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City guide to Bangkok: How to do business in the Thai capital

Name: James Brook-Partridge
Age: 39
Position: Head of Broadcast Production, Ogilvy
Nationality: British

 

How often do you travel to Bangkok, and who do you fly with?
Depending on work, I probably travel to Bangkok about six times a year. We film there a lot as it’s a high standard and relatively cost effective. I always fly with SIA – it’s a great airline and it’s never a bad thing to rack up the air miles.

One thing everyone ought to know about Bangkok
I’m sure everyone already knows this, but the traffic is truly horrendous. It doesn’t seem to matter what time you arrive or leave, gridlock can hit at any time. It can be extremely frustrating (and unnerving) if you’re in a taxi trying to get to a meeting.

How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
If you’re a UK passport holder like me it’s a visa on arrival, and it’s very quick.

Fastest way into and around the city?
The Airport Rail Link service is the best way to get from the airport into central Bangkok. The train from the airport to Phaya Thai Station takes just under 20 minutes. At Phaya Thai you have to switch onto the BTS Skytrain. As the systems are not integrated, you will have to buy a new ticket. The SkyTrain is by far the quickest and safest way around Bangkok, unless you fancy taking a ‘taxi bike’ – cheap and fast, but with a slightly higher risk of personal injury (which may or may not be fatal depending on the speed at which you are traveling and the size of the vehicle your driver hits).

When are the good and bad times to visit?
Songkran, the Thai Lunar New Year, is a great to time to be in Bangkok, although as this is the most significant festival and holiday period of the year it will be expensive and you may well end up getting drenched every day as the festival pays tribute to the role of water in Thai culture and society. There’s always lots going on and much to see, but take a towel, and maybe a snorkel.

Recommended hotels?
Hotels are very reasonable, and you can’t go wrong with the Grand Hyatt on Rajdamri Road, which is where I tend to stay. It works out at about US$250 a night.

What’s the dress code for meetings?
I work in the creative services side of the advertising industry, so being dressed at all is more than most can manage. But shirt and jeans with sensible shoes works. For more grown-up professions, a smarter pair of trousers should be switched for the jeans.

Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Pointing your feet at someone, raising your feet higher than someone’s head, or simply putting your feet onto a desk or chair is considered extremely rude in Thailand. On that same note, avoid pointing your feet at Buddha statues as well. To follow strict Thailand etiquette, you should not cross your legs when sitting on the ground.

You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Sirocco, the world’s highest open-air rooftop restaurant on the 63rd floor of the Lebua hotel. Amazing views. You may recognise it from The Hangover Part II.

Hi James! 

Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
If you want ‘swank’ try the Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree. Incredible views of Bangkok. It also has a very good restaurant at the other end of the boat-shaped design. If you want low-key, there is great pub on Sukhumvit called The Robin Hood.

Any unsafe areas to avoid?
None that I can think of, although if there is an anti-government protest going on, that is best avoided. That said, I have been in Bangkok during these and you wouldn’t know they are happening.

You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
The Floating Market is pretty amazing: a plethora of colours and smells. Otherwise the Grand Palace to see how the other half live. Oh, by the way, the King is seriously revered in Bangkok, so no jokes about him.

Gifts to take home for family and friends?
Sang Thip (Thai whiskey). It’s an acquired taste, but it’s a lot of fun to give to unsuspecting dinner guests.

How long before your flight do you really need to be at the airport?
Two hours is fine, but the issue is leaving enough time to get to the airport because of the crazy levels of traffic.

 

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