Monday, December 29, 2014

Around Bangkok in 3 Days

Normally, exploring a city would take more than a week to fully enjoy the place, the culture and the people.  But for some people who doesn't have the luxury of an extended vacation, a week is already too long.  Here's our sprint in the City of Angels - Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok was initially just our 4-hour layover from UAE going to Australia, but since we have a GC bound to expire soon, we decided to use it and spend additional 3 days in the city on our way back to UAE.  Our flight to Bangkok was on a Sunday at 4:00 pm.  I wanted to start our "sprint" with the Chatuchak Market unfortunately the traffic took us almost an hour to reach our hotel so the Sunday market was immediately off the list to visit.

Before I go on, additional info upon arriving in Suvarnabhumi Airport and navigating it, because some of the signages are confusing.  For those who will be taking the cab to their hotel, taxi stand is at level 1, upon going out of the arrival gate, turn right an escalator and a lift will take you to level 1 where the Magic Food Point fast food is located.  It is also where the exit going to the taxi stand is located.  Also, if you need wifi before taking the cab, wifi works better between the magic food point door and exit door.  A seating area is provided you can browse while waiting.  There will be a queue for taxi cabs.  We were lucky to land a very friendly driver, despite his limited English he was still able to converse he even included Filipino words. Our hotel was Cintadines 8 which is located in Sukhumvit 8.  Total fare paid was THB 450.00 including tip.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road 2

We have settled in our hotel almost around 6:00 pm.  I wanted to explore Soi 38 because I've read it's where most of the cheap but very good Thai street food is found and its just 3 BTS station away from us.  However, we were a bit short of time because we also wanted to go to Khao San Road on the same night, we decided to ditch Soi 38 and headed straight to Khao San Road.  Since there is no BTS near Khao San road we took the BTS from Nana Station to National Stadium then from there took the Tuk Tuk going to Khao San Road.  Note:  Haggle to your hearts content, we paid THB from the National Stadium to Khao San Road.  That's lowest we could bargain and we were already very hungry.

Once in Khao San Road, we were overwhelmed with plenty of vendors of street food particularly Pad Thai.  First order of business, a plateful of Pad Thai while walking along Khao San road.  The famous tourist trap is nothing but stalls of souvenirs and bars.  You can also do some fashion shopping and haggle for good price, but since it is a known street, most prices were jacked up.  We didn't find anything worth spending that night except food.  So we went back to the hotel with more packed food.

Second day was culture discovery.  Though, I have been to Wat Pho this is my first time going there DIY.  Way back, we hired a travel agent to tour Bangkok.  Now, its just me and the husband and we like to rought it out.. a bit.  So from Nana BTS we got off at Siam BTS and boarded the green line going to Saphan Taksin.  Riding the BTS is easy as informations and signs are readily available.  Once we reached Saphan Taksin, we followed most of the crowd going to the Ferry Boat Station of Chao Phraya River.  Most of the staff there are already aware of the tourist wanting to explore the city thru the ferry boat.  We paid THB 50 per person (if I remember correctly)  we are getting off at Pier 8 where the Reclining Buddha is situated.  It was not difficult to locate, you just have to follow most of the tourists.  Once inside you have to be decent.  Like most temples, you have to cover your arms and legs.  For the reclining buddha, they provide a sort of robe, to cover you.  Tourist guides are available by the entrance offering their service for a fee.  We decided to explore the place on our own.  It took us almost two hours to tour the entire place and had enough fill of culture for a day. Entrance at Wat Pho costs THB 100.00 with free bottled water.

Inside the ferry

Pier 8, going to Wat Pho

Next stop, malls!  Sorry, we already had enough culture discovery for one day plus it was just so humid.  Mind you, I was already wearing shorts and sleeveless blouse but still I was sweating.  From Pier 8 we went back to Pier 0 where Saphan Taksin BTS is located.  Boarded the train and got off at Chit Lom Station.  From my research, we need to walk towards the direction of Central World Plaza and not go in just on the road side.  However, pedestrian bridge is already available so jumping streets is no longer a hassle.  We followed the isntruction and it was very far.  It was better that you take a taxi or a tuktuk going there.  Platinum Mall was huge, plenty of latest fashion sold at a reasonable price and they even offer wholesale price.  Wholesale means you buy three of the same item.  After platinum mall we went to MBK this time taking the taxi.  It was cheaper compared to riding the train.  Just make sure the driver push the meter on.  They can be sneaky, like the one we took from Platinum Mall, once we were seated he immediately quoted us his price going to the mall but we insisted to put the meter on.  Since he refused we told him we are getting off, then he decided to turn it on.  Sneaky right?   

The day was exhasuting.  To cap the night off, I had a long Thai massage at a spa near our hotel.  Totally relieved my legs from all those walking.  Next day, our last day, we went to Baiyoke sky, since it was still early traffic jam is not yet apparent, so we took the cab.  Once we reach the place it was packed with vendors of clothes.  Considering it was drizzling that morning, it was just total chaos.  We can't even find the entrance of the hotel.  After a few round of the area, we finally did find the hotel and had a scrumptous buffet breakfast.  To walk off the calories, we decided to catch some Pratunam Early morning market a.k.a. that chaos outside the hotel.  Everything was way more cheaper than those from Platinum Mall and MBK and you can even haggle more.  It was paradise.  I was so overwhelmed I ended up buying only one garmet. Imagine that?!  For our last stop, we need to have our camera's lens fixed so we cross the road from Pratunam market towards Panthip Plaza.  If you have any needs for electronics and other gadget parts this is definitely the place. 

After Panthip, we headed back to the hotel to pack.  Bangkok is a shopper's haven.  Truly, if you want to do some fashion reselling, this is defitenitely the place to get all your supplies at a cheaper cost.  I'd love to go back there and shop, probably not with the husband.  The shopping experience is more for a girl bonding adventure.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bangkok: Foodie's Paradise

Asian food has always been a good motivation to eat out.  And among the Asian cuisines, Thai is always a winner.  A few months back, we were lucky to travel and celebrate three important occasions, my niece's birthday, our initial entry and my birthday.  Our last stop of that entire journey was Bangkok, Thailand.

If it weren't for a free accommodations we wouldn't have considered adding this country in our itinerary.  But since its expiring very soon, decided to do it.  Anyway, another reason to explore a new culture is a good excuse to extend a vacation.

I have been to Bangkok many years ago, with the whole family.  Back then, DIY vacation was not really a thing, so we spent most of our time hopping in and out of vans to visit every tourist attractions of the city.  We did a little exploring on areas near the hotel and the ones my parents were familiar with.  But this trip, my husband and I did most of the adventurous on-the-budget tourists do, DIY.

Maybe I should break down my posts into two.  This post will focus mainly on the food and the next one will be on how to go to places, well not all places in Bangkok just the ones in our itinerary.  So food!

Before leaving for Bangkok, I had to do some mega research on where and what to try in the city.  I'm a huge huge fan of Pad Thai despite it being seafood laden and I'm allergic to it.  Good thing though I can order chicken instead of shrimp.  

Pad Thai vendor

On our first night, I wanted to try Soi 38 Sukhumvit as I have read its the basic introduction to Thai street food cuisine and it is also near our hotel.  Unfortunately though, it was already a bit late and we are a bit tired from traveling 8 hours from Sydney.  So we headed straight to Khao San road.  True enough, it was a backpackers paradise.  It was a melting pot of tourists from all over the world.  right at the beginning of the street vendors sell Pad Thai, fresh fruits, crispy fried bugs, chocolate banana pancake and fresh fruit juice.  We were so hungry already so first stop was Pad Thai, ordered one heap of noodles and watch as the lady prepared our order.  Sorry don't have pictures of those fried bugs, you have to buy one to have a picture.  They were pretty strict about it.  So while eating our noodles we started exploring the street. Pad Thai cost with chicken is THB 45.00. Not bad.

Pad Thai

We stopped again on another stall that sells anything meat on skewers.  We bought this breaded chicken with some spicy sauce.  It was good but not really amazing.  The street is lined with bars and restaurants.  Most tourists, grab a table and had a couple of beers while they people watch or make new friends with fellow travelers.  We bought more meat on skewers and some rice and "not-so-spicy" viands to take home since the Pad Thai was not enough.  Oh and yes we ordered another plate of Pad Thai to take home too.  Cost of the grilled meat on skewers ranges from THB 20 and up.

The next day, of culture exploring, We stopped on some stalls along one of our walks to buy some food that looks familiar or smells really really good.  Like grilled pork, who could ever resist such delight?  And while waiting for our boat we bought this banana fritter that looks exactly like the maruya I am familiar with back at home.
Grilled Pork Belly THB 40

Banana Fritter THB 10

For lunch, we already started our shopping by then so we took it at the food court of Platinum Fashion Mall.  Unlike most fast food courts I know, Bangkok's food courts is bursting with local flavors.  You can choose a wide variety of culinary adventure.  Advice though, check most of the stalls first before ordering so you wouldn't be disappointed once you saw somebody else is carrying a yummier plate near your table.  Another good thing about their fast food, you need to change your money to vouchers/coupons so most vendors don't have to touch money when serving you.  Don't worry if you still have more fund your can refund it if you feel like you can't swallow another spoonful.  Most food costs ranges from THB 50 and up. 

Also, don't be afraid to try street food.  Most of them are worth the stop.  We bought a coconut ice cream while waiting for a cab.  It has young coconut bits, creamy coconut ice cream topped with peanuts placed inside a small coconut shell.  Truly refreshing especially if you have been walking for hours.

Coconut Ice Cream THB 20

On our last day, we decided to indulge ourselves and had a breakfast buffet at Bangkok's tallest tower.  Baiyoke Sky.  What can I say?  It was breakfast heaven!  Literally we are in heaven with the food and location.  There was so much to choose from.  I was not able to try out everything as I was already pretty stuffed by the time I had the second serving of bacon.  Oh yes!  We rarely eat those little devils that's why I hoarded.  Sorry.  Cost of buffet per head is THB 450.00. 

Table by the Window Baiyoke Sky Tower

The buffet was something I am willing to do over and over again.  For another time I guess.  There are still so many food to try next time and I believe Bangkok will always be open for the adventurous tongue.

How we got around the city click here.