No, this will not be a checklist of “how to recreate” the infamous sequel of an American blockbuster film about a night of debauchery in Bangkok.
It’s been over a month since I got back from my Bangkok trip where I attended the Trade and Travel Mart and I find myself still talking about it. Talk about a hangover.
It is hard to make a checklist of what to visit in Bangkok as there are too many and making a quick rundown will not do justice to the many wonderful things one can see there. However there are certain things not to be missed.
Crafts and culture
For those new to Thailand or who just want to get a whiff of Thai culture, a visit to Siam Niramit is a must. It is a 10-ha property that aims to provide visitors a good feel of what Thailand is all about.
You are greeted by a beautiful hostess dressed in traditional Thai attire, and, of course, a photographer for that unforgettable shot. In the main courtyard is a mélange of Thai musicians and dancers and even an elephant for more photo ops.
Guests can buy arts and crafts in several shops in the main corridor. There is also a massage area, which, unfortunately, I was unable to visit. Come early if you want time to sample all these.
Before seeing the show, which is part of the entrance fee, guests are treated to a traditional Thai buffet. If you are a big fan of spicy food, this will be a treat, especially the Tom Yum Goong. The show itself is considered one of the largest in the world, with over 150 performers and 500 costumes. It is a journey both historical and mystical into Thailand’s cultural heritage.
Guests are treated to a display of lights and special effects that can rival the biggest shows in Las Vegas. It is also an interactive show where special effects and performers pop up in the aisles, and guests are invited to participate. Not bad for $50.
If you have time for a longer dose of Thai culture, a short hour away from Bangkok is an amazing cultural and wellness destination called Rose Garden Riverside.
Just 30 km west of Bangkok, it reportedly started as a family-run rose garden supplying the nearby capital and surrounding cities with cut flowers. Since its founding in 1964 by Dr. Chamnan Yuvapurna and Khunying Valee, the property has become a 70-acre resort and landmark destination for those seeking to gain a taste and feel of the ‘Thai way of life.”
The unique Thai village invites visitors to participate in local arts and crafts not limited to weaving, fruit carving, pottery and dance. Guests can also choose to learn the rudiments of Thai martial arts.
Wellness visits can be arranged to the 10-acre organic farm where organic farming is taught and guests can sample some of the locally grown organic produce.
Visits to Rose Garden Riverside can only be through prearranged tour packages. Lodging is available for those who wish to stay longer either in the new hotel or in one of the refurbished Thai-style houses across the manmade lake.
Temples, palaces, Buddhas
Temples, palaces and Buddhas really speak a lot about Thai culture and their beliefs. In the capital city of Bangkok alone, you cannot go more than 10 minutes without seeing one of the spires, heavily ornamented and sometimes plated in gold, reaching up to the sky like a beacon.
The Grand Palace in the historical city center has served as official home of the King of Thailand ever since King Rama I moved the capital to Bangkok in the 1800s. Over 95 ha, it is a complex maze of temples, palaces and office buildings that highlight the unique architecture design of the region.
While the current King actually resides in Chitralada Palace, the Grand Palace is still used for state and royal functions.
Sitting next to Chao Phraya River, the complex also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred Buddhist temple in the country. The entire complex is surrounded by a two-kilometer wall decorated with Thai murals depicting Ramakian, Thailand’s national epic. Guarding its entrances are two Yakshis—mythical giants that stand five meters tall.
The main temple, which houses the Emerald Buddha, is an architectural marvel. Standing tall in the middle of the compound, one can easily pick out the marble pillars and orange and green tiles glistening in the sun.
The Emerald Buddha, actually made of jade, stands in a yoga-like pose, is about 66 cm tall and is propped up on a high altar. Only the King of Thailand is allowed to touch it, which happens three times a year when he changes the cloak of the Buddha to correspond to the change of season. Legend has it that prosperity will come to the country it resides in. It is considered the “Protector of Thailand.”
I was telling my wife the other day that I longed for the day when I could yell out to her, “Honey, I’m off to the mall to buy a new Lamborghini.” Because, in Thailand, apparently you can—if you can afford it. And if you change your mind, there are also Aston Martins, Jaguars, Bentleys and Porsches to choose from.
So where can you do this? It’s called Siam Paragon, a 10-floor, 8.3-ha mall in Pathum Wan district. Opened in December 2005, it is one of Bangkok’s premiere malls. Apart from the multitude of upscale stores ranging from name-brand clothing to luxury vehicles, the mall also boasts 15 large-screen cinemas, a 5,000-seater concert hall and a national art gallery.
If that isn’t enough, located in the basement floor is Siam Ocean World, an underwater attraction similar to our Ocean Park. Over 10,000-sq m sprawl, it is considered the biggest aquarium in Southeast Asia, housing many forms of flora and fauna from the undersea world.
The attraction also has interactive displays for children, to help them learn about marine life. Fish and penguin feeding shows are scheduled regularly, while, for an additional fee, you can take a trip over the main aquarium on a boat with glass bottom.
Real Thai massage
You can’t really say you’ve been to Thailand until you have a real Thai massage. While there are spas all over the city, only a few can deliver it in the traditional Thai hospitality and style, creating that exotic experience toward wellness. One of them is Rarinjinda Wellness Spa at Grand Center Point Hotel on Ratchadamri road.
What do I mean by a real Thai massage? The experience starts the minute one enters the facility. After being offered ginger tea, guests are guided toward a shower room where they can refresh themselves and change into more appropriate attire.
The treatment starts with a short herbal foot soak to help ease the tension in the muscles. Once you’re relaxed, the therapist will begin to stretch, twist and knead you in every possible way. Ouch? Very. But once the massage is done, a warm, herbal hot compress is applied to soothe aching bodies.
For inquiries on traveling to amazing Thailand, visit www.tourismthailand.org; e-mail [email protected] and [email protected]; tel. 0922-8584370.