5 COOL THINGS TO DO IN BANGKOK
Bangkok had long been on my list of places to visit . After all, it has gained more than one accolade as the top tourist city destination in Asia. When in early September a confirmation of IB workshops in Bangkok ( sponsored by the school I work for) arrived at my inbox, I couldn’t hide my insane excitement!
My visit to Bangkok lasted 4 days. However, since the main goal was an IB training, I couldn’t spend all this time exploring the city. Still, I managed to experience its highlights and hopefully it will give you some ideas what to do if you plan a brief stay in ‘Thailand’s center of wealth and modernization’.
THE ORIGINS OF THE NAME
First, though, a few fascinating facts about the meaning and origin of the city’s name.It is a bit long digression from the topic – I know! However I find it engaging, so I decided to include here! According to Wikipedia:
“The etymology of the name Bangkok (บางกอก), pronounced in Thai as [bāːŋ kɔ̀ːk] is not absolutely clear. Bang is a Thai word meaning “a village situated on a stream“, and the name may have been derived from Bang Ko (บางเกาะ), ko meaning “island“, a reference to the area’s landscape which was carved by rivers and canals.
Another theory suggests that it is shortened from Bang Makok (บางมะกอก), makok being the name of Elaeocarpus hygrophilus, a plant bearing olive-like fruit. This is supported by the fact that Wat Arun, a historic temple in the area, used to be named Wat Makok. Officially, however, the town was known as Thonburi Si Mahasamut (ธนบุรีศรีมหาสมุทร) from Pali and Sanskrit, literally “city of treasures gracing the ocean“or Thonburi, according to Ayutthaya chronicles. Bangkok was likely a colloquial name, albeit one widely adopted by foreign visitors, whose continued use of the name finally resulted in it being officially adopted with the creation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
When King Rama I established his new capital on the river’s eastern bank, the city inherited Ayutthaya’s ceremonial name, of which there were many variants, including Krung Thep Thawarawadi Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพทวารวดีศรีอยุธยา) and Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพมหานครศรีอยุธยา).[
In 1833 the city was known as Sia-Yut’hia, and this is the name used in international treaties of the period. Today, the city is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร) or simply as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพฯ). Its full ceremonial name, which came into use during the reign of King Mongkut, reads as follows:
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์
The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.
The name is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name.( Thank you, my elementary and highschool geaography teachers for not making me memorize THAT! )
Thai school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning as many of the words are archaic, and known to few. Most Thais who recall the full name do so because of its use in a popular song, “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” (1989) by Asanee–Wasan and will often recount it by singing it, much as an English speaker might sing the alphabet song to recite the alphabet. The entirety of the lyrics is just the name of the city repeated over and over
Now, back to the point! Top things to put on your list if Bangkok will be your gateway to or from Thai vacations!
1) A cruise along the legendary ChaoPhraya River and walk around the Grand Palace
If you don’t have more than 1 or 2 days to spend, this is a great opportunity to get a great view on the Bangkok’s landmarks, including city’s signature Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn – that sits on the West Bank of the river.
Most of the temples are open to visitors only till around 5 pm. As a result of our busy schedule, my colleague and I didn’t have the chance to enter them, still we took as much advantage as possible.
We chose the river ‘tram’ that cost us 14Thailand Baht ( around 3 RMB) and then we jumped on one the local tuk-tuks that took us around and cost around 100 THB (Warning! Be careful when you negotiate with the drivers! They will also try bringing you to the local tailor to get you into buying some clothes!)
You will find a big variety of river cruises and the prices will vary.Check out the routes here!River Cruises
After we got back on the ground, we took a walk around the Grand Palace ,that is home to Wat Phra Kaew and although it was closed, we still enjoyed the impressive views!
For more information for Bangkok’s temples, check out this link! http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/play/7-best-bangkok-temples-697446/
2) Indulge in food galore!
Some say that the reason you go to Bangkok is to indulge in Thai food and I can’t disagree.We were lucky to try an incredible range of local foods at the international school’s canteen where our training took place. However, we also explored the street vendors, food markets and more fancy restaurants.Let the pictures do the talking!
3) Shopping for coconut oil products
I probably have already written hundreds of times or so about the benefits of coconut oil and how indispensable it became in my life. Therefore when I saw the shelves overloaded with coconut products and their ridiculously low prices, my head went dizzy!
When you go to Thailand make sure to bring empty suitcase with you to take home all these goodies!
4) Jim Thompson museum
Jim Thompson was an American businessman who helped revitalize Thai’s silk industry in the 1950’s and 1960’s.Time magazine claimed he ‘almost singlehandedly saved Thailand’s vital silk industry from extinction’
I was lucky that on day 2 of my training our field trip’s destination turned out to be located just across from Jim Thompson’s museum so I made it on time to take a guided visit. I don’t remember exact cost of the ticket but for sure no more than 60 RMB ( which is 300 THB).The tour takes about 40 minutes and after that you can stroll around this massive villa on your own.
5) Socializing with lady boys
Thailand has the highest rate of transsexuals throughout the world and to explain this case, some academics refer to Buddhism in Thailand. I found an interesting article where you can read that “Thai Buddhists believe that a person becoming kathoey ( a local term used instead of transgender of transsexual ) is predetermined from birth and is the direct result of karmic debt or ‘gamm’ accumulated through misdeeds committed in a former life. Being born a kathoey is inevitable and is not a person’s fault, at least in the life into which they are presently born. Kathoeys are commonly believed to be the victims of karmic consequences, consequences that may befall all of us in other lives. It is very important to notice, that the common belief says that there is no escaping from the karmic consequences, and that everyone has been or will be kathoey. He should accept his fate since there are no further consequences arising from desire and actions that arise out of the state of being a kathoey. It might be acceptable for Buddhists to be born kathoey, because even Buddha must have been born as one at least once.”
This is just an excerpt of the full blog post by David Bonnie, that I recommend checking out http://davidbonnie.com/2014/08/11/why-are-there-so-many-ladyboys-in-thailand/
The best area to do socialize with kathoeys is allegedly Soi Cowboy – http://www.bangkok.com/nightlife-go-go-bar/soi-cowboy.htm
However, a local workshop colleague recommended another street to me. However,to my disappointment ( and a pity for my co-worker who inititally reluctantly, kindly agreed to assist in my search, and carry an umbrella so that I could take proper pictures) it wasn’t THE spot. There were a few drag show spots, but the area was quite empty. Don’t repeat my mistake head to Soi Copwboy directly.
I didn’t choose the hotel by myself as everything was arranged by the travel agency working with my school. I was very happy with their choice though, as we stayed at Movenpick hotel – quite centrally located, near the subway station and BTS Sky Train. Check it out here Movenpick Hotel
The local currency is Thailand Baht – THB and it equals 0,19 RMB. So if you want to know how the local price translates into Mao yeye, then just multiply it by 0,19.
Besides renting your own scooter, you have a lot of other cheap options to get around. The Sky Train ( BTS), underground (MTR), taxis and tuk tuks. Local taxi drivers don’t have ( or at least I didn’t experience) printed fapiao, so if you need any receipt for your company, they will need to hand-write it for you.What’s more – sometimes they might overcharge you,so ask your hotel staff about the average price range.
Warning! – there is no digital security scan at the Sky Train, but the security officers usually check your belongings themselves!
4) Time Zone
When you arrive in Thailand, you will be 1 hour behind China time.
5) The weather
The best time to visit Thailand is from November till February. I visited Bangkok at the end of September and luckily we had only 1 rainy night. For more weather details check out this website https://www.travelfish.org/weather/thailand
As I mentioned before, most landmarks in Bangkok are open till 5 pm so try to plan your visit accordingly. One of the places I didn’t have time to check out is the floating market, that happens early morning on weekends. Check out more here http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/5-floating-markets.htm however your hotel’s staff will be very happy to give you their suggestions as well!
Enjoy your stay in Bangkok and share your impressions with me please!