I’ve been to Thailand a few times, however this time we did it when the country is in political turmoil. But I’m glad that we went ahead and didn’t cancel the trip despite warnings from some quarters that it’s not safe and travelling to Thailand is at best be avoided.
Arriving on late Friday night at Survanabhumi International Airport, we took the public taxi to our hostel in Bangrak. The ride was slightly less than an hour and cost 500 Baht (without meter). We have booked a room at i-sanook Residence in Bangrak, a very comfortable upscale hostel that has private rooms with ensuite toilet, offers complimentary breakfast, a guest kitchen that allows you to cook, a swimming pool and a gym. It also offers complimentary Tuk-tuk ride (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. only) to Si Phraya Pier or to the nearest subway or BTS station. I have 6 leisurely days, it’s free & easy with no pre-planned itinerary.
The first day being Saturday, a visit to the weekend Chatuchak Market beckons. Chatuchak is arguably one of the biggest market in the region with more than 10,000 stalls, opens only on Saturday and Sunday from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. It’s not difficult to find something of one fancy; ceramics, puppets, essential oils, bags, blouses, beads, bronze and copper bowls, arts of all kinds, t-shirts and souvenirs, even pets can be found here. After breakfast at the hostel we took the Sukhumvit BTS line to Mo Chit. The market is very crowded with shoppers; locals and tourists. Passing through the crowded narrow alleys is in itself can be a challenge. Some of the shops do look alike and occassionaly I lost the sense of direction. The place can really overwhelmed you. The best is to be patient and take things slowly. In this trip I have also noticed a few new food stalls with “halal” sign. But we went to the one near clock tower and to my surprise the owner looked exactly the way I remembered her 7 years ago. The place was full and we were lucky to get a table near a boiling pot. “Hot and stuffy”, we ordered “mee celup” and chicken briyani and ate our lunch quickly.
For me Chatuchak is a great place for some retail theraphy. The price is generally lower than home (Malaysia) but we still haggled hard for better price and went home a satisfied shopper. There are plenty of “halal” eateries, so I could shop till I drop and not getting hungry. When my feet starts to hurt, I just stop at one of the are air-conditioned foot massage parlour. It costs 180/250 Baht for a 30 minutes/1 hour foot massage. One could easily spend half a day here and I have seen serious shopper end up going home with a full suitcase after spending a whole day here.
If you can’t stand the heat and crowd at Chatuchak Market, Asiatheque has similar offerings with less crowd but the price is more expensive. Opens from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. everyday, it is an option for those who are not in the city during the weekend. To get there, take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and there’s the free ferry ride to Asiatheque.
Bangkok is also popular with quality custom-made tailored suit, shirt or pants. There are plenty of choices at Nana and Sukhumvit area. Prices ranges from 5,000 Baht to 10,000 Baht for a suit, 700 Baht to 1,500 Baht for a shirt and 1,500 Baht to 2,000 Baht for a pants depending on the type of fabric. Most are closed on Sunday and it takes between 2-3 days to have it done with at least 2 fittings. Based on some good reviews found in the internet, I decided to try Custom Tailor on soi 8. I got my measurement done on Saturday after the visit to Chatuchak, but due to “Bangkok Shutdown” on Monday 13/1/2014, I could only do the 1st fitting on Tuesday evening. That’s not a problem for me because I wasn’t due to return to Kuala Lumpur until Friday morning.
Despite the ongoing protests in Bangkok, it was business as usual. Unaffected by “Bangkok Shutdown”, on the last day of this trip, we decided to spend some time near Siam for another retail theraphy at Siam Square, Paragorn Mall and HRC Bangkok. This is probably the closest we got to the much talked protest in Bangkok. Things were still in orderly manner and sometimes it felt like a carnival. The Thai people are in election mood. T-shirt, headband, ear rings etc all depicting the national flag are on sale. We even joint the crowd on the street for a taste of what it’s all about.
Will I come back here for more retail theraphy? The answer is an easy YES 🙂