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Monday 1 July 2013

Cruising to Bangkok? Here's a quick introduction

Bangkok Grand Palace

Cruising in SE Asia is following the same kind of growth patterns experienced elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region and Thailand is one of Asia’s busiest tourist destinations with annual arrivals now exceeding 20 million.

Cruise ships sailing in the Gulf of Thailand and visiting Bangkok will arrive at one of two ports.

Klong Toey: not pretty, but at least it's close to the city
Laem Chabang caters to the biggest ships and is around two hours south toward Pattaya, while Klong Toey (also spelled Khlong Toei with variations) is the older port and nearest Bangkok CBD catering to vessels up to the size of Seabourn and Azamara. Your cruise line will most likely have transfers arranged for Laem Chabang, while Klong Toey (KT) is better set up for DIY travellers. Public transport is not really viable at KT and most lines visiting the port will offer shuttles for the short journey into the city.

Bustling Bangkok shopping precinct (TAT)
While most city visitors will want to immerse themselves in Bangkok’s famous retail attractions centred on the Siam Exchange BTS station, there are numerous cultural attractions that should also be on your list. These include the famous Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the King Prajadhipok Museum. Also tucked away near the Siam station is the Jim Thompson House museum and shop. A great stop for really stylish Thai souvenirs, especially quality silk. These locations are best experienced on a basic city tour, while retail is best conducted at your own pace.

Exquisite silk at Jim Thompson House
Smart cruisers starting or finishing their journey in Bangkok will allow a couple days sightseeing and shopping in this frenetic city and Bangkok has a selection of magnificent hotels ranging from historic and opulent to chic and funky. Most can be had for under AUD200 per night. Shoppers should try the new Mercure/Ibis right on Siam while hipsters must check out the wild Sofitel So Bangkok near Lumphini station.

"It's a good idea to stay in Bangkok before or after your cruise or if your ship is in transit,
consider signing up for one of the ship's tours so that you won't be stressed about
getting back to the ship on time.
" - Richard Davey, Mosman Cruise Centre

You'll quickly make friends if you
master the Thai polite greeting
Thai Tips

Be polite and keep your manners mild. Things will go quickly pear-shaped if you lose your cool and yes, there are plenty of things to test your nerve in Bangkok. The Thais are a patient, friendly people, but don’t push it.

Don’t be afraid to bargain when shopping, you might surprise yourself. It’s quite possible to halve the ‘first price’. Look out for tailored suits, fashion and textiles, handbags, jewellery and gadgets. My tip: MBK

Getting Around

You’ve heard the stories about Bangkok’s nightmare traffic but in truth it’s not really any worse than most major cities in the world and the Thais almost never use their horns. Taxis and tuk-tuks are inexpensive and the BTS, subway and Skytrain are a dream. Just do a little swotting up beforehand.

Private cars and drivers are not as expensive as you might think and certainly a relaxed way of doing your own thing. Contact: AF Holidays

Bangkok transport tips (from Tourism Thailand) 

Who Goes There?

Princess, Star, RCCL, Hapag-Lloyd, Azamara, Seabourn, Silversea, Oceania, Cunard and Crystal are just some of the major, big ship lines that include stops at Bangkok. Because of its excellent air-links, the city is also used as a hub for many river cruises (eg Avalon, Pandaw, Heritage Line) that turn around in Siem Reap, Cambodia or Myanmar. Boutique ships are common too with SeaDream and HLK’s Hanseatic sailing up river to Klong Toey.

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