october 2009 100 baht
Rattanakosin Photography by Cedric Arnold
t h r o u g h t hrea tet ya en sa koof s hi ni s k i n g d o m
1 on 1: Jerry Hopkins Metrobeat: Il Tartufo Very Thai: Day Themes Upcountry Escape: Sukhothai Over the Border: Phnom Penh Making Merit: Goodwill Group Foundation
HISTORY & CULTURE ■ SIGHTSEEING & EXCURSIONS ■ DINING & NIGHTLIFE SHOPPING ■ SPAS ■ LISTINGS ■ EVENTS CALENDAR ■ CITY MAPS & MORE
After a rainy season filled with more than a few marathon thunder storms, the end is now in sight. Fingers crossed, this October you can expect more blue skies than black. That said, however, Mother Nature is still volatile at this time of year, with hit-and-run storms still capable of throwing your best-laid plans into a tailspin. Fortunately, it just so happens there’s a heap of activity taking place indoors this month so, even if the rains do outstay their welcome, October won’t be a total washout. The Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music and World Gourmet Festival are two of the many events profiled this month in Metrobeat (p.12-13). The Bangkok Design Festival 2009 will also be stretching its creative tentacles all over town, while the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, profiled on p.36, is picking up speed after a slow start. Still raining out there? If this month’s photo feature is anything to go by that might not be such a bad thing: our favourite shot from Rattanakosin, of two monks pacing through a water-logged backstreet was taken in the midst of an almighty shower. Shot by Bangkok-based photojournalist Cedric Arnold, these often quirky vignettes elevate the Old City’s everyday to the anthropological. For those looking to earn some good karma, in Making Merit we profile the Goodwill Group Foundation, an empowerer of disadvantaged Thai women. Meanwhile in our Daytrip section, we head to rustic floating market Amphawa, while in upcountry escape we slink up to Sukhothai, the epicentre of Loy Krathong celebrations. “Isn’t that in November?’ you ask. Yes, but this year rs the festival falls on Nov 2, so we’re covering the best place to 101 cate , Bangkok an what they d se ia b n see it now, so you can get yourself up there in time. u ent and r more th er Independ rs who yearn fo s. It brings togeth , This month, in 1 on 1, we finally got to sit down with lle e ok ters v o a ri b tr e w , y id v ts u v n g e sa sid ted to acclaimed expat author and 1960s rawk music raconteur, of city re rs. The result eighty, da find in w tive Who’s Who tato n e Jerry Hopkins. The former Rolling Stone correspondent m vel m ta o ri c nthly tra an autho ers and cultural rid of mo nd off the and author of several definitive music biographies wax’s b y h h p t ra n g e photo intellig u on a lyrical on all things Big Mango related, including where pact and ine that takes yo employs the is a com z a 1 g 0 a 1 o m k y o d cit Jim Morrison would hang out if he were in town. ut and n . Bangk guide an rist track ith no fluff, no sm ought. u to rn o w eb As always, we are happy you chose us to provide well-w andards, cannot b ders, ditorial st content rea r you with everything you need to explore the city in style u o n highest e ls. Our editorial o a e focus (everything bar a brolly, that is). See you back here next adver tori usly maintain th to ensure ro We rigo nd our mission is ity as much month, when we’ll be celebrating our fourth birthday! a tc
What i1s01? Bangkok
a y this gre they enjo love living in it. as we
Mason Florence Publisher
contributors Cedric Arnold
British/French photojournalist Cedric Arnold began his career covering politics and showbiz in London and Nor thern Ireland.The travel bug then got him, and after a trip to Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 Cedric settled in Bangkok in 2001 to cover Asia and South East Asia. He specialises in portraiture, travel, documentary and corporate photography, and shoots in all formats, from 35mm to 4x5 and digital. His work appears in Travel & Leisure, Destin Asia,The Sunday Times, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, among others.
Noy is a U.S. journalist and former Pew fellow in International Journalism and Fulbright fellow in contemporary Thai cinema. She writes frequently on international politics and culture. Noy has repor ted from Cuba, Iran, Morocco, Japan, and Cambodia, among other countries; for outlets including The Guardian, Marie Claire, Ms. and The American Prospect, where she is a senior correspondent.
Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith is a writer, editor and curator specialising in culture and travel. He has lived in Thailand for over a decade, editing its first listings magazine and the Time Out Bangkok guides, updating Thailand:A Traveller’s Companion, presenting Noodle Box: Bangkok on Discovery Channel, and squeezing Bangkok into the city’s first mobile phone guide for Nokia. Born in England, he has also written for Eyewitness: Thailand and international magazines.
Food and travel writer Howard Richardson lives beside the Chao Phraya River in downtown Bangkok, from where he’s spent 12 years exploring the city as magazine editor and freelance writer. He’s contributed to publications such as GQ, the BBC’s Olive magazine and the New York Times online, and written a monthly column on Bangkok events and trends in Sawasdee, the Thai Airways inflight magazine. He also wrote the travel guide Bangkok Step by Step, published this year by Insight Guides.
From covering the Vietnam War as an army photographer to heading up CNN bureaus in London and Bangkok, Tom Mintier is one of the most recognised and respected media figures in Thailand today. An Emmy awardwinning television news journalist,Tom covered many events live for CNN, including the 1989 student uprising in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Currently a consultant at AMATA Corp and professor at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Tom continues to train local journalists.
British-born writer-artist Steven Pettifor stopped over in Thailand 13 years ago on his way to Japan, but never left. An authority on contemporary Thai art, Steven is a regular commentator on the local art scene, contributing to several international and domestic newspapers and journals. In 2004 he published the coffee-table book Flavours: Thai Contemporary Art. When not art musing, he spends his time travel writing.
Korakot (Nym) Punlopruksa
N a t i v e - B a n g k o k w r i t e r, photographer and incurable travel addict, Nym believes in experiencing the world through food. She can usually be found canvassing the city for the best eats around. Nym has been a host for music and film programmes, a radio DJ, a creative consultant for television and a documentary scriptwriter. She is the author of several travel narratives, and her work appears in myriad magazines including ELLE, Elle Decoration, GM and Home & Décor.
An avid epicurean, Cheryl’s foodie credentials can be traced back to L.A., where she was a regular fixture at the tables of Wolfgang Puck and Nobu before their rise to culinary fame. She later brought her experienced palate to Bangkok, where she thrives on the new and delectable in the night-out culinary experience. Cheryl contributes to numerous magazines and her website, www.chicasia.com, gives the latest on Bangkok’s hippest venues.
Publisher Mason Florence Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jesda M.Tivayanond Managing Editor Max Crosbie-Jones Graphic Director Yuthtaya Sangnak Art Designer Narong Srisaiya Editorial Assistant Piyakwan Mettaprasert Strategists Nathinee Chen Sebastien Berger Contributing Writers Cheryl Tseng, Noy Thrupkaew, Steven Pettifor, Nick Measures, Joel Quenby, Korakot Punlopruksa, Liz Smailes, Leo Devillers, Philip Cornwel-Smith, Cassandra Beckford, Chirayu na Ranong, Alisara Chirapongse Contributing Photographers Jatuporn Rutnin, Christian Phongphit, Paul Lefevre, Ludovic Cazeba, Austin Bush, Leon Schadeberg, Marc Schultz, Niran Choonhachat, Frédéric Belge, Somchai Phongphaisarnkit,TAT Director of Sales & Marketing Jhone El’Mamuwaldi Director of Business Development Simon Hughes Account Executives Sirikanda Chamroenyai Pafun Sinpichetkorn Haluethai Wattanapathomvong Administrative Assistant Peeraya Nuchkuar Distribution Coordinator Tunwa Pankaew Published by Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd. 113 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Bangkok 10330 T: 02-252-3900 F: 02-650-4557 email@example.com Designed by Letter Space T: 02-386-7181 F: 02-386-7182 firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by Allied Printers T: 02-240-3700 © Copyright Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written, prior permission of the publisher. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher, which accepts no responsibility for them.
snapshots 8 10 11 12 14 15 16 17
101 picks 1 on 1: Jerry Hopkins events calendar metro beat history religion customs very thai: day themes
sightseeing 18 19 20 22 24 26 28 30 31 32 34 35 36 37 38 41 42 44
orientation riverside route101: rattanakosin route101: chinatown route101: sukhumvit route 101: silom&sathorn route101: pathumwan siam and pratunam historic buildings the grand palace temples museums the great outdoors in the neighbourhood day trip: amphawa day tripping upcountry festivals upcountry escape: sukhothai over the border: phnom penh
arts 46 47 48 56 57 58 59
contemporary art exhibitions photo feature: rattanakosin performing arts cultural centres cinema reading & screening
on the cover: a 77 year-old Pak Khlong Talat trader who has worked in the market for almost 50 years. photo by: Cedric Arnold
contents food & drinks 60 61 62 63 64 65 68 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
dining in bangkok meal deal thai cuisine thai sweets street eats thai restaurants chic bangkok dim-sum brunching tea late dining sweet treats all you can eat wine
nightlife 82 84 86 88 89 90 91 92 94 96
one night in bangkok nightclubs bars with a view hotel bars boho bars latin rhythms jazz clubs live music nightlife areas pub crawling
112 spectator sports 113 active sports
courses & services 114 115
cooking, meditation & thai massage courses making merit: goodwill group foundation
business 116 business 117 real estate
reference 118 survival thai 119 contacts 120 getting around
shopping 98 99 100 101 102 104 105
shopper scene stuff unique boutique shopping tours mall crawl markets sidewalks
accommodation 106 boutique bangkok
health & wellness 108 109 110 111
body & beauty spas wellness centres medical tourism
New Way to Sleep in Bangkok
seven design hotel 3/15 Sukhumvit 31 Bangkok 10110 t: +662.662.0951 f: +662.662.3344 e: email@example.com www.sleepatseven.com
Before dashing off to a tropical island or the mountains, scratch beneath the city’s gritty surface to discover gems that’ll keep you here longer. We’ve compiled our Bangkok favourites here.
one night in bangkok
■ Chatuchak A huge, sprawling village of a market, selling everything under the sun. Cramped, steamy and lots of fun (p.104).
■ Making Merit Donate food to monks, release birds, or light incense sticks at a temple – and pray for good karma (p.115).
■ Beautiful Brunches L a ze a r o u n d w i t h friends, newspapers for those great late breakfasts (p. 75).
■ Dusit District Filled with lovely airy boulevards, a big zoo & Vimanmek Mansion’s gorgeous greener y (p.30).
■ Bars & Clubs Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. It’s fun to be a Bangkokian (pp.82-97).
■ Suan Lum Night Bazaar A pleasant evening market with arts, crafts and textiles. And a massive beer garden (p.104).
■ Thai Massage A cracking good time – though not for the faint hearted (p.108).
■ Food Courts Love cheap Thai food but love air-con more? Get thee to a food court (p.71).
■ On the River Take an express boat up to Nonthaburi or explore the canal communities of Thonburi (p.19).
■ Cabarets Wow, she is beautiful. Such a graceful dancer. And what a figure! Eh… what do you mean “he”? (p.85).
■ Siam Square All the young dudes head to this cradle of cool for the latest flicks and threads (p.101).
■ Thai Cooking Classes Learn to pound a proper paste like a pro (p.114).
■ Riverside Dining The Chao Phraya River makes for an awesome backdrop.And there are plenty of good restaurant options (p.21).
■ Cycling Tour Maybe not an obvious choice, but these tours are surprisingly popular (p.113).
■ High Attitude Bars Slinky cocktails at eight miles high. Not cheap, but well worth it (p.86).
■ Patpong A thin strip in the CBD jam-packed with market stalls and, er, go-go bars (p.105).
■ Thai Boxing The brutal, quintessentially Thai form of kickboxing (p.112).
■ Meal Deals Take advantage of special offers to eat at some of the city’s best restaurants (p.61).
■ Ancient City Cycle round the museum park of Muang Boran, and see Thailand in miniature! (p.38).
■ Dining Cruises Stuff your face as you wind your way along the Chao Phraya (p.61).
■ Panthip Plaza The ultimate computer-geek mecca. If you can’t find it here you just haven’t looked hard enough (p.102).
■ TCDC Cool, creative learning space for Thai designers (p.57).
■ Street Food Pull up a plastic stool and get ready to point and shoot (p.64).
■ Lumpini Park A huge green space in the heart of the city. Perfect for jogging, picnics and boating on the ponds (p.35).
■ Carnivalesque Get wiggly on Khao San, jiggly at RCA or giggly on Soi 11 (p.95).
■ Paragon & CentralWorld Two of the swishest mega-malls you’re ever likely to encounter. Fancy a Ferrari? That’ll be the third floor (p.102).
■ Jim Thompson House & Silk Shop This former spook rebuilt the Thai silk trade then disappeared. Nice house though (p.98).
■ Affordable Gourmet Food If you prefer foie gras to fried insects, Bangkok needn’t break the bank (p.65).
■ Flower Market Close your eyes and inhale deeply. 24-hour marigold madness. (p.104)
■ Theatre TraditionalThai wooden puppet shows, classical Thai drama or breathtaking extravaganzas – no tux required (p.58)
1 on 1 American Jerry Hopkins has penned best-selling biographies on Elvis and Jimi Hendrix and was a correspondent and editor for Rolling Stone magazine for over 20 years. It was No One Here Gets Out Alive, his definitive Jim Morrison biography that reignited interest in The Doors and inspired Oliver Stone’s biopic of the same name. More recently he’s given us entertaining books on the Thai experience, like Bangkok Babylon and Thailand Confidential. He divulges a few sage city tips in-between telling Tom Mintier how he ended up here and why the Kingdom suits him. If Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison or Frank Zappa came to Bangkok, where would they hang out? Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa would be listening to their kind of music at Brown Sugar or Saxophone. Jim Morrison would be at Soi Cowboy. You’ve written books about Elvis, but never met him. Correct. That was his choice, not mine. I did see him perform about a dozen times at various venues. How do you write about somebody you’ve nobody met? How do people write biographies of Lincoln? You go out and you check what sources are available. And even if the person you’re writing about is dead there are still a lot of folks about to be interviewed. Jim Morrison I happened to know. But when I researched his book I interviewed over 200 people who knew him. How did you get from Hollywood to Bangkok? It’s a long trail. I didn’t start in Hollywood but worked in newspapers in New Orleans and elsewhere before. Then I spent 17 years in Hawaii and THEN I came to Thailand. How did it happen? “Go west, young man!” Except in my 10
JERRY HOPKINS case I wasn’t young by the time I got here. I just kept working my way west, it just kept getting better. And you still like it here? Even if I didn’t have a Thai family and a house in Surin, I wouldn’t consider going back. I like Thailand, I really do. You divide life between Bangkok and Surin. How does life beside a rice paddy compare to life here? It’s a perfect juxtaposition. When I come back to Bangkok people say “how was Surin?” and I say “serene”. What I like about Bangkok and one of the things that drew me here to begin with was the high-energy level; I still need that. Any new books in the works? Well I hope so. I’ve got five proposals now in circulation. All but one of them are about Thailand and/or South-East Asia. Rock ‘n’ roll is definitely in my past. What I’m much more interested in now is where I live and what my experiences are currently. Favourite haunts? Depends what I’m looking for. Most of the food I eat I prepare myself so I need a fresh market. Khlong Toey was always my favourite but it’s become snapshots
a battleground, so now I go to the Sam Yan market, near Chulalongkorn University. For music, sometimes I go to a big cavernous club in the Khlong Tan area called Isaan Tawandaeng. They feature the kind of music I hear when I go home to Surin. And for a local restaurant, there’s a Thai one on Sukhumvit Soi 8 called Kinnaree. They have a garden bar with just five stools where I like to eat; it’s an oasis right in the middle of Sukhumvit. Where do you take visitors? Everybody should get to the river as often as possible. It’s so peaceful; you get away from all that frenetic energy. Take a couple of hours, sit at one of those little riverside restaurants, have a beer, have a meal. A khlong tour is definitely also in order, as I think it shows what life used to be like here. It’s really surprising; if you cross to the other side of the river you can even smell the durian in the right season. Is outside Bangkok preferable to being in Bangkok? No; but I couldn’t and wouldn’t live either place full time. Bangkok would drive me nuts and Surin would bore me after a while. I’ve got the balance between the two extremes. And they are extremes. bangkok 101
october calender World Gourmet Festival
Until Sun 11: EU Green Days Various venues | 02-3052644 | www.eugreendays.com | free See Metrobeat ‘Events’
Thu 8: Sharam Bed Supperclub Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02-651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’
Until Sat 17: Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music
Fri 2 – Sat 3: Modern Dog 15th Anniversary Concert
Siam Discovery Plaza, Siam Square | 10:30am-7pm Organised by NGO Plan Asia, this showcase of youth media and art from across South Asia aims to raise awareness of violence in schools.
Fri 9: Electro Crash 2009
Fri 9: The Seven Year Itch Party
Demo, Thong Lo |02661-0900 | www.opworldwide.com | B990 See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’
V9, Sofitel Silom, 188 Silom Road | 02-2381991 | www.sofitel.com | B1,000
Sat 17: Clutter Sale for Charity 2009
Sat 17: First Annual Thai Zombie Walk
See Metrobeat ‘Dance & Theatre’
Thu 29: Layo & Bushwacka!
Thu 29: National Museum Lectures
Bed Supperclub, Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02-651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com | B800 See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’
Sat 3 – Sun 4: Young Hearts Youth Arts and Media Festival
Indoor Stadium Hua Mark | 02-833-5555 | www.totalreservation. com | B600-2,000 Thai indy music’s top dogs celebrate their 15th year with two big gigs.
Grand Ballroom, Four Seasons Hotel | 02-1268833 | 10am-6pm The Thai glitterati’s take on the yard sale. All proceeds to the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer charity.
Thailand Cultural Centre, Ratchadapisek Rd. | 02-2623456 | www.thaiticketmajor. com, www.bangkokfestivals. com | B400-4,000
National Museum, Naphrathat Road (opp. Sanam Luang) | www.museumvolunteersbkk.net | B400 per day | Lecture 1: 9:30am, Lecture 2: 11:00am A series of lectures in English begins with Perspectives on Post-1932 Thailand and An Introduction to Buddhism.
Dishy DJ Montonn Jira and the spirit of Marilyn will star at V9 wine bar’s 7th birthday shindig.
Until Sun 4: Thailand Open 2009 Impact Muang Thong Thani | 02-262-3456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com | B300 – 4,500 See Metrobeat ‘Sport’
Fri 16: Mr.Big Reunion Tour Live in Bangkok Impact Muang Thong Thani | 02-262-3456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com | B1,000 See Metrobeat ‘Rock & Pop’
Four Seasons Hotel | 02250-1000 | www.fourseasons.com See Metrobeat ‘Food&Drink’
Fri 16 – Sat 17: The Punchline Comedy Bull’s Head, Sukhumvit Soi 33 | 02-233-4141-2 | www.greatbritishpub.com | B1,500 See Metrobeat ‘Comedy’
Thu 22 – Mon 26: The Merchants of Bed Supperclub, Sukhum- Bollywood
Friday 23: Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
vit Soi 11 | 02-651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com See Metrobeat ‘Event’
Royal Paragon Hall, Siam Paragon | 0-2262-3456| www.thaiticketmajor.com, www.merchantsofbollywood. com.au | B300 – 9,000 See Metrobeat ‘Dance & Theatre’
A public holiday memorialising the death in 1910 of King Rama V: the still revered moderniser.
Sat 31: Bangkok Acoustic Guitar Celebration 2009 Centerpoint Playhouse at Central World | 02-2623456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com | B1,500 – 3,500 See Metrobeat ‘Rock & Pop’
Sat 31: DJ Hell
Sun 1 Nov: Roberta Flack
Club Culture, Phayathai | 089-497-8422 | www.club-culture-bkk. com See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’
TRADE FAIR VENUES Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) New Ratchadapisek Rd, | MRT QSNCC | 02-229-4253 | www.qsncc.co.th IMPACT Muang Thong Thani Pakkred, Nonthaburi | 02-504-5050 | www.impact.co.th Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC) Bangna-Trad Rd, Bangna | 02-749-3939 | www.bitec.net
Mon 5 – Sun 11: World Gourmet Festival
Bangkok Convention Center, Centara @ CTW | 02-262-3456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com | B1,000 – 6,000 See Metrobeat ‘Rock&Pop’
Trade Fairs Performance Rock & Pop Shopping Events Food & Drink Charity Sport Nightlife
The pick of Bangkok’s hottest news, trends, events and openings, by Howard Richardson.
food & drink
rock & pop Roberta Flack made her name at Atlantic Records in the 60s and 70s with Number One hits like ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, crossing boundaries to top the Pop, R&B, and Easy Listening charts. But she’s also performed with classical orchestras and sung jazz with the likes of Miles Davis, so her gig at the Bangkok Convention Centre on November 1 could be a wide-ranging affair. Tickets are B1,000-B4,000 from Thai Ticketmajor (02-262-3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com) Bassist Billy Sheehan brings his 1990s’ vintage US rock band Mr Big to the Thunder Dome, Muang Thong Thani on October 16. Tickets (B1,000) from Thai Ticketmajor (02-2623456, www.thaiticketmajor.com). Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel headlines at the Bangkok Acoustic Guitar Celebration at Centerpoint Playhouse, Central World on October 31, from 3pm-11pm. Support acts include Adam Rafferty, Joe Robinson and Masa Sumide. Tickets cost B1,500-3,500, from Thai Ticketmajor (01262-3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com).
classic Somtow Sucharitkul and Bruce Gaston, who first collaborated on avant-garde music in the 1970s, team up again for Avatara Dvadas at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (02-214-6632). There will be 12 movements, one performed each month for a year, forming a “Meta-Symphony in Time and Space, part improvisation, part environmental music, part kinetic art.” It should be anything but dull. Somtow, founder of the Bangkok Opera, and Gaston will coconduct the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Fong Naam Band, of which Gaston is leader. Donations will be accepted for the Bangkok Opera HIV Awareness Project. The concerts are being arranged around lunar cycles and the date for October’s show was unknown at press time. Call the venue for details. 12
The World Gourmet Festival will be a feast of dinners and culinary demos as a clutch of cook meisters from around the world descend on the Four Seasons hotel (02-250-1000) from October 5-11. Highlights include the Michelin-starred chefs David Kinch, of Manresa Restaurant, California; Kazumi Sawada, of Banrekiryukodo, Tokyo; and David Thompson, of Nahm, London, the world’s only Michelin-honoured Thai restaurant.
dance&theatre The Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music continues with various productions at the Thailand Cultural Centre until October 17. Tasters include the Shanghai National Ballet, which performs Romeo & Juliet and La Sylphide on October 4 and 6, respectively, and Carmen Mota’s Flamenco Dance Group in a show called Fuego! on the 10th and 11th. The festival ends with The Trocks, from New York, who bring comedic ballet on the 16th and 17th. There are full details at www.bangkokfestivals.com. Get tickets (B400-B4,000) from Thai Ticket Major (02-2623456, www.thaiticketmajor.com). The dance theatre production the Merchants Of Bollywood tells a story that mirrors the development of Bollywood dance, which borrows heavily from classical Indian and contemporary European styles. An estranged daughter – a Bollywood modernist – returns to her traditional dance family in Rajasthan, finds love and determines to rebuild the family dance school in her own way. There are eight evening and matinee shows at the Royal Paragon Hall, Siam Paragon from October 22-26. Tickets (from B900) are available from Thai Ticketmajor (02-262 3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com).
Food & drink
nightlife Highlights of the month at Bed Supperclub (02-651-3537) include Sharam (one half of the Grammywinning house band Deep Dish) on October 8, and the tech-house duo Layo & Bushwacka, who take over the decks on October 29. B800 entry fee for the latter includes one drink. The organisers of the ElectroCrash Festival 2009, on October 9 and 10 at Demo, have lined up a live set by Canadian electro band MSTRKRFT on the 10th, with back-up DJ spots by Ladytron, Leeroy Thornhill, formerly of The Prodigy, and Monkey! Knife! Fight!. Entry is B990. For full details see www.opworldwide.com. Helmut Geier, known to his friends as DJ Hell, makes an appropriate Halloween appearance at Club Culture (089-497-8422) on October 31. He arrives for his first Thailand gig on the back of a new album, the highly praised Teufelswerk – “one of the most cogent dance music albums of all time,” according to the Guardian.
events EU Green Days, from October 1-11, aims to promote awareness of climate change through children’s workshops, exhibitions and events such as the What on Earth club night, on Oct 2 at Club Culture, and an outdoor concert with artists including TataYoung andTattoo Colour, on October 3 at Zen Outdoor Arena. For more call 02-305-2644. The living dead will gather on the platform of Siam Skytrain station at 5pm on October 17 for the first Thai Zombie Walk. Participants are invited to take the train to Nana Station, and then lurch in full costume, including (fake) blood, up Sukhumvit Soi 11, where there will be a Michael Jackson Thriller dance. There will be a van where you can donate a child’s ‘Brainy Toy’ for the Lotus Flower Foundation. And all zombies over 20 years old get free entry to Bed Supperclub and a B100 zombie cocktail. For more see www.bedsupperclub.com.
Il Tartufo (The Truffle) is one of the newer entries to the ranks of Italian-trattoria-down-a-leafy-lane. It’s a tried and trusted Bangkok formula. As hinted by its name, the specialty here is seasonal truffles. It’s a spacious town house with a traditional layout: a large room divided by mock louvre doors, with a small bar at one end, and a little wooden staircase leading to a semi-private area bookable free of charge for small parties. The homey cooking fits the setting. Truffle-themed options include tagliatelle with shavings of fresh truffle and chargrilled beef tenderloin with white truffle sauce, but there are also plenty of options if you need a change, including the usual pastas and pizzas. A modest all-Italian wine list starts at B750 a bottle, running to a handful of Barolos around the B12,000 mark, plus six whites and reds by the glass. From October through the cool season they’ll have a garden wine bar and outdoor grill with homemade sausages and wine from the barrel at B150 a glass. They also offer bocce (petanque) out the back, and retail wines and olive oils, and truffles at cost price if you want to take some home. Lots of parking.
design The Bangkok Design Festival 2009 is gigantic this year, with creative clusters sprouting all over the city from October 8-21. The work of home grown and international designers includes German fashion photography, Japanese poster art, and a Thai-UK collaboration called Change Bangkok that aims to redesign Victory Monument. They also look at shoes, question museum blueprints and provide an ideas supermarket where you can sell your innovations. Check out bangkokdesignfestival.com for the full details. bangkok 101
WHERE 64 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-259-3569 OPEN Tue-Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm PRICE $$$
angkok became the capital of Thailand in 1782, when the royal court relocated from the city of Ayutthaya, which had been left in ruins following years of conflict with the Burmese. After settling temporarily on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, the capital moved again, this time to the area of Rattanakosin in present-day Bangkok. Almost entirely surrounded by water, the new location was easier to defend against potential attacks. The final move marked the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty. Rama I named the new capital Krung Thep (City of Angels) in reference to the past glories of Ayutthaya, and he ordered the construction of two of the Kingdom’s most illustrious religious monuments, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, to consolidate the new capital’s ruling status. During the subsequent reigns of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), the city developed rapidly, culminating in the modernisation and explosive growth of the 20th century. After visiting European capitals, Rama V moved the royal family to the leafy enclave of Dusit. The modern architectural monuments built in this neighbourhood include the Thai Parliament Building, the impressive marble Wat Benchama Bophit and the enormous teak Vimanmek Mansion. Greater Bangkok now occupies nearly 1.5 square kilometres and is home to some 12 million residents. Rattanakosin remains the spiritual centre of the city, graced by the dazzling splendour of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and nearby Wat Po. Modern downtown Bangkok stretches southeast of Rattanakosin and looks very much like many other Southeast Asian capitals, with gleaming skyscrapers, deluxe apartment projects and lots of snarled traffic. The core of the new city encompasses the Sathorn/Silom
districts and Sukhumvit Road, which include upscale shopping plazas and leafy public parks. These major downtown neighbourhoods are connected by the BTS Skytrain and the MRT subway systems. These gradually-expanding public transpor tation networks, with their
bright, snaking trains carrying wideeyed tourists and weary commuters alike, have not only helped relieve the city’s notorious traffic congestion and pollution, but given this City of Angels a modern, 21st-century feel.
Take a deep breath Thais rarely call their capital ‘Bangkok’ but instead refer to it as ‘Krung Thep’ (City of Angels), an abbreviated version of the full ceremonial and official name. This can be translated as ‘The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.’ It is no surprise that The Guinness Book of Records registered it as the world´s longest name for a capital. snapshots
Did you know?
h e majorit y of enlightened (mural paintThai Buddhist Thais (over 90%) ings in Thai temples often monks once a re T h e r av ad a depict tales of his former dyed their B udd his t s , w i t h t he lives, called jataka), so most own robes rest of the population Thais focus on attaining with colour split between Muslims, a better rebirth through extracted Christians, Sikhs and “making merit” – donating from turmeric and the Hindus. Older animist to the poor or a temple, or beliefs also remain, prac- heartwood and handing out rice to monks leaves from tised alongside a verduring their morning almsjackfruit trees; gathering processions. sion of the Buddhism now most that originated with the Nearly all Thai Buddhist robes come teachings of Siddhartha men will become monks, chemically Gautama, the Buddha, if only for a short time. dyed. in India around the 6th Women cannot be ordained century BC. but some become nuns, alTheravada Buddhism is based on though their numbers remain low. the concepts of dukkha (suffering), Contrary to Western perceptions of anicca (impermanence and tran- Buddhism as a religion above the fray sience), and anatta (impermanence of everyday life, monks and nuns have of the self) – suffering arises through launched HIV-education and drugattachment to impermanent condi- prevention campaigns, orphanages, tions. By working to extinguish at- and other social programmes. More tachment through meditation and controversially, a number of monks proper conduct, Buddhist practi- have begun advocating that Buddhism tioners can eventually attain spiri- should be enshrined in the new contual enlightenment (nirvana), freeing stitution as Thailand’s state religion. them from cycles of rebirth. A soul For more information on Buddhism is reborn according to its progress and meditation courses, check out (or lack of it) towards nirvana, with the World Fellowship of Buddhists at animals forming lower strata and www.wfb-hq.org and the international monks occupying the top. The Bud- homepage of Vipassana meditation dha himself took 550 lives to become centres at www.dhamma.org.
Spirit houses Hand in hand with their Buddhist faith, Thais still hold many animist beliefs. Spirit worship is widely practised and spirit houses can be seen on the corner of most residential and commercial properties. By providing the spirits (good and evil) with shelter, it’s hoped that they will protect houses or buildings from any harm or mischief. To make sure the spirits are kept happy, offerings of incense, fruit, flowers or rice are made every day. 15
oreign visitors to Thailand are not expected to understand all the intricate subtleties of Thai customs, but by learning something about them and trying to incorporate them into your behaviour, you will show respect for local people and avoid some potentially embarrassing situations. In Thailand, two institutions take on particular importance: the monarchy and religion.
Did you know?
Every day has a corresponding colour in Thailand, and throngs of locals will don a yellow shirt to show their respects and celebrate the 80th birthday of the King, who was born on the yellow-themed Monday.
The Monarchy Thai people love their king with deep reverence for the monarchy. By way of proof, portraits of their majesties are displayed in most shops and businesses. Like anybody else, you are expected to be respectful towards members of the royal family.Therefore, stand quietly when the national anthem is played, which happens daily at 8am and 6pm in parks and other public places. Social hierarchy Age, social rank, lineal descent, salary and education are all considerations for social conduct. Such hierarchy is demonstrated 16
at every moment of the day, even the way of greeting.Thais don’t usually shake hands but rather wai (a prayerlike gesture with hands clasped in front of the face).This action means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ but also shows respect and humility.The higher the hands are raised, the more respect is being paid.
Losing face Thais are known to be patient and calm. Being jai yen (coolhearted) is highly admired in Thai culture. Any impulsive reactions that may show annoyance (i.e. raising your voice) are considered unseemly, counterproductive and can make you ‘lose face’. Losing your temper should be avoided; things will work themselves out much better if you remain calm. Practise the words mai pen rai (meaning “never mind”). Body parts The head is considered to be the most sacred par t of the body while the snapshots
feet are the lowest, hence the most impure. For this reason, it is impolite to pat or touch somebody on the head (this applies even to children) and it is particularly rude to point your feet at somebody or to place them on a table or a chair. Pointing the finger at other people is also considered impolite – best to gesture with an open hand.
As temples and Buddha images are considered sacred, certain rules of respect should be followed when visiting temples: ■ dress properly (long trousers or dresses, covered shoulders) ■ remove your shoes at the entrance of temple buildings ■ don’t step on the threshold ■ don’t sit pointing your feet towards a Buddha image ■ avoid touching Buddha images or chedis (funeral monuments) ■ be considerate when taking photographs ■ Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by women. So, if a woman gives something to a monk, she must first pass it to a man or put it on a piece of cloth
very thai Philip Cornwel-Smith
A colour-coded guide to surviving the seven-day week Ever noticed a little more pink is worn on Tuesdays? Hunted in vain for a haircut on a Wednesday? Found that opening parties seem to clash every Thursday? In the Thai diary, each day doesn’t start blank, but comes colour-coded and pre-loaded with premonitions, taboos, and auspicious advice. Thai day names relate to the gods of the planets in ancient Indian astronomy, each of which has a colour: Sunday is coloured red for the sun god Phra Arthit; Monday is yellow for the moon god Phra Chan; Tuesday is pink for the Mars god Phra Angkarn; Wednesday is green for the Mercury god Phra Phut; Thursday is orange for the Jupiter god Phra Pareuhat; Friday is sky blue for the Venus god Phra Suk; Saturday is violet for the Saturn god Phra Sao. Originating with astrologically-divined battle tunics, day colours became a sartorial trait of nobility. Today, regal insignia and flags incorporate royal birth colours, such as yellow for King Bhumibol, blue for Queen Sirikit and violet for Princess Sirindhorn. King Chulalongkorn was known for favouring the pink of his Tuesday birth. Devotees at his shrines make pink offerings and wear pink clothes, while the Chulalongkorn University football team dons pink strip. “Usually you can tell by the colour in the office what day it is,” quipped scholar Vithi Phanichpant. “When wondering what to wear, it’s easy for me to think: ‘what day is it?’” Vithi was speaking before millions of Thais started wearing yellow in 2005 to honour King Bhumibol’s Diamond Jubilee. Yellow polo shirts became a worshipful, yet casual uniform, along with yellow rubber wrist bands emblazoned ‘We Love the King’.
Photos by John Goss
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is a book that almost every foreigner living in Bangkok has on their bookshelf, a virtual bible on Thailand’s pop culture. For page after colourful page, author Philip Cornwel-Smith guides readers on an unconventional tour of the quirky everyday things that make Thailand truly Thai. From the 60-plus mini-chapters, we present a different excerpt each month. Prepare yourself for the sideways logic in what seems exotic. Snap up a copy at any good book shop. Very Thai – River Books l B995 l hardcover, with photos by John Goss and Philip Cornwel-Smith 17
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roads. But the Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT) networks are better allies – whiz above or below the gridlocked streets in fridge-cool comfort! When these can’t help you (when heading from downtown Bangkok to the Old City for instance) hop on a river expressboat, accessible via Saphan Taksin Skytrain station (see opposite). Alternatively, seek out a pier along smelly Klong Saen Saeb (p.120) and clamber (carefully) aboard one of its zippy boats. Other tips include avoid scammers (p.29), carry small change and, if visiting temples, dress properly (p.16). In a city as potentially aggravating as Bangkok, it’s also worth planning. Do you really want to be traipsing round temples all day? Exactly. For ideas check out the following Route 101’s – these itineraries introduce the most notable sights in the city’s most colourful neighbourhoods. Don’t follow them to the letter however – getting hopelessly lost as you wander down one interesting looking side-street after another is half the fun.
Smeared over the flat, flood-prone Chao Phraya river plain, Bangkok at first appears about as organised as a bowl of spaghetti. The fact that there isn’t one all-singing, all-dancing city centre doesn’t help matters. Delve in though and you’ll discover a sprawling megalopolis with a series of distinct neighbourhoods that have evolved over the centuries and have different, tourist-luring attributes. On the west side of the river, glimpses of the Venice of the East survive down the criss-crossing canals of former capital Thonburi. On the east, historic monuments like the Grand Palace are sprinkled like gold dust through former royal HQ Ko Rattanakosin (p.20) – the city’s most revered neighbourhood by far. Fringing it are the old shophouse communities of Phra Nakorn and Banglamphu, the latter of which includes backpacker ghetto Khao San Road. South of Ko Rattanakosin is the city’s congested, chaotic and must-see Chinatown. And crowning Banglamphu is royal and government enclave Dusit with its grand, tree-shaded boulevards a la 19th Century Europe. When temple fatigue strikes head east for the urban hurly burly – steel towers, snarled traffic and snaking expressways – that is Modern Bangkok. Silom and Sathorn are busy business arteries linking the riverside’s old colonial style mercantile buildings and posh hotels to the city’s green lung, Lumpini Park. Seething Sukhumvit Road and its branching sois (where internationals tend to live, work and play) offer few sights but untold opportunities for drinking, dining and debauchery. And Pathumwan (p.28) is where it’s at for shopping, be it at glitzy mall or gritty market. All these neighbourhoods (and the city’s intermittently interesting ‘burbs) can be reached using the city’s
Silom & Sathorn sightseeing
N16-N30 Head north and concrete seques into greenery as expressboats sprint up to their terminus at Nonthaburi, a charming provincial town.
N13 : Phra Athit Bkk’s young bohemians pensively sip coffee in the cute shophouse cafes that line this leafy old street. There’s a quiet park and the hedonistic madhouse that is Khao San Road is around the corner.
N15 :Thewet Feed the catfish, peruse a flower and wet market, or dine overlooking the nearby Rama VIII suspension bridge. Stately royal district, Dusit, is a short taxi ride away.
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N5 : Ratchawongse Bangkok’s Chinatown! Taoist temples, mazy backstreets, mottled shophouses and no end of Sino sights, noises Rd. smells make it a must. uangand Bamrung M
N2 : Sri Phaya On the left is River City: 4 barren-floors of SE Asian antiques, ethnic reproductions, tailors and tat. To your right, the Royal Orchid Sheraton.
Charoen Krung Rd.
Kalayang Matri Rd.
Royal Grand Palace
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N9 : Tha Chang Thai icons ahoy! Turn left for Wat Mahatat and the Amulet market. Walk straight ahead for the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang. Hungry? The pedestrian area in front of the jetty is packed with old-school food stalls.
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N10 : Wang Lang Wat Rakhang, the macabre Forensic’s Museum, a teenfashion clothing market and Patravadi Theatre (p.56) are all in the vicinity.
N8 :Tha Tien Lovely King Rama V-era shophouses sell dried fish but Wat Po – home of the reclining Buddha – is the main attraction. Wat Arun (p.33) looms large on the far bank. Catch a cross-river ferry to it for B3.
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N1 : Oriental The old western quarter. Admire neglected neoclassical edifices and Oriental object’s d’arts at OP Place, then take tea at Bangkok’s most illustrious hotel, the Mandarin Oriental.
Krung Thonburi Rd. KrungThonburi
Saphan Taksin Accessible via the Skytrain’s Saphan Taksin Station. Alight here for shuttle boats back to Mandarin Oriental, Pennisula and Millenium Hilton hotels. Or if staying in Silom, Sathorn or Sukhumvit.
N6 : Memorial Bridge/ Saphan Pood Venture left for decrepit godowns (warehouses) teeming with veg and flowers; i.e. Pak Klong Talad, the 24-hour fresh market. Head straight for Bangkok’s Little India, Pahurat. At night there’s a clothing market popular with teens.
N6 Wat Arun
Though tall ships no longer sail into Bangkok, its churning river – the Mae Nam Chao Phraya – remains important to city life. Long tails, tug boats and pleasure cruisers ply the water, while sunburnt temples, neoclassic buildings, mottled warehouses, stilt homes and a fair few modern monstrosities (hotels, office blocks etc) look on.The best way to encounter all this is by expressboat, which follows a 33km route from Wat Rajsingkorn in the south to Nonthaburi in the north. Fares (usually no more than B13) are payable on board, and during rushhour the boats thronged with office-workers, students and saffron-robed monks. Read up on most interesting piers here then hop aboard! For more about routes, fares and timetables see www.chaophrayaboat.co.th
Whether your stay in Bangkok is for a few hours, a few days or more, absolutely any itinerary should include the ‘old city’ of Rattanakosin. From exquisite temples to ancient Thai massage, it’s all here.
elcome to Rattanakosin Island: historical heartland of modern Bangkok, spiritual epicentre of the Kingdom. King Rama I located the capital here in 1782 because he thought it would be easier to defend than previous site Thonburi. Surrounded by manmade klongs (canals) and the Chao Phraya River, and immune to high-
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recommended sites: n Khao San Road Backpackers and all their material attachments. n Wat Mahathat A centre of Buddhist teaching hemmed in by a jostling amulet market. n The Giant Swing Men reached hazardous heights here during annual ceremonies – until it was banned. n Phra Athit Road Bohemian cafes, a tranquil park and an old fort converge upon one tree-shaded street.
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1. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) 2. Wat Po (Wat Phra Chetuphon) 3. Wat Phra Kaew 4. National Museum
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rise developments, its charms include decaying old shophouses (as opposed to 50-storey monsters) and the highest density of sacred must-sees in Bangkok. Whether you’re here for a few hours, a few days or more, every itinerary should include some time here. First stop is Wat Arun (p.33), also known as the Temple of Dawn. Actually pre-dating the Rattanakosin era, it’s a cornerstone of Thailand’s history. To get there, ride the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin then, once at the river, jump on an express boat (ask someone to point out which boat is an express). As you face the river, you want to be going right, upriver. Get off at Tha Tien pier and catch one of the numerous boats that cross to the other side. Wat Arun, with its spire aglow, is easy to spot. After admiring the sweeping panoramas from the top, cross the river back to Tha Tien pier. Then make your way to the city’s oldest temple complex, Wat Po (p.32). Here, see the immense reclining Buddha and have your muscles de-knotted at the famous Thai massage school. Temple initiation over, head north for the granddaddy of Bangkok sights: the Grand Palace (p.31) and Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (p.33). Snub the touts telling you it’s closed, and take plenty of time to pace, reverentially, around this gilded fairytale of a royal complex (note: the B300 ticket is also valid for Dusit’s Vimanmek Mansion, p.30). Hungry for more Thai history? Then exit and head north across the ancient ceremonial park, Sanam Luang, veer left and delve into the National Museum (p.34). Depending on your body and foot fatigue, you will probably find it is early evening.The rest of your evening is up to you – Rattanakosin has plenty of options. A good place to unwind over a drink or a meal is at one of the artsy eateries near the fort, along Phra Athit Road. Alternatively, grab a beer and some pad thai with the backpackers along Khao San Road. Or hit a cocktail bar like Amorosa, with its picture-postcard views over the river of lit-up Wat Arun.
Dining pit-stops: Use these restaurants to recharge en route. n The Deck Open-air restaurant with stunning views of river-straddling Wat Arun. 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road | 02-221-9158 | www.arunresidence.com n Khin Lom Chom Saphan Feast on Thai seafood while eyeballing river reflections of Rama VIII Bridge. 11/6 Soi Samsen 3 | 02-628-8382 n Thipsamai Famous pad thai restaurant. 313 Mahachai Rd | www.thipsamai.com n Tha Chang Food Market A lipsmacking local market unfurls here each day. 21
hinatown or Yaowarat, as it is known locally, is a sprawling, neon-lit enclave of tiny lanes, fabulous food, dramatic Chinese shrines and wiry old men sitting on plastic stools staring through thick-rimmed glasses. The centre of Bangkok’s Chinese community actually used to be a couple of clicks west, but when King Rama V decided to build his palace on Rattanakosin Island the neighbourhood decamped en masse to its current location. It’s a fantastic place just to wander around during the day, stuffing your face with weird fried things and trying to figure out just what the hell is being displayed in the Chinese pharmacy windows. Yaowarat Rd itself, Chinatown’s main stretch, comes alive at night when fold-up-table restaurants spill out over the pavements, and a million and one gold shops, with their ridiculously ostentatious facades, flick on their neon switches. It’s quite a sight. The best way to get there is by the underground. Take Exit 1 from Hua Lamphong MRT and look over to your right to take in Bangkok’s impressive main train station. This Renaissance-style edifice dates back to the early 20th century when King Rama V commissioned a bunch of Italian architects and engineers to give the capital a dash of European élan. Head straight on from Exit 1 and 22
cHINATOWN cross over a couple of roads and the canal until you hit Mittraphap Thai-China Rd. Down here you’ll find one of the most imposing temples in Bangkok, Wat Traimit Witthayaram (p.32) and, 50m further on, the Odeon Circle Gate, an enormous structure that serves as the entrance to Chinatown proper. Turn right and check out the San Chao Poy Sien shrine, before crossing over onto Yaowarat Rd and exploring the Thian Fah Foundation complex.
Continue alongYaowarat and, when you’re suitably disgusted/impressed by all the restaurants advertising bird’s nest and shark’s fin delicacies on Yaowarat, duck down Yaowaphanit Rd. Then turn right onto Sampheng Lane (officially Wanit 1 Rd). This wholesale shopping treasure trove used to be full of opium dens and brothels, although there’s not much more illicit than hair clips and rubber sandals on offer now. The lane’s not wide to start with, but fill it with food carts, dawdling shoppers and delivery boys on Vespas loaded with Hello Kitty schoolbags and you feel like a human pinball. Great fun! Emerging like a new born calf onto Ratchawong Rd, you’ve got a choice to make. Head left towards the river to explore the old colonial-style warehouses and catch a river taxi from Ratchawong Pier; jump in a cab and mumble “Pak Khlong Talad” (p.104) to explore the 24-hour flower market; cross the road and continue the market mayhem as Chinatown segues into Little India with all its fabric shops and samosa stalls; or turn right and head up bangkok 101
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to the other main Chinatown artery, Charoen Krung Rd. As you approach Charoen Krung you’ll cross back over Yaowarat Rd, passing the Grand China Princess hotel on your left. Turn left when you hit the main drag and walk about 500m to get to Nakhon Kasem, the old Thieves’ Market (p.104), or turn right and cross over to visit the wonderful Mangkorn Kamalawat temple complex. Opposite the temple, about 20 metres on, there’s a tiny, jam-packed lane, Soi 16, that connects with Yaowarat Rd. If you’re there at breakfast time, head on in for a seething, groaning wet-market with everything from huge sacks of tea and dried mushrooms to plastic tubs of writhing catfish. If you’ve timed it well, when you come out of Soi 16 (Yaowarat Rd Soi 6) night will have fallen and the neonlit optical orgy that is Yaowarat Rd will be in full flow. Squeeze past all the chestnut vendors and satay grillers and slip into an appealing restaurant or find a table at a streetside eatery to give your feet a well-earned rest.
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Song Wat Rd
Rama IV Rd
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1. Wat Traimit Witthayaram 2. San Chao Poy Sien shrine Auphairat 3.Wat Thian Fah Foundation 4.bamrung Canton House 5. Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat 6. Hua Seng Hong 7. T&K Seafood
Chao Phraya River See n San Chao Poy Sien Okay, it looks like a souvenir shop, but it’s actually a funky little shrine. Pop upstairs to the weird plastic cave-room to see the statue of the Chinese god Kuan Yim. n Thian Fah Foundation This atmospheric complex incorporates a hospital and another, more elegant shrine dedicated to Kuan Yim.
3335 | 11am-10pm Cheap, tasty and air-conditioned, Canton House has a great selection of dim-sum from B15 a pop. n Hua Seng Hong 371-373 Yaowarat Rd | 02-222-0635 | 9am-midnight Look out for the bright yellow sign, then squeeze past the crabs, ducks and shark fins into an air-conditioned dining room for tasty, reasonably priced Chinese fare.
n Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat Fight your way through the vendors in the entranceway and head straight to the temple at the back for a truly memorable experience.
Eat n T&K Seafood 49-52 Soi Phaduang,Yaowarat Rd | 022234519 | 4:30pm-2am Watch the crowds roll by and dishes being hoisted down on fishing lines from the upstairs kitchen. n Canton House Chaloem Buri Intersection | 02-221sightseeing
ike Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Sukhumvit Road is a futuristic thriller – a flawed, frenetic, yet often compelling urban streetscape. Towering hotels, condominiums and offices sprawl east across its skyline, while down below a global Who’s Who races anonymously among them. Along its main stretch cars and concrete assail the senses, while down its many flanking sois calmer, more serene atmospheres unfold. Once a suburban backwater dominated by a stretch of rice fields, Sukhumvit has evolved into the residential destination of choice for 24
hosts world class expos weekly (see calendar p.11), it is easily accessible via the centre’s MRT stop. Next head to the Siam Society for a quick shot of culture. On Asok Road (the unofficial “border” die-hard Sukhumvit dwellers rarely cross), it’s an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Thai heritage, art and culture through study trips, lectures and exhibitions. And out back is a stunning Northern Lanna teak house/ ethnological museum. After Asok, it’s on the Skytrain and off to Phrom Phong station. Here you will find the cultural epicentre of upper Sukhumvit, that shrine to nouveau riche Thai consumerism, Emporium. While you can easily get your shopping fever quietened with the bevy of established, world-class designers and up-and-coming Thai labels here, an interesting alternative is the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) on the sixth floor which continually stages thoughtprovoking, and usually free, exhibitions. Even better yet, TCDC is a short escalator ride away from the food floor, a United Nations of culinary possibilities. If your back is aching from scrutinising all those exhibits, why not take a stretch among the modern sculptures and trim greenery of adjoining Benjasiri Park? Shopaholics can probe Thong Lo further, staking out the neighbourhood for designer clothing, jewellery,
aspirational Thais and the expats who work with them. As a result, it has developed its own village culture – marked by twee cafés, achingly hip boutiques and a veritable nation of fantastical day spas. In other words, when temple and museum-weariness set in, Sukhumvit could very well offer the perfect antidote. Only helping matters is the Skytrain, which swooshes like a slo-mo bullet above it. Get a quick jump on the day and loosen up with a morning stroll around the lake in Benjakitti Park. Located adjacent to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, which sightseeing
EAT Coffee Bean by Dao | Casa Viva Apartment, Ekamai Soi 12, Sukhumvit Soi 63 | 02-713-2504~8 The cheesecakes at this local hi-so cake stop are out of this world. n Crêpes & Co | 18 Sukhumvit Soi 12 | 02-653-3990 Nestled in a quiet soi, in a palm-fronded garden, this French/Meditterean cafe serves an excellent all-day brunch. n Agalico | 20 Sukhumvit 51 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-662-5857 An all-white tea lounge situated in a lush garden. Only open weekends.Take a ride down Sukhumvit Soi 51, and take the first right. n Uomasa | Nihomura, 87 Thong Lo Soi 13 | 02-392-6575 Found in the wooden Nihomura compound, Uomasa is particularly recommended for sashimi lovers. n
3 is Bangkok’s very own Little Arabia. Those looking to make a very Thai night of it (whisky sodas, a Thai live band) should head to one of the jumping joints along Thong Lo or Ekamai. Sukhumvit Soi 11 – home to veterans like Bed Supperclub and Q Bar (p.84) – will satisfy your international clubbing needs. But for the best of Sukhumvit’s beau monde haunts its got to be Long Table (p.86): a cocktail at this 25th floor design bar, with its movers and shakers and electric panoramas, is not easily forgotten.
DRINK n Shades of Retro | Soi Tararom
2,Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55) | BTS Thong Lo | 08-1824-8011 | 1pmmidnight People craving a drink and some laid-back conversation need look no further than antique store/ nostalgia café Shades of Retro. n Cheap Charlie’s | Sukhumvit Soi 11 Bangkok’s most bizarre bar (p.88). n Nest | Sukhumvit Soi 11 Found opposite Q Bar, this sleek yet cosy rooftop bar won’t ruffle your feathers (p.91). n Nang Len | Ekamai Soi 5, Sukhumvit Soi 63 | 02-711-6565 The name means “to sit around” inThai. However you’d probably win the lottery before you find a seat here on weekends.
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furniture and books. Or, should you be toying with matrimony, wedding garb. Hop on over to J-Avenue, Bangkok’s little slice of neon Tokyo and watch as beautiful people and their even prettier cars roll in. Once dinnertime rolls around check out “Japan Town” in Thong Lo Soi 13, where a clutch of great Japanese restaurants like Uomasa lurk. Finally, when it comes to Sukhumvit, the night time is definitely the right time. Drinking, dining, dancing, debauchery... it’s all here. For a go on a shisha pipe, Sukhumvit Soi
vit Rd Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai)
QUEEN SIRIKIT NATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE
SPA n Divana Divine Spa | 103 Thong
Lo Soi 17, Sukhumvit Soi 55 | 02-7128986 | www.divana-dvn.com n Rasayana Retreat | 57 Soi Prommitr, Sukhumvit Soi 39 | 02-6624803-5 | www.rasayanretreat.com n Hapa Spa | 20/4 Sukhumvit Soi 3 | BTS Nana | 02-253-9860 | www.hapaspa.com n Bangkok Oasis Spa | 64 Soi Swaddee, Sukhumvit 31 | 02-2622122 | www.bangkokoasis.com 25
Silom & Sathorn
he Sathorn/Silom area personifies Bangkok’s split personality. The white collar, bustling crux of Bangkok’s business world by day, this whirlwind area houses a grab bag of cultural and religious sites. But when night falls this area hustles, gyrates, and rears a very different head. Silom and Sathorn spills over with yuppies and bigwigs during the day, kicking it up a gear after office hours, with a jiving scene of clubs, expat pubs, some shady characters, and one ohso-notorious little lane. Set the alarm and beat the sun to the punch; there’s much to be done
Niu’s on Silom
today. Take the MRT to the Sam Yan stop. Walk towards Silom and take a venomous venture into the Snake Farm (see p.35) and watch wranglers extract poison from serpents. If you dare you can even pet a cobra or kiss a python! If you’re still alive, continue on for a nice stroll in Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s largest public open area. If it’s the weekend take a taxi into the past with former P.M. Kukrit’s Heritage House (see p.30). Go back down tree-lined Convent Road, known as Bangkok’s French Quarter for its cluster of cafés, butcher’s shop and a bakery, La Boulange. After filling up follow the throngs of office workers into Soi Lalai Sup (“the soi that melts your assets”), squeezing through the chaos, hunting down bargain clothes, gifts and other knick-knack paddywhacks. Further down Silom on Thanon Pan, you will come across Wat Mahamariamman. Referred to by locals as Wat Kaek, it is the most famous Hindu temple in Bangkok sightseeing
and rituals are performed here daily at noon. Right across the street is Kathmandu Gallery featuring great photo exhibits, and also Silom Village which is a nice spot to pick up some handicrafts. Just before sunset hits, head up to the top floor of the Banyan Tree to the aptly titled Moon Bar at Vertigo (see p.87). Two hundred metres above the pavement, this bar’s main attraction is the completely unobstructed 360 degree Bangkok panorama (similarly sky-high bars in the area include State Tower’s Sky Bar or, if raining, the indoors V9 at the Sofitel Silom). Once you’ve soaked it all in, or your knees started shaking, descend back to street level. The night is still far too young. If you’re a jazz-lover, now would be a good time to catch some live jazz and top-notch Italian fare at Niu’s on Silom. Or, if wine’s your thang, head to friendly oenophile hangout Opus. Otherwise, cab it to Lumpini National Boxing Stadium (see p.112) around the corner, which will guarantee bangkok 101
Suk ree an T
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1. Snake Farm 2. Lumphini Park 3. Soi Convent 4. Soi Lalai Sup 5. Wat Mahamariamman 6. Lumphini National Boxing Stadium 7. Suan Lum Night Bazaar 8. Patpong
Jok Sam Yan
adrenaline rushes, as young men kick and punch the hell out of each other. For something less violent, Suan Lum Night Bazaar (see p.104), a pricier but less sweaty version of Chatuchak is just seconds away. Seafood restaurants abound here and the Joe Louis Puppet Theater (see p.56) is great for a cultural show. There’s also a good beer garden. For some rowdy (and raunchy) times back to Silom you go. There’s still shopping to be done here as many street vendors are just starting their day selling trinkets, clothes, and cheap knock-offs. If you’re looking for something a bit more hip, the bars and clubs in Silom Soi 4 will suffice. If you’re gay, look no further than samesex central, Silom Soi 2. And if you’re feeling frisky and don’t mind being harassed by touts, immerse yourself in the decadent not-so-underworld that is Soi Patpong. Be careful around here and do not follow strangers offering free shows. But don’t hold back, because whatever you choose to do in this part of town at this time, you’re most likely to wake up with no recollection of it.
EAT n EAT ME! 20 M. off Convent Rd. (Soi Pipat 2), Silom | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-2380931, 02-233-1767, 081-293-6326 | www.eatmerestaurant.com | 3pm – 1am | $$$ This trendy yet intimate restaurantcum-art gallery gets both elements – the food and art – right. n Coyote on Covent Sivadon Building, 1/2 Convent Road | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-631-2325 Mouthwatering Mexicana: Burritos, enchiladas, 50-plus Margeritas. n Souvlaki Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng; MRT Silom | 02-632-9967 | www.souvlaki.co.th | 11am - 2am Greek cuisine till late. n Jok Sam Yan Phayathai Rd, btw Soi Chula 52 and 54 | MRT Sam Yan | Mon-Sun 3-8am & Mon-Fri 3-8pm This Thai shop-house institution only sells one dish: jok moo (rice congee with pork). DRINK n OPUS 64 Pan Road, Soi Wat Kaek, Silom | BTS Surasak | 02-637-9899 An urbane wine bar stocking 400, almost exclusively Italian labels. sightseeing
Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02632-7982 | 8pm-2am House music and cocktails all week long in this Moroccan grotto. n Niu’s On Silom 661 Fl. 1-2 Silom Rd. btw Soi 17 & 19 | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-266-5333 | niusonsilom.com | 5pm – 1am | $$$ A classy jazz lounge offering world-class everything – musicians, wine, service, atmosphere and food. SHOP n Café Ubuntu Shop 9, Grand Terrace Condominium, Sala Daeng Rd | 02-632-0381 Buy everything from coffee to rustic art and t-shirts at this funky hybrid. n Jim Thompson 9 Surawong Rd | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom | 02-632-8100 | www.jimthompson.com Sumptuous silk items at the American enigma’s flagship store. Spa n Health Land Spa 120 North Sathorn Rd | BTS Chong Nonsi | daily 9am – 11pm | www.healthlandspa.com n Ruen Nuad 42 Convent Road | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-632-2663 | 10am-9pm 27
route 101 Siam Paragon
Siam and Pr atunam
of Panthip Plaza. Chockful of gadgets and some highly suspicious software, Panthip is worth visiting but it is truly a place where the ‘buyer beware’ motto should be kept in mind. Double back on yourself once more and head back to the junction. Turn south to where you previously crossed the canal. It is time to give your feet a rest and take a boat ride on Klong Saen Saeb. Get on a boat heading west and get off at Jim Thompson’s House (see p.30). Thailand’sP second most popular tourist he destinationtchaisburiaRd.wonderful, meditative place to wander around and perhaps Phe
Rd. New Phetchaburi
1. Erawan shrine 2. Pratunam market 3. Baiyoke Tower 4. Panthip Plaza 5. Jim Thompson’s House 6. CentralWorld
Royal Bangkok Sport Club (R.B.S.C)
ri Rd. Ratchadam
PATHUMWAN Soi Chula
Intercontinental Holiday Inn
ra Chitlom l
Grand Hyatt Erawan
Soi Phet chaburi
ve Disco Siam nter m Ce Paragon ■ Sia m ia S ■
■ Zen ■ Centra l
nter ry Ce
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Hau Chang Bridge
he Pratunam and Siam Square districts are famed as a shopper’s paradise. From the chaos of the shop-4-all places like the Mahboonkrong Center (MBK) and the Pratunam clothes market to the elegance of Siam Paragon Mall and Central Chidlom shopping centres, the range of goods is staggering. Hidden among these mammoth malls and markets are some very Thai activities that should not be missed. Start the day off with a visit to a popular spot if you wish to pray for good fortune from the four-faced Hindu God Brahma. On the corner of the junction with Ploenchit Road and Ratchadamri, the Erawan Shrine is renowned for bringing good luck. Then cross over Ploenchit Road and head north up Ratchadamri Road. Just after you cross the canal (khlong) is another major junction with Phetchaburi Road. On the other side of this road is the legendary Pratunam clothes market (see p. 105), reputedly the largest market of its kind in Thailand. Then head back south to Phetchaburi Road and turn right. After a few minutes’ walk, on the other side of the road is the computer geek paradise
indulge at the café. Take a right out of here and turn left at the end of the soi. Walking toward Siam Square and on the left corner of the junction, between Rama I and Phayathai Road, you can’t miss the crisp, concrete curves of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). Called the “Guggenheim meets a shopping mall” by our very own art critic, this is Bangkok’s new modern art scene central. After all this walking, a sit-down is probably in order. CentralWorld, Asia’s largest “lifestyle shopping complex”, houses scores of great restaurants and a fantastic cinema complex, where you can treat yourself to a ‘luxury cinema’ screening (see p.58). Top off your day with a yin-yang cocktail at Centara Grand hotel’s ultra-chic rooftop bar, Red Sky (p.86). You don’t even need to leave the bracing confines of the CentralWorld complex to get there. Just take an escalator to level one, catch a lift to the hotel’s lobby, and from there make like a rocket to the 55th floor.
historic buildings JIM THOMPSON’S HOUSE (map C3, #16) 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | BTS National Stadium| 02-2167368 | www.jimthompsonhouse.com | daily 9am-5pm | B100 (B50 students) One of the things to do in Bangkok is visit the home of Jim Thompson, the American businessman largely responsible for the global popularity of hand-woven Thai silk. Found in a sun-dappled tropical garden, beside a pungent canal, this complex of six traditional teak houses from around the country is testament to his commitment to preserving regional art and culture. Each brims with art and antiques rescued from around Asia: everything from limestone Buddha torsos to a cat-shaped porcelain bedpan. Free tour guides discuss these exquisite treasures and the much-mythologised life of the man himself. There’s also a shop selling his trademark designs, an art gallery and a café.
บ้านไทย จิมทอมป์สัน ซ.เกษมสันต์ 2 ตรงข้ามสนามกีฬาแห่งชาติ
M.R. KUKRIT’S HOUSE (map C4,#20) 19 Soi Phra Pinit, Sathorn Rd | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-2868185 | Sat, Sun & Holidays 10am – 5pm, weekdays by appt. only | B50 (B20 kids) Kukrit Pramoj was one of Thailand’s most-loved statesmen of the 20th century. A natural all-rounder, he was a poet, a writer and even served as prime minister in the 1970s. His peaceful abode with its lovely gardens, now on show to the public and off the tourist trail is a terrific example of traditional Thai architecture. บ้านหม่อมราชวงศ์คึกฤทธิ์ ซ.พระพินิจ สาทรใต้้
VIMANMEK MANSION (map B2,#1) 139/2 Ratchawithi Rd, Dusit | 02-281-1569 | daily 9am-4pm | B100 The world’s largest teakwood building was originally built on the island of Koh Si Chang, in 1868, and then moved, piece by piece, to Bangkok for use by King Rama V. Its 81 rooms, spread over three floors, overlook a beautiful garden. Inside, many of his acquisitions from international trips are on display, including possibly the first bathtub in the kingdom, antique photographs and fine porcelain. Regular tours in English are held throughout the day. พระทีน ่ ง่ั วิมานเมฆ ถ.ราชวิถี เขตดุสติ WANG SUAN PAKKARD (map C3, #15) Si Ayutthaya Rd, Ratchathewi | BTS Phaya Thai | 02-245-4934 | www. suanpakkad.com | 9am – 4pm | B100 A former market garden that was converted into a residence and garden by Princess Chumbot. Consisting of five reconstructed Thai wooden houses, Wang Suan Pakkard pays testament to her dedication to collecting Thai artefacts and antiques. Of note are the examples of Buddhist and Hindu art, the ceramics from old Ban Chiang and the delightful lacquer pavilion depicting scenes from the Ramayana. วังสวนผักกาด ถ.ศรีอยุธยา ราชเทวี ANANTA SAMAKHOM PALACE Throne Hall (map B2, #2) Uthong Nai Rd, Dusit, opp Dusit Zoo | 8:30am-4pm | B50 This stately parlimentary palace was built during the reign of RamaV and completed by Rama VI. Cast in white Carrara marble, it is still used for the ceremonial opening of the first parliamentary session. Influenced by Renaissance architecture, the interior is decorated with detailed frescoes, by Italian Galileo Chini, of royal ceremonies and festivities. พระทีน ่ ง่ั อนันตสมาคม ถ.อูท่ องใน ดุสติ
Jim Thompson:The Man behind the Mystery Check this out for a CV: a Princeton graduate and former US spook turns Bangkok socialite, silk revivalist and Asiaphile antiques collector before disappearing mysteriously in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967. Jim Thompson’s strangerthan-fiction life story makes for a twisting, ultimately tragic tale.This, along with the sheen of his famous silks, his entrepreneurial skills and impeccable taste, has made him Thailand’s most famous farang (westerner).Today he’s a brand gone global.You can visit his stunning home (see above), buy his trademark fabrics in Argentina or Australia, and read a slew of gossipy biographies peddling myths that only seal the legend. But it’s perhaps at Ban Krua, the Muslim silk-weaving community found near his home, where his legacy is most lasting. Here the cottage industry he resuscitated continues to thrive – a testimony both to the skill of the weavers who live there, and the visionary American who believed in them. 30
the grand palace
THE GRAND PALACE & WAT PHRA KAEW (map A3, #10) Na Phra Lan Rd, near Sanam Luang | 02-222-0094 | daily 8:30am-4pm | B350 includes entry to Vimanmek Mansion | dress respectfully The granddaddy of all Thai sights. Don’t let the touts who mill around outside put you off a visit to this, the Kingdom’s holiest and most beloved keepsake – a fantastical 218,400m2 royal complex that comes enclosed by quaintly crenulated white-walls, and at night sparkles like the jewel in some Oriental fairytale. Building began in 1782, the year Bangkok was founded, and every monarch subsequent to King Rama I has expanded or enhanced it. Today, despite your being able to visit many stunning sights on its grounds, much of it remains off-limits.Though the current king now holds court at Chitralada Palace, in the northern district of Dusit, the Grand Palace is still used for major ceremonies or royal functions. The Chakri Mahaprasat Hall – colloquially known as the “Westerner
in a Thai hat” due to its blend of Thai and European architecture – is well worth seeing, and there are a couple of state rooms and other halls that are open to visitors. These include the Amarin Vinitchai Throne Hall, where the King still delivers his birthday speech, and a small weapons museum. Multilingual tour guides can be hired. The highlight is the Emerald Buddha – Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist relic – and the ornate temple purpose-built to house it, Wat Phra Kaew, where hundreds pay their respects each day. This was completed two years after the capital was moved from Thonburi to Rattanakosin in 1784, and forms the northeastern corner of the complex. The Emerald Buddha was discovered in 1434, when lightning is said to have struck a chedi in Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand. It was originally covered in stucco which peeled off over time to reveal the brilliant green stone beneath. It was then moved around Northern Thailand by a succession of Thai kings
before being taken by the Lao to Vientiane. Rama I retook the statue in 1779 and brought it back to Thailand where he placed it at the centre of his new capital. Apart from the amazing architecture, gilded statues and the majesty of the temple, the walls of Wat Phra Kaew’s cloisters feature must-see examples of Thai mural art, documenting the life and travels of the Buddha and scenes from the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Remember to dress respectfully (a strict no shorts or sleeveless shirts policy is enforced). And for a wide, panoramic perspective try looking back while stood on Sanam Luang, the ancient public green used for royal ceremonies and political rallies. Seen from here, the complex’s many flameshaped roof eaves and gold-mirrored chedi, which glow an iridescent orange at night, are no less awe-inspiring.
Bangkok has its share of brilliantly choreographed and well-practised street scams, often active in the area around the Grand Palace. Typically these involve being “befriended” by a seemingly straight-up local, and with true sophistication they often result in travellers not reaching their intended destination, but instead visiting an alternative temple and eventually a jewellery outlet. The bottom line is, if anyone, no matter how official they may appear (and this includes uniformed guards!), tells you that the palace or Wat Pho, for example, is closed, you are likely being set up. Our advice: politely decline any such offers and proceed directly to the actual ticket booth (presuming, of course, that you have arrived during official opening hours).
The Giant Swing
temples WAT SAKET (map B3, #7) Chakkraphatdiphong Rd, Sattruphai | 02-233-4561 | 7:30am-5:30pm | B10 Raised on a small hillock, and thus referred to as the Golden Mount, this wat offers great views of Chinatown to the south and the Old City to the north. The hill is all that is left of the fortifications for a large chedi that Rama III planned to construct on the site that gave way under the weight. Rama V built a smaller chedi on top, which was subsequently expanded to house a Buddhist relic inside. The temple is worth a visit for the view if you are prepared to hike up the 318 steps.
WAT MAHATHAT (map A3) Tha Prachan, Sanam Luang, Mahratch Rd | 02-221-5999 | 9am-5pm| free An amulet market is situated near this 18th-century centre of the Mahanikai monastic sect and an important university of Buddhist teaching. On weekends, market stalls are set up on the grounds to complement the daily vendors of traditional medicines and herbal potions. Wat Mahathat is one temple in Bangkok where courses on Buddhism are given in English.
วัดมหาธาตุ ท่าพระจันทร์ สนามหลวง
WAT SUTHAT and THE GIANT SWING (map A-B3, #8) Bamrung Muang Rd, Phra Nakhorn, | 02-2229632 | 9am-5pm | B20 Surrounded by perhaps the greatest concentration of Buddhist supply shops in Bangkok, Wat Suthat is one of the most important Buddhist centres in the kingdom and home to some excellent examples of bronze sculpture, a blend of Thai and Chinese-style mural art 32
and a 14th-century Sukhothai period statue. The wat used to be the site for annual harvest ceremonies where brave men would swing up to great heights to catch a bag of gold coins in their teeth. However, the practice proved a bit too dangerous and was banned in the 1930s. Today the huge red structure, named the Giant Swing, still stands in front of the temple.
วัดสุทัศน์ ถ.บำรุงเมือง พระนคร ตรงข้ามเสาชิงช้า
WAT BOWONIWET VIHARA (map A3) Phra Sumen Rd, Banglamphu | 02-281-2831-3 | all day long | free Home to the respected Maha Makut Buddhist University, this temple is par ticularly important to the monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty as Rama VI, Rama VII and the present king were all ordained as monks here.
WAT BENCHAMA BOPHIT (map B2, #3) 69 Rama V Rd, Dusit | 02-6287947 | 8am-6pm B20 This white Italian Carrara marble wat dates from the 19th century. Alms are brought here by generous Buddhist families in the early mornings. วัดเบญจมบพิตร ถ.พระราม 5 WAT RATCHANATDA (map B3) Mahachai Rd, Phra Nakhorn | 02-2248807 | 9am-5pm | free This temple, a centre for buying amulets, features the bizarre multitiered Loh Prasat. Collecting amulets is popular in Thailand and many believe these miniature images of Buddha sightseeing
possess spiritual powers, protecting the wearer and bringing good fortune.
วัดราชนัดดา ถ.มหาชัย พระนคร
WAT TRAIMIT (map B3, #13) 661 Hua Lamphong, Charoen Krung Rd | 02-623-1226 | 8am-5pm | B20 Housed safely in this unassuming Chinatown temple is the world’s largest solid gold Buddha. Weighing over five tonnes and standing over three metres high, its worth has been estimated at over US$10 million.
วัดไตรมิตร หัวลำโพง (เยาวราช)
WAT PO (map A3, #11) Reclining Buddha | Chetuphon/Thai Wang Rd | 02-226-0369 | www.watpho.com | 8am-noon, 1-5pm | B50 The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok. Originating in the 16th century, it houses the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand as well as the greatest number of Buddha images. Wat Po is also the centre for traditional Thai medicine and a learning centre for Thai massage, where you can both enjoy and learn this ancient healing art. The 45m-long statue depicts the Buddha entering nirvana and is impressive both for its size and the mother-of-pearl detail on the soles of the feet, a blueprint revealing the 108 auspicious signs of a genuine Buddha.
WAT ARUN (map A3, #12) Temple of Dawn | Arun Amarin Rd | 02465-5640 | www.watarun.org | 8am5pm | B20 Across the river from Wat Po is Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn, one of the city’s most important and beguiling religious sites. Before being moved to Wat Phra Kaew, the Emerald Buddha was temporarily housed here. The five-towered structure is covered almost entirely in pieces of colourful porcelain and designed as a representation of Mount Mehru, the Khmer home of the gods. The temple is believed to have been named by Rama I on his first sunrise visit, but in contrast with its name, it is best visited at dusk when the setting sun forms a stunning backdrop.
วัดอรุณราชวราราม ถ.อรุณอัมรินทร์ ผั่งตะวันตกของแม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา
Apart from the many Buddhist temples across the city, there are lots of small shrines where devotees pay their respects to Hindu deities, Animist spirits and even errant spooks. Many of the most famous – and visited – are centred around Ratchaprasong, the mall-cluttered central district. Here it’s not unusual to see a Thai wai a God while on their way to the Gucci store.
ERAWAN SHRINE (map C3, #17) Ratchadamri Rd, near Grand Hyatt Erawan | 02-252-8754 | 6:30am10:30pm | BTS Chit Lom Don’t expect serenity here.This is one of Bangkok’s busiest intersections: the crowded shrine to the Hindu creation god Brahma and his elephant Erawan is filled with worshippers lighting incense, buying lottery tickets and watching the traditional dancing group, which performs for a nominal fee. Fancy making an offering? Buy a set from the surrounding stalls, and starting with your back to the main entrance walk around it clockwise, offering 3 incense sticks, a candle, garland and a piece of gold leaf to each of the four faces.
TRIMURTI SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd If your love life is ailing then this shrine is for you: at 9.30pm each Thursday it’s rumoured that Lord Trimurti descends from the heavens to answer prayers of the heart.To maximise your chances of meeting your dream beau you should offer nine-red incense sightseeing
sticks, red candles, red roses and fruit. Alternatively, you could try saying hello to the person next to you.
พระตรีมูรติ หน้าห้างอิเซตัน ศูนย์การค้าเซนทรัลเวิลด์
GANESHA SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd Perhaps the most recognisable Hindu deity, a silent prayer in front of this pot-bellied gold elephant – the son of Shiva and Parvati – is said to help get the creative juices flowing, as well as protect you from harm. Aside from marigold garlands, bring bananas, ripe mango or sticky rice-flour Thai desserts – Ganesha has an eternal appetite.
พระพิฆเนศวร หน้าห้างอิเซตัน ศูนย์การค้าเซนทรัลเวิลด์
museums THE NATIONAL MUSEUM (map A3) 5 Chao Fa Rd, Sanam Luang | 02-2241333 | www.thailandmuseum. com | Wed-Sun 9am-4pm | B40 Previously a palace during the reign of Rama V, the National Museum features extensive displays of Thai artefacts from the main historical periods, encompassing the Lanna, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai kingdoms up to the present day. Thai culture is well documented in sections on dance, music and drama. The first example of Thai literature and the Thai alphabet, inscribed by King Ramkhamhaeng on a black stone during the Sukhothai period, is also on display. Free English tours are given on Wednesdays (about Buddhism) and Thursdays (on art/culture) and start at 9:30am. Photography is not allowed inside the museum galleries.
พิพธิ ภัณฑ์สถานแห่งชาติ ถ.เจ้าฟ้า ใกล้ทอ้ งสนามหลวง
ROYAL BARGE MUSEUM (map A3) 80/1 Rim Khlong Bangkok Noi, Arun Amarin Rd,Thonburi | 02-424-0004 | 9am-5pm | B30 (photo B100, video B200) This collection of royal barges, some up to 50 metres long, is housed on the Thonburi side of the river in a series of elaborate sheds near Pinklao Bridge.The barges are best seen in action during rare ceremonial processions on the Chao Phraya, when the crews number up to 64 and include rowers, umbrella holders, navigators and musicians. Beautiful and ornate, these magnificent long craft were completely renovated and restored to their former glory by the present King, who also commissioned the newest boat for his golden jubilee in 1996.
It’s not all Buddhist art you know. Several museums in and around Bangkok delve into Thailand’s wacky and idiosyncratic. Definitely the most macabre, the Si Quey Forensics Museum revels in pickled body parts and cadavers of serial killers. A close second, the Corrections Museum uses lifelike models to recreate the rough justice meted out to crims in the not so old days (you’ll think twice about that sly toke after a trip here). Also in central Bangkok, the Museum of Counterfeit Goods displays 1,500 of Thailand’s best forgeries. As long as you call ahead (and don’t use it as a means to spot that fake handbag on Patpong the next day), you’re welcome. On the outskirts, the weekends only House of Museums is a two-storey sprawl of retro curiosities. Finally, if you’re a cinephile interested in Thailand’s New Wave, learn about the heritage that inspired your Pen-Eks and Apichatpongs at the Thai Film Museum in Nakhom Pathom. By appointment on weekdays, here you walk among recreated film sets, old 16mm cameras and waxwork figures of Thai cine heroes. Si Quey Forensics Museum (Official Name ‘Siriraj Medical Museum’) 2 Prannok road, Bangkoknoi | www.si.mahidol.ac.th | 02- 419-7000 ext 6363 | Mon-Sat 9am – 4pm | B40
พิพธิ ภัณฑ์การแพทย์ศริ ริ าช ถ.พรานนก
Corrections Museum 436 Bangkok Remand Prison, Mahachai Rd., Samranrat, Phra Nakhon | Mon-Fri 9am - 4pm | 02-226-1704 | free
พิพธิ ภัณฑ์ราชทัณฑ์ เรือนจำเก่า ใกล้กบั สวนรมณีนาถ
Museum of Counterfeit Goods Supalai Grand Tower Building 26F, Rama III Rd | 02-653-5555 | www.tillekeandgibbins.com | by appointment only | BTS Surasak
พิพธิ ภัณฑ์สนิ ค้าปลอมและเลียนแบบ ถ.พระราม3
House of Museums 170/17 Moo 17 Soi Klong Po 2, Salathammasop Rd., Taweewattana| http:// houseofmuseums.siam.edu | 089-666-2008 |Sat-Sun 10am – 5pm | B30
บ้านพิพธิ ภัณฑ์ ซ.คลองโพ 2 ศาลาธรรมสพน์
Thai Film Museum 94 Moo 3 Bhuddhamonton Sai 5, Salaya, Nakorn Pathom| www.nfat.org | 02-482- 2013-15 | weekday: appointment only, weekend tours: 10am, noon, 3pm | free
หอภาพยนตร์แห่งชาติ 94 หมู่ 3 ถ.พุทธมณฑลสาย 5
MUSEUM OF SIAM (map A3) 4 Samachai Rd., Pra Nakorn | 02622-2599 | www.ndmi.or.th | Tue-Sun 10am-6pm | free admission Just a few blocks from the Grand Palace, the Children’s museum is located inside the historic Ministry of Commerce building. Inside the three storey, E-shaped Renaissance style building, built in 1921, is a series of interactive, animated, theme park-like sightseeing
exhibitions exploring the history of the Siamese people. For adult viewers making sense of each room might be confusing: topics unexpectedly jump from ethnicity to religion to ancient folklore. Kids though will find it an edutaining experience, and love playing with the vibrant touch screens.
สถาบันพิพิธภัณฑ์การเรียนรู้ แห่งชาติ ถ.สนามไชย
the great outdoors
Siam Ocean World
FLORA LUMPINI PARK (map C4) Entrances on Rama IV Rd, Sarasin Rd, Witthayu Rd and Ratchadamri Rd | free Want shades of green instead of drab slabs of grey? For most in the city Lumpini Park, the inner city’s largest green lung, is the solution. Busy as soon as the sun rises and again around sunset, Bangkokians of every ilk take advantage of the relative cool and quiet to practice Tai Chi, do aerobics, hold hands or jog around the picturesque lakes. Other activities include taking a pedal boat out onto the water for a quick spin. The most reliable entrance is the one near Silom at the corner of Rama IV Road and Ratchadamri Road, at the front of which a statue of King Rama VI stands sentinel. สวนลุมพินี เข้าได้ทาง ถ.พระราม 4
ถ.สารสิน ถ.วิทยุและ ถ.ราชดำริ
RAMA IX ROYAL PARK (off map) Sukhumvit 103 Rd, behind Seri Center, Pravet 02-328-1972, 02-328-1395 | 5:30am-7pm | B10 This 200-acre park features a small museum dedicated to the king, set amongst pleasant botanical gardens with lots of soothing water features. สวนหลวง ร.9 ถ.สุขุมวิท 103
(หลังเสรี เซ็นเตอร์) ประเวศ
CHATUCHAK and QUEEN SIRIKIT PARKS (map C-D1) 820 Phahonyothin Rd, Ladyao Sub-district, Chatuchak | 02-2724358~9 | 5am-6:30pm | free These two parks situated not far from the mayhem of the weekend market offer some respite. Chatuchak Park hosts some art exhibits and a collection of old railway engines and ancient automobiles. Nearby, Queen Sirikit Park has a pretty botanical garden with lotus ponds.
สวนจตุจกั รและ สวนสมเด็จ พระนางเจ้า สิรกิ ติ ์ิ 820 ถ. พหลโยธิน จตุจกั ร
FAUNA DUSIT ZOO (map B2) 71 Rama V Rd, opp. Chitralada Palace, Dusit | 02-281-2000 | 8am-6pm | adults B100, kids B50 The city’s main zoo, situated to the north of Rattanakosin, is home to a large selection of mammals, reptiles and other animals. Spread over a large park, there’s also a lake to paddle around. สวนสัตว์ดุสิต 71 ถ.พระราม 5
QUEEN SAOVABHA MEMORIAL INSTITUTE (Snake Farm) (map C4, #18) 1871 Rama IV Rd, Thai Red Cross, Henri Dunant | 02-252-0161~4 ext.120 | Mon-Fri sightseeing
8:30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am – noon (Shows at 11am & 2:30pm) | B200 A centre for developing antidotes to poisonous snake bites, this research facility is also open to the public. The idea behind this is to educate visitors about the dangers of poisonous snakes in Thailand and what to do with the victim of a snake bite. There’s an informative slide show followed by a display of live venom extraction from some of the deadliest serpents in the kingdom. สถานเสาวภา (สวนงู)
ถ.พระราม 4 สภากาชาดไทย
Siam Ocean World (map C3) B1F Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Rd | www.siamoceanworld.com | 10am-7pm | 02-687-2001 | B650/850 Such a pity that this tourist attraction – reputed to be the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia – operates a dual pricing policy. If you’reThai you pay B350; if you’re not you pay B850. This irritating iniquity aside, there’s certainly fun to be had inside, with 8m-high tanks, glass-tunnel walk-throughs and shark-feeding shows – although a ride on a glass-bottom boat to see sharks and rays costs extra and is wholly unremarkable. Reckon on an hour to get round the whole thing. สยามพารากอน ถ.พระราม 1 35
in the neighbourhood
BANGKOK ART & CULTURE CENTRE
fter a year-long soft opening, the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre opened officially in August. Here’s the rub – after a confused period that saw much of it sitting empty, budget setbacks and conflicts between city bureaucrats and artists Bangkok’s 9-storey, 500 million baht arts centre is now definitely ripe for a visit. Folk lullaby and B-boy performances on the ground floor, art shops and mime-artist fringe shows are just a few of the activities now luring in everyone from dek neaw (teen hipsters) to slightly baffled looking shoppers. More importantly, the exhibition halls up on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors are now humming with art and art appreciators. Three exhibitions look set to keep it that way into October. Unsung Melody in a Lullaby is on the seventh floor. Exploring the mother-child bond, this collection of paintings, sculptures, installations and poetry by various Thai artists don’t quite gel. But that’s not to say there aren’t some striking pieces, most notably Nonthivathn Chandhanaphalin’s curvy, sensuous human sculptures. Then, on the eighth there’s Khon Prommas: a fascinating introduction to the history, opulent costumes, props, make-up techniques, crafts and characters that dovetail to form the graceful and dying Thai performance art known as khon. Both run until October 11. Lastly, on the ninth floor, Portrait of the King… The Art of Iconography runs until November 15. This honorific display presents over 30 artists impressions – portraits, abstracts, sculptures – of His Majesty, including paintings like Sompote Thongdaeng’s wonderful Our King, a grey canvas splattered in graffiti and child like sketches. There are installations, free art classes in the centre of the exhibition hall, and, every other weekend, a music ensemble performs compositions by His Majesty. It may be a safe area for artistic examination but it’s certainly one the public can – and are – engaging with. After you’ve had your fill of homegrown art, spend some time exploring Art-trium: a smorgasbord of art-related shops on the ground, second, third and fourth floors. It includes, among others, a branch of the Ardel Gallery, a Thai Film Foundation shop and paint shops offering workshops and equipment at discount prices. We, for one, hope the BACC will over time evolve into a more cutting-edge, international arts platform. Certainly they need to keep the art activities coming if they’re to stop this 25,000m² space from feeling vacuous. For now, however, there’s more than enough here to stand around and stroke your chin at, even if it doesn’t have the artistic clout of your Guggenheims and Tate Moderns. Keep your eyes on their website (www.bacc.or.th) or our very own Bangkok Art Map (www.bangkokartmap.com) for the lowdown. And note also that the Bangkok Design Festival 2009 also plans to hold some happenings here in mid-October (see Metrobeat for more). Entry to the BACC is free and it’s easily accessible via the raised pedestrian walkway that links MBK mall with Siam Discovery Centre mall, so you can easily combine a visit here with your Siam Square shopping (yes, if you hadn’t already spotted the elephant in the room, the battle between commerce and art rages here, both inside and outside the building). Where 939 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, 02-214-6630-1 www.bacc.or.th OPEN Tue-Sun 10am-9pm BTS National Stadium 36
he district of Amphawa is located in Samut Songkram province, the smallest of 76 in Thailand, about 75km (an hour-anda-half drive) from Bangkok. It’s easily reachable for a day trip, but even better as an overnight trip. Amphawa has an extensive mazy network of over 300 clean-ish canals that act as tributaries running off the Mae Klong River; often Bangkokians persuade each other into swimming in the local canal (something they would never consider at home). The area’s first noteworthy historical claim is as the birthplace of Queen Amarindra, wife of King Rama I. King Rama II was subsequently also born here, a place also notable for streets so narrow there’s barely room for a single overtaking motorbike to pass you as you explore the tiny district. The town’s lovely King Rama II Park is well worth a visit. A visit to Amphawa is to be reminded of bygone days, seemingly a more innocent time when folk were friendlier and the pace of life slower. Government support has resulted in a proliferation of well-kept homestays, ranging from brand new resorts to simple, traditional teakwood houses. The classic Thai-style villas of charming riverside resort Baan Amphawa deserve special mention; call or check their website for special rates and packages (tel 034-752-222; www.baanamphawa.com).
(Samut Songkram) In keeping with the ways of rural Thailand, the community sleeps early and rises with the sparrows. If you do the same, you’ll see the local monks making their early morning alms rounds. Most attractions are within walking distance, such as the exquisite hand-painted porcelain popular with the Chakri dynasty and produced at Benjarong Museum (034-751-322). The Tao Tan area, meanwhile, is famous for its light brown palm sugar. There are many beautiful temples of historical significance in this area; among the most interesting is Wat Bang Kung, famous for a small chapel completely enclosed within the roots of a banyan tree. Wat Bangkae Noi showcases intricate teakwood carving depicting the teachings of the Lord Buddha on its interior wall and ceiling. A night-time boat trip on the Mae Klong River provides the opportunity to witness the fireflies swarming in the Lampu trees along the riverbank. It’s an enchanting spectacle, as entire trees glow with eerie, undulating light; Thailand has over 100 species of firefly, and these ones blink in unison, like a Christmas tree. The biggest draw to Amphawa is its Floating Market, which normally takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and doesn’t kick off until about 3pm. Here, unlike the much more famous Damneon Saduak, you’re likely to be the only foreign face in the crowd, sightseeing
as you wander the footpaths lined with well preserved wooden shophouses on one side, and a canal busy with sampans cooking food on the other. With all that buoyant grub doing the rounds, it’s prudent to work up an appetite before you go, lest you miss out on the rich selection of delicious, low priced delicacies on offer. Getting There n By Car: Take Highway 35 until you reach the 63km sign, then take expressway towards Samut Songkram town. At the 36-37km mark take a left for the floating market. Parking available. n By Bus: Air-conditioned buses for Samut Songkhram depart daily from Mo Chit Terminal. It takes 2 hrs, costs B77. Contact 0-2936-2963 0-27938111 or www.transport.co.th. 37
Sightseeing Lop Buri
Chai Nat Nakhon Ratchasima
Ang Thong Saraburi
It’s easy getting around in Thailand, and there are plenty of worthwhile excursions within easy reach of Bangkok; some one-day affairs, others overnight. Organise a trip yourself or book through your concierge or a local travel agent. AYUTTHAYA The capital of Siam from the 14th to 18th century, Ayutthaya was one of the richest cities in the East, until it was plundered by the Burmese in 1767 and its ruins left to nature. Today a Unesco World Heritage Site, its remnants – all Khmer-esque stupas, crumbling bricks and Buddha faces entwined in tree roots – make a wonderful daytrip. The 85km journey is best done by river. The major hotels organise trips (usually to Ayutthaya by coach and then back by boat), while independent tours run from River City. Many combine the trip with a visit to the Bang Pa-in Summer Palace.A former royal garden retreat, this presents a mélange of different architectural schools, mostly reflecting King Rama V’s love for all things European. Once at Ayutthaya, hop on a bike and scoot round highlights like Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mongkhon Bophit and Wat Ratburana at your own pace. . LOPBURI Lopburi’s illustrious ruins date back over 1,000 years and can done on foot. During the Dvaravati period (6th-11th centuries) the city was known as Lavo until the Khmers took over the region during Angkor’s 10th century heyday. The Thais took control during the powerful Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods. And in the 1600s, King Narai made the city the second capital and fortified it against the Dutch navy 38
Samut Sakhon Samut Songkhram
threatening Ayutthaya. The remnants of the palace he built now serve as a public museum. The city is also littered with crumbling wats (temples) blending Khmer and Thai styles. Watch your belongings: the most famous – threeprang shrine Phra Prang Sam Yot (a prang is a spire-like vault) – is home to some mischievous macaque monkeys.
monuments and buildings. Built by the same benefactor, the smaller Erawan Museum features a towering threeheaded elephant sculpture. Inside are antiques and a stucco chapel, but most Thais come for the fantastical gardens and to pray for good luck at the esteemed shrine.-
NAKHON PATHOM The star attraction in this ancient Thai town is the 120m high chedi (or stupa), the tallest in the Kingdom, which was erected on the site of a 6th-century version. Situated around 55km west of Bangkok, the town is widely thought to be the oldest in Thailand, but apart from the chedi there are few clues as to its history.The other big draw is the Rose Garden, a picturesque 70-acre park featuring botanical gardens and mock-Thai village cultural shows.
KANCHANABURI Made famous by the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi town is a popular weekend getaway, offering great scenery and a host of river-based activities. Most foreigners are attracted by the area’s history – namely the “Thai Burma Death Railway,” built by POWs under Japanese occupation during World War II. Riding the railway is possible with three daily trips from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok. The lush countryside around Kanchanaburi is home to many of the country’s most impressive waterfalls, with nearby Erawan National Park offering great trekking.
SAMUT PRAKAN Just down the road – 29km away – Samut Prakan has three big draws.The Crocodile Farm offers daily croc wrestling and elephant shows. Muang Boran (the Ancient City) is an open-air museum park featuring over 100 replicas of landmark Thai temples,
KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK Home to wild elephants, deer, boar, tigers and innumerable species of birdlife, Khao Yai (2½ hour’s drive from Bangkok) is one of Thailand’s most impressive national parks. Hike through the jungle to altitudes of over 1,000m. Hire a
guide as it’s easy to get lost – the park is over 2,000km2 in size, and local maps are not to be trusted. Fancy staying the night? There are state-run bungalows in the park and luxe resorts nearby. Wine lover? Some of Thailand’s top wineries – Chateau des Brumes, Granmonte Estate, PB Valley – are also in the vicinity. NAKHON RATCHASIMA (KORAT) Both a silk and trade hub, Nakhon Ratchasima is the country’s largest province and home to Korat, its second largest city.The moated town with city gates is rewarding; and the countryside has a surfeit of Khmer ruins left over from the Angkor period, the best being in the recently restored Phi Mai Historical Park (60km north of Korat). Pak Thong Chai (30km north of Korat) is Thailand’s leading silk village. And for horse-riding and the chance to milk cows, visit Farm Chok Chai, a working farm popular with Stetsonwearing agro-tourists. KOH KRED Highly recommended, this ickle car-free island sits on a kink in the Chao Phraya River and is home to a Mon community renowned for their ancestral red-clay pottery skills. Seriously sleepy during the week, the palm-clad place goes into commercial overdrive on weekends. Bangkok cityslickers stroll its narrow footpaths, past working pottery warehouses, old Buddhist temples and homes selling hand-finished ceramics and tasty Mon kanom (snacks). By the time they’ve gone full circle, a few hours later, they’re smitten. Take a regular express boat up the Chao Phraya River to Nonthaburi and hire a long-tailed boat (B500 approx). Alternatively, on Sundays, the Chao Phraya Express ferry offers a guided tour for B300 (www. chaophrayaboat.co.th). bangkok 101
SARABURI Though often overs hadowed by neighbouring Lopburi, this central province, 108km north of Bangkok, still packs a thrill or two. Its 1½m-long Buddha footprint makes Wat Phra Putthabhat one of the most important temples in the region. And caves, like Tham Phra Pothisat, draw crowds thanks to their beautiful stalactite formations and Buddhist bas-reliefs, as does Chet Sao Noi Waterfall. The main attraction though is definitely out in the fields – from Nov-Jan bright sunflowers blanket the land, providing vibrant photo opportunities galore. PHETCHABURI Sacred Buddhist caves, neoclassical palaces, a quirky provincial market town – there’s more to Petchaburi province than the beach resort town of Cha Am. Best savoured over a long-weekend, sights include Wat Yai, a beautiful 17th century temple complex; and the stalactite and sculpture strewn Tham Khao Luang cave. To the west is also the scandalously underrated Kaeng Krachan National Park, where camp sites, butterfly and bird watching, water rafting and a stunning reservoir fringed by undulating hills await. CHACHOENGSAO An hour’s drive to the east, Chachoengsao rarely make the travel guides but is popular with locals. Smothered along the banks of the Bang Pakong River, the town boasts the temple Wat Sothon and 100-year old market Talad Baan Mai, where vendors flog traditional delicacies from within wooden King Rama V-era shophouses. Renting a boat to go see the old teak and stilted houses that line the sightseeing
sides – and the dolphins who migrate here between Nov and Feb – is also popular. RATCHABURI Ratchaburi’s Damnoen Saduak floating market is the hokiest in the land. But “The Land of the Kings” does have other qualities: unspoilt klongs (canals), hot stream Bo Khloung, the cascading Kaew Chan waterfall, and stalagmite and stalactite caves. For artsy-boho types there’s also the Suan Silp Baan Din Arts Centre, staging performances of old Thai arts and workshops. And at Wat Khanon temple, NangYai puppetry (an evocative but dying artform where puppet silhouettes are projected onto fabric screens) survives. Performances are on Saturdays. CHON BURI When it comes to this industrialised province on the eastern seaboard, we say skip Pattaya, Thailand’s Sodom-onSea, and head for Koh Si Chang, a small fishing island a mere 40-minute/B40 ferry hop across the Gulf of Thailand from Si Racha Town. King Rama V loved it there; and after a few hours exploring its hillside temples, summer palaces and pebbly beaches, so will you. On the way home, Baen San is a local, bucket-and-spade beach; and Talad Nong Mon, in Chonburi town, offers toothsome regional snacks like khao lam (sweet sticky rice in bamboo tubes). SUPHAN BURI This is where it all went down: where the legendary King Naresuan fended off Burma and rid Thailand of foreign occupation, freeing it from the Pegu Kingdom way back in 1592. At the Don Chedi, 30km from central Suphan Buri, there is a statue erected in his honour, as well as an exhibition hall and museum. Other draws include the Thai Rice Farmer’s Museum, Bueng Chawak Aquarium (64km out of town), and ancient temples dating back almost 1,000 years.
Kids in the city
Negotiating Bangkok with kids needn’t be the nightmare many parents presume. The single biggest plus point is that Thais absolutely adore children, meaning there are always people around ready to help out. Skytrain guards will drop what they’re doing to help you haul that stroller down the stairs and waitresses will gladly whisk junior off for a tour of the kitchens while you enjoy a coffee. Most of the big shopping malls (see p.102) have play areas set aside for kids, with two of the best being Kiddy Land, which has slides, a ball pit and a balloon room on the 6th floor of CentralWorld; Jamboree on the 3rd floor of Emporium; and the huge indoor playground Funarium (see below). Plus, of course, most of the shopping malls have cinemas and enough ice-cream stores to sate a homesick Eskimo. There are also a fair few attractions that appeal to wee ones.The city’s parks (see p.35) offer a chance to let off steam, especially Rot Fai Park near Chatuchak Weekend Market (p.104), where you can rent bicycles; and Dusit Zoo (p.35) is a sprawling, chaotic afternoon’s worth of fun. Although expensive, Siam Ocean World (p.35) is a great way to entertain the kids while you shop at Paragon department store. On a more scholarly note, there’s a cracking museum aimed at inquisitive young minds. The Children’s Discovery Museum has a science and nature theme and is handily located near to Chatuchak. And if you’re sticking around town for a while, Bangkok Dolphins (www.bangkokdolphins.com) offer swimming classes from three months old. The Children’s Discovery Museum (map C1) Kamphaeng Petch 4 Rd, Chatuchak | 02-6157333 | www.bkkchildren museum.com | Tue-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am- 6pm | B150 Near the Chatuchak weekend market, this interactive museum aimed at younger guests covers science, nature and the environment. It also hosts regular courses and activity camps. พิพิธภัณฑ์เด็กกรุงเทพมหานคร
ฟันเอเรียม สุขุมวิท 26
Floating markets offer an idyllic taste of the Bangkok of the days of yore. The experience depends largely on which market you choose. n DAMNOEN SADUAK Considered “the” floating market for visitors, this bustling stretch of waterway 100km southwest of the capital is two hours by car or bus, plus a 1530 minute boat ride. Arrive before 40
Funarium (map D4) 111/1 Sukhumvit 26 | 02-6656555 | www.funarium.co.th | 8:30am-8:30pm | kids: B180/300; adults B90 Basically 2,000m2 of slides, ball pits, trampolines, obstacle courses, cycling tracks and basketball courts, with a decent café and a small branch of Mothercare.
the horde of tourists descend upon the market at 9am – it closes up midday. For a less-crowded option, head south to Talat Khun Phitak via water taxi from the pier on the east side of Khlong Thong Lang. GETTING THERE By bus: to Damnoen Saduak from the Southern Bus Terminal every 40 minutes from 6am (02-435-5031 or 434-5558). n TALING CHAN For a kinder, gentler introduction to the world of floating markets, Taling Chan is a destination often overlooked on most tourist itineraries. Built by former Bangkok governor Chamlong Srimuang in 1987 to honour HM the King’s 60th birthday, Taling Chan also offers live performances of traditional Thai music from 11am-2pm. The market only opens on weekends sightseeing
from 9am-4pm, so make sure to plan accordingly. GETTING THERE By bus: Take bus #79 or #83 to Taling Chan district (02-424-5448 or 02424-1712). n AMPHAWA Night owls can have a slice of floating market action too. This one – only open Friday to Sunday – sets up at 4pm, allowing the luxury of a lie-in. This little-known treasure is not often on the itineraries of the tourists who flock to more famous markets. Make sure to take a boat down the canal after dusk, when the lights from the riverhouses gleam and the fireflies come out to play, especially during the rainy season. GETTING THERE By car: Drive one hour south from Bangkok to Samut Songkhram.The market is nearby Wat Amphawan Jatiyaram. bangkok 101
Thailand is a vast area adorned with year-round festivals that are surely not limited to the capital city. Many, if not most, nationally celebrated events originate in other provinces and the chance to go to the root of these annual festivities should not be passed up.This month don’t limit yourself to the wonders of Bangkok. Instead go out and explore the endless possibilities of Thailand.
Rap Bua Ceremony, Samut Prakan
To celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent, the folks in Samut Prakan make good use of the river. Instead of the locals journeying to a temple to worship a Buddha image, they have one come to them.A Buddha image is placed on a boat and floated down the Samrong River, where locals toss a lotus (rap bua means “receiving lotuses”) onto the passing vessel to pay homage. This reflects the area’s legend of the Buddha image that was once seen floating down the river and later fished out by local residents.
Wax Castle Festival and Long Boat Races, Sakhon Nakorn
One of the most famous festivals in Thailand takes place in Sakhon Nakorn province, where a grand procession of castles made out of wax parade through town to celebrate the end of, you guessed it, Buddhist Lent. Traditional Issan performances, folk dances and OTOP products sales also feature. It is also accompanied by the very popular Long Boat Races with a trophy from HRH Princess Sirindhorn up for grabs.
upcountry festivals 1-7 Oct
End of Buddhist Lent & Naga Fireballs, Nong Khai
It has still never been fully explained or understood, but every year in October a crowd-luring phenomen takes place on the Mekhong River. Glowing fireballs rise out of the river, shooting up several hundred metres before disappearing. Legend has it that the Naga serpents shoot fireballs into the sky to welcome Buddha back from the Tavatimsa heaven. Observe this incredible occurrence on Oct 7 at various spots along the riverbanks in Nong Khai province; activities fill the other days.
Chonburi Buffalo Races
This tradition takes place before the full moon of the 11th lunar month, coinciding, like almost everything else on this page, with the end of Buddhist Lent. You should be able to glean what goes on at this uniquely Thai event, as jockeys and their water buffalos scamper towards the finish line. Other festivities include a buffalo dressing competition, a healthiest buffalo contest and a Miss Farmer Beauty Pageant.
Long Boat Racing Festival, Surin
A fleet of ornate royal barges will float in formation down Surin province’s Maenam Mun River in front of Wat Pho, in Amphoe Tha Tum. As if that wasn’t enough, there will also be boat races and, of course, it wouldn’t be a Thai festival if there wasn’t a beauty parade. Call TAT Surin on 044-514-447
Until 7 Oct
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Celebrated over nine days by the island’s Thai-Chinese community, this is not your typical Vegetarian festival. Though participants do observe a strictly vegetarian diet, it’s the daily street processions which make frontpages the world over. Accompanied by deafening fire crackers, devotees perform sacred yet gruesome rituals, like walking barefoot on hot coals, piercing their cheeks with skewers or ascending ladders with knives as rungs. Phuket Town’s the epicentre of these bloody rites.
31 Oct - 2 Nov
Loy Krathong Festival
Just about any available water source will be lined with locals setting adrift tiny banana trunk boats festooned with flowers, candles and incense on Mon 2 Nov (other dates in some places). Not even your hotel swimming pool will be able to escape what is Thailand’s most magical nationwide festival, a way of giving thanks for the rice harvest, and bidding adieu to bad luck. That said, some locales are more spectacular than others. Sukhothai (p.42) is considered the most picturesque; Chiang Mai puts an aerial spin on proceedings, with khom-loy or glowing floating lanterns drifting into the night sky; and locals in Tak province float coconut shells down the Mae Ping River.
upcountry escape Howard Richardson
he former Thai capital of Sukhothai, situated in the lower north of the country, is now a sprawl of ruined temples that evoke an ancient era referred to as Thailand’s Golden Age. It’s particularly popular with visitors each November, because the beautiful Loy Krathong Festival, although celebrated countrywide, has its spiritual heart there. The weather is beginning to cool, too, so it’s the perfect time to visit a city that was central to the founding of the Thai nation. King Intradit established the Kingdom of Sukhothai in 1238, when he defeated the ruling Khmer armies in the area. He was a warlord of one of the ethnic Tai tribes that had migrated 42
from China centuries earlier. But it was under his son, King Ramkhamhaeng, that Sukhothai truly flourished. Ramkhamhaeng expanded the kingdom’s influence northwards to Luang Prabang and Vientiane (now in Laos), and to Nakhon Si Thammarat in the far south. The city itself became a great seat of learning and religious devotion. Ramkhamhaeng adapted the Khmer writing system into the first written Thai language and embraced Theravada Buddhism as the nation’s official religion. Art also flourished, and the Sukhothai Walking Buddha is now a world famous aesthetic in Buddhist imagery. But these were turbulent times: although the kingdom’s influence is still felt to this day, its dramatic ascendancy sightseeing
lasted only slightly over a century. The city, eventually abandoned, lay overgrown with jungle until King Rama IV (1851-1868) – who was a monk before his reign – led a party to its rediscovery in 1833. The ruins now lie in a historical park, laid out in five zones covering 100 sites. Entrance to each zone is B100 or B350 for all five. For a small extra charge you can drive your car around, hire bicycles or take an official bus tour. It’s useful to drop into Ramkhamhaeng Museum (entry B150), located beside the entrance to the park, where the displays give context to the ruins. Most people then prioritise the central zone, where the bangkok 101
Ananda Museum & Gallery Hotel
EVENT Loy Krathong, November 2, Wat Traphang Thong, in old Sukhothai. STAY n Tharaburi Resort 11/3 Srisomboon Road, Sukhothai, 055-697-132, www.tharaburiresort.com n Ananda Museum & Gallery Hotel 10 Moo 4 Banlum, Sukhothai, 055622-428, www.ananda-hotel.com n Scenic Riverside Resort 325/16 Tesa 2 Road, Kamphaeng Phet, 055-722-009, www.scenicriversideresort.com
Museum & Gallery Hotel has the added attraction of the Sangkhaloke Museum, with well-annotated displays of ceramic arts, weapons, jewellery, temple bells and gongs. Sukhothai has some of the most impressive ruins in Thailand, but the downside is the busy stream of tour buses that lessen the possibilities of empathising with the historic atmosphere. If this bothers you, Kamphaeng Phet, 70km away, provides a great alternative. The temples here are found in two areas, inside and outside the old city walls.The highlights are the group of reclining and sitting Buddhas at Wat Phra Kaew and the standing Buddha at Wat Phra Iriyabot, but most pleasing is the seclusion. sightseeing
Photograph by Katia Grau
most impressive site is Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai’s most important temple. It illustrates the period’s eclectic cultural influences with chedis of various styles, including Hariphunchai, Lanna and Sri Lankan. The main Buddha statue here is one of the iconic images of Thailand. Nearby is Wat Si Sawai, notable for three Hindu prangs. It later became a Buddhist shrine featuring both Hindu and Buddhist deities. Sukhothai now consists of the old city, where the ruins are, and the new city, a fairly typical, small provincial market town that lies 14 kilometres away. A good place to stay is Tharaburi Resort, two kilometres from the ruins, which has smart ensuite rooms from B3,100. In the new city, Ananda
Last time we went we were literally the only visitors, strolling amid tranquil ruins as the sun filtered through the surrounding woods. Stay at the delightful Scenic Riverside Resort, eight Mexicaninspired cottages running down to the riverbank amid a garden of cats and horses.
over the border
PHNOM PENH: From Bleak to Chic
he one-hour flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh can be a sombre pilgrimage for those who’ve seen The Killing Fields. Other mythologies spin Cambodia’s capital into a Wild, Wild East riddled with delinquents and prostitutes, where lawlessness prevails. But the new Phnom Penh is rapidly globalising and increasingly chic, hosting an emerging class of SUV-driving Khmer nouveau riche – while still maintaining that smoky underbelly which gives all good cities soul. 44
One must pay respects to history first. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Pol Pot’s secret prison where tens of thousands were tortured and killed. The signs reminding you that laughter isn’t allowed are redundant here; it’s difficult to vocalise anything as you view the galleries of stark black-and-white mug-shots taken as prisoners were ‘processed.’ A 17-km drive out of Phnom Penh will take you to Choeung Ek, the best known of the Killing Fields sites, where a memorial stupa filled with skulls and rags marks the place where more than 8,000 bodies were discovered after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Finally, back in town, the National Musuem affords a pleasant and less gut-wrenching glance back at the ancient Khmer empire. If you can’t visit Angkor, the temple fragments here at least provide a glimpse of its celebrated cultural legacy. To purchase Khmer antiques, Hanuman Antiques and Arts on Street 222 is a prime peruse. If you’re sightseeing
lucky, the knowledgeable owner will be in and can brief you on exactly what that weirdly-shaped stone thing is and when it was made. Once you’ve shaken the pathos, you’ll find there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in Phnom Penh. Spend happy hour at the FCC Bar and Hotel perched on a stool at one of the windows overlooking Sisowath Quay, where you can witness hawkers, monks and families strolling the riverfront. Later, hit the uber-chilled Elsewhere Bar among a clutch of attractive eateries on gentrified Street 278, where the Phnom Penh literati and NGO-types enjoy dips in the pool (if you spend a minimum of $5, though they aren’t likely to check) as well as free Wi-Fi. If you really need to experience the thrill of a weapons check, there’s always heavilyhyped Heart of Darkness (Street 51). Dangerous or plain dingy? You decide. Better-dressed clubbers are more at home at the recently opened White Cambodia, a slick, spacious, Bed bangkok 101
Supperclub-like nightspot opposite the InterContinental Hotel on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. The rise of art and cuisine culture has propelled Phnom Penh into “Chic City” status. You’ll find both on Street 240 next to the Royal Palace, where a cluster of cafes offers fusion fare and boutiques sell silks and Southeast Asian art. Street 178 near the riverfront is another art nexus and home to fine art galleries such as Asasax Art Gallery and the famous Reyum Gallery. Other venues where you can both ogle art and assuage appetite include Two Fish Gallery and Café on Street 278 and Java Gallery and Café on Street 274. Nothing embodies Phnom Penh’s new global vibe better than its incredible range of cuisine. Romantically-lit Khmer Surin on Street 57 boasts excellent Thai and Khmer dishes, while Metro Café on the riverfront does Asian-Western tapas in style. Traditional and new Khmer fare with an Angkor-era atmosphere can be found at Malis on Street 41. If you’re craving a proper wood brick oven-baked pizza, look no further than leafy, villa-front garden at Luna d’Autunno, on Street 29. For accommodation, you could splurge on the classical Raffles Hotel
GETTING THERE n Thai Airways 2 daily flights, 02-356-1111 n Bangkok Airways 1 daily flight, 02-265-5678 n Thai AirAsia 2 daily flights, 02-515-9999
Le Royal, the riverside Hotel Amanjaya or the business-traveller friendly InterContinental Phnom Penh (all $100+US/night). Better value can be had at one of the smaller boutique hotels springing up along the quieter streets, such as The Pavilion, on Street 19, which offers lovely colonial architecture, free Wi-Fi and a treefilled oasis of a garden surrounding the pool ($50-$80US/night). If you like the friendly vibe, trendsetting owner Alexis de Suremain also offers another brace of quality local boutique options: Kabiki on Street 264 is dedicated to families and The Blue Lime, complete with its concrete furniture and solar-powered water heating, can be found on Street 19z (just off Street 19), just across from the Royal Institute of Fine Arts.
DISCOVER n Hanuman Antiques & Art 13B, St 334, 855-23-211-916, www.hanumantourism.com n National Museum Ang Eng (St 13), corner St 184, 023211-753 n Reyum Gallery 47 St 178, 855-23-217-149, www.reyum.org n Asasax Art Gallery 192, St 178, 855-23-217-795, www.asasaxart.com.kh n Two fish Gallery and Café 9 St 278, 016-368-700, www.twofishgallerycafe.com n Java Gallery and Café 56 E1 Sihanouk Blvd, 023-987-420, www.javaarts.org STAY n Raffles Hotel Le Royal 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh, 855-23981-888, www.phnompenh.raffles.com n Hotel Amanjaya 1 Sisowath Quay, Corner St 154 855-23-219-579, www.amanjaya.com n The Pavilion 277, St 19 Khan Daun Penh, 855-23222-280, www.pavilion-cambodia.com EAT & DRINK n FCC Bar and Hotel 363 Sisowath Quay, next to the Royal Residence, 063-760-280, 063760-283, www.fcccambodia.com n Elsewhere bar St 51, corner St 254, 023-211-348 n Khmer Surin 11 St 57, 855-23-363-050 n Metro Café at the Corner of Sisowath Quay & St 148, 855-23-222-275 n Malis 136, Norodom, 023-221022 n Heart of Darkness St 51, 023-222-415
hat could be a better memento of a stay in Thailand than hanging an original piece of contemporary art in your home? Bangkok’s shops and markets teem with nostalgic Buddhistinfluenced paintings and sculptures, but there are also numerous commercial and non-profit galleries that exhibit the fruits of Thailand’s growing artistic presence. Bangkok has a small, vibrant and highly resourceful contemporary art circle, which is slowly beginning to make waves within the international art arena, aided to some extent by the Western ar t world’s recent penchant for all things Asian. The trend has been for ambitious installation and multimedia projects, proving popular with the younger generation of artists. Spirituality and Buddhism have been, and still are , major themes in contemporary art, whether coming from neo-tr aditionalist painter s including Thawan Duchanee and Chalermchai Kositpipat, whose late 20th-centur y paintings resurrect traditional perceptions of the Thai identity – as pure, harmonious, Buddhist, monarchist and patriotic – or aromatic meditative installations during the 1990s by the late Montien Boonma. Away from the spiritual, the economic collapse of 1997 has fuelled many local ar tists to question the effects of globalisation upon the Thai populace. A return to an innocent agrarian existence became one common call, while more contentious artists like Vasan Sitthiket highlighted their disdain for national policies through faux-political electioneering. Conceptual photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom satirised local urbanity’s consumerist obsessions with his engaging Pink Man series. Ironically, as leading artists question the ceaseless and unconditional absorption of all things American and
European, many of Thailand’s freshfaced generation of artists are infatuated with the street-style, urban iconography of pervasive Asian cultures like Japan, Korea and increasingly China. An indicator of the growing profile of Thai art could be in the proliferation of new commercial galleries that have opened in the last couple of years, with Bangkok gaining over a dozen new venues in different areas across the city. These include artist -run spaces such as printmaker and sculptor Thavorn Ko-Udomvit’s grey cube Ardel, and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s hotbed of young conceptualists at Gallery VER. While Thailand’s ongoing political debacle has complicated ar tistic planning, the decade-plus wait for the new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, opposite MBK shopping mall, is over. For news of its exhibitions, performances and the like log on to www.bacc.or.th GALLERIES The majority of contemporary art on view in Bangkok is produced by domestic practitioners, several of whom are now receiving significant international exposure, though there is ar ts
an increasing number of regional Asian artists displaying their works, at prices often cheaper than in countries like Singapore, China and Vietnam. Whether hoping to peruse some emerging local protagonist, or purchase something a bit more com- mercial or traditional, one thing’s for certain – prices for art in Bangkok are more realistic and reasonable than overinflated, fashionable ar t centres in America, Europe and increasingly China. You’ll soon realise that the city doesn’t have a concentrated artistic enclave; rather, there are small pockets of galleries, auction houses and antiques shops randomly dispersed throughout the city. Commercial galleries are spread across town and a little route planning is advised before embarking on a day of gallery musing. On the following page is a selection of noteworthy galleries about town. Steven Pettifor is the editor of the Bangkok Art Map (BAM!), and author of Flavours: Thai Contemporary Art. He is available as a consultant to art buyers; firstname.lastname@example.org bangkok 101
Enjoy these selected highlights from the current issue of the Bangkok Art Map. BAM! is a freefolding city map containing the latest information and critical insights into Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene. Grab a copy and participate in the promotion of art in Thailand.
Relations are more real and more important than the things they relate Ardel Gallery of Modern Art 99/45 Belle Ville, Boromratchonnanee Rd (Km 10.5) | 02422-2092 | Tue-Sat 10:30am- 7pm, Sun 10:30am-5:30pm | www.ardelgallery.com Almost a decade since they first exhibited together, Thai artists Jiradej Meemalai and Pornpilai Jongsoontornturakij (now Meemalai) have married and it’s their shared life and creative space that continues to provide the artists with impetus. With Jiradej a proficient sculptor and Pornpilai a trained jeweller, their themes about relationships are manifested through drawings, photographs, video and three-dimensional works. Until Oct 15 Not Quite a Total Eclipse 100 Tonson Gallery 100 Soi Tonson, Phloenchit Rd | 02-684-1527 | Thu-Sun 11am-7pm | www.100tonsongallery.com | BTS Chit Lom There is a certain expectation within Thailand’s art clique for the capability of Wit Pimkanchanapong’s unique brand of art. At last year’s Singapore Biennale he invited visitors to stick geographical markers across a huge floor map of the Lion City. For his latest Bangkok exhibition, Wit displays a time-based mechanical sculpture that attempts to recreate the psychological and emotional affects of an eclipse. Until Oct 25
Bangkok Ar t
Zeitgeist Becomes Form: German Fashion Photography 1945 – 1995 Bangkok University Art Gallery (BUG) Bangkok University Gallery Bldg, Kluai Nam Thai campus, Rama IV Rd | 02-350-3626 | Tue-Sat 10am-7pm | http://fab.bu.ac.th/buggallery This photographic exhibition presents a curious glimpse of German history through the lens of fashion photography, from the transformation of a society in the influential aftermath of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Featuring work by influential photographers Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton and Wolfgang Tillmans, it also offers a behind the curtain view of the cultural trends that flourished despite the repressiveness of the East German regime prior to reunification. Until Oct 31 Happyland Thavibu Suite 308, Silom Galleria F3, 919/1 Silom Rd, Soi 19 | 02-266-5454 | Tue-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun noon-6pm | www.thavibu.com l BTS Surasak A well known face to local art audiences, painter and illustrator Thaweesak Srithongdee returns with his latest solo exhibition of paintings and video installation. Recognised for his pop-influenced, illustrative style of loose figuration, Thaweesak or Lolay’s latest series explores notions of self-expression and personal space and whether they truly exist. Until Oct 11
For the latest scoop on Bangkok’s art scene, pick up a free copy of BAM! citywide at art galleries, cultural centres or from your hotel concierge.
From the publishers of bangkok 101
Rattanakosin Photography by Cedric Arnold
Bangkokâ€™s old city, Rattanakosin, is always seen as the home of grand palaces and temples, the place to come for culture and history before moving onto another part of Thailand. Yet, you only need to stray a few hundred metres (and often much less) off the tourist trail to experience one of Asiaâ€™s most interesting districts as it really is: a bustling swell of everything from flower, dried fish and vegetable markets, Buddha statue workshops and treasure-filled shops, to tiny alleys and side-streets that are home to the cityâ€™s oldest buildings. Over the past seven years, Bangkok-based photographer Cedric Arnold has kept returning to the area to capture its quirky moments of daily life.
A bus passes the Grand Palace at night
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Late morning atmostphere on Maharaj Road
Durian on wheels
A trader at the amulet market with his own unique style shows off his Ray Bans amulets and clock necklace
One of the area's unofficial massots, the giant rabbit in front of local tea house, Rabbit Tea
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Workers at Pak Khlong Talat market sorting vegetables
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Zooming through the flower market for an urgent delivery
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Chien Sak, 55, and his wife Sil, 50, work 12 hours a day at Pak Khlong Market.
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Monks walk through a downpoor opposite the grand palace
A government officer enjoys a cold beer and reflective moment
Workers at Pak Khlong Talat market sorting vegetables
Buddha statues reflected in a multi-coloured mirror
P H OTO F E AT U R E
Two Volkswagen beetles parked in front of Phra Nakorn bar off Rachadamnoen road
Bangkok’s performing arts scene may not throb like in other cities, but look under the surface and you’ll find it there, beating to its own rhythm. No, there aren’t many plays, stage shows or performance pieces being staged, and sometimes it’s as if mainstream pop and rock acts are the only things that captivate the masses. Still, fans of the performing arts can find diamonds and everybody will appreciate the low ticket prices. For more information on what’s happening, visit these sites for event information: www.thaiticketmaster.com, www.bangkokfestivals.com, www.bangkokconcerts.com
Aksra Theatre (map C3) King Power Complex 8/1 Rangnam Rd, Phaya Thai|BTS Victory Monument | 02-677-8888 ext 5678 | Tue-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm&7pm In this spectacular new 600-capacity theatre, lined with fabled wood carvings, bear witness to hypnotic performances by the Aksra Hoon Lakorn Lek (Aksra Small Puppets) troupe. Intricate Thai puppets, given life by puppeteers swathed in black, act out Thai literary epics. Family entertainment of the most refined kind.
โรงละครอักษรา คิงพาวเวอร์ คอมเพล็กซ์ ถ.รางน้ำ
PATRAVADI THEATRE (map A3) 69/1 Soi Wat Rakhang, Arun Amarin Rd, Thonburi | 02-412-7287~8 | www.patravaditheatre.com Outside of university art departments, this is one of the few places in Bangkok to see contemporary performing arts. Its founder, the well-known Patravadi Mejudhon, created not only a theatre, but an entire arts complex, comprising classes, artists’ residencies and international exchanges. Performers are trained in classical as well as modern traditions; and the shows are world-class.
โรงละครภัทราวดี ถ. อรุณอมรินทร์
Traditional Thai Puppet Theater (Joe Louis) (map C4) Suan Lum Night Bazaar, 1875, Rama IV Rd | MRT Lumphini | 02-252-9683-4, 02-252-5227-9 ext 101 – 104 | 8pm – 9:15pm | adults B900, children B300 | www.thaipuppet.com
A live puppet show might sound like it’s aimed at kids, but this one is intriguing for all.The one-hour show follows the story of the Ramakien. The large puppets are incredibly lifelike; the scenes are colourful and fun to watch – so even adults enjoy the show. Arrive early to observe the production of traditional masks.
โรงละครนาฏยศาลา หุน่ ละครเล็ก (โจหลุยส์) สวนลุมไนท์ บาซ่าร์
SIAM NIRAMIT (map D2) 19 Tiam Ruammit Rd | 02-649-9222 | www.siamniramit.com A breathtaking, record-breaking extravaganza, hailed as “a showcase of Thailand”. Using hundreds of costumes and amazing special effects, more than 150 performers journey whirlwind-like through seven centuries of Siamese history. Up to 2,000 guests experience this spectacle nightly; eyepopping poignancy to some, detached fantasia to others.
NATIONAL THEATRE (map A3) 2 Rachini Rd, Sanam Luang | 02-224-1342, 02-225-8457~8 Along with the National Museum, the imposing theatre forms an island of high culture. Classical Thai drama, musicals and music performances – all elaborate affairs, sometimes strange to foreign eyes and ears – are staged on a small side stage and the open-air sala. The season runs from November to May, but you can catch classical Thai dance and music on the last Friday and Saturday nights of each month.
โรงละครแห่งชาติ ถ.ราชินี สนามหลวง
RAM THAI (Thai traditional dance) Traditional Thai theatre and dance takes many forms. The most accessible is khon, which depicts scenes from the Ramakien (the classic Thai epic based on the Hindu Ramayana), in graceful dances. Originally reserved for royal occasions, it’s now performed mainly for tourists in fivestar hotels or at cultural shows across the city. At the Erawan Shrine (p.33), pay the colourful troupe a couple of hundred baht to see them perform. When visiting Vimanmek Mansion (p.30), don’t miss the performances there. More popular amongst Thais is ligay, a lively blend of comedy, dance and music, often with contemporary subject matter. Due to its improvised nature, non-Thais find it very difficult to follow. Puppet theatre, which nearly died out, has made a comeback at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and Aksra Theatre. It also borrows heavily from the Ramakien (as do most soap operas on Thai TV), substituting human dancers with paper and wire puppets dressed in elaborate costumes. There are regular performances of contemporary theatre in Bangkok, predominantly at the Patravadi Theatre and the Thailand Cultural Centre. Also, though more influenced by Broadway than indigenous dance, don’t miss Bangkok’s gender-bending ladyboy cabarets (p.85). 56
TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) Quick Bites: Design for Better Eating
Perhaps the most active players on Bangkok’s arts scene are its cultural centres.These ensure that the scene stays booked with top-notch exhibitions (conventional and experimental) and performances from the world of visual arts, drama, dance, music, fashion, film, design, literature and more. The foreign contingent regularly put on events showcasing international talent. Ring up, check their websites or just drop by to find out what’s on.
Alliance Française (map C4) 29 Sathorn Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-670-4200 | 10am-6pm close Sun | www.alliance-francaise.or.th
his hip design learning and resource facility, plonked atop the Emporium shopping mall, aims to stimulate creativity and innovation among young Thai designers. Everyone, however, is free to attend its workshops, talks by prominent international designers and exhibitions. These are particularly good at opening your mind and eyes to curious international design concepts; be it Vivienne Westwood’s fearlessly non-conformist fashions, or Le Corbusier-influenced Modern Thai architecture. Don’t miss permanent exhibition, “What is Design?” a look at how 10 countries have interpreted their cultural uniqueness to create 20th century design classics; or a peek at the swish, state-of-the-art library. With over 16,000 rare books, a large selection of multimedia, even a textile centre, this is where the city’s fresh-faced art, fashion, design and film students rush to the day before their final paper is due – only to end up distracted by the obscure arthouse DVDs and glossy tomes on modern Scandinavian architecture. Fortunately in-centre café Kiosk, with its strong Italian coffee and all-day-brunch, is on hand to keep the Kingdom’s next big things on track.
ดิ เอ็มโพเรียม ชอปปิ้ง คอมเพล็กซ์ สุขุมวิท 24
WHERE 6F,The Emporium Shopping Complex, Sukhumvit 24 (map D4) BTS Phrom Phong, 02-6648448, www.tcdc.co.th OPEN 10:30am-9pm closed Mon bangkok 101
สมาคมฝรั่งเศสกรุงเทพ ถ. สาทรใต้
BRITISH COUNCIL (map C3) 254 Chulalongkorn Soi 64 Siam Square, Phaya Thai Rd, Pathumwan | BTS Siam | 02-652-5480 ext 108 | www.britishcouncil.or.th
บริติช เคาน์ซิล สยามสแควร์
Goethe Institut (map C4) 18/1 Goethe, Sathorn Soi 1 | MRT Lumphini | 02-287-0942~4 ext.22 | 8am-6pm | www.goethe.de/
สถาบันเกอเธ่ 18/1 ซ. เกอเธ่ สาทร ซ. 1
Japan Foundation (map D3) Serm-mit Tower, F10, Sukhumvit Soi 21 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-260-8560~4 | Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-5pm | www.jfbkk.or.th
เจแปน ฟาวน์เดชั่น ชั้น 10 อาคารเสริมมิตร สุขุมวิท 21
Check also: ■ Bangkok Music SocietY (BMS) 02-617-1880, www.bms.in.th ■ Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, 02-223-0871-5, www.bangkok symphony.net ■ The Belgian Club of Thailand (BCT) www.belgianclub-th.com ar ts
angkok boasts world-class, stateof-the-art movie theatres showing the latest Hollywood and Thai blockbusters. A select few cinemas, notably House and Lido and the city’s cultural centres (p.57), screen less common independent and international films. Thai films are usually, in downtown Cineplexes at least, shown with English subtitles; foreign films with subtitles in Thai. Seats are reasonably priced at around B100-180. The best place to check screening times is on Please the daily-updated stand while the www.movieseer.com. king's anthem is
played in respect to Thailand’s beloved monarch.
Judging from the city’s movie posters, Bangkok visitors might assume that Thai filmic fare is limited to elephantine historical epics, maggoty horror flicks and the offerings of culture-colonising Hollywood. But sandwiched in-between the mainstream movies are a number of idiosyncratic indies that are winning a name for Thai cinema abroad. Thailand’s most internationally renowned director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, has made a career out of bending genres, as in his bewitchingly strange Cannes-winning feature, Tropical Malady (Sat Pralad, “Strange Beast”, is the original title). Other Thai filmmakers have emulated Weerasethakul’s border-transgressing ways, steeping Thai tales in Western cinematic influences, or working with international backing. Despite Thai film’s increasing acclaim, impatient distributors often pull small pictures within days. Audiences eager to support emergent cinema should track movies at the Thai Film Foundation’s website www.thaifilm.com or at Thai film critic Anchalee Chaiworaporn’s www.thaicinema.org, and gallop to theatres soon after opening day.
If you don’t fancy the local cineplex or your frontroom there’s another option that falls somewhere between the two. Monday is Popcorn Paradiso night at Bed Supperclub (p.84), where creative chef Paul Hutt serves a choice of two appetizers, three mains, and two desserts for you to chomp on while you watch a classic or cult flick (B1,450++). And, of course, you lie on fluffy white divan beds to eat: the perfect position for watching a movie. There’s a spooky line up this month in the run up to Halloween, beginning with The Abominable Dr. Phibes, on Oct 5, the tale of a hideously deformed doctor who seeks revenge on the medical team he blames for the death of his wife. Then, on Oct 12, John Carpenter’s chilling but much caricatured 1978 shocker Halloween will no doubt have screams echoing through the usually serene restaurant. Lastly, in the wake of the Oct 17 Zombie walk taking place on Soi 11 (see p.17), they’ll screen George A. Romero’s still, after all these years, deeply unsettling grainy black and white classic Night of the Living Dead. Dinner starts at 6:45pm. 02-651-3537 www.bedsupperclub.com 58
APEX Lido, Siam and Scala (retro 1960s) Siam Square, Rama 1 Rd | BTS Siam | Lido 02-252-6498, Scala 02251-2861, Siam 02-251-3580 โรงภาพยนต์ลโิ ด สยาม และสกาลา
สยามสแควร์ ถ. พระราม 1
EGV Grand (Gold Class) Siam Discovery Centre, Rama 1 Rd | BTS Siam | 02-812-9999 สยามดิสคัฟเวอร์รเ่ี ซ็นเตอร์
ถ. พระราม 1
EGV Metropolis (Gold Class) Big-C Ratchadamri (opp. Central World Plaza), Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Chitlom | 02-812-9999 บิก ๊ ซี ราชดำริ ตรงข้ามเซ็นทรัล
เวิลด์พลาซ่า ถ. ราชดำริ
HOUSE (Boutique art film cinema) Royal City Avenue (RCA), Petchaburi Rd | 02-641-5177 เฮ้าส์ อาร์ซเี อ ถ. พระรามเก้า Krungsri IMAX Theater (features the world’s largest movie screen) 5th Fl., Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Rd | BTS Siam | 02-129-4631 สยามพารากอน ถ. พระราม 1 PARAGON CINEPLEX 5th Fl., Siam Paragon, Rama | Rd l BTS Siam | 02-129-4635-6 or Movie line 02-515-5555 สยามพารากอน ถ. พระราม 1 SF CINEMA CITY MBK (VIP Class) 7th Fl., MBK Center, Phaya Thai Rd | BTS National Stadium | 02-611-6444 มาบุญครองเซ็นเตอร์ ถ. พญาไท SFX CINEMA CITY Emporium (Cineplex) 6th Fl., Emporium, Sukhumvit 24 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-260-9333 เอ็มโพเรียม สุขม ุ วิท 24 SF WORLD CINEMA 7th Fl., Central World Plaza, Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02-268-8888 เซ็นทรัลเวิลด์พลาซ่า ถ. ราชดำริ SF World,CentralWorld
reading & screening
Bangkok is home to an eye-popping array of excellent bookshops, small, large and sprawling. Just head for any major mall – Siam Paragon, Emporium, All Seasons Place, CentralWorld or Central Chitlom, to name a few (see mall listings on p. 102) – and look for chain favourites like Asia Books, Kinokuniya, B2S, Nai-In or Bookazine. Plenty of other stand-alone local book stores across town offer the latest in print, new and used. THE OUTSIDER’S GUIDE TO THAILAND By Oliver Benjamin | Bangkok Books | 248pp | B595 Much of the local expat-penned prose is tripe – although lowbrow readers into cack-handed smut-fiction will find themselves in hog heaven. But for a sampler of decent writing, try this anthology of irreverent articles by a Chiang Mai-based journalist “who is still extremely confused about the actual inner workings of Thai and all other cultures.” The essays range from humorous topics like “Seven Elevenize Me: killing me with convenience” (whereby the author dines exclusively from the ubiquitous franchise for an entire week) to more serious subjects, such as tourists pitching in en masse to rebuild post-tsunami Koh Phi Phi. Benjamim boasts a nifty turn-of-phrase, a witty way with headlines and captions, as well as eloquent powers of analysis. A pleasant surprise.
Thai theatres are notorious for their rapid turnover rates, making DVDs one of the best ways for visitors to explore Thai film. Thai DVDs are readily available in Mang Pong or CD Warehouse outlets in major malls, but before purchasing check the back for English subtitles and DVD region compatibility, if you don’t have an all-region DVD player. Englishsubtitled versions are also often available as exports from Hong Kong at websites such as www.hkfilm.com or www.yesasia.com. bangkok 101
BANGKOK DAYS Lawrence Osbourne | Harvill Secker | 271pp | B650 British journalist Lawrence Osbourne spends his nights wandering the city, hanging out with old, white sleazeball westerners, trying to fathom why it is they come here. Duh, the sex? Not necessarily, he suggests in this meandering travelogue. What they’re often seeking here, in “the slutty Cinderella of South East Asian cities,” is the tactile interconnectedness Bangkok’s cramped streets and cheap massages provides. It’s a compelling idea and, though Osbourne does the city a disservice by only exploring its seamy side, and is an occasional fabulist (his gigolo experience in particular beggars belief), to his credit he says a lot more about male solitude than he does sex. Titillating trash this is not. In fact, we haven’t read anything so incisive, immersive, detached and downright well-written on low-life Bangkok since Pico Iyer’s Love in a Dutyfree Zone. We were hooked, start to finish, even if it didn’t always ring true.
LUXE CITY GUIDE BANGKOK 10th EDITION Liz Weselby | B420 | Luxe Asia Limited Deeply we bow before this slick booklet, thin enough to slip into your knickers as one fan once admitted. Impossibly camp and as snappy as a tranny that lost her handbag, it contains the absolute must-see, mustdrink and must-shop lists for anybody belonging to today’s travel elite. Bangkokbased editor Liz Weselby uses an army of trendsetting helpers to scour the city and inform her of everything going on. Plus, she herself regularly roams Bangkok like a Chihuahua on heat, redefining city guides on the way. The tenth fabulous edition has just hit the city, and its highend industry is biting their nails – have they made it, have they been ignored, or – worst of all – have they been dropped? Buyers of this smart, sexy little package can now sign up for online destination updates and book a stay at one of the few hotels Luxe loves (“We Give Good Bed” they promise).
Hotel Angel (Theptida Rong Ram) ChatriChalerm Yukol | 1974 | $13.95 | www.hkflix.com Long before he turned his talents to bloated historical epics, Prince ChatriChalerm Yukol churned out hard-hitting social dramas. 1974’s Hotel Angel is one of his boldest: a graphic depiction of Bangkok’s prostitution scene as seen through the eyes of Malee, an angelic country girl forced to work in a hotel brothel. Like Japanese sexploitation or Pinku films of the era, it revels in sexual violence against women (beatings by pimps etc) and a kitsch 70s aesthetic (think flouncy dresses and beehives). And yet this ain’t soft-porn for pervs – Yukol intended it as a social realist film about urban migration.To make his point, he employs some of the most audacious/crude inter-cuts we’ve ever seen. One features Malee unbuttoning her blouse for a client. Just as her bra pings open the shot cuts to footage of her father, a poor farmer, proudly bursting through the doors of his new home – paid for with the money she sent home. Unfortunately, given its politically loaded and still pertinent subject matter, they don’t make them like this any more. ar ts
dining in bangkok
Food is of the utmost importance here. Locals have been known to brave the beast of Bangkok traffic and make cross-town journeys with the sole purpose of sampling a bowl of noodles at a famous local shop. Thais often ask each other “Gin Kao Leu Yung” or “Have you eaten rice yet?”. This shouldn’t be understood in the literal sense, but almost as another way Thais say hello. It’s how Thai people socialise. Whether the occasion calls for family, friends, business, or anything in between, there’s usually food nearby. The Thai dining experience requires that all dishes be shared - real evidence of the importance of dining to the Thai sense of community.
taste of Bangkok doesn’t just stop at Thailand’s world-famous national cuisine; flags of all nationalities fly here, and the results can be amazing. Tom yum soup and creamy curries can be found alongside seared foie gras, crispy tempura and heart-stopping steaks. It won’t be a challenge to find some culinary dynamite for your palate. You’d be better off compiling a list of what the city doesn’t have on offer.You’re bound to eat very well, whether it is at the sexiest, high-end locales, or at the origin of most local food - the streets, where you can get a very tasty, hearty meal at a nondescript stall, or even crackling grasshoppers and worms! Fantastic food is also available round the kitchen clock, although choices narrow as it gets closer to midnight. Many restaurants have closing times at 9pm or earlier. However, plenty of them feed late-night appetites (see p.77 ). If you really want to bump elbows with the locals and get to the heart of things, Bangkok’s street food culture doesn’t acknowledge the concept of time, with some vendors even carrying on into the wee hours. If a business can survive by trading when everyone is asleep, then it must be good, right? So whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, slightly picky or a try-anythingonce daredevil, you’re in for a non-stop gastronomical journey.
BANG FOR YOUR BAHT
The price guide to the right indicates what you can expect to pay per-person for a meal, not including drinks. Many restaurants run special deals so don’t be shy when asking about promotions, especially at lunchtime when many of the more upmarket restaurants offer set-menus at great prices. Lastly, to avoid any nasty surprises be sure to read the menu carefully. When prices are followed by “++”, the so called “plus plus”, this means 10%) and government tax (typically 7%) will be added to your bill.
$ under B400 $$ B400 – B1,000 $$$ B1,000 – B2,000 $$$$ over B2,000 a service charge (typically
Smokers beware. Lighting-up indoors is forbidden at all air-conditioned restaurants and bars citywide – you risk being fined B2,000 (US$60), and subjecting the restaurant owner to a lashing B20,000 (US$600) penalty. Exempted are outdoor areas, and, in practice, many Japanese and Korean restaurants. 60
food & drinks
Lunch Set Menus, Indus
Panorama Bistro Lunch,
Pan Pacific Hotel The Pan Pacific’s 23rd floor restaurant is a purveyor of some of the finest imported food we’ve tasted in recent months. An inexpensive way to sample it is this lunch set menu featuring unlimited antipasti, your choice of mains like Norwegian salmon loin with kinkawooka mussel jus and a dessert pyramid. 11:30am2:30pm, Mon-Sat. B690++. 02-632-9000 ext. 4343
If it's a lunch of subcontinental spice you're after, head on down to this slick Indian restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 26. They’ve just introduced, not one, but six veg and non-veg set lunch menus featuring charcoal grilled Tandoori kebabs, spiced curries, creamy lentils and much much more. Prices start at B245++. 02-258-4900
Spa Cuisine, President Solitaire Hotel
Pathumwan Princess Hotel Celebrate the Germanic and very jolly festival of beer and food this month with a dinner buffet at the Pathumwan Princess Hotel’s CiTi BiSTRo. While it won’t be as memorable as Munich, they will be serving Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (knuckle of pork), and Würstel (sausages) among other dishes. B1,300 nett. 02-216-3700 ext. 20100
Spa food gets about exciting as carrots and wheat-grass juice, right? Not so at the President Solitaire Hotel’s The Dining Room: they’ve just introduced a funky spa food menu designed to appease your appetite as well as your waistline. Tasty yet diet-conscious dishes include chicken in cantaloupe boat and soy glazed snapper. 02-255-7200 ext. 5
River Dining Cruises
A cruise along the legendary Chao Phraya can only be topped by combining it with exquisite Thai food. Although touristy, a gastro-cruise is one of Bangkok’s most romantic outings, the chance to take in the river sights while getting stuffed. Most riverside hotels offer lunch and/or dinner cruises, some on large, modern ships seating hundreds (Shangri-La) or on smaller, refurbished Manohra antique rice barges (Apsara, Manohra, Oriental). Whether you are looking for a peaceful romantic sojourn, traditional dance shows or a blaring disco dinner buffet, you won’t be disappointed. Cruises range from B700 to B1,700 pp, depending on how well you dine, and last two to three hours. Most include a full buffet or set dinner. It’s wise to make advance reservations. ■ CHAO PHRAYA CRUISE 02-541-5599 | www.chaophrayacruise.com ■ GRAND PEARL CRUISE 02-861-0255 | www.grandpearlcruise.com ■ HORIZON CRUISE The Shangri-La | 02-266-8165-6 | www.shangri-la.com ■ LOY NAVA 02-437-4932 | www.loynava.com ■ MAEYANANG The Oriental Hotel | 02-659-9000 | www.mandarinoriental.com ■ MANOHRA CRUISES 02-477-0770 | www.manohracruises.com ■ WAN FAH 02-222-8679 | www.wanfah.com ■ YOK YOR 02-863-0565 | www.yokyor.co.th bangkok 101
food & drinks
Did you know?
he chance to sample some authentic Thai cuisine is one of the best reasons to visit (and linger in) Bangkok. Its astonishing variety of flavours and textures, which comes from a marriage of centuries-old Western (namely Portuguese, Dutch and French) and Eastern (think Indian, Chinese and Japanese) influences, ranks Thai as one of the best cuisines in the world. The traditional Thai way of living unified people with their environment. Meals were communal events uniting families with the seasons. Rice is the main staple, accompanied by myriad curries and side dishes made from local ingredients.The pre-industrial custom of wrapping foods in natur al Eating is a materials per sists communal t o d a y ; l a b o u rand intensive desser ts social affair in or savoury mousses Thailand. are wrapped in banana leaves and the tops of coconuts are chopped off for a quick and refreshing elixer. Eating is a communal and social affair in Thailand. Once Thais sit together, they automatically take care of one another. No Thai dish is an independant one; they’re all meant to be shared. 62
Thai beliefs about the cooling and heating properties of different foods – particularly fruits – are influenced by Chinese concepts of yin and yang. Excessive consumption of heating fruits like durian (the fetidly fragrant “King of Fruits”) can lead to fever, cold sores, and a sore throat, according to traditional beliefs; overindulgence in cooling fruits like pears can result in dizziness and chills. So if you are feasting on durian, make sure to eat plenty of mangosteen, the cooling Queen of Fruits, to balance everything out.
food & drinks
Mu Sa-Te (Pork/Chicken Skewers)
Thai Food 101 ■ Popular Thai Dishes Here’s a sampling of great local dishes to look for – and it’s just the tip of the iceberg: Tom yam goong........spicy shrimp soup Tom kha gai.....chicken in coconut soup Phad thai............Thai-style fried noodles Mu/gai sa-te.........pork/chicken skewers Som tam.......spicy green papaya salad Yam nua.......spicy beef salad Gai yang..........grilled chicken Phanaeng............curry coconut cream Kaeng phet pet yang.........roast duck curry Kaeng khiao wan gai.....green curry chicken Phad kaphrao.........stir-fried meat with sacred basil Gai phad met mamuang himmaphan .......stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts ■ Drinks Most street vendors offer a range of normal drinks but there are always some surprises available. Try any of these liquid specialties when eating on the streets. Nam ma prao.......................coconut juice Nam krajeab .............rosella flower juice Nam matoom ....................bael fruit juice Nam ta-krai ...................lemongrass juice Nam tao hoo.................hot soy bean milk Cha yen............................Thai iced tea with condensed milk bangkok 101
thai sweets Kanom Thai
‘Polamai’: Thai Fruits
It’s often a strange land for foreign eyes, but weirdness is all relative. To you those fuzzy, furry, spiky, hairy, sometimes humongous obscure items are just downright bizarre. But to the locals well, it’s just good ol’ healthy nutritious fruit. Having unfamiliar names like rambutan, mangosteen and durian only lends to the mysterious, perhaps even scary, stigma surrounding Thai fruits. Fruits are often eaten as a snack or transformed into a dessert, or featured in meals. Particularly coconuts. Street carts patrol the sidewalks with ice-chilled offerings of seasonal fruits. However these vendors don’t exactly uphold hygiene standards, so proceed at your own discretion. All fruits are almost always available year round in supermarkets, but some are better at certain times of year. Here’s a look at what and when to eat.
October is best for:
Known as lamoot in Thai, this egg-shaped fruit looks much like a small mango and has a skin texture similar to that of a Kiwi. One of the most popular choices used by Thai fruit carvers, the lamout is grown in numerous provinces all over Thailand such as Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chonburi, and Sukhothai, and are in season around September and October. The fruit is eaten only when ripe and features a crisp, caramel-coloured flesh that is honey-flavoured, though slightly gritty, much like a very sweet pear. Be careful with the seeds however, as they are large and have a hook at one end that can make for a serious choking hazard.The sapodilla is believed to have many health benefits and has been used for numerous medicinal purposes.The seeds are believed to expel bladder and kidney stones, while its leaves have been used to alleviate coughs and colds.
The word Kanom is much too schizophrenic to be summed up as Thai desserts. Although most anything that’s sweet will be categorized as a Kanom, anything that you would normally snack on would be considered one as well; a pack of chips or crackers would qualify. You may not be too familiar with traditional Thai desserts as you’d often have to go to specialty stores or stalls to find them. Restaurants often omit them from the menu, partly due to the specific ingredients and preparation time required and also because it isn’t customary to have a dessert to end your meal. To the uninitiated the sights of shocking green foods of any kind may scare you off but this is only a reflection of the age-old traditions of using ingredients, like pandan and coconut, which are indigenous to this region and provide to its intense colours.
Try This! Sa Neh Chan
Meaning the “charm of the moon” these round yellow treats are made out of sticky rice flour, sugar, eggs, coconut cream and most importantly nutmeg, which in Thai is known as “luk chan” and is the source of this traditional Thai snack’s namesake. Try also: Kanom Krok – Mini coconut cream hotcakes Kanom Bueng – Crispy crepes with coconut whip filling Thong yip/Thong yod/Foi Thong – Golden Egg Pinches (Yip)/Drops (Yod)/ Shreds (Foi)
Try also: Watermelon (Taeng-Mo), Coconut (Ma-Praow), Pomelo (Som O), Guava (Farang), Banana (Kluay), Papaya (Malakor), Mangosteen (Mong-Koot), Lychee (Lyn-Chee). bangkok 101
food & drinks
Street Food Hotspots
treet food is a central ingredient in the stew of Bangkok’s culture. So much so that if you took away the city’s rot khen (mobile vendor carts) it would begin to taste rather bland. Some open for lunch only; others open all night. Though common to every street, knowing which carts sell what, when and where is a skill many Bangkokians pride themselves on. Short on time? Then make for one of the following hotspots, where clusters of vendors sell good feeds for pocket-change.
Our roving street-food eater Nym knows her local grub inside out – and thrives on the stories behind the dishes. Each month, she takes an offbeat tour in search of the next delectable morsel. From roadside vendor stalls to hidden restaurants, serious foodies would be well advised to follow her trail.
Satay Mae Yui
Soi Ari is a quiet residential area to the north of the city featuring lots of nice houses lived in by old Thai families. Lately, it’s also become a cool, gay-friendly spot for young scenesters, with lots of hip coffee houses, condos and bars popping up. I don’t go too crazy about this new scene – I’m into the old, fast disappearing one! One restaurant that falls in this category and is a must for me whenever I’m in the area is Mae Yui. At this homey joint an inviting green garden makes you feel relaxed, while a gold medal team cooks together in an open kitchen. The extensive menu mesmerises with its wealth of choice. The dishes I always go for are the pad thai and khao tod kratium fish (garlic pepper fish fried over rice). Not so hard to find either of them, but it’s rare that they’re this well done. Much rarer is moo satay (sticks of grilled pork marinated in a satay sauce). Other shops marinate the pork to my satisfaction but disappoint when it comes to the sauce. Not so at Mae Yai: here the sauce is refined and balanced, featuring the aroma of curry paste, the satisfying crunch of crushed peanuts, the creamy sweetness of coconut milk and the sour smack of blended in tamarind juice. A classic snack, masterfully done. And there’s more good news: they deliver! Check out their website www.maeyui.com. Mae Yui is on Soi Ari Sampan 1 and open everyday. Tel: 02-619-9952 64
food & drinks
Sukhumvit Soi 38 Directly beneath BTS Thong Lo station, the mouth of this soi fills up with food vendors selling late-night delicacies to revellers. Sample the delicate, hand-made egg noodles, or Hong Kong noodles; and never head home without trying the sticky rice with mango. Surawong A long row of street vendors offers special noodle dishes along this street near Patpong Night Market. Be sure to try the stewed chicken noodles in herbal soup in front of the Wall Street Building. Stalls are open from 10pm until 4am. Corner of Silom/Convent Road The stalls at the mouth of Soi Convent are popular with inebriated night crawlers; but it’s the B10 sticks of moo ping (grilled pork) served by one rotund, Zen master vendor that are justly famous. Go before the bars close (about 2-3am) to avoid the queues. Pratunam Midnight khao mun gai (Hainanese chicken rice)! There are two shops at the intersection of Pratunam (on corner of Petchaburi Road Soi 30); the first one is brighter and good, but if you like your sauce authentic – with lots of ginger – go to the second one. Also, try the pork satay with peanut sauce. Chinatown Shops fill the streets after dark.There’s an amazing range to sample, but a must-try for seafood fans is the vendor at the corner of Soi Texas. A bit farther on the other side of the street you can get delicious egg noodles with barbecued pork. For dessert, try fantastic black sesame seed dumplings in ginger soup next door. Soi Rambutri (near Khao San Road) Many a hangover has been stopped in its tracks after a pre-emptive bowl of jok moo (rice porridge with pork) from the stall in front of Swenson’s. Popular among tipsy Thai teenyboppers, this is just one of Soi Rambuttri’s many late night food stalls. bangkok 101
THAI LE LYS (mapC4) 148/11 Nang Linchi soi 6 (Soi Keng Chuan), Sathorn | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-287-1898~9 | www.lelys.info | noon-10:30pm | $ Though it sounds French bistro-ish, Le Lys is actually a Thai restaurant – a very distinctive and welcoming one. Run by a disarmingly friendly Thai-French couple, it’s a true insider’s secret, even more so now that they’ve relocated to a quiet soi just off Nang Linchi. Old fans will not be disappointed: the spacious 1960s-era house features a lush garden, outdoor dining patio with gazebo and chunky wooden bar, an indoor dining area strewn with family keepsakes, plus the much loved pétanque court, where Rique-sipping cliques gather on weekends. Patti and Phillip still dish out those cheek-y kisses after your second visit. Even more importantly the inexpensive Thai food still tastes like it’s been made with love and includes dishes you won’t find everywhere else: like the flavour-packed mieng salmon (cubes of deep fried salmon in betel leaves with herbs), the sour-spicy wingbean salad with shrimp and boiled egg, and peppery soft-shell crab. Turn down Nang Linchi Soi 6 and it’s about 100 metres down on your right.
เลอ ลิซ ถ.นางลิ้นจี่ ซ.6
SOI POLO FRIED CHICKEN (mapC4) 137/1-2 Soi Polo,Withayu Road, Lumphini | 022-655-8489 | $ “The best in town.”“Whips KFC’s butt!” Thais love raving about food, and yet rarely does a dish get as much love as the super tasty fried chicken at this cheap Thai restaurant near Lumpini Park. At lunchtimes office workers come to get their fix. We’ve seen them, licking their lips as plates of the tender, golden-brown stuff showered in deep-fried crispy garlic are ferried in from the kitchen a few doors down; giving the evil eye when they arrive at the next table. And there’s more. Though the chicken, best eaten with fingerfuls of their spot-on sticky rice, gets the column inches, other notable dishes include the nam tok salad with freakishly big strips of beef, and the fat, juicy tod man pla (fish cakes). Some dishes, like Isaan classic som tum (spicy papaya salad), come out too sweet by our reckoning. But it's nothing a bit of clumsy Thai can't put right, and besides, there's of the grittiness (i.e. offal-y bits) or car fumes you find streetside. Don’t expect anything lavish: the closest this air-conditioned shophouse comes to decoration is a couple of bored looking waitress “pretties”.
Bo.lan (mapD4) 42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong, Sukhumvit Soi 26 | 02-260-2962 | www.bo.lan.com | Tue-Sun 6:30pm-10:30pm | $$$ Partners Bo and Dylan arrived fresh from Naam, the world’s only Michelinstarred Thai restaurant, and launched Bo.lan with a formidable ambition. “The world’s best Thai restaurant should be in Bangkok, not London,” says Bo. They’ve imported Naam’s philosophy of rescuing classic Thai recipes that are fast disappearing in the modern age of convenience food, and produced a pleasingly short and interesting menu based, where possible, on carefully sourced regional produce. It incorporates a 10-course set (B1,500++) that opens with a traditional herb-infused liquor called ya dong, and follows with a rollick through the spectrum of Thai tastes, including sweet cured pork in coconut cream; bitter seafood soup, and deepfried fish with a spicy and fiercely sour nam chup baep dtai dipping sauce. Details such as touristy market scene paintings, uncomfortable seating, and a poor wine list with only one choice by the glass, are disappointing. But the food’s impressive, and Bo.lan could be an important restaurant, possibly inspiring a new movement in Bangkok’s increasingly homogenised dining scene.
โบลาน ซ.พิชัยรณรงค์ (สุขุมวิท 26)
food & drinks
CHOTE CHITR (map A3) 146 Phraeng Phuton | 02-221-4082 | 11am-10pm (closed Sun) | $ This it it – that culinary Holy Grail, the hole in the wall with heavenly food. Chote Chitr is set in a scenic neighbourhood near the Giant Swing – a lucky thing, because finding this restaurant requires the orienteering skills of a seasoned city survivalist. And then: a narrow shotgun space, cooks and dogs alike sprawled out on the floor – this is the home of the finest mee krob in the land? Indeed. Sit your sweaty self down and tuck in to this gorgeous melding of contrasts. Grease-free, whisper-light noodles packed with sour-tart citrus flavours from the peel of som saa fruit. Chote Chitr’s version kicks up its heel at all the syrupy nightmare mee globs out there. Banana-flower salad is a revelation, fried fish is dressed to kill in garlic, and the eggplant salad is mysterious spicy, smokily sweet. Simple surrounds, celestial food – what could be more Thai than that?
international D.B BRADLEY (mapD4) The Eugenia, 267 Sukhumvit Soi 31 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-259-9011-9 | www.theeuginia.com | 11:30am2:30pm, 6:00pm-11:00pm | $$$ Great for a leisurely tête-à-tête, D.B. Bradley occupies a petite nook in a fabulous mock-colonial boutique hotel called The Eugenia. Gazing out over the hotel pool, its décor is redolent of a late 19th century country house; yuppie Bangkokians sit on silk-brocade upholstered chairs with tribal textiles, Belgian wooden furniture and two stuffed geese for company. Here, Swisstrained Chef Jus serves unorthodox but well-balanced cross-cultural dishes
food & drinks
– “fusion, not confusion” food as he puts it. The Thai maestro gets heavenly results: the creamless field mushroom soup has a peppery assertiveness; appetizer avocado tuna tartar is a fiesta of guacamole, wasabi and sesame ponzu flavours; and mains like the truffle champagne fettuccine with truffle and olive oil sauce are delectably rich.These, and many more imaginative dishes, are available a la carte or as set menus (B1,380 and B1,900 respectively). Pair them with your pick of the 143 A-list French and Italian wines. An infectious spot, from the jasmine candle scent and old-world refinement right down to the velvety panna cotta finish.
รร.เดอะยูจีเนีย สุขุมวิท ซ.31
Café Ice (map C4) 44/2 Pipat Soi 2, Sathorn Soi 8 | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-636-7373 | Mon-Sat 11am – 11pm | $$$ Wong Kar Wai would love this galleria restaurant just off Sathorn Road. Hell, he could even film one of his ultra-cool art-house movies here. It’s a bohemian 3-storey shop-house where expats and educated-abroad sorts come to dine beside pieces of surrealist modern art, oriental sculptures and European paintings, and crackling gramophone jazz lends an air of 1930’s Shanghai. Find your spot in the nook-filled interiors (ours: the 2nd floor with its wall-mounted bronze Buddha hands); or step onto the sultry terrace to sip wine amid a chorus of evening cicadas. Is the Italian/Thai food outclassed by the atmospherics? In a word, no. The generous soft shell crab salad olivier includes a mountain of organic veg and a boat of pleasingly piquant balsamic. And, though B350 is extortionate for a pad thai, here it stars huge Andaman prawns and a tasty tamarind sweetness to great effect. Yes, you are paying a premium for the setting – but, then, rarely is it this stunning.
คาเฟ่ ไอซ์ ซ.พิพัฒน์ 2
KIOSK (mapD4) 6F,Thailand Creative Design Center, Emporium Shopping Complex | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-664-8702 | Tue-Sun 9:30am–9:30pm | $ Tucked in one corner of the TCDC’s library (p.57), Kiosk is reminiscent of a Melbournian alley café, with its silver chrome refrigerator, wall-mounted blackboard menu, beanbags, and the al fresco element substituted with sweeping views of Benjasiri Park. Alongside pastries, salads, sandwiches and desserts, it serves up an all-day brunch menu which includes classics like the tasty eggs benedict with smoked salmon, as well as other hunger-busters
food & drinks
like sweet poached pear in balsamic with mascarpone cheese and, our favourite, the country ham and egg with cheese sandwich. Another decadent must-try is the fried ice cream and berry sandwich. Hot and crispy on the outside, cold and soft inside, it would be a star attraction if only they defrosted the frozen berries first. Minor gripes aside, Kiosk is a dashing little coffee shop perfect for a quiet snack and cup of Illy coffee or glass of vino among little gaggles of bookish, often trendy Thais. If the studious air doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, there’s also a projector screening films and live jazz on Saturdays.
chic bangkok Cheryl Tseng
Best for Italian Where Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Road, 02-649-8888, www.starwoodhotels.com/ bangkok BTS Asok
A mural depicting the Italian countryside dominates the walls at Rossini’s to create a graceful interior with rustic comfort.The place exudes a warm intimacy; the service is outstanding and consistent. The sandstone-lined open kitchen takes center stage during lunch hour with tempting antipasti on display, luring both professional types and ladies for casual gettogethers over good value set courses. In the evenings the place is elegant, candle-lit, and buzzes with regulars who delve on Chef Gaetano Palumbo’s specialties. From homemade tortelloni with pumpkin in duck meat sauce to roast lamb loin with potatoes in a Gorgonzola sauce, coconut pannacotta with Amarena cherries to Castelmagno cheese with pear and fig confiture, every dish is exquisite. The wellculled wine selection, with an emphasis on Italian labels, perfectly complements the restaurant’s superb Italian cuisine and fine cheese offerings.
Chic Restaurants & Bars Bangkok is a compact food and style lover’s bible showcasing Bangkok’s most fabulous venues for dining and drinking. Global gourmand Cheryl Tseng leads you to the capital’s finest food, and its most striking décor. Each month we take a sneak peek inside, and share a taste here. A definite must-have for travelling foodies, get yourself a copy of the new 3rd edition at local book shops, or visit www.chicasia.com.
food & drinks
EMBER (map C3) 99/11-12 Lang Suan Balcony Building, Soi Lang Suan, Pleonchit Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02-652-2086~7 | 11:45am2pm, 6pm-10pm | $$$ This Bangkok venture of Singaporean chef Sebastian Ng, celebrate hotelier Peng Loh, and Thai partners features European dishes with “a tinge of Asian and Japanese influence” served in a decidedly chic setting. Musthave menu items include crispy foie gras served with a pear chutney and beet-orange chili reduction and five-peppered, crusted Australian lamb rack with baby bok choy and a port-tamarind reduction. A dessert not to be missed is apple-cranberry strudel with caramel sauce and ginger ice cream. Ember also features a reasonably priced set lunch menu of B450++ for two courses, B480++ per person for three courses that can be selected from six appetisers and six main courses.
เอ็มเบอร์ ตึกหลังสวนบัลโคนี่ ซ. หลังสวน
italian Loop Italian (map C3) 8F, Pathumwan Princess (adjoining MBK Center)| BTS National Stadium | 02-216-3700 | $$$ This slick, poolside Italian perched atop the Pathumwan Princess Hotel is just the ticket after a shopping sesh in market-in-a-mall MBK, to which it’s linked via the hotel’s lobby. Sporting matte black walls, it screams cosmopolitan good taste – sit inside amid its noirish photos, watch hotel guests doing backstrokes in the 50m pool outside, or take one of the cavelike private rooms with grey, slate walls and crocodile skin sofas. Milanese Chef Stefano serves up a first-rate menu
of homemade, modishly presented dishes, like rock lobster tortellini with clam garlic sauce and a soft and crispy slab of white snapper with artichoke. The pizzas are the weakest link, but through no fault of his own: fire restrictions forbid having a wood fire oven in a hotel. Besides, crispy and cheesy in all the right places, we had no complaint with ours. The wine list, spanning Italian to Argentinean, is intriguing, the desserts thrilling – we dived into our warm berries zabaglione, with its pistachio mousse as sheer as chiffon, and surfaced smiling. Definitely deserves a bigger fan-base.
Food, Wine, all things fine – Prime Classics Prime, named as one of Thailand’s Best Restaurants by Thailand Tatler for the past three years. Known for its Prime Steaks, Prime Views, Prime Service & Prime Wine. Your chance to experience all in one, we now feature “Prime Classics Menu”, a collection of our signature dishes, for only THB 2,900++ per guest. For more information and reservations, please call 0 2442 2000 Millennium Hilton Bangkok 123 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok 10600, bangkok.hilton.com
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CONCERTO (map C4) 661 Fl 1-2 Silom Rd | 02-266-5333 | www.niusonsilom.com | 5pm-1am | $$$ Concerto, the upstairs part of jazz-blues complex Niu’s on Silom, recently became Thailand’s first independent restaurant to gain the SGS international standard for food and service. Eating there, it’s easy to see how they reached a distinction normally in the realm of posh hotels. Chef Marco Cammarata plates up fantastic dishes like pumpkin and lentil soup flavoured with salted cod and a drizzle of basil oil; or warm sea scallops, the sweet flesh bristling with the dark acidity of balsamic reduction and the juicy pop of fresh grapes. The good, mainly Italian wine list has some 300 labels, with several by the glass, from B280.The modern classical room includes a mural of da Vinci’s Justice on one wall; there’s a jazz trio tripping light improvisations in the corner, and windows that overlook an evocative European-style plaza, complete with fountain and fairy lights. A classy joint, with plenty of parking, and well placed for river hotels.
Chinese GREAT SHANGHAI (map D4) Sukhumvit Soi 24 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-258-7042 | 11am – 2pm, 6pm – 10:30pm | $$$ An old Bangkok Chinese restaurant short on looks but long on taste sits right beneath Phrom Phong BTS station in front of Emporium shopping centre. Like most Chinese restaurants in the city it has an extensive menu, but there’s no need to open it up. Great Shanghai makes Peking Duck in its most sublime form. The skin is so crispy and golden that it retains none of the interior soft fat after they roast it. The crepe-style pancake wraps are soft and moist, and the homemade hoisin sauce perfectly sweet and salty. Order the duck and you’ll also get a duck and bittermelon soup, and the meat offered as an entirely different dish, either stirfried with garlic or made into a duck moo shoo with sprouts. One order will feed four people and costs B800. Proof of Great Shanghai’s skills in the kitchen can also be found in the clientele, comprised almost exclusively of Thai-Chinese families, the sector of Thai society that really knows good Chinese food when they taste it.
เกรทเซี่ยงไฮ้ สุขุมวิท 24
food & drinks
UNIQUELY TASTY: Where Food meets Form
If you appreciate good food and masticating in memorable surroundings, here are our top tips for unforgettable dining experiences around town. A perennial favourite with style magazines, Bed Supperclub (26 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-3537) offers dining in the kind of surreal space-age pod George Jetson would approve of. Order artful 3 course meals from SunThurs off a limited menu for B1,450++; and on Fri or Sat enjoy a mystery 4 course meal for B,1850++. Then recline like a galactic emperor on divan fittings while sexy staff in tight spacesuits and angel wings serve you. Brought to you by the same trail- blazing team is ultrastylish Long Table (Column Building, Sukhumvit Soi 16, 02-302-2557), the city’s most recent addition to the city’s designer dining stakes (they also do a pretty mean steak). As its name suggests, there’s a lengthy central bench, where you can rub up to models, celebrities and assorted other local A-listers, if you get a kick out of that sort of thing. Relish eating while high? Prepared to spend a tidy sum doing so? Then you’re right for Vertigo Grill (21/100 South Sathorn Road, 02-679-1200), alfresco rooftop restaurant at The Banyan Tree hotel. This sophisticated eatery, set in one of the most architecturally stunning buildings in Bangkok, specialises in top barbecued seafood. After dinner, sup a cocktail in The Moon Bar, the highest alfresco bar in the Asia Pacific. Or make like King Kong and scale the State Tower skyscraper in search of Sirocco (1055 Silom Road, 02624-9555), where sweeping city panoramas extend from atop the second tallest building in Bangkok. Expect quality live jazz, lots of pretty people, and an oyster bar within the prominent golden dome where you can also indulge in Iranian caviar and fine Cuban cigars. Heading back down-to-earth now, aim for the cutesy It’s Happened to be a Closet (32 Khao San Road, 02629-5271; or Siam Square Soi 3, 02-658-4696). An odd but successful fusion of closet-sized boho boutique with continental restaurant and bakery, shoppers at its two branches chow at a few dinky tables while surrounded by uber-cool trinkets, accessories and hawk-eyed fashionistas. bangkok 101
Much as we love cheap and tasty street food, non-wobbly tables and a little air-conditioning can go a long way. That’s why the Thai god of grub invented food courts! MBK: The Food Center (6F, 10am9pm) is cheap, chaotic and jampacked with yummy Thai grub. Most dishes are around the B40 mark. Just below the Food Centre is the Fifth Food Avenue (5F, 10am-9:30pm), a more upmarket collection of independent eateries (figure B150 for a dish) with good variety of international food, including Greek, seafood and Mexican options. Siam Centre: If you have a thing for molded plastic seats and vivid orange colour schemes, then baby, you’ve just hit the motherlode. Migraine-inducing décor aside, Food for Fun (4F, 9am-9pm) is a cheap and cheerful spot where B40-50 gets you a huge pile of reasonable Thai grub and the chance to tut at spiky-haired teenagers.
With its superb Lanna stylings and sumptuous food Le Crystal will take your breath away. Visit our exceptional wine cellar and indulge in our outstanding French cuisine.
Paragon: You can stare at a table-top aquarium while you munch your noodles; but you’re paying about B70 for those noodles. And they ain’t all that. The Food Court (B1, 10am10pm) dining hall gets packed too, making seats hard to come by and the atmosphere far from relaxing. CentralWorld: Flavour (7F, 10am-10pm) at the back of the Food Hall supermarket is really comfortable and has some cracking options at good prices. Figure on B50 a dish. Also in CentralWorld, on the seventh floor of Zen department store, is Food Loft (10am-10pm). Easily the most successful attempt at a mid-range food court, this plush, glass-walled offers up top-notch international fare. Try the Vietnamese noodle salad at B110. There’s another branch of Food Loft at Central Chitlom. Emporium: Probably the nicest food court on the mall-beat is the Food Court (5F, 10am-9:45) at Emporium. Clean, decked out like a library and with pleasant views over Benjasiri Park, the Food Court has lots of good Thai/ Chinese standards priced at B50-60. bangkok 101
SOUTH AMERICAN LA CUCHARA (map C4) 2/38 Soi Sribumphen (Soi Sathorn 1) | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-679-9910 | 11:30am – midnight | $$ We wouldn’t normally recommend you venture down a dead-end alley lined with dirty laundry, but this tiny threetable joint is so different that we’ll make an exception. Run by a plucky Thai lady, La Cuchara stands out, not just for its hearty Columbian food but also its backstreet-in-Bogotá aesthetic (blue walls and red tables, candlelight, potted plants and cheeky Fernando Botero paintings), soft Latin jazz and “toxic” cocktails. It’s worth coming just to try dishes you won’t find elsewhere: tapas-y starters like Ceviche de Camaron (a tangy-spicy tomato salad studded with chilli, feta and coriander), mains like the La Cuchara Pork (a paprika and potato pork stew served with tasty cassava root, salsa and fried banana sides). But, as unusual and carb-filling as these are, it’s the cocktails that put the Latino oomph in your evening. A few of their hotblooded pisco-sours or caipirinhas and you’ll be shaking your hips like Shakira in the nearest club afterwards. That, or keeled over on a sofa in their upstairs chill-out room – order with care! It’s a word-of-mouth sort of place, so do the right thing: enjoy then pass it on.
ลาคูชาร่า ซ.ศรีบำเพ็ญ (สาธร ซ.1)
japanese Uomasa (map E4) Ekamai Power Center Complex, 3rd Fl, 78/2 Sukhumvit Soi 63| BTS Ekamai |02-714-8365 | Mon-Fri 11:30am2pm, 5:30pm-11pm Sat-Sun 11:30am11pm| $$ Muzzle that inner food ethicist and feast at this branch of Uomasa. It boasts impeccable standard items and more unusual offerings, including horse and whale served without any freakshow sadomasochism. Master chefs treat ultra-fresh food with a tender reverence; eating becomes an homage. Ask for the osusume (recommended) menu or order the raw whale plated
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up three ways – darkly rich meat, hauntingly smoky “bacon,” and a white frothiness: fat from the whale’s tail, fullbodied and delicate. Décor is spacious and spare, on two levels, with private rooms upstairs (though the “beer garden” outside lacks the rowdy bonhomie of a real izakaya). Service is good, well-informed and attentive. Unsurprisingly, Uomasa is heaving with Japanese astonished to find divine food at down-to-earth prices. Don’t expect much else except ice creams – albeit good ones – for a final dinner act. This is the shrine of sashimi, the temple of tempura.
อูโอมาซะ สุขุมวิท 63
FRENCH AUBERGINE (map C4) 71/1 Soi Sala Daeng 1/1 | BTS Saladaeng, MRT Silom | 02-234-2226 | Mon-Fri 11:30 – 2:30&6pm – 11pm, Sat – Sun noon – 3pm&6pm – 11pm | $$ Poised on a quiet sub-soi between casual Saladaeng and the elegant hotels of Sathorn, Aubergine splits the difference and comes out cozy and classy. A beautifully preserved home with modern touches – warm yellow walls, a curvaceous bar, generous outdoor seating, and chic private rooms. The food is traditional, but not stodgy – Aubergine boasts tantalising French and Italian. The Lobster bisque is light and tastes like pure concentrate of the sea – potent, rich, but playing on the tongue. Handmade pastas provide such excellent counterpoints to fresh sauces – a robust fish ragout cut with the nutty assertiveness of rocket, for example. Meat entrées are conceived and executed with similar care. The lamb rack is one standout – tender, smoky, and accompanied by a meltingly rich gratin dauphinois. A fine wine list and sophisticated, nottoo-sweet desserts round out the offerings at Aubergine, where haute can be homey after all.
โอเบอร์จีน ซ.ศาลาแดง 1/1
LE PRÉ GRILL (map C3) 73/2 Lang Suan Soi 4 | BTS Chit Lom | 02-253-5919 | 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm | $$$ Is it ever worth visiting a place for dessert alone? Sure, but here you’d miss out on a dining experience seldom found in Bangkok. In an adorable small house, painted a balmy off-white, a handful of tables snuggle beneath a low ceiling, among Jugendstil prints, bathed in prettifying light. Smokers will prefer the cute terrace with just three tables. It’s all a bit Montmartre-goestropical. The food served up by Alain Ducasse-trained Chef Alain Geistlich and his sous Jai Lafon carries no hint of any blending, not that it needed any. It’s almost achingly French, deeply traditional. Le Pré Grill’s tight menu presents the essence of its big brother in Paris. Expect the usual suspects – escargots, Landes foie gras, Smoked Salmon Crepes, Duck Breast, Rack and Tournedos Rossini. All of them convincing, almost faultless. The prices here are too low; a 3-course lunch goes for B300-420++. And then there are the desserts – more than a dozen of them. Among them the tastiest, richest Mousse au Chocolat we’ve ever tasted. It’s got something to do with the caramel added to it. The rest you’ll find out once you come here, even if just for dessert.
เลอ เพร์ กริล หลังสวน ซ.4
food & drinks
Food&Drinks Tham Na
vegetarian THAM NA (map A3) 175 Samsen Road (between Soi 3 and 5), Banglamphu | 02-282-4979 | 8am9pm, closed Sunday | $ It’s one ofThailand's many conundrums: most Thais are devout carnivores as well as Buddhists. However, if the barely one-year-old Tham Na’s a sign of veggie eateries to come, expect that to change – this thin, boho-elegant shophouse on Samsen Road serves grub even voracious meat-eaters can enjoy. From a shoebox-sized kitchen out back come harmonious, neatly presented dishes made mostly from organic local produce. Most are Thai, some Southern European (couscous, mushroom kebabs etc), but all wear their veggie-stripes with pride (no dubious mock-meat here). Two taste sensations among the exotic sounding many: the croquette-like mushroom balls in mustard sauce; the grilled abalone wrapped in dried cha-poo leaves. The thick gang kee lek mushroom curry is also a must, hitting two unusual notes – smoky and bitter. Naturally, Tham Na is very health conscious (no coconut milk, no msg, whole-grain rice etc). However, somewhat refreshingly, they don’t take their health evangelism to the usual party-pooping extremes. Prime example: while healthy drinks – from star fruit smoothies to Roselle teas – abound, they also serve booze! Free parking at the nearby temple.
ทำนา ถ.สามเสน ระหว่าง ซ.3 กับ ซ.5
SWEET BASIL (map B4) 1 Soi Sriwiang | off Silom Soi Pramuan | BTS Surasak | 02-234- 1889, 02-2383088 | 11:am-2pm&5:30pm-10pm | $ www.sweetbasilrestaurant.in.th Too often people associate Vietnamese food with pho (soups) – a gastronomic prejudice it’s time to fight. One of the best places in Bangkok to do that is this whimsical eatery housed in an atmospheric 1930’s house. Inside you’ll find pastels and live piano music. If you’re more into food without fripperies, choose the garden, populated by shadeproducing trees. Prick your ears and wonder how such serenity is possible, mere minutes away from bustling Silom. The food here is delicious and almost authentic. But most of all it’s interesting, so you’ll end up wanting to order lots – come with some friends to explore the large menu. The Hanoi marbles are quite unique, while the “Pig in a Blanket” and the fried banana dripping with honey come highly recommended.
Indian Hut (map B4) 311/2-5 Suriwong Rd, opp Manohra Hotel | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-6357876 | www.indianhut-bangkok.com | 11am – 11pm | $$ Far more than just a cheeky name, Indian Hut has been at the forefront of the city’s gradual warming to Indian cuisine for 12 years. Everything from the cardamom seeds to the turmeric and Kingfisher beer is shipped in from the subcontinent, a policy that gives their robust Northern fare an authentic edge. Dishes come in generous, meant-to-beshared portions – the slow marinated chicken tikka is a fall-off-the-bone delight, the lamb rogan josh rich and tender, the naan breads and paneer exemplary. They also serve Jain (no onion, garlic or roots), Rajasthani and Indian-Chinese food. Oh, and very slurpable mango lassis. Encased in a plush, all-white dining room replete with white linen and staff in dickie bows, this is a curry-house with class. Still, no one’s going to begrudge you a satisfied belch – in fact, the food here demands it.
สวีท เบซิล ซ. ประมวล ถ. สีลม
อินเดียนฮัท ถ.สุรวงศ์ ตรงข้ามรร.มโนราห์
dim-sum LEE KITCHEN Though the décor of this ageing white featured
linen restaurant is about exciting as its 4th floor Thaniya Plaza location (ie. not very), that doesn’t change the rub: the dim sum here is good. Very good. There’s nothing day-old or soggy about these dumplings. From the siew mai to the minced prawns th Where 4 Floor, with ho-koa flower, every morsel is a hot, Silom Road BTS Sala succulent one steamed to perfection. Daeng Open Open Stand-out feature: the fresh prawns. The 10am – 1pm, 6pm – kitchen’s chefs also serve an a la minute menu, 11pmPrice B50 per dim starring dishes like the steamed scallops in a sum/a la minute serving scrumptious crab meat curry. No wonder the PM and untold politicians have all dined here over the years – unlike the nation’s politics, there can be no arguing about Lee Kitchen’s food! B50 per basket. Note that other branches serve dim-sum but not the a la minute menu.
ลีคิทเช่น ธนิยะพลาซ่า สีลม
food & drinks
runching is big in Bangkok. All five-star hotels and respectable cafés do them. Some are kid-friendly, others are strictly adult.You can get tipsy at some, while others focus on music. Curing a hangover? Need to eat al fresco? We offer you a sampling of Bangkok’s best.
Most hotel brunches in the city are set inside buffet-oriented restaurants that focus on offering the widest array of choices. This often means that quality is sacrificed for quantity. Rang Mahal’s Sunday spread, however, narrows down the variety to focus on one single cuisine – Indian – while maintaining the bottomless qualities of a buffet. Elevated high above Sukhumvit Road, this white tablecloth restaurant comes top of practically every list of best Indian restaurants in town. Your main concern here should not be the quality of food coming out of the kitchen, but WHERE Rembrandt Hotel, how much of these rich, creamy curries and aromatic Sukhumvit Soi 18 BTS Asok freshly-baked flatbreads you can actually down in one MRT Sukhumvit, 02-261-7100 sitting. Start your sub-continental feast by crunching OPEN Sun 11am – 2:30pm on papri chat, fried dough with tamarind chutney, PRICE B720++ before making your way to some of the heavier and hotter fare, like prawn jheenga masala and lamb rogan josh. While the large platter of tandoori and seafood may begin to fan your carnivorous flames, it’s the shwarma stand with its large hunk of spit-fired chicken that will set you ablaze. Douse the heat with a tall glass of refreshing sweet lassi, and close with a diabetes-inducing treat, gulab jamun, a traditional Indian dessert consisting of fried milk dough bathed in a generous serve of sugary syrup. As a special promotion until the end of the year the hotel is offering 25% discounts which increase upon every subsequent meal, meaning that your fourth meal will be absolutely free.
รร.แรมแบรนดท์ สุขุมวิท ซ.18
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or a break from the bustle of Bangkok, what could be more soothing than sipping a cuppa? Most upscale hotels and a growing number of stand-alone tea rooms serve afternoon tea. Some provide the traditional tray of sweets and savouries; others offer buffet or à la carte options for the hungry or the choosy. Mid-city or riverside, cosy or contemporary, whatever you choose, eat a light lunch or plan for a late dinner – these tea spreads are their own dose of decadence.
DIVANA HOME CUISINE
WHERE Divana Nurture, 8 Sukhumvit 35 (map D4) BTS Phrom Phong, 02-261-4818~9, www.divana-dvn.com OPEN Mon-Fri 11am-11pm, Sat-Sun10am11pm PRICE B250 per tea set 76
What do wellness spas know about high tea? Quite a lot it seems. Banish all preconceptions of cloying concoctions, floaty atmospherics and anemic, sugar-free scones because Divana’s is a treat in every respect. Set in a genteel, all-white teahouse that overlooks a shady secret garden, their teasets work a wonderfully jaunty, 1930s-inthe-tropics vibe. Ensconced in elegant rattan chairs, the urban drone that is Sukhumvit Soi 35 is drowned out by lilting jazz and birds twittering in tall trees beyond. The spread, although light, is surprisingly toothsome to boot. Tea-lovers can “uhm” and “ah” over a slew of traditional, Indian, herbal and fruit infusions – all served loose-leaf in exotic white tea-pots. And, despite being almost comically bite-sized, the homemade nibbles are just as luscious. There are delicate shrimp tarts and finger sandwiches, dainty Italian tiramisus and berry scones,… all flagrantly flavoursome. So flavoursome, in fact, that the overtly peckish could easily find themselves embroiled in a minor teaparty scuffle. Or just order another – at a paltry B250, “why the devil not?”, as the English say.
ดิวาน่า เนอเชอร์ สุขุมวิท ซ.35 food & drinks
High Teas ■ Café Gallery Unit 207, The Trendy Plaza, 10 Sukhumvit Rd Soi 13 | 086-5361275 | BTS Nana | www.the-cafegallery.com | daily 8am-9pm | $ ■ CHOCOLATE HIGH TEA IN A CLASSICAL KEY InterContinental Bangkok | 02656-0444 | daily 2:30pm-6pm | B390++ Mon-Fri, B450++ Sat&Sun ■ Diplomat Bar Conrad Bangkok, Wireless Rd. | 02-690-9999 | 2:30pm – 5:30pm | Single B410++, Couple B750++ ■ ERAWAN TEA ROOM Erawan Bangkok, 2nd Fl, 494 Ploenchit Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02-250-7777 | Thai-style afternoon tea set daily, 2:30pm6pm | B220 net ■ Four Seasons Hotel Lobby 155 Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Ratchdamri | 02-250-1000 | 650++ (Mon-Fri) | B750++ (SatSun)| daily 2pm-5pm ■ HOLIDAY INN SILOM Holiday Inn Silom Bangkok, Silom Rd | BTS Surasak | 02-238-4300 | 3pm – 6pm | B380++ ■ Light High Tea Banyan Tree Bangkok, Lobby Lounge | 02-679-1200 | daily 1pm-5pm, B350++ ■ THE PENINSULA 02-861-8888 | daily 2pm-6pm | tea sets B450++ ■ LE MERIDIEN AFTERNOON TEA Plaza Athénée Bangkok 61 Wireless Rd |02-650-8800 | daily 3pm-5pm | 550 nett/ 1 person, 680 nett/2persons ■ LOBBY SALON The Sukhothai | 02-344-8888 | Mon – Thu 2pm -6pm | B800++ ■ Zest Bar & Terrace 7th Fl. The Westin Grande Sukhumvit 259 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok MRT Sukhumvit | 02207-8000 | daily 2:30pm-5pm | B390++
■ Sukhumvit Gazebo Sukhumvit Soi 1 | 02-655-2475-6 | BTS Phloen Chit Global tapas until the wee hours.
Took Lae Dee Foodland Supermarkets Nana Branch | BTS Nana | Sukhumvit Soi 16 Branch | BTS Asok | open 24 hours Means “cheap and good” and it is for the most part. Round-the-clock diner serves Thai and Western food and is attached to a supermarket that never closes either. Sunrise Tacos 236/3-4 Sukhumvit (btw Soi 12 and 14) | 02-229-4851 | BTS Asok | open 24 hours | www.sunrisetacos.com A little take-out joint serving Mexican fare and margaritas “by the yard” where you can get a super-sized halfkilo burrito. The presentation is a bit sloppy but by now, so are you. Royal Kitchen 912/6 Soi Thong Lo (opp. Soi 25) | BTS Thong Lo | until 1am | 02-3919634| www.royalkitchengroup.com Congee, standard roast duck and BBQ pork along with a full Chinese menu. ■ Silom Eat Me Off Convent Rd In Pipat 2. | 02-238-0931 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 1am Half restaurant, half art gallery with innovative Thai and Pacific Rim cuisine.
Coyote on Convent Sivadon Building | 1/2 Convent Rd | 02631-2325 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 1am Tex-Mex Fare with an endless list of margaritas. Bug and Bee 18 Silom Rd. | 02-233-8118 | BTS Sala Daeng | open 24 hours | www.bugandbee.com Four storey café offers up Thai and fusion dishes like curried crab crêpes.
Ramen Tei 23/8-9 Soi Thaniya | Silom Rd | 02-2348082 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 2am Ramen noodles in Soi Thaniya. Good Evening Restaurant 1120 Narthiwas-Ratchanakarin Soi 17 | 02-286-4676 | BTS Chong Nonsi | until 1am | www.goodeveningbkk.com Stylish Thai cuisine ■ Lang Suan Ngwan Lee Corner of Soi Lang Suan & Soi Sarasin | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-250-0936 | Until 3am This Soi Lang Suan stalwart is popular with clubbers; and the humdrum décor doesn’t distract from the reason why: excellent Thai/Chinese fare. ■ Khao San Padthai Thipsamai 313 Mahachai Rd (near the Golden Mountain) | 02-221-6280 | open 5pm3am | www.thipsamai.com If you’re around Khao San log in to this hole in the wall considered by most to have the best pad thai in Bangkok. And oh yeah, it’s probably the only pad thai with a website.
hais usually have dinner fairly early, on average around 6-7pm so visitors to Thailand may be surprised by the early closing times at restaurants which quite often take their last orders around 9:30-10pm. So what do you do when you’ve just come out of that show or late-night movie? Or what if all that club-hopping has gotten your stomach growling? No worries, as there’s food to be had at all corners at all times. Obviously most hotels have 24hour restaurants, pub kitchens usually stay open till midnight (see Pub Crawling p.96) and certain areas are bustling all night (see Street Eats p.64). But with all due respect to the above we’ve come up with a list of excellent, independent establishments where you can settle in and tuck into a meal ‘round midnight and beyond.
Mayompuri 22 Chakraphong Rd | 02-629-3883 | until 1am | www.mayompuri.com Garden dining amidst colonial architecture has both Thai and Western dishes. Tom Yum Kung 9 Trokmayom | Off Khao San Rd. towards Police Station (Look for the big sign) | 02-629-1818 | until 2am | www. tomyumkungkhaosan.com Reasonably priced Thai food.
The Old PraAthit Pier Restaurant 23 Phra Athit Rd | 02-282-9202 | until midnight Thai food on a wooden deck right beside the pier. Silk Bar and Restaurant 129-131 Khao San Rd | 02-281-9981 | Food until 2am, Closes at 6am | Thai and International Food food & drinks
Bug and Bee
ookies, Cakes, Pies, oh my! Thais surely love it sweet, taking every opportunity to lace their foods with sugar or syrup whether it is noodles or teas. Kids even drink sweetened milk! So it’s no surprise that almost everywhere you look there are bakeries or sweet shops selling sugary, creamy, crusty goodies for all. Of course with everything there’s good and bad. Though it’s hard to complain about desserts in general one has to keep in mind that not all are created equal. Rest assured the decadent little treats at these spots are surely from the upper crust.
MONT NOM SOD
Fresh milk, thick bread and Thai custard; that’s pretty much all they serve at this shop near the Democracy Monument. And yet it’s the busiest dessert stop in town. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense – until you’ve tried it. Mont Nom Sod’s been serving the above since 1964. During that time they’ve got it down to a fine, if disorderly, art. Walk in and you’ll find a scrum of customers, all queuing impatiently behind one of five counters, waiting to be served by one of the many waitresses who don’t speak English but are well versed in the language of point and smile. Each counter has a specialty – one sells baked items, one their famous fresh milk, another bottled milk and so on. By far the busiest are those nearest the door Where 160/1-3 Dinserving steamed bread with little boxes of sankayaa Sor Rd., near Giant Swing, (coconut egg custard), or lightly buttered toast 02-224-1147,02-224-1989 slathered in your topping of choice – sankayaa, Open Sun – Thu 2pm taro, chocolate sauce, peanut butter etc. What’s – 11pm, Fri – Sat 2pm remarkable about all this, and explains why the midnight Price $ seating area is heaving with Thais, day in, day out, is the softness of the fresh, inch-thick bread. And the glossy, sweet, buttery, frankly to-die-for sankayaa that goes so darn well with it. Wash it down with a cup of their fresh, sweet milk with ice. Local, cheap, utterly sublime, this is it: the dessert shop you’ll be raving about all holiday.
food & drinks
■ BAAN PRA ATIT COFFEE AND MORE 102/1 Pra Atit Rd | 02-2807878 | Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm ■ Cakewalk Natural Ville, 61 Langsuan Rd | 02-250-7050 | BTS Chitlom | daily 6am-10:30pm ■ CHERUBIN Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02-2609800 | BTS Asoke | Tue-Sun 10:30am-7pm ■ Coffee Bean by Dao 20/12-15, Soi Ruamrudee, Ploenchit Rd | 02-254-7117-9 | daily 10am-10pm ■ Iberry Siam Square Soi2 | 02-6583829 | daily Sun-Thur 10am10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10:30pm ■ JIM THOMPSON’s HOUSE 6/1 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | 02-612-3601 | BTS National Stadium | Tue-Sun 9am-6pm ■ Kakao Café 99/361-8 Sukhumvit soi 24 (opp. Camp Davis) | 02-6611777 | BTS Phrom Phong | daily 10 am-10pm ■ KUPPA 39 Sukhumvit Soi 16 | 02663-0495 | BTS Asoke, MRT Sukhumvit | Tue-Sun 10:30am11:30pm ■ LE GOURMET 595/3-4 Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | 02-258-5048 | BTS Phrompong | daily 9am-9pm ■ Mousses and Meringues 245 Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02 662-1290 | BTS Phrompong | daily 10am-7pm ■ RUEN KHUN NOI 71 Sukhumvit Soi 4 | 02-2556049 | BTS Ploenchit | daily 10am-6pm ■ Saffron… just baked 86 Phra Athit Rd | 02-2814228 | daily 8am-9pm ■ Something sweet Sathorn 47/4 Soi Sathorn 8 Sathorn Nua, Silom | 02-235-4834 | BTS Chong Non Si | daily 10am-10pm ■ T42 4 Fl. Siam center Rama 1 Rd | 02-251-6197 | BTS Siam | daily 10am-9pm ■ THE ORIENTAL SHOP The Emporium, 5th Fl | 02664-8147~8 | BTS Phrom Phong | www.mandarinoriental. com | daily 10:30am-10pm ■ SEcret recipe La Villa, 1st Fl., Paholyothin Rd | BTS Aree, 02-613-0575 | www.secretrecipe.co.th | daily 10:30am-10pm
Buffet Venues ■ THE MED The Westin Grande Sukhumvit | 02-207-8000 | 6am11pm | Breakfast Buffet: 6am-10:30am B650++, Lunch Buffet: noon-2:30pm B790++, Dinner Buffet: 6pm-10:30pm B1,100++ ■ DINING ROOM Grand Hyatt Erawan | 02-254-1234 | Mon-Sat 12pm-2:30pm (3pm on Sat), Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm, Fri-Sun 6pm-10pm | lunch B780++, dinner Mon-Thu B1,150++, dinner Fri-Sun B1,499++ (seafood) ■ COLONNADE The Sukhothai 13/3 South Sathorn Rd | 02-344-8888 | noon-2.30pm | B980++ ■ ESPRESSO InterContinental Bangkok, Ploenchit Rd | 02-656-0444 | daily noon2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm | B790++ (lunch) B990++ (dinner) ■ HEIGHTS CAFÉ Pan Pacific Bangkok | 02-6329000 ext. 4343 | Mon-Sat 6am-10:30pm, Sun 11:30am3pm | Breakfast B590++, Lunch B610++, Dinner B690++ ■ No.43 BISTRO Cape House Serviced Apartment, Gr Fl, 43 Soi Langsuan| 02-6587444 ext.285 | daily 6am-midnight ■ Lord jim’s buffet Oriental Hotel Bangkok, Oriental Avenue | 02 - 659-9000 | Mon-Sat noon-3pm sun 11:30am-3pm | B1,295 net (Mon-Sat) B1,648 net (Sun) Booking advised. Smart casual dress code. ■ THE BRASSERIE Holiday Inn Silom, 981 Silom Rd | 02-238-4300 | daily noon-2:30pm and 6pm-10:30pm | lunch B707 net, dinner B824net, Friday Seafood Night B941net ■ Orchid Café Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit | 02649-8888 11:30am-2:30pm & 6:30pm10:30pm | Lunch 760++, Dinner (Mon-Thu) 1,050++, Dinner (Fri - Sun) 1,250++ ■ Citi Bistro Pathumwan Princess Hotel 1st Fl., near MBK | 02-216-3700 | 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6pm – 10pm | lunch B650net, dinner B1,300net
angkok bites off way more than it can chew. We all know this is a great city for very high quality dining, but it’s also excellent for the gluttons among us, drawn to food in quantities. From street side moo krata joints that give you a sizzling skillet and let you loose on a pile of meat for less than B100, to the city’s ever-growing legion of five-star hotels that offer up the utmost quality along with quantity, it’s a wonder how Thais stay in such good shape. Here is a sampling of Bangkok’s best eat-till-you-burst buffets.
all you can eat
The Millenium Hilton’s Flow offers gluttony on a grand scale: gargantuan buffets in a dining room that could pass for an airplane hanger, albeit a very posh one overlooking the river. Spread over a couple of hundred square metres are live food stations offering a global greatest hits, from perky sashimi to true Thai, fresh US oysters to hot rich European, like beef tenderloin with mustard sauce. Dinner times are best, when the door to the Cheese Room – a temperature-controlled vault packed full of fine fromage – is unlocked and the selection fattest. Not only that, Flow puts different cuisines centre stage on different evenings. Wednesdays, for example, is Indian Night. And on Thursdays, Flow pairs more Thai fare, like Chiang Mai curry noodle soup Khao Soy, with performances by Patravardi Theatre. Make no mistake, watching these costumed dance performers weave their way around the restaurant while musicians tap ranaad ek (xylophones) and you pig out on Where GF, Millenium desserts (which are luscious incidentally; try the Hilton Bangkok, 123 Spaghetti ice-cream) makes a beguiling change Charoennakorn Road, from the muzak and canteen-like atmosphere Klongsan BTS Saphan Taksin of your typical buffet, even if it is a tad touristy. (take free shuttle ferry from And it’s even better when the weather’s fine, as Saphan Taksin Pier) Price the dancers perform outside in shallow infinity Lunch: B850++, Dinner: pools bordering the river’s edge. Glance up B1,500++ from your plate (easier said than done) and you might actually think they’re floating above it. These mystical touches, along with the mostly celestial food, just about justify the eyebrow-raising B1,500++ asking price. Wine not included.
รร.มิลเลนเนียมฮิลตันกรุงเทพฯ คลองสาน food & drinks
Wine Bridge Plus
Undoubtedly one of the more popular watering holes in Bangkok, Wine Bridge Plus rocks every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And the wines are not too bad, either. In fact, it boasts a better-than-average selection of new and old world wines at palatable prices. According to Eve, the young and upwardly mobile face of Wine Bridge Plus, the focus initially was wine, when the bar occupied a cosy niche on the upper floor near an arch that spans the entrance to the complex (hence the name, Wine Bridge). Cosy has given way to an eclectic mix of WHERE 99/15-16 seating around the bar and a tiny stage Langsuan Balcony Bld, where musicians belt out pop, rock, jazz and Langsuan soi 6-7 BTS Chit Thai pop Friday to Sunday, when it’s Lom, 02-251-2187, 02-251standing-room only and the crowd spills out 7767 OPEN 6pm till late into the front courtyard. Tummy-tempters, such as the Winebridge Chicken (tender morsels of chicken with dip), Pizza Spring Roll, and Seaweed Vermicelli with Seafood and Fried Egg (a Thai-style salad), go well with any of the liquids. Don’t pass up the Prawn Spaghetti in Spicy Basil Pesto and Crispy Bacon. Among the can’t-go-wrong wines are Australian, South African and, of course, French and Italian vintages ranging from B2,200 to a bankrupting B63,500 a bottle.
ไวน์บริดจ์ ตึกหลังสวนบัลโคนี หลังสวนซ.6-7
More Bangkok Wine Bars ■ BAR @ 494 Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, 494 Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02-2541234 ■ BACCHUS 20/6-7 Ruam Rudee, Ploenchit | BTS Ploenchit | 02-650-8986 ■ club nove La Villa Restaurant, 131 Thong Lo Soi 9 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-712-9991 ■ GLASS @ GIUSTO
16 Sukhumvit 23 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-2584321, 02-258-1159 ■ OPUS 64 Pan Road, Soi Wat Kaek, Silom | BTS Surasak | 02637-9899 ■ VINO DI ZANOTTI 41 Soi Yommarat, Sala Daeng Rd | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-636-0855 ■ WINE BRIDGE PLUS 99/15-16 Langsuan Balcony, Langsuan soi 6-7 | BTS Chit
Lom, 02-251-2187 ■ WINE LOFT Sukhumvit 31 (Soi Sawasdee) | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-260-0027 ■ WINE & ME Sukhumvit Rd btw Soi 51&53 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-662-7605 ■ WINE PUB Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel | BTS Victory Monument | 02-680-9999
food & drinks
‘New Latitude’ Thai wine Thai cuisine is considered one of the world’s best, and deservedly so – fresh ingredients, complex flavours, and tangy, tongue-teasing dishes. One thing gourmets rarely expect to drink over a Thai meal is wine, for fear that the food’s piquancy would overpower any subtle flavours. But in recent years several Thai vineyards have sprung up; and they are fast beginning to make their mark in a market dominated, as one would expect, by the usual array of old and new world wines. Thai-made “New Latitude Wines” are mostly blended from grape varieties like Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a tendency towards light to medium-bodied dry wines, which balance well with the richness of spicy Thai dishes. Several Thai wineries are within easy driving distance of Bangkok – around two hours away. Head for Hua Hin, or the favourable altitude, rich soil and microclimate around Khao Yai National Park. Learn more at: www.thaiwine.org bangkok 101
A taste of New Orleans...
Restaurant & Oyster Bar Serving up Asia’s finest Cajun and Creole cuisine since 1986.
“A must when you visit Thailand.” Newsweek
n Blackened redfish
Fixin’ breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7am-1am
n Gumbo n Jambalaya n Oyster bar (raw, char-broiled, bienville & more...) n US & Local Steaks n Mexican buffet every Tuesday n Fine cognac and cigars n Wireless Internet
Boutique Hotel available daily, weekly or monthly 29/4-10 Sukhumvit Soi 22 (Behind SportsMan Bar) Tel: 02-259-0328/9, 02-259-4317 Fax: 02-259-4318 Email: email@example.com f of ive % dl www.bourbonstbkk.com 30 te rs r e po yst y Im O onl
one night in bangkok
angkok’s vibrant nightlife offers an almost infinite Cowboy (btw sois 21 & 23). And voguish but affordable amount of options – so much more than just the hotspots (all tall tables, live hip-hop and whisky-sippin’ naughty male’s One Night in Bangkok wet dream. urban youth) abound in the hot-to-trot sois of Thong A night out here can easily have you flitting between Lor and Ekamai (sois 55 & 63). Northeast of the Sukhumvit conventional, cutting-edge and downright surreal, and usually in “Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s major area, Royal City Avenue – or thoroughfare and its myriad RCA (p.95) – features a malla matter of steps, or, failing that, a short taxi ride. It’s little wonder that adjoining sois, hosts many of strip of megaclubs where hordes of young, flir ty Thais congregate, Bangkok pulls in so many revellers the city’s best nightspots.” especially on weekends. Other from across the city – and beyond. Glitzy bars and cocktail lounges attract the well-heeled notable hot spots include Bang Lamphu, the hedonistic and fabulous for slick drinks and smart design. Innovative backpacker hub that is legendary Khao San Road (p.94), nightclubs thrill international clubbers with rave-scene/ and the bohemian café/bar scene on Phra Athit Road. hip-hop culture sounds. Folksy jazz, blues and rock venues The Chao Phraya River has yet to live up to its please live music fans. Alternatively, sports junkies and the true potential as a nightlife centre. However, many of homesick have pubs… heaps of them, many as welcoming the city’s top hotels (The Oriental, Peninsula, Shangri-La, and well-stocked as your local boozer. Want to party till Millennium Hilton & Royal Orchid Sheraton) offer fivesunrise or thereabouts? Despite party-pooping official star cocktails, riverside. Alternatively, for bird’s-eye views closing hours (most venues must shut between 1-2am), of the river and high-altitude cocktails, turn to p.90. On and as long as you’re cool with doing it in a louche back- the following pages we list the cream of the crop – from lounges to live music venues, wine bars to nightclubs – street style, you can. The lively Silom/Sathorn commercial district is a to help you achieve that perfect night out. throbbing nightlife centre. From Irish-themed pubs to Patpong’s glaring go-go scene, right through to pumping DJs and bars-in-the-sky (p.86), there’s something for all. Nightlife Nous The city’s gay scene is also busiest here, with the pink flag Want the scoop on Bangkok’s notoriously under-theflying proudest around Silom sois 2 & 4, and the sleazier radar nightlife scene? Keep your eye on these websites Surawong Road. and before long you’ll be tipping off the locals. Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s major thoroughfare, and its n www.bangkokgigguide.com – jazz, rock, reggae… myriad adjoining sois host many of the city’s flashest all the live music bases are covered in comprehensive, (and debauched) nightspots. On Soi 11, Q Bar and Bed night-by-night detail here. Supperclub (p.84) lead the way in international-style n www.lastnightinbangkok.com – club scene listings & nightlife. The more degenerate side of Bangkok nightlife post-party galleries. shines in Sukhumvit’s two adults-only streetscapes – n www.bangkokrecorder.com – their gossipy forum is Nana Plaza (off Soi 4), and the more carnivalesque Soi where news of upcoming DJ fly-ins often breaks. 82
Nightlife Club 87 Plus
Bed Supperclub Image by Marcus Gortz
Clubbing in Bangkok? Stand-alone clubs are required by law to close at 1am, though many manage to stay open later; officially hotel nightclubs can stay open until 2am. The legal drinking age is 20. All patrons must carry proof. No ID, no entry. No joke. And as of late, smoking inside bars is a no-no.
BED SUPPERCLUB (map D3) 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com | nightly 7:30pm-1am ‘Bed,’ with its über-modern spaceship design, is a successful hybrid: fine dining on what may be the world’s largest sofas on one side, and an adjoining bar on the other. For the past five year s, Bed has attracted a fashionable crowd, and with its à-la-page white interior, is definitely a place to see and be seen. The food is world-class on the cosy restaurant side, and the sleek design extends to an all-white bar on the club side. Bed has talented resident DJs and brings over top-class world talent (including some very eclectic art) for special events.Tuesday’s Hip Hop party packs ‘em in while Wednesday’s Model Night throbs with tribal house music. Sunday is ‘Think Pink’ and features a colourful Burlesque show.
เบด ซัปเปอร์คลับ ถ.สุขุมวิท ซ. 11
Club 87 Plus (map C3) Conrad Hotel, 87 Wireless Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-690-9087 | 6pm - 2am Bigger, sleeker and sexier, the Conrad hotel’s recently relaunched flagship nightspot has targeted its audience from the get-go. Don’t be expecting minimalist jungle or Ibiza-style foam parties, but if you like to cut a little rug to tunes from the 80s and 90s, this joint should do just fine. The main draw here is the band, Citybeat (TuesSun, 10pm-2am). They know how to get a party going with their tried and tested repertoire of funked-up pop classics. DJ 90 provides the soundtrack for the daily buy-one-get-one-free Happy Hour (6-9:30pm), and takes centre stage on Monday evenings. Thursday is Ladies Night and Sunday’s Latin. There’s also a nifty new smoking lounge adjoining the venue.
The Tunnel (mapC3) Lang Suan soi 5 | BTS Chit Lom | 087594-0641| Tue-Sun 10pm - till late After a hiatus, our after-hours venue of choice is back. Flash your I.D. at the harmless hulks on the door to enter a crypt-style hangout that’s filled with a veritable who’s who of the social scene. There’s ample dancing space and a DJ pod in the middle of the dance floor. A sweet sound system and switched on DJs blasting progressive house and electro ensure club goers won’t be disappointed. It’s house music all the way but the tune selection is a cut above the usual stuff that passes for dance music in other venues. Expect guest appearances from classy, European DJs. The entry fee includes one or two drinks. Turn up around 1am and you may get to dance until 4:30-5am. เดอะทันแนล หลังสวน ซ.5 nightlife
TAPAS (map C4) Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom | 02-632-7982 | nightly 8pm-2am On the groovy little enclave of Silom Soi 4, Tapas is a party institution and one of the few mixed hang-outs on a heavily gay strip of lively bars and clubs. For more than 10 years it’s been pumping out excellent house music and live, bongo-bangin’ percussion sets as well. Multi-levelled, with a dark, Moroccan feel, it’s easy to chill here, whether lounging or dancing your tail off! Like Soi 4 in general, weeknights can be hit-ormiss, but weekends are always hopping. ทาปาส สีลม ซ.4 Q BAR (map D3) 34 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-252-3274 | www.qbarbangkok.com | nightly 8pm-1am Long-standing, New York-style night spot Q Bar is well-known for pouring stiff drinks (there are over 70 varieties of top-shelf vodka!) and its strong music policy, with international DJs leading the way. Q Bar raised the ‘bar’ for Bangkok nightlife eight years ago and is still going strong, with a crowd every night and many big name guest DJs. Best nights: Sunday’s Beat Therapy hip-hop party, Wednesday’s Block Party with hip-hop & funk classics (ladies enter free), and Liquid Thursday’s Funky House. Upstairs at Q a chic, remarkably different vibe resounds in the newly renovated bar/ lounge. Some relative solitude can be found here and on the outdoor terrace, perfect for a breather and people watching. คิว บาร์ ถ.สุขุมวิท ซ. 11 Q bar
ceiling. Strategically placed structures, great for resting an elbow or a drink, dot the open-plan dance floor, surrounded by plush sofas and stools. It’s a beautiful building but the toilets lack a little finesse.
คลับ คัลเจอร์ ถ. ศรีอยุธยา
NARZ (map D3) 112 Sukhumvit Soi 23 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-664-0373 | www.narzbangkok.com | 8pm-2am Narcissus has been a club fixture for 17 years, but its latest three-storied incarnation,The Narz Project, brings new energy to the complex. Located on a side street just off Sukhumvit Soi 23, hiphop lovers, techno heads and live band followers can now party all under one roof – albeit a huge one. Resident DJs spin the latest in dance and electronic in the ground level’s Narcissus Bangkok. On the second, Narz Zealot playsrap music and R&B. Rightly placed on the third floor is the ear-drum bursting Narz Ripper, which hosts a number of local Thai bands throughout the week. Crowds can be thin.
นาร์ส สุขุมวิท ซ.23
CLUB CULTURE (map C3) Sri Ayutthaya Rd (opp. Siam City Hotel) | BTS Phaya Thai | 08-9497-8422 | www.club-culture-bkk.com | Tue-Sun 8pm-2am | B400 (incl. 2 drinks) This modish 1,000-capacity club attracts a cross-cultural mix of trendy Thais and expats and the diversity is mirrored in the music policy. They promote new talent, while also bringing in the big guns, ensuring an eclectic roster of breakbeat, electronica, trance, indie rock, drum ‘n’ bass and house music. Climb carpeted steps, pass through a curtained stairwell and you’ll enter a space where chandeliers and Thai wood carvings hang from the bangkok 101
THE CLUB (map A2-3) 123 Khao San Rd, Taladyod, Phranakorn | 02-629-1010 | www.theclubkhaosan.com | free The walk-in crowd of young Thais and backpackers will be amazed to find they’ve entered a castle on Khao San Road. The spiral staircase to the central DJ platform and sky-high windows give a fairy-tale vibe that would make Rapunzel want to let her hair down and hang loose. Music-wise, it’s a loud, banging house with a B300-500 entry fee for special events from psy-trance to breakbeat to global DJs. Ladies’ night on Thursdays treats the crowd to live percussion, while a saxophonist jazzes it up on Fridays.The drink prices are kind to your wallet and dancers entertain on Friday and Saturday nights. The Club aims to raise the stakes on the Khao San strip with plans for an outdoor monitor that will stream live action from the naughty goings-on inside. เดอะ คลับ ถ. ข้าวสาร 808 (map D3) RCA, block C | 02-203-1043 | MRT Pra ram 9 | www.808bangkok.com | 9am-late This slick nightclub – all imposing red lighting, exposed brick and steel-cladding – has been a hit with clubbers ever since it landed on RCA (p.93) in ’07. The reason: the line-up. Grandmaster Flash, James Lavelle and Derrick May to name but a few global DJ giants, have all rocked this postindustrial warehouse, aided in no small part by the ear-drum/body/tablerattling sound-system (watch that drink dance!). Head up to the balcony for a comfy leather perch, or gyrate with the diehards on the dancefloor. Entrance prices vary depending on who is gracing the decks that night.
เอท โอ เอท อาร์ซีเอ บลอกซี nightlife
Cabarets MAMBO (map C4) 59/28 Rama 3 Rd | 02-294-7381-2 | show time 7:15pm, 8:30pm, 10pm (please reserve for 10pm) | B800, VIP B1,000 The mother of Bangkok drag cabarets, tongue-in-cheek Mambo is still going strong, thanks to its fab ensemble of the city’s most glam kathoey giving their all amid rather drab décor. The very popular show is somewhat mainstreamy, but its professionalism keeps you entertained. The gals are so good they’ve even toured London. Be prepared for mimed pop tunes, Broadway evergreens, glitz and big, big melodrama.
CALYPSO (map C3) Asia Hotel | 296 Phaya Thai Rd | 02-216-8937| daily 8:15pm & 9:45pm | www.calypsocabaret.com | B1,000 (includes 1 drink) Bangkok’s biggest drag show cabaret features more than 50 kathoey (ladyboys) in a gender-bending and dazzling show twice a night. The show’s a rollercoaster of fun: envisage Madonna and Marilyn mimes, Nippon kitsch and the Paris Folies. Their Spice Girls are frighteningly good. Calypso offers an intriguing blend of the comic, the sexy and the bizarre. Don’t be afraid to take the kids along.
คาลิปโซ่ รร.เอเชีย ถ. พญาไท
bars with a view
Fed up with Bangkok’s fume-filled streets? Fancy a breather? Take to the skies. Bangkok offers a clutch of dramatic high-altitude bars (both indoor and outdoor) from where to survey the glittering skyline below.
View from Threesixty
THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am A beacon over Bangkok’s night sky is ablaze. Picture a gorgeously moody, sexy place with world-class jazz, awesome cocktails and hear t-stopping views. Sprinkle this with the fact that you’ll be par t of the international trendsetter scene just because you’ve managed to cross the Chao Phraya. Sound inviting? Head over to the Millennium Hilton and take the glass elevator to the 32nd floor. Up in a glassed-in, UFO-like construction 130 metres high, Three Sixty perfects a circle. Soft couches and smooth cocktails enhance a dizzying view: Bangkok’s downtown and a row of riverside hotels spread out in front of you. Good thing this place doesn’t revolve. It’s a grown-up crowd which values Osetra on blinis with their drinks. Pure Post-Millennium Magic. And do check out the hotel lobby.
ทรีซิกตี้ รร.มิลเลเนี่ยม ฮิลตัน ถ. เจริญนคร
Red Sky (map C3) Centara Grand Hotel, Rama 1 Road | BTS Chid Lom/Siam | 02-100-1234 | www.centarahotelresorts.com | 5pm – 1am Hi-octane views, svelte Martinis, rattan loungers to enjoy them on. Ironically, the only thing you won’t be seeing at Centara Grande’s chicly lit al fresco bar is red. When not gasping at the city flickering like a circuit-board beneath you, let yourself be entertained by the boomerang-like edifice changing colour above the translucent bar; or stargaze into the fibre optic solar system embedded in the curving, wood-panel wall. Sip a bottle from their space-age wine cellar, or a well-mixed cocktail; they shake everything from Ying Yangs to classic Caipirinhas. Fifty five floors below, it’s all car horns and consumer frenzy, but up here, glass in hand, live jazz wafting through the ether, not even a gust of wind can upset the cosmic balance – glass barriers mean there are, virtually, none.
รร.เซ็นทารา แกรนด์ เซ็นทรัล เวิลด์ nightlife
Long Table (map D3) 48 Column Bldg, Sukhumvit Soi 16 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-3022557-9 | www.longtablebangkok.com | 11am-2am Top-end Thai food isn’t the only thing drawing Bangkok’s in-crowd to this impossibly swish restaurant-cum-bar in droves. There’s also the trendsetting twist: a sleek communal dining table so long it makes a medieval banquet bench look positively petite. However, it’s what happens at the end of the room that propels this place deep into the nightlife stratosphere. Where the long table ends, a tall plate glass window and huge poolside patio, complete with bar, begins. Out here, 25 floors up, you can glug signature “long-tail” cocktails or fine wines with the best of high-flying Bangkok: a glitzy hotchpotch of celebrities, models and power players; hair-tousling breezes; and – best of all – widescreen city vistas. A Sukhumvit high point.
อาคารคอลัมน์ สุขุมวิท ซ.16
SKY BAR / DISTIL (map B3/4) State Tower, 1055 Silom Rd | 02624-9555 | www.thedomebkk.com | 6pm-1am High fliers hankering after a taste for the dramatic can head over to The Dome at State Tower. Among the world’s highest outdoor bars, Skybar – attached to Med restaurant Sirocco – offers panoramic views of the city and river below, earning its popularity with visitors new to the City of Angels and those intent on rediscovering it. Indoor-outdoor Distil boasts a roomful of comfy sofas, beyond-premium liquor and The Dome’s signature breathtaking view. These places are definately not spots for the casual beach bum; so be sure to leave your flip-flops and shopping bags at home – a strict smart-casual dress code is enforced.
สเตททาวเวอร์ ถ. สีลม
V9 (map C4) 37F Sofitel Silom Hotel | 188 Silom Rd BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-238-1991 | 6pm-2am Smart V9 is a funky space, one-third comfy bar, one-third slick restaurant, one-third huge wine retail shop. Oenophiles undergo orgiastic experiences once they walk past the dozens of wine crates lining the entrance. All of the wines can be bought at supermarket prices and consumed on the premises with no corkage fee.The in-house Sommelier’s pairings are exquisite, with 15 house wines to tempt you by the glass or short carafe.The French food served up is faultless (try their snack trees), as are the cocktails – dozens of signature blends in a long menu. It’s all very Sex and The City, especially on Friday & Saturday nights.The music is good, and the view through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls wrapping V9 is heart-stopping – that’s what really counts. Perfect for those rainy nights.
รร. โซฟิเทลสีลม ถ. สีลม
MOON BAR (map C4) 61F Banyan Tree Hotel | 21/100 South Sathorn Rd | 02-679-1200 | www.banyantree.com | 5pm-1am As the name suggests, this is one place that will get you closer to the moon. The open-air bar lets you take in the urban Moloch from up-above in smart surroundings. Banyan Tree’s Moon Bar is a romantic hideaway. With stunning 360˚ views, the hotel’s rooftop has been turned into a slick grill restaurant; one end is occupied by the bar. Nothing obstructs your view here, almost 200 metres high up. It’s the perfect spot for honeymooners – take a seat on the smart sofa stations, sip on a classy Martini or a yummy signature cocktail and feel romance welling up. For voyeurs, the telescopes and binoculars come in handy. Glamour girls and unwinding business guys feel right at home here, too. Stay until the wee hours, nibble on sophisticated snacks, take in the light jazz – and never ever forget your camera.
THE ROOF TOP (map C3) 83F Baiyoke Sky Hotel | 222 Rajaprarop Rd | 02-656-3000 | www.baiyokehotel.com | 10am – 1:30am | B200 Perched above it all, the view is the best and seemingly only draw at this ageing and very campy sky-high watering hole. Step off the elevator and it’s like you’ve been transported to outer space. That is if outer space had tuttifrutti coloured walls. Passable cocktails and the loungy live cover band won’t distract you from what really makes this place really wor th visiting: the sprawling metropolis below. For fullscreen Bangkok, take the stairs, pass the kitschy solar system murals and extra-terrestrials (yes, seriously) up to the 84th floor and let the wind hit you in the face on the open-air revolving deck and try to spot the now ant-sized malls you were in earlier.
NEST (map D3) Le Fenix Hotel, 33/33 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-305-4000, www. lefenix-sukhumvit.com | 5pm-2am How low can the cosmopolitan rooftop bar go? Pretty darn low says the sense-piquing success of Nest, an open-air hangout on the ninth floor of the sleek white Le Fenix Hotel. Despite a lack of loftiness – skyscrapers hover above, not below you – the views are intoxicating. And then there’s the management’s lust for all things loungy. Fan-enhanced breezes and smooth Balearic sounds waft across a barely-lit Zen garden spotted with paths, patches of faux-grass, intimate seating areas and one white canopy bar. Snuggle with your lovebird on the Thai-style sala beds and Nest-shaped chairs; or bring your glampacker pals for some pre-club Manuka Mules and Tapas-y snacks, before you swoop down to nearby techno palaces, Bed Supperclub or Q Bar.
รร.เลอฟีนิกซ์ สุขุมวิท ซ.11
AMOROSA (map A3) Arun Residence Hotel, 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Young, Maharat Road (near Wat Po temple) | 02-221-9158 | www.arunresidence.com | 6pm-1am Balmy breezes, soft Latin Jazz, soursweet cocktails and passable wine list: all the ingredients for an agreeable open-air bar are in place at the Mediterranean-ish Amorosa. The show-stopper though is the view: perched on the roof of a four-storey boutique hotel, it overlooks the weaving Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun, the stunning Temple of Dawn. Go before sundown and gaze out as the sun disappears behind it. Or come later, when spotlights make it glow amber against the night sky. Wat Po is just around the corner, so a tipple here is an easily attainable – and fitting – reward after a day of temple hopping. And if you fall for the view, the hotel’s restaurant, The Deck, and 6 lovely suites mean you can prolong the love affair.
อรุณเรสสิเดนซ์ ซ.ประตูนกยูง ถ.มหาราช
รร. บันยันทรี ถ. สาทร
hotel bars Bamboo Chic (map C4) Le Meridien Bangkok 4F, 40/5 Surawong Road | BTS Sala Daeng | www.lemeridienhotelbangkok.com | 6pm-1am Dim-tones and giant chandeliers set the tone for haute Sino-Nippon cuisine at Bamboo Chic: Le Meridien hotel’s dashing designer resto-bar. But Bangkok’s somebodies have also taken a shine to what’s being served over at the arresting lime-florescent bar – innovative cocktails like the Kyoto martini: a delectable blend of dry gin, midori, dry vermouth and lemon juice, served in a fishbowl glass. High-wattage smiles and slick service rounds off this voguish venue, as apt for post-work or pre-dancefloor tipples as it is a swanky dinner. Just steel yourself for a blast of cognitive dissonance on arrival… Patpong, the neon sleazepit/ night market, is Bamboo Chic’s unscrupulous neighbour.
รร.เลอ เมอริเดียน กรุงเทพ ถ.สุรวงศ์
Zuk Bar (map C4) The Sukhothai, South Sathorn Rd | MRT Lumpini | 02-344-8888 | MonSat 5pm-1am, Sun noon- midnight This languid hotel bar is where guests and clued-up city suits come to enjoy
an air of ultra-sophisticated tranquility – to unwind, sip and converse. Drinks are on a par with the rooftop bars (in price and panache), but here you’re paying for the understated exoticism of it all: the look, the mood, the service. The barely lit interior, with its dim nooks and raw silk couches, is perfect for hushed heartto-hearts. The underlit outdoors area, flanked by huge oriental jars and cooled by overhead fans, a chill spot where a ring of plump divan sofas invite you to plant your posterior. Accompanying the zesty cocktails, served by quietly solicitous lady staff in silk, is a menu of creative canapés, and, from Tues through to Sat, soulful, chat-friendly tunes courtesy of a DJ.
BARSU (map D3) Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Rd | 02-649-8358 | www.barsubangkok.com | 6pm-2am The informal yet sleek and minimally styled BarSu features the tagline “eat, play, dance,” and appeals to the over-30 Bangkok crowd who feel disenfranchised by the city’s current nightlife offerings. To this end, house, hip hop and techno are banned; in-house DJs spin soul, funk, rock, vintage 70s, 80s and world music. An audacious dining concept features a menu of sophisticated bar snacks created by a Belgian two-star Michelin chef. As gimmicks go, this one surely takes the cake (or, rather, the feather-light crème brûlée). In all fairness, calling this premium fare “bar snacks” is doing it a disservice: it’s finger food designed to be shared – sushi, sashimi, tapas and “wapas” (world tapas) – although not finger food as you know it. While you’re still getting your head round one sly culinary twist (warm tom yum kung jelly, anyone?) you’re hit with yet another gastronomic slight of hand.The imaginative presentation throughout echoes the innovation of the dishes, and won’t murder your wallet. Ladies get a free standard drink on Wednesdays and the chance to win a bottle of Baileys.
รร.เชอราตัน แกรนด์ สุขุมวิท ระหว่างสุขุมวิท 12 และ 14
CAFÉ TRIO (map C3) 36/11-12 Soi Lang Suan | 02-2526572 | BTS Chit Lom | daily 6pm-1am, closed on the 2nd and 4th Sundays Tucked into a narrow alley off Soi Lang Suan, this cozy jazz bar & art gallery is a welcome alternative to Bangkok’s raucous pubs and haughty lounge bars. Café Trio is overflowing with plush couches, the lighting is delightfully soft, and the music is always subdued. The tranquil atmosphere helps to make it a true neighbourhood place. The vivacious owner and bartender Patti holds court nightly and the walls are plastered with her Modigliani-esque, Vietnamese-inspired paintings – have a few drinks and don’t be surprised to find yourself taking one home. Resident regulars come for live jazz (often toward the end of the month). For drinks, expect to pay what you would at better known, yet more generic, venues.The service is laid-back, like the bar in general. To find it, look for the Chinese restaurant across from Starbucks and 50m down the road.
คาเฟ่ทริโอ ซ. หลังสวน
CHEAP CHARLIE’S (map D3) Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02-253-4648 | Mon-Sat 5pm-12:30am This shabby open-air streetside joint is a real Bangkok institution, bringing the charm of a rickety island hole-inthe-wall bar to one of Sukhumvit’s swankiest sois. A no-brainer meet-up spot, Cheap Charlie’s draws crowds of expats, NGOers and tourists inthe-know to fill up on B60 beers and pocket-change G&Ts before heading off to eat and party – though don’t be surprised if you end up here all night. CC’s is the kind of place where it’s easy to fall into conversation with other patrons; whether it’s because you’re sheltering from a rain shower together or end up sharing one of the few tables. Its location is a winner, situated as it is on a cool little subsoi (first on the left as you walk down from Sukhumvit) packed with restaurants and a short walk from hallowed Bangkok gin-palaces Q Bar and Bed Supperclub.
LOLLIPOP (map A3) 1 Mahannop Soi 1, Mahannop Road, Pra Nakorn | 08-6339-1390 | Tue-Sun 5pm-1am This old wooden house in indie town Phranakorn – formerly rockpub Lullibar – looks like it has been ripped from a Tim Burton fantasy. Lime green walls, fiery red couches, old cameras and hippie bead curtains are only some of the whimsical new touches old fans welcome. The house bands now have a performing area where they can strum away without knocking drinks off the tables. And the previously neglected parts, namely the patio and the “garden” outside, have also been renovated to accommodate the Vespa driving hipster Thais who come here, not only for the live and jukebox indie tunes but also pub grub ranging from kap klaem (beer snacks) to seafood. One bad thing: Lollipop is hidden deep within the relatively unknown Soi Mahannop. But then again, if you’re cool enough to frequent a place like Lollipop, you’re cool enough to hang with the people who can get you there.
โลลี่ป๊อป มหรรณพ ซ.1
ชีพ ชาร์ลีย์ ถ. สุขุมวิท 11 (ซอยแรก)
RAIN DOGS (map C4) 16 Soi Phraya Phiren, Rama 4 Rd | 081-720-6989 (Jum), 087-055-9407 (Cartoon) | 9pm till late Though rain dogs are mutts who lose the scent of home in the rain, it’s the humans who forget where home is after frequenting this grungy townhouse bar, where half the pleasure is in finding it in the first place. Hidden in the shadow of an expressway, it’s a go-to for Thai indie kids and journoartsy expats looking for inexpensive booze in bohemian surrounds, especially once other bars have kicked them out. Plonk yourself in one of the living room’s scuzzy sofas and enjoy one of the left-of-centre “happenings” – be it DJ party, live band, modern art documentary or one of your mates selecting tunes off their iPod. Or head out for some pseudo-intellectual conversation in the tatty garden. The vibe swings pleasantly between
Bangkok’s riding high on the Latin wave. People crowd salsa and tango dance classes and shake it at steaming parties. The salsa social has taken off at several venues around town as a relaxed way to learn the moves and meet other salsa enthusiasts. RumPUREE World Dance Studio offers a New York Salsa Social every first and third Saturday of the month (6-9pm); Salsa Hacha Fusion Café and Dance Studio holds theirs on Wednesday (8pm) and Sunday (7-8pm); Tapas Bar on Tuesdays (7-10pm) and Señor Pico on Wednesdays. If you’ve already got skills (or just enough margaritas) under your belt and you’re ready to hit the clubs, Flava, at the Dream Hotel, does the cha-cha at 8pm on Fridays, and DJ Greco from Cuba spins salsa, samba and African rhythms on Wednesdays at Bed Supperclub (Salsa Revolucion). If tango is what you like to trot to, hightail it over to Flava at Dream Hotel at 8pm on Sundays. For more details, check out www.salsabangkok.com and www.tangobangkok.com. 90
raucous and chilled depending on what’s on and who rocks up. Join their Facebook group for the skinny and the much needed map.
WONG’S PLACE (map C4) 27/3 Soi Sri Bumphen/Soi Ngam Duplee, near Malaysia Hotel | 02286-1558 | MRT Lumpini | Mon – Sat 10pm till late It’s amazing how Wong’s Place stays in business. It’s not near any public transport; opens when it wants, closes when it wants; plays crackly videos from Top of the Pops in 1985; has a couple of serve-yourself beer fridges and is not much bigger than a living room. Put it this way: if you’re looking for a chocolate Martini and a plate of tapas, you’re in the wrong place. Yet it attracts a fiercely loyal crowd of expat journalists, English teachers and professional barflies who have been
coming here for years and regard owner Sam as a kind of benevolent dictator, knowing better than to take advantage of the beer-fridges honour system. Come before midnight and it’s pretty dead (the Wong’s Place at the wong time?). Come after the other bars close - Raindogs is nearby, and it’s a mere hop skip and a jump from Silom - and watch the night unfold.
วองส์ เพลส ซ.งามดูพลี
Salsa Hacha Dance Studio
n Bed Supperclub (map D3) 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com n Flava (map D3) Dream Hotel Sukhumvit Soi 15 | BTS Asok | 02-254-8500 n Rumpure World Dance Studio (map C3) Amarin Plaza, 5th Fl Ploenchit Rd | BTS Chidlom | 08439-0200, 081-430-6884
n Salsa Hacha Fusion Café and Dance Studio (map C4) Silom Soi 6 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02634-3383-4 | www.salsahacha.com n Señor Pico (map D3) Rembrandt Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 18 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-267100 ext. 7550-1 n Tapas (map C3) Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02632-7982 bangkok 101
jazz clubs featuring overseas visitors. Niu’s is a class act, but still casual, comfortable for beers or brandy; and you can eat bar snacks or dine formally in the impressive Concerto Italian restaurant upstairs. Outside seating also available. นิวส์ ออน สีลม บ้านสีลม
THE LIVING ROOM (map D3) Sheraton Grande, 250 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-649-8888 | www.sheratongrandesukhumvit.com | daily 10am12:30am Perhaps the cosiest of all Bangkok’s luxury hotel bars, the leather couches at The Living Room are so snug it’ll be hard to get up again once you’re seated. It’s still a stylish place, and the usually middle-aged patrons live it up on great wines, champagne and strong cocktails in a quiet way. The high-ceilinged foyer offers perfect acoustics for the fabulous jazz band. Be prepared to be well-entertained. World-class talents are booked in continuously, guaranteeing top-notch jazz and always a warm audience rapport. From April The Living Room plays host to Trio Live, performing every Tuesday
through Thursday nights from 9pm to 11:45pm, plus Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30pm to 12:15am. You can also catch them during the Sheraton Grande’s legendary Sunday Jazzy Brunch each week. รร.เชอราตัน แกรนด์
สุขุมวิท ระหว่างสุขุมวิท 12 และ 14
Niu’s on Silom (mapC4) F1-2, 661 Silom Rd | 02-266-5333 | www.niusonsilom.com | 5pm-1am This New York-style wine bar – with its hot jazz, old leather armchairs and roses on candlelit tables – has a house band with some of Bangkok’s better local talent. They provide the backbone for international guest vocalists, and trumpeter Steve Lowry and guitarist Dan Phillips, who rotate nightly. There’s also a jazz jam every Sunday and occasional concerts
THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am Dizzying, 32nd floor views across the Chao Phraya. Bangkok’s downtown spread out in front of you. Well worth crossing the river for, Three Sixty is Bangkok’s most hear tstopping jazz venue. Since August its crowd of grown-up jetsetters has been soaking up that cameragrabbing view alongside the sounds of new South Carolinian resident LaDee Streeter. Her sultry renditions – spanning jazz to bossa nova to RnB – make this glassed in, UFOlike construction seem gorgeously moody. And the blue lounge lights, soft couches and smooth cocktails help. Requests are welcome. ทรีซิกตี้ รร.มิลเลเนี่ยม ฮิลตัน
live music BROWN SUGAR (map C4) 231/20 Sarasin Rd | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-250-1826 | Mon-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 5pm-1am Sarasin Road, bordering Lumphini Park, hosts a strip of teeming bars. The best one is definitely this longstanding, smoky jazz club. The joint evokes a jazz haunt of yester year with dark woods, tight benches and a tiny stage. Newsweek called it ‘Asia’s Number One Spot’ and to prove the point, it’s packed every night. If you care for seats, arrive early, before the brilliant band star ts at 9pm. You can have some decent pub grub, but it’s pricier than one might assume from the look of the haunt – same goes for the strong drinks. Sunday nights are the best – it’s the night off for most hotel bar singers, who all congregate here to let their hair down and jam with local pros.
บราวน์ ชูการ์ ถ. สารสิน
TITANIUM ICE BAR (map D4) Sukhumvit Soi 22 | BTS Phrom Pong | 02-258-3758 | www.titanium-club.com | 6pm-1:30am Well folks, and now for something different. Picture this: congenial hostesses clad in Bangkok-Zeitgeist ao dai. A gifted all girl rock ‘n’ roll band, Unicorn, jamming six nights a week (with two male bands filling in for them on Sundays). Bangkok’s widest selection of vodka – 70 varieties to choose from. An intimate atmosphere, especially in The Vodka Room, chilled to a nippleraising minus 10 degrees. Not exactly a place to bring Mum, but a fun night out on the slightly wild side.
ไทเทเนียม ไอซ์บาร์ สุขุมวิท ซ. 22
Raintree Pub (map C3) 116/63-34 Soi Ruamjit, Rang Nam Rd | BTS Victory Monument | 022457230, 081-926-1604 | www.raintreepub.com | 5pm-1am This rustic Thai ‘country’ bar is a sort of all-wooden, pre-consumerist age 92
time-capsule. Raintree hosts musicians playing Pleng Peua Chiwit (Songs for Life), the once phenomenally popular 1970s folk-protest music and soundtrack for Thailand’s politically disaffected. On a stage decorated with the movement’s trademark buffalo skulls, two artists strum nightly: a long-haired singer croons plaintive songs at 8:30pm, a band at around 11pm adds bongos, mandolin and accordion. Owner Porn Pimon opened Raintree 18 years ago and, it seems, has changed little since. And why should she? The people are friendly, the beer snacks cheap and tasty, and the music, made famous by household names like Caravan and Caribou, soul-stirring.
ร้านจามจุรี ซ.รางน้ำ อนุสาวรีย์
AD HERE THE 13TH (map A2) 13 Samsen Rd, Bang Lamphu | 089769-4613 | 5pm-midnight Funky, jammy, bare – one of Bangkok’s coolest hangouts is nothing more than an aisle packed with five tables, a tiny bar and instruments. It’s a joint you’d expect to find on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, except for the Chang beer. Nor th of Khao San Road (ask for ‘Ad Here’, once in the quarter), the down-to-ear th, bohemian hang-out packs ‘em in nightly. On weekends, young Thais, expats and tourists spill out on the sidewalk when the joint is jumpin’.The resident band churns out cool blues, Motown and Janis Joplin; Georgia, the city’s only true Blues Mama, has a voice and figure to match, nightlife
and would never sing Hotel California. People from around the globe drop in for a quick jam; you’re bound to meet more nationalities than you can list. Down some crazy cocktails, or do the Thai-style whiskey-soda-ice thing, along with some super-cheap booze munchies. An insider’s must.
แอดเฮีย 13 ถ. สามเสน บางลำภู
Brick Bar (map A2-3) 265 Khao San Rd, Taladyod, Phranakorn | 02-629-4477 | Mon-Sun 7pm1am | free entry (Mon–Thu), B150 incl. 1 free drink (Fri-Sat) As the name suggests, this bar’s built solely from red brick. Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge shopping arcade, it’s a dark and airy vault, with benches downstairs, an upstairs terrace for people or band watching and plenty of nooks and crannies to party in.A magnet for young live music lovers, it’s jumping most nights of the week with fresh-faced 20-somethings out to catch some of Thailand’s biggest ska, reggae, funk and blues bands, many of whom play their own material. The excellent T-Bone, a charismatic Thai outfit who flit from reggae to rocksteady and even samba, has been known to turn up. Good Thai food is available from the sister hotel, though you may struggle to find dancing space, let alone a pew. Beers start from B60, cocktails from B150 and even the obligatory whisky is given a slinky twist, with table service from tiny but hardy waitress “pretties”. Perfect for friends who’ve just hit town.
บริค บาร์ ถ. ข้าวสาร
Overtone (map E3) 29/70-72 RCA Zone D | 02-203-0423 | www.overtone.tv | Closed Mon/Tues It’s only been open two years and already Overtone has what every venerable rock club needs: a wall of fame. And it’s a good one. Megadeth and, all hail, Jimmy Page have both graced Overtone with their stragglyhaired presence, as has pretty much every lightening fingered axe-grinder in the Kingdom. Not bad for a live music cave tucked along RCA, a clubstrip that usually does a good line in generic hip-hop superclubs. Inside, bands rock out while vintage Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster guitars, presented in backlit wall alcoves, like hallowed museum pieces, look on. The orange-themed décor is a little more suave than your average rock dive, but there’s no doubting where this place would be at an Iron Maiden gig: up front in the mosh-pit, fists stabbing the air. Check their website for news of up-and-comers at this last bastion of good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll.
โอเวอร์โทน ถ.อาร์ซีเอ โซนดี
ZEST (map A3) Soi Austin Bar (Opp.Sunset Street), Kao Sarn Rd. | 081-425-7992, 081350-5890 | http://zest-bar.hi5.com | 6:30pm-2am Spicing up Khao San’s lackluster live music scene is this cozy pub down a dinghy alley. Free of the usual, godawful Oasis/Marley/Chilli Pepper covers, it comes good on the promise of its black and white photos of London punks with a ska-funk-bluesrock line-up that may, after a few drinks, have you jumping around like one. You may not understand a word, but most of the bands here are fun and energetic, ranging from a 6-piece ska band with female trombonist to an expat indie band that plays their own material and the odd Britpop anthem. Beats the schlock ‘n’ roll heard elsewhere on the strip.
เซสท์ บาร์ ถ.ข้าวสาร
SAXOPHONE PUB (map C2) 3/8 Phaya Thai Rd | BTS Victory Monument | 02 246-5472 | www.saxophonepub.com | 6pm-2am This unpretentious place is a Bangkok landmark when it comes to solid live jazz and blues. Just a stone’s throw away from a BTS station, it’s nevertheless not a tourist hangout. Filled with masses of fun-filled, youngish Thais and the odd foreigner thrown in, the spacious joint can pack up to 400 people on its low-ceilinged, wooden floors. Nightly, talented Thai bands belt out sincere jazz, jazzy funk and R&B while the crowd feasts on hearty Thai and Western fare.
แซ็กโซโฟน ผับ ถ.พญาไท
Bangkok Rocks (map D3) The Key Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 19 | BTS Asok | www.bangkok-rocks.com | 6pm-late Covers of Hendrix, U2 and Santana are the staples from rotating bands at this new bar dedicated to live “classic” rock music. There’s potential in the decent acoustics, a mezzanine with good views of the stage, and beers and wine that start at B100. The downsides are a lack of character in the small boxy room of featureless white walls, and a soulless soundtrack. The Saturday night band we saw, 61 Highway, were competent but a little too harmless to drag across town for. This is a drop-in beer and boogie spot if you’re in the area, but Bangkok will only truly rock here if they attract stronger acts.
รร.เดอะคีย์ สุขุมวิท ซ.19
JAZZ GALLERY (map A3) 2nd floor (beneath Gazebo Nightclub), 44 Jackrapong Rd,Taladyod, Pranakorn (just off Khao San Road | 02-6295821~2 | 6:00pm-1:00am The only thing “Khao San” about this long, air-conditioned jazz lounge with a soft glow is its location. Offering comfy armchairs on one side and casually riffing local jazz bands on the other, parquet floors, candlelight and discreet service, the Jazz Gallery is the most sophisticated venue to roll off the backpacker ghetto’s production nightlife
The Common Ground
The Common Ground (map A2) 59-61 Samsen Soi 1, Samsen Rd. | 08-9221-7835 | http://cgmusic.hi5.com | 6:30pm-12:30am Saturday nights are jumping in this little white-wooden shophouse near Khao San. That’s when one of our favourite ensembles, The Superglasses Ska Band, step in and lots of hip dek naew (counterculture-lovin’ teens) follow. These boys are brilliant – imagine the rowdy but talented offspring of a genetic-splicing between The Specials and Madness, only they sing in Thai. The other residents probably won’t have you struggling to get a table – or hopping around it with a big whisky grin on your face – but still knock out decent covers. Go on Wed for more ska vibes, Thurs for Strokes-style garage rock and Fri for international indie (no bands on Tues or Sun).
คอมมอน กราวน์ ปากซอยสามเสน ซ.1
line yet. And a great place to escape its shouty, moronic-music-loving masses. Think highbrow aesthete heaven, worthy of, say, London’s South Bank. In addition to some of Thailand’s best jazz divas and bands, there’s a recessed art gallery where you can browse exhibitions by local artists, a balcony for smokers (cigars available) and a walk-in wine cellar offering the best, albeit pricey, plonk in the neighbourhood. Mmmm, suave and smooth.
แจ๊สแกลเลอรี่ ใกล้ ถ.ข้าวสาร
PHra athit rd
Khao San Road
The streets around Khao San Road – that famed budget travellers’ mecca – are buzzing with a frenetic mix of dek naew (trendy teens) and bronzed backpackers. Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge complex, Brick Bar  is a red brick cavern where young locals bounce along to excellent live ska. A few doors down, Lava Bar  is a dark hip-hop dungeon, while Sunset Street  is an architecturally interesting conglomerate of bars, but mostly attracts sweaty backpackers. Down the alley opposite, Zest  focuses on live Brit Rock, while Hippie De Bar , tucked down another alley, is a retro-cool cocktail house. More full-on, The Club  is a techno-rave palace offering free UV glowsticks and a huge dancefloor. Just off the strip, Gazebo  is an opensided rooftop featuring live reggae, hubbly-bubblies and DJs till the wee hours. For a more laid-back, cool evening, head to nearby Phra Athit Road, lined with trendy hole-in-the-wall bars, cafés and restaurants. Often compared with NYC’s Greenwich Village, it’s a favourite for young Thais going “beat” and the odd expat. Stop for a cheap caffeine intake at Coffee & More  in a beautifully restored colonial mansion. Elegant Hemlock  is invaded nightly by artsy folk, drawn to the eclectic Thai food at 1 6 3 2 rock-bottom prices. Minimalist but friendly Joy Luck Club Burger kHao san rd  deserves a mention. For outstanding seafood and King 5 4 absolutely no flair, check out Thon Po . Directly on the riverside, this breezy place offers fantastic views and delicious fish and crustaceans from an expansive menu. Call ahead to reserve a riverfront spot.
new phetchaburi rd
Ekkamai Soi 28
Thong Lo Soi 10
Ekkamai Soi 10
In recent years these parallel boulevards have embraced sweeping gentrification and emerged as upmarket playgrounds for the young, studiously cool zeitgeist follower, be they celebrity, model, artsy types, uni student or young professional. Aside from their surfeit of luxury condos, boutique lifestyle emporiums, designer spas and restaurants both are studded with trendy nightspots catering to a predominantly Thai clientele. New ones pop up every few months, as if to keep hipsters on their toes and match that season’s colours. For now on Thonglor, Muse , Funky Villa  and Demo  – three Soi 10 giganto clubs – are all the rage. Meanwhile, scattered about are a few old-timers like Song Saleung , an often rammed whisky soda live music joint, and quiet furniture-store cafés like Tuba  and Shades of Retro  – hip, cosy places where you can curl up with a cocktail. Ekkamai’s main drag and side-streets are even better endowed, unleashing more bars and clubs than we have space for. Curvaceous Curve  and the glamorous Jet Metropolitan  are two big, top-shelf joints offering the usual blend of live Thai music and DJ’s spinning R’n’B. As the scene stands both are big draws, though the crowds are so gleefully fickle that could change in a Bangkok minute. Track them to the cool club of 4 BTS Thong Lo the moment. Or try two that have achieved longevity: Soi 55 (Thong lo) Nunglen  and Happy 6 1 Monday . Pretty young 2 3 things sing/bounce along to Thai tunes in the former; 7 9 5 while grown-up media types Soi 63 (Ekkamai) (25+) enjoy alternative 8 10 Britpop tunes and slouchy BTS Ekkamai sofas in the latter. nightlife
ROYAL City Avenue (RCA)
AL LO C
For a night of clubbing,Thai twenty-something style, jump in a taxi and say “RCA” to your driver. On arrival, follow the stream of high-heeled and well-coiffed onto Royal City Avenue: a flash, brash, neon-charged nightlife strip much cherished by the city’s dressed-to-kill urban youth. Boasting a slew of swish bars and sprawling split-room clubs – many elbow room only after 11pm – it offers the perfect adventure for indecisive club-goers. Go in and out as the mega-decibel music takes you (making sure to flash your ID card as you go), as most venues have no cover charge and flaunts a different genre of music. Hip-hop haven Slim  is never short on crowds gettin’ jiggy to Biggie, while other room, Slim Live, offers live music in a more sane setting, and glam alter-ego, Flix  preaches bass-thumping trance and house. Next door, granddaddy Route 66  seethes with spaghetti-strapped students and baseball-capped boppers, who flit between its three glam zones and outdoors chill-out zone. Beside it, HOBB  is an industrial chic, two-storey bar. Expect DJs, live music plus occasional appearances by local bands like Bodyslam. Despise radio rap? For edgier dance-music (and funkier Thai/farang crowds) hit 808 , a slick red-brick warehouse with a stunning sound system and sets by global DJ gods. Few foreigners venture further, but they should: Old Leng  is a rickety wooden pub great for warm-up drinks; while music cave Overtone  attracts the drain-pipe jeans, rock-guitar rabble. There’s also Zeta , a live-music bar with a strict girls-only policy. No men, gay men, drag queens or peeping Tom’s allowed.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
On the global nightlife radar Bangkok now registers a strong, steady bleep. And this buzzing soi – with its cosmopolitan collective of hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs tucked off steamy Sukhumvit Road – is one of the reasons. Go here tonight and you’ll rub shoulder straps with fashionable expats, slinky Singaporeans and the odd urbane local, among many other breeds of clubber. Would they all be here if it weren’t for Q Bar ? Unlikely. This beat lounge was the first to bring international design, DJs and drinks to the club scene – and, against the odds, 9 years later it still is. Just around the corner is the other Soi 11 superstar, Bed Supperclub ; a curvaceous club-cum-restaurant delivering spacey looks, soft white divans and Ibiza-esque beats. Many just rock up at one of these, ID card in hand, at around 11pm. Better, though, to make a night of it and start out early evening. Kick off with bargain al fresco beers at Cheap Charlies , a countrified bar only a tad bigger than a broom cupboard. Nest 1 , a breezy rooftop bar atop the sleek Le Fenix hotel, is a more upscale 4 5 option offering 2 Bed Supperclub laid-back, bird-nest seating and music that matches (think Sade’s Smooth Operator). Not quite the racy, subterranean Bangkok you were after? For something more risqué 3 check out new neighbour Diva . Inside, caged coyotedancers pull off raw, hi-energy dance moves in what they enticingly call: “A femme fatale of a nightclub.” Think Moulin Rouge meets the Pussycat Dolls add throbbing house beats and you’re close. Soi 11
here are many ways of quenching a thirst, but surely the most enjoyable has to be sipping a pint of real beer in a proper public house. With an unexpectedly wide choice of British and Irish bars offering a taste of pub life, Bangkok won’t let you down on this front. Each month Bangkok 101 gives you the low-down on one of the top taverns around town.
Descending the steps to this basement-based boozer leads to a store of surprises: what lurks behind the heavy art deco-style doors is a cavernous space punctuated by minimal lighting, nicotine-coloured walls and a wood and brass finish which lend the place a subterranean speakeasy feel. The huge freestanding bar dominates the entrance but the place seems to go on forever and fits in a large stage, bistro and even a brewery. Enjoy the extensive menu in your choice of cosy booth, bar stool or raised dining area. The highlight for Where Basement, ale lovers is the palatable bitter and pilsner brewed UBC II Bldg, onsite. Both make a refreshing change from the Sukhumvit Soi 33, usual imported beers. The pub’s loyal following 02-261-0238-9 BTS also come for the 15 screens, making it a very Phrom Phong popular venue for big sports events. With two pool Open 11am-1am tables, darts, bi-monthly quizzes, 2 for 1 drinks on Wednesdays, nightly happy hours, Sunday buffet and the resident house band, it’s no surprise that the Londoner is celebrating its 14th anniversary this year. Aside from being a little pricey, the only downsides are the waitresses’ tacky beefeater outfits, but they do look better as the night wears on!
อาคารยูบีซี 2 สุขุมวิท 33
Cigar lounges are slowly catching on in Bangkok, with a handful of venues now providing outstanding facilities for lovers of quality coronas and fine figurados. As well as cigars from Cuba, Ecuador and beyond, the P&L Club lounges typically feature luxurious leather sofas, rich wood accents, discreet staff and stellar selections of wine and single malt whisky. Some, like Club Perdomo, operate on a members-only basis, with membership granting access to their worldwide network of lounges. Others, like the Balcony Humidor & Cigar Bar at the InterContinental hotel, are open to guests and the general public. The members-only Pacific Cigar Company opened its first lounge, La Casa del Habano, at The Oriental hotel in 1997, and now operates another four venues in Bangkok, as well as one in Pattaya. One of PCC’s more interesting venues is the P&L Club which incorporates a traditional barber shop and what is billed as Thailand’s largest collection of single barrel malt whiskies. 96
n Balcony Humidor & Cigar Bar
Lobby level, InterContinental Bangkok, 973 Ploenchit Road | 8am-1am | 02-656-0444 n Club Perdomo Bangkok 3/1 Sukhumvit Soi 28 | 02-661-3220 | www.clubperdomobangkok. com | 6pm-midnight n La Casa del Habano The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue | 02-267-1596 | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun: 10am-11pm, Sun and public holidays: noon-6pm | www.pacificcigar.com n P&L Club GF Conrad Bangkok, All Seasons Place, 87 Wireless Road | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-11pm, Sun: noon-6pm | 02-685-3898 bangkok 101
Silom AREA PUBS
Hidden among the salacious delights of Silom Road, you will still find some of the “grand old men” of libation locales. O’Reilly’s  is a slightly dingy affair whose décor matches its demeanour – grizzled, but down-to-earth. Even so, it’s popular due to nightly drinks specials, live music, and an outdoor seating area to view the exotic sights of Silom. Just down the street is The Barbican  a multi-level contemporary concoction of granite and steel where the mixed crowd of expats and locals enjoy superior food and a wide choice of imported beers.Molly Malone’s  offers a real taste of Ireland. Drop in during their extended happy hour (5pm-9pm) for live music and multiple big screens for sport. Friendly staff and excellent food (especially their Sunday roast) means this place is always busy. Opposite the infamous Patpong stands The Duke of Wellington . Its open plan layout makes it a bit sterile, but it does have good beer, a daily happy hour 4pm to 9pm and uninterrupted views of the four screens for sport. Jameson’s  sat under the Holiday Inn in the heart of the gem district is the newest kid on the block. It’s a cavernous place but still packs in the punters thanks to fantastic happy hours, including ladies’ night on Tuesdays featuring Margaritas for a ridiculously cheap B29 a glass.
BTS Surasak sathorn road
2 1 BTS Sala Daeng
Sukhumvit AREA PUBS
Sukhumvit Road, a haven for expats, is jammed with joints catering to ale aficionados. Beside BTS Phrom Phong station, The Robin Hood  offers daily happy hour and drinks specials, as well as live music and sports. Even so, it can sometimes seem a little sedate. Down a nearby alley is The Bull’s Head , whose oak-panelled walls and low ceilings give off a cosy feel. It’s notable for a top jukebox and occasional comedy nights featuring international stand-ups. Sundays it’s “Toss the Boss”; call the flip of a coin right and the pub pays for the round. The Londoner  is a vast subterranean hideaway that brews its own real ale and lager, has good food and a regular house band. Opposite is the ever-popular Dubliner , a three-storey edifice. Though slightly pricy, the superb food (try the sausages), live music and Guinness pull in the punters. Just around the corner, behind the old Mambo Cabaret, Bourbon Street  backs up its Cajun/Creole dining with a well-stocked bar and good atmosphere. Up the road in the shadow of Asok BTS, is The Black Swan , a proper British booze abode. No bands. No happy hours. Just a snug escape offering a warm atmosphere and a wise-cracking landlord. Tucked down a dead-end street of Soi 11 is The Pickled Liver . A shrine to soccer and suds, the décor is unfussy with a focus on big screen sports. But with friendly staff and daily happy hour it’s not just the sport that makes it worth a visit. Finally, Hanrahans  offers a genuine reason to be seen in Nana. Light and airy it ticks all the right boxes with regular music, special drinks deals and daily happy hour.
BTS Phrom Phong
■ Bourbon Street 29/4-6 Sukhumvit Soi 22 | BTS Asoke | 02259-0328-9, 02-2594317 | 7am – 1am ■ HANRAHANS Sukhumvit Soi 4 l BTS Nana l 02-255-0644-5l daily 9am-1am ■ JAMESON’S Holiday Inn Silom, Gr. Fl, 981 Silom Rd, BTS Surasak, 02-2667703-5, daily 10am1am ■ MOLLY MALONE’S Convent Rd, Silom | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-2667160 | daily 9am-1am ■ O’REILLYS 62/1-4 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom l 02-632-7515 | daily 9am – 2am ■ The BARBICAN 9/4-5 Soi Thaniya Rd | 02-234-3590 | BTS Sala Daeng MRT Silom | daily 11:30am – 1am ■ THE BLACK SWAN 326/8-9 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok | MRT Sukhumvit | 02-2294542 | daily 8:00am – midnight ■ THE BULL’S HEAD Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-259-4444 | daily 11:30am – 1am ■ BULLY’S Sukhumvit Rd, btw Sois 2 & 4 | BTS Nana | 02-656-4609 | daily 11am-1am ■ THE DUBLINER 440 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-204-1841/2 | daily 9am-1am ■ THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON 323 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng l 02-234-2874 | daily 10am-1am ■ THE LONDONER Basement, UBC II Bldg. Sukhumvit Soi 33 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-261-0238/9 | daily 11am-1am ■ The Pickled LIVER Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-254-3484 | daily 2pm – 3am ■ the robin hood Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-3390 | daily 10pm-midnight 97
shopper scene Silk/apparel Thai silk only started getting international attention quite recently, but quickly became renowned for its thickness and lustrous sheen. Jim Thompson is the legendary American silk revivalist who – with the help of a small community of weavers – pioneered the modern industry. Since then the brand has branched out from ties and cushions into a fully-fledged fashion label that even dabbles in Zen furniture design, as you’ll see if you visit one of their many sleek stores. LP Silk and Shinawong are two exporting wholesalers who can be trusted to fix you up with the whole nine yards (or more). n Jim Thompson Paragon F1; King Power Duty Free; Jim Thompson House Museum; Surawong Rd | www.jimthompson.com n LP Thai Silk Silom Village Trade Centre, 286 Silom Road | 02-234-4448 | www.lpthaisilk.com n Shinawong No C500 , C501 Ayudthaya Soi 8 Suan Lum; No27, 6F MBK Centre| www.shinawong.com
As clichés go, “shop till you drop” could have been written after a demanding spending spree in Bangkok’s sweltering heat. And while we’re dispensing mindless platitudes: there’s something for everyone in this town, however peculiar your peccadilloes may be. For locals, conspicuous consumption in one of the myriad swish mega-malls is the name of the face-gaining game, while foreigners often prefer to dig for buried treasure at the bustling street markets. Whatever your angle, stamina is a must, especially when it comes to pressing sticky flesh with the perspiring masses at the sweltering citysized jumble sale that is Chatuchak Weekend Market. So brush up on your bargaining patter, arm yourself with Nancy Chandler’s invaluable shopping map - and prepare for sheer retail overload. Handicrafts Beyond triangular pillows and woven shoulder bags, there are hordes of native trinkets up for grabs, with stiff competition keeping prices down. The main markets all bristle with goodies made from bamboo, coconut, rattan, wicker, wood and water hyacinth. As does Narayanaphand, an indoor bazaar offering ceramics, hand stitched fabrics and artisan goods; Silom Village; and the 6th floor of mazy MBK. The monthly, OTOP-approved ThaiCraft Fair is a place to pick up that bulrush basket for less (while ensuring its maker also gets a fair price). For Celadon and Benjarong ceramics (a form of Thai porcelain originally made for royalty), try one of Siam Ceramic Handmade’s showrooms.
Fair Third floor, Ambassador Hotel’s Tower Wing, Sukhumvit Rd Soi 11 | www.thaicraft.org n Narayanaphand InterContinental Hotel GF, 973 Ploenchit Road | BTS Chidlom | 02-656-0173-4 n Siam Ceramic Handmade Room 325-326, River City Shopping Complex F3; 202 Sukhumvit Soi 10 | www.thaibenjarong.com Jewellery/gems Some of the world’s best lapidaries are based here, stocking cut and uncut domestic and regionallymined precious stones. The best local jewellers can also turn wondrous tricks with gold, silver and platinum. Assuming, that is, you can find them – the city is, sadly, alive with shysters out to lure you away from legit dealers and into an intricate gem scam. There are a few diamonds in the rough, though. Duty Free – Duress Free Much more civilized than sprinting through the long corridors of Suvarnabhumi is a visit to King Power. At this glassy, space-port like complex on Soi Rang Nam (BTS Victory Monument, then catch a free tuk-tuk from Century Plaza), you can do your duty-free shopping at your own pace, days (instead of minutes) before your plane takes off. Peruse products such as cosmetics, clothes, computers and more – all at tax-free prices. Find what you want, order it and it will be waiting for you at the airport on your way out. Just be sure to bring your air ticket and passport. www.kingpower.com
stuff Want to find the best deals in town? Read on and we’ll tell you where to go and what to buy. Not the global brands you can find anywhere, or the tat you will soon regret ever having wasted your money on, but the cool, home-grown “stuff” that Bangkok is justly famous for.
Lambert Industries, with their friendly and reliable service, has been coming up with the goods for 35 years. n Lambert
Industries (807-809 Silom Shanghai Bldg 4F, Silom Rd Soi 17, 02-236-4343).
Fashion Spotted the local trendies yet? Then you’ll be wondering where it is they get their cool indigenous fashions. Several malls and markets around town act as little fashion hatcheries, giving you the chance to snap up dazzling pieces by local up-and-comers. Section 3 of Chatuchak, for starters, is jammed with fecund fashions. Here, amidst piles of vintage and aisles packed with kids who know how it wear it, you’ll find next season’s trends. Suan Lum and Siam Square are also spotted with dainty designer boutiques; while youth-orientated shopping mall Siam Centre and Gaysorn offer homespun high fashions by labels like Jaspal and Greyhound. Antiques Thai, Burmese and Cambodian antiques are among Asia’s finest – but all that glitters ain’t gold, so you’ll often be hard-pressed to find the real deal among the look-alikes. Unless, that is, you’re willing to shell out, in which case you’ll love the River City Complex, the sprawling, mother-of-allantique centres (p.102). Auctions are on the first Saturday of each month with viewings the preceding week. bangkok 101
Alternatives include period antique centre OP Place (p.102); Amantee, a gorgeous Thai house offering Oriental and Tibetan antiques on Bangkok’s outskirts; and L’Arcadia. And who can say what treasures the dustier straits of Chatuchak and Chinatown hold in store for the determined? n Amantee
131/3 Chaeng Wattana 13, Laksi, 10210 | 02-982-8694-5 | www.amantee.com n L’Arcadia 12/2 Sukhumvit Rd Soi 23 | 02-259-9595 Aromatherapy & Spa One of Bangkok’s more fitting titles is “Spa Capital of Asia”. The following slick local product lines should get you fragrant, gooey and purring with pleasure in next to no time. Panpuri offers Asian-inspired sensory purification – pricy but wonderful combinations of holistic spa-inspired treatments and products. Worldly mixtures for washing, moisturising, cleansing and relaxing can be found at Thann; while Karmakamet specialise in long-lasting lotions, gels, Anyadharu
incense and candles that create the perfect bridge between scent and soul. Finally, Anyadharu offers health-imbuing natural oils, bath body gels and perfumes that are designed to give you much more than just a whiff of indulgence. n Anyadharu
Chatuchak (Section 3); Isetan (MBK F4) | www.anyadharu.com n Karmakamet CentralWorld F2; Chatuchak Market, Section 2, Soi 3 | www.karmakamet.co.th n Panpuri Paragon F1; King Power Duty Free; Central Chidlom F4; Gaysorn F7 | www.panpuri.com n ThanN Central Chidlom F4; Central Ladprao F5; Isetan Plaza (CentralWorld) F5; Siam Discovery Centre F5; Emporium F4 | www.thann.info OTOP: One Tambon One Product One of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s more laudable legacies is his instigation of OTOP, a government initiative that markets handicrafts made in one of Thailand’s 7,000 tambons (subdistricts). These quality gifts, snacks, handicrafts, toys, gems, textiles and jewellery, can be purchased at fairs at the city’s exhibition halls, Narayanaphand and the monthly ThaiCraft Fair. By choosing OTOP products you’ll be helping preserve local crafts and ensure that the villager who made them can earn a fair living. 99
No, it’s not the latest speech from a certain pariah politician. Rather, Bangkok’s Propaganda is a popular design store selling whimsical yet useful home wares, like melted light-bulb lampshades. Set up by four Thai advertising execs in the mid 1990s, the company’s mission was and remains simple: to instil the Thai sense of playfulness into everyday designs. Think Ikea meets Philippe Starck meets sprinkling of Thai sanuk. Today it’s perhaps Thailand’s biggest design industry success story. The company has several mantelpieces worth of prestigious design awards, exports to over 40 countries, and continues to raise smiles from hands-on browsers at their two rather Where Store 1: 4F, Emporium funky Bangkok stores. One is in the uber-swanky Shopping Mall, nr. Sukhumvit Soi 24; Emporium shopping mall in Sukhumvit; the other Store 2: 4F, Siam Discovery Centre, in the home-ware store heavy Siam Discovery Rama 1 Road, www.propogandaonline. Centre. Both flaunt shelves stacked with their com, 02-661-8574/02-658-0430 BTS quixotic, typically glass, ceramic or plastic-mould Phrom Phong/Siam Open 10am – 9pm items, our picks of which include their witty mugs, tooth-shaped floor lamps and the somewhat macabre brain-shaped salt and pepper shaker (a sure-fire heated dinner-party conversation starter). Everywhere you look there are also products (cheeky keyrings, towel hangers, wine stoppers etc) starring Mr. P: a plastic-elastic, Morphlike character with surely the world’s most useful male appendage.
ดิเอ็มโพเรียม สุขมุ วิท 24 / สยามดิสคัฟเวอร์ร่ี
n Counterfeit Stoners: Bounders running gem scams are ubiquitous on Bangkok’s streets. Beware anyone (tuk-tuk drivers especially) offering free rides to nearby “stockists” – they’re conmen on the make. The TAT provides quality assurance through the Jewel Fest Club; look for their ruby-ring logo on shop-fronts.
n Bargaining: This is a way of life when shopping on the streets in Bangkok. The key is not to act too interested. They know you can find it further down the street, and if they want to make the sale they’d better be prepared to drop their price. If they ask B500, offer B350. You might get it for B380-400. Don’t be shy: it’s expected. Most importantly when haggling over price: keep a smile on your face and a cool head. n Keep it Real: As elsewhere in Asia, counterfeit goods abound in Bangkok. From the latest DVDs to luxury brand clothes, watches, handbags and fragrances, it’s all here – at a fraction of the price. But, tempting though it may be, remember that the quality never matches the original and you’ll struggle to get refunds. Perhaps scarier, you risk getting busted at customs back home; and by purchasing fake goods you inadvertently sponsor organised crime. So, just keep it real.
n VAT: Look out for signs advertising “VAT Refund or Tourists”. At these places, they should have the paperwork (ask for a PP10 form) to enable you to claim back 7% on purchases when you leave the country on an international flight. The deal is you have to spend at least B2,000 at the same store on any given day, and you can only claim back on totals of B5,000 or over. It’s worth doing if you have a department store blitz, or fancy splashing out on electronics, jewellery or other expensive goods. Have your passpor t and tickets with you when you buy, and prepare to have your purchases, PP10 forms and receipts inspected when you claim back at the airpor t VAT refund counter. Be aware: if you are making big purchases and not paying VAT, you aren’t guaranteed quality products. For more info, check out www.rd.go.th
finish HERE soi 2
This buzzing locale may take its name from Thailand’s past, but its daily dayglow retail frenzy is a distinctly modern phenomenon. From premium brands to shoddy knockoffs; subtly modified student uniforms to show-stopping Cosplay-inspired gothic Lolitas, Siam Square is the Thai home of conspicuous consumption – a modern national pastime-cum-popular face-gaining strategy – and a prime spot for checking out Bangkok’s vibrant street fashions. Not only is the general vicinity a nominal open-air catwalk, but any Thai fashion label or trendy start-up worth its salt is represented here, hence the trend for youthful enterprises with quirky, anglicised names, like It’s Happened to be a Closet on soi 3, which stocks vintage girly fashions and also offers salon services and a menu of decent Italian cuisine. Gather yourself and dive headlong into a crowded cache of boutique-y market stalls - and prepare to bump elbows with young socialites and gangs of giggling students alike. The little alley tucked next door to the Lido cinema complex is as good an entry point as any. Those wishing to try shopping Thai-style, should shop at a leisurely pace, snacking every step of the way and taking regular breaks in the closest air con-chilled space – hopefully an I-Berry ice cream parlour. For some, the golden rule is: if you see something you like, buy it while you have the chance; Siam Square nurtures impulse buying. Resistance is a brave but naïve gesture, and ultimately futile.
isitors to Bangkok will be amazed at how prevalent mall culture is in the weave of modern Thai society. Malls are not just places to shop for designer labels; there are restaurants, cinemas, bowling, aquariums and more! Bangkok’s retail mall epicentre is around the Siam and Chit Lom areas.
mall crawl MBK BTS National Stadium Perpetually packed shopper’s paradise; a mind-boggling, onestop bargain. Always busy, on weekends half of Bangkok’s teens converge here, hunting for the latest mobile phones and more.
SIAM DISCOVERY BTS Siam Light, pleasant and never too busy. Inside it’s international hip young brands (Diesel, Replay, Armani Exchange) and impressive interior stores (Loft and Mae Fah Luang).
JIM THOMPSON HOUSE
BTS National Stadium
MAJOR HOTELS 1 Pathumwan Princess 2 Novotel Siam 3 The Four Seasons 4 Grand Hyatt Erawan 5 Intercontinental 6 Holiday Inn 7 Conrad 8 Plaza Athenee 9 Royal Orchid Sheraton 10 The Oriental 11 The Peninsula 12 Shangri-La
SIAM CENTER BTS Siam The mall that started it all in 1973 hauls in trendy teens and young adults who shop for Euro-fashion and innovative local brands like Jaspal and Soda.
BTS Siam Elevated rama 1 rdWalkway
CENTRALWORLD BTS Siam All hail Bangkok’s largest shopping mall, uniquely served by an elevated walkway connecting Siam Skytrain station to its Chit Lom counterpart.
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oen k char
ong s u r aw
OP PLACE This fine objets d’art shopping plaza across from The Oriental Bangkok corresponds well to the classy hotel. 12
ru n g
To Emporium shopping mall, get off at BTS Phrom Phong
BTS Ploen Chit
S i ph
o ph cha
CENTRAL C H IT LOM BTS Chit Lom Seven floors of clothes, shoes and accessories from all the major labels, plus some eye-catching Thai designers. Food Loft is Bangkok’s deluxe food court.
ALL SEASONS PLACE BTS Ploen Chit The sleek mall in a skyscraper complex is known more for its battery of eateries than its shops although the high-end retail range is impressive – art galleries, cigar shops, tailors and Euro-fashion.
GAYSORN BTS Chid Lom All-white interior of glitzy, top-class brands – expect Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.
lang suan rd
EMPORIUM BTS Phrom Phong Ver y chic mall with the most amiable atmosphere, thanks to its airy architecture. Look for TCDC, the neat Thailand Creative Design Center.
RIVER CITY Four well laid-out floors of stores selling antiques, plus ethnic and tribal ar t from Southeast Asia, with a bit of the South Pacific, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan thrown in.
ERAWAN BANGKOK BTS Chid Lom Posh boutique mall adjacent to the Erawan Shrine. Think Burberry. BTS Chitlom
PANTHIP PLAZA Bangkok’s one-stop shop for any and all computing needs: hardware, software and gadgets. It’s a loud, brash mecca for technogeeks.
SIAM PARAGON BTS Siam This gigantic shopping complex is legendary among Bangkok hi-sos. Home to Siam Ocean World aquarium, too.
ZEN BTS Siam This pop art-styled, multilevel designer department store aims to attire Bangkok’s young-at-heart funsters in the latest international fashions.
Phaya Thai rd
SIAM SQUARE BTS Siam Bangkok’s heart for trendsetters, this maze of narrow streets has heaps of tiny boutiques carrying local up-and-comers, gastrogems and indie cinemas.
ph e tb
Phaya Thai rd
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the standardised mix of crafts, textiles and knick-knacks offered at inflated prices. Don’t take that as reason not to come, because wandering round “Suan Lum” makes for a pleasant early evening stroll, before moving on to the nearby entertainment zones. In fact, endeavour to visit while you can: Lumpini Night Market’s days are numbered, after the powers-that-be auctioned off its multifarious charms to make space for yet another redundant addition to the city’s obsessive collection of modern shopping malls.
CHATUCHAK (map D1) Forget designer malls. JJ weekend market is Bangkok’s true paragon of retail. This is shopping as survival of the fittest: only those with finely tuned consumer instincts shall persevere – the rest can get lost – literally. Taking a wrong turn’s almost a given in this sprawling, city-sized marketplace, upon which zillions descend every weekend, to trade everything from Burmese antiques to pedigree livestock. Originally a flea market, Chatuchak quickly outgrew the confines of the insect world to become much more than the sum of its disparate parts. These days, young Thai designers take advantage of the low onsite rent to punt their creative wares; if you so desire, you can peruse piles of customised Zippos that once belonged to American GIs during ‘Nam; and tasty pickings conveniently punctuate every which way. Additionally, the exotic pet section supports the theory that JJ has somehow evolved its own diverse eco-system (albeit one that periodically gets busted for peddling endangered species). 104
All this can be a bit overwhelming at first, but persevere and a semblance of order begins to crystallise from the chaos (Nancy Chandler’s famous map also comes in invaluable). Go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. Or, with many stalls opening for business on Friday, you can come for a leisurely browse before the real deluge hits - although only the weekend gig gives ardent shopaholics the fully-blown, unadulterated fix.
SUAN LUM NIGHT BAZAAR (map C4) The official (read: tourist authorityrecommended) civic night bazaar is far more manageable than JJ - and mercifully less sweaty and intimidating. In fact, as Bangkok markets go, this amiable though sanitised effort probably ranks as the most consistently civilised – and its lively food court and expansive German beer garden offer extra incentive to linger. Bear in mind, however, that the market is mainly geared to separate tourists from dollars, with shopping
PAK KHLONG TALAD (Flower Market) Wake up and smell the roses, as next to Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) lies Bangkok’s main flower market, a 24-hour hive of floral activity bristling with blooms carted in from around the country. Horticulturalists and those with a well developed olfactory sense will enjoy strolling around these fragrant surrounds.
THEWET Not far north from the flower market is the riverside plant market. The street is lined with small shops selling a wide selection of tropical potted flora. It’s easiest and most scenic to access Thewet by river taxi, thus evoking the waterborne glories of the days when Bangkok was hailed as “Venice of the East”.
NAKHORN KASEM Known locally as the “thieves market”, this smallish street-side market in Chinatown offers a curious blend of second-hand goods, the odd antique, and a seemingly random assortment of household appliances. As its nickname would suggest, ample bargains await patient, eagleeyed shoppers - though don’t expect a receipt, let alone a refund.
Sidewalks are where it’s at for cheap presents to take back home. Oddities unfound in other lands, funny T-shirts, wooden carvings, paintings and much more crowd the side streets of the city. Most of the stuff on offer can be picked up in the malls and markets – but where’s the fun in that? And why pay more? Bargain! Khao San Road Along every budget traveller’s favourite sidewalk, stallholders do a sterling trade in “novelty” T-shirts and cigarette papers, not to mention phoney degree certificates, driving licenses and press passes. And yes, if you must, you can still get your tiedye and fisherman’s pants, your hair dreadlocked, or eat B20 noodles from a polystyrene plate. However, these days post-millennial Khao San has been gentrified into somewhere bearing scant resemblance to its humble past as a tropical haven for wandering hippies. And you’ll find no better proof than night times here, when whole mounds, suitcases and racks of young-at-heart stuff (frayed t-shirts, handbags, polka dot dresses etc) are dragged down and splayed on the street for sale by the city’s baby-faced entrepreneurs. Silom Road/Patpong Both sides of Silom Road, just off Sala Daeng BTS station, offer day and night time shopping, but it really gets going between 6pm and 2am,
when stalls set up here and along the notorious strip of sleazy gogo bars known as Patpong. This is a bizarre but uniquely ripe set-up that sees vendors plying busy nightly trade on the doorsteps of the bars concurrently plying an open trade in flesh; and young families rubbing shoulders with a motley crew of pimps, johns and scantily clad strippers. Among the illicit booty of pirated DVDs and designer knockoffs, the market actually does offer some decent local crafts, t-shirts and souvenirs – although, with prices naturally tilted towards the tourist end of the scale, robust bargaining skills are essential here. Sukhumvit Road The choices start around Soi 4 near BTS Nana station, on both sides of the major thoroughfare, and stretch nearly to Soi 20. In amidst the streetfood shacks and fortune tellers, you’ll find its mostly bogus tat all the way – polyester football shirts, DVDs, blown-up prints of long-tail boats moored on idyllic southern
sidewalks beaches. Although, right past Soi 6 is a group of deaf merchants who are always eager to find you something nice to remember beloved Thailand by. Velvet oil painting anyone? Pratunam A ten-minute walk from CentralWorld, this sidewalk is famed for its bulk clothing deals. Loaded with knock-offs, and crowded with tourists shopping for all things casual, you’ll find textiles, fabrics, fancy dress (Catwoman mask ensemble anyone?) and great jeans at affordable prices (never pay more than B600!). Spreading out from the base of the looming Baiyoke Sky Hotel, it attracts a multinational mix of fasttalking traders, all on the make, and continues around the intense indoor fashion market, Platinum Fashion Mall, where everything is available at discounted rates for bulk orders. Buy three or more and save yourself anywhere from B150-300 per item.
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In each new issue Bangkok 101 brings you the best of Bangkok’s new breed. Each month we uncover those quirky, elegant, or downright luxurious lodgings that fit under the trendy boutique hotel banner.
Marble-encrusted lobbies, Michelin-star chefs and five-star everything are what we expect from the new Bangkok hotel. But now and again, once in a blue moon, one really takes us by surprise. The Bhuthorn – a small new B&B offering 20th century soul over 21st century functionality – is one of them… and it is stunning. On Soi Phraeng Bhuthorn, only 200 metres or so walk from the Grand Palace, the century-old property overlooks an historic square lined with some of the most charming green and yellow shophouses in town. The fresh paint, varnished teak doors and soft glow of its lobby distinguish it from these gracefully ageing survivors, while inside the owner’s collections of antique furniture complement the building’s original features (plastering, wooden fretwork, teak floors etc). Everything from copper light fixtures to ornate gold gilt mirrors, old Siamese maps and crystal drop chandeliers give the public areas and three WHERE 96-98 Phraeng sumptuous rooms – each of which is named after a 20th century Thai Bhuthorn Rd, San Chao prince – a heady, old-world, borderline colonial elegance that recalls King Phor Seau, Phra Nakhorn Rama V’s yen for all things European. (map A3), 02-622-2270, The smallest, the ground floor’s Salpasart boasts a pair of lovely www.thebhuthorn.com elephant pattern curtains in deep ochre and doors that open onto the PRICE B2,800-3,600net street. Upstairs, Bhuthorn proffers an antique four-poster and mosaic (Until Jan, 2010) sink (and is very glossy travel mag photo-shoot friendly because of it). And the biggest – the split-level Nara – features a homey living area with leather settee and a teak staircase leading up to a loft-like bedroom mezzanine. Each encounters some street noise, but then this neighbourhood is one of Bangkok’s quietest, especially at night when the streets are empty bar a few locals, most eating out at one of the area’s many generations-old food shops (try the home-made ice cream next door and nearby Chote Chitr). Charming perks abound – sweetly attentive service (“sweet dreams, sir”); flatscreen TVs and free wi-fi; a tasty breakfast served in a petite, potted fern-filled courtyard. Simply put, it’s THE B&B of the moment. So much so, that if we were looking to prove our half-baked theory right – that the future of Bangkok’s hotel scene lies not in the building of yet more sterile new buildings, but the refurbishment of charismatic old ones – we’d wheel The Bhuthorn in as exhibit a.
เดอะภูธร แพร่งภูธร (ใกล้ศาลเจ้าพ่อเสือ)
For information on our 25th Anniversary promotions, call global reservations at (66-2) 344 2500 or 1800 888 272 (Thailand toll-free) or visit www.the-ascott.com/25anniversary
H e a l t h & We l l n e s s
body & beauty
angkok offers more places to indulge in massage than any other city on earth. A great Thai massage can cost just B100 per hour, while posher spas can easily cost 10 times that. Like any place else, spa value can be gauged by the quality of the therapists, oils, atmosphere and so on. In each issue we introduce several local spas in different price categories to help you find the best rub-down for your baht (see p.109 for this month’s listings) – no need to break the bank to get a good treatment. Reservations are always recommended.
What could be more quintessentially Thai than the world-renowned practice of traditional Thai-style massage? Known in Thailand as nuad pan boran – literally ‘ancient style massage’ – Thais have been practising this time-honoured, therapeutic custom for over 2,500 years, dating back to the life of Buddha. Traditional Thai massage is performed without oil, with people typically wearing light-weight, loose-fitting pyjamas. By way of acupressure points that stimulate muscles and nerves, and assisted yogic stretching, skilled Thai massage practitioners employ their hands, elbows, knees, as well as their own body weight, to apply various degrees of pressure and mobilisation to different parts of the body. This ancient form of healing can do wonders for all of the body’s organic systems by helping to align and balance the energies of the body. By enhancing blood circulation, Thai massage can help to break down and release toxins trapped in the body, in turn strengthening the immune system. Though Thai massage can at moments be a bit painful, the after-effect is not one of fatigue, but calm. Common remarks are of relief to aching muscles, an increase in flexibility and higher general energy levels. Others report better sleep, a decrease in stress and an overall boost, both on a physical and emotional, as well as a spiritual level.
Urban Retreat Spa – 31/10 Sukhumvit Soi 35 signature treatment Ying Aroma / BTS PhromJao Phong / 02-204-2008-9 / www. urbanretreatspa.net <http://www.urbanretreatspa.net> / 10am-10pm / $ 30-minute Himalayan Crystal pink Salts with Yogurt and Honey Scrub + 60-minute Macadamia Oil Massage: 1200 baht Tucked away in a side street close to Phrom Phong, Urban Retreat is precisely that – a quiet spot close to the bustle of Sukhumvit and the upscale Emporium shopping mall. This new, small spa is popular with Thais and long-term foreign residents drawn by very good services that don’t suffer for being affordable. Spa menu is trim and tidy, with a focus on massage, although scrubs and facials are also available. Urban Retreat offers very promotions -- we tried thewell-priced newly built,seasonal boldly designed Baan Rajprasong
Curved around the second floor of condominium, the Princess Wellness Spa offers top-end treatments in a sleek setting. Each of the 7 treatment rooms at this 1,000 m² one-stop-shop is named and themed after an Asian princess and has its own signature treatment. While the décor is a little lackluster the same can’t be said for the treatments or service here: we opted for the Jao Ying Aroma Signature (a 90 minute scrub, massage and body wrap medley) and loved every luxuriant second. Got coarse skin? Not for much longer you don’t: it kicks off with a gentle exfoliation using a fragrant Jasmine Rice scrub. Next, a satisfying Jasmine Oil body massage employs all manner of long, penetrating but never painful Swedish strokes before blurring into a marinating body wrap. A focused, top-tobottom oil lotion rub makes a relaxing finale. Therapists are communicative Where 2F, Anantara Baan and thoughtful (“are you cold?” ours asked before adjusting the air-con). And, Rajprasong Serviced Suites Bangkok, while the jungle-meets-Chinese-Orchestra soundtrack gets a tad tiresome, it’s 3 Soi Mahardlekluang 3 Rajdamri worth enduring – you emerge feeling soft, supple and revived, with a clear Road, Lumpini, 02-2531106-07 head as well as a tasty orange-scent. Princess Wellness Spa is offering 35% off BTS Ratchadamri Station Price this and all its other signature packages throughout October. B6,500 (35% off during October)
อนันตราบ้านราชประสงค์ ซ.มหาดเล็กหลวง 3 ถ.ราชดำริ
health & wellness
typical SPA cost range
$ under B600 $$ B600 – B1,000 $$$ B1,000-2,000 $$$$ B2,000+ Credit cards accepted unless otherwise noted
SIRI GIRIYA SPA (map E4) 4 Soi Sukhumvit 60 | BTS On Nut (free transfer from BTS available with advance reservation, hotel pick-up possible with group of at least 4) | 02-741-5199 | www.sirigiriyaspa.com | 10am-10pm (last appt. at 8pm) | $$ Slipping into a steaming bath may be the last thing a traveler to hot and humid Bangkok may want to do – but then you’d be missing out on the joys of hydrotherapy, Siri Giriya style. Popular among Japanese, for whom bathing is an art, this homey spa is set just behind an elegant koi pond near the On Nut BTS station. Walk into the well-appointed room to find a tub overflowing with fresh Thai herbs – plai, turmeric, ginger, countless others – the smell is delicious. (You may be tempted to drink the water – just let your pores do that for you.) Maternal masseuses will scrub you, calibrate the temperature, even proffer up a tantalizing tamarind sorbet when the heat gets unbearable. Not everyone can handle this level of intimate pampering, but if you do, you come away with babysoft skin and that sweet, cool feeling of a detox well done.
สิริกิริยาสปา สุขุมวิท 60
SPA 1930 (map C3) 42 Soi Tonson | BTS Chit Lom | 02-254-8606 | www.spa1930.com | 9:30am-9:30pm (last appt. at 7:30pm) | $$$ The achingly cute fake-timbered heritage building, straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale, houses a spa that is so popular it’s difficult to get a reservation. Maybe it’s been featured in too many Asian travel magazines? At any given time, Singaporean and Hong Kong Chinese await their treatment in the welcoming reception area (complete with a library), which feels so intimate that you’ll think you’ve entered a private residence. The list of treatments is very traditional – no fancy shmancy here, just good old spa classics. The signature treatments are excellent, but you might be tempted into a marvellous 4-Hands Massage or an Herbal Pack Treatment. The handful of packages is quite respectable, too. Efficient therapists work in softly lit, simply decorated rooms. A welcome surprise is the fact that no music is piped into the rooms so you can relax totally – or maybe nod off while listening to your own breathing.
Dahra (map C4) Silom Soi 18 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02235-4811-2 | www.dahra-spa.com | 9am-10pm | Mon-Sat 11am-11pm (last appt. at 9pm) | $$ It’s a tribute to the glowing health of the local industry, or perhaps Bangkok’s status a regional spa hub, when a young-ish operation such as this one can offer a whopping 17-page treatment menu. That’s a whole 17-pages of slack-eyed indulgence, including the intriguing likes of the ‘Desincrusting Aromatherapy Facial’, which was a new one on me (though not literally), and ‘Chocolate Hydrotherapy’, which sounds somewhat self-defeating. I opted for a Shiatsu, which was mercifully nicer than it sounded. Seriously, though, the menu at this cute two-storey spa, which is tucked next to the Triple Two Hotel, is extensive enough to rival the choice offered by more upmarket establishments – and the damage is a mere snip by comparison. Plus, for each spa package sold Dahra’s eco-conscious Dutch owner plants a tree via PATT Foundation (www.plant-a-tree-today.org)
รร.ทริปเปิ้ลทู สีลม ซ.18
สปา 1930 ซ.ต้นสน ชิดลม
health & wellness
H e a l t h & We l l n e s s
wellness centres YOGA & PILATES The Pilates Studio (map C3) 888/58-9 Mahatun Plaza | Phloen Chit Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-6507797 | www.pilatesbangkok.com Bangkok’s first dedicated Pilates studio also offers pre- and postnatal breathing classes, vinyasa yoga, and gyrotonic expansion in well-lit, airy studios. First-timer sessions (Wed & Sun, B400) include mats and towels. Check the website for schedules. พิลาธีสสตูดิโอ มหาทุนพลาซ่า เพลินจิต Yoga Elements (map C3) 29 Vanissa Bldg, Soi Chit Lom | BTS Chit Lom | 02-655-5671 | www.yogaelements.com | 7am-9pm (Mon-Fri), 9am-6pm (Sat-Sun) Bangkok’s first vinyasa / ashtanga yoga studio specialises in dynamic yoga techniques. The large practice studios are bright, quiet and ideal for small classes. Learning methods include four levels, so absolute beginners will feel at ease with popping ’round for an “Elements” class of the foundational techniques of breathing and body opening postures. Single classes are B500; you can simply drop by (check their website for schedules). โยคะ เอเลเม้นท์ 29 อาคารวานิสสา ซอยชิดลม (หลังเซ็นทรัลชิดลม)
S Medical Spa
Urban lifestyle taking its toll? Fear not for there are plenty of wellness centres around ready to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. Lock it all out and feel free to throw away the key to the rest of the world as these holistic havens will pamper you to the edges of hedonistic bliss. Tria Integrative Wellness (map D3) 998 Rimklongsamsen Rd, Bangkapi | 02660-2600 | www.triaintegrativewellness. com | 7am-10pm Embrace your wellness at this urban retreat. With state-of-theart equipment coupled with expert specialists, Tria is ready to carry out its philosophy of caring for what it believes to be the three most crucial health components – the elemental, structural and emotional states. These three elements, when integrated will provide complete harmony and true wellness for you.
ศูนย์สขุ ภาพองค์รวม TRIA (ตรัยยา) ถ.ริมคลองสามเสน (หลังโรงพยาบาลปิยะเวท)
Hydrohealth (map C3) 494 Erawan Bangkok, 4th Fl, Phloen Chit Rd l BTS Chit Lom | 02- 250-7800 |www.hydrohealth.co.th | 10am-8pm The first hydrotherapy colonic centre in Thailand has some of the most innovative equipment around. The colonic procedure not only rids you of all the unwanted toxins in your intestine but has shown it can improve overall health and other conditions such as allergies and skin problems. The centre also has massage packages and infrared sauna, along with organic food and supplements available.
The Pilates Studio
ไฮโดรเฮลท์ เอราวัณแบงคอก ถ.เพลินจิต
S Medical Spa (map C3) 2/2 Phakdi Building,Wireless Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-253-1010 | www.smedspa.com | 10am-10pm The world of science and art collide ensuring you get a fully-fledged treatment as eastern traditions are combined with western technology to health & wellness
lift you up physically and mentally. The highly qualified staff consists of certified physicians, psychiatrists, dermatologists, gynaecologists and many other -gists ensuring you the most skilled and efficient service available.
เอสเมดิคัลสปา อาคารภักดี ถ.วิทยุ
Rasayana Retreat (map D4) 57 Soi Prom-mitr, Sukhumvit 39 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-4803-5 | www.rasayanaretreat.com | 9am-8pm Specialists in deep cleansing programmes and hydrotherapy colonics that leave you refreshed and reborn and also a little bit lighter. Also the Raw Food café at Rasayana is definitely worth stopping by as they promote raw fresh foods using organic fruits and vegetables to help your body stay as clean as possible.
รัสยานา รีทรีทต์ ซ. พร้อมมิตร สุขมุ วิท 39
Amruth Wellness Center (mapE4) Sukhumvit 55,Thong Lo Soi 8 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-715-9440 | 7am - 10:30pm Get treated for everything from sexual dysfunction to back problems at this fully-fledged Ayurvedic medical centre – Bangkok’s first. Every patient at this leafy garden townhouse gets a consultation with Keralan Doctor Baspin K., whether you’re in for a drop-in, dropout treatment, a yoga sesh or to embark on a life-changing panchakarma package. Stocked with medicines imported from the Subcontinent, holistic highlights include a hanging massage and the head oil-dribbling odyssey that is a shiro dhara.
อมฤต ศูนย์สขุ ภาพต้นตำรับอายุรเวท ศาสตร์ ทองหล่อ ซ.8
edical tourism is huge business in Thailand; a billion dollar industry. In 2007, Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital alone reckoned to have treated over 400,000 patients from nearly 200 countries. And while Bumrungrad may be the market leader, there are plenty of others – such as Samitivej, BNH Hospital and Bangkok Hospital – who are increasingly courting international trade. The price is right Reasons for the popularity of travelling to Thailand for medical attention are manifold, but essentially come down to price. Healthcare in your own country may be prohibitively expensive, or maybe your insurance does not cover a procedure you need. Or maybe you’ve decided that for the same price as an operation in your home town you could fly to exotic Thailand, have the operation then recover on a warm beach with a mango shake in one hand and a paperback in the other. When you consider that procedures like heart bypass surgery in the USA can cost anywhere in the region of $70,000, while in Thailand it’s be more like $15,000, the numbers start to make sense. Especially when you consider your doctor here is likely to be foreign trained anyway. And it’s not just major surgery that provides the draw. Cosmetic surgery such as breast enhancement and liposuction is readily available at attractive prices, as is dental work and Lasik eye surgery. In fact, you can grab a Botox shot while you cruise the Bangkok malls. Four star treatment Some of the hospitals here have to be seen to be believed. When you walk into Samitivej Hospital, for example, the lush décor, cute cafes and chic boutiques give it an almost resort atmosphere. And back at Bumrungrad, once you’ve been met at the airport, sped through customs and situated in your private room, they have their own immigration department and
a team of translators to take all the hassle out of your trip. You have to do your homework, though. Is the hospital you’re considering properly accredited? What are your doctor’s actual qualifications? Will you really be ready to go scuba diving only three days after a back operation? How soon after your operation is it safe to fly long-haul? And what happens if complications arise when you’re back home in Tulsa? These are all the kind of questions you should think about and take advice on before committing to treatment.
medical tourism Recommended hospitals n Bumrungrad International
33 Sukhumvit 3 (Soi Nana Nua) | 02667-1000 | www.bumrungrad.com n Samitivej Sukhumvit 133 Sukhumvit 39 | 02-711-8000 | www.samitivejhospitals.com n BNH Hospital 9/1 Convent Road | 02-686-2700 | www.bnhhospital.com n Bangkok Hospital 2 Soi Soonvijai 7, New Petchburi Road | 02-310-3000 | www.bangkokhospital.com
FEATURED medical treatment
According to the old adage, beauty is only skin deep. And be it the blight of old age, smoking Siam Swan or too many hours lying in the sun, the number of people – and more men than ever before – paying attention to their skin condition is at an all time high. A stroll through any of Bangkok’s luxury shopping malls, where skincare centres are more prevalent than bookshops, reveals their popularity. And the variety of facial and body treatments is astounding. Thailand has stayed well on top of the latest international advances in dermatological and aesthetic skincare. The equipment and technology is state of- the-art: from high-tech laser therapy to non-laser treatments like microdermabrasion and more holistic forms of skin rejuvenation. The mission, it seems, is the same: optimise and revitalise the look and feel of your skin, improve firmness, or just lose those wrinkles, scars and blemishes to look younger, and healthier. On a par with Thailand’s other medical practices, skincare therapists here are well-trained – in many cases overseas. And their services come with a far more reasonable price tag than in the West. All this makes Bangkok an ideal place to indulge in matters of the skin. WHERE TO CARE FOR YOUR SKIN n Hydrohealth Centre | 4th Fl., Erawan Bangkok | 02-250-7800 |
www.hydrohealth.co.th | Open 10am – 8pm | BTS Chitlom n Tria Integrative Wellness | 998 Rim Khlong Samsen Rd | 02-6602602 | www.triaintegrativewellness.com | Open 10am – 8:30pm n S Medical Spa | 2/2 Bhakdi Bldg, Wireless Rd | 02-253-1010 | www.smedspa.com | Open 10am – 10:30pm | BTS Ploenchit n Siam Swan Clinic | Siam Square Soi 1 | 02-658-4884~6 | www.bangkoklaser.com | Open 10:30am - 6pm Mon-Sat n Apex Skin & Laser Centre | Emporium, Siam Paragon, Sukhumvit Soi 39 | Call centre 02-664-8817 | www.apexprofoundbeauty.com | Open 10am – 9pm n Romrawin Skin & Laser Clinic | Central Chidlom, Central World,Sukhumvit Soi 24 | 02-661-5255 | www.romrawin.com | Open 10am – 8pm health & wellness
sports MASTER MUAY THAI! Many a champ started out punching mitts at one of Bangkok’s many muay Thai schools. Some are livein training camps, others geared towards drop-in sessions, but all will train you up and teach you how to deflect – and deliver – the basic moves, be it kick, jab, elbow, foot thrust or standing grapple. Beginners and female pugilists are welcome, though they often receive inordinate attention from the coming-of-age combatants. n Chacrit Muay Thai School Washington Square next to Sukhumvit Soi 22 | 02-260-5816 www.chacritmuaythaischool.com n Fairtex Muaythai RCA 149 3rd Fl. RCA Driving Range, Local Rd. | 02-203-1443 | www.muaythaifairtex.com n The International Muay Thai School 22/8 Moo 8, Soi 10, Pracharaj Sai1 Road, Bangsue | 02-585-6807 www.geocities.com/maimuangkorn/ eng_mai.htm n Muay Thai Institute 336/932 Prahonyothin 118 Vipravadee Road, Rangsit | 02-9920096-99 | www.muaythai-institute.net n Muaythai Sasiprapa 401 Soi Ladprao 130 Klongchan, Bangkapi | 02-378-0270 | www.muaythaisasiprapa.com
Muay Thai Institute
THAI BOXING venueS Lumphini Boxing Stadium Rama IV Rd, next to Suan Lum Night Bazaar | MRT Lumphini | 02-251-4303, 02-252-8765 | Fights Tue & Fri from 6:30pm10:30pm, Sat 5pm-8pm, 8:30pmmidnight | B1,000 B1,500 B2,000) สนามมวยลุมพินี ถ.พระราม 4
MUAY THAI (Thai Boxing) Thai boxing, or muay Thai, is very popular in Bangkok with most major bouts held at either the Lumphini or Ratchadamnoen stadium. This brutal but graceful martial art has been practised in Thailand for centuries. Past kings are reported to have been champion fighters and one, King Naresuan, introduced the sport as part of military training in the 16th century. Due to the high incidence of deaths during combat, the sport was banned in the 1920s but reintroduced soon after under the more safetyconscious Queensbury rules. Bouts consist of three five minute rounds during which the fighters use every part of the body (except the head) to bludgeon the opponent into defeat. Before the bout begins, a graceful and mesmerising ritual dance named ram muay is performed by both fighters to placate the spirits and show respect to the art and its teachers. Bouts are extremely boisterous, noisy affairs and should be witnessed for the spectacle alone. Be warned though, this isn’t the WWF, the blows are hard hitting, the blood real. spor ts
Ratchadamnoen Stadium Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue | 02-281-4205, 02-280-1684-6 | Fights Mon, Wed, Thu 6:30pm11pm, Sun 5pm-8pm, 8:30pmmidnight | B1,000 B1,500 B2,000
TAKRAW (Kick Volleyball) Go to Lumphini Park (see p.35) on any given day and watch sweaty Thais combine the skills of volleyball, football and gymnastics. As many as two dozen men pair off to leap and dive through the air with one objective in mind: without using their hands, keep a rattan ball from hitting the ground on their net side. The diverse mix of players – tuk-tuk drivers, security guards and students – says much about the widespread Thai love of takraw, the most beautiful Asian game. Played since the 11th century, it has spread throughout the region, but nowhere is it played with as much relish as here, where it fills stadiums.The sport’s killer move, the somersault scissor kick, can send the ball hurtling back over the net at amazing speeds. Watch in awe. bangkok 101
Active Sports AEROBICS It might be hard to imagine, but every day, busy Bangkokians find the time for some energising aerobics – out in the open. Many practise graceful, meditative t’ai chi moves just after sunrise. And head to any park in the city around 5-6pm and you’ll spot large groups of office workers, kids and the elderly doing a hi-energy, Jane Fonda style workout in synch with blaring pop-techno songs and an enthusiastic coach clad in spandex. The best places for the free classes are the centrally located Lumphini Park and the smaller Benjasiri Park (next to The Emporium, Sukhumvit Rd, BTS Phrom Phong). Others, a bit off the beaten path, include Rommaninat Park (Siriphong Rd, near the Giant Swing), Saranrom Park (Thaiwang Rd) near the Grand Palace and Santiphap Park (Soi Rangnam). Never mind the possibility of fainting – simply join in! BOWLING Bowling is a favourite pastime among Thais. Most shopping malls have topof- the-line tenpin alleys on-site and many of these teeter dangerously close to being a nightclub with full bars and closing times after midnight. During after-hours, bowling alleys often have a DJ blasting thumping tunes, and they’ll often kill the lights and flood the halls with black light for a particularly psychedelic experience. Great spots to get your bowl on include trendy Blu-O at Siam Paragon and Esplanade, which also has platinum rooms for rent for your own private area and lane for your party. Also worth mentioning is the Major Bowl atop posh J-Avenue in Thong Lor, and also SF Strike Bowl in good ol’ MBK. bangkok 101
CYCLING SpiceRoads 14/1-B Soi Promsi 2 | Sukhumvit 39 | 02-712-5305, 089895-5680 | www. spiceroads.com This company has been organising bicycle tours in Southeast Asia for over 12 years, and it offers extraordinary day tours in the outskirts of Bangkok. The daytrips take you to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Koh Kred and along atmospheric, rural canals in Bangkok’s undiscovered countryside (22-40kms, US$50-55). They start early in the day (pick-up from your hotel is included). The rides, organised throughout the week, are demanding but fun. Groups are held small (two to 16 participants), but private tailormade itineraries are also possible, even for seriously adrenaline-parched mountain bikers who are up for a technical 30km nailbiter. SpiceRoads also offers two-and three-day trips around Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and in the Mae Khlong Delta south of Bangkok; it also organises much longer trips in Thailand and its neighbours. ICE SKATING SUB-ZERO ICE SKATE CLUB (map D2) Ratchadaphisek Rd, Esplanade 4F | MRT Thailand Cultural Centre | 02354-2134 This isn’t a boring sterile rink, more like a nightclub on ice. Popular among youngsters, its 682m2 of fluorescent ice spor ts
lights up at night when Sub Zero morphs into an “Ice Bar” with DJs and strobe lights blasting the floor. For the novice, there are pros on hand with lessons ranging from speed skating, figure skating, ice skating and even hockey. Lessons are B900-2,400 and the complex has a fully stocked pro shop if you want brand new blades of glory. Even if you just want to have a look there are bars ringside, and of course they are made of ice! And this is Thailand so of course there’s karaoke on-site. TENNIS Lumphini Park Youth Centre (map C4) Soi Klang Racquet Club Sukhumvit Soi 49-9 (map E4) National Stadium Rama I Rd (map C3) Smash it down the line as tennis has become one of the most popular spor ts in all of Thailand, with local ace Paradorn Srichaphan bearing much of the responsibility for inducing hordes of Thais to pick up the racquet and star t practising their serves. Many of the leading hotels offer an in-house court for you but if you’d like to get out among the people, there are quite a few public cour ts around town that you can use for free or for a small fee. Also towards the end of their respective seasons Bangkok hosts two tournaments, the ATP’s Thailand Open and the WTA’s Bangkok Open. 113
apron, knives and wok, each student works at a personal cooking station in a spacious kitchen after short, informative demonstrations. Lunch consists of your own cooking plus additional dishes. No reason to limit yourself to just tom yam goong and phad thai – each session includes four innovative dishes; the selection changes daily. Perfect for tourists on a short Bangkok stint. บลู เอเลแฟนท์ ถ. สาทรใต้
COOKING CLASSES BAIPAI COOKING SCHOOL (map C4) 150/12 Soi Naksuwan, Nonsee Road, Chong Nonsi | 02-294-9029 | www.baipai.com No sitting back and just watching at this leafy two-storey townhouse. Shortly after being picked up from your hotel, passed an apron and given a brief demonstration of how to cook four dishes it’s over to you. Fortunately the breezy open-plan workshop, individual cooking stations and pre-prepped ingredients mean cooking here is no chore. Plus the staff are smiley and professional, as they answer your questions (“But what if I can’t find kaffir lime leaves?” etc) and ensure you don’t singe your spring rolls. Later you get to feast on the fruits of your labour – so do your research on the seven set menus if you’re allergic to tom yum. Some takehome recipes and a souvenir fridge magnet featuring a snap of you in action completes the four-hour morning or afternoon experience; one so palatable and productive and, gasp, fun that many come back for seconds.
BLUE ELEPHANT (map B4) Thai Chine Building, 233 South Sathorn Rd | 02-673-9353 | www.blueelephant. com | from B2,800 The class offered at this classy restaurant is very hands-on and easy to follow. The morning class is preferable since it starts with a visit to the Bang Rak market with the chef, where you’re shown the ingredients you’ll use later. Equipped with 114
THAI MASSAGE CLASSES WAT PO THAI TRADITIONAL MEDICAL SCHOOL (map A3) 2 Sanamchai Rd | 02-622-3551, 02622-3533 | www.watpomassage.com | daily 8am – 5pm | B8,500/30hrs Any good spa therapist will have undergone their training in traditional Thai massage at this temple school. Constructed in a concealed building away from the tourist-infested but peaceful Wat Po temple grounds, the instruction area is more functional than stylish, but the efficient course run by competent instructors more than makes up for the missing luxury. Thai massage, an ancient form of healing, uses pressure application on the various body meridians. Your costudents will mainly be Thai and Japanese, along with the odd Westerner. The 30hour course can be completed in five, six or ten days; a foot reflexology course and other instruction are available too. The tired tourist can also get Bangkok’s best Thai massage in fan-cooled, opensided salas for just B360/hour.
โรงเรียนแพทย์แผนโบราณ วัดพระเชตุพน ถ. สนามชัย
CHIVA-SOM INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY (map E4) Modern Town Bldg, 87/104 Ekamai Rd, Sukhumvit Soi 63 | BTS Ekkamai | 02711-5270-3 | www.chivasomacademy. com | from B9,000 Asia’s premier training centre for spa and holistic therapies offers intensive courses covering all aspects of spa-ing, from anatomy and Thai massage to stress management. Held in peaceful surroundings and conducted by skilled cour ses & ser vices
international instructors, half the time is spent on theory and practice, the other half is filled with case studies. The academy takes its instruction seriously; students receive internationally accepted accreditation on completion of courses. The high but justified prices range from B9,000 (two-day reiki course) to B59,000 (spa development course). Most courses are too long for a usual holiday (two to four weeks), but there are one-week courses available in reflexology and shiatsu. ชีวาศรม อินเตอร์เนชันแนล อะคาเดมี
โมเดิร์นทาวน์ 87/104 ถ.สุขุมวิท 63
MEDITATION CLASSES INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST MEDITATION CENTRE (map A3) Wat Mahathat, Na Phra Lan Rd | 02-2226011 | www.mcu.ac.th/mcu/eng | free This is the most traditional, noncommercial meditation class, based on Vipassana (‘insight’) mindfulness. For Buddhists, meditation is essential to cleanse the mind and accomplish clarity and inner peace. Close to Sanam Luang, the atmospheric temple complex is the teaching centre of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of Thailand’s highest seats of Buddhist learning. Daily classes conducted in English (1pm-4pm, 6pm-8pm, 7pm-10pm) are mixed; you’ll find monks, locals and tourists here. Participants can stay on the compound in simple, quiet rooms; complimentary meals are provided. Bring offerings of flowers, a candle and nine incense sticks for the opening ceremony. Donations are accepted. Retreats of three or more days are available as well. Perfect for a serious, but short stint into Buddhist meditation.
สำนักกองกลางวิปัสนา วัดมหาธาตุ ถ. หน้าพระลาน
Want to shore up your karma reserves? Even if you’re only visiting Thailand for a short time, there are plenty of worthwhile causes that rely on public support for their services. In each issue of Bangkok 101, we highlight the work of a local charitable organisation, along with details on how you can help.
GOODWILL GROUP FOUNDATION
Bangkok’s streets are not so much paved with gold, as ridden with potentially life-wrecking pot-holes. Undereducated women from the country’s poorest provinces especially struggle to survive in what can be an indifferent city. Many have left school at an early age to support their families, and many are pressured or see no other option than to work in the sex industry. Education is the determining factor for those who seek dignified employment. And it is this that the Goodwill Group Foundation, established in 2000, specialises in. Women walking into their office on Ploenchit Road, looking to better their lot, may find themselves learning a new skill within days – be it English, Microsoft Office or something vocational. However, they don’t just throw skills at students and see what sticks – they also provide career training and job placement services. Roughly half of the 400 students enrolled work in Bangkok’s sex industry, and many struggle with the decision of whether or not to do so everyday. For these women, the Goodwill Group provides an alternative – a place for self-assessment and learning, and the hope of a brighter future. If you’d like to help, they are always in need of reliable, dedicated volunteers to teach English. The minimum commitment is 3 hours a week for 10 weeks (if you’re interested, stop by the office for an interview). They also businesses consider recruiting one of their students. Many are highly trained and eager to prove themselves (past students have gone on to become maids, receptionists, nannies, retail staff and web designers). Despite their low-cost, volunteer-based operating model, they are also in need of funding. Being a lean, efficient training machine means a small donation goes a long way to advancing their noble mission. Donations can be made by bank transfer to: Kasikorn Bangkok, Wireless Road branch Account number: 7092-308418 Swift code: TFBSTHBK Contact: Goodwill Group Foundation, 51/2, 2nd Floor, Ruam Rudee Building III, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Phatumwan, Bangkok, 10330 Tel: 02-255-4172~3 www.goodwillbangkok.org email@example.com
cour ses & ser vices
business In Bangkok on business? Rest assured it brings a lot to the table. Convention centres, ritzy hotels, world-class wine-and-dine spots... it’s little wonder it’s a regional hub for MICE (Meetings and Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), especially when you factor in the myriad down-time attractions. We dig up all the basics so that you don’t have to. Business Travellers Top on the list after you’ve touched down is, of course, a hotel.There are lots to choose from, in every location, but those that tick every business-traveller box include The Conrad, Sofitel Silom, Westin Grande and Sheraton Grande. Bangkok’s traffic has a justifiably miserable reputation, but having a car at your disposal can be handy. Try Limousine Thailand (www. limousinethailand.com). And if your hotel room isn’t cutting it as a makeshift office, then contact temporary office providers Regus (www.regus.co.th) or Servcorp (www.servcorp.net).
Where 43 Sukhumvit Soi 15, 02253-9451, www.royalpresident.com BTS Nana Prices Deluxe Studio B13,854, Sapphire Suite B15,114 (rates per week) 116
There’s rarely a quiet moment on the local trade fair scene. For a rundown, see www.thaitradefair.com. Or perhaps you’re considering staging your company’s big meet or team get-away here? If so, talk to the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (www.tceb.or.th). They say it’s who you know – not what you know. To get your face out there, join one of the networking events hosted by Bangkok Young Professionals (www.mobyelite.com/byp) or others. If you’re short on business cards – and you will be after a night at the aforementioned – try one of the many one-stopshops at MBK shopping mall. It’s also worth reading up on Thailand’s face-saving and, often quirky, business culture.Try Working with the Thais: A Guide to Managing in Thailand by Henry Holmes and Suchada Tangtongtavy (White Lotus, B495). Finally, note that any foreigner working, or doing business here, must have a non-immigrant B visa and a work permit. If your company hasn’t arranged both, go to www.immigration.go.th and find out what you need. Or contact a business solutions provider like Sunbelt Asia – they’ll do all the paperwork so that you don’t have to. Starting Up Frequently voted one of the world’s best cities, it’s no surprise that so many look to set up shop in Bangkok. However, bear in mind that although Thailand opened it doors wide to foreign investment after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, it can still be a tricky place to establish a business. The best advice is to find local experts to help you clear the regulatory hurdles. Business solutions provider Sunbelt Asia (www.sunbeltasia.com) offers everything from upfront legal advice to business brokerage and serviced offices. Similarly, Bangkok Base (www.bangkokbase.com) is a 360° provider of business support. Chambers of commerce can also offer advice and assistance in finding partners. There are also a few books on the market. One of the best is Philip Wylie’s How to Establish a Successful Business in Thailand. In it you will find the essentials on the minutiae of business in Thailand, from negotiating baffling bureaucracy and legal peculiarities to cultural codes and social etiquette.
ROYAL PRESIDENT PARK
Sukhumvit Soi 15’s Royal President Park may not be the fairest serviced apartment of them all. But, couple this 186 room property’s new face-lift with its competitive weekly rates and you have a very attractive proposition for long-stayers. Studios and suites across its three wings have been upgraded, with their Executive Studios and Sapphire Suites in particular now looking very of-the-minute – new upholstery, new furniture, new ovens etc. A week’s stay in the latter currently costs B15,114: great value considering it comes with a spacious living area, kitchenette and bedroom and includes buffet breakfast and free Internet access. Facilities include a fitness centre, outdoor pool with Jacuzzi and a freshly refurbished meeting room good for a meeting of up to 40. Those who like to play as hard as they work will also like the long list of guest privileges and discounts. Flash your keycard at Bed Supperclub’s doormen, for example, and you’ll gain free entry for you and a guest (15% discount on special DJ nights).
รอยัลเพรสสิเดนท์พาร์ค สุขุมวิท ซ.15 business
Ideo Morph 38
Another method to acquire land is through a loan/lease agreement, whereby you loan money to a Thai citizen under a contract specifying they must use it to buy a property. Your Thai business partner will then buy the property and legally own the land. Simply put, you then get your lawyer to draw up an agreement giving you – the lender – a leasehold agreement on the property. However you decide to approach the acquisition of property, be sure to shop around and proceed with caution. Research the developers’ track record, the location, the average rate of return, and the likelihood of a super-skyscraper popping up and blocking that achingly beautiful view of the Chao Phraya River. Also, be aware that tales of relationships suddenly souring once deeds are signed are all too common. The best advice is to exercise common sense and find local experts you can trust. International brokerage firm Sunbelt Asia (www.property.th.com) has plenty of listings and English-speaking consultants on hand, while Property Report magazine (www.property-report.com) will give you a good overview of the whole scene. business
Photo courtesy of Ananda Development
Buying Property Many visitors decide they want to buy property in Bangkok: some because they fall in love with the city and all its eclectic idiosyncrasies; others because they jet in and out of the city on business and want more than a hotel room can offer. Whatever the reasons, buyers can find a wide range of accommodation at very favourable prices. From simple US$18,000 studio apartments to lavish million-dollar condos, there are options to suit most budgets. Non-Thai citizens looking to acquire property in the country will most probably be looking to purchase apartments rather than houses; as the law currently stands, foreigners are permitted to buy condos providing at least 51% of the building’s units are Thai-owned. Land (and therefore houses) is a different matter. Technically foreigners are not allowed to own land in Thailand, though if you are a foreigner married to a Thai citizen, then it is quite straightforward to draw everything up in your partner’s name.
survival thai Numbers 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 20 21 22 30 40 100 101 110 200 1,000 1,100 5,000 10,000 15,000 50,000 100,000 1,000,000
˘ soon nèung ˘ song ˘ saam sèe hâa hòk jèt pàet kâo sìp sìp èt ˘ sìp song yêe sìp yêe sìp èt ˘ yêe sìp song ˘ saam sìp sèe sìp (nèung) rói (nèung) rói èt (nèung) rói sìp ˘ rói song (nèung) phan (nèung) phan nèung rói hâa phan (nèung) meùun nèung meùun hâa phan hâa meùun ˘ (nèung) saen (nèung) láan
Basics yes no I you
châi / khráp / khâ mâi châi ˘ / (di)chán phom khun
Communication I don’t understand I can’t speak Thai never mind possible / impossible
mâi khâo jai phôot thai mâi dâi mâi pen rai dâi / mâi dâi
lthough it is not really necessary to learn Thai for a short stay in Thailand, as most Thais who deal with tourists speak some English, you will have an undoubtedly more enjoyable experience if you make the effort to remember a few words. Basic Thai grammar is considerably simpler than the grammar in western languages. Sentences are reduced to the basic subject-verb-object format (no tenses, plurals, genders or subject-verb agreement). The main difficulty comes from the fact that Thai is a tonal language, meaning that words can have different meanings depending on how they are pronounced. Five tones are used: low tone ( ` ), middle tone (unmarked), high tone ( ´ ), falling tone ( ˆ ) and rising tone ( ˇ ).
Did you know? khráp and khâ You should end your sentences with khráp if you are a man and khâ if you are a woman: this is the polite way of addressing people in Thailand. Both words are also used to say “yes”.
Thai script Thai script was introduced during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng in 1283, and has hardly changed since then. Like English, the Thai language has an alphabet and is written from left to right. The main difference is that there are no spaces between words, no punctuation and no capital letters. Moreover, the Thai alphabet consists of 44 consonants and 32 vowels.
Greetings and civilities
Adjectives and adverbs
hello / hi / goodbye how are you? I’m fine and you? pardon? sorry / excuse me thank you (very much)
beautiful big / small expensive good here/there hot / cold a little a lot / much / very
sa-wàt dee sa-bai dee réu sa-bai dee láew khun lâ arai ná kho˘ thôt khòp khun (mâak)
˘ suay yài / lék paeng dee têe nêe/ têe nân rón / yen nîtnòi mâak
Transportation canal street, lane pier road temple
khlong soi thâa ˘ (th) thanon wát
to... please pai... mái > the ... hotel > rong raem ... ˘ > the airport > sa-naam bin ˘ > the train station > sa-taa-nee rót fai > the bus station > bo ko˘ so˘ ˘ ˘ > the police station > sa- taa-nee tumruat > this address > têe yòo née ˘ ... > the ... restaurant > ráan aahaan use the meter turn left / right go straight on stop here please
chái mée-têr ˘ lée-ow sáay/ khwaa trong pai jòt têe nêe
Shopping how much is it? an-née thâo rài that’s (a bit) too expensive paeng pai
Food rice fried rice water tea coffee spicy is it very spicy? not spicy without chilli delicious
khâo khâo pàd náam plào chaa kafae phèt phèt mâak mái mâi phèt mâi sài prik arròy
Questions where? when? what? which? (thing) where is / are...? how much / many?
˘ têe nai mêua-rài ˘ arai ˘ an-nai ... yòo têe nai thâo rài
USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS Metropolitan Mobile Police 191 Crime 195 Traffic Control Centre 197 Fire 199 Tourist Assistance Centre 02-281-5051 Tourist Police 1155 Highway Police 1193 Medical Emergency 1669 LOST CREDIT CARD CALL CENTRES American Express 02-273-5544 (8am8pm) / 02-273-5522 (after 8pm) MasterCard 02-260-8572 Visa 02-273-1199 or 02-273-7449 MEDICAL EMERGENCY Bangkok Hospital 02-310-3000 BNH Hospital 02-686-2700 Bumrungrad Hospital 02-667-1000 Samitivej Hospital 02-711-8000 St. Louis Hospital 02-675-5000 Thai Nakarin Hospital 02-361-2727 Dental Hospital 02-260-5000/15 TELEPHONE SERVICES Bangkok Directory Inquiries 1133 Domestic Long Distance 101 International Long Distance 100 Overseas Subscribers Call 001 TOURISM OFFICES TAT Call Centre 1672 (8am-8pm) TAT Tourist Information 4 Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd; 02-282- 9773, 02-2505500 | daily 8:30am- 4:30pm Tourism Authority of Thailand 1600 New Phetchaburi Rd | 02- 250-5500 | www.tat.or.th; www. tourismthailand.org Bangkok Tourism Division 171/1 Phra Athit Rd | 02-225-7612/4 | www. bangkoktourist.com IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT 507 Soi Suan Plu, off South Sathorn Rd | 02-287-3101 | Mon-Fri 8am- 4pm EMBASSIES Australia 37 South Sathorn Rd | 02344-6300 | www.austembassy.or.th Canada Abdulrahim Place 15F, 990 Rama IV Rd | 02-636-0540 | www.bangkokinternational.gc.ca bangkok 101
Cambodia 185 Ratchadamri Rd | 02957-5851-2 | RECBKK@hotmail.com China 57 Ratchadaphisek Rd, Din Daeng | 02-245-7043/4 | www.chinaembassy.or.th India 46 Sukhumvit Rd Soi 23 | 02258- 0300/5 | www.indianembassy. gov.in/bangkok Indonesia 600-602 Phetchaburi Rd | 02-252-3135/40 Japan 177 Wireless Rd | 02-696-3000, 02-207-8500 | www.th.emb-japan.go.jp Laos 520, 502/1-3 Wang Thonglang Rd | 02-539-6667 | www.bkklaoembassy. com Malaysia 33-35 South Sathorn Rd | 02-679-2190/5 Myanmar 132 North Sathorn Rd | 02233-2237, 02-234-4698, 02-234-4789 | firstname.lastname@example.org New Zealand M Thai Tower, 14F All Seasons Place, 87 Witthayu Rd | 02-254-2530 | www.nzembassy.com Philippines 760 Sukhumvit Rd | 02-259-0139/40 | www.philembassybangkok.net Singapore 129 South Sathorn Rd | 02-286-2111 United Kingdom 1031 Witthayu Rd | 02-305-8333 | www.ukinthailand. fco.gov.uk U.S.A. 120-122 Witthayu Rd | 02205-4000; www.usa.or.th/embassy Vietnam 83/1 Witthayu Rd | 02-251-5836 TRANSPORT PLANE Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport Call Centre 02-132-1888 Bangkok Airways 02-265-5555 | www.bangkokair.com Air Asia Suvarnabhumi International Airport A1-062 FG, Concourse A | 02-5159999 | www.airasia.com Thai Airways Int’l Suvarnabhumi International Airport F4, Row F | 02-356-1111 | www.thaiair.com
contacts SKYTRAIN/SUBWAY BTS Skytrain Call Centre 02-612-2444 | www.bts.co.th MRT Subway Call Centre 02-354-2000 BUS Call Centre 02-576-5599 Northern & Northeastern Bus Terminal Phahonyothin Rd, Mor Chit Southern Bus Terminal Boromrat Chonnani Rd Sai Tai Eastern Bus Terminal Sukhumvit Rd (Ekkamai)
Surfing BKK There’s a million websites out there, all desperate for a good quick click – but these are the only ones we would take home to meet our mum. n www.1stopbangkok.com Everything you wanted to know about Bangkok but were afraid to ask. n www.thaivisa.com General, boring, immigration type stuff and an entertaining messageboard. n www.bangkokartmap.com Find out where the pretty pictures and free wine’s at. n www.paknamweb.com Blogs, blogs and more blogs. Everything from the Thai lottery to sizzling streetfood. n www.movieseer.com Popcorn? Check. Emergency sweater? Check. Showtimes? Check here! MRT
TRAIN State Railway | www.railway.co.th Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) Rama IV Rd | Call Centre 1690 reference
angkok’s heaving traffic is legendary, presenting a constant challenge for residents and visitors to the city. River and canal boats, along with the BTS skytrain and MRT subway systems, offer some reliable alternatives to getting jammed on the road. Nonetheless, traffic remains horrendous, particularly mid-week. Below is a layman’s guide to inner-city transport options. anywhere in town for as low as B10, it’s part of a setup that will lead you to an overpriced souvenir or jewellery shop. It would be wise to decline any such offers. MOTORCYCLE TAXI In Bangkok’s heavy traffic, motorcycle taxis are the fastest, albeit most dangerous, form of road transport. Easily recognisable by their colourful vests, motorbike taxi drivers gather in groups by department stores, at the end of long sois or by tourist spots. As with tuk-tuks, fares definitely have to be negotiated beforehand.
ROAD TAXI Bangkok has thousands of metered, air-con taxis available 24 hours. Flag fall is B35 (for the first 2kms) and the fare climbs in B2 increments. Be sure the driver switches the metre on. No tipping is required, but rounding the fare up to the nearest B5 or B10 is common. Additional passengers are not charged, nor is baggage. For trips to/from the airport, the passengers should pay the expressway toll fees. When boarding from the public taxi queue outside the terminal, a B50 surcharge is added to the metered fare. TUK-TUK Those three-wheeled taxis (or samlor) are best known as tuk-tuks, named for the steady whirr of their engines. They are popular amongst tourists and can be fun for short trips around town. A 10-minute ride should cost around B40, but always bargain before boarding. Beware: if a tuk-tuk driver offers to deliver you
BUS Bangkok has an extensive and inexpensive public bus service. Both open-air and air-conditioned vehicles are available, respectively for B5 and B7.50-23 Pink-white mini-buses are a little more expensive (B25 per person) but seats are guaranteed. As most destinations are noted only in Thai, it is advisable to get a bus route map (available at hotels, TAT offices and bookshops). RAIL SKYTRAIN The Bangkok Transit System, or BTS, is a two-line elevated train network covering the major commercial areas. Trains run every few minutes from 6am to midnight, making the BTS a quick and reliable transport option, especially during heavy traffic jams. Fares range from B15 to B40; special tourist passes allowing unlimited travel for one day (B120) is available. BTS also provides free shuttle buses which transit passengers to and from stations and nearby areas. www.bts. co.th
SUBWAY Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is another fast and reliable way to get across town. The 18-station line stretches 20kms from Hualamphong (near the central railway station) up to Bang Sue in the north. Subways run from 6am to midnight daily, with trains arriving every 5-7 minutes. The underground connects with the BTS at MRT Silom/BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asok and MRT Chatuchak Park/BTS Mo Chit stations. Subway fares range from B15 to B39. www.bangkokmetro. co.th RIVER (also see River Tourism on p.24) EXPRESS RIVER BOAT Bangkok’s vast network of inter-city waterways offer a quick and colourful alternative for getting around the city. Express boats ply the Chao Phraya River from the Saphan Taksin Bridge up to Nonthaburi, stopping at some 30 main piers. Fares range from B9 to B32 depending on the distance. Tickets can either be bought on the boat or at the pier. Boats depart every 20 minutes or so between 5:30am and 6pm. Cross-river services operate throughout the day at each pier for the modest sum of B3. CANAL BOAT Khlong Saen Saep canal boats operate from Banglamphu across the city to Ramkhamhaeng University. Canal (khlong) boats tend to be frequent and cost around B8 to B18. Tickets are bought onboard. Note that the piers are a little hidden away, which makes them sometimes difficult to find.