Port of Bangkok, Laem Chabang

Laem Chabang Cruise Gateway to Bangkok, Thailand

Cruising in the South China Sea is becoming increasingly popular which normally includes one or two ports of call in Thailand.

Thailand is one of the most advanced and open nations in Southeast Asia, and was once known as Siam. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia on the south along Thailand’s isthmus. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and tourists are welcomed with open arms by these friendly people.

 

Where The Ship Docks

Most cruise ships dock at the port of Laem Chabang on the Gulf of Thailand, a full two hours south of Bangkok, the nation’s capital.

Often smaller ships dock at Klong Toey on the Chao Phraya River, right on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Terminal facilities at Laem Chabang

This port is located along the southeast coast and serves primarily as a working industrial port. While there are supposed to be facilities being developed to include a terminal currently there is not much there for cruise passengers.

Inside the Grand Palace Complex
Transportation

Getting into Bangkok by taxi is estimated to cost about $40 each way with bus service costing about $7.50. We ran into some people that tried the buses and eventually gave up trying to catch the right bus and hired a taxi.

The roads and highways in Thailand are very well maintained and if you want to go it alone and see some of the countryside there are good car rental services. We’ve always been amazed with Thailands highway rest stops usually lined with a half dozen or more American franchises. One rental company near Laem Chabang that comes highly recommended is:

Take it Easy Bike & Car Rental

Address: 329/48, Soi Pattaya New Plaza, 50m off 2nd Road, Opposite Soi 7 – Soi 8, Central Pattaya, Pattaya 20150 .                      Phone: 089 007 7804    Rental cars can be arranged ahead of arrival for pick up at the port through their web site.

On our last visit we were on a cruise that spent two days in Laem Chabang. After some research we pre-booked a private tour through Travel Hub. They picked us up at the port and took us straight to Bangkok where we spent a busy day with that night in a hotel. Early the next morning we headed out into the country and ended up at the port with plenty of time to spare.

Currency

Thailand uses the Baht at an exchange rate to the U.S. Dollar of one Baht equals about 3¢. While most credit cards are welcome if you are going to spend a day or two in Bangkok it is recommended that you exchange for local Baht.

The Reclining Buddha
Attractions

The capital city of Bangkok is the big attraction, with the best place to start being the Grand Palace. This is the central sightseeing attraction in the city, and it’s overwhelming in its historical significance and stunning architecture. The grounds are packed full with royal palaces, temples, and history, the highlight is Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A relic within this temple is said to be a piece of bone from the Buddha himself. While there also visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn and it measures 135 feet long. Allow a number of hours to do the Grand Palace grounds but also try and visit the famous Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn rising above the Chao Phraya River. We would also recommend taking a water trip through canals and along the river.

Thailand is also famous for floating markets where goods are sold from boats. Originally developed when rivers and canals played an important role in daily life, most floating markets operating today serve primarily as tourist attractions.

Maeklong Railway Market

One unique market is the Famous Maeklong Railway Market. It is located in a congested town and sits right on an active train track. As trains approach vendors pull back their awnings and displays with only minutes to spare and are right back in business as soon as the trains pass. A unique experience as you stand there with train only only inches away.

While there are tons of cultural and historic attractions to see in Bangkok and the people are remarkably polite and friendly be aware of con artists; who frequently prey on tourists. Though the cruise port is a good distance from the city, venturing into the city to see the sights is something that shouldn’t be missed.

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Thailand – 2 Days in Bangkok

Grand Palace

We spent two days in Bangkok earlier this year as part of a month cruising around the South China Sea and those two days were the highlight of the trip. Visiting Bangkok is an exciting experience. The culture is rich and peaceful, the food is plentiful and diverse and there are many things to see and do. If you arrive on a cruise ship, you dock at Laem Chabang which is a minimum hour-and-a-half drive from the city. If your ship is only there for the day, it is difficult to get into the city and back and still manage to see a lot. If you are lucky, your ship docks one morning and departs the next evening providing you time for an adventure.

Even the trip into Bangkok is interesting as you realize how modern the area is. There are many factories and businesses along the way and rest stops which stretch great distances provide a large number of restaurants and coffee shops with many American offerings.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Once into the city, there are numerous temples and markets to visit along with museums and other historical properties. Thailand’s main religion is Buddhism so getting to a temple or two is a must. Keep in mind that there are specific dress codes (i.e. no bare shoulders or short pants) and you probably will be required to remove your shoes. Some temples do not allow photos. The word for temple in Thai is Wat.

Altar and Buddha in the Western Viharn

The Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade) is probably the most famous and it is on the grounds of the Grand Palace (established in 1782) so you can visit both at the same time. The grounds are huge and include a number of temples and palaces, magnificent statuary, works of art and jeweled walls. There are small admittance fees but you can claim a beautiful brochure once you have paid. The Grand Palace closes from time to time for events/ceremonies so this could affect your visit.

Within a short walk of the Grand Palace is Wat Pho which is home to the Reclining Buddha (covered in gold and 46 meters in length), several other Buddhas and a variety of stone figures. Another famous temple in the area (not walking distance) is Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the Chao Phraya River. It can be enjoyed on its’ own or as part of a river/canal tour.

Maeklong Railway market

While in Bangkok we were urged to try a number of “street” foods, which are everywhere. Mostly what we sampled were fresh fruits with one highlight being a cup of strawberries dusted with salt, sugar and chili powder. Freshly opened coconuts for coconut water were available everywhere. Other foods included grilled chicken, fried bananas and pineapple. After checking into our hotel we went into the shopping district and stopped in a sports bar for a beer. We ordered chicken wings and were served the tiniest wings we’d ever seen, about an inch long.

We spent the night at the Centre Point Hotel Chidlom in the Central District. The hotel was recommended by some Australian friends and was very nice and not too expensive. It was just a few blocks from Bangkok’s major department store, Central Chidlom and a number of nice restaurants. We set out early the next morning for the Maeklong Railway Market.

Water Market

The Maeklong Railway Market is 50 miles outside Bangkok and is the most unique market in Asia. The trains run down a stretch of track right through the market with shops only a couple of feet from the tracks. It features vendors (mostly food) on both sides of the tracks. They display their products along the tracks and, when the train is coming, they drop awnings and quickly pull everything back until the train passes. Afterwards, all goods go back by the tracks. This process happens seven times a day but it is best to visit early in the morning when the temperatures and smells are both lower. Food is the main item sold here.

There are many floating markets in Thailand but one of the more interesting ones is Damnoen Saduak, about 60 miles from the city. Products are displayed in boats and around the canals and you can purchase food items that have been cooked on the boats. You can hire a long boat and the operator will row you around the canals to shop and observe. Bartering is a must and payment in local currency (baht) is expected.

Backyard Shrines

Some excursions can be arranged with your ship and hotels in Bangkok also offer access to tour companies. A better alternative, if you are there overnight, is to hire a private travel company like Travel Hub as they have good itineraries and will pick you up at the ship, provide touring, drop you at a hotel and pick you up the following morning for more touring and the journey back to the ship. There are fixed itineraries with a little flexibility and each group includes a guide and driver; the smaller the group, the more personal the tour. Pricing depends on the number of people in the group.

Rest Stop on Hiway 7 South of Bangkok

A couple of important notes about visiting Thailand: The people love and respect their king and do not tolerate disrespect. Most Thai homes include photographs or art depicting the king and his family. One story recounts an incident where someone dropped Thai currency and stepped on it to keep it from blowing away. The act was considered an insult to the king because his picture is on all currency. Another note regards the Buddha. Thailand is a Buddhist country and disrespect towards the Buddha is not permitted under Thai law. There are billboards and posters all over the country pointing this out.

If you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia you need to put Thailand at the top of your list.

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Two Restaurants in Bangkok

ESS – Eat Sight Story (Asian Fusion Restaurant in Bangkok) 

The central attraction in Bangkok is the Grand Palace and Grounds featuring many temples, palaces and a museum. To do it right, the area is worth most of a day and that means at least finding a place to sit down and have lunch. If you are in the area near Wat Pho (Giant Buddha) a good choice for lunch is Eat Sight Story. The restaurant is on the Chao Praya River across from Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) with a deck featuring tables, umbrellas and great views. To find it, go down Tha Tian Alley towards the river from Maha Rat Road, south of the Naval Welfare Department.

In addition to the deck overlooking the river, ESS has tables inside along with a small air conditioned dining room. The staff is friendly and efficient and, while not inexpensive, the food is very good. The afternoon we visited, we had curried beef, Pad Thai, grilled chicken skewers with rice and cold Thai beer and were very pleased with our selections. Based on other meals we ate in Thailand we believe that their offerings are toned down some to appeal to western tastes.

The Beer Bridge (A Gastro Pub in Bangkok)

The Beer Bridge was located just down the street from our hotel in the The Portico Building, 31 Langsuan, Ploenchit Rd., Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok. The Beer Bridge is a modern eatery in an upscale neighborhood just a block away from Central Chidlom, Bangkok’s largest department store and near a number of major hotels.

They offered a wide selection of beers (local and imported) along with a nice wine list, cocktails and typical pub food. We ordered an appetizer which turned out to be the tiniest Buffalo chicken wings we’ve every eaten. But, after a long and warm day walking around Bangkok, The Beer Bridge provided exactly what we needed – really cold beer and some western familiarity.

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Cruising the South China Sea

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A First Visit to Southeast Asia

We spent all of February cruising with Celebrity’s Constellation in the South China Sea on back-to-back itineraries. We visited twelve ports with only one repeat (Ho Chi Min City). If you are going to fly twelve thousand miles you probably should make the most of the trip. We flew into Singapore and with the return for the second cruise and the extra day in port at the end we had five days to explore the city and all we could say was wow! The ship also spent two days in the port for Bangkok and we spent that night in a Bangkok hotel and booked a private tour (more about that at another time ;-).

Beyond the usual reasons for cruising there was an additional advantage on this trip. If you are not into a diet of noodles with dried fish flakes or hot curries, the ship gives you the opportunity to return to a Western style menu. The ship also takes care of visas and immigration ahead of each port.

Besides our time in Singapore our trip included four stops in Vietnam, Hong Kong, two stops in the Philippines which included Manila, two stops in Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Brunei and two stops in Thailand. We had an opportunity to see a lot as well as try a number of cuisines. Many of the destinations were studies in extreme contrasts but it was also obvious that things are greatly improving economically. It is also interesting to switch from Muslim to Buddhist to Western cultures as we went from one port to the next. On board there were a number of excellent in-depth lectures on the history and culture of the various countries which provided a good perspective on the ways the region developed.

Over the last number of years we have found cruising gives us an opportunity to sample a number of places and than we decide where we want to come back to for extended stays. Southeast Asia is no exception to this and we certainly have a few we will add to our return list.


Phone Service: We were traveling on this trip with an iPhone 5 on Verizon service ($80 for 250 international minutes)and with a Blu 5.5 phone with a prepaid international plan from One Sim Card service. Vietnam and Brunei were not part of the Verizon international service so we switched use to OneSimCard. Phone calls with Verizon worked well everywhere else but there were problems getting text messages out on a few days. The only reliable data that we found on the Verizon service was in Singapore (didn’t attempt in Hong Kong) most other places indicated “Data Service Failed”. The One Sim Card service worked as expected except in Vietnam. There we connected with the recommended service provider (Viettel) but instead of text messages costing the expected 25¢ they were charged at a couple of dollars. One Sim Card did send a text message warning of high costs on this service recommending we switch networks, even though Viettel was their recommended provider.


In the near future look for posts covering each of these countries with pointers on must do things, food, transportation and hotels.

Bangkok Thailand

The current(?) Palace

Visiting Bangkok can be an exciting experience. The culture is rich and peaceful, the food is plentiful and diverse and there are many things to see and do. If you arrive on a cruise ship, you dock at Laem Chabang which is a minimum hour-and-a-half drive from the city. If your ship is only there for the day, it is difficult to get into the city and back and still manage to see a lot. If you are lucky, your ship docks one morning and departs the next evening providing you time for an adventure.

The trip into Bangkok is interesting because you see a lot and realize how modern the area is. There are many factories and businesses along the way and rest stops which stretch great distances providing a large number of restaurants and coffee shops for the traveler.

Chao Phraya River

Once into the city, there are numerous temples and markets to visit along with museums and other historical properties. Thailand’s main religion is Buddhism so getting to a temple or two is a must. Keep in mind that there are specific dress codes (i.e. no bare shoulders or short pants) and you probably will be required to remove your shoes. Some temples do not allow photos. The word for temple in Thai is Wat.

The Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade) is probably the most famous and it is on the grounds of the Grand Palace (established in 1782) so you can visit both at the same time. The grounds are huge and include a number of temples and palaces, magnificent statuary, works of art and jeweled walls. There are small admittance fees but you can claim a beautiful brochure once you have paid. The Grand Palace closes from time to time for events/ceremonies so this could affect your visit.

Within a short walk of the Grand Palace is Wat Pho which is home to the Reclining Buddha (covered in gold and 46 meters in length), several other Buddhas and a variety of stone figures. Another famous temple in the area (not walking distance) is Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the Chao Phraya River. It can be enjoyed on its’ own or as part of a river/canal tour.

Maeklong Railway Market

While in Bangkok we were urged to try a number of “street” foods, which are everywhere. Mostly what we sampled were fresh fruits with one highlight being a cup of strawberries dusted with salt, sugar and chili powder. Freshly opened coconuts for coconut water were available everywhere. Other foods included grilled chicken, fried bananas and pineapple. After checking into our hotel we went into the shopping district and stopped in a sports bar for a beer. We ordered chicken wings and were served the tiniest wings we’d ever seen, about an inch long.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

50 miles from Bangkok is the Maeklong Railway Market, the most unique market in Asia. It features vendors (mostly food) on both sides of the railroad track. They display their products along the tracks and, when the train is coming, they quickly pull everything back until the train passes right through the market. Afterwards, all goods go back by the tracks. This process happens seven times a day but it is best to visit early in the morning when the temperatures and smells are both lower. Food is the main item sold here.

There are many floating markets in Thailand but one of the more interesting ones is Damnoen Saduak, about 60 miles from the city. Products are displayed in boats and around the canals and you can purchase food items that have been cooked on the boats. You can hire a long boat and the operator will row you around the canals to shop and observe. Bartering is a must and payment in local currency (baht) is expected.

Some excursions can be arranged with your ship and hotels in Bangkok also offer access to tour companies. A better alternative, if you are there overnight, is to hire a private travel company like Travel Hub as they have good itineraries and will pick you up at the ship, provide touring, drop you at a hotel and pick you up the following morning for more touring and the journey back to the ship. There are fixed itineraries with a little flexibility and each group includes a guide and driver; the smaller the group, the more personal the tour. Pricing depends on the number of people in the group.

Rest area on Thai highway.

A couple of important notes about visiting Thailand: The people love and respect their king and do not tolerate disrespect. Most Thai homes include photographs or art depicting the king and his family. One story recounts an incident where someone dropped Thai currency and stepped on it to keep it from blowing away. The act was considered an insult to the king because his picture is on all currency. Another note regards the Buddha. Thailand is a Buddhist country and disrespect towards the Buddha is not permitted under Thai law. There are billboards and posters all over the country pointing this out.

If you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia you need to put Thailand at the top of your list.

 

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