Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Three Days In Bangkok

One of my Twitter followers, @maydelarose who is flying to Bangkok in June, and she asked for a Bangkok write-up. So what follows  here is the itinerary that my family and I followed, when we flew to Bangkok in 2011. Hopefully, she can pick up an idea or two from this recounting. 

In  the original Thai, the name of Bangkok is Krung Thep or -- "City of Angels."  Plenty of visitors to the city use it as a jump off point to many of Thailand's beautiful beaches. But the city itself can also be the main draw, as it is bursting with great places to eat, sprawling shopping complexes, exquisite temples, and a people known for their sunny smile. Just be on your guard to avoid the street-corner scams, and everything should be heavenly, here in the city of angels.  


Touchdown at the swanky Suvarnabhumi Airport

We left Manila on a 9:35pm Cebu Pacific flight and landed in Bangkok at around 12 midnight. Bangkok's airport is very, very impressive, and looks every inch what an international airport should look like. Opened as recently as 2006, Suvarnabhumi features a high-speed rail link and five alternative routes to the city -- so you don't have to get stuck in traffic.

Suvarnabhumi airport photo courtesy of

From here we rode the airport bus, and alighted at the very last stop, where we hoped to find a cab that would take us to our hostel. A lady also got down on our stop was kind enough to walk us towards the taxi station. She even instructed the drive to bring us to our hostel.

Saphaipae Hostel
35 Surasak Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand
5-minute walk from Sursak Sky Train Station or 10-minute walk to Central (Sathorn) Pier

One of the top budget hotels in Bangkok is Sapahipae Hostel. The staff here are quite friendly, and they even took the time to allay our fears about the reported Bangkok flooding via an overseas call. 

The hostel has  24-hour check-in policy, so we had no problems upon arriving. Immediately after checking in, we trooped to our 4-bed dorm room, and settled in so that we could wake up bright and early for our first day in Bangkok

Saphaipae hostel, Bangkok, Thailand
* More on our hostel, Saphaipae Backpackers hostel in a coming post!

DAY 1: Chatuchak and Chinatown

Breakfast at the hotel 

We had a traditional breakfast consisting of coffee, tea and cereal at the hotel's in-house hip-looking restaurant. Guess our stomachs weren't ready for Thai food so early in the morning. 

Cereal for my sister.

The green tea is literally green.

Shopping at The Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak Market
Thanon Kamphaeng Phet 3, near Chatuchak Park BTS-Mor Chit.
If you're taking the MRT go down at the Kampaeng Phet station, where you will find yourself in Section 2.

One of the most famous indoor/outdoor markets in the world, Chatuchak offers a staggering 15,000 shops in a maze of stalls, streets and side streets.

A puberty girl's dream come true: colorful wallets fat the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand

There are tons of clothes, pretty dresses, bags of every color and every kind. There are also antiques, wooden statues, ceramics, and everything in between.

It might be best to buy a more comprehensive map if you are looking for something in particular in the market. The free map was no help at all.

Even little kids have something to sell at the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Even in late October, it was a hot, stuffy and sweaty experience, combing the different shops for bargain finds. Best to bring an umbrella, a fan, and lots of drinking water. Although, these fruit shakes were not bad at all.

Chatuchak market, Bangkok

Food choices are equally plentiful in Chatuchak, and so we snacked very heavily that late afternoon, because we were so tired.

Chatuchak Market, Bangkok
If I had to do it over again, I'd probably choose to drop by this expansive market late in the afternoon -- not only is the temperature a little bit cooler, but there are actually mores shops that open as the day progresses.

Shopping Alternatives

Suan Lun Night Bazaar (Wireless Road, MRT-Lumping)
open nightly, some 4,000 shops selling clothes, accessories, handicraft
Patpong Night Market (Silom Road, BTS: Saladaeng and MR: Silom)
fake designer handbags, and watches, pirated DVDs
Bonanza Mall and Central Childom (adjacent to Siam)
hip and young crowd and fashionable products

Dinner in Chinatown


Off Yaowarat Road

Better known as Yaowarat to local Thai, Chinatown is best visited in the evening, when the streets are crowded with food stalls and the locals are also clamoring for seats. 

Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand

Seafood stall in Chinatown, Bangkok

 Food here is incredibly cheap -- only a hundred pesos ++ per meal. And the choices cover a wide range -- from satay, to noodles to shark's fin soup, to all sorts of seafood.

As for us, we had giant prawns and noodles.

A suggestion

 For a nightcap, you'd maybe want to splurge a little and have a cocktail or two at the Banyan Tree hotel's Vertigo and Moon Bar. This rooftop bar offers al fresco dining  and stunning views of the city.

Vertigo and Moon Bar photo courtesy of the Banyan Tree Hotel

DAY 2: Nong Nooch Botanical Garden in Pattaya

Nong Nooch Botanical Garden

34/1 Moo 7 Na Jomtien, Sattahip, Chonburi, Pattay, Thailand
From Bangkok buses to Pattaya leave from Ekkamai southern bus terminal, every three hours. An alternative are the minivans from BTS Victory Monument that have hourly trips.
Travel Time : 1-2hrs Cost : 80-150 Baht 

This day started off on the wrong foot. When we reached Ekkamai's southern bus terminal, there was a man who rushed us to a bus, saying that it was leaving already for Pattaya. We immediately followed him because we didn't want to wait for the next bus trip.

We were ushered in to an old, smelly bus -- much like the public ones we have in Manila. And then we waited for another hour or so, before the bus left.

It was a good old scam if I ever saw one. In order to avoid scams like this, go to the bus counters, and buy your tickets there directly.

Nong Nooch Garden Pattaya

When we got to Pattaya, we had to hire another tuk tuk to bring us to Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens. And when we got there, we found ourselves in a sprawling 500-acre property that had different sections, and different attractions going on at the same time.

There were elephant shows where the animals performed tricks shooting basketball or riding on a motorcycle. You could also have your photo taken while being lifted up on two elephant trunks .

Elephants in Nong Nooch Garden, Pattaya, Thailand

There were areas where you (for a fee) could have a photo taken while feeding baby tigers.

Baby tiger  in Nong Nooch Garden, Pattaya, Thailand

There was a garage area where fancy cars, sports cars and whimsical cars were on display, which my dad loved.

Then there was the garden itself, which was my favorite part. This was where a scene from the Filipino film, Suddenly It's Magic --  starring Thai heartthrob Mario Maurer, and our very own Erich Gonzales -- was filmed.

 Nong Nooch Garden, Pattaya, Thailand

It's all manicured lawns, and shapely trees, and greens and purples -- lke something from the movie, Edward Scissorhands.

Photo courtesy of


Safari World
Take the number 26 bus from Victory Monument, which will take you to Kilometer 9 of Ram Indra Road. From there is a shuttle service that will bring you to Safari World.


The Grand Palace
Na Phra Lan Road, Maharaj PIer, next to Wat Phra Kaeo Temple Complex, Bangkok 
Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm
Entrance Fee: 400 baht

We arrived at the Grand Palace earlier than the 8:30 am opening time, so we crossed the road for some breakfast in a cozy little cafe.

When the palace complex opened, we were one of the first to step in. The sun was high and bright  -- the best kind of weather, it has been said, to appreciate the structures here. Remember the dress code though -- no sandals, bare shoulders or shorts. 

The palace complex used to be a self-contained world of royal halls, chambers, and quarters, where the king of Siam and his court resided. It is roughly 218,000 square meters big.

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand 

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand 

 There is a lot of gold and glitz and shimmer and shine in the architecture. Some of the walls and columns are composed of thousands of multi-colored glass pieces.

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand 

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew is the most iconic structure here. Inside is an emerald buddha that had been carved from single block of jade. No one can enter this temple, except the king of Thailand himself.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

Although the place is crawling with tourists, this did nothing to rob the Grand Palace of the spectacle and dazzle it has in spades.

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand 
Like Korean couples in their matchy-matchy outfit: my parents in the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand 

Tip: Don't believe the men who hang around near the palace entrance who tell you that the complex is closed for a special ceremony and invite you to a short sightseeing tour while waiting. They'll just whisk you off in a tuk tuk to some shops who are in league with them. 

Wat Pho
2 Sanam Chai Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Hours: 8:00 am-5:00pm, Entrance fee: 50 baht

Right next door is the Wat Pho, a temple that doesn't look like much at first glance, but is actually the home of the famous Reclining Buddha -- the biggest in all of Thailand.

Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

The Reclining Buddha is 150 foot long and resplendent because it is covered in gold leaf. The soles of the buddha's feet are embedded with mother-of-pearl

Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

Scam City

It was after Wat Pho, that things took a little turn for the comedic, as we were invited (more like scammed, actually) to take a "river cruise" along Bangkok's Chao Phraya river.

But it was more like a boat ride through a smelly canal with icky water.

At least we saw the Wat Arun. Chao Praya River, Bangkok, Thailand. 
Again, never, ever trust the louts who come walking up to you with this or that offer. Bangkok can be scammy like that.

Jim Thompson House
Soi Kasem San 2, Rama 1Road
Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm, Entrance Fee: Adult 100 baht, Students: 50 baht

Who on earth is Jim Thompson, and why is the house of this Western sounding gentleman of interest here in the Far East?

Jim Thompson House, Bangkok, Thailand

Jim Thompson was an American who, almost single-handedly rebuilt the silk trade in Thailand, before he mysteriously disappeared in a jungle in Malaysia in the 1960s.

His houses are in the style of a traditional Thai style dwelling -- which are made of teak, very airy and are elevated from the ground. He actually brought these houses from their original locations from as far as Ayuthaya

. Inside, there is a virtual treasure trove of Jim Thompson's collections from his travels (no cameras are allowed inside, so we had to content ourselves with this exterior shot). 

Jim Thompson House, Bangkok, Thailand

We also ate at the Jim Thompson restaurant located within the gated grounds. Spring rolls, pad thai, and chicken wrapped in banana leaves. A bit pricey, but so delicious, it was worth it.

Pad Thai, Jim Thompson House restaurant 

Chicken in Banana Leaves, Jim Thompson House Restaurant

Banana Leaf Restaurant
4th Floor Silom Complex, Silom Road, Bangkok
Hours: 11am-9:30pm

Recommended by CNNgo, as one of the best, affordable restaurants in Bangkok, we trooped to  the Silom Complex to try Banana Leaf Restaurant for our last meal in Thailand.

We found it at the basement (but recently I read it's moved up to the 4th floor), and the tables were full of locals (always a good sign) enjoying tom yum, baked crab, and other meat and fish dishes. 

photo courtesy of Banana Leaf  Restaurant Thailand

We ordered a shrimp salad.

Shrimp salad, Banana Leaf Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand 

A spicy fish dish.

Banana Leaf Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand 

And some stir-fry pork.

Banana Leaf Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand 

Each dish came to about 150 baht (around 200 pesos). It was great that it was situated in a shopping complex too, because we were able to squeeze in some last minute shopping.

And then soon, all too soon, we had to head off to the airport to catch our flight home. As it turned out, the  floods that had been threatening to deluge the city, rushed in just as we had left,. We had left just in time. 

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