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  Bangkok Gulf Airways fr £239
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The modern Asian metropolis at its steamy and exciting best.

Bangkok has dominated Thailand's urban hierarchy as well as its political, commercial and cultural life since the late 18th century. Distinctly modern and Westernised, Bangkok is still a sleepy Thai village with a louder soundtrack of traffic and nightlife.

Bangkok proper seethes on the east side of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya (Chao Phraya River), drawing rural Thai folk into its cluttered fold daily. The city is reportedly sinking at a rate of 5cm (2in) every year, but there's too much sànùk (a Thai sense of fun) going on for that to get anyone down.


Bangkok and Central Thailand are well within tropical latitudes and experience alternating periods of a dry and wet monsoon climate. The south-west monsoon arrives between May and July and lasts into October. This is followed by a dry period from November to May, a period that begins with lower relative temperatures until mid- February (because of the influences of the north-east monsoon, which bypasses this part of Thailand, but results in cool breezes), followed by much higher relative temperatures from March to May. According to the official Thai agricultural calendar, the rains begin in July; however, the arrival of the monsoon can vary. Occasional rains in the dry season are known as 'mango showers'. In Bangkok it usually rains most during August and September, though it can flood in October since the ground has reached full saturation by then. If you are in Bangkok in early October, you may find yourself in hip-deep water in certain parts of the city.

A Top Day in Bangkok

Wake up in Bangkok and know that anything is possible. My perfect day would begin with a walk down the busy streets to select the best egg noodle soup with wontons and red pork, a delicious, ubiquitous dish and an excellent hangover cure. A trip down the river is next on the cards, a wonderful breezy way to see the city and its monuments without choking to death. A stop at a riverside restaurant is always scenic and delicious - I'd probably seek out some soft-shelled crab with glass noodles at In Love restaurant at Thewet pier. Jumping off the ferry at Saphan Taksin, I would skytrain it up to Siam for some shopping, making sure there's time at the end of the day for a calming swim, a Thai massage and a bag of mangosteens. Bangkok is all about alternating the pampering with the hard yards, the chic heights with the seething streets. An ideal evening, therefore, involves somewhere very fancy for drinks, like sunset at Vertigo (the rooftop bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel) and then local street food - say spicy salad and sticky rice, red curry squid and morning glory - on plastic chairs in the warping heat. The car park on the corner of Ratchadamri Road and Soi Sarasin, near Lumphini park, is great, as are many places in the Samsen sois in Banglamphu. Alternatively, I'd go for cold beer and salty beans at the little makeshift bars that line the Chatuchak weekend market (wonderful post-shopping ambience as the market is closing) followed by an inner-city restaurant.

Dinner cruises run by the fancy hotels are super-touristy but a great treat for visitors. If there's a night out on the cards I would begin it with G&T's at Cheap Charlie's bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 or Admakers (great live music) on Soi Lang Suan, and let the random and glorious energy of the city decide the rest.

A midnight snack and a walk down the human zoo of Khao San Road is always entertaining, especially when the bars close and the messy hordes spill into the street.

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