Travel writer: Melissa Foo
Bangkok is often considered as a short getaway destination option as it’s only a 2-hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur. A typical Bangkok holiday consists of mainly eating, shopping, eating, and shopping; not necessarily in that order. Platinum Mall, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, Khao San and Asiatique Night Market will pretty much sum up the usual Bangkok itinerary.
Just having been to Bangkok a few months back, I was hesitant to visit the city again when some of our friends asked if we wanted to join them for a 4-day break. Not one to turn down a holiday, I promptly psyched myself to prepare for a memorable Bangkok trip – though not ignoring the fact that we’ve probably been to Bangkok at least 8 times in the past 5 years.
We opted for a budget hotel because we’d be maximising our time rediscovering Bangkok, basically the theme for this trip. There are only so many times you can step into Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Saket (Golden Mount) before they all start to look the same. The same can be said of Platinum Mall and the nearby ‘famous’ wanton noodles just 10 minutes walking distance away. We wanted to spice things up and explore the road less travelled.
Thee Hotel on Booking.com has good Trip Advisor reviews in general and at RM130 nett per night, we were not disappointed. Location is great – close to Terminal 21 shopping mall and only 8 minutes to the Asok BTS station by foot. The rooms are fairly new, spacious and clean. After checking in, we went out for our first meal – pork leg on rice (Khao Kha Moo) at the Terminal 21 food court (40 baht).
The term ‘something for everyone’ comes to mind when you think of Bangkok’s night scene, whether it’s having a strange coloured cocktail at Soi Rambuttri in Khao San Road, sampling fresh seafood at the many local night markets, experiencing some adult-themed fun in Soi Cowboy or soaking up Bangkok’s skyline at a swanky rooftop bar.
We checked out Octave Rooftop Bar and Lounge (Marriot Hotel Sukhumvit), located at the heart of Bangkok city just a short walk from the Thonglor BTS Station. You can opt for a relaxing dinner on the 45th floor or head straight to the balcony bar on the top floor for a 360-degree view of the city. Cocktails and beers are priced from 320 baht and 180 baht onwards, which is pretty decent in comparison to the equivalent bars back home and the overpriced Sirroco Sky Bar.
Thonglor/Ekkamai has a wide variety of bars, clubs and restaurants ranging from fancy and sophisticated to vintage/hipster hangout spots. We didn’t have time to check out the Ekkamai night scene this time around but we had some street food at the popular Sukhumvit Soi 38, also situated nearby the Thonglor BTS station.
The prices are usually hiked up and most of the food is catered for tourists. Nonetheless, we ordered some baby oysters (150 baht), which came with fried shallots, chilli shrimp dipping sauce and raw morning glory shoots.
We went to Ekkamai again the next morning where our craving for beef noodles led us to an old shop house on Ekkamai Road called Wattana Panich. The soup noodles come with sliced beef, stewed beef and beefballs, and we ordered a side of ‘one of a kind tendon (bovine) stewed in selected chinese herbs.’
The broth was flavourful and hearty, the beef slices were tender. Portion was too small for 80 baht per bowl though. The tendon stew (200 baht) didn’t taste as good as they went overboard with the soy sauce.
Our destination the following day was Bang Kra Jao (Bangkok Jungle), located by the Chao Phraya River within Samut Prakarn province. We took the ferry from Khlong Toei across the river at only 20 baht per person for a 15-minute ride. Bang Kra Jao is a quick respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We rented a bicycle with pillion seat and explored the many pathways traversing through quaint local villages, plantations and untouched wilderness. Bicycle rental is cheap here; we paid 70 baht for a full day, which makes this a very cost efficient activity for the adventure seeking traveller!
We visited one of the more popular night markets, Talad Rod Fai Ratchada (Talad Rod Fai 2) – which is easily accessible via MRT (stop at Thailand Cultural Centre), just behind Esplanade Shopping Mall.
This market opens from Tuesdays to Sundays and is more convenient to get to than the original Talad Rod Fai in Srinakarin. Here you will find seemingly never-ending rows of stalls selling clothes, accessories, trinkets, street food and countless drinking holes including container-style and Kombi-themed bars.
Do not miss the opportunity to catch any local live band performing, quite possibly one of the most underrated attractions in Bangkok. We also managed to cross another rooftop bar off our list, Above Eleven – a more laidback venue with 180-degree panoramic view of Bangkok, situated on Sukhumvit Soi 11 on the 32nd floor of Fraser Suites.
I would also recommend a visit to Asiatique night market as the selection of shops have improved since our last visit 2 years ago. To get to Asiatique, we took the Chao Phraya Express boat from the Maharaj Lifestyle Mall after a delicious meal of classic Thai dishes at Savoey Restaurant. It cost about 500 baht per person – good value for money since we ordered mostly seafood.
We spent 3 hours in Chatuchak on our last day to get our shopping, coconut ice cream and herbal chicken noodle soup fix before heading to Amphawa floating market. This weekend floating market (63 km west of Bangkok) has become increasingly popular with both locals and tourists alike.
You’ll find makeshift boat kitchens serving grilled scallops, river prawns, cuttlefish, oyster omelette, papaya salad, Thai sweets and desserts, coconut palm sugar, shrimp paste and souvenirs.
That said, we feel Amphawa has lost most of its charm and authenticity due to its popularity with foreigners. Most of the stalls looked and felt identical to one another.
With all said and done, Bangkok still remains one of our top travel destinations to a point we can almost call it our second home. This city is still relatively affordable, and remains a food and shopping haven rich with culture. Bangkok still has plenty to offer and will never fail to surprise us.
Melissa Foo is a glorified Quality Assurance Manager with a not-so-enviable 9-5 job, who still dreams of being an urbanite once in a while. She kills her time experimenting in the kitchen, inconsistently practicing yoga, and discovering obscure movies. Occasionally, she and her husband travel for leisure to make up for lost time in the future (when life gets more serious and you wish you had travelled more).
P/S: She is also a walking Shazam.
Find her on Instagram @mellymellyfoo