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City Stopover: Bangkok, Thailand

PLACE:  Bangkok

COUNTRY: Thailand

YEAR OF TRAVEL: 2013

HOW WE GOT THERE:  Domestic airline NokAir from Chiang Mai.

FLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: A low cost carrier that serves complimentary food –while it was a chocolate pretzel, we appreciate the generosity.

BRIEFING:

For a stopover city, vibrant and sultry Bangkok just might have it all.

What makes this tropical metropolis stand out are life’s little indulgences – the star anise-infused Thai iced tea, fresh-cut mango and chilli salt, greasy pad thai, and a reviving massage. Did I mention all of this for under $12?

With an average temperature of 30C, you come to Bangkok to be pleasured.

TIPS:

The best time to go is November to January, when the weather is cool and dry.  Avoid the rainy season of September and October. Songkran – the Thai New Year -in mid April is a terrific time to experience this one-of-a-kind festival. What started with a small sprinkling of water to bid others good fortune has turned into a national waterfight — and it’s super-fun! Don’t forget to pack your little brother’s Super Soaker.

Traffic on Sukhumvit is as fun as a root canal. Opt for the sky-train, the BTS – clean, and efficient.  An alternative option is the orange-vested motorcycle taxis, experts at maneuvering through Bangkok’s infamous gridlock. They do charge triple the price of a metered taxi fare, but worth it.

For the “adventurous” tourist, nightlife in Bangkok does live up to its red-light reputation, with several infamous districts, including Soi Cowboy and Patpong, promoting “the beauty on duty” as well as some other distinctive features.

Bangkok also has a growing arts and fashion scene. The edgy 100 Tonson Gallery showcases emerging and established artists, while Made by Legacy market sells mid-century Americana. Just don’t ask us how all this nostalgic kitsch got there.

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FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS:

Thong Lor / Silom / Lumpini Park / Sukhumvit Soi 11

FAVORITE ACCOMODATIONS:

Ariyasomavila  – This boutique hotel feels like an oasis in the mayhem of Bangkok.

Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit – For those who prefer a central location, the Sheraton can’t be beat. For better or worse, it’s on Sukhumvit.

The Siam – On the river, another gem away from the hustle and bustle.

FAVORITE RESTAURANTS/BARS/SPAS:

RESTAURANTS

Bo.lan –  Situated in a beautiful Thai house, this cozy restaurant is known for imaginative Thai food.

Blue Elephant –  Located in a charming colonial-style mansions, this is one of Thailand’s most acclaimed cooking schools.

Greyhoud Cafe – This place combines urban chic with cozy comfort dishes, and terrific for people watching.

CLUBS

Glow – A hip club/lounge playing great house music and hosting mainly an international jet set crowd who prefer Red Bull to Singha.

Above Eleven – An understated, and expansive rooftop bar on the 51/F of Fraser Suites, and frequented by fashionable locals and expats. Don’t confuse this with After Eleven.

Grease – The DJ’s here spin everything from funk to hip hop for the trendy Thais and expats. Their smartly designed alfresco rooftop bar is definitely worth the trip.

Levels – Based on the 6th floor of Aloft Hotel, Levels is known for its high ceilings, pumping house music, and young, savvy club-goers.

Moose – The city’s hipsters convene here.  While it’s not a dance club, Moose hosts regular bands and DJ’s.  And if you’re hungry, reach for their delicious, but spicy menu.

MASSAGE

Divina Divine Spa –  One of the top-rated spas in the world, Divina is an urban oasis located in a Thai-style mansion.  For something unique, try their caviar supreme serum massage that creates an inner balance.

Thann Sanctuary – This award winning spa takes a holistic approach to wellness. Therapists here make a genuine attempt at invigorating your senses. The treatment rooms here are dark on purpose, providing you with a serene calmness from the onset.

SIGHTSEEING RECOMMENDATIONS:

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Street Food  – You come to Thailand for a bacchanalia. The indulgent options at the various stalls (Sois 11 or 38) are an effective way to take in the no-frills culinary scene. Endless and affordable, they make for great for people watching.

Chatuchak Market, with 35 acres and 8,000 stalls, is the largest and one of the most colorful markets in Bangkok. You’ll find everything from vintage tees to lemongrass soap to spicy tom yum. And if you feel hot and fatigued by the incessant walking or bargaining, just smile, and find a cozy corner for a coconut ice-cream or foot massage.

Believe it or not, Bangkok was once called the Venice of the East. A great way to orient oneself to the city is a canal tour on the Chao Praya River.

Catch a movie.  I know this is reserved for a lazy Sunday back home.  But these luxurious cinema halls provide a refuge, which you will need after a few days in BKK.  Forget coming attractions. A real treat is the homage to the King conducted before every film.  As you will notice, the Royal family is respected and cherished in the country.

The Grand Palace – The royal residence from 1782 to 1925. One of our favorite tourist attractions in the world – and worth the strict dress code.

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Other Entries In Our “Stopover” Series:

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

* Barbados

Frankfurt, Germany

Hong Kong SAR

Istanbul, Turkey

London, England

Nairobi, Kenya

New Delhi, India

Seoul, South Korea

* Stockholm, Sweden 

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PHOTO CREDITS
Lead-In: potowizard/Shutterstock.com
Gateway Arch: joesayhello/Shutterstock.com
Temple/Statue Pic: Kim Briers/Shutterstock.com