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For our pilot blog-entry, we at quarter-life vices would like to share with you our experience with Bangkok, one of our oft-visited cities…outside Manila, that is. There’s definitely something that keeps bringing us back to Bangkok. Its probably the shopping (once you go to Chatuchak, you cannot go back!). Or the good eats (hmm…Pad Thai). Or just the fact that it feels like home yet is different in more ways than one.
Here’s our To-do’s in Thailand’s lively capital after the jump…
2. Shopping at Pratunam
Why? Two reasons:
- Pratunam Garment Center: Where insanely low-priced clothes are for sale, that becomes more insanely low-priced when you buy in “wholesale” which only means that you buy at least 3 pieces, natch. You have to start here early as it opens at 6 am and close as early as 5pm with lots of people buying in bulk for re-sale at their own shops (like what most filipinos do when in Bangkok). While the operating hours of the center reminds you of going to the market to buy vegetables, you’ll realize that it is a market, only this time cute cotton tees replace your bag of tomatoes.
- Platinum Mall: Same as above, only in an air-conditioned, mall-type setting with 5 floors of stalls and stalls of clothes, bags, shoes and accessories. This time you’re not reminded of a market but of Divisoria malls like 168 and Tutuban Center but of course with far more better clothes (based on a study conducted by us– which would make it unscientific and less-reliable, Thais gets the latest trends first before it reaches our general public here in RP). Like most malls in Bangkok, it opens at 9am and closes at 7pm.
3. Visit the Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun)
One of Thailand’s main attraction are its breathtaking Buddhist temples, most of which dates back to a hundred years and are preserved beautifully. A favorite of mine is the Wat Arun or “Temple of the Dawn”, the name alone sounds mystic and romantic isn’t it? It is located right along the banks of the Chao Phraya river and got its name because of the iridescence that it gives off when the first light of morning hits its porcelain walls. Despite its name, Wat Arun is actually very picturesque at dusk, especially when viewed from afar. It is best to visit this temple at around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, not only because it will be time for when the Wat Arun is at its most beautiful but also because the heat can be unbearable on earlier times of the day. See, in Wat Arun, you
can must climb the steep stairs of the temple all the way to the topmost viewing deck to take in views of the Chao Phraya. So you can imagine that at 1 o’clock in a sunny afternoon, being almost on top of an 85m temple is a heat stroke waiting to happen or at the very least, a very sticky and profusely sweat-drenched person waiting to happen.
4. Visit The Grand Palace
No trip to Bangkok is ever complete without walking the grounds of The Grand Palace. The Grand Palace, as its name suggests is grand indeed, not only for its sprawling size but also for the beautiful, exquisite(real gold, anyone?) and intricate designs found in every statue, temple, building and structure found in its 101 hectare grounds. The Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) can be found inside the complex. There are guided tours you can pay for to get you around but we have always explored it by ourselves since we either have no patience for listening to tour-guides or we just really want to take photos without being pressed for time (one thing I super hate are guides telling you “double-time!” with their closed fists moving up-and down like what train conductors do). Besides, there are free brochures given when you pay for the entrance tickets that has a map of the complex and description of the various important structures along the grounds so you can really DIY and not get lost in it.
5. Go to Khao San Road
Famous among young travelers, this street has rows upon rows of cheap inns, food kiosk and small stores that caters to the tourist of the backpacker kind. The street is very lively and there seems to be more tourists than Thais in this area. It is nice to walk along the road and try out the street food or just take photos along the way as it has become an attraction on its own, being featured in numerous documentaries and movies; most popular of which is the Leo di Caprio starrer, “The Beach”. Come nighttime the area becomes a bustling district with street stalls lining up the road selling anything imaginable and bars become filled with young travelers sharing stories of their trips and having a good time.
6. Eat Street Food
Thai food is easily one of the best in the world and their street food is no exception. You’re missing out big time if you never try eating Ba Mee Nam (egg noodle soup with wonton) at a stall along a street in Chinatown or chowing down on a savory Pad Thai at a noisy, open-air eatery inside the Chatuchak market. Walking around while eating kanom krok (grilled coconut cake) is such an experience in itself and of course, there are the endless sticks of grasshoppers, beetles and worms waiting to be grilled as you like it. Fresh fruits chopped in bite-size pieces are also everywhere and I especially like biting on green mangoes or guavas picked with a stick and dipped in with a bit of salt mixed with chili flakes. OK, that last one made me seriously want to go to Bangkok right now.
7. Eat at Rosa Bieng
We must admit that we are such street food junkies in Thailand that it took us a while to appreciate nice restaurants that serve Thai cuisine. More often than not, we have eaten a lot of street food to actually eat a nice, sitting-down dinner at a restaurant. But on one time, a friend’s brother suggested a place called Rosa Bieng (Sukhumvit Soi 11). Here, you dine in the garden, al fresco but there’s also a small air-conditioned space if you like it nice and quiet and cool. The atmosphere of the place is very mellow with a jazz band playing unobtrusive tunes in the background but there’s also a large projection screen with a football match being shown with an inaudible volume. Weird . But other than that, all is quite well. The food is great and surprisingly affordable especially if you are dining as a group. So for good Thai food in a decent place, Rosa Bieng is a go-to.
8. Get lost in Chatuchak
Ah, Chatuchak (or Jatujak or JJ Market) Weekend Market, what will my Bangkok trip be without you? We can all agree that if you never went to Chatuchak during your stay at Bangkok, your trip as we know it, is a waste. Chatuchak weekend market, is one of the world’s largest markets and even if you spend whole day of saturday and sunday in it, you can never be done with things to buy, interesting stuffs to see and more delicious food to eat. While you may be overwhelmed by its size, don’t be. Getting lost is part of the joys when shopping in Chatuchak. We have found the most delicately thin steel bracelets here by a local artisan and origami fishes and cranes made out of coconut leaves while figuring out how to get from one section to the next. You find everything here and we mean everything: from a pet dog to an old LP record by the Ramones, to a cool t-shirt and down to the cutest refrigerator magnets and everything else we want, all at prices that makes it alright to buy more! (Forgive us if we sound like hoarders on crack when talking about Chatuchak but it really is just plain awesome.)
9. A different night-out in Patpong
Prostitution in Thailand is legal. That being said, expect a lot of “shows” in this red-light district which curious travelers might want to see. But be warned, this is not for those with weak stomachs, the shows can be kind of um, graphic and according to one of us here at quarter-life vices, is in no way sexy in case that’s what you’re expecting.
10. Get a Thai Massage
After all the walking around, shopping and dining, yes you do begin to feel tired and sore. But good news, you’re at Thailand, where the famous Thai massage is from! Naturally, you have to get one and there are places everywhere that does the service. Most hotels also offer Thai massages done right at your hotel room. Can you say perfection?
There are many other things we haven’t listed and we feel bad that we won’t even get to share them but what the heck, we can have a postscript section if we want to:
Suan Lum Night Market- Obviously, its a bazaar/market that begins at night and later on ’til wee hours of the morning. Stuffs are usually more expensive here compared to Chatuchak but the trade-off for the price would be the cooler temperature and the relatively fewer number of people to bump into.
Mall-hopping- Central, Emporium, Siam Paragon, Gaysorn, Isetan (not the Isetan we know here in Manila)…malls are endless in Bangkok and kind of remind you of mall-centric Manila. Whether you like it high-end or mall shopping on a budget, Bangkok has a mall that will cater to your needs and wants.
Chao Phraya Night Cruises: There are numerous travel agencies/ tour guides offering a night cruise at the Chao Phraya, you can also ask your hotel concierge and they can arrange it for you. It comes complete with a nice buffet dinner and a show band to entertain you as you cruise along amazing views of Bangkok temples and land marks lit up along the river banks.
Other important temples and landmarks: Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha), Vimanmek Palace– The world’s larget Teak mansion, Jim Thompson’s house.