Laem Chabang (Bangkok or Pattaya), Thailand
Grand Palace, Bangkok
Laem Chabang is the port for either Bangkok or Pattaya. Bangkok is over 2 hours away to the north by bus while Pattaya is closer and about an hour away to the south. Pattaya is a beach resort town popular with Russians, Japanese and Europeans.
Where You're Docked
Laem Chabang is a large commercial port with not much in the area. You can buy souvenirs and get a massage at the cruise terminal and there is a shopping center, Harbor Mall, on the main road by the entrance to the port with a Tesco/Lotus supermarket. Your cruise ship may provide a shuttle to Pattaya dropping off at Siam Bay View Hotel between Soi 9 & 10 and near Mike Shopping Mall and Central Festival Mall. Official port website here http://laemchabangport.com (English and Thai) but no cruise schedule.
Smaller ships may head up the Chao Phraya River and dock at Khlong Toei Port relatively close to Bangkok's city center. Khlong Toei also is the site of a large food market.
Laem Chabang Cruise Terminal
Khlong Toei Port
Money & Tipping
Thailand's currency is the Thai Baht. Currency exchange kiosks can be found throughout greater Bangkok with reasonable rates. Make sure there is no service charge or commission and better rates are typically given for larger US notes. Slightly better rates can be found at Super Rich 1965 (multiple locations including BTS Asok and Silom Rd) and Vasu Exchange (BTS Nana). ATM's tend to have a high service fee (200 THB) for foreign cards. Aeon Bank ATM's may have a slightly lower 150 THB fee. Credit cards are accepted at larger stores though there may be a minimum or surcharge. Tipping is not expected though small change is typically left (less than 20 baht) when dining at a restaurant. Sit down restaurants may add VAT and service charge to yout bill. You can give taxi drivers a small tip (5-10 baht for short trips) for good service and for not overcharging you.
Getting To/From Laem Chabang and the Airport
Since Laem Chabang is a large industrial port, there aren't many public transportation options from Bangkok. Train service in the area is both slow and infrequent and public buses will only run the popular route from Bangkok to Pattaya. Your best option is to take a metered taxi or arrange a private transfer service from Bangkok.
Bangkok has two airports. Suvarnabhumi (BKK) is the newer international airport. The old airport, Don Muang (DMG) is now used primarily by low cost carriers such as AirAsia, Nokair and Lion Air.
If arriving from Suvarnabhumi airport, you have a couple of options of getting into Bangkok. If you can handle your own luggage, the Airport Link train will get you into the city (BTS Phayathai Station) where you can continue your journey by taxi, Skytrain or MRT. The express train takes 15 minutes but costs 150 baht or you can take the commuter train with more stops for 45 baht and 30 min journey. If taking a taxi from the airport, there are reports of some drivers rigging their meter but a journey to Siam Square should cost around 735 baht and 2190 baht to Laem Chabang according to worldtaximeter.com Avoid touts offering rides since it will likely be more expensive or part of a jewelry/gem scam.
Suvarnabhumi airport has a "hidden" food court, Magic Food Point, mainly for airport employees but open to everybody with local Thai pricing. Head to the bottom level 1 (Bus Lobby), turn left, and walk to the end by exit door 8.
In Pattaya, the best way to get around is on the songthaew or Baht buses. These covered pickup trucks have two rows of seats in the back and are privately owned but government regulated. Board one on Beach or Second Road depending on which direction you want to go. Most drivers will do a loop from the dolphin statue to South Pattaya Rd. Hit the buzzer when you want to get off or if it heads off in the wrong direction and pay the driver 10 baht. Flag one down that is moving or board one that is dropping off. A stopped songthaew may assume you want to charter him for a private ride and charge a much higher rate. To get to Jomtien Beach, you will need to change to the songthaews waiting on South Pattaya Rd and Second Road beside the school. These leave when full. Metered taxis are now more common but they will not use their meters and charge at lesst 150 baht for short trips.
In Bangkok, there is the Skytrain (elevated light rail) or MRT (metro) but the routes don't go to the main tourist sites on the west side of the city. To avoid the heavy traffic and scamming tuk-tuk drivers, you can take the Skytrain to BTS Saphan Taksin and then board the inexpensive Chao Phraya Express Boats from Central Pier. Tourist stops include N5 Rajchawong for Chinatown, N8 Tha Tien for Wat Pho, Grand Palace Pier or Maharaj Pier for the National Museum. Colored flags on the boats indicate their route and those with fewer stops cost a bit more. Only the tourist route stops at the Grand Palace. Tickets can be purchased on board or at a ticket office at Central Pier. A separate canal boat service runs along the canal behind Jim Thompson's House.
To use the Skytrain, determine your zone from the map at the ticket machine. Most machines only take coins though a few have bill acceptors. If you need change, there are staffed ticket offices in the stations. To enter a station, insert your card at the front of the gate and retrieve it from the top. To exit, insert the card where it will be retained. Skytrain fares start at 15 baht for a single station and top out at 42 baht. A one day pass is 130 baht (Jan 2014) and will break even after four intermediate length trips. The pass is not valid on the MRT (separate daypass available for 120 baht) though there are plans to integrate the two systems in 2015. The newly introduced Rabbit smartcard can be used on both systems.
See the One Day in Bangkok section as well.
The MRT has similar pricing but the system issues a token instead of a card. All MRT ticket machines have bill acceptors though your change will be in 10 baht coins if you use a 100 baht note. You can buy a token at the ticket office if you don't want all that coin change. Tap the token to enter the gate and deposit the token in the slot when exiting.
If taking a taxi, make sure the driver uses the meter. A general rule is to avoid parked taxis and try to get one off the street away from touristy areas. Most drivers do not speak English so have your destination printed in Thai to show the driver.
Beware of Tuk-Tuk drivers telling you sites are closed and friendly locals giving advice on cheap tuk-tuk rides. You will probably ending up wasting your day in a scam to sell you overpriced jewelry.
Info on Bangkok scams here http://wikitravel.org/en/Bangkok#Stay_safe or http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Thailand/Central_Eastern_Thailand/Bangkok-1445238/Warnings_or_Dangers-Bangkok-Jewellery_and_Gem_Scams-BR-1.html There are no government approved jewellery stores in Thailand. There is also a relatively new scam involving the duty free store at Bangkok's International Airport where tourists are setup and accused of shoplifting.
Must See Sights in Bangkok
Sights near Laem Chabang/Pattaya
Day Trips from Bangkok
If Bangkok is your turnaround port and you have several days, there are good day trips from Bangkok.
If you're lucky to be in Thailand during Songkran (Thai New Year), you can participate in what's considered the world's largest water fight. Occuring in April, dates celebrated for Songkran differ in Pattaya than for Bangkok. In Pattaya, most of the action takes place by the beach bars on the northern end of Beach Road. In Bangkok, head to Central World or Khaosan Rd to take part. Some may consider being in Thailand during Songkran not good since many businesses are closed and it may be hard to avoid getting wet. Street vendors sell waterproof bags to protect your mobile phone.
Shopping & Restaurants
Chatuchak Weekend Market is Thailand's largest market and can be reached from BTS Skytrain Sapan Khwai Station or Mochit stations or Kamphaengphet station of the MRT blue line (best option). Also in the area is Or Tor Kor food market. The famous floating markets are located in Ratchaburi and far from the city centre. Khao San Road, famous as backpacker central, is closed to traffic in the evening and turns into a night market.
There are several malls around Siam Square in Bangkok including MBK mall (BTS National Stadium) which has indoor markets if you're looking for cheap souvenirs. Siam Paragon has luxury shops and car dealers, a massive department store, restaurants and a nice food court on the lower ground level and Siam Ocean World aquarium in the basement level. Terminal 21 (BTS Asok) is the city's newest mall with an airport theme and a different city represented on each level. Central World (BTS Siam) is Bangkok's largest and most popular mall with seven stories of shopping and restaurants. Malls in Bangkok are generally open from 10am to 10pm. Asiatique is a modern shopping and restaurant complex on the riverfront. Operating primarily as a night market opening at 5pm, a free ferry is available from Saphan Taksin pier (beside Skytrain). Don't be discouraged by long line ups at the pier since the boats can accommodate lots of passengers including standees.
Bangkok has a large Chinatown's with Yaowarat the main road. Markets fill narrow and crowded pedestrian alleys such as Sampeng Lane (officially Soi Wanit 1). Not recommended for the claustrophobic.
Best value for food is to go to a food court in a mall. Terminal 21 (BTS Asok/MRT Sukhumvit) in Bangkok has an excellent and surprisingly inexpensive food court (Pier 21 on 5th floor) popular with commuters switching lines. Dishes cost an average of 30 baht which is on par with street food pricing. You'll need to prepay for a card from the cashier which is used at the counters. Don't forget to get a refund on the remaining balance from the same cashier. MBK mall has two food courts, the main one on the sixth floor using prepaid coupons and a more upscale one on the fifth floor. In Pattaya, Central Festival Mall Pattaya Beach has a busy food court on the ground floor and an upscale one on the third floor. Even Suvarnabhumi Airport has a food court on level 1.
Street food in Bangkok can be found almost everywhere. Look for busy stalls with high turnover for better odds that food hasn't been sitting out too long. Silom Road and Soi Convent (BTS Sala Daeng/MRT Silom) is a popular location servicing the office workers in the area. The Wat Pho area also has a concentration of street food. Try moo ping (bbq pork skewers), banana roti/pancakes, fried chicken, or have a seat for some noodle soup.
Boat Noodle Alley can be found at the northeast end of Victory Monument on the north side of the canal behind Fashion Mall. Bowls are small and inexpensive so you are expected to order a few bowls trying out different combinations of noodle and toppings.
Pattaya has several malls including the large and new Central Festival Mall Pattaya Beach (supermarket and food court on the lower floor), the older Royal Garden Plaza, and the Big C on the northern end with a supermarket and casual Thai restaurant, Mae Sri Ruen. Malls in Pattaya are generally open from 11am to 11pm. For markets, Mike Shopping Mall is more of an indoor market (public swimming pool on the top floor) and the Pattaya Night Market on Second Road (north of Mike Shopping Mall) has stalls open during the day. Thepprasit Night Market is a large market operating Fri-Sun nights with great street food. Soi Buakhao Market is held every Tues and Fri at the corner with South Pattaya Rd.
Thai regulations restrict alcohol sales only during the hours between 11am and 2pm and 5pm to midnight (enforced strictly at supermarkets and chain stores). Alcohol sales are also prohibited on election day and some religious holidays.
You may be tempted to try a fish spa where fish nibble on your feet's dead skin. However, there is a risk of catching an infection (including HIV and hepatitis) from these tanks. http://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/easier-stuff/225723/the-downside-of-fish-spas
In Pattaya, the post office is on Soi 13/2 off Pattaya Beach Rd near Royal Garden Plaza.
In Bangkok, there is a post office on the bottom floor of the car park behind Siam Center (BTS Siam). Nana Post Office is at S118-122 Sukhumwit Road (west of BTS Nana across from Soi 3/1).
The cruise terminal has paid wifi. In Pattaya, Starbucks and McDonalds have wifi but it's not free either. You can find cheaper internet cafes along Second Rd. There is one north of Central Festival Mall and another one in the complex across from Mike Shopping Mall. Typical charge is between 30-60 baht per hour. Some bars and restaurants may offer free wifi.
Day in Bangkok
If taking the cruise ship "On Your Own" tour to Bangkok, you may be dropped off at Central World near Siam Square and near BTS Chit Lom Skytrain station. Tours previously dropped off at the Asia Hotel a couple of blocks north of Siam Square and beside BTS Ratchatewi Skytrain station. It is always wise to start furthest away from your end destination and work your way back since you don't want to be stuck in traffic close to a departure deadline. Here is a sample one day itinerary. http://wikitravel.org/en/One_day_in_Bangkok
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