*Featured image of The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand is borrowed from http://www.bangkok.com
It was almost a couple of decades back when I first set foot in the capital city of Thailand – Bangkok. And ever since, I never got tired visiting this city for much needed rest, relaxation, fun and everything else in between!
I . SHOPPING
- Chatuchak Weekend Market – Popularly called “JJ” which is a short form for Jatujak, another name for the largest market in the region (and maybe the whole world!). It opens its doors only during weekends so for those who would love to include this in their itinerary, its best to take in one whole weekend for your Bangkok trip. The sprawling network of open-air pavilions can be reached by either the BTS or the underground train, whichever is nearer, accessible and more convenient for you. Others may opt to take a taxi as well. Please be reminded that since it is an open-air market and Thailand is located mostly in the tropical belt, it can get hot and humid. It is much advisable to wear light clothing and for those with sensitive skin, please use your favourite sun-block. The whole market is divided into different sections of products – clothing, arts and crafts, pets, food, souviners, artworks, furniture, furnishings, etc..etc..etc… You name it, they have it! Not to worry if you are buying in bulk, or not too keen in carrying your shopping bags and boxes, there are attendants whom you may hire to carry all your shopping stash with you, and of course, for a fee. You may also want your stuff to be shipped out to a given destination or to your home, that’s why they have a few forwarding companies to meet your needs, located near the entrance of the market. And of course, there is the only air-conditioned Thai Restaurant within the market grounds, right in the middle of its hustle and bustle. Their yummy Pad Thai, fried Beef Strips, Pineapple Fried Rice and Thai Milk Tea are a must try! My favourite go to places here are the Spa and Hotel Products section where you can find outstanding aromatherapy oils and accessories, soaps and candles, and other decorative items. Their selection of bath products from soaps to bath towels and robes are also worth checking out. Another must-see section is the Art Section where you will find artworks created by local artists – paintings, sculptures, etc. They also have some shops who sell locally designed and manufactured bags made of PVC, leather, etc, they are perfect accessories to compliment your day’s outfit and they can be conversation pieces in itself. Whether you go there in a group or just by yourself, your time in JJ will be enjoyable and worthwhile.
- The Night Markets – A lot of night markets dot the metropolis. And most of these open up for business during the weekends as well. Great finds with good prices can be had with a myriad options for fashion and novelty items for gifts and souviners.
- The Siam Shopping Cluster – Perhaps the most extensive concentration of shopping complexes in Bangkok. It can be reached by BTS (Siam Station). You have MBK, Siam Discovery Center, Siam Square, Siam Paragon, the list goes on…. These shopping malls will give you different and unique offerings from each other. MBK is a cavernous air-conditioned mall known for its local delicacies like Candied Tamarind, assorted fruit preserves, rice cakes and other goodies. Siam Discovery Centre is popular for its shops of popular leading world brands and outstanding local furniture and gift shops. A pedestrian bridge connects Siam Discovery Centre to its next door neighbour, Siam Center. It is probably the oldest mall among this group but it features a dynamic vibe catered to the young adolescents who go for top and up-coming local fashion designers, they also have a restaurant row at the top floor. An open square with fountains and is used as an occasional mini concert venue connects Siam Center to its up-market mall neighbour – The Siam Paragon. Siam Paragon is the preferred address of such top brands like Versace, Gucci, etc. You will also find Greyhound Café, a modern Thai Fusion Restaurant in one of its upper levels. Other features of this huge mall is it modern cinema complex, their in-house aquarium at the basement, their wide array of food outlets and creative stores.
- Jim Thompson – One of the leading brands of Thailand, known for its exquisite silk and silk products. They do have outlets in some of the malls and a stand-alone store near Sala-Daeng BTS Station. They have silk products ranging from bags to fashion wear, you may even buy silk in yards among their extensive choices of rough and fine woven silk fabrics.
- Other Shopping Malls and Centres – You will never run out of shopping choices, from open-air shopping clusters (shops opposite Siam Square, Chinatown, Khao San Road, etc) to other malls in other areas (Emporium, Crystal Design Center, etc.) and hotel arcades (Hyatt Erawan, etc). Just check with your Bangkok Map and start plotting your shopping strategy in this shopper’s haven!
Note: Please don’t forget that there are a lot of massage shops and spas in the city where you can relax and pamper your body after a long day’s shopping spree!
II . HERITAGE WALKS
- The Grand Palace Grounds – Not to be missed! This is probably the crown jewel of Bangkok and the whole country as well. With its well-manicured royal gardens, grand structures and buildings, impeccable statues and finishes, who would want to miss out on all these grandeur, certainly not me. Just a word of advice, please wear proper and modest clothing (read: no shorts, sleeveless tops, or anything revealing) upon entering the grounds. Please respect their culture and religion.
- The Jim Thompson House – This is just walking distance from the National Stadium BTS Station. Set in a quiet neighbourhood, where a Traditional Thai life is showcased through its architecture, design and its grounds, one will get a glimpse of what was it like before in Thailand. The showcase will also give you a rundown on the history of the revival of Thailand’s silk industry and up to what it is now – a remarkable aspirational brand that it has become credit to the house’ namesake. It is a very interesting part of the silk industry history of Thailand, so you must listen up or read a lot of trivias along the way.
- The Erawan Shrine (Four-Faced Buddha) – A very famous spot in Bangkok. Just a short walk from the Siam Shopping cluster (and of course the Siam BTS Station), this is popular among the locals and Buddhists alike. I do try to drop by and offer incense and prayers by tagging along when my local friends would go there. The temple has a four-faced Buddha at the center of the property.
III . DINING
- The Blue Ginger – A traditional Thai Restaurant which offers outstanding and extensive menu choices! Not to be missed are those nights where a traditional musical performance is being held right under a Frangipani Tree. The traditional Thai structure which houses the restaurant is also a good source of Thai traditional design inspiration.
- The Greyhound Cafe – They do have a few branches in the city, but those that are easily accessible are found in Siam Square and Siam Paragon. With interesting contemporary Thai cuisine as their platform of choice, one will also experience its quirky and edgy yet tasteful interior design. Their waiting staff wear shirts with witty lines written on them.
- Erawan Tea Room at the Hyatt Erawan – This is for those who wanted a quiet corner while savouring their meals. This has been a go-to place for me and my friends for a long time now. Comfort food for me, I must say. Their Thai Chicken Rice is to die for!
- Zanotti Il Restorante Italiano – One may wonder why I included an Italian restaurant in this list. But this restaurant is probably one of the best Italian restaurants in the land.
- Street Food! – This is usually perfect right after you splurge on the countless night markets around. With all the literal elbowing and price-haggling, certainly you will get famished afterwards. These street food vendors are quite friendly and accommodating. For those who are squeamish, don’t be. It’s high time that you try what most of the locals eat. For starters, you may want to join the most crowded street food stands, this is an assurance that their food is delicious (hence the long queue) and it has retained a sizeable loyal customer base (hence the crowd). The best one that my palate can still remember are their Thai Chicken Rice (I know, I am such an addict for this, especially their mixture of sweet, thick soya sauce and chilli-ginger!) and Tom Yum Soup! Not to forget their version of Sticky Rice topped with ripe Mango slices and/or thick coconut milk sauce!
IV . PARTYING
Bangkok nights are made for partying as well! Especially if you travel in a group, here are a few places where you can enjoy your Thai nights away!
- The Sirocco Roof Top Bar at The Lebua – Marvel at the sweeping night time skyline of Bangkok while sipping your favourite cocktail!
- The Clubs and Bars along Sala-Daeng Road –
- The Clubs and Bars along the Embassy Row (Wireless Road) –
V . TOURS
- Chao Phraya River Cruise – Using their traditional boats, you can sit back and relax while you witness Bangkok’s city life unfold before you, with notable architectural gems to be seen along the way like the Grand Palace Grounds and the iconic Rama VIII Bridge!
- Floating Market – You have to arrange this with your hotel’s concierge. What is challenging here is for you to wake up really early in the morning, because the tourist bus/van will pick you up on or before 6am! This tour will show you one of the very few remaining floating markets in the country. With each boat selling wares distinctive from the others, colourful and vibrant, and the novelty of you shopping for good while riding a boat!
- Ayutthaya Day Tour – This is not located within Bangkok anymore. This ancient former capital city is located an hour away by bus/van from Bangkok. It is now a quiet place, which used to be the favourite summer vacation spot of the Royals. Upon arrival you may opt to rent a bike and explore the city by yourself, or hire a tourist guide to give you its rich history. This place has an outstanding showcase of different architectural structures from other countries (France, China, japan, etc) which were actually gifts of these countries to the Royal Family of Thailand.
VI . ACCOMMODATIONS
- Take A Nap – This Budget Hotel is for those who want to put their money’s worth on food and other unique Thai experiences other than a luxury hotel suite. Its unassuming façade holds a secret where each room is uniquely designed and accessorized. It reflects the creative prowess of contemporary Thai artists. And they usually include a simple breakfast buffet with your room rate. This small budget hotel is located between Sala-Daeng BTS Station and Sam Yan Underground Train Station.
- The Rose Hotel – A medium-sized hotel just off Sala-Daeng Road, near Sala-Daeng BTS Station. It has simple rooms, an all-day restaurant café, a beautiful swimming pool with a Thai Restaurant beside it! The hotel staff is very friendly!
- The Sala-Daeng Colonnade Serviced Apartments – Another medium-sized accommodation located near Sala-Daeng BTS Station. They have spacious rooms, a mouth-watering breakfast menu and exceptional service staff!
- The COMO Metropolitan Bangkok – A design-driven, ultra modern luxury hotel located with the hotel row facing the Sathon Tai Road (near Banyan Tree)! Its immaculate white façade already gives you a clue of what’s to expect in its fabulous interiors. Other than your usual luxury hotel amenities, its F & B outlets are also worth trying.