Well, it happened again. For the third year in a row, Bangkok is the most visited city in the whole, big, wide world! In 2017, 20.5 million people visited Bangkok, a number which is expected to climb by nearly 10% in 2018. (Sorry, London, you only got 18.93 million for the #2 spot.)
That. Is. Crazy.
But it’s also great! For our part, we think everyone should come to Bangkok at least once. All the usual reasons apply – food, culture, adventure, scenery, fun – but as with anything, there is a counterpoint to all this frivolity.
If you’ve done any traveling, the effects of over-tourism are hard to ignore. Pollution and environmental degradation are the two most obvious and complex to solve; there are no easy answers there. But today we want to highlight a few of the things that are happening in Bangkok that will hopefully help the city cope with all of these new visitors.
Yes, we know that a city of Bangkok’s size is terribly underserved by its meager rail network, but things are changing fast. In the next few years, dozens of kilometers of new rail lines are scheduled to open (above and below ground), and new train carriages have been arriving recently from China and Europe in readiness. The new Bang Sue terminal station will help expedite rail travel in and out of Bangkok to the rest of Thailand, and will be absolutely massive when it opens in 2020. We believe that, eventually, getting around Bangkok will be much easier than it is now. Check out this map of Bangkok’s current and upcoming rail routes here.
No matter how badly visitors want to, there are only so many people that can be squeezed into existing attractions like the Grand Palace before people start staying away to avoid the crowds. But not to fear! Going somewhat against expectations, Bangkok city hall is making some good moves in regards to improving things to see and do in the city. Firstly, we’d be loathe not to mention new malls and renovations to old ones. Yes, we know, boo, malls, but give them a break – they provide a safe, air-conditioned environment to eat, watch movies, play with the kids, see concerts, and shop, which, let’s be honest, is high on the list of things to do in Bangkok. There’s also an upcoming observation tower on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, and two large new parks (Benjakitti Forest Park and the upcoming Royal Turf Club).
An Eye for Growth
There are plenty of little touches being made as well, not always so visible. Chinatown and other areas have received roped-off pedestrian pathways to keep the crowds in line, and a load of large, new trash bins to help mitigate the inevitable trash. Several important pedestrian bridges have been expanded and beautified with new tiles and rain guards. The secondary U-Tapao International Airport will be expanded to take some of the strain off of Suvarnabhumi (which will be getting a new terminal on its own in a few years as well). Transport hubs, such as Victory Monument, are getting reorganized in the name of efficiency.
And the much-publicized effort to reclaim sidewalk space from expanding vendor footprints has not always been successful, but at least it shows that new ideas are being generated and tried out.
Will there be growing pains? Yes, of course, but we also have to give credit where credit is due. In a city that moves so fast, it’s easy to miss the big picture, which, to us, looks pretty compelling.
This is why it is valuable to take advantage of local knowledge. Smiling Albino have had years of experience exploring Bangkok’s major sights as well as hidden historical neighbourhoods. We know the best routes, times, and transport methods to navigate this chaotic but fascinating city. Let us host you next time you visit Bangkok, a city bursting with unique experiences, flavors and culture.