Saturday, April 18, 2015

Top 10 Things To Do In Bangkok

"Bangkok, like Las Vegas, 
sounds like a place where you make bad decisions." 
Todd Phillips

Bangkok has just been added to my list of places I have visited over the last weekend. For my deep love in travelling, it is quite intriguing that this is only the second South East Asia country I have visited after the red dot down south. It has been an exciting first time visit to the capital of the kingdom of Thailand especially with a bunch of partner in crime to crazy together with. The main highlight for this trip was to join the local Thais in their New Year celebration or more commonly known as Songkran. It was simply awesome and we had super fun participating in the water fights with random people on the streets hahaha!

It was just a short vacation but I am listing down the top 10 things that you should not miss out when you are visiting Bangkok!

1. Shop till you drop at Chatuchak Weekend Market

No visit to Bangkok will be complete without the visit to the heaven of shopping at Chatuchak Weekend Market. With more than 8,000 market stalls offering a diverse collection of merchandise, this gigantic market will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees. You will find literally anything in this market, whether a Moroccan lamp, an antique wooden chest, a pair of vintage Levi's jeans, or, on the exotic side, a python. Even for myself, who is not the best when it comes to shopping, ended up going home with more than a few extra shopping items. Here is where you can put your bargaining skills to the test. If you are a first-timer to this market, the best advice is to pick a starting point then just follow your instincts, enjoy the experience and bring home your exciting new finds.

2. Gigantic Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho

Here is where you will be awed the moment you step into the complex which houses Thailand's largest reclining Buddha. This temple is famed for its genuinely impressive reclining Buddha, that measures 46 meters long and 15 meters tall, commemorating the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana (i.e. the Buddha's death). The figure is modelled out of plaster around a brick core and finished in gold leaf. The Buddha's feet are 5 metres long and exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious 'lák·sà·nà' (characteristics) of the Buddha. 108 is a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection. 

3. Joining the locals for the Songkran Festival

Also known as the Water Festival, Songkran is considered Thai traditional New Year Day celebrated on April 13, 14 and 15 annually. It is a celebration that embraces goodwill, love, compassion, thankfulness, and using water as the means of expressions. Today, hundreds of thousands of tourists plan their trip to Bangkok to coincide with the Songkran festival in order to experience the so-called water fight. And man, no one in the world knows a good water fight, like the Thais do. Armed with water guns and water containers, travellers and natives including children throw water upon others, which symbolises cleansing and rejuvenating of their bodies. For more extremes ones, they will use iced water to aim at you hahaha! So, my advice to anyone who is visiting Bangkok during the Songkran festival, prepare your water guns (preferably more powerful ones for total satisfaction lol!) and waterproof case early, and join the water fight fun with the locals!

4. Hopping into tuk tuk

Taking at least one ride in the tuk tuk is mandatory for a true, Thailand experience! The sputtering tuk tuks found in Thailand are open-air, three-wheeled carriages attached to a motorcycle chassis. Drivers are fond of decorating their rides with lights, colourful paint, and dangling trinkets to get attention. Truth to be told, riding in tuk tuks is more chaotic than comfortable. While "tuk" means "cheap" in Thai, the truth is that unless you are an expert haggler or the driver is having an off day, metered taxis are often cheaper than tuk tuks and offer a much more comfortable ride. The typical capacity for a tuk-tuk in Thailand would be two people, although the driver will always find a way to squeeze in an entire family if necessary! And during my first experience riding in the tuk tuks, the driver tried to pass us a name card for a massage place, and kept repeating the word "pam pam, good good!" lol!

5. Savouring the delicious coconut ice cream (i-dtim mat phrao)

If there is one thing that you wouldn't wanna miss out, this is it! "I-dtim" is how the word "ice cream" has been rendered by Thai accents over the years, and "mat phrao" means "coconut". Made with coconut milk rather than cow's milk, Thai i-dtim is both sweet and refreshing, and locals often take it with kernels of boiled corn or gingko biloba sprinkled on top. The coconut ice cream is usually served in coconut husk with 2 toppings (corn, peanuts, glutinous rice, sticky rice, nata de coco, atap seed, etc) of your choice plus coconut flesh/pulp. There are plenty of mobile coconut ice cream vendors wheeling around all parts of the city, especially in Chatuchak Market, but be careful not to mistake them for the regular, low quality name brand ice cream carts. You will know the real deal by the tall, round stainless steel canisters used to keep the ice cream frozen. This is certainly a must-try dessert in Bangkok! It was so good I had it twice at Chatuchak Market!

6. Glittering reflections of Wat Arun on the Chao Phraya River during sunset

With its stunning architecture and the fine craftsmanship, it is not surprising that Wat Arun is considered by many as the most famous and photographed temple in Bangkok. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water. The main feature of this temple is a soaring 70-meter-high spire (prang) beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns. The temple is temporarily undergoing renovation works (which apparently will last for 2 years) and some sections of the temple is covered with scaffolding to restore the mosaics, nevertheless it is still an awesome spectacle.

7. Trying the orgasmic coconut sticky rice with mango (khao niew mamuang)

If there were only one sweet that would decidedly be the classic Thai dessert, it would have to be khao niew mamuang ("khao niew" refers to sticky rice, and "mamuang" to mango). This dessert is a combination of authentic coconut sticky rice slowly cooked with decadent coconut cream to some of the world's most delicious mangoes. The golden sweet mangoes produced within the kingdom is just the perfect combination to the coconut sticky rice that offers a sublime blending of flavours. Although this popular dessert can be found in Thai restaurant all over the world, it always seems to taste better in Thailand. 

8. Exploring the street food and eat until you burst

In a foodie's dream destination like Thailand, it can be tough to refrain from all out gorging on the divine curries, haunting soups, spicy salads, and endless finger foods on every corner. The good news is that eating street food has many benefits to you as a traveller – it’s generally safe (you can see what's being cooked and it's fresh), you get to interact with the locals, it's authentic, delicious, incredibly cheap and the best way to give back to the local economy. Wherever you go in the city, these food stalls are plentiful and very often you will find a high concentration of them in particularly busy areas. My usual rule of the thumb is to follow your instinct and just try on whatever that looks tasty to you. More often than not, you will definitely bump onto stalls where a hungry soul can gobble down excessive portions of affordable and insanely delicious Bangkok street food at these street food sanctuaries.

9. Cruising along the Chao Phraya River

Sometimes nicknamed "Venice of the East", the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night. There are countless interesting sights ranging from traditional river houses, water-taxis and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples, luxury hotels, river vendors and the heart of drainage for the great Thai basin. The areas from Wat Arun to Phra Sumeru Fortress are home to some of the oldest settlements in Bangkok, particularly Bangkok Noi and its charming ambiance of stilt houses flanking the complex waterways.

10. Enjoying evening cocktail at the sky bar overlooking the night view

Bangkok is home to one of the most rooftop bars in the world. Here is where you can soak up the city in a full three-hundred-and-sixty degree sweep and claim to the most amazing sunset vista Bangkok has to offer. From this height, the hustle and bustle of downtown feels like a distant hum, while the glittering skyline, a backdrop before which romance unfolds.

So, there you go, the 10 things which I feel you really have to experience in Bangkok, especially if you are a first timer here. Feel free to leave any suggestions or comments if you think that there are other stuff that deserve a place in the list.

Thank you for reading and kob khun krap!