Bangkok (Thai: กรุงเทพฯ Krung Thep) is the capital and largest city of Thailand and, with a population of over eleven million inhabitants, by far its main city. Its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not instantly give you a warm welcome — but don't let your first impression mislead you. It is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
|Stay Safe||Given its size, Bangkok is surprisingly safe, with violent crimes like mugging and robbery unusual. One of the biggest dangers are motorbikes who ride on pavements at speed, go through red lights, undertake buses as they stop to let passengers off and generally drive far too fast especially through stationary traffic. If you are going to hire a bike, make sure you have insurance in case you are injured. You may be the world's best driver but you'll meet many of the world's worst drivers in Thailand.
Bangkok does have more than its fair share of scams, and many individuals in the tourist business do not hesitate to overcharge unwary visitors. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to decline all offers made by someone who appears to be a friendly local giving a hapless tourist some local advice. Short-changing tourists is reasonably common as well, don't hesitate to complain if you are not given the correct change.
Never get in a tuk-tuk if someone else is trying to get you into one. Most Bangkok locals do not approach foreigners without an ulterior motive.
Scams in Bangkok
Go-go bars in BangkokBangkok is known for its go-go bars and the prostitution that comes along with it. Some aspects of prostitution are illegal (e.g. soliciting, pimping), but enforcement is rare, and brothels are common. It's not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a "barfine" (a fee the bar collects if you want to take an employee away). The age of consent in Thailand is 15, but is 18 for prostitutes. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh. All adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state the year of their birth according to the Buddhist calendar. Many hotels retain the ID cards of prostitutes for the duration of their visit. Whilst most prostitutes are employed by bars or similar businesses, some are "freelancers". Petty theft and other problems, such as slipping the customer sleep drugs, are allegedly more common with these freelancers (although still relatively rare). HIV and AIDS awareness is better than it used to be, but infection statistics among entertainment industry workers remain high; freelancers are the highest risk group. Almost all sex workers insist on using condoms. While walking in go-go bar areas is generally safe, you have to be cautious of touts who try to drag you into the upstairs bars with offers of ping-pong shows and 100-baht beer. The beer may well be 100 Thai Baht, but the "show" you'll be treated to will be 1,000 Thai Baht or more. The rule of thumb is that if you cannot see inside from street level, avoid the establishment.
FightsDo not get into fights with locals. Thais are peace loving people, but when a Thai fights a foreigner, it is never a fair fight. You'll wind up having to fight 10-20 others who were not initially involved, or the police will be called and not do anything to assist you, especially the Metropolitan Police, as they normally have very limited English skills; always contact the Tourist Police (☎ 1155) when in trouble. Thais are also notorious for fighting with weapons (guns, knives, broken bottles, metal rods) or employing Muay Thai techniques. These are usually produced from their concealed locations, with foreigners getting seriously injured or worse. Just avoid all confrontations. If you do get involved in a situation, it is better to apologise and leave: in Thailand, discretion is definitely the better part of valour.
Animal abuse in BangkokElephants are a large part of Thailand's tourist business, and the smuggling and mistreatment of elephants for tourism attractions is a widespread practice. Be aware that elephants are often separated from their mothers at a young age to be cruelly trained under captivity for the rest of their lives. It is advised to take an elephant ride only at animal friendly organisations. A depressingly common sight on the congested streets of Bangkok is elephant begging. During night hours, mahouts (trainers) with lumbering elephants approach tourists to feed the creatures bananas or take a photo with them for a fee. The elephants are brought to the city to beg in this way because they are out of work and are mistreated and visibly distressed under the conditions of the city. Please avoid supporting this cruelty by rejecting the mahouts as they offer you bananas to feed the elephants. This is especially common in Silom and Sukhumvit. Due to its location, lax laws, and resources, many illegal animal products come through Bangkok. Rare and endangered species are often sold at markets for pets, especially at Chatuchak, and many other animal products are sold as luxury items. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (such as starfish), fur, feathers, teeth, wool, and other products since they are most likely the result of illegal poaching, and buying them contributes greatly to animal endangerment and abuse.
Political unrestAlways follow the independent press for the newest political developments and stay away from demonstrations.
Food and waterAs elsewhere in Thailand, be careful with what you eat. Outside of major tourist hotels and resorts, stay away from raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise, unpackaged ice cream and minced meat as hot weather tends to make food go bad faster. In short, stick to boiled, baked, fried or peeled goods. Tap water in Bangkok is said to be safe when it comes out the plant, but unfortunately the plumbing along the way often is not, so it's wise to avoid drinking the stuff, even in hotels. Any water served to you in good restaurants will at least be boiled, but it's better to order sealed bottles instead, which are available everywhere at low prices. Take care with ice, which may be made with tap water of questionable portability as above. Some residents claim that ice with round holes is made by commercial ice makers who purify their water; others state that it is wise not to rely on that claim.