It most definitely is a cliched destination for a holiday – noisy, polluted, architecturally nondescript and so crowded it sometimes takes an hour to drive across a stretch of 200 metres. Yet, its one of the fastest evolving cities in South East Asia, with a vibe so powerful and colourful that even the most jaded traveller would be forced to break out into a smile in this charismatic city. Archana Shenoy explores the sights and sounds of Bangkok from one of the city’s highest vantage points
There is no love or hate at first sight when it comes to Bangkok. One needs to make an effort to discover little experiential gems hidden deep under the concrete, bustling ethos of the Thai capital. Like the rest of South East Asia that’s in the rat-race to make it to No.1 spot on a travellers bucket list, introducing new man-made attractions each summer, Bangkok too has nothing much to write home about, save for its artificially created structures and experiences.
There’s no mountains to bunjee jump from, no hiking and trekking trails. It’s humid, loud, stinky in parts, back alleys filled with overflowing garbage bins. Yet, there’s something addictive amidst this man-made cacophony, a few experiences that one must try in order to get the true feel of this vibrant city.
There’s the floating market, shopping malls, quirky restaurants, tuk-tuk rides and a visit to Ocean Park and Safari World that the first time traveller should not miss. Then there’s also that ‘little bit extra’ that the jaded traveller looks for.
An evening on the river front
Discover the new face of Bangkok at Asiatique – The River Front, a hangout so hip and vibrant created to lure the average traveller away from the shady glamour of shopping at MBK Mall and Chatuchat Market. Asiatique boasts of a giant ferris wheel (if London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur can have it, why can’t Bangkok?) as their newest tourist attraction, an option to watch a live cabaret and a Muay Thai live theatre with scheduled fights for overnight.
Add to that the market place thats filled with branded rip-offs, a central courtyard boasting super dining spaces and the option of a relaxing river cruise on board the Reur Khun Mae dining boat, makes this place one of the most bustling spaces in the city for tourists.
Dine in the clouds
Not surprisingly, all of Bangkok’s vantage points are man-made! Located on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel on Sathorn Road is Vertigo, one of the city’s classiest fine dining spaces. The viewing deck in the restaurant offers a 360 degree panorama of the city. And for this view and the experience on dining in the clouds, one has to pay a price. In this case the extremely weighty cheque that is delivered at the end of a fabulously crafted meal.
The Thai way of relaxation
So, you haven’t washed away the fatigue of your hectic Bangkok holiday if you haven’t experienced an authentic Thai massage. Don’t go thinking of skimpily clad masseurs and naked oily bodies. Think instead of a full white pyjama and top, a highly skilled and trained massage expert who uses his or her elbows, palms, fingers and even sometimes feet to relieve your aching body of any existing tension and aches and pains. At the end of the hour, make sure you tell your brain to remember your legs, for they’re more likely to resemble and feel like limp noodles!
Street food in Bangkok is as highly revered as the bhel puri is in Mumbai or the puchkas are in Kolkata. You haven’t completed your culinary journey of Bangkok is you haven’t tried their spicy street fare.From the fire-extinguisher worthy Tom Yum Goong to sticky, sweet-sour Phad Thai noodles, don’t be scared of getting sick when you eat at one of the many street carts that dot the Sois of this vibrant city. If you watch their clean-up ritual once they shut shop, you will rest assured that their levels of hygiene and cleanliness are on par, if not higher than any star rated restaurant in our country.
Shop till you drop
Though its not as cheap as it once used to be, Bangkok is still a shoppers delight. Unlike the rest of South East Asia, where size is an issue for most well-built Indian women, the same scale of measure does not hold good in Thailand.
There’s brands galore to choose from, every main street in the city boasts of at least one luxury mall, there’s something for every kind of shopper in Bangkok. Even local designers, who have small shops with little tailoring units attached, are great shopping finds as some of the designs and fabrics used are much in keeping with an Indian’s sense of fashion.