Bangkok, a city of many faces
Yeoh Siew Hoon on why she will never tire of Thailand.
As one of Asia’s most visited cities, Bangkok may no longer be a new destination for most travellers, but because of its size, diversity and ever-changing nature, you never tire of it, no matter how many times you visit.
Why do people come to Thailand?” my Thai friend asked me, genuinely curious. We were stuck in traffic on Sukhumvit Road and had plenty of time to watch what was going on outside.
“Shop …” I replied.
“But don’t you have the same things at home? The same shops and brands?” she interrupted me.
“Yes, but it’s not the same. People like to shop in the markets here and also there’s a lot of variety.”
“But what do they buy?”
“iPhone pouches, t-shirts, handbags, shoes, ” I said, rattling off things my girlfriends always bring home from Thailand. “Everyone loves Thai food so they come to eat and get massages. Where else can you have dinner followed by a foot massage at midnight? And it’s great value - a weekend here probably costs as much as having one dinner in Singapore.” I thought of my three girlfriends from Singapore who were in Siam Centre doing the very things I described at that very moment.
As one of Asia’s most visited cities, Bangkok may no longer be a new destination for most travellers, but because of its size, diversity and ever-changing nature, you never tire of it, no matter how many times you visit. I probably travel to Bangkok at least six to eight times a year.
The experience is different depending on where you stay. I like staying at Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok because its riverside location makes you feel immediately like you’re on holiday, even if you aren’t. It’s a perfect hotel for “bleasure” – as some people are now calling business pleasure trips. I love taking the river taxi – it’s a unique experience you don’t find in any other Asian city – and a good way to beat the traffic.
If you stay in the Sathorn or Sukhumvit area, you’re right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Walk outside and it’s like being in a set from the Chinese movie, Lost in Thailand, which has done wonders for the Thai tourism industry. Stalls everywhere, a constant stream of people, non-stop traffic, smells, sounds, sights… You can literally walk in any direction and find a good place to eat if you’re adventurous.
During this trip, my friends and I walked into a little place on North Sathorn Road. Run by a young Thai lad and his girlfriend, there were no English menus and the couple were as surprised to see us as we were to have found them. Fortunately, I knew enough Thai to order – every traveller should know enough local lingo to order food wherever you go – and soon our table was filled with delicious home-cooked dishes. It was one the best meals I’ve ever had in Bangkok and I bet it’s not on any travel review site.
Walk into any of the malls and you will be gobsmacked by its size, range of restaurants and shops, and the numbers of consumers.
“Has the Thai economy made a comeback?” I asked my Thai friend as we walked into Siam Paragon, which was heaving with people eating, drinking and spending.
“Yes, I think it’s too good,” she said, smiling.
After the hustle and bustle of the city, though, it was good to retreat back to the river. That night, dining under a full moon with my girlfriends, I thought of another reason why tourists love Bangkok - it’s a city that lets you do whatever you want and it’s always fun. The Thais have a word for it – sanuk.