Two faces of Thailand-A A +A
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
BANGKOK, the capital city of Thailand, is one of Asia's most visited cities. Exotic and exciting, the so-called "City of Angels" on the banks of the Chao Praya River, has made its mark as an old city with a young spirit. Old because the city dates back to 1782 and is home to ancient temples and historic landmarks...young in spirit because it has embraced the trappings of a modern city - high-rise buildings, up-to-date shopping centers, a variety of dining and entertainment options, a bustling night life, expansive highways and skywalks, and more.
Since it is impossible to see and take in all of Bangkok in one trip, I have listed down eight Bangkok basics as a guide.
8 tips to enjoy Bangkok to the max
1. Choose a hotel that serves your needs. If shopping is your main agenda, then book a hotel in the heart of any of the shopping districts.
For our visit last month we were billeted at the Grand Diamond Plaza Suites which is right beside the Platinum Mall and across the street from the Pratunam shopping stalls. Can you imagine the convenience? When we were about to "drop" (yes, as in shop-till-you-drop), we just took refuge in our nearby suite.
However, if luxury is your kind of thing, there are many five-star hotels to look into. The ones by the Chao Phraya River have the added advantage of a classy water ambiance.
2. If you are a first-timer in Bangkok, you have to visit the Grand Palace and roam around its environs which include the Temple of the Emerald Buddha "Wat Phra Kaeo."
These two landmarks define the city. And then there is the Temple of Dawn "Wat Arun"
with its iconic 79-meter-tall central pagoda (encrusted with porcelain pieces) and four small ones at each corner. It is a stunning sight from across the river.
It was only on this visit that I finally got the chance to see it up close when we took a shuttle boat to the site and explored the historic area.
3. Don't miss Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. It is so much fun being face-to-face with personalities from all around the globe (some of them already in the great beyond) and then posing with them.
I couldn't resist having a photo with Justin Bieber to give my grandchildren a thrill. Another figure we just had to pose with was Elizabeth Taylor, the idol of our teenage years.
4. Make it a point to try Thai food in different places including food courts and hole-in-the-wall places. That's where you find inexpensive and authentic Thai dishes.
We had lunch in a Thai seafood resto, courtesy of tour organizers Nelson and Baby Dy of Grand Hope Travel. If you go for buffet, there are two Baiyoke Hotels which offer a kilometric spread. I loved the Top Yam Kung soup at the Baiyoke Suite. And whatever else you do, don't miss out on Thailand's fruits. They're absolutely the best! Sweet, juicy, plump, fleshy...name it!
5. Do get a traditional Thai massage if time permits. It is therapeutic because the masseuse concentrates on pressure points across the body where an abundance of energy has built up so that the energy is released and evenly distributed throughout the body, thus creating balance. It is soothing and brings a sense of well-being.
6. A romantic dinner cruise down the "River of Kings" is another wondrous experience not to be missed. I have done it twice before in previous visits and I wouldn't mind going on another one. The sights along the way are breathtaking. It is dreamy and surreal!
7. For a glimpse into Thai culture, there are theaters showcasing traditional Thai dances, classical drama and puppet performances. I've seen the Siam Niramit show and I must say that the production is simply astounding! Can you imagine a river swelling up before your very eyes...plants sprouting out from nowhere...and Thai dancers "flying" around? Absolutely awesome!
8. The newest night shopping place in town is a "must-visit." Called Asiatique, the beautiful complex by the river is home to shopping stalls, restos and bars. I loved the entire atmosphere which reminded me of San Francisco's Pier 39. My sister Elma and her husband Nop Muangkroot treated our group to a sumptuous seafood dinner there and then afterwards to durian ice cream. The place is just a few-months-old and we are grateful to Dave de Jesus, TAT's marketing rep in the Philippines for telling us about it.
Bangkok is a place one can never tire of. The options are varied and extensive... be it for a grand vacation, a shopping spree, family bonding, a honeymoon trip, a wellness interlude...Bangkok definitely beckons! Part 2: Bangkok Beckons, Part 1 Chiang Mai Charms was in last week’s issue)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2012.