Go with the girls, the family, your better half, or the guys – lively Bangkok’s got experiences well suited for any type of traveller
WORDS SHEENA DABHOLKAR
PHOTOGRAPHS HIMANSHU PANDYA
BANGKOK knows how to woo. As one of the most-visited destinations in Asia, a cultural and tourism superpower and a longtime favourite with Indian holidaymakers, the city needs little introduction. It serves up everything from delicious cuisine and incredible sights to fantastic shopping and debauchery worth Vegas-style secrecy. Best of all, it offers fun activities and stylish accommodation for all budgets and every kind of traveller.
If this is your first trip, no matter how old you are and who you’re with, reserve at least half a day to see some of the temples. You can’t miss the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and the beautiful mosaicked stupas of Wat Arun (currently under renovation but still worth a visit). You have to roam the expansive grounds of the Grand Palace, watch the changing of the guard, and climb to the top of Wat Traimit, my favourite lesser-known temple, which houses an impressive five-and-a-half-tonne Buddha made from solid gold. Legend has it that was shielded in plaster two centuries ago, and the gold was rediscovered by accident in the 1950s when it slipped from a crane transporting it to a new temple, and cracked to reveal its glittering interior.
When you’re done with the attractions, visit Khaosan Road for a pad Thai (Bangkok’s street food is unsurpassable), stroll along the glistening Chao Phraya River and take time out at Lumphini Park, the city’s answer to Central Park, where it’s perfectly okay to head to, to escape from the bustle and traffic.
It’s my second time in Bangkok and I’ve ticked off the must-dos before. This time, I’m scoping out things to do that haven’t been done, uncovering gems only in-the-know locals have heard about, trying to make sense of whom they’ll be best suited to. From perhaps the freakiest museum in the world to a cake shop full of teddy bears, I’m trying to classify them, but the truth of the matter is, I’ll never really know who will love it most.
Great for GANGS OF GIRLS
1 GREAT FOR FOOD FANATICS
Floating Market tour with Pandan
I’m grumbling about having to wake up terribly early to leave town, but, if I hadn’t, I’d have missed the train. I’m on a food-centric tour on which the first stop is Maeklong Market, where, at 9.40am each day, the trackside vendors hurriedly pack up their umbrellas and raise their awnings so the train can pass. It’s the first of many mostly food-centric pit-stops on a floating market tour that includes visits to an indoor market, salt fields, a factory where I learn how coconut sugar is tapped from palms and then reduced to a fabulous fudge-like consistency, and a temple with jet planes, giant ceramic roosters and a petting zoo on the premises.
A highlight is indeed the floating market, where you must eat kway teow reua – literally, boat-fried noodles. They’ll even pass you the condiments to balance the sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours yourself. The tour includes lunch, either at a local restaurant or at any and as many street (or canal) stalls that take your fancy. If you and your girls are curious about where the locals’ food comes from or want to see sights off the beaten track, this is a good, if slightly pricey, tour to book.
Couples: Definitely! But call the company to join a group or you’ll pay double
Families: Skip it. It’s a long day
Bands of boys: Feast on the food on the nearest soi (street) instead
2 GREAT FOR UNWINDING
Spa at Face
Thai massage parlours are a dime a dozen, but few places offer the kind of setting that the Spa at Face does. A tranquil oasis in the city, the Face complex is rustic and traditional, built from teak and based on the layout of an extended Thai family house. The spa itself is small and intimate, surrounded by bamboo and water pools, with two wooden treatment huts. Whether it’s a quick shoulder reviver, a foot massage after a long night in heels or a decadent, many-hours- long package in which you can customise your treatments to your liking, time it so you can then treat yourselves to a drink at the incredibly hip Face Bar or have lunch or dinner at one of its restaurants serving Thai, Indian, Japanese or a mix of all three.
Couples: Highly recommended!
Families: Not as a family activity, but it would be a nice treat for a tired parent
Bands of boys: Stranger things have happened
3 GREAT FOR ATMOSPHERE
Supatra Riverside Restaurant
The Chao Phraya River was made for al fresco dining, and there’s no better time than sunset to do it. Supatra River House is a restaurant on the banks that makes for an atmospheric early dinner before a girls’ night on the town. Supatra’s a beautiful space, a two-storey traditional Thai house, but where you really want to be seated is the terrace so you can enjoy the gentle breeze and views at sundown. The menu here is Thai and seafood-focused; not particularly creative or interesting, but tasty nonetheless.
It also hosts traditional Thai dance performances on Saturday evenings.
Families: Try somewhere else
Bands of boys: Not your scene
4 GREAT FOR A MID-WEEK PARTY FIX
Ladies’ night at KU DE TA
In Bangkok, there’s absolutely no need to leave the partying for Friday night. At KU DE TA, one of the city’s best-known nightclubs, Wednesday is ladies’ night, which means entry is free and glasses of sparkling wine are on the house from 9pm to 12pm. Wear your dancing shoes – a rotation of DJs from the Bangkok Invaders collective play groovy tunes all night!
Couples: For clubbers, sure!
Families: How about those night bazaars instead?
Bands of boys: Go after 11pm; there will be girls!
Want more of Bangkok? We have 12 more great suggestions for families, bands of boys and couples– all in the March 2016 issue of Lonely Planet Magazine India. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.