Thailand is a favorite Southeast Asian country for people from all over the globe, and with good reason. There are city, beach, and rainforest destinations for every type of traveler. Bangkok itself is a feast for the senses – visuals of sparkling, gold-plated architecture, a myriad of flavors marrying sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, and the proper hustle and bustling ambiance of a busy city. What’s more, Thai food my happens to my all-time favorite type of cuisine, so this choice was a no brainer as our first trip after our big move to Asia.
One could spend weeks and months in Thailand, as many backpackers and travelers do. However, we were on a time-crunch as we had to carve out some days around Philip’s work schedule. We spent 5 days in Thailand over New Year’s, with 2 in Bangkok, and 3 in Phuket.
With our limited time, we chose a couple of sights and activities in Bangkok and got a taste of the city. Here are a few highlights:
The Grand Palace
Any itinerary to Bangkok, no mater how short, should include a stop at the equally historical and spiritual Grand Palace. The sprawling premises, which used to serve as residences to the Thai Kings, include many gold-clad buildings and galleries, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and even a replica of Angkor Wat.
Entrance fee: 500 baht per person. Last entrance is at 5:00 pm.
Dress code: Covered shoulders and knees for both men and women. If you show up unprepared, there are clothing shops across the street from the entrance of the Grand Palace that will rent you a shirt or skirt/pants for around 30 baht.
Wat Pho Temple
With over 400 temples, or wats, located in and around Bangkok, there is no shortage for visitors of choose from. However, in part to our limited time, and in part in an effort to avoid the dreaded “temple fatigue”, we chose to visit only one (besides the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on the Grand Palace premises) for our time in Bangkok. Wat Pho, otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is one of the oldest and largest temples. The temple houses one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand, shown in a reclining position as he enters Nirvana. As we visited around the New Year’s, the monks were hanging hundreds of prayer flags around the courtyard.
Entrance fee: 100 baht.
Dress code: covered shoulders and knees.
*An easy way to access The Grand Palace, temples, and attractions is to take the river ferry at the Chao Phraya Pier.
Sky Bar at Lebua 63rd Floor
While touristy and expensive, we could not resist visiting the Sky Bar as seen in the Hangover 2 movie. Located on the 63rd floor of the Lebua hotel, there was a long line of well-dressed people lining up at the elevators on the first floor, where the lines to the entrance of the bar were well-regulated by the hosts. Once at the bar, the view of the city beneath is stunning, as is the image of the rotunda and lighted stairs. However, the experience itself is not quite worth a return trip. After arriving on the floor, the guests to the bar are herded across to the “bar area”, and attendants ask you not to stop on the stairs. The bar area has little standing space, and there is a bit of jostling to reach the bar or the balcony area for a glimpse of the city view. The drinks are nothing spectacular but still come with the hefty price tag.
Thai Cooking Class
As mentioned, I love Thai food, but have always found it difficult to replicate my favorite dishes at home, save for a simple Thai curry dish. I jumped at the opportunity to take a cooking class in Thailand, and signed up for Chef LeeZ’s cooking class on one of our afternoons. The class was very thorough and included a 45 minute field trip to the local market in which the chef pointed out characteristics of the best ingredients. After demonstrating how to whip up the bases and stocks to all the basic dishes, we proceeded to cut, chop, and grind our ingredients before we had a go at making tom yum soup, various curries, pad thai, and sticky rice and mango dessert. Unfortunately, the one thing the class succeeded in was making me realize how much work goes into cultivating all the complexities of a Thai dish, a burden which I believe I will leave to the chefs at my local Thai restaurant.
The other half of our time in Bangkok and Phuket there was hunting down and eating delicious food, which is in itself worthy of a trip to Thailand, and deserves its own feature post.