Shopaholic and foodaholics anonymous

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


BANGKOK, Thailand. The place to be for shopaholics, foodies and spaholics.

I am not a spaholic, but I am definitely a shopaholic and a foodaholic. And they say I need rehab. Well, Bangkok certainly lives up to its reputation as a travel hot spot in Southeast Asia. It offers a bountiful array of attractions, markets, shopping malls, restaurants and traditional Thai massages for one to explore. It is an eclectic mix of serene Thai history and modern metropolis. I have been to Bangkok numerous times, but every time I visit, there is always something exciting to discover.

It is best to explore Bangkok in December, for the climate is a little cooler, and of course, there are plenty of stores that are on sale. For shopaholics, one must not leave Bangkok without experiencing the Chatuchak (Jatujak) weekend market. It is the largest in Thailand and the world’s largest weekend market that offers a wide variety of products including household items, clothing, Thai handicrafts, religious artifacts, collectibles, food and live animals. It is very easy to find, located at the end of the BTS sky train line, by the Mo Chit station near the Victory Monument.

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One day is definitely not enough to browse the market.

Another favorite of mine is the Pratunam market, Thailand’s largest clothing market.

This is also the district where you can find the cheapest fabrics and textiles.  

It is located at the intersection of Ratchaprarop and Phetburi roads in the Ratchathewi district, or if you are taking the BTS sky train, you may disembark at Ratchathewi station.

In both markets, you can buy 10 dresses made of lace and fine fabrics for 1,500 baht (P2,057) or cheaper, especially if they are priced wholesale.

Along the same area is the Pantip IT Plaza. For those who are tech savvy, this is definitely the place for you. The whole mall offers gadgets and electronics.

If you’re not on a tight budget and in the mood to splurge, Siam Paragon is the place to be. “The Pride of Bangkok,” it is one of the biggest shopping centers in Asia. It includes a wide range of specialty stores and restaurants as well as a multiplex movie theater (consisting of 15 large-sized theaters, with one of them having the biggest screen and seating capacity in Asia) and the Siam Ocean World (underwater world) aquarium (the largest aquarium in South East Asia), an exhibition hall, a Thai Art Gallery, and an opera concert hall. Brands like Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Mulberry, Valentino, Dior, Hermes, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Patek Philippe are a few that you will find here.

The Gourmet Food Market is one of my favorite places at Siam Paragon. It is an internationally-oriented grocery store selling a selection of foodstuff from various European countries, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. The front half of the store is dedicated to trial-tasting of a wide variety of items and a fresh market. It is adjacent to a food court and bread shop area that has many restaurants and food stalls. This is where I always buy my favorite tamarind and other dried fruit items, as well as nuts, from macadamias to pine nuts. To get there, one may take the BTS Skytrain, and disembark at Siam Station.

Another popular shopping destination for tourists is the MBK center. Its is adjacent to Siam Paragon, which is quite ironic, because MBK offers all kinds of knock off items from high fashion labels, while Siam Paragon offers only authentic goods.

Along Victory Monument is The King Power Duty Free Complex, three floors of tax-free shopping, you can arrange with your hotel front office staff for free transfers to the area.  There are other malls similar to Siam Paragon offering high-fashion labels like Emporium, Central World and Geysorn, just prepare your wallet.

There is always an adjacent BTS sky train station in almost all the malls in Bangkok, definitely a convenience for us shopaholics.

Aside from shopping, Bangkok is known to have the best street food. For foodaholics like me, if you’re in search of the best, cheapest and most delicious food, look no further than the streets of Bangkok. Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chilies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. Fresh fruits in season are always ready and available from the exotic dragon fruit, to the sweet pineapple, guava and strawberries for only 20 baht (P27). Fresh fruit juices are also ready to quench one’s thirst after a full day of shopping, like sweet coconut, fresh lemonade and longan juice. Barbecues, sausages and satays are readily available from 10 (P13.72), 12 (P16.46) and 15 (P20.58) baht a piece.

Street flavor

The famous phad thai is better and more deliciously prepared along the streets than in restaurants. Savory and sweet crepes are also found on the streets from crabmeat to hazelnut Nutella. Sweet pickled fruits are ready to tickle one’s taste buds. Pancakes, rice cakes, fish balls, sweet bananas, sweet potatoes are just a few of the delights you will find on the streets. One could fill up one’s hunger just by walking along the streets of Bangkok.

For spaholics out there you can get an authentic Thai massage for only 150 baht (P205). Also, you can shop for your favorite spa essentials like eucalyptus oils at local Thai stores.

For first timers, I would definitely recommend a guided city tour of Bangkok. Among the tours you should take are the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keaw Tour, this used to be the residence of all the kings of Thailand up until 1946. Part of the palace compound is dedicated to a royal temple, Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred temple of Thailand and home to the famous Emerald Buddha, a jade statue adorned in gold clothing.

Seeing the sites

At the Wat Pho tour, you will see Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha and the largest number of Buddha images in Thailand. The gold-plated Reclining Buddha statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and commemorates the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is one of the oldest and best known tourist attractions in Bangkok.

The Jim Thompson House is also a famous destination of Bangkok. Thompson was famous for building his silk company, he also became a major collector of Southeast Asian art. Lastly, one must visit the floating market and dine and be entertained by the Chao Phraya river cruise.

The most important thing I love about Bangkok is the way they preserve their culture.

Amidst all the modernization of the city, they still have their distinct Thai culture.

Their warm hospitality, generosity, smile and respect for their King are distinctly Thai, and these traits are what makes one always come back for more. (Katrina Charmaine R. Avila)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 16, 2014.

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