Bangkok, Thailand



Canal Tours
A great way to see the Chao Phraya River and the original canals of the city is take a boat tour. Most of these special boat trips start on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River and head through the backwaters of Thonburi. Visits usually include the temple of Wat Arun, the Royal Barges National Museum and a floating market. More information can be found in the Thonburi article about the canal tours.

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At 1,000 baht or more, the canal tours are quite expensive. A cheaper alternative is to take the public Chao Phraya River Express Boat. You can get off anywhere between the piers at Thewet and Sathon (Taksin) as there are many things to see. You can even go all the way north to Nonthaburi in the morning and enjoy the afternoon in this laid-back traditional urban town and take the boat back around rush hour. 

Chao Phraya Express Boat by Achp ru

Cultural Performances
There are many cultural performances in Bangkok showing traditional Thai culture and dance. Siam Niramit in Ratchadaphisek is a truly spectacular performance where more than 150 performers depict the history of each region of Thailand. 
Of a completely different order are Bangkok's famous transvestite shows. These cabarets generally take about two hours and come with singing, dancing, glamour, costumes and usually some comedy thrown in. The most famous show is Calypso Cabaret in Ratchathewi with two sessions every evening.

Muay Thai
Informally known as Thai Boxing,it is both a sport and a means of self-defence. Contestants are allowed to use almost any part of the body including feet, elbows, legs, knees and shoulders to defeat their opponents.  There are two venues in Bangkok to see Muay Thai, Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Silom and Ratchadamnoen Stadium in Rattanakosin. Sessions can take the whole evening and the more interesting fights tend to happen at the end, so it's not that bad if you come slightly late. The playing of traditional music during bouts is enjoyable as well. A downer is the steep 1,000-2,000 baht entry fee for foreigners, while Thais only chip in for 100 baht or less.

Muay Thai by © BrokenSphere/Wikimedia Commons

Nearly all luxury hotels in Bangkok have a spa that at least offers a traditional Thai massage. Prices are exorbitant but offer some of the best treatments in Bangkok. Particularly well-regarded spas can be found at the luxury hotels in Silom. Independent spas offer much the same experience but at much more competitive rates. The ubiquitous little massage shops found along the streets (particularly in Khao San Road and Sukhumvitoffer the best value for money but provide the smallest range of services, usually limited to only massages. 

It is fairly easy to distinguish between the legitimate massage shops and more dubious places (where massaging is only a front for prostitution). The real deal charge 250-400 baht for a typical two-hour massage and will often have a row of beefy farmers' daughters in white coats working on customers' feet in public view. The other dubious kind have wispy girls in sexy evening dresses wearing too much make-up and saying "hello handsome" to every passing male.

Bangkok is a great place to go to the movies. Compared to the West, the cost of a ticket is a complete bargain at around 120 baht. Most cinemas are world-class standards and show the latest Hollywood and Thai releases (nearly all have English subtitles). For non-mainstream cinema, House RCA (in Royal City Avenue) and APEX (in Siam Square) offer art films with English subtitles.

For other means of entertainment, Ratchadaphisek is a newly created entertainment paradise in Bangkok. The area is home to clubs, theatres, cinemas, karaoke bars, bowling alleys and even an ice skating rink and go-kart track. The bowling centres here are of a superb standard. A convenient destination in Ratchadaphisek is RCA Plaza with varieties of entertainment facilities.

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