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Bangkok: city of smiles

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Bangkok is one of the most vibrant, influential and exciting cities not only in Asia, but anywhere in the world.

And with multiple flights to Bangkoks Suvarnabhumi International Airport every day, Emirates offers excellent connections for travel therefrom Harare.

Combine that with a chance to fly on an Emirates A380 super-jumbo on selected flights, and it promises to be a trip to remember a very long time.

Passengers arriving by planeat Bangkok can take advantage of the airports modern facilities and excellent connections to the CBD, around 30km away.

Travel on the Airport Rail Link after your Bangkok flight, and experience a super-fast train journey at speeds of up to 160km/h.

Reasonably-priced cabs are available for passengers arriving on flights to Bangkok.
Experience the history and grandeur of the city then explore the rest of Thailand, with its dense jungles, unspoilt beaches and hidden temples.

Few cities are preceded by their reputation as much as Bangkok. Legendary for its excesses, its intensely laid-back atmosphere, beaches and hedonism, Bangkok encompasses all of these but they dont tell the story of the real city, or the real Thailand.

Even the name Bangkok obscures the truth; although this is the name most commonly used around the world, its citizens call it Krung Thep City of Angels.

This is a drastically shortened version of its full formal name: The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

Visitorsstill call it Bangkok!
With such poetry for a name, the reality of modern Bangkok is more down-to-earth. Home to more than 11 million, the Thai capital is a thriving commercial hub, packed with shopping malls, busy highways and throngs of people.

Within this triumph of capitalism still sits a traditional heart and it is this many visitors will think of when conjuring up images of Bangkok.

At the head of these for many would be WatTraimit the Golden Buddha, much loved by photographers. Along with Wat Pho ( Reclining Buddha) and the Grand Palace (also known as WatPhraKaew), these temples and monuments have become the flag-bearers for historic Bangkok, and no first-time visit would be complete without seeing them.

An excellent way to see the city is a tour or two through Bangkoks canals and Chao Phraya River. For the full experience, there are dedicated boat tours, but a cheaper alternative is simply to use public ferry services, if youre happy to dispense with the commentary.

For more active visitors, cycling is an excellent way to get around the city but only if you are ready to brave Bangkoks notoriously dangerous roads. A number of tour operators provide both bicycles and a route check out up-to-date travel guides or ask at a hotel for more information.

If you ate at a different place in Bangkok every day of your life, you wouldnt come close to exhausting all the options for dining in the city. From street food and satays to international dining extravaganzas, Bangkoks food scene is immense, and excellent.

Unlike many cities, street food is generally safe to eat, and often delicious. All the traditional Thai favourites can be found, but for something a bit more adventurous check out Khao San Roads bug-dining options everything from scorpions to crickets, mealworms and water beetles are there to taste; delicious, nutritious.

There are also plenty of more traditional restaurants across the city look for local listings magazines to get an idea of whats hot when you visit. For a chance to see a bit more of the city while you eat, consider a dining cruise the food wont be as good as on land, but its often a great way for visitors to experience the city.

While some aspects of Bangkoks nightlife are notorious, the city caters to all tastes when it comes to having a good night out. Khao San Road offers laid-back bars to try out (after sampling some insects), while Sukhumvit is home to higher-end establishments, with some, such as the Vertigo roof-top bar, offering fantastic views over the city. Serious party animals can check out Silom but be aware some venues are racy.

Many visitors may never set foot in Bangkok itself or in some cases, even outside the airport, on their way to another part of the country or region.

For many, a visit to Thailand conjures up pictures of sandy beaches and swaying palm trees Phuket is the main source for these images. This island in the south is a major tourist hotspot, so much so that its now losing some of its paradisiacal charm.

For alternatives to Phukets crowded beaches, check out the island of Ko Phi Phi. While not as crowded as Phuket, tourism has developed significantly recently, and it now offers options for all tastes, from five-star resorts to budget backpacker accommodation. For movie buffs, Ko Phi Phi was where much of the film The Beach was shot.

North of Bangkok, in Thailands interior, is Chiang Mai. Home to hundreds of temples, this is a major stop on the spiritual trail around Asia but like other parts of Thailand, is now thronged with tourists.

Bangkok is one of Asias major hubs, and a great jumping-off point to explore the region. A relatively quick hop takes you to Cambodia, Laos, Bali or even south-west China.

Emirates fares from Harare to Bangkok start around $1 322.

Visa information is available atfrom the Thai Embassy, Pretoria on +27-12-3425470.
Book at your favourite travel agent, or online at www.emirates.com/zw
dustym@zimind.co.zw

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