Club Traveler

Visiting the “Venice of the East”: Bangkok

The urban hub of Southeast Asia, Bangkok wows visitors with its graceful temples, crisscrossed waterways resembling a “Venice of the East,” sizzling street eats, delightful mix of city-life hubbub and relaxed Thai manner. Here, a smattering of the possibilities in the capital of the Land of Smiles.

The feet of the Reclining Buddha measure nearly 10 feet high.

What to See

Wat Pho houses the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, a reference to the revered 151-foot-long gold-leafed sculpture. The giant bug-eyed guardians of the inner gates are 19th-century representations of Westerners as imagined by Chinese artists. The contorted figures scattered throughout the gardens serve as models for the students of the traditional medicine school where Thai massage was born and is still taught today. Visitors can take classes in English or simply enjoy a therapeutic massage right on the temple grounds.

Classic Thai tastes include lemongrass, lime, chili, galangal and Thai basil.

Where to Eat

One of the best places to discover authentic Thai tastes is The Local. Don’t miss their southern specialties like khao yam, a deceptively simple rice salad with layers of flavor. Order from the seasonal menu that includes 100-year-old recipes and other rare dishes, including gaeng lun juan: tender beef, Thai herbs, garlic, shrimp paste and bold chilies.

The wai gesture indicates respect, but foreign travelers aren’t necessarily expected to understand its intricacies in full.

What to Say

Your hosts will appreciate the traditional greeting sawadee (sometimes romanized as sawasdee but always pronounced sa-WAT-dee), used for hello and good-bye any time of the day, followed by a polite kaa if you’re a woman and krub if you’re a man. Friends, family and business associates may add a wai, joining their hands together, fingertips about chin level. Staff in hotels, restaurants and shops will wai, too, but customers are not expected to return the gesture. Even when a shared language is lacking, sawadee, thank you (kup koon kaa or krub) and a smile will always break the ice.

Riverboat on the Chao Phraya.

How to Get Around

The city’s easy-to-use Skytrain (also known as BTS) and underground (aka MRT) networks are constantly expanding, but for the ultimate Bangkok experience, travel by boat on the Chao Phraya River. Locals know that the color of the flag that the boat is flying indicates its destinations and fare. A no-flag boat will make all stops while a blue-flagged tourist boat hits main riverside attractions and provides announcements in English. Details are posted at major piers.

The rooftop deck at Millennium Hilton Bangkok.

Where to Stay

Situated in the center of Bangkok and on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Millennium Hilton Bangkok offers incredible views from its 533 rooms and suites. Travelers can explore nearby cultural attractions like the Temple of Dawn, the Grand Palace, and the Asiatique night market as well as enjoy the hotel’s award-winning dining and spa.