far Thailand’s largest city.
As one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities, the mix of magnificent temples, bustling markets and lively nightlife provides something for everyone.
Despite the impression given by sensationalised international news reports, the city provides a safe environment full to the brim with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered; no trip to Bangkok would be complete without a trip to Thailand’s Grand Palace, part of the larger complex which also encompasses Wat Phra Kaew. For those on a tight schedule, a trip here will provide a cultural explosion.
For the visiting business traveller, it is the perfect city to immerse yourself in culture during the free hours in your day. From the Chatuchak Weekend Market to taking a peaceful few moments out of the bustling city at the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Taimit), Bangkok will not disappoint an adventurous traveller. This includes an all year round warm climate, world renowned food and modern ease of living, making it a hotspot for the world’s business elite.
Facts and figures
Area: 1,568,737 square kilometres
Population (2016): 8.2 million
GDP (2012): 11.375 trillion baht
Time zone: UTC+7
Dialling code: 02
Internet TLD: .th
Climate: Tropical Monsoon
Highest recorded temperature: 40°C
The business end
Bangkok is home to many of Thailand’s main business centres, including Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre, Stock Exchange of Thailand and IMPACT Exhibition & Convention Centre, subsequently contributing to make the city the economic centre of Thailand and placing it at the heart of the country’s development and a hub of activity in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok is perfectly set up to provide the perfect focal point for business travellers, providing top level facilities, resources and accommodation to relax in after a busy day. With tourism now one of the most significant contributors to Bangkok’s economy and a Government which encourages investment, the city will continue to grow and evolve into its exciting potential.
The key industries located within Bangkok cross over a plethora of sectors, some of which include electronics, fashion, gems and jewellery. Wholesale and retail trade take the title of the largest sector in the city’s economy, contributing 24 percent of its gross product.
Not only is the city home to the headquarters of Thailand’s major commercial banks and financial institutions as well as housing the largest companies in the country, Bangkok has also adopted multinational corporations which base their regional headquarters in the capital; due in part to what Bangkok can offer in comparison to other major Asian business centres, with a far lower cost of the workforce and firm operations.
Out and about
Bangkok’s streets are constantly alive with the buzz of daily life, those who choose to explore the city on foot are greatly rewarded by surprises around every corner. Take the option to head off the beaten track and you could find yourself in a hidden market, or exploring the endless lanes of Chinatown, and if you are looking for a glimpse into this dynamic city’s nightlife, look no further than Sukhumvit to enlighten you.
A city of contrasts, Bangkok allows you to explore Buddhist temples topped with gold, side by side with modern mega-malls, before moving onto discovering the 200-year-old village homes that line the streets.
The central business district is the perfect base for any business traveller, with the Conrad Bangkok and its offering of spacious accommodation located there providing fantastic transportation links, food and entertainment. The Pullman Bangkok offers those who would like the business-class experience but would rather not stay downtown the perfect balance between the two aspects of the city. Located an eight minute Skytrain ride away are popular shopping areas such as MBK and Chatuchak Weekend Market, perfect for a free afternoon of exploring.
Bangkok is famed for its world-class cuisine, playing on traditional ideas to create a new world of fusion in food. A particular trend which is growing in popularity in Bangkok is Indian food, displayed perfectly at Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology in Thanon Sukhumvit. If you are looking for a more traditional Thai offering then look no further than Nahm, where the Executive Chef David Thompson believes that creating traditional Thai food is an exercise in balance, playing on sweet and salty, hot and sour, it is not an experience to be missed.
For the busy business traveller looking for a glimpse into Bangkok’s history, the Ancient City provides the perfect solution. Claiming to be the world’s largest open-air museum, it contains a scaled down version of the most famous historic monuments in Thailand. The Ancient City is set just outside Samut Prakan, accessed via the shuttle bus from BTS Bearing station, providing the perfect resolution to a tight schedule.
“It's a fascinating, intoxicating and chaotic place, brimming with sights, smells, thrills, gracious people, contradictions, cultures, cars, noise and bedlam.” – Bangkok.com
Food & Drink
Art and culture
Bangkok is accessible by two airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport, both approximately 30 kilometres from the city centre. As part of the city’s continued effort to reduce congestion on the roads, the Airport Rail Link is without doubt the fastest way to make your way into town and make the most of Bangkok’s endless cultural offerings.
Although Bangkok may at first appear to be chaotic and unfathomable, despite the legendary traffic jams which used to dominate Bangkok’s roads, the transport systems it provides are gradually improving and there are numerous ways to make your way around the city.
The city is very well connected to the rest of Thailand through its rail links, with perhaps its most important and well known station being Hualamphong Train Station, located next to Yaowarat and served by its own MRT. Although the people of Bangkok are extremely friendly in offering help, it is advised to heed the help of those working on the information desk. This is not to say that either the timetables provided or the friendly advice is wrong, but if you are working to a tight schedule during your short stay in Bangkok, it is advisable to avoid it.
The BTS elevated Skytrain is in operation from 5.15am to midnight, and with tickets costing between 15Baht (B) to B52, it is without doubt one of the most efficient and reasonable ways to negotiate the bustling city. The slightly cheaper alternative to getting around Bangkok is the bus, however, it is described by many as both slow and confusing, so perhaps one to avoid for those running to a tight schedule on their visit.
For most of the day and throughout the night, Bangkok provides 70,000 taxis at a very reasonable price, although it is important to note that Bangkok’s traffic is notoriously unpredictable. Perhaps during rush hour is would be preferable to take the opportunity to see the city from above on the MRT or from the river on the Klorng ferries. Although many locals would attempt to convince you to try your luck with motorcycle taxis, they are notoriously accident prone, so perhaps not worth the risk on diminishing your short amount of free time.
“Part of the greater complex that also encompasses Wat Phra Kaew, the Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maharatchawang) is a former royal residence that is today only used on ceremonial occasions. Visitors are allowed to survey the Grand Palace grounds and four of the remaining palace buildings, which are interesting for their royal bombast.” - Lonely Planet
“After the fall of Ayuthaya, King Taksin ceremoniously clinched control here on the site of a local shrine and established a royal palace and a temple to house the Emerald Buddha. The temple was renamed after the Indian god of dawn (Aruna) and in honour of the literal and symbolic founding of a new Ayuthaya... It wasn't until the capital and the Emerald Buddha were moved to Bangkok that Wat Arun received its most prominent characteristic: the 82m-high þrahng (Khmer-style tower).” - Lonely Planet
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine... Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants and a dense concentration of gold shops, Chinatown is an experience not to miss. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious – it will keep you wanting to come back for more.” - Hotels.com