For most tourists alike, the first choice of location to stay while in Bangkok are Sukhumvit and Pratunam tourist areas. Well, the choice is simple. These 2 areas are shopping havens for most people especially the ladies. For those who favor temple tours throughout the entire stay, there are other options to stay in Bangkok city to avoid traffic jams and save time. Of course it doesn't mean that there will be no shopping at all especially in the evening. The idea of this column is to relate travel experience to all veteran and new visitors to try something new if the primary purpose is to visit temples. Put shopping as the secondary as there're plenty of time to do after 3pm as most shopping centers and night markets remain opens till late.
Bangkok city is well known for its massive traffic jams. Practically the traffic does not stop even at 4am in the morning if you pay enough attention. The best way to avoid jams is to use alternative mode of transportation, the ferry. Therefore, the solution is to stay close to the Chao Phraya River. It is not a bad idea after all because you get nice views during a river cruise to your destination and avoid expensive taxi meters or the cut-throat "tuk-tuk" during peak hours.
Several important landmark temples are located along the Chao Phraya River bank. They are Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Rakang Kositaram (Somdej Praputtajarn Toh), Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha Grand Palace), Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho Reclining Buddha), and Tha Pra Chan (the famous amulet market). As you can see in the photo map, places of Buddhist interests are plenty along the river.
There are plenty of hotel accommodation to choose from along the river. Most of the 5 stars hotel e.g. Shangri-La, Royal Orchid Sheraton, The Peninsula, Oriental costing THB5,000 per night are easily found here. The same goes for a clean budget accommodation costing THB 1,200 per night.
The best hotel accommodation area to stay along the Chao Phraya river with short walking distance is Si Phraya or Saphan Taksin jetty. Take for example if you should travel using the ferry system from Si Phraya jetty to Wat Rakang will only take approximately 20 minutes. The ferry will be hopping from one stop to the other and I can assure you it's an enjoyable ride after many times using this ferry service.
The other alternative location to stay and yet still near to famous temples within the city surrounding is Khao San. This place was featured in the movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Khao San is famous for Western backpackers and tourists. Surely there're plenty of pubs and nightlife in Khao San but that is not the sole intention to stay around here for those in the Dharma path.
Khao San is close proximity to Wat Rakang, Wat Suthat, Wat Intharaviharn, Grand Palace, etc. Inexpensive budget hotels with clean bed and shower are plenty here. From the hotels in Khao San you can easily take taxi or the infamous "tuk-tuk" to go visiting the temples. If you are travelling single it is much better to hire a "motorcycle taxi" to save you time and avoid the daily massive traffic crawl.
Although you may find plenty of Western restaurants and pubs in Khao San but that does not mean there are no Asian food. You can find descent local Thai foods at Rambutri Road that is just a short walking distance next to Khao San. A plate of tasty Thai noodle with a bottle of Pepsi cost only THB40.
What to Bring Along?
When visiting temples in Bangkok or other parts of Thailand, it is worthwhile to consider suitable items to be included inside your travel gear. Firstly, a good weatherproof backpack with padded shoulder strap to store your valuables including newly acquired votive tablets from the temples you have visited. Next is a pair of comfortable walking sandal/shoe that you can easily slip on when needed. This will be very convenient during temple visits because many times you are required to remove shoes before entering Thai temples particularly sermon halls as this is the local custom. Avoid sneakers or sport shoes that have shoe lace as it is inconvenient and time consuming to remove and wear especially if you are visiting more than 1 temple in a single day.
Most temples opening hours start from 8.00am till 4.00pm. It is good to keep a check on a reliable wrist watch so that you can plan ahead of time and respect Bangkok's traffic jams to avoid disapointment. For me, I am keeping time with my excellent timepiece Kinetic Divers' 200M that have power reserve up to 6 months.
Lastly, a good camera may not be necessarily be the bulky and heavy D-SLR to take memorable pictures. For me, a small but yet very sharp e.g. Panasonic Lumix camera is ideal to take many crisp images. For the more photo eager enthusiasts, a good D-SLR camera e.g. Nikon or Canon could be the ultimate choice.
Our personal preference is the Panasonic Lumix compact digital camera and recently we have added the Nikon D3100 to produce all SimplyBuy's votive tablets and temples' photographic images.
Apart from western and local Thai food and cybercafes to check your e-mails, downloading photos from your camera and sending it home to loved ones, Khao San is also famous for the vast array of tailor shops. You can practically custom tailored your suit and business wears and get it all done within 24 hours. The prices are also very reasonable depending on your budget and requirement. After all Bangkok is famous for its bespoke trade. Sometimes it is better to get tailor-made shirts than buying ready made shirts as it may cost less. If you are keen, you can give a try at my favorite tailor. Friendly and service oriented tailor Boss Style (Lotus) 117, Khaosan Road, Banglumphoo. Look for the man in this picture for quality workmanship and good service.