Posts from the ‘Thailand’ category

Bangkok art, fashion, and…fight night thrills?

By Chris K

This Weekend’s Itinerary

Bangkok’s full name is really, really, really, really long

According to Wikitravel, Bangkok’s full name is “Krung thep mahanakhon amorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok popnoparat ratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit” (กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลกภพ นพรัตน์ราชธานี บุรีรมย์อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์).

Surely one of the world’s longest location name, it roughly translates as “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”.

Wow.

Once we’ve finished that mouthful, we’re out to explore Bangkok on Day Two of our visit here. Read all about Day One in Bangkok!

10 AM: Jim Thompson, an American Millionaire, has left an incredible House of Asian art in Bangkok

We start the day with a visit to Jim Thompson’s House, an essential part of any visit to Bangkok and a great way to get a comprehensive overview of Asian art from Thailand and from the region.

Jim Thompson's House, Bangkok, Thailand

“Jim Thompson’s House”, a photo by mashfiq, licensed under Creative Commons.

Plus, the tranquility of the setting will make it seem like you are taking a pleasant walk through some eccentric gentleman’s art collection, instead of a museum tour.

And, in fact, you are.

This museum has a long history owed to it’s namesake, Jim Thompson – an American businessman who collected Asian art throughout the 1950 and 1960s.

The house was built specifically to house his collection of Asian art, gathered from countries including Thailand as well as Laos and Cambodia. The house is very accessible, and a fantastic way for us to easily see art from across Asia in one location.

Asian art in Jim Thompsons House, Bangkok, Thailand

“Jim Thompson House”, a photo by cb_agulto, licensed under Creative Commons.

1 PM: Stop…Fashion Time

Like many before us, we are becoming slaves to fashion and sacrificing our lunch. But there’s a good reason – as Anna has promised to let us in on a local Bangkok fashion secret.

We leave Jim Thompson’s house and make our way by motorcycle taxi (see Day One in Bangkok for the reason why we’ve skipped the tuktuk), zipping across the congested streets of Bangkok.

We arrive shortly after, exhilarated, at Anna’s favourite tailor, Taj Mahal Clothiers, located on Soi 4 Sukhumvit. We’re told that although they are a little more expensive than most Bangkok tailors, they’re worth the extra because of the quality of the materials and their craftmanship. I’m not one to argue with a Bangkok local, especially since Anna’s boyfriend owns six of their suits!

So many fabrics, so many choices. Safari suits are coming back this season, right guys?

Guys?

Thailand Tips – Be kind to the King!

Respect for the Royal family in Thailand is taken really, really seriously. Don’t make the mistake this guy did and insult the Royal Family of Thailand – you could end up in gaol!

In fact, maybe you should earn some brownie points, just in case, by sending the King of Thailand a personalised message here.

5 PM: OPTION ONE: Muay Thai Fight Night Thrills

Alright, so this isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, which is why there’s alternative itinerary for our last evening exploring Bangkok, but hear us out – life should be an adventure and if you don’t push the boundaries of your experience whilst you are travelling, then when will you? Not convinced? Ok then, well then skip ahead to Option Two and enjoy Bangkok’s sweltering, sexy nightlife.

The rest of us are going to push the envelope a little and visit Lumpini stadium, Thailand’s premiere venue for Muay Thai Kickboxing.

Run by the Royal Thai Army, fights are held Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 6 PM, and we’ve got ringside tickets.

Muay Thai Kickboxing, Bangkok, Thailand

“Muay-Thai-7”, a photo by idirectori, CC License

Now, gambling is permitted here, which is certainly the exception in Thailand (at least, according to the strict letter of the law), but you’ll only be able to gamble if you’re a man. Anna says;

If you’re a guy, find the crowd of gambling men at the back and mingle with them, and put on a bet or two. You should learn the words for blue and red in Thai beforehand – that’s all you’ll need to bet. Make sure you keep an eye on the dudes that have taken your bet – they’ll try to slink away without paying if they lose!

If you are after unique, local experiences, then watching a live Muay Thai kickboxing bout in Bangkok will definitely fit the bill.

5 PM: OPTION TWO: Bangkok Bar Scene Chilling

If watching Muay Thai kickboxing isn’t really your cup of tea, or cocktail, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are some great bars and restaurants recommended by Bangkok locals.

Cheap Charlie’s ( 1 Sukhumvit Soi 11 ) is an institution and the best way to kick your night off. It is almost exclusively frequented by Bangkok locals and has few tourists, although it has been featured on CNN Travel so that may not always be the case in the future.

Nest ( 33/33 Sukhumvit soi 11Klongtoey-Nua ) is just a little bit classier than Cheap Charlie’s, and is a great place for a cool drink. Anna says that it’s at end of same street as Cheap Charlie’s;

Up an elevator to a rooftop bar – ask someone who looks like a local because it’s hard to find!

Finally, Bed Supperclub ( Sukhumvit 11, Klongtoey-Nua ) is where you’ll head if you’re looking for a place to see and be seen – trendy, if a little weird.

Goodbye Bangkok!

We eventually stumble back into our hotel rooms at…er…what time was it again?

It doesn’t really matter – we have a late flight tomorrow and luckily have all morning to pull ourselves together. There’s even time to collect our suits and send them home, before our midnight flight from Bkk to Brisbane, Australia.

We’ll land just after lunch on Sunday afternoon, and we’ve organised the limo to take us to an early check-in at the Stamford Plaza Hotel. Three decades after hosting the Commonwealth Games and twenty-five years after World Expo ’88, Brisbane has emerged from the shadow of Australia’s larger cities. Restaurants still close too early, but that’s not a problem for us today – instead of dinner out, we’re filling up closer to home at the Stamford’s Sunday afternoon Chocolate High Tea.

It’s a long way to go for a hangover cure, but so worth it.

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Taj Mahal Clothiers both ship to, and visit, many cities around the world. Great for us travellers, but even if you don’t make it to Bangkok you can always see them when they’re in your town.
  • In Bangkok, like in any other city, you should always watch your drink, and don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Learn the rules of Muay Thai Kickboxing here, if you’re so inclined.

Have you been to Bangkok? What did you love? What did we miss?

What should we see when we come back?

Tell us in the comments!

Bangkok – hot, hot, hot!

By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

Bangkok is the world’s hottest city

We’re out of the frying pan and into the fire as we fly from Oman into Bangkok, Thailand – officially the hottest city in the world. With year-round mean air temperatures of 28°C (82°F), we’re lucky to be in Bangkok during the ‘cool and dry’ season between November and February.

Arriving into Suvarnabhumi Airport at 7:25 AM, we make our way into central Bangkok using the Airport Link (SARL). Our hotel is the Shangri-Hotel (Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu) on the banks of Bangkok’s river, the Chao Phraya. The temptation after that long flight from Oman on arriving in our room is to dump the luggage and collapse straight into bed, but….must….resist!

Only being in Bangkok for two days and after an overnight flight from Oman means there’s lots to do, but little energy to do it, so our local guide Anna, who’s lived in Bangkok for two years, has promised to let us take it easy – but that doesn’t mean we can slack off!

After jumping straight into the shower and putting on some long-sleeved clothing made of light fabric, we’re off to the Oriental Pier.

11 AM: A River Ferry to the Grand Palace

Outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is the Oriental Pier, and that’s where we meet up with Anna. She has planned an easy day for us today, and promises a relaxing surprise this afternoon.

We catch the Chao Phraya Express ferry from the Oriental Pier for a quick trip up the Chao Phraya river, part of the navigation toolkit of any Bangkok local.

We disembark at the Tha Tien Cross River Ferry Pier, and from here it’s a quick walk to one of Bangkok’s biggest tourist attractions, the Grand Palace.

It becomes clear why we wore long-sleeved clothing and pants at the entrance to the Grand Palace. As a holy and important site to the Thais, there are people at the entrance checking your dress and ensuring that it meets their standards for respectfulness. Although you can hire clothes, it’s really better to dress appropriately to begin with. In this video, journalist Lauren Bercarich explains all.

The Grand Palace isn’t just one, but rather a complex of buildings, and has been the residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782, and is still in use as a royal residence and as a ceremonial site. The beautiful and intricate architecture is entrancing and it takes several hours for us to complete a tour. We linger particularly at the Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the famous and significant Emerald Buddha. Only Thailand’s King is allowed near the Emerald Buddha, ceremonially changing the Buddha’s robes throughout the year.

Wat Mahathat, Bangkok, Thailand

“wat mahathat bangkok”, a photo by telmo32, CC License

2 PM: Wat Po and the Origins of Thai Massage

After visiting the site of the Emerald Buddha, we arrive outside the Wat Po temple.

It’s full name is the Wat Phra Chetuphon, and is well known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Inside is an enormous reclining Buddha, roughly 40 metres long and covered in gold leaf. That alone is impressive but with a smile Anna turns to tells us more about Wat Po.

And what a surprise! It turns out that Wat Po is considered the origin of Thai massage – and is, in fact, a functioning Thai massage school, the country’s most prestigious. This is too good an opportunity to pass up and for the rest of the afternoon, we experience the best in Thai massage and relaxation at the site where it all began.

Thailand Tips – What is a Wat?

A typical Thai Wat, which is loosely translated as monastery or temple, has an enclosing wall that divides it from the secular world. Find out more here.

Sunset over Wat Arun.

Sunset over Wat Arun. Photo by Mark Fischer, CC License

6 PM: Night Markets

We’re early for dinner by Thai standards, but it’s been a long day and we want to fit in a quick tour of the markets before we finally collapse. We head up to the Suan Lum night markets by motorbike taxis because, in Anna’s words

“The best tip I would give is to use the motorbike taxis – the guys on street corners with orange vests on. That’s if you’re game- they’re much quicker in the horrendous congestion of Bkk (Bangkok)! You can bargain a little because they’ll give you a tourist price at first, but they’re cheap anyway. And they’re way better than tuktuks, because they won’t take you to the tailor or shop that is giving them fuel vouchers in exchange for customers”

At the night markets, we load up on accessible street-style food in a big open courtyard, listening to local live entertainment.

Goodnight Bangkok!

That’s it for our first day in Bangkok. Smiling and serene from our massages and with our bellies as full as Buddha’s from the night market, we fall asleep in minutes.

TukTuk, Bangkok, Thailand

“Go Baby, Go Go”, a photo by lynhdan, CC License

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Don’t disrespect the monarch! Lengthy prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy.
  • Keep your fluid intake up! According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the world’s hottest city. Located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is sunny at any time of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F). So make sure you have plenty of fluid throughout the day.
  • Bangkok has many public transport options, including the BTS Skytrain, the underground metro line MRT, Bangkok buses, river boats, and the famous tuktuks. Find out more at TransportBangkok.
  • Locals refer to Bangkok as Bkk.
  • Did we mention that it’s hot in Bangkok? Drink water, silly!

Have you been to Bangkok? What did you love? What did we miss? Tell us in the comments!

UPDATE FEB 2013:

Mark Fisher (who took this amazing sunset photo that we used above) was kind enough to update us that the Suan Lum Night Markets have closed down. As an alternative, he says;

[although it is father out] the Train Market (Tarad Rot Fa) in Bangkok is very interesting and could be worth adding to you itinerary.