A weekend away from Manila was in the planning stage, and the destination had to fit a certain timeline since we had to be back in the urban salt mines by Monday morning. After a rather rushed deliberation, the choice was Bangkok.
Like Manila weather, traffic
Weather and traffic conditions in the capital city of Thailand are quite similar to Manila’s, although Bangkok has the advantage of its efficiently run Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS or Skytrain). One street block already offers a lot of things to do for an adventurous tourist.
Not having been yet to this part of Asia in several years, I was eager to explore, ready for some spicy treats.
Street food is a must-try in Bangkok. We were staying right off the main road, Sukhumvit, where food stalls were aplenty. Lunch was an extremely cheap feast of freshly made mushroom herb soup, som tam (spicy green papaya salad), fried white fish and sticky rice, all for about 300 baht (P420).
After washing it all down with coconut water and iced tea, I started to hit some of the shops, paying homage first to Siam Center, which is several floors of garments by local designers. Most of the clothes were for those with funky tastes, and I found some rock star-type pieces at Baking Soda before heading into the more upscale Siam Paragon, which houses international brands.
To be honest, I was more excited about seeing the creative window displays at Siam Center; although the tiny Thai sizes weren’t too good for my ego, I was hoping to go back another time to explore more figure-friendly stores.
That evening led to a fast-paced tour of the city’s hot spots, starting off with a lovely dinner at the quiet White Café (Facebook.com/WhiteCafe).
Menu on an iPad
The menu was presented on an iPad with beautiful food photography, so choosing what to order was easy. My absolute favorite was a fried egg with lime and chili sauce. It was such a simple but flavorful meal, made more wonderful when paired with a spicy shredded fish and salad and ice-cold beer.
With bellies full, our group proceeded to explore the theme bars, world famous for their detailed interiors. First stop was the The Iron Fairies & Co. (theironfairies.com), which had live jazz and blues (not my favorite kind of music, though). Still, I got lost in this wine bar’s antique factory interiors. There was a winding staircase, hidden rooms, low-lit areas and lots of cocktails to choose from.
Next stop was the sky-high, open-air Sirocco Bar and Restaurant at the Lebua State Tower, one of the locations in the American comedy film “The Hangover Part II.” The tower itself is rather unremarkable, and there’s a slightly bizarre, almost abandoned-looking lobby that you have to walk through before getting to the elevators.
Once you step into the 63rd floor, though, the scene changes completely. If you are lucky enough to go on a night that isn’t teeming with tourists (we weren’t), you will have full access to spectacular views of the Bangkok metropolis. I suppose the hype about the place is to be expected. Eventually we were able to get close enough to the edge to really take in the outdoor ambiance.
But getting a drink was next to impossible and you had to dodge the flashes of what seemed like a hundred selfies and wefies being taken at the same time. Still it’s worth a visit, but perhaps not on a weekend, and it would probably be best to have had a drink or two before going.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
I actually preferred the quieter (and roomier) outdoor terrace of the Sofitel on Sukhumvit Road, which was our cocktail pit stop the next night.
If you have ample time on a weekend, then the labyrinth that is the Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must-stop-and-see. Get ready to lose yourself in the many stalls; I was advised, “If you spot something you really want, buy it already, ’cause chances are you’re not going to find your way back there.” I purchased hand-painted shoes and cotton-soft T-shirts with artistic sketches on them.
Can’t stand the heat? Then get out of the market and head to Terminal 21 (Bangkok.com/shopping-mall/terminal21.htm), which contains around 600 shops, food stalls, restaurants and even a supermarket. My favorites? The hand-painted, handmade bags from HOB.
Once I got the chance to wind down, I went for a Thai massage (the less pain-tolerant can go for a foot massage instead).
It was hard to believe that in a little less than 72 hours, I had a suitcase full of new shopping finds, a belly happily stuffed, and a body relaxed and ready to hop on a plane back home.
For a little spice of life without the hassles of a long-haul trip, I would be more than happy to head off to Bangkok again.