Bangkok Things to Do

24th Dec 2014
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A cornucopia of
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Tastes and
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Bangkok is
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Quirky stores
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Old fashioned charm
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Beautiful arts
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Lively culture
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And mysterious aura
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Add to
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Bangkok's charms
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A pocket friendly
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Exotic destination
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Bangkok has
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Something for
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1. TRAIN MARKET - Topping my Bangkok must do list, is the train track market experience. Located on the railway tracks of Samut Songkram/Mae Klong province (70 kilometers away from Bangkok), this Thai Talat Sod or open air colourful fresh produce market, is very unique. Vendors line the tracks and you can walk along them too, only to move away at a distance and watch a spectacle unfold, when a train approaches. 

Locally known as "Talat Rom Hup" market, shop keepers scramble to retract their awnings whenever a train passes. This trip difficult to do on your own and is best organized with a small group tour agency. Located just behind Seacon Square, it is a huge open air market set beside an abandoned railway track and best accessible by MRT or taxis.

 Start at Kamphaeng Phet Station and walk for about 5 minutes, in the opposite direction of Chatuchak Market. Rod Fai market pulsates with a cool hippie vibe and is an excellent hunting ground for kitsch lovers. Antique furniture, cool vintage fashion, old (some original) cameras, bikes, electronic appliances, auto parts, Japanese anime toys and Mao collectibles are sold from sheets spread on the road and the market makes a great photo walk too.

2. QUIRKY SHOPS & STORES - For budding Gordon Ramsey, antique hunters or photographers, Bangkok's lively markets are unmissable. Tor Kor Market is ranked as the 4th best fresh produce market and consists of rows and rows of incredible variety of exotic fruits, vegetables, seafood, flowers and meats. 

It is located next to the famous Chatuchak Market and has a good in house food court too. Duck noodles, oyster pancakes, pad thai etc are available here at a slightly higher price than the rest of Bangkok. Tor Kor is in reality an upscale food market of the Thai rich and powerful and beauty along with rubbing shoulders with tycoons do not come cheap.Papaya Vintage is not a market but high on my must to list. A warehouse, located in the suburbs of Bangkok, Papaya Vintage is like a shop you have never seen before. A seemingly decrepit warehouse, its messy corridors are stacked with thousands of vintage toys and collectibles. A sort of museum, I have been told that Papaya also sells its vintage eclectic collection at a hefty price and charges more to allow photography.

3. CULTURAL MYSTERIES - Thai House and Museum is a place that I had loved to visit. Known as the "House that was the Talk of the Town", it is the home of James H.W. Thompson, the founder of the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. A self made American entrepreneur, Thompson was awarded formally the Order of the White Elephant, a decoration given to foreigners for rendering exceptional service to Thailand, for his contribution to the development of Thai silk industry and brought him fame as the " Legendary American of Thailand". His was one of the most successful postwar stories of Asia and his house still carries his legacy. Somerset Maugham was a guest at Thompson's house and it contains his extensive antique collection of porcelain, sculptures, paintings etc. Thompson's legacy came to a mysterious end when in 1967, he disappeared from a walk in the Cameroon Highlands of Malaysia never to be heard or seen again. Mystery, art, history and literature, Jim Thompson's house is a must visit for legend lovers, art buffs and classical literature book worms.

4. GEM MARKETS - For those dazzled by the mystical East and its jewels, head for the Gems Market in Amphoe Bor Rai. It is famous for stunning collections of gems for sale, especially the the Siamese rubies. These rubies are renowned all over the world for their clarity and deep red colour. Three major markets, Hua Thung, Sa Yai and Nong Bon form this famous Gems bazaar, but there are other smaller gem markets like, Ban Nong Bon, Ban Sai Yai and Ban Ta Ngam around. A lot of unsavoury gem scams riddle Bangkok jewel markets and it is best to research, do your home work before investing in these expensive baubles. For a more extensive gem hunt, visit Chanthaburi. Located 250 kilometers away from Bangkok, it is a small town, a major trading center of gems in SE Asia and an estimated 80% of the world's rubies and sapphires change hands there. Still a cottage industry, Chanthaburi gem market known as Talad Ploy is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11-6 in the evening.

5. MUSEUMS - Back in the city, the Thai Air force Museum (behind Don Muang airport, daily 9 am-4 pm, free entry), the grisly Bangkok Forensic Museum (Monday-Saturday 9 am-4 pm, paid attraction), the phallic shrine of Goddess Tubtim (with its offerings of flowers, incense and wooden penises, location-grounds of Swissotel Nai Lert hotel, Chitlom), Wat Leng Noi Yi ( the beautiful Thai Chinese temple in the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown) and the lovely Monk Bowl Village (on Soi Baan Bat off Thanon Bamrung Meuang) feature on my Bangkok by day must visit list. The Royal Barge National Museum too is worth a visit and it is as tranquil as it gets.

6. SOUL SOOTHER - For more earthy pleasures I have listed the Pak Khlong Talad photo walk (Old City open air flower market on Chak Phet Road near Saphan Phut or the Memorial Bridge), cruising around the Klongs/ canals of Chao Phraya River for the real stilted traditional teak housed Bangkok life, taking a green breather at Rama IX Park (maybe in December for its flower festival) etc before. On weekends, you can watch a play at the beautiful Patrawadi Theatre by the Chao Phraya River and indulge in the magnificent Thai Traditional Puppet Show at Aksra Theatre (King Power Duty Free Complex near Victory Monument).

7. INDULGENCE - Indulging in a bit of luxury in Bangkok can be a lot of fun and the lovely Oriental Residence offers irrestible chic Parisian luxury for the "IT" girls. Shopping and Bangkok go hand in hand and the gregarious Chatuchak market (a sprawling weekly open air market which actually has Sois/ streets selling a mind boggling variety of stuff), Pratunam (nice cheap clothes), MBK (cheap clothes and accessories) and Siam Paragon (nice, glitzy mall for expensive branded stuff) malls are great ways to idle Bangkok hours and some monies. Saying cheers to life lustily from the sparkling heights of the expensive Vertigo and Moon Bar takes you to a whole new high and though expensive, the views are simply awesome. (P.S there is a strict dress code policy).

8. RETRO MANIA - I am a big retro fan and have stumbled upon some amazing little shops during my Bangkok shopping trips. The Classic Movie (Mon-Fri 0200 pm-0800 pm and on weekends 0200 pm-0700 pm) poster in Siam Square deals with (Thai) movie posters and is nearly a museum. A must visit shop for vintage movie poster lovers, some my biggest travel treasures are a few obscure late 50's original posters which I have picked up from there. Thai auto vintage is a very unique garage which I had discovered on Onnut Road, Prawet, where you can get your own pair of exotic shiny retro wheels or take photos of/with them. Run by vintage car lovers, they also sell spare parts, restore privately owned old cars and sell cool hot wheels like Chrysler 1949, Alpha Romeo Spider 2.0 and loads of glamourous retro Mercedez Benz (restored with chrome fittings, shiny leather upholstery and even a sofa). 

The much renowned Dasa book cafe (on Sukhumvit Road) is one of my favourite places in Bangkok and I have spent many hours poring over their rare travel book collection. Siam TLR on Mahatun Plaza Building had been recommended to me by a local photographer and while I had seen better such shops in Mumbai, I had spent an afternoon there going through its vintage cameras (Kodak, Polaroid etc), retro desk phones and big radios. I have especially liked their shelves of camera tinkerings and rarest of the rare, film rolls.

9. SLICES OF THAI PLEASURES - Apart from that the palace and rose garden are worth a visit, along with the usual floating market tour, watching a Calypso cabaret show at the Asiatique and splurging on a ringside seat at a fantastic Muay Thai tournament. The cabaret show had been pleasant with dazzlingly beautiful lady boys mimicking Cher and with a glass of champagne, it had seemed more heady. The floating market trip inclides a nice morning of cruising down the waterways, taking in its colourful bustle and digging into some really good food sold by made up ladies in bamboo hats, from boats. Although touristy, Damnoen Saduak floating market was one of the nicest things I had done in Bangkok. Inspired by the floating market, I had explored the Thonburi klongs by boat and had fallen in love with Klong Mon. Quaint, charming and way much sweeter than Bangkok, bathing children, lilac hyacinths, silent monks, mobile shops and stilted wooden homes had completed its picturesque beauty.

10. GET NAUGHTY - No Bangkok trip is complete without getting a bit naughty and the city's most notorious nightlife remains concentrated around Patpong night market area. Patpong is one of the world's largest red light area, and its action had been immortalized by one James Bond movie. Although Soi Cowboy is supposedly the top naughty nightlife area of Bangkok, at Patpong you can buy excellent cheap remakes of designers bags, gorge on amazing and adventurous local street food (from snails, geese, insects to chicken claws and more) and chilling out with beer and music at one of the endless bars there.