Taking a break from the beach in Bangkok
If you live on Koh Samui, where do you go for a holiday? All kinds of places, for example – Bali, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan. So many destinations are within easy reach. But one favorite completely stands out above any contenders when it comes to short trips: Bangkok.
Bangkok always packs a punch; it leaves no-one indifferent. Its first impressions can be overwhelming. It’s loud, raucous, certainly polluted and packed full of crowds. Some may be put off by their first visit, but if they go back again, they will often develop a life-long fascination with this vibrant city.
After so much time out on Koh Samui’s beaches, it becomes easy to appreciate the hectic charms of Bangkok. With some of Asia’s best food, hotels and nightlife – as well as a plethora of places to visit – this megapolis has become a favorite place to stay in for many of Koh Samui’s foreign residents.
Just over an hour’s flight away, it couldn’t be easier to get to. Once there, it’s a cinch to find a hotel, no matter what your budget is. And once you have unpacked, you can roam to your heart’s content. It can be surprisingly cheap too – often cheaper than Koh Samui itself.
Bangkok consists of the original, old city, with its temples, palaces and museums and Chinatown – everything to do with sightseeing is cocooned here – and a much newer city with its shopping malls, hotels and restaurants.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are one of the biggest draws when it comes to sightseeing, as is the National Museum. For those who like walking, a visit to Chinatown is a must – there’s plenty to browse here as well as places to eat. For respite from the crowds, head to Lumphini Park and enjoy the sheer greenery of the place. For the more ambitious, bring your running gear and join the endless circuit of joggers who practice sports here.
If you’ve come for the more modern Bangkok, then you’ll be mesmerized by the shopping malls here. Siam Paragon is perhaps the best known. You can buy anything from a sports car here to a pencil; its air-con floors alone make this a pleasant place to escape the heat and to window shop. The food court is impressive and is next to a supermarket and delicatessen that offer just about every treat, western and Asian that you can think of. The mall is also home to Kinokuniya which stocks English, Japanese and Chinese books. Next door’s stationery store incidentally stocks a huge array of pens, paper, greetings cards and diaries.
For clothing, head to Pratunam Market, a great place to stock up on casual clothing, including European sizes. Expect to find some tempting bargains here. Gaysorn Plaza, meanwhile, is the place to find voguish fashion, with apparel hot from the catwalk.
MBK (short for Mahboonkrong Center) is a microcosm within Bangkok’s larger macrocosm: here you will find just about everything from shoes and clothing to cameras, computers and electronics. Floor 6 has an excellent and cheap food court too.
For children, take them to visit Siam Ocean World, housed in Siam Paragon. This is the largest oceanarium in Southeast Asia and garners rave reviews. Walk through a tunnel and look up to see sharks and rays. Most children will be happy to go on a river boat and there are formal cruises but you can also take workaday ferries down the river, stopping off wherever takes your fancy. Memories are made of such things and few cities can boast of having waterways as many and as varied as Bangkok.
When it comes to evening, a rooftop swim is always a great way to watch a sunset while getting some exercise at the same time. Stay at the Château de Bangkok (extremely modern despite the name) and you can do precisely this then have a poolside cocktail as evening comes on.
Bangkok excels in rooftop bars and there are over 40 to choose from. Drop in at Moon Bar on the 61st floor of Banyan Tree Bangkok for a quiet drink with just the stars (or clouds) above your head. From here you can see Bangkok spreading away beneath you. A great alternative is the Octave Rooftop Bar at the top of Marriott Hotel, which boasts a panoramic vista of the city.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll quickly realize that it will take years to get to know Bangkok – not surprisingly it’s one of the world’s most visited cities.