Bewildering and bewitching, Thailand is a lot to take in for the first time visitor. And the capital city of Bangkok, with its surreal fusion of Technicolor modernity and ancient traditions, scares as many first-time travelers as it thrills. The best way to maximize your Thai trip is to go on a guided tour. Not only will you get to meet like-minded travelers, but a guide will ensure that you get the most out of your vacation.
The list of things to do in Bangkok is endless, but after a long flight, it’s best to ease into your Thai trip by taking a long-tail boat ride on the city’s canals. Built on water, Bangkok is called the “Venice of the East.” A relaxing canal cruise provides a good introduction to the city; wooden stilted houses, floating food stalls and glimmering Buddhist temples line the waterways, creating a hypnotizing ramshackle of colors and smells.
After the boat ride (and too many airplane meals), chances are someone in your tour group is going to say, "Let’s get some pad thai."
Pad thai is Thailand’s national dish. Sadly, it’s often misrepresented in pan-Asian joints around the world; no Thai chef is going to load traditional noodles with gobs of brown sugar and ketchup. In other words, you have to go to Thailand to get the real deal. Pad thai Phratu Phi has been serving the best pad thai in Bangkok for five decades.
After three days of temple hopping in Bangkok, you've seen the highlights: Wat Pho (or the temple of reclining Buddha), Wat Suthat, Wat Ratchapradit, the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. It's time to push on to the River Kwai, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, and... Cambodia.
Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Quincunx towers, extensive bas-reliefs, devatas adorning the walls -there’s no way to describe the architectural beauty of Angkor Wat. The 12th century “Temple City” is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas of Hindu mythology. It’s an implausibly CGI-looking temple-mountain, part science fiction, part Middle Earth, and unlike anything you’ll ever encounter. It’s also the world’s largest religious monument and represented on Cambodia’s national flag.
Angkor was once a thriving metropolis before mega-monsoons made it unlivable. At is a peak in the 12th and 13th centuries, three-quarters of a million people made their home in Angkor. Poachers stripped the forests around Angkor Wat for decades, and it’s only recently that conservation groups helped re-wild the area with gibbons and langurs. After exploring Angkor Wat, your guide will bring you to the fortified city of Angkor Thom. Cultural highlights include the following:
- Terrace of Elephants
- Terrace of Leper Kings
- The Ruin lf Baphuon
- The Royal Enclosure
Cambodia’s ancient cities and religious ruins are awe-inspiring. In order to fully understand and respect the breadth of what you’re seeing, you’d have to take the time to thoroughly study Cambodian history; this is the case when visiting any ancient city, from Rome to Cairo. Luckily, when you take an Affordable World tour to Cambodia, your guide is not only friendly and accommodating, but also a walking encyclopedia of cultural knowledge.
Put the guidebook down and enjoy the show.