Bangkok, also known as Krung Thep in Thai, is the 22nd most populous city in the world with around 10 million inhabitants.
The first step outside Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport can be overwhelming for many first time visitors, for the heat and humidity of the “City of Angels” are a lot higher than those in western countries and in Europe.
It is perceptible after taking the first step outside of the cool, air-conditioned airport when you start sweating only for walking a few steps to the nearest cab.
Getting used to this heat will take some time so be sure to always have a water bottle with you to keep yourself hydrated.
First impressions of Bangkok
The first impression varies from visitor to visitor. Many visitors with little background information about Bangkok are disappointed while driving into the huge buzzing city with endless high-rise buildings, stuffed roads, expressways and overcrowded sidewalks.
Where have all the temples and traditional Thai houses gone, one may ask.
The disappointment vanishes quickly as you discover the first beautiful and breathtaking temple between huge skyscrapers and busy toll-ways. The beauty and perfection of those sumptuous temples attract everybody’s eyes and is home to many enormous golden Buddha statues.
Hidden treasures within the modern city
There are dozens of other temples awaiting you on your journey through Bangkok; each bigger and more exciting than the other – such as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho or Wat Arun, just to name a few.
Obviously, there is a lot more to see. Bangkok offers a wide range of museums, historical monuments and ancient ruins which have to be seen to complete your journey to one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia.
But there is this little thing which makes Bangkok so special: it is one of the only metropolises worldwide where you can encounter an elephant in the middle of the city, walking next to thousands of cars, motorbikes and skyscrapers.
It is nothing extraordinary for locals and belongs to the everyday situation.
Bangkok’s extreme climate
Bangkok is located in the tropics which makes the average temperature during the day around 30° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit).
Depending on the season, the temperatures can vary from 21° C (70° F) during December and January, to around 36° C (97° F) during the hot season in May and April. These temperatures are more or less the same during the nights as well.
The best time to visit Bangkok is from February to March when weather is nice and agreeable.
Nonetheless, do not underestimate the power of tropical sunshine, especially if you come from a colder country and are not used to it.
Bangkok’s humidity level is very high and wet and can cause heat strokes that are very unpleasant. Be sure to carry enough clean and filtered water with you and hydrate your body regularly.
Under these weather conditions, it is very hard – nearly impossible – to walk long distances; especially in the city where pollution meets heat and humidity.
In fact, Thais hardly ever walk significant distances. They use different public transportation methods such as the BTS skytrain, MRT metro, motorbike taxis, tuk-tuks, taxis and buses to get around.
Thai Currency – money in Thailand
The Thai unit of currency is the Baht (symbol ฿). 1 Baht is divided into 100 Satang. Notes are in denominations of 1,000, 500, 100, 50 and 20 Baht.
Coins consist of 25 Satang, 50 Satang (rarely used), 1 Baht, 2 Baht, 5 Baht and 10 Baht.
All bills and all coins have a picture of His Majesty the King, and are therefore supposed to be shown some respect.
Major currency bills and cheques are cashed at many hotels, banks, tourist shops and exchange points.
Paying with credit cards
Any purchase made with a Visa, Master Card, American Express or and any other credit cards are charged a 2-5% fee on international transactions by your representative bank. Also, many shops that accept credit cards add a 3 (for Visa) to 5% (American Express) surcharge for any purchase made.
These surcharges are no extra-foreigner charges or any of that kind. They simply are the fees that credit card companies charge the merchant for handling the transaction for them.
Bangkok is the western name for today’s capital of Thailand. It already appeared on international navigation charts dated as far back as the 15th century as an outpost port of Ayutthaya, the formal capital of Siam, where western merchant ships made frequent calls.
The name Bangkok is believed to derive from Bang Makok.
However, Bangkok is not the official name and is only used in Thailand when communicating to foreigners.
The short and most commonly used name is Krung Thep, which can be translated to as the “City of Angels”.
The full ceremonial name
The official name of Bangkok is so long, that it even appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest name for a city.
It was given by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, and later edited by King Mongkut. This ceremonial name is composed in combination of two ancient Indian languages, Pāli and Sanskrit.