Bangkok (Laem Chabang)
As perhaps the most extreme example of a ‘primate city’ – it is disproportionately larger in size and significance than all of Thailand’s other urban centres – Bangkok is certainly a lively metropolis! Whereas it had humble beginnings in the early 15th century as a small trading post, it eventually became the capital city of Siam and therefore benefited the most from the modernising process in the 19th century in the face of Western pressures. Between the 1960s and 1980s, Bangkok saw a lot of growth, particularly with the Asian investment boom in the 1980s and ‘90s, with various multinational companies setting up their regional offices in Bangkok. Despite this continued development and modernisation, various communities in Bangkok still continue to practice their traditional crafts, producing khon masks used for the traditional Thai dance-drama style, alms bowls, and classical musical instruments. Bangkok is noted for its 400 or so Buddhist temples, known as Wats, perhaps the most famous and popular being the Wat Phra Kaew housed in the Grand Palace, renowned for its Emerald Buddha, and Wat Pho with its enormous Reclining Buddha.
Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, ranked number two in the world's top-20 most-visited cities by the Mastercard 2014 and 2015 Global Destinations Cities Index. It is easy to understand why Bangkok is such a popular destination with its rich tapestry of history and cultures embroidered by its Grand Palace and major Buddhist temples such as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun, and the Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace, the largest teak building in the world.
Moreover Bangkok offers other insights into Thailand – keen shoppers can have a whale of a time, either in the shopping centres and department stores in Siam and Ratchaprasong, or the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market, or Taling Chan Floating Market, both of which offer a more authentic Thai shopping experience. There are also various street-side food stalls and restaurants, most famously in Yaowarat, which will appeal to foodies who love tucking in to local delicacies, and experiencing food from different cultures. Bangkok is certainly a city of hawkers, with an estimated excess of 100,000 hawkers offering everything from food, clothing and accessories. Bangkok is ideal for a pre- or post- cruise programme for a more in-depth exploration of the city, or to stay over at one of the world renowned Thai beaches or islands for some relaxation: Ko Lan, Pattaya, Koh Samui (a little further afield), or Koh Samet.
Laem Chabang is the port which is the gateway to Bangkok, especially for larger cruise ships. It is the busiest port in Thailand, and one of the busiest in the world. Laem Chabang is very much so an embarkation port: it is used by cruise ships for embarkation (or disembarkation) in order to get to Bangkok, or even other destinations such as Pattaya.
Pattaya is only about an hour’s drive away if you would prefer to visit a Thai beach town resort; cruise ships may likely offer shuttle transfers. There are other Thai beach resorts available to visit from Laem Chabang which may be a magical and relaxing way to finish off a cruise as part of a post-cruise programme.