Do you know what city has the official name…
“The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emeral 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”
I bet you guessed it right, it’s Bangkok – a city well-loved by many travelers for its enchanting temples, great food, warm and polite people, revered animals and the awesome shopping experience. It’s not hard to fall in love with the “Venice of the East” (it got its name from the numerous canals that snake through the city). In my recent stay in Bangkok, I can say this place is something that I want to escape to should my happy feet lusts to wander.
Mind you there are a thousand and one ways to entertain yourself in this city, hence the key is to know first what you want; shop, eat, see the temples, be with the animals, enjoy the nightlife, just get lost.
What are my top things to do in BKK?
It is hard to go wrong with Thai cooking, may it be from a very cheap street vendor or from a fancy restaurant. Thai cooking emphasizes on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. It is known for its balance of three fundamental taste senses: sour, sweet and salty. Let it be known that Thai food is hot and spicy so if you’re like most Filipinos who can’t take fire-inducing food, then you better prepare yourself.
Crabmeat and seafood curry.
Seafood rice dish
The tastiest Pad Thai I ever had
With egg and chicken, at PhP 70 only (this is converted price, of course)
Pad Thai is stir-fried noodles made with fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper and garnished with tofu, peanuts and some other things that catapulted it to #5 in CNN Go’s 2011 poll on 50 Most Delicious Food. This is from a street food vendor
In Khao San Road
When I did my research, Khao San is over-rated. The best street food can be had in Phahon Yothin, which is incidentally the area where we stayed. Nonetheless, it was the best Pad Thai I ever tasted, I crave for it from time to time.
While you’re at it, take time to visit the grocery store. An insane collection of mushroom
1-L fermented skimmed-milk. This made Person A pack his bags to join in my BKK adventure.
Barrels of oils … hazelnut oil and truffle oil! Much cheaper than getting it here in Manila.
And spices ice cream from Spice Story.
You see, Person A and I love to go around grocery stores. While we were exploring the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon, we chanced upon this stall and the usisero kids that we are, we tried chili, ginger milk tea and white chocolate pepper.
The taste is interesting. It’s ice cream and spices. It’s worth the try but I like my ice cream spice-free and my spices left in the savory.
2. See the Elephants and Tigers in Kanchanaburi Province
Elephants are revered and well loved by the Thais. It is a beast of burden, a beast of war, and it used to be the royal carriage: kings kept a stable of white elephant.
For ~ThB9 000 for a whole day trip from Bangkok, you get to ride with elephants –ala King, and have close encounter with Tigers in Kanchanaburi province. Kanchanaburi is to the west of Bangkok and is just 38 kms from the border of Myanmar.
The package includes van transfers from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi and back, entrance fees, lunch and a tour guide. To lower the cost of the entire trip it is best to split it with about 5-6 people. We left the hotel at 8:30 in the morning and arrived in Kanchanaburi at 10:00. First stop was a War Cemetery
before heading to the elephant camp, which was easily the highlight of my trip.
Upon arrival, you will be ushered to the staging area where an elephant and a mahout takes you for a ride in the forest. The ride was exhilarating: every time the elephant takes a step its huge tummy sways causing the makeshift chair to “swing” sideways; it is a very bumpy ride.
The ride gets challenging once the 2-ton animal descends a slope. I prefer riding ala-mahout style because the bump is greatly reduced.
Plus there’s a million dollar view, seven-foot off the ground.
The 45-min ride in the forest was one great experience. Elephant skin is very leathery, cool … and sweaty! The animal loves to forage along the way so if the one you’re on is hungry, the elephant ride takes a longer time.
I call this area the parking lot.
We had a quick lunch before heading to the Tiger Temple by 1PM.
Tiger Temple’s official name is Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua. It is named after this wax monk figure we encountered in the Sitting Buddha temple.
It looks life-like that Person A and I spent a good time discussing if it’s a real person or not. Well, it’s not. The monk died a year ago and he’s very famous in Thailand.
The temple was founded in 1994 as a sanctuary for wild animals, most prominent of which are 200-kg Tigers.
Monks take care of the tigers and they believe that these animals are re-incarnation of their loved ones.
At 1PM you get to walk the tigers down the canyon. The rules are simple: hold the leash with your left hand, stay on the animal’s left side, never walk beyond the shoulders of the tiger and let the tiger decide what it wants to do. These rules are to prevent you from being hunted by the huge prey.
There are about 20 tigers in the canyon and once all has been leashed, you can now take pictures with them. If I understand it correctly, the tigers they bring down the canyon are males since they are less aggressive than the females. Moreover, it’s still daytime, being nocturnal hunters, the animals just want to sleep.
The volunteers closely guide you to have your pictures taken, a precautionary safety measure. You can take as much photos as you want and the volunteers are extremely good at it. I got bored having tons of photos taken with the Tigers so we extracted ourselves from the canyon and roamed the Temple grounds.
You can witness exercise time with the cats. You can experience this for ThB 1000/person. The water stinks: dead rat smell. Hehe
Feed an attention-seeking deer. It’s friendly: you can even hug it.
Marvel at the water buffalos.
Try to have a conversation with a monk. Out of respect as a female, I didn’t but Person A was able to ask a monk to have a picture taken with Fifi.
Tiger cubs are leashed around the ground hence you can actually try to pet them. These cubs are just lovely!
They smell nice and very playful! A monk even called me and pointed out the nursery to me…where a few days old cub were being housed!
I am not a cat person but I love big cats! I once wished to get rich so that I can buy a tiger cub for a pet. After my close encounter with the big cats I can say I now adore tigers. Haha! They’re very graceful, regal and play by their own rules.
We ended the trip with a walk along the railway to Myanmar.
A musician stationed himself in one of the railway stops. Sosyal!
The Japanese built this during WWII. The Japanese did not conquer Thailand so Singaporean and Malaysian prisoners of war made this railway
The Kanchanaburi Tiger-Elephant experience is one value for money, close encounter with the animals. I highly recommend it especially if you don’t have the opportunity to head to northern Thailand and you only have a day to spare.
3. Aimlessly Walk Around Bangkok
We walked at least 5 km on a Friday just because we felt like exploring the city by foot … and well we would like to eat (more of “forage” actually) anything exotic we fancy along the way.
Passed by the Democracy Monument
Gate to a Temple
While we were trying to figure out where we were, an extremely nice Teacher approached us and drew an itinerary on our map.
He thought we’re honeymooners; we must have that lovestruck (despite being lost) look. I was kilig.
This is Teacher’s marked up map.
He said that the famed Reclining Buddha is part of a “giant trinity”: there’s the 50-m standing Buddha and the Sitting Buddha that go with the Reclining Buddha. Can you see the buddhas in his map?
He also suggested that we go to the Thai Export Center, the Golden Mountain and end the night at Khao San. The itinerary came complete with information on the sites that we’re to visit, the sequence and when’s the best time to head to these places.
He was in a hurry, so before he scuttled off, he hired a tuktuk for us for THB40 to head to the 6 places he mapped out.
As much as we swore off a tuktuk ride, we found ourselves in one and well just made happy snaps.
The Sitting Buddha Temple
We were lucky to witness a ceremony. The monks were kind enough to signal to us that it’s okay to get inside the temple. This isn’t a usual tourist stop, hence we were the only travelers in the temple.
Then off we went to the Standing Buddha Temple
Temples are abound in Bangkok and if you need a shot of temple architecture, there are lots to go to.
4. Shopping and Tailored Suits
Bangkok is known as a shopping destination and a lot has been written about it so I’ll skip the shopping story in this entry. What I want to share with you is how good their tailors are… the kind of tailor that makes Hugo Boss and Armani suits… well, Prada suits if that’s what you like.
I work well outside of the boardroom … reality is, I work up in the mountain so a closet full of suits and well-tailored shirts is the least of my concern. However, knowing that I have that one bespoke suit that fits my body to a tee is enough for me to take the MRT and find my way to Pinky Tailor, the tailor is well-recommended by a Thai acquaintance.
Pinky Tailor is a nondescript shop two stations down Central. It is run by Nid, the “tailor” who takes your measurement and his wife, Pinky.
I came prepared with a peg of the suit that I want. I discussed the details with Nid before he turned me over to his daughter so I can choose the fabric for the suit and the shirts.
Then meticulous body measurement followed, it actually took 30 mins!
It was worth it, a day later, I did my final fitting and … I was amazed.
I like how the suit fits. A day after that, I took home my very first bespoke suit with some dress shirts in Italian cotton.
It doesn’t have the Prada or Gucci tag but I am very happy with my Pinky-made suit sitting in my closet.
Food, elephants, tigers, the city and the bespoke suit defined my Bangkok trip. There’s still a thousand and one things that I wanna do in Bangkok and for the happy memories I made in this adventure, I can say, I’ve fallen in love with Bangkok.
I am definitely coming back.