Trying to keep up with all of the Thailand travel guides can be tricky. It seems like a new one pops up every week. Thailand keeps getting more and more popular every year for foreign tourists, so it’s only fitting that new guides are coming out more frequently. Despite the political tensions, I see tourism in Thailand continuing to grow stronger and stronger for many years to come.
As the number of farang visiting The Land of Smiles increases, the need for accurate and reliable travel books becomes more important. The more travel books I read for this blog, the more I cherish what makes each book unique just as much as what “required” information each one contains.
I stumbled across Frommer’s Bangkok Day by Day while perusing the travel section of my local book store. It’s a relatively unassuming book considering it’s size (it’s small compared to most), but don’t let the size fool you. It literally gives meaning to the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Bangkok Day by Day is a handy, pocket-sized Bangkok travel book that starts out with a section called “17 Favourite Moments.” This is brilliant; Colin gives you a list of the things he liked the most about Bangkok, complete with a map pinpointing how to get to each one. Granted, #17 is “Thai people,” which is a bit of a stretch, but I get where he’s coming from and don’t really fault him for that. It’s the first book I’ve seen where the author gives his personal recommendations right up front in its own section, so kudos for coming up with that idea.
The rest of the book is organized in “Best of…” sections: The Best Shopping, The Best Dining, The Best Nightlife… you get the idea. As with most travel guides, a map of each section is included, as well as place listings with phone numbers and websites are given. It’s really a no-brainer anymore, which almost takes the fun out of it since you don’t have to do any exploring nowadays. But I digress…
Author Colin Hinshelwood goes to great lengths to maintain a personal vibe, which I really like. The writing style is done in such a way as you feel like Colin is sending you a personal email with his opinions about each place listed in the book.
Another feature I really liked was actually the first section of the book, which features the best of One Day, Two Day, and Three Day tours. If you are looking for a bit more structure in your traveling and don’t want to wander around exploring on your own, this section provides you with a great way to see much of what Bangkok has to offer. Basically, if you want a two-day tour you do the One Day tour of the book and then add on the day two section. The same obviously applies to the three-day tour.
Perhaps the most convenient aspect of this book are the included maps. I don’t just mean the maps shown in the pages of the book, either. The front cover of the book folds out into two maps – “Bangkok Transport” and “Central Bangkok” – which is an absolute must-have nowadays.
You should have no problems getting to and from the major attractions by using the front cover maps by themselves. The Bangkok Transport map shows you the Skytrain routes, as well as all of the ferry and tourist boat routes, so at any given point you’ll know exactly how close (or far) you are from public transportation. (Of course, there are always the tuk-tuks, taxis, and moped drivers to get you where you need to go.)
The Central Bangkok map is a very general overview map. There is not much detail here, but it gives you a very clear idea of where the major areas and roads are, which should make your planning easier.
There is another map in the book as well. A fold-out map also comes with the guide, and features a larger and more detailed Central Bangkok map. This heavy-grade paper map is a great addition and will make your traveling much easier. I was very happy to see them include this map.
There is only one part of the book I just don’t understand. The subtitle of the guide is “13 Smart Ways to See the City.” I looked the book over several times and just don’t see where they get 13 Smart Ways. I mean, there seems to be a lot more than 13 ways, and I’m just not sure how the organization of the book facilitates this subtitle. Trust me, it’s a complete non-issue as my inability to see the connection doesn’t detract from how good it is.
Overall, Frommer has done an excellent job of creating a small and easy-to-use Bangkok travel guide. I highly recommend it for all BKK travelers, and I will be bringing it with me on my next trip with the specific purpose of going to some of the places author Hinshelwood suggests.
To date, of the books I have seen (I still have a few more to review and blog about) I think this book, combined with the Eyewitness travel book I reviewed recently, are the two must-have travel guides for your trip.