November 17, 2014

an ideal weekend in Bangkok

I have lived in Bangkok for 3 years now, in different places all over the city and it's weird how this crazy place actually feels like home now. I know which areas to go for the best shopping, the best street food, the best nightlife, I almost live like a local these days! My ideal weekend in Bangkok is a bit more off the beaten track in this well explored metropolis and there will be no khao san road or mega malls on this itinerary. I like to do as the locals do when I travel and with that in mind I have planned a spectacular weekend in this city I call home.

Friday night
Bangkok is all about the food (let's be honest) and Friday night is the perfect night to fill your belly and relax before for the rest of the busy weekend. Finding the best eats in town is easy in Thonglor, where you can see how the other half live in Bangkok with fancy beer bars and cuisines from all around the world or sample some of the best street food on a budget. Keep it casual on Sukhumivt soi 38 where you can fill up on noodles, curries, classic Thai dishes, fruit shakes and mango sticky rice with many stalls and tables to enjoy a great meal where you can also people watch and drink a cold beer. Thai street food at its finest, where the locals go for dinner but with menus in English too!

If you are feeling up for a bit of a taste bud adventure and don't want to eat on the street yet still want some authentic tasty Thai food, head over to my favorite restaurant in the city, Soul Food Mahanakorn. It's Isaan style Thai with a upscale twist, everything is organic, local and farm fresh so you can be sure that delicious spicy salad won't make you feel guilty or ill! Try one of the interesting cocktails and sample a unique Thai dish, (I recommend the banana flower salad) you won't be sorry! All of this is easily accessible from the BTS station Thonglor; soi 38 is right off the station exit 4 and Soul Food is on the other side of Sukhumvit just a couple minutes walk down soi 55.

If you're not quite ready for bed and looking for something entertaining (yet are still not quite over your jetlag), check out Siam Niramit for a captivating show of Thai culture with music, dancing and spectacular performances! It is a great way to spend a low key evening in Bangkok while soaking up some Thai traditions and beauty.

Waking bright and early you are ready to set out and explore everything this city has to offer! The Grand Palace is beautiful to see in the morning light but for now, walking past it is enough (unless you feel like shelling out the 500 baht foreigner price), catching the glittering roofs of the temples and houses within the grounds.  Keep going and head to Wat Po, the reclining Buddha, which is just as breathtaking as the palace (in my opinion), is a bit more unique and you are not overcharged because of your place of birth. Take your shoes off as you enter the main temple and have a wander around the massive golden statue relaxing Thai style! Make sure to be respectful and cover your shoulders and knees, it is after all a sacred religious place, even though it is very hot and sweaty. Wat Po is also famous for the massage school on the grounds, one of the most renown in the Kingdom. Enjoy a nice foot massage or traditional Thai massage and your body will be happy later when you have been out hitting the pavement all day in the relentless SE Asian sun.

Grab a river boat taxi (skip all the street traffic!) and you can quickly get to Wat Arun, just down the river, a beautiful pagoda style temple that is beautiful during the day and stunning at night. Maybe try for a sunset stroll to get the best of both worlds and wander through the beautiful gardens and temple. Directly on the other side of the river is another classic favorite, The Deck. A perfect place to relax after a day of temples with a nice cold drink, delicious food and even better view.

After a day of temple hunting and SE Asian humidity, it is time to see the city from a whole new angle. There are many skybars to choose from around the city, but my number one choice is a breathtaking view 49 stories up, Cloud 49.  Head to Silom to the top of the United Center Building for a breezy cool off and jaw dropping city skyline views with character. Order a Singha tower (with ice to keep it cold, like the hip young crowd there) or a glass of nice wine and enjoy the 360 views of the city that never sleeps.

After a warm up above the madness, head down into the craziness that is the one of the most infamous parts of the city, Patpong and Silom soi 4, depending on your preference... Here you can catch a bizarre sex show, find a new companion for the evening, buy a fabulous knock off Prada, or just people watch and take it all in. Soi 4 has the men serving up the drinks with patpong catering to the more 'straight' edge  crowd, pick your poison. You are in Bangkok after all, the original city of sin, soak up as much as you can, which usually involves buckets and pretty ladies around these parts. Tomorrow is another big day though, so don't drink too much and remember to hydrate (and eat some late night street snacks!)

The city can be a hectic place and while you could choose to go to one of the many fancy expensive malls in Bangkok with lots of people and things to buy, I prefer to get out of the madness for a bit and see the real beauty of Siam. There is no better place in this city to do that than Bang Krachao, known as the 'green lung' of the city. A vast green part of the city near the Chao Phraya, and just a five minute ferry ride from the pier in Klong Toey, it is almost surreal to look at the skyscrapers and urban smog cloud of Bangkok while feeling like you are on a small island or village road in another part of the country. You can rent bicycles for next to nothing near the pier, the perfect way to explore this green oasis (and work off some of the decadent food you have been eating as well!)  There is even an authentic floating market, Talad Nam Pueng, where you can see the locals shopping and skip the throngs of tourists. It is hot so make sure to drinks lots of water (or coconuts), but a day spent in this city escape will make you love the concrete jungle even more.

For dinner, make your way to one of the city's world famous night markets for a bit of late evening shopping and yummy treats. There is the train market, Talad rot fai, on one side of the city, a vintage outdoor market that is very popular with the young, funky Thai crowd. This market has everything from clothes to antiques and you could spend hours browsing the little shops here. The market recently changed locations and is located on SriNakarin road, behind Seacon Square mall. You can just tell a taxi driver where you want to go and you will be there in 20 minutes or so, depending on traffic. If the BTS is more convenient for you, JJ green is a new night market that has opened up near the famous Chatuchak weekend market. JJ green is located near the BTS Mochit stop so a bit easier to get to and also worth the visit. Either way you will get to see where everyone goes once the sun sets, the night is the best time for shopping and eating spicy food from the many vendors and hawkers.

The easiest ways to get around Bangkok are by the BTS skytrain or taxi. Most of the places on this tour are near a BTS stop and that is very convenient if you are also staying near one of the two lines. Otherwise, taxis are very cheap and usually quick and safe. Make sure they put on the meter or get into another one. You can also easily get a sim card for your phone so you can have access to maps and the internet. Bangkok is a very foreigner friendly city for the most part and it is quite easy to navigate, though sometimes even the taxi driver doesn't know where he is going! Just make sure to always smile and learn a little language to help get you by, Thai people will be more than happy to help if you are kind and polite. Chok dee (good luck) and Sawadee-ka!

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