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Travel Thailand II 
Bangkok, Capital of Thailand

The old and the new, the spiritual and the exotic meld together in the sprawling, noisy, crowded, mysterious, ultra-modern and familiarly old Capital of Thailand

By Simone Zarmati Diament 

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The best view of Bangkok, the sprawling, noisy, crowded, mysterious, ultra-modern and familiarly old capital of Thailand is from the Sirocco restaurant terrace on the 64th floor State Tower at the Hotel Lebua, the second tallest building in Bangkok. That is if you’re not dazzled first by the sophisticated lights of Skybar, the fashionably in outdoor bar that juts over the myriad of lights flickering in the darkness.

After a long flight, and a quick change of clothes - instead of soaking in the bathtub and taking a nap in one of the sumptuous suites of this member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World – dinner at the open air terrace of Sirocco Restaurant is a good starting point: you can survey the bustle of the city down below, look at the Chao Praya river snake around it, and plan your next move before sinking into your comfy bed: a stroll in one of the many night markets that keep the city alive until the wee hours.

While a city ordinance saying that everything must close at midnight, Bangkok – a metropolis of 7.8 million inhabitants - stays up late, its chaotic night streaked with tuk-tuks - motorized rickshaws for hire: haggle for the price at your own risk - and taxis zigzagging the streets lined with shacks alongside modern skyscrapers and where shoppers are drawn, moth-like, to the brightly lit covered alleys of the bazaars and night markets. Inside, one feels totally safe in a maze of tiny shops that sell everything: from Tiffany-like jewelry, designer-like clothes and shoes to house ware and little charms for the family’s shrine or “spirits house”; food vendors peddle their freshly made dishes - fried, steamed, braised, grilled and fragrant with spices – from large pots and pans billowing with steam and smoke. This is where you can best feel the yin-yang relationship between the old and the new in Thailand's capital city.



What to do:

One is located in the red light district called Patpong Night market, “but it’s a bit overpriced, even for Thais,” says Kate Upanan, the Secretary/Marketing Coordinator to Thai Airways’ General Manager in New York. Instead, she recommends “Suan Lum Night Bazaar” located at the corner of Praram 4 Road and Wittayu road which stays open till midnight. You can find anything from electronic junk to silk and handicrafts by local artisans.

One thing not to miss are the floating markets, Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market, Tha Kha, and Damnoen Saduak, a short ride from Bangkok. Boats are piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. To enjoy the atmosphere without haggling over prices, try a guided boat tour of Damnoen Saduak market. 


Boat and Ferry Rides

Little Shrines or “spirit house” adorn every house, every building, every hotel in Thailand and you can see them in the streets and along the elaborate network of canals or khlongs that crisscross Bangkok. The mysterious canals are still active with people living and markets operating along the banks. Taking a long boat or a canal boat service is a great way to discover the waterways of Bangkok and life along the banks.

Canals or Klongs and River Cruises

The Khlong Saen Saeb in downtown Bangkok has a canal boat service, the most extensive of which is the Chao Phraya Express Boat with as many as thirty stops. You can leave the hotel for a boat trip tour along the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) and Klongs (Canals) of Thonburi. The trip along Chao Phraya River is a very exciting and enjoyable thing to do either in the day time or in the evening with dinner served on the river cruise. The most famous area to start is from Royal Orchid Sheraton - Oriental - Shangri-La hotels or from hotels on the opposite side such as the Penninsular, the Marriot and some others.

During the day, a trip can be made with small long-tail boat, taxi boat (slower), and with group tours. Mostly, they take tourists into Bangkok Noi and other canals where you can see typical and a completely different life-style along the canals. These scenes of narrow alleyways and waterways away from the grinding traffic of the modern metropolis are how people lived in the past and depended mostly upon river and canals transportation. Now, the front access is the modern roads, but canals are still used a lot. Typical old houses, temples, shops, and the way people buy and sell things can still be seen, especially when you visit the "Floating Market", such as Bangsai Floating Market, and Taling Chan.


Grand Palace
You can then disembark and stroll along crowded local markets to the Grand Palace. Together with the Emerald Buddha Temple housing the most sacred Buddha in Thailand, the Grand Palace compound surrounded by a big white wall is a sight not to be missed. It is filled with over 100 brightly colored buildings and temples, alleys, golden spires and glittering mosaics that date back to 1782, when Bangkok was founded. What used to be the residence of the Kings and the ancient Siamese court is mysterious and exotic with giant Buddhas and black Buddhas, building of prayers and ceremonies such as the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall - Kings are still crowned there in an intimate ceremony closed to the public- the Royal Guest House the Royal Collection of Weapons… and more. Despite the fact that the whole compound is so full of tourists you spend half the time trying to avoid getting in people's photos, it's a pretty amazing place to visit.

Temple of the reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)

As you enter the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon in Thai) you can hear the music made by the coins dropped in dozens of urns by hundreds of people seeking favors, cleansing their souls and making prayers. The Reclining Buddha is an important landmark in Bangkok in the Rattanakosin Area as it reminds people to think of the Buddha's Nirvana.. It is now 313 years old. Wat Pho is open daily between 8.00 a.m.- 5.00 p.m. The admission fee is 20 baht.

Royal Barges National Museum
Most of the tourists reach the Royal Barges National Museum by boat with the conducted tour or by special escorted tour. However, it is possible to go by car, and park the car under the Arun Amarin Bridge before crossing Klong Bangkok Noi. It houses the anmazing Royal long boats that are still used to transport the king and the royal family along the river.


High-end shopping is among the best in Asia and Ratchaprasong is at the forefront of Bangkok's shopping scene. The newly renovated Central World Plaza intends to serve as a square to Bangkokians. Just up the street is Siam Square, similar to Shinjuku in Tokyo and Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus in London. The Sukhumvit area also serves as a shopping district for foreigners. The popular Chatuchak Weekend Market in the north of the city is where many people head for cheap, used and high quality products.

Where to Stay

You will find in Bangkok luxury hotel developments that are among the best in Asia. We stayed at the conveniently located:
Lebua Hotel, State Tower
1055, Silom Road, Bangrak
Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel: (66) 2624-9999 Fax: (66) 2624-9998

Where to Relax

Bangkok and Thailand in general are known for their therapeutic and beauty massages and treatments. People flock in from all over the world for those hedonistic pleasures at very reasonable prices.
TRIA Spa is an ultra modern Integrative Wellness Center, a Health and Detox spa with a vast range of treatments and of course, the famous Thai massage. Their claim: Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are genetic diseases that you can control.
One can access the TRIA Spa by boat or car.

Cooking Classes

The Baipai Thai Cooking School is an ideal alternative to sightseeing and shopping. The cooking course is completely hand-on and conducted in English, while the technical content is purposefully presented, the whole process is meant to be entertaining and a word "fun" for participants! This is an opportunity to better understand the refinements of Thai cuisine and to try your hands at easy Thai recipes.


If you’re not too tired for dinner and a show, the place to go is Siam Niramitr. The show of all shows, a sort of lavish Asian version of cirque-du-soleil, takes place in a compound with the recreation of an ancient Siamese town, where people weave, paint and work as they did for hundreds of years and until the beginning of the 20th century. Dinner is before the show at a huge hall lined with food stalls, where typical Thai food and other fate is freshly made.
The newly opened theatre with 2,000 seats, state of the art special effects, a 65-meter (200 feet) panoramic stage, a cast of 120 actors supported by 100 backstage technicians and spectacular scenery, costumes, flying actors and even live elephants on stage. Ask the concierge at your hotel to reserve seats. Since the theatre is so big you are likely to get them.


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