In the hectic city of Bangkok where a million tuk tuks buzz around like flies and taxis seem to squeeze like sheep through a race without crashing into each other, there are some cool out-of-the-way things to do and some biggies you won’t want to miss.
Of course you must see the Grand Palace, take a water taxi along the Chao Phraya river to visit Wat Arun – or the 399 other temples – and brave Kao San Road in this City of Angels, but here’s my list of 5 cool things to do in Bangkok:
1. Aksra Puppet Theatre at Lumpini Park. This is traditional Thai puppetry with some of the characters having more than one puppeteer working their moving arms and legs as ancient legends are told to music.
2. Shopping: Chatuchak Weekend Market. Ok, this is not so much out-of-the-way – it’s the biggest market in the whole world! But if 9000 stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes to jewellery and gadgets furniture and pets is your thing, make sure you’re in town over the weekend. Be warned, you may need to drop a breadcrumb trail to find your way out again.
Night shopping – Try Suan Lum Night Bazaar at Lumpini Park (after the puppet theatre perhaps) or Patpong Night Markets for all your knock-off designer goods and quirky Christmas gifts to squirrel away.
For airconditioned shopping you’ll love MBK Shopping Mall. 2000 shops with bargains galore – not as upmarket as Siam Centre or Siam Paragon but loads of clothing outlets, shoes, gadgets, etc at unbelievable prices.
3. While the night away in one of the many rooftop bars with views over the city. Especially cool are the outdoor ones. If you’re not scared of heights try the 61st floor Vertigo at Banyan Tree, or 64th floor Lebua at State Tower, or those who are vertically terrified the 8 story high Nest on the rooftop of Le Fenix hotel for a Cuban cigar, slouchy furniture and groovy vibe.
4. Floating Market. Buy snacks or lunch from the long boats that pull up to the river’s edge and whip you up a quick pad Thai, satay skewer, coconut juice, tropical fruit and watch the locals haggle over their groceries. Beware dodgy chicken though. Last time I ate that here I came home with campylobacter. Annoyingly it didn’t make me skinny.
5. Take a klong (canal) tour of the river through old Bangkok. Ramshackle houses on stilts in the water seem to defy gravity and common sense with power lines dangling alarmingly. Hire a hand painted long boat and glide past elderly folk minding their grandkids on the verandas that hang over the water while the parents are at work. It’s an amazing sight and is the way they’ve been living since 1782 (although you won’t find a 250-year old granny).