“Sawadee Ka,” the young man said as he pressed his palms together, head slightly bent forward. I took the bowl of soup from his hands and retreated back to my bed where I was going to spend the next few hours recovering from severe jet lag.
This brief interaction was just the beginning of my experience with the overwhelming hospitality and warmth of the smiling Thai people.
Once I had slept through the night, I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to explore Bangkok. The city is often a quick stop for travellers heading to Thailand’s coastal treasures or further north to Chiang Mai.
But there are so many things to see and do in Bangkok from its rooftop bars to its bustling markets. These are four places to see in Bangkok, Thailand on a quick stop to the city.
When you get to the area surrounding the temple complex of Wat Pho, Bangkok’s roads turn into wide avenues flanked by European-style buildings. Large pictures of Thai royalty feature prominently along the way. A public bus splashed with a burst of colour passes by. One of the passengers brings her palms together in prayer and bows her head. I turn to see what she’s looking at and notice Wat Pho behind me. The star at Wat Pho is a huge 46 metres long reclining Buddha swathed in gold leaf. It’s inspiring to get this close to such an exquisite statue. Every little detail is blown up as if you are looking at Buddha through a microscope-the tight curls on his head, the serenity on his face, and the pearl inlaid swirls on the pads of his toes. Drop coins into the little pots lining the wall, whispering prayers with each clink. Dispersed throughout the grounds-golden lotus seated position statues, gilded Buddha images, 91 stupas covered in bright ceramic and tile patterns and pots of incense. Even though there are masses of tourists, it somehow still feels like you are soaking in serenity.
Despite its modern glass skyscrapers and fancy bars and restaurants, Bangkok keeps one foot firmly in its regal past. The Grand palace built in 1782 is the former residence of Thailand’s royal family (one that should not be openly discussed when on the premises). It’s a crowded place, but one that is worth your time to admire the shining mosaics covering soaring walls. Red ruby like stones and deep green shimmering squares fill my eyes with beaming delight. Mirror like shards line the rims of curved roofs and decadent flame like shapes jutting from the corners of decorative abodes. Golden ornamented spires shine brightly against the blue sky. Big (and little) figurines form a border around the exterior of the Emerald Buddha Temple. Each and every corner of the many buildings are eye candy. The Siam court didn’t hold back on displaying their love for color and curves.
Jim Thompson House
Despite its size and population, Bangkok feels extremely modern and clean. Glistening condos and luxury hotels soar into the humid sky, topped with rooftop pools and swanky bars. It all seems way ahead compared to other global cities. But the Jim Thompson house built in 1959 will give you a little peak into Bangkok’s architectural past. Jim Thompson was an American who exported Thai silks to New York in the late 1940s. Lush gardens, a koi filled lake, traditional dance performances and silk weaving demonstrations make this an attractive place to enjoy a slow (and very tasty lunch). Order a fresh coconut, eagerly guzzling up its thirst quenching water and the Morning Glory-looking similar to spinach, but packed with a different flavour.
Go to Bangkok with a nearly empty suitcase. The shopping options are endless. I loved zig zagging through the narrow lanes of Platinum Mall, a multi-storied haven of affordable and very stylish clothes and accessories. I came to this mall twice and I still didn’t manage to get through all the little shops. You can’t try anything on, so you just have to eyeball everything and hope it fits. The women who run these shops aren’t going to pressure you to buy, but they will measure your waist and bust to give you an idea of what size would suit you best. “You’re a large,” said one woman. “This one won’t fit you, you’re too big,” said another. Don’t feel insulted. The sizes in Thailand fit much smaller.
What to Pack
Bangkok is very hot and humid. We went in November and although it was not rainy, the air still felt very sticky. Your legs and arms needs to be covered when you enter the temples, otherwise you will be handed a sarong and shawl. Try to stick to longer dresses and skirts or lightweight jumpsuits with elbow-length sleeves. Shoes are removed in the temples too, so choose a flat pair that can be taken off easily.