weekend in Bangkok

so in my last post, i blogged about how awesome (and tiring) it was to catch Coldplay live in concert.

my sis and i could only take a limited number of days off from work. so we only had one weekend to spare for exploring Bangkok.

we both agreed that we were only going to do stuff we were interested in, rather than stuff that the websites say ‘all tourists must do while in Bangkok‘.

though that didn’t mean that we went all hipster mode and purposely avoided all the recommended stuff.

so first things first, accommodation.

we stayed at Lemontea Hotel, a budget hotel popular among Singaporeans and Singaporean bloggers for some reason. we wanted to stay in Pratunam as the location’s pretty good and convenient for exploring. there were 2 train stations (1 skytrain BTS and 1 MRT station connected to the airport rail link) that were close to our hotel. the stations were only several stops away from the popular destinations such as Chatuchak Market and Siam Square.

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the hotel lobby – cans of tea

for avid shoppers, there are also many shopping centres in Pratunam including Platinum Mall, the Thai equivalent of Sungei Wang in Kuala Lumpur, where they sell cheap and chic clothing and accessories. do mind though, that the sucky thing about shopping in Thailand is that a lot of Thai women are really slim and petite, so it might be difficult getting clothes your size if you are well, not really slim and petite.

upon arriving at the hotel, we got served cool glasses of – yeap, you guessed it – iced lemon tea. ahhh.

our rooms were clean and adequate. more importantly, they were quiet. there’s no swimming pool in Lemontea Hotel so if you’re looking forward to chillaxing at a pool with a drink in hand, then you might have to look elsewhere. they do have instagram-worthy decorations though. and a nifty 7-11 store just next door, where my sis and i got plenty of snacks to munch on.

we opted for breakfast together with boarding so we started our day with a simple and light breakfast at the hotel’s cafe.

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breakfast in the hotel cafe

then, we headed to our first stop: Chatuchak Weekend Market.

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pretty flowers at Chatuchak park, next to the market

this market was highly recommended in many websites and blogs. we soon understood why.

it’s a shopping paradise. my sis and i went googoo gaga over the sheer variety of stuff that was on sale at the market. you don’t have to buy anything to enjoy exploring this place. it is extremely large. a quick Google search informed me that there were approximately 15,000 stalls in Chatuchak, divided into 27 sections. there was a section selling antiques, a section with art exhibitions, a section selling pets (they even sold monkeys there!), a section dedicated to plants, another to books and lots of stalls selling cool clothes and accessories, and of course, food.

we spent many hours there, under the scorching sun.

i have to applaud us for getting there early – at around 10a.m.- as it was easier to navigate and admire the stalls when it was less crowded. when it got to 1p.m.-ish, the crowd built up and it was more difficult to get around and weave our way through the crowd.

you don’t really have to bargain much in Chatuchak Market. at least that’s what i was told by my local friend. the reason being, a lot of locals shop at Chatuchak too. so a lot of the time, the price offered is the local bargaining price.

that’s good for us to know because my sis and i are quite lousy at bargaining. my sis especially, because her eyes become all sparkly whenever she sees something she really really likes.

i swear, this was her conversation with a shopkeeper when she was trying to bargain for a handbag she really liked:

shopkeeper: this one 250 baht
sis: (excited big sparkly eyes) 200 baht?
shopkeeper: 230 baht
sis: (excited big sparkly eyes) 180 baht? 150 baht?

i just facepalmed and turned away, ashamed that we were related at that point.

but anyway, we bought quite a bit of stuff there.

and ate lots. i had at least 3 shakes because it was really hot. i had 2 strawberry shakes simply because they were just so good. we also had coconut ice-cream, another fancy passionfruit popsicle, delicious squid eggs (i have never tried squid eggs before and they were awesome) as well as mango and papaya salad.

once happily satisfied with our buys and bloated tummies, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

i managed to get in contact with a local through couchsurfing and she was friendly and nice enough to want to meet up and show us around.

so after freshening up, she picked us up from a BTS station and drove us to a really pretty restaurant by the famous Chao Phraya river. we had some wonderful seafood along with good live music, great company and a beautiful sunset by the river. i jotted down the name of the restaurant somewhere but simply cannot recall where i placed the little scribble. so the name of this wonderful restaurant shall remain a mystery for the time being.

after that, she took us on a driving tour around the famous tourist sites in the area, including the temples and the Grand Palace. the palace was off limits to tourists as the country was still mourning the death of their late King. we did see local Thais heading out from the palace, all dressed in black, probably after paying their respects at the palace. our friend said that after the King’s passing, many locals including herself went to the palace to pay their respects. there was much crying in the first few months of his death.

she then took us to the infamous Khao San Road. Khao San Road is a backpacker’s paradise. lots of cheap budget hostels. lots of booze. lots of tourists. just, tourists everywhere.

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Khao San Road

i was glad that i did not book a hotel there. before my sis mentioned Pratunam, i was looking at hotels at this area as they were quite affordable. i’m pretty sure had we stayed there, we would have had difficulty getting any sleep. it was extremely noisy. there were a lot of drunk tourists and party people around.

we also came across a few begpackers, giving out free hugs while holding placards asking people to donate money to fund their trip around the world. i found it rather appalling, to be honest. there were quite a few poor beggars on the streets of Bangkok, who needed money to feed themselves. on the other hand, there were privileged foreign begpackers asking people to fund their holiday, who would probably laugh about their ‘begging experience in Thailand‘ after they got home from their ‘trip around the world‘. please don’t do insensitive stuff like this. please.

rant aside, our newfound friend talked to us about how Khao San Road had transformed drastically over the years as it saw an ever increasing number of tourists. she used to go to a girls’ high school closeby so the changes were quite apparent to her. there were a lot more bars catered to foreigners. prices were a lot more expensive. and there were definitely more tourists than locals there now.

there were also a lot of vendors selling edible insects. our friend recommended that we try the grasshoppers – she and her mother used to eat grasshoppers as a snack while watching the telly.

so we got ourselves a bag of grasshoppers. which pleased my sis a lot because you only get to photograph the insects on sale if you purchase something from the stall, or else you would have to pay a small fee for a photograph. aside from grasshoppers, there were crickets (apparently, the most popular snack, which you might even be able to find in some of the 7-11 stores), worms, scorpions, tarantulas and snake.

our friend taught us how to eat the grasshoppers. first, you remove the head because that’s the bitter part. then, you remove the legs because they tend to get stuck between your teeth. you then eat the remaining body. and they tasted pretty good actually. crunchy.

according to the nice lady vendor who sold us the grasshoppers, all the insects came from insect farms far from Bangkok. they came prepared, so she never had to cook them. we asked her which creatures she had tried. she tried all of them except the snake because it made her squeamish. i found that amusing because snake is the only one i’ve ever had (people eat snake in Hong Kong, cooked in many different ways. they taste like chicken, really).

after the eccentric tasting session, we went for more conventional stuff like nutella banana pancakes, mango sticky rice and a sweet icy dessert that our friend recommended.

after our little adventure in Khao San Road, our friend dropped us off at the Talad Neon Night Market in Pratunam, located next to the Palladium shopping mall. this is a rather new night market in the area. the photos from the websites made it look really cool and pretty with neon light decorations and a flashy ferris wheel.

the real thing did not look as attractive as the photos though. perhaps we got there a little late, some of the stalls were closed and there wasn’t too big a crowd. the clothes and accessories were not as unique as the ones in Chatuchak, but the food looked really good. unfortunately, we were already very full, so we only tried a dry ice sweet biscuit snack, simply because we wanted to play with the dry ice and puff out circles of icy smoke for fun. we took videos of us making fools of ourselves.

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dry ice goodness

before going to Bangkok, i came across blogs about Art Box, a popular night market for the young and hip crowd, where a lot of local designers set up booth to sell their own merchandises. it’s extremely popular, but they were closed when we were there. they were gonna set up booth in Singapore the weekend after our trip. why does Singapore always get the good stuff? 😦

anyways, we went to a rooftop bar after that – the Walk Bar in Centara Watergate Hotel. it was very close to the night market. we got to the rooftop bar and ordered their signature Thai-style tom yum cocktails. the view was pretty decent, but coming from Hong Kong where the night view tends to be over-the-top fancy, it wasn’t all that spectacular. still, it was nice to chill there with my sis, and the cocktails were really unique and worth trying.

the next day, we met up with our friend again, at Victory Monument station. we were there to try their famous boat noodles. she took us to her workplace, a large army hospital and showed us around the place. what’s there to see in a hospital, you ask? well, there’s a little palace in its backyard, the former home of a late King Raja. there’s also a pretty grassy area where people were conducting wedding photo shoots.

there were also many street food vendors on the hospital grounds. i guess everywhere you go in Thailand, there has to be street food vendors. so it is quite unthinkable that the government is trying to ban street food stalls now.

my friend took us to her favourite boat noodle place.

boat noodles are basically small bowls of noodles in really spicy broth. there were 2 broth flavours, a really spicy one and another less spicy but sweeter and more sourish one. there were many different types of noodles to choose from. and we could choose pork or beef to go with our noodles. there was also a variety of condiments to add to the noodles. and really delish coconut pudding as dessert.

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boat noodle condiments

the fun part about having boat noodles is figuring out how many bowls you can eat.

at the place that we visited, the portion sizes were slightly bigger than in most other places. our friend could only eat up to 10 bowls as a result. my sis and i had a good time counting the number of bowls stacked up on the tables around us. we were pretty lousy because we weren’t that hungry and had only wanted to try them for the sake of trying them, rather than actually challenging ourselves. it’s a shame really, because i am quite curious about how much i can eat…

after that, we spent some time at a World Food Expo in front of a shopping centre in Pratunam. there is never a shortage of good food to try in Bangkok. it’s a shopping and eating paradise.

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nommmmm

soon, we had to leave to the airport to catch our evening flights.

our time in Bangkok was brief but fulfilling for both my sis and i. there were some places that we wished we could visit but simply couldn’t squeeze into our tight schedule.

i really wanted to go to the Mae Khlong Railway Market and the Amphawa Floating Market for starters. it would have been nice to visit Ayutthaya too. but both these locations were pretty far from Bangkok and would warrant an entire day’s itinerary for each. it made more sense to just explore Bangkok in the short 2 days that we had.

well, they would make great excuses for a 2nd visit. i’ll be looking forward to that. 🙂

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