Bangkok/Ramkhamhaeng

Ramkhamhaeng University

Ramkhamhaeng (Thai: รามคำแหง) is a vast district that lies along Ramkhamhaeng Road, a major arterial road in east Bangkok. The area could be considered a suburb and is almost completely unknown to foreign travellers, with the notable exception of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Most venues cater to locals who have their own transport, so attractions are spread far out and it is hard to get around. Hua Mak and Bang Kapi in the southwest are the most interesting neighbourhoods, and also the easiest to navigate as the Saen Saep Express Boat runs right through them. These are lively areas with shopping malls and restaurants that cater to commuters and university students.

Understand

Eastern Bangkok is virtually synonymous with Ramkhamhaeng Road, a major traffic artery jammed every morning and evening with commuters working downtown. Rising property values in Sukhumvit has made this area more interesting to foreign expatriates in recent years, although seeing a farang is still a rare occurrence. With a total length of 18km, Ramkhamhaeng Road starts at Phetchaburi Road near Sukhumvit and ends in the far northeast at the junction with Suwinthawong Road (in the neighbourhood, Min Buri).

The lower southwestern part is known as Hua Mak, a neighbourhood completely dominated by Ramkhamhaeng University. "RU", as it is commonly known, was opened in 1971 as Thailand's first open-admissions university. It has an astonishing number of students. Official statistics claim about half a million, almost all of them undergraduates. The university gives the neighbourhood its lively appearance, with many students shopping and dining at the Mall Ramkhamhaeng. Rajamangala Stadium is also be found here. Completed in 1998, it played an important role in the 1998 Asian Games and the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. It is home to Thailand's national football team.

The junction with Srinagarindra Road is known as Lam Sali intersection. Go north from here and you'll stumble upon Lat Phrao Road, which marks the beginning of a neighbourhood known as Bang Kapi. It is actually quite similar to Hua Mak, as everything still looks like a big grey mass of concrete, but students are outnumbered here by daily commuters. The Bangkapi Mall stole the hearts of the locals, and Thais flock to it in big numbers. For foreigners, there is actually not that much to do. Attractions are few and far off, and the shopping malls are inferior to those in other districts. It can easily be skipped on any Bangkok itinerary, but then you miss out on seeing where and how most of the locals live.

You would almost forget that nearly all foreign visitors to Thailand land here at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the far east of the district. Development in eastern Bangkok has been relatively slow, but it is expected that the relatively recent construction of the airport will be the spur for more urban development in the area. Until now, this has at least been true for the hotel business, with many new hotels constructed at Lat Krabang Road trying to make a buck out of transferring passengers.

Get in

Map of Ramkhamhaeng

By boat

Bangkok and its traffic-congested commercial districts, including Ramkhamhaeng Road, are hard to navigate by car. Thus, the best way to get into the area is by boat. The Saen Saep Express Boat service runs on the canal of the same name, and you don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic! The service runs about every 5-10 minutes and as the canal is exactly parallel to Ramkhamhaeng Road with many stops along that road.

It is a fast and inexpensive way of transport as a single trip costs about 9-19 baht, depending on distance travelled. The most important stops are The Mall Ram (in Hua Mak) and The Mall Bangkapi, both of which are served by the NIDA Line (that starts in Pratunam and goes all the way northeast to Wat Sriboonreung). The route is served by 100 boats of 40-50 seats, and operates from 05:30-20:30 daily. Most piers have English signs up, but be wary, as The Mall Ram does not have any sign at all, and from the boat it is not clear that you have reached the mall!

Be wary of sitting on the outer sides of the boat as polluted water from the canal sometimes spills over on board. Also be careful when entering and exiting the boats as "safety first" does not seem to apply for the crew here. During rush hour, you might have to fight your way in the boat as too many people are trying to get on. Another minor annoyance is the noisy atmosphere during the ride. Don't expect a romantic experience.

By public transit

Opened in August 2010, the Airport Rail Link is an alternative way of getting in. The City Line of that service has a stop at Ramkhamhaeng, which is at the extreme southwest of the district at the beginning of Ramkhamhaeng Road. There is a direct service from Suvarnabhumi Airport in the east, as well as from Phaya Thai, Ratchaprarop and Makkasan stations in the west. Do not take the Express Line as it skips Ramkhamhaeng completely.

By bus

Getting to Ramkhamhaeng by bus is very troublesome, but at least its a cheap way of doing some exploring. Expect a long ride though, and ask a local where to get off as you easily get lost in traffic. An important route is Bus 40, that starts at Hualamphong Train Station and then passes Rama IV Road, Phaya Thai Road, Siam Square, Sukhumvit, Pridi Phanomyong Road, and Ramkhamhaeng Road with The Mall Ramkhamhaeng as its final destination.

Get around

Getting around this vast district is sure to give you a headache. The locals use their own transport for attractions that lie too far off a boat pier or ARL station. Of course, metered taxis are abundant, but expect long rides and high fares (especially during rush hour). Buses are cheaper, but without a decent bus map, you are sure to get lost. Bus 58 and Bus 113 from Makkasan Station drive over Phetchaburi Road and then head for Ramkhamhaeng Road. Both are useful bus routes for getting around as they travel all along Ramkhamhaeng Road from Hua Mak in the southwest to Min Buri in the northeast (and back).

See

Palms outside the Prasart Museum

Do

Buy

Endless clothing stalls at the street market

There are plenty of shopping malls in the area, and these are your best bet for getting daily necessities. If you want to buy cheap, there is an interesting street market running kilometres north along Ramkhamhaeng Road from The Mall Ramkhamhaeng 3. Many of the stalls only set up around 18:00, so the area is at its liveliest around 19:00. Expect endless stalls of clothes and accessories, mostly visited by local (female) commuters.

Eat

If you're looking for a quick snack, nearly all the sois of lower Ramkhamhaeng have carts serving simple street food for 50 baht or less. Aimed at the locals, prices at these street markets are remarkably cheaper than in common tourist spots. All three The Mall shopping centres have a big selection of chain restaurants in all shapes and sizes.

Drink

There are plenty of coffee chains at the malls, including a Starbucks at The Mall Bangkapi. Some gay bars have congregated at Ramkhamhaeng Soi 89/2 near Lam Sali intersection. They are popular among Ramkhamhaeng University students.

Sleep

The west end of Ramkhamhaeng Road has lately become more popular among expatriates, as accommodation is cheaper than in Sukhumvit and Siam Square, while the Saen Saep Express Boat brings you to those districts in around 20 minutes. But further off it is still a long taxi ride to the city centre.

Connect

Most hotels have free Wi-Fi, but check before booking. Getting online on the street is harder, but you can try the shopping malls. There's a Starbucks with paid Wi-Fi at The Mall Bangkapi. If you don't want to pay, there's free Wi-Fi at Assumption University in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 16 (Hua Mak). If you happen to be far out into the 'burbs, Fashion Island also has free Wi-Fi (but you need to register for a username and password). Follow the instructions from the manual at their website.

Go next

If you keep driving on Ramkhamhaeng Road and continue on Suwinthawong Road, eventually you will end up in Chachoengsao. Here you can find the large Wat Sothon with a busy market in front of it (especially fun in the morning). In the evening, the market magically disappears, leaving no trace of its existence.

Routes through Ramkhamhaeng


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, December 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.