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bangkok 101

september 2009 100 baht

CHIANG RAI

GATEWAY TO THE mekong t h r o u g h t h ec he iyaensg orfa ih i s k i n g d o m

1 on 1: JUSTIN DUNNE Metrobeat: BANGKOK FILM FESTIVAL Very Thai: MODERN SHRINES Daytrip: THAI FILM MUSEUM Over the Border: HOI AN

september 2009

Making Merit: COMMUNITY BASED TOURISM IN CHIANG RAI HISTORY & CULTURE ■ SIGHTSEEING & EXCURSIONS ■ DINING & NIGHTLIFE SHOPPING ■ SPAS ■ LISTINGS ■ EVENTS CALENDAR ■ CITY MAPS & MORE


publisher’s

letter

september 2009

Chiang Rai’s striking “White Temple” – Wat Rong Khun

This month we explore the up-and-coming slice of Thai countryside that is chilled out Chiang Rai. A lush verdant province sitting where Laos, Myanmar and the Thai Kingdom converge, it offers all the more adventurous traveler could want – a history of open but illicit opium trading, meandering hillscapes home to tribal minorities, and more adventure activities than you can shake a dinghy oar at. Over 10 pages we bring you the pick of the province – from upscale tentcamp resorts to botantical gardens and cross-border forays. And, in Making Merit, we profile the area’s communitybased tourism offerings. Back in the capital, September is a treasure trove of filmic and dance arts, with not one, but two of the year’s most anticipated festivals: the Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music and the Bangkok International Film Festival. Expect lashings of contemporary dance, ballet, opera and the occasional modern music recital from the former; and the here and now of global cinema, including hopefully some offbeat Thai offerings, from the latter. To coincide with this long-running cine fest – which brings intelligent cinema to the blockbuster-obsessed cineplexes – we also take a trip to the Thai Film Museum. Preserving Thailand’s rapidly disintegrating film heritage, this low-key museum located on a lonely backlot out in Nakorn Pathom is profiled on p.40. And well worth a visit. Elsewhere we’ve been busy with some home rs 101 cate , Bangkok an what they d improvements. Bangkok’s neighbourhoods are now se ia b n u ent and r more th er unravelled in our new Orientation section, while Independ rs who yearn fo s. It brings togeth , lle e ok ters v o a ri b tr e w , y id v ts u v n next to it our pier-by-pier map should make your g e sa sid ted to of city re rs. The result eighty, da discovery of Bangkok’s diverse riverside easier. And find in w tive Who’s Who tato n e m vel m ta o ri c nthly tra an autho ers and cultural the discoveries don’t stop there. In this month’s 1 on 1, rid of mo nd off the b y h h p t ra n g e photo intellig u on a Bed Supperclub’s dashing GM Justin Dunne lets us in pact and ine that takes yo employs the is a com z a 1 g 0 a 1 o m on the inner workings of the still, after 7 years, whitek y o d cit ut and n . Bangk guide an rist track ith no fluff, no sm ought. u to hot nightclub. Meanwhile, the ancient Vietnamese port rn o w eb well-w andards, cannot b ders, of Hoi An leaves us awestruck in Over The Border. And ditorial st content rea r u o n highest e ls. Our editorial o a e focus Very Thai explores the ancient beliefs and sleek designs adver tori usly maintain th to ensure ro on is that inform Bangkok’s well-tended Modern Shrines. We rigo our missi as much

What i1s01? Bangkok

and at city y this gre they enjo love living in it. as we

Enjoy.

Mason Florence Publisher & Editorial Director


contributors Leon Schadeberg

Based in Thailand since the late 1980s, prolific British photographer Leon Schadeberg understandably calls Bangkok his home. A recognised travel lensman, Leon began his career in the field at the tender age of 16, and has since travelled across the continents, capturing images in over 70 countries. Working for the London-based agency Rex Features, Leon’s photos have appeared in such publications as Time, Newsweek, Stern and Paris Match. He has also had several books published on destinations such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong.

Noy Thrupkaew

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.

Philip Cornwel-Smith

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.

Howard Richardson

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.

Tom Mintier

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.

Steven Pettifor

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.

Cheryl Tseng

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 & Editorial Director Mason Florence Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jesda M.Tivayanond Managing Editor Max Crosbie-Jones Associate Editor Mike Atkins 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,Tippicha Chumsang Account Sales Manager Jhone El’Mamuwaldi Account Executives Sirikanda Chamroenyai Pafun Sinpichetkorn Administrative Assistant Peeraya Nuchkuar Published by Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd. 113 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Bangkok 10330 T: 02-252-3900 F: 02-650-4557 info@talisman-media.com Designed by Letter Space T: 02-386-7181 F: 02-386-7182 letter_space2000@yahoo.com 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.


table of

contents snapshots 8 10 11 12 14 15 16 17

101 picks 1 on 1: justin dunne events calendar metro beat history religion customs very thai: modern shrines

sightseeing 18 19 20 22 24 26 28 30 31 32 34 35 36 39 40 42

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 day tripping upcountry festivals daytrip: thai film museum over the border: hoi an

september 2009

arts 44 45 46 56 57 58 59

contemporary art exhibitions photo feature: : chiang rai performing arts cultural centres cinema reading & screening

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42

17

45 46

on the cover: novice monks from the Chiang Rai’s Buddha Cave Temple frolick along the Mae Kok River photo by: Mason Florence

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table of

contents 75

september2009

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 78 100

82 84 86 88 89 90 92 93 94 96

one night in bangkok nightclubs hotel bars indie bars latin rhythms bars with a view jazz clubs nightlife areas live music pub crawling

sports

112 spectator sports 113 active sports

courses & services 114 115

cooking, meditation & thai massage courses making merit: community based tourism in chiang rai

business 116 business 117 real estate

reference 118 survival thai 119 contacts 120 getting around

108

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 106

108 109 110 111

body & beauty spas wellness centres medical tourism

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The Stylish

New Way to Sleep in Bangkok

seven design hotel 3/15 Sukhumvit 31 Bangkok 10110 t: +662.662.0951 f: +662.662.3344 e: info@sleepatseven.com www.sleepatseven.com


Snapshots

101 picks

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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

shopping

thai style

food heaven

open air

■ 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.82-96).

■ 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.90).

■ 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.36).

■ Dining Cruises Stuff your face as you wind your way along the Chao Phraya (p.69).

■ 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 (pp.89; 93).

■ 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)

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bangkok 101


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1 on 1 With its swoony, 2001: A Space Odyssey looks and equally outthere events, Bed Supperclub is one of the few nightclubs in town with staying power. This month the resto-club turns 7 – a stellar achievement, given Bangkok’s ruthlessly fickle clubland, and the perfect excuse for Tom Mintier to lie back on one of their white bed divans while he quizzes American GM Justin Dunne. From his best night in the club to future plans and keeping things fresh, he spills the beans on Bed. Bed Supperclub turns 7 on September 17. What do you have planned? This year, with the recession and everything, we’re pulling back a little bit and doing something a little more cutesy – an event called the Seven Year Bitch. It will have a sort of poodle/dog theme that takes its cue from the Marilyn Monroe movie, and we’re throwing in a little about the idea that nightclubs have a tendency to age as fast as dogs do. What’s this we hear about a zombie walk? It’s a Sukhumvit Soi 11 Association event on October 17th – anyone in town is invited to dress up as a zombie. We’ll start in Siam Square on the platform of the BTS, then ride up to Nana. Everyone must walk in costume, in character, up Soi 11. We’ll do a blood donation drive, hopefully break into a Michael Jackson thriller routine, then finish up with a closing party of some sort. How do you keep Bed fresh? So much of it really falls on the shoulders of the creative team. We change the themes once a month in the restaurant and that feeds into the bar and everything else. People 10

Justin Dunne often ask me who is your biggest competition in Bangkok? In many ways it’s ourselves because if we did do the same thing all the time it would get stale. Next year we’re also planning some big renovations. What do you have planned for the next 7 years? Hopefully much of the same. We want to remain very leading edge – innovative, daring, connected, tapped in, turned on. Best Bed Supperclub night ever? Easy. December 31st, 2005. We had just celebrated the countdown and it was pretty busy in the restaurant so I hopped behind the bar to help serve champagne. There was a very striking, very beautiful women sitting on the bar counter in the way. So I go over there and ask her to move. By the third time it became a little frustrating, so I just picked her up on my shoulder and put her down. We were married a year and a half later… and she’s now pregnant with our second child. Why is Soi 11 such a magnet for cosmopolitan nightlife? It’s constantly changing, there’s always something new on the Soi. And it’s become very centrally located. We’ve often wondered if Bed would still be around if it was further down, on snapshots

Soi 16 or 38. And there’s no doubt we have benefited a tremendous amount by having Q Bar and all the new hotels and condos here. Favourite restaurants? I’m a huge lover of Indian food, so I love Hazara at The Face. Also more locally, Dosa King is a really, really good restaurant. I like The Oyster Bar on Narithiwat 24. If we have a babysitter my wife and I also like to chill out in The Living Room at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. Give us a tip you won’t find in the guide books? For a more local flavour, get off Sukhumvit and onto the back streets, especially between Soi 23 and 55. It’s a great way to get around; its scenic, it’s gentle. I also adore the flower market Pak Klong Talad – it’s one heck of a bargain. You’ve been made tsar of Bangkok. What’s your first decree? Remove all the sidewalk street vendors and put them in hawker centers. Also, 1 year community service for anyone talking on their mobile phones and driving. Oh, and 2 years community service for anyone riding their scooter on the sidewalk. To lighten things up, however, I would require everyone to have at least one foot massage a week. bangkok 101


september calender

Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music

Every Saturday: Open Mic Comedy Nights The Bull’s Head, Sukhumvit Soi 31/1 | 02233-4141 | www.greatbritishpub. com | free See Metrobeat ‘Comedy’

Sun 6: Run for Children Suan Luang Ror 9 | 02266-0123, 02-649-8888 | sheraton.com/bangkok | B300 A mini-marathon in aid of UNICEF immunisation projects. Call for registration details.

Every weekend: Triolive

Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit | 02-6498888 | www.sheratongrandes ukhumvit.com See Metrobeat ‘Jazz’ Mon 7 – until Oct 17: Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music Thailand Cultural Centre, Ratchadapisek Rd. | 02262-3456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com, www.bangkokfestivals. com | B400 – 4,000 See Metrobeat ‘Dance & Theatre’

Thu 3: DJ Cash Money Bed Supperclub, Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub. com | The legendary worldchampionship scratch DJ performs.

Wed 9: Groovy Skycrawl Gazebo Sukhumvit Soi 1 | 02-714-0487 ext. 18 | skycrawl@groovymap.com | B499 Drink deals, free snacks, a roving party at several bars… Groovy Map celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Thu 17: Bed Supperclub 7th Anniversary

Fri 18 – Sun 27: Koh Mr. Saxman

Bed Supperclub, Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com | B700 See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit | 02-649-8888 | www.sheratongrande sukhumvit.com See Metrobeat ‘Jazz’

Fri 25 – Sat 26: Sa-By Sa-By” Dance Theatre Therapy Centerpoint Playhouse, Rama I Rd. | 02-2623456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com | B300 – 500 Six Thai dancers adapt the art of Thai massage into a dazzling dance show.

Until Oct 16: Futurotextiles

Jim Thompson Art Center, Soi Kasemsan 2 | 02216-7368 | www.jimthompsonhouse. com, www.lafete-bangkok. com | free See Metrobeat ‘Festivals’

bangkok 101

Thu 17 & Sat 19: Tim Garland and The Lighthouse Trio

Niu’s on Silom, 661 Silom Road between Silom Soi 17-19 | www.niusonsilom. com | 02-266-5333 UK jazz outfit perform songs from new album Libra.

Sat 26 – Oct Sun 4: Thailand Open 2009 Impact Muang Thong Thani | 02-262-3456 | www.thaiticketmajor.com B300 – 4,500 See Metrobeat ‘Sport’

Thu 3 – Sun 6: Discovery Thailand & Discovery World 2009 QSNCC | 02-683-3065 | www.pkexhibition.com | free See Metrobeat ‘Fairs & Exhibitions’

Thu 10: Solange Paz Mendoza Foundation Cocktail Party Bed Supperclub, Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com |B800 Children suffering from infectious diseases will benefit from this martini-filled evening.

Sun 20: Bangkok Vertical Marathon Banyan Tree Bangkok, Sathorn Rd. | 02-6791000 | www.banyantree. com | B350 See Metrobeat ‘Sport’

Until Sun 27: 11th Central International Watch Fair 2009 Events Hall, 3rd Floor Sun 27: Terror Central Chidlom; every Overtone, RCA | 02-203- Central Department store 0423-5, 02-641-4283 | | 02-793-7420 | www. www.prartmusic.com central.co.th | free This grizzled Los Angeles See Metrobeat ‘Fairs hardcore band play “old and Exhibitions’ thrash”.

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

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Fri 4: DJ Fergie 808, Block C, RCA | 02-203-1043 | www.808bangkok.com Steel yourself for some serious peak-time techno from the former BBC Radio1 DJ.

Tue 15 – Sat 19: 44th Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair Impact Muang Thong Thani | 02-630-1390 | www.bangkokgemsfair. com | B100 See Metrobeat ‘Fairs & Exhibitions’

Thu 24 – Wed 30: Bangkok International Film Festival 2009 Paragon Cineplex, Siam Paragon & SF World, Central World | 1672, 02-250-5500 | www.bangkokfilm.org | B100 See Metrobeat ‘Film’

Until Wed 30: Dvaravati Exhibition National Museum, Na Pra That Rd. | 02-224-1370 | www.lafete-bangkok.com | B40 See Metrobeat ‘Festivals’

Trade Fairs Performance Music Shopping Sport Exhibition film nightlife Charity

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Snapshots

The pick of Bangkok’s hottest news, trends, events and openings, by Howard Richardson.

metro beat

nightlife

comedy The Bull’s Head (02-233-4141, www.greatbritishpub.com) is holding Open Mic Comedy Nights every Saturday at 7pm, with the stage available to anyone who has some improv, a mime or some jokes to tell. A knock-out format sees the winners each week (determined by Cheer-oMeter) progress to a final on October 3. Free entry.

jazz

The Bed Supperclub 7 Year Anniversary Party is themed The 7 Year Bitch, and billed as a light and frothy event where afro hair, flares, big shades and a penchant for calling everyone ‘man’ are back in style (again). Oh, and please wear white. Music is by DJs, Fred Jungo, Emanuel Skinner, Saint Vincent, and Eddy Frampton, plus special guest Jesse Garcia (Spain). It’s all on September 17; doors open at 9pm; entry B700 includes one drink. See www.bedsupperclub.com for more details.

Triolive, who play nightly at the Living Room in the Sheraton Grande hotel (02-649-8353) have themed concerts each weekend. September 4 and 5 sees the music of Famous Jazz Trumpet Players, led by Steve Cannon. Then it’s Latin on September 11 and 12 with special guests Lookput on vocals and TV star Amp on percussionist. The month ends with a residency by Thailand’s most popular sax player Koh Mr Saxman from September 18-27.

festivals The official closing event of the French-Thai cultural festival La Fête is the exhibition Dvaravati, showing a collection of Buddhist artifacts from the 6th century at the National Museum until September 30. Admission B40. Also part of La Fête, Futurotextiles continues at the Jim Thompson Art Centre (02216-7368, www.jimthompsonhouse. com) until Oct 16. For full details see www.lafete-bangkok.com.

dance&theatre

The annual Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music offers 16 productions at the Thailand Cultural Centre between September 7 and October 17. Performers come from as far afield as Russia – the Ekaterinburg Opera Theatre open proceedings with their award-winning production of Verdi’s La Traviata – India (Kathak Kendra performing Punarnava: To Kathak Anew on September 17) and Taipei (Cloud Gate Dance Theatre present Shui Yuei (Moon Water) on September 22 and 23. There’s also jazz, ice ballet and flamenco. For full programme details visit www.bangkokfestivals.com. Get tickets (B400-B4,000) from Thai Ticket Major (02262-3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com).

film The Bangkok International Film Festival 2009 has confirmed it will screen around 80 movies from around the world from September 24 to 30, although few details were available at press time. Thai Film Directors Association will again determine the artistic direction of the festival, with two competitive sections decided: The Main Competition, including films by first and second-time directors, and the Southeast Asian Competition. There will also be features, a documentary showcase, seminars and workshops. For updates on schedules, venues and ticket prices see www.bangkokfilm.org. 12

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bangkok 101


Food & drink

Sport Recent World No 1 and sixtime Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be top seed at the Thailand Open Tennis tournament, held at Impact Arena from September 26October 4. Also competing for the $608,500 prize money are Russia’s Marat Safin and defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who wowed Thai fans last year with a show of boxing skills when he sparred with exOlympic champion Somluck Khamsing. Tickets (from B300) are available at Thai Ticket Major (02-262-3456, www.thaiticketmajor.com). Urban sport fans might like the Bangkok Vertical Marathon on September 20, although it’s oriented more to participation than spectacle, as runners race up 61 floors to the top of the Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel. The record, held by Boonchoo Jandacha, is 6 minutes 19 seconds, so it doesn’t take long. There’s more information at www.banyantree.com.

fair&exhibitions The organisers are expecting around 300,000 visitors to the Thai tourism festival Discovery Thailand & Discovery World 2009, running at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre from September 3-6. With a large array of holiday providers competing for attention, including resorts and boat cruises, there may be a few bargains to be had. Daily from 10am to 9pm. For more information see www.pkexhibition.com. There’ll be a huge cache of bling at the 44th Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair at Impact Arena (02833-4455) from September 15-19. Essentially a trade fair, only the last day being open to the public, it’s well worth a visit to see what’s on offer as over 1,000 global businesses display precious and semi-precious stones, plus crafted jewellery, from hard-edged urban to sweetly traditional. Entrance B100. For more info see www.bangkokgemsfair.com. Pitching itself as a 5 billion baht galaxy of watches, from over 180 brands, the 11th Annual Central International Watch Fair 2009 takes place at all Central Department stores until September 25 (02-793-7420, www.central.co.th). There’ll be plenty of tempting deals, limited editions and new timepiece innovations on offer.

bangkok 101

Opus

Not strictly a restaurant, but a very slick wine bar on the back lanes of Silom, Opus nevertheless has a full food menu to choose from as you sip your way through a selection from the walk-in cellar. The uncluttered space is divided into bar and lounge areas, both decorated in whites and browns and discreetly lit, giving a bright yet warm ambiance. Semi-abstract landscapes in pleasing mineral tones, like cross sections of rock, line the walls. The menu starts with a large hot and cold antipasti plate, but it’s perhaps more rewarding to begin with a pasta, such as penne dello chef, comprising Italian sausage with a WHERE Opus, 64 Pan Rd, hint of gorgonzola Silom, 02-637-9896 OPEN served with rocket 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pmleaves and basil. It’s 10.30pm PRICE $$$ a decent, simple dish that’s ideal for a relaxed dinner with a choice from the 300 wines, including ten by the glass, starting at a mere B220 for a Mandrarossa Cabernet 2006. Main courses include Australian fillet cooked in a Merlot wine reduction, ossobuco, steamed seabass in white wine sauce, and pizzas. Desserts are in the mainstream of tiramisu and panna cotta. Eat at high tables and chairs in the bar or casual dining seating in the lounge, where wood framed windows give a cosy town house feel. This is a classy place, with an emphasis on good wine. Plenty of parking.

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history

Grand Palace

B

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

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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

bangkok 101


religion

T

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.

bangkok 101

snapshots

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


Snapshots

customs

F

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.

Temple Etiquette

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

bangkok 101


very thai Philip Cornwel-Smith

MODERN SHRINES

Saan phra phum (spirit houses) are the defining note of places where Thais live or work. In ancient indigenous belief, spirits governed a location and needed to be placated to ensure a safe journey or activity. That survives most clearly today through spirit houses being tended daily with offerings and requests for things like the spirit’s permission to build, marry or cut trees. They typically come in pairs. Chao thii – the animist ‘spirit of the place’ – occupies the lower one, a plain miniature home on four or six legs. Later Hindu influence on Thai culture means that the taller painted masonry shrine resembles an opulent Khmer sanctuary upon a pedestal. Inside, stands a gilded icon of the ‘spirit of the land’ holding a sword and money bag, who gets a prestigious Sanskrit name, phra phum. Most stand away from the residence, draped in fairy lights to induce the spirits to reside there and not cause mischief among the humans. Illustrating the authority of phra phum, attendants flank the upper levels, male to the right, female left, while elephants, horses and female dancers cavort on the lower deck. These figurines are usually of moulded plastic. Offering tables in front support incense, candles and tiny bowls for whichever food and drinks that spirit prefers. Yet old styles may look incongruous beside an edifice of stark modernity. The wooden spirit house fronting the blue-glass façade of Bangkok’s Mah Boon Krong mall, for example, looks as comfortable as someone’s Dad at a teen disco. As architecture evolves, however, so does spirit house design. For trend-literate spirits, downtown Bangkok now showcases hip shrines to suit the sleek towers they guard.

bangkok 101

snapshots

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


Sightseeing

orientation

greater bangkok Cha

o

Thewet & Dusit

ph r a

ya

Ko Rattanakosin

op

a

hray

a

Thonburi

Chinatown

Siam Square & Pratunam

Sukhumvit Chaophraya

18

can be reached using the city’s 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.18). 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.

Ch

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 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, which includes backpacker ghetto Khao San Road. South of Ko Rattanakosin is the city’s congested and chaotic and must-see Chinatown. And crowning Banglamphu is royal and government ministry enclave Dusit with its grand, tree-shaded boulevards a la 19th Century Europe. When temple fatigue strikes head east… for the urban hurly burly – think 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, and embassy land. 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)

Riverside

Pathumwan& Lumphini

Silom & Sathorn sightseeing

bangkok 101

ban


the riverside

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.

N10 : Wang Lang Wat Rakhang, the macabre Forensic’s Museum, a teenfashion clothing market and Patravadi Theatre (p.56) are all in the vicinity.

M

A

N15

N15 :Thewet Feed 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.

d. ra A

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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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Kalayang Ba Matri Rd.

Rd.

N2 : Sri Phaya On the left is River City: 4 barrenfloors of SE Asian antiques, ethnic reproductions, tailors and tat.To your right, the Royal Orchid Sheraton.

Charoen Krung Rd.

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bangkok 101

N1 : Oriental The old western quarter. Enjoy neglected neoclassical edifices; Oriental object’s d’arts at OP Place; and tea and scones at Bangkok’s most illustrious hotel, the Mandarin Oriental.

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N6 : Memorial Bridge/ Saphan Pood Venture left for decrepit godowns (warehouses) packed with veg and flowers; i.e. Pak Klong Talad, the 24hour fresh market. Head straight for Bangkok’s Little India/Sari-central, Pahurat. At night there’s a clothing market popular with teens.

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.

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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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ra g Ph id t Br de o m la So K n Pi

101

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

Taks

in B

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sightseeing

19


Sightseeing

route 101

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.

Rattanakosin

W

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 man-made klongs (canals) and the Chao Phraya River, and immune to high-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.35), also known as the Temple of Dawn. Actually predating 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

20

sightseeing

bangkok 101

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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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bangkok 101

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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.34). 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.33) 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.32). 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.36). 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.

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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


Sightseeing

route 101

C

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.

22

cHINATOWN Head straight on from Exit 1 and 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 along Yaowarat and,

sightseeing

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 thousands of 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 colonialstyle 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 bangkok 101

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right and head up 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.

China Town Scala restaurant

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bangkok 101

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1. Wat Traimit Witthayaram 2. San Chao Poy Sien shrine Wat 3. Auphairat Thian Fah Foundation bamrung 4. Canton House 5. Wat Mangkorn Kamalawat 6. Hua Seng Hong 7. T&K Seafood

Chao Phraya River See n San Chao Poy Sien OK, 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, reasonablypriced 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

23


Sightseeing

The Emporium

route 101

Sukhumvit

L

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 Who’s Who of world races moves anonymously amongst 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 6th 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

bangkok 101

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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, mini-skirted girls) should head to one of the many 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.90): 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 Across the road from 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

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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


Sightseeing

route 101

Silom & Sathorn

T

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. Home to a large chunk of Bangkok’s corporate world, this 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 very shady characters, and one oh-so-notorious little lane.

Opus

26

Lumpini Park

Set the alarm and beat the sun to the punch; there’s much to be done 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 French cafés, butcher’s shop and a bakery, La Boulange, where you can have a light lunch or grab a freshly baked baguette. 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 sightseeing

Pan, you will come across Wat Mahamariamman. Referred to by locals as Wat Kaek, it is the most famous Hindu temple in Bangkok 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.91). Two hundred metres above the pavement, this bar’s main attraction is the completely unobstructed 360° 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 if your knees are 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 coolcat sax at Niu’s on Silom. Or, if wine’s your thang, head to new oenophile hangout Opus. Otherwise, cab it to bangkok 101


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Lumpini National Boxing Stadium (see p.112) around the corner, which will guarantee 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, faux-antiques, 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 same-sex central, Silom Soi 2. And if you’re feeling frisky and don’t mind being harassed by touts, immerse yourself in the decadent notso-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. bangkok 101

EAT n La Boulange 2-2/1 Convent Rd | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-631-0354 | www.laboulange.com | daily 7am -10pm Grab a light lunch or fresh baguette at this French bakery. 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).

n Tapas

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.

n Health

Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02632-7982 | 8pm-2am House music and cocktails all week long in this Moroccan grotto. n Parkbridge 3rd Floor, 5 Patpong Soi 2 | BTS Sala Daeng | 6pm-5am This elevated electro bar is giving nights out in Patpong a less scandalous name. 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

sightseeing

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


Sightseeing

route 101 Siam Paragon

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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

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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.90). 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.

Plaza Athenee

JW Marriott

Conrad

RATCHADAMRI

bangkok 101


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Sightseeing

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

sightseeing

bangkok 101

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101

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.

Beware!

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).

bangkok 101

sightseeing

31


Sightseeing

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.

วัดสระเกศ ถ.จักรพรรดิพงษ์

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.

วัดบวรนิเวศวิหาร ถ.พระสุเมรุ

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.

วัดโพธิ์ ถ.เชตุพน

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101

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

SHRINES

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.

Wat Arun

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.

พระพรหมเอราวัณ ถ.ราชดำริ

Ganesha Shrine

bangkok 101

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

Erawan Shrine

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Sightseeing

museums THE NATIONAL MUSEUM (map A3) 5 Chao Fa Rd, Sanam Luang | 02-224-1333 | www.thailandmuseum. com | Wed-Sun 9am-4pm | B40 Previously a palace dur ing the reign of R a ma V, t he National Museum features extensive displays of T hai ar tefacts 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) which start at 9:30am. Photography is not allowed inside the museum galleries.

พิพธิ ภัณฑ์สถานแห่งชาติ ถ.เจ้าฟ้า ใกล้ทอ้ งสนามหลวง

MUSEUM OF COUNTERFEIT GOODS Supalai Grand Tower Building 26F, Rama III Rd | 02-653-5555 | www.tillekeandgibbins.com | by appointment only | BTS Surasak Condemn it or not, forgery is a huge draw for some. In 1989, the law firm Tilleke & Gibbins decided to convert collected fake goods into educational tools for law students. An entertaining site – from Toblerone chocolate bars to belly-button rings, from anti-malarial tablets to fake MSG – 1,500 pieces are neatly laid out, forgeries next to the originals. Call for an appointment and please don’t use it as means to spot that fake handbag on Patpong later that day.

ติลลิกี แอนด์ กิบบินส์ พิพธิ ภัณฑ์สนิ ค้า ปลอม และเลียนแบบ ชัน้ 26 อาคารศุภาลัย แกรนด์ ทาวเวอร์ ถ.พระราม 3

34

Oddball Museums

It’s not all Buddhist art you know. Lots of museums in and around Bangkok explore Thailand’s wacky and idiosyncratic side. 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). The Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan province is highly recommended, though more for its striking edifice - a giant statue of a three-headed mythical pachyderm and fantastical gardens than its antiques. On the outskirts, the weekends only House of Museums is a two-storey sprawl of retro curiosities and highly recommended. Finally, if you’re a film buff interested in Thailand’s New Wave, learn about the greats that inspired your Pen-Eks and Apichatpongs at the National Film Archive in Nakhom Pathom. Also by appointment, 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 | 02419-7000 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

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

National Film Archive 94 Moo 3 Bhuddhamonton Sai 5, Salaya, Nakorn Pathom| www.nfat.org | 02-4822013-15 | showtime: 10am, noon, 2pm| free

หอภาพยนตร์แห่งชาติ 94 หมู่ 3 ถ.พุทธมณฑลสาย 5

ROYAL BARGE MUSEUM (map A3, #5) 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 of which are up to 50 metres long, is housed on the Thonburi side of the river in a series of elaborate sheds near the Pinklao Bridge. sightseeing

The barges are best seen in action during rare ceremonial processions on the Chao Phraya where the colourful crews can number up to 64, including rowers, umbrella holders, navigators and various musicians. Beautifully and ornately decorated, 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.

พิพิธภัณฑ์เรือพระราชพิธี ถ.อรุณอมรินทร์

bangkok 101

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101

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

Snake Farm

bangkok 101

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


Sightseeing Lop Buri

Uthai Thani

day tripping

Chai Nat Nakhon Ratchasima

Ang Thong Saraburi

Suphan Buri

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 36

Ayutthaya

Kanchanaburi

Nakhon Pathom

Koh Kred

Pathumthani

Nakhon Nayok

Sa Kaeo

Nonthaburi Bangkok

Ratchaburi

Samut Sakhon Samut Songkhram

Samut Prakan

Chachoengsao

Chon Buri

Phetchaburi

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

sightseeing

bangkok 101


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.

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Sightseeing

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

สวนสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ ตรงข้ามสวนจตุจักร

FLOATING MARKETS

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 38

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.

upcountry festivals

5 - 9 Sept

The 10th Lunar Month Festival, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Making merit is the goal of this religious festival, observed during the 15th day of the waning moon in the 10th lunar month. But given that festivals are Thais’ de facto excuse for a knees up, the entertainment – exhibitions, food stalls, light and sound shows, fireworks – should play just as big a role as the religious rites. Participants carry beautiful baskets laden with flowers and kanom (snacks) from Sanam Na Mueang to Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan before offering them to monks and their ancestors. Call TAT’s Nakhon Si Thammarat office on 07-534-6515~6

18 - 20 Sept

Thailand International Swan Boat Races, Ayutthaya

17 - 21 Sept

Bathing Buddha Ceremony, Petchabun

It’s easy to see that Buddhism is an important part of Thailand. The same can be said about rivers, which have been an indispensable part of life for many communities throughout Thailand’s history. The Bathing Buddha Festival, a unique event in the province of Phetchabun, unites these two elements. Visitors can expect spectacular processions, cultural performances, and the highlight and namesake of the event, the diving of a Buddha image into the Pah Sak River by the governor of Phetchabun. Call 1672 for more.

19 Sept

29 Sept - 15 Oct

Lai Reua Fai Festival, Nakhon Phanom

Ibis Koh Samui Trophy 2009 Adventure Race

Adventure racing and hundreds of spandex wearing athletes will hit this Southern island. Starting on magnificent Bohphut Beach, competitors will run through unspoiled jungle, swim and kayak through turquoise waters and cycle over ocean-vista hills. Two courses are on offer – an ‘extreme’ one for experienced and ‘adventure’ for staminadeficient rookies. And 20% of the sponsor’s donations will go towards keeping this ecologically stressed island green. Find all you need to know at www.kohsamuitrophy.com bangkok 101

Now in its 22nd year, the Swan Boat and Long Boat races have been held throughout the history of Thailand. This event calls upon competitors from all over the world to race in this annual event. The Swan Boats feature 22 paddlers while the traditional long boats will be propelled along by 55 paddlers. The race takes place in front of the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. Call the Tourism Authority of Thailand on 1672.

sightseeing

This northeastern religious festival will see lines of regal and resplendent barges cruising down the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province, spewing fireworks and eliciting gasps from crowds assembled along its banks as they go. The festival, which includes religious rites, pays respects to Lord Buddha and takes each place each evening just before sunset. Call the TAT Nakhon Phanom office on 04-251-3490~1. 39


Sightseeing

daytrip Max Crosbie-Jones

Thai Film Museum Little remains of Thailand’s film heritage; a few rusty cans of ragged 16mm film reels, the odd stall selling vintage movie posters, a handful of destinedto-be-demolished old cinemas, and the fond but fading memories of those who used to visit them. But the National Film Archive of Thailand, a public organisation in Nakhom Pathom province, is singlehandedly preserving what remains, be it by restoring said reels of film to something like their former glory, screening rare films in its cinematheque, or guiding anyone interested around its museum – for free. If you’re into Thai films, just go. Seriously, you’ll love inching around this nook-filled, two-storey space modeled after the old Sri Krung film studio, even if it is a pain to find and the guides do only speak Thai. No where else in the country can you see such a quirky cavalcade of Thai cine curiosities – old film cameras, projectors, props, costumes, posters and other ephemera. In one corner, behind a door with a loose door number “6” (a reference to Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s 6ixtynin9), are props from action films like 1963’s Singh Lae Singh. In another, a desk belonging to late director/screenwriter Vichit Kounavudhi sits beside the Polaroid camera from horror flick Shutter. And another still stashes props from Nonzee Nimibutr’s 1999 retelling of ghost tale Nang Nak, including a mummy-like model of Mae Nak herself. A staircase leads past photos of giant, hand-painted film advertising billboards from the 1960s, and assorted film awards and framed soundtrack 40

long-players, including one for Mon Rak Luk Thung, the classic 1970 musical starring superstars Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Yaowarat. This pair were – and still are – considered Thailand’s most iconic on-screen duo. The museum acknowledges this fact with a wax figure of Mitr dangling from a ladder, a reference to his tragicomic death in 1967, when he fell from a helicopter while filming the last scene for masked crusader caper Insee Tong. Petchara, who’s still alive, gets a spot on the Walk of Fame, her hand prints set in concrete on the museum’s floor along with many other stars. New Wave auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul also gets a reverent sightseeing

nod, a glass display case containing props from his slow but beguiling movies, including the tiger shroud from Palmes d’Or winning jungle fable Tropical Malady. The museum’s showpiece, though, is the space devoted to R. D. Pestonji, whose singular directorial work in the 50s, 60s and 70s made him, though not quite a household name, undoubtedly one of the pioneer’s of Thai cinema. Because they were shot on 35mm film stock not cheaper 16mm, most of his films survive today and are available for purchase here on DVD. Alongside a wax figure of him, sat on his beloved 35mm camera, and a photo bangkok 101


Though free, don’t leave without making a donation to this overstretched and under-funded organization. Better still support their work by buying some of their DVDs. Subtitled films available include the aforementioned Rong Ram Narok (Country Hotel) and Forever Yours, reviewed this month on p59. Each one is a lovingly restored slice of Thai cine history, as charming to watch as it is hard to find.

Getting There Take bus number 515 from Victory Monument. The journey takes approx 40 mins to one hour. If driving, continue along Bhutthamonthon Sai 5, passed Mahidol University. Turn left at the intersection after you pass the PTT petrol station. The Thai Film Museum is about 1km on the right hand side. Keep your eyes peeled for its distinctive yellow building.

หอภาพยนต์แห่งชาติ ใช้เส้นทางพุทธมณฑลสาย 5 ผ่านมหาวิทยาลัยมหิดลศาลายาตรงไป เรื่อยๆจนผ่านปั๊มปตท.ให้เลี้ยวซ้ายที่ 3 แยก และตรงไปประมาณเกือบ 1 กม.จะเห็น ตึกสีเหลืองของพิพิธภัณฑ์ทางด้านขวามือ

Photograph by Max Crosbie-Jones

of him receiving an award from Alfred Hitchcock, there is a recreation of the well-stocked bar from Rong Ram Narok, or Country Hotel, his entertaining 1957 romp about a vaudevillian cast of characters who stay at a hotel. Tours end with a short film in a dark room, which, with its creaking wooden seats and baby doll hanging in a makeshift hammock, authentically recreates a feral Bangkok cinema in the 1930s and 40s. Albeit minus the antisocial behaviour and vermin. After this fascinating montage – which includes footage of King Rama VI and of former PM Thaksin playing as a young boy – your guide then gives a demonstration of the narration, or sound dubbing, that accompanied most films here until the early 70s, and was often as big a crowd-pleaser as the films themselves.

Thai Film Museum 94 Moo 3 Bhuddhamonton Sai 5, Salaya, Nakorn Pathom | www.nfat. org | 02-482-2013~15 | weekend tours: 10am, noon, 3pm, weekday tours: by appointment | Free

bangkok 101

sightseeing

41


Sightseeing

over the border Max Crosbie-Jones

HOI AN

Strolling around the lanes of rotstained houses, assembly halls, pagodas and shrines that make up the old port town of Hoi An is one of the cultural highlights of all Vietnam. As sleepy as Saigon and Hanoi are both hyper, it’s a living museum that speaks of it’s mercantile past, not it’s soaring future; a ready-to-go Indochine-era film set; one of those pretty places where, as one friend put it, “you’d take a decent picture even if you tripped and pressed the shutter release by accident.” Poised peacefully on the northern bank of the Hoai River, 5km inland from Central Vietnam’s eastern coastline, Hoi An was an international trading hub during the 16th and 17th centuries. Wars and the successive waves of immigrants who set up emporiums or homes here have left it with a multi-cultural architectural mish-mash – from meeting halls built 42

by the Chinese to mustard yellow villas left by the French. Unesco World Heritage site status now means winning the lottery is easier than getting permission to build in its Old Quarter: local government regulates everything from paint hues to the types of lights used. On the downside, the inevitable commercialisation that followed means, at times, it now resembles one of those faithfully recreated Australian gold-rush towns – much is for show. But look at it this way. If it weren’t for the co-operation of the North and South during the Vietnam War, and the admission fee charged for access to its heritage attractions (currently 75,000 dong or about US $3), which goes towards its preservation, Hoi An might not be here at all. Begin by getting lost in its cobbled, carbine-engine free lanes... and what lanes. The open shop-fronts, sloping lichen-covered roofs and swaying lanterns of its low-rise wooden buildings curve into the distance. Octogenarians with crinkled faces look out from shady porches; vendors in ao dai and conical hats sell noodles (and gift tourists sublime photo opportunities); and young children lark on the steps of their parent’s shops. It’s a tad touristy… but you may well feel as if you’ve travelled back centuries. With nothing noisier than the odd local wobbling past on a squeaking bicycle, a sense of history pervades. This history can be felt not only in the streets, but in everything from the ancestor-worshipping family chapels you can walk deep inside to museums and buildings like the chamber-filled Phuc Kien Assembly Hall. Remember, you need a ticket to access these heritage attractions. It costs nothing, however, to skip back and forth across the Japanese-built Chua Cau Bridge, Hoi An’s most symbolic landmark dating back to the 16th century. Once you’ve explored – and filled your camera with sublime street portraiture – get shopping. Seriously, shopping in the Old Quarter (be it for lacquer wear, sightseeing

bangkok 101


GETTING THERE Take a flight to either Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. Thai Airways and Air Asia offer daily flights (www.thaiair.com, 02-3561111; www.airasia.com, 02-515-9999). Then take an internal flight to the city of Danang (www.vietnamairlines.com). Buses for Hoi An depart from the Danang bus station (33 Dien Bien Phu), charge $3 and take approximately an hour to travel the 35km journey. STAY Furama Resort Danang 68 Ho Xuan Huong Street, Bac My An, Danang | +84-511-3847-333 | www.furamavietnam.com | from $250++ Overlooking China Beach, roughly equidistant between Hoi An and Danang, this 5-star haven features a stunning freshwater lagoon; past guests include Michael Caine and Jiang Zemin.

bangkok 101

sightseeing

Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa Cui Dai Beach, Hoi An Town | +845103-927-040 | www.victoriahotels.asia From it’s expansive white lobby to its luxe-woodsy rooms with fourposters, this is one of Hoi An’s best resorts. Located on white sandy Cai Dai Beach, it’s a 5km drive or bike ride from the Old Quarter.

Photograph by Gavin Gough for Vietnam National Administration of Tourism

handicrafts, abstract art, silk or lotus-shaped lantern) is the number one pastime here. It’s especially hard to resist the copycat skills, quick turnaround and low prices of the many tailors and shoe smiths. Want a pair of snake skin shoes? Delivered to your hotel room… at the crack of dawn the next morning? “No problem, sir.” While you await your new wardrobe, check out the restaurants. Along streets like Ngyugen Thai Hoc and the waterfront are clusters of upmarket little havens housed in mustard yellow French colonial villas. Most proffer, through wooden shutters, views onto the lantern-lined streets below and serve international fusion or chic Vietnamese.Try the Brother’s Café, for its lush garden and art deco atmosphere as well as its lip-smacking food, and the Central Market for a bargain bowl of Cau Lau, Hoi An’s signature dish made from rice noodles soaked in ancient well-water. Many stay longer than they expected. And who can blame them. Cooking classes; swimming at nearby Cai Dai Beach (where a resort scene now blossoms); a daytrip to the Champa Kingdom’s My Son or the Phong Nga caves (both also Unesco sites)… it’s not like there’s a lack of things to do. Also nearby is Danang, which eclipsed Hoi An as the area’s main port in the late 19th century and site of a huge US air base during the war. Now Vietnam’s third largest city, its museum filled with Cham civilization relics is worth seeing, while the deluxe resorts dotted along the South China oceanfront between it and Hoi An – China Beach – are among the best in the world, let alone the country. If you ask us, however, it’s worth sticking close to Hoi An proper. If not in one of the hotels in town then one of the luxe beach resorts along Cai Dai beach, only a picturesque, if slightly bumpy, 5km bike ride away.

Hoi An Hotel 10 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoi An | +84-510-3861-445 | www.hoiantourist.com | $63++ $198++ Minus points for the uninspired name, but this is a decent hotel offering simple rooms and a swimming pool right on the edge of Hoi An’s old quarter – and for a paltry price. Free use of bicycles too.

43


Arts

contemporary art

Thavibu

Steven Pettifor

W

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

44

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; stevenpettifor@hotmail.com bangkok 101


bu

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.

Painting by Numbers Sombat Permpoon Gallery 12 Sukhumvit Soi 1 | 02-254-6040 | 9am-8pm | www.sombatpermpoon gallery.com Titled after the step-by-step numbered painting kits first developed in consumer driven 1950s America, the exhibition Painting by Numbers brings together four Thai artists, all of whom have featured numeric referencing in their art at some point. Top Chantrakul, Suebsang Sangwachirapiban, Sujin Wattanawongchai and Cheksant Gangakate have banded together as a continuation of the Circle-Curated group, who first came together for the recent exhibition Truelies at Chulalongkorn University. Until Oct 10 Pattayaland Kathmandu Photo Gallery 87 Soi Pan, Silom Rd | 02-234-6700 | Tue-Sun 11am-7pm | www.kathmandu-bkk.com l BTS Chong Nonsi Mention Pattaya to the average tourist and they will envisage a seaside town besieged by sex and vice. While the Eastern Seaboard’s busiest resort certainly deserves its notoriety, Pattaya is also home to regular citizens going about their daily lives. Despite photographers often focusing their lens towards the more salacious aspects of Thailand’s leisure industry, Bangkok based American photographer Chris Wise attempts to capture the broader essence of the Pattaya experience. Until Sep 27

Free

Portrait of the King… The Art of Iconography Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) 939 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan | 02-2146630-1 | Tue-Sun 10am-9pm | www.bacc.or.th | BTS National Stadium To mark the official opening of the BACC, this honorific exhibition brings together over 30 of Thailand’s visual artists all of whom have created two and three dimensional images of His Majesty the King. With the promotional statement claiming the exhibition will also reflect Thailand’s development on an historical, social, and artistic level, participating artists include late masters such as sculptor Khien Yimsiri, as well as current contemporaries like Anupong Chantorn and Wuttikorn Khongka. Until Nov 15

Map Sponsored by

bangkok 101

Selected Works by Five Leading Painters of the 1980s Surapon Gallery Tisco Tower F1, Sathorn Rd | 02638-0033~4 | Tue-Sat 11am-6pm | www.rama9art.org/ gallery/surapon | BTS Sala Daeng As the exhibition title clearly states, this display is of significant Thai artists from the 1980s. The gathering is largely biased towards figurative painting with Chatchai Puipia’s expressive self portraits the best known internationally, while Chatchai’s peer Sakwut Wisesmanee’s fluid paintings are well collected domestically. The group of five is completed by political firebrand Vasan Sitthiket, Buddhist inspired Panya Vijinthanasarn, and Rearngsak Boonyavanishkul’s sumptuous depictions of traditional dancers. Until Sep 30

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.

EVERY MONTH

Bangkok Ar t

exhibitions

From the publishers of ar ts

www.bangkokartmap.com 45


CHIANG RAI

GATEWAY TO THE mekong


Chiang Rai Province

Chiang Rai province sits about 800km north of Bangkok, just to the northeast of Chiang Mai, with Lampang to the south and Phayou to the east. Its northern borders meet Myanmar and Laos and the point where the three countries – and the Mekong and Ruak rivers – meet is, of course, known as the Golden Triangle. The area is justly infamous for production and trafficking opium, although that particular trade has all but disappeared thanks to crop-replacement projects for farmers and the modern rise of the amphetamine trade. Not far from the Golden Triangle is the border crossing known as Mae Sai on the Thai side and Tachilek on the Burmese side. Locals pour across from both sides to buy and sell goods at market, and it’s a popular spot for tourists who need to extend their visa. But it also provides a good opportunity to wander over into Myanmar and sneak a peek at one of the world’s most reclusive countries. The provincial capital, Chiang Rai, is considered by many a calmer, less brash version of Chiang Mai. A pleasant town with some good dining and accommodation options, most visitors consider it a good base from which to explore the region. Adventure tourism is big business in Chiang Rai, with treks, river trips and mountain biking all popular pursuits. The mountains around the province are home to many hilltribes, with Akha, Lisu, Lahu and Shan villages within easy to reach, and a visit to at least one of these villages is often factored into any arranged tour. The mountaintop retreat of Mae Salong, a short drive from Chiang Rai, makes for a fascinating pit-stop. Settled by Chinese nationalists fleeing Mao’s Red Army, the village is now home to a several hotels, a thriving tea industry and the most authentic Chinese village outside of Yunnan. Not far from Mae Salong, Doi Tung is one of the most popular mountain destinations for domestic tourists who come to visit the Royal Villa and botanical garden, and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. And if you’ve had chance to sample Doi Tung coffee while in Thailand, you’ll know it’s a special place. With its bucolic beauty and pace of life, many say Chiang Rai province is where the true Northern Thailand begins.


CHIANG RAI

A great spot to base yourself while exploring Thailand’s Far North, Chiang Rai is a chilled-out little town with several quality options for dining and accommodation. Easy to reach by road from Chiang Mai and served by its own air small airport, it is becoming more popular as a destination with each passing year. The town, situated in the Mae Kok (Kok River) basin, actually served as the first capital of King Mengrai’s Lanna kingdom, a distinction that subsequently, and more famously, fell to Chiang Mai. Aside from having an amusing name, the Kok River serves as a northern border to the town, and actually runs all the way up into Shan State in Burma. There are several restaurants and bars along the banks of the river – in a spot known locally as Hat Chiang Rai (Chiang Rai Beach) or Pattaya Noi (Little Pattaya) – and it’s a good place to head for afternoon

dozing, maybe after renting a bicycle for the 5km ride. There are several temples worth visiting here, but there’s one that is more original than most. Wat Rong Khun, commonly referred to as the White Temple, was built by a wellknown Thai artist who wanted to create a lasting tribute to the current Thai king, as well as honour his own hometown. Since one of the major reasons people come to Chiang Rai province is to see hilltribe communities, it stands to reason that the town hosts an excellent Hilltribe Museum recently renovated and now giving the one in Chiang Mai a run for its money. Another place worth a look is the gloriously ramshackle Oub Kham museum. Finally, if you’re in Chiang Rai at night you should check out the Night Bazaar – far more modest than the one in Chiang Mai, but also blessedly less clogged with sweaty tourists haggling over fake watches. This is

also the place to head, during the day, to organise treks and excursions. And if it’s messing about in boats that, er, floats your boat, ask here about trips along the Mae Kok – either to a nearby Karen village and elephant camp, the tranquil Buddha Cave Temple west of town or a half day ride to the town of Thaton. SEE HILLTRIBE MUSEUM PDA Bldg 3F, 620/25 Thanalai Rd | 053-740-088 | www.pda.or.th/ | MonFri | 8:30am-6pm; 10am-6pm on weekends and holidays A good stop to make if you have an interest in the fast disappearing cultures of local hilltribes. The museum pays particular attention to the role of opium in the history of the region and its people. OUB KHAM MUSEUM Near Den Ha market, 1km from the centre of town | 053-713-349 | 9am6pm | B100


A charming little place filled with costumes and ornaments from all over the Lanna region. The Oub Kham is beguilingly chaotic and home to some genuinely impressive artifacts.

Hilltribe Museum

WAT RONG KHUN (White Temple) 13km south of town | 053-673-579 | www.watrongkhun.com | 8am-5pm Breaking with most of the traditional elements of other temples, this one is striking in its snowy whiteness, meant to symbolise Buddhist purity, inlaid with mirrors to suggest the reflections of enlightenment. Of course, reaching such a state is not meant to be easy, so you’ll have to pass through a pair of giant fangs and a lake of miserable hell-bound figures to get there. It’s surely one of the wildest-looking structures ever conceived by man. Upon completion – in another estimated 60 years – the grounds will boast a total of nine structures, completing the artist’s vision of Buddhist heaven on earth.

Oub Kham Museum

Wat Rong Khun

Mae Kok River

The Legend Hotel

To Chiang Rai Airport, Mae Sai, Doi Tung, Golden Triangle

Dusit Island

Le Meridien Chiang Rai

11

1. Wang Come Hotel 2. Da Vinci Resturant 3. Old Dutch Resturant 4. Tourist Police 5. Wat Jet Yot 6. Wat Bunreung 7. Police Station 8. Post Office 9. Overbrook Hospital 10. Wat Phra Kaew 11. Princess Mother’s Museum

Clock tower

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Hill Tribe Museum, Cabbages & Condoms

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Banphrakan Rd

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Ratanaket Rd

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To Doi Saket, Chiang Rai

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Le Meridien

STAY In recent years, the tourism industry in Chiang Rai and the region has really started to take off. Now there are plenty more interesting possibilities than the bricks and mortar town hotels and the $10 backpacker havens located near Paholyothin Rd and Jet Yot Rd, south of the clock tower. We’ve picked out a few of the prime places to bed down in town. LE MERIDIEN Kwaewai Rd | 053-603-333 | www.lemeridien.com | B5,000 One of the newest kids on the block, Le Meridien, is a splendid riverside option. This plush pad has its own man-made lake and includes in its tranquil grounds a pair of impressive 100-year-old rain trees. They also seem quite determined to become a part of the community, hosting events like opera nights. THE LEGEND 124/15 Moo 21 Kohloy Rd | 053-910400 | www.thelegend-chiangrai.com | B3,900 Another one of the most impressive hotels in town. Well, when we say “in town”, we mean a few minutes’ drive from town. Situated on the banks of the Mae Kok and with some quite stunning views, The Legend is beautifully landscaped and has a sleek, contemporary Thai feel.

THE MANTRINI Robwiang | 053-601-555~9 | www.mantrini.com | B2,990 Also on the cusp of town, offers a funky, boutiquey vibe and even boasts a Lanna fusion restaurant. Good value too: you’d be paying a lot more if this hotel was in Bangkok or Phuket. RED ROSE HOTEL Prachasanti Rd | 053-756-888 | www.redrosehotel.com | B1,600 And now for something completely different. It’s not five-star, nor does it feature sweeping views of rice paddies, yet what the Red Rose does offer is quite literally out of this world. The rooms are designed according to various themes – choose from the flight deck of a spaceship, a Thai boxing ring, a split-level rainforest, a Paleolithic bachelor pad and more. MAE KOK VILLAGE RESORT 333 Moo 4, Thaton, Mae Ai | 053459-328 | www.maekok-river-villageresort.com | B2,300 If you decide to break up the journey between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, the picturesque village of Thaton, further down the Kok River, is a good option. This resort is probably the pick of the accommodation round, with great views of the mountains and a perfect set-up for families.

EAT There are plenty of dining options in Chiang Rai aside from the plastic table shophouse set ups and American fast food outlets near the bus station. The Night Bazaar is a sound option for al fresco beer and grub, and there are a good number of casual, rustic Thai restaurants and European style eateries dotted along the main drag, Paholyothin Rd. Among these, The Old Dutch is a favourite for breakfast blow-outs, while Da Vinci’s is a good bet for pizzas and pastas. Otherwise, the wacky and wonderful Cabbages and Condoms restaurant stands right next to the Hill Tribe Museum. Like its sister venue in Bangkok, C&C is devoted to promoting condom use to help prevent juvenile pregnancy and STDs. Come enjoy fresh Thai cuisine amidst clever condom-fringed furnishings and decorations.

The Legend

GETTING THERE Several carriers will whip you from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, including Nok Air who will get you there in less than an hour for about B1,000 (depending on dates, times and the position of the moon). The airport is about 10 clicks from downtown Chiang Rai and if your hotel won’t pick you up, grab a taxi for a couple of hundred baht. Air-con buses from Chiang Mai’s Arcade bus station leave regularly, are cheap, and take about 4 hours. If you’re driving – and it is a pleasant spin – take the 1019 and count on three hours.


MAE SALONG In 1961, when two divisions from the 93rd regiment of the Kuomintang (KMT) rebels needed a place to settle after fleeing the Chinese Revolution, and being driven out of Burma, they ended up in the pristine mountains of Chiang Rai’s north. Thailand granted the 4,000 or so soldiers asylum on condition they aided in quelling Thailand’s own Communist insurgency. In order to fund the army of “ghost soldiers”, the divisions were actively involved in the opium trade in and around the hills of the Golden Triangle. The KMT’s last battles took place in 1982 since when many, but controversially not all, of the soldiers and their families were granted Thai citizenship and left in peace. Today the hilltop village of Mae Salong, or Santhikiri as it is also known, is still populated with these folks and their descendants, who maintain their Yunnanese dialect and many Chinese customs. A thriving tea industry was established as part of Thai efforts to displace the dependency on the opium trade, and now teahouses and tea fields make up much of the splendid scenery. Also on display are unusual medicinal Chinese herbs, both fresh and generously pickled in rice whisky. Mae Salong still has a real Chinese village feel to it, and has become a popular destination for tour groups who stop off to enjoy the magnificent views and stock up on local oolong tea Trekking opportunities in the area are excellent, though if time (and energy) is tight – you can visit a friendly local Akha village directly from town; there’s a road that leads down the hill near to the 7-Eleven store. Several other leisurely strolls in the area can be undertaken for which you shouldn’t need a guide.

DO Hilltribe Museum On the road up to Mae Salong, this endearing little museum is worth popping in to – though it seems to keep irregular hours. From December 28 to January 2 each year a cherry blossom festival is held here, complete with sound and light shows, beauty contests and plenty of tea and herb-laced booze. Chinese Martyrs’ Memorial Museum This tremendously atmospheric museum charts the KMT soldiers’ journey to Mae Salong and pays respects to fallen comrades. A pleasant walk or short ride south of the morning market. STAY Shin Sane Guest House 119 Moo 1, Mae Salong Nok (near morning market) | 053-765-026 | B300 for simple bungalow One of the first guesthouses in Mae Salong. Cheap, basic and peaceful. Arranges inexpensive six-hour pony trekking excursions into the wild, wild east.

Phu Chaisai Resort 388 Moo 4, Baan Mae Salong Nai | 053-918-367 | www.phu-chaisai.com | B3,000 Located on the hill on the way up to the village. This gorgeous, atmospheric bamboo affair is the brainchild of a renowned interior designer, and it shows. Salong Villa Soi Mae Salong, Mae Salong Nok | 053-765-114 | B1,000 Perched on the hilltop, with bungalows overlooking the main village.

GETTING THERE Of the two routes to get there, the older one from Pasang (route 1130, just north of Mae Chan) is by far the more beautiful. If you must do it on four wheels, cars can be hired in Chiang Rai, or take a bus to Pasang (1.5 hours) and then catch a bumpy song thaew truck up the hill from there (1 hour). If you choose to stay the night (and you should) be sure to bring warm clothes as it can get chilly once the sun goes down.


THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE Less than 70km northeast of Chiang Rai is one of Thailand’s most infamous destinations. The point where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, the little village of Sop Ruak, is, of course, more widely known as the Golden Triangle. Exotic it may sound, but it’s really a bit of a misnomer. The name was coined by the US Central Intelligence Agency to describe the rampant opium production once common to this area in all three countries. However, with the efforts of the Royal Project Foundation, which was established to provide farmers with an alternative to the lucrative cultivation of opium, production has been all but wiped out in Thailand. Still, atmosphere oozes from the surrounding hills. And as you gaze across the water to Myanmar and Laos (ignoring the roaring speedboats and souvenir vendors), it’s hard not to get caught up in the romance of the place. Most of the other things to do in Sop Ruak are the stuff tourist traps are made of. The giant Golden Buddha statue surrounded by a mish-mash of snapshot-spot signs indicating that you are, in fact, at the Golden Triangle, coupled with crowds of Thai kids

dressed in fake hill tribe gear preening for B10 photos, can certainly be a disappointment unless you take it all with a pinch of salt. Likewise, the riverboat trips where you “discover” three countries in the same day is a bit of a joke; you merely pass by a bit of Burma on your way to disembark at the wee island Don Sao, said to be Laotian territory. All that’s there, however, is an unimpressive market. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of the excellent Beer Lao (and you should be), you might consider stocking up here. If you’re especially keen on setting foot on Burmese soil, you can do so by visiting the Paradise Resort Golden Triangle and its casino on another nearby island (Burma, opp Sop Ruak | 053-652-111 | B2,400). Don’t expect anything terribly Burmese from your experience, however. The once-mighty town of Chiang Saen, a few kilometres away from Sop Ruak, is today a rather-ordinary mid-sized Thai town with a museum and some temples worth visiting. However, it’s especially noteworthy as a spot from which to take Mekong river trips to Laos and even China. Versatile Gin’s Guesthouse (Rimkhong Rd, Chiang Saeng | 053-650-847) can help arrange visas and logistics for superb trips like these. They also rent mountain bikes and motorcycles for scenic viewing of the area. In this part of Thailand, after all, it’s less about the specific attractions and more about the terrific scenery. Anantara Golden Triangle

DO Hall of Opium Baan Sop Ruak,Wiang, Chiang Saen, opp Anantara Golden Triangle | 053784-444 | www.goldentrianglepark. com | 10am-3:30pm | B300 This is by far the higher profile of the two opium museums in Sop Ruak, and at over 10 years and $10 million to build, the far more ambitious project. It examines the history of opium and its effects on human psychology and society with varied multimedia displays, collections of artifacts, dioramas, artwork, and well-written overviews. The museum stands as the world’s preeminent testament to a drug that has shaped territories, caused (and fuelled) wars, inspired great art, facilitated modern medicine, and cost many their lives. All this from the gooey sap of a pretty little flower. House of Opium Baan Sop Ruak,Wiang, Chiang Saen | 053-784-060 | www.houseofopium. com | 7am-7pm | B50 Down the road, the House of Opium


makes up for its lack of finances and size with a certain cutesy charm and somewhat more affectionate take on the drug’s history. At only 50B to get in, it’s hard to just say no. Make sure to check out the great gift shop, which sells a variety of opium and hill tribe related handicrafts at good prices. It’s worth a look – how many gift shops in the world sell gaily-painted bamboo bongs?

The Anantara is a full-sized affair with gorgeous Lanna architecture peering over both jungle and the Mekong River.Though one can luxuriate in their five-star amenities, the real star here is their elephant camp. Training courses of varying lengths can be undertaken for about B4,400 a day. Every year at the end of March the entire place gives itself over to an annual elephant polo tournament.

STAY Budget options abound, but the two choicest places to park yourself in this area are surely The Anantara Golden Triangle and, if you need a wheelbarrow to carry your cash, The Four Seasons Tented Camp. Both are located at Sop Ruak. Each place offers you a rare mix of world-class luxury, astonishing views and the chance to play with friendly elephants.

Four Seasons Tented Camp 10 minutes drive from Golden Triangle or 20-minute long-tail boat ride up the Ruak River | 053-910-200 | www.fourseasons.com/goldentriangle. com | various packages available starting at around B50,000 per night This is a bit more of a sequestered experience, and easily one of the most extraordinary in the world of tourism. Set on 400 acres of one of the most picturesque spots in the world, this all-inclusive stay features spa treatments deep in the heart of the jungle, elephant training courses, and a gourmet twist on local cuisine.

Anantara Golden Triangle 229 Moo 1, Chiang Saen | 053-784084 | www.goldentriangle.anantara. com | B8,700

GETTING THERE If you decide not to hire a car (and driver), air-conditioned buses from Chiang Mai to Chiang Saen take about 5 hours. From Chiang Rai, local buses make the trip in less than an hour. From Chiang Saen, jump on a song thaew bus for the 10km hop to Sop Ruak. Four Seasons Tented Camp


DOI TUNG

Just north of Doi Mae Salong, this peak is utterly different in character. For one thing, it’s generally full of local tourists who come to experience what has become known as “Switzerland in Thailand”. In fact, the drive up Doi Tung is one of the most pleasurable in the region, passing through hilltribe villages on the way to the peak, where the temple Wat Phra That Doi Tung looks out over the valleys. Well into her 80s, the beloved late mother of King Bhumibol, Princess Srinagarindra (whose Northern nickname was Mae Fah Luang, literally “Mother Sky Royal”), established a home here and set up a development project here in an effort to establish local pride and offer an alternative to the opium trade that once dominated the area. Now there is a notable centre for agricultural research and an impressive botanical garden for the public, as well as several other attractions. The

botanical gardens were actually built on the site of a former Akha hilltribe village, which was relocated to a plot nearby with better facilities. A key feature of the development is how local villagers continue to come together to help preserve the natural beauty of the area. SEE Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden 80B | 7am-5pm Though the layout of the garden may be a little more geared towards the Thai aesthetic than most foreigners are accustomed to, the taming of the shrubs and Dr Seuss-like pruning is sure to delight anyone with a childlike sense of wonder. The original idea was to give Thais who had never travelled overseas the chance to experience a tranquil garden. Royal Villa 053-767-011 | www.doitung.org | 70B | 6.30am-5pm Built with teak from surplus trees

donated by the Forest Industry Organization, the Royal Villa is a hugely popular attraction, and was an official residence for the King’s beloved mother, Princess Srinagarindra, until she died in 1995. Doi Tung Zoo Free | 8am-6pm Those looking for more animated forms of life can check out the free zoo. Established as a wildlife preserve, the project covers 32 hectares and is home to many species native to the local hills, including deer, bears and hornbills. GETTING THERE Doi Tung can be reached by bus, car or motorcycle and travel outfits in Chiang Rai generally offer it as part of their tours. If you want to go it alone, however, just take a bus from the Chiang Rai station to Mae Sai and ask to get off at the road to Doi Tung. From the turn-off you can get song taew trucks up the hill for the 45-minute journey to the complex of attractions.


MAE SAI

Mae Sai, the northernmost city of Thailand, boasts all the best features of a border town (stuff to buy, a mix of ethnicities, unusual food) and very few of the stereotypically bad ones. In fact, gentle Mae Sai and its cross-border Burmese neighbour, Tachilek, are heavily dependent on each other for commercial exchange and during border opening hours (6:30am-6:30pm) each side is awash with visitors. Tourists also take the opportunity to cross into Myanmar to cross another country off their list – for a $10 or 500B day pass one can spend several hours soaking up Burmese culture, cheap Chinese products and some interesting sights. Once you cross into Tachilek you’ll invariably be assailed by touts looking to show you around by taxi. If you’re interested in temples and the like you might consider it, or check out the bustling Tachilek market (again, a bit more assailing, this time from fake cigarette vendors). Obviously you get what you pay for, so proceed with

caution: If it’s too cheap to be true, it will probably fall apart by the morning. Also, some vendors sell animal skins, skulls and other gruesome tidbits – but please don’t support this trade which brutalises our furry friends. Past the market, make a right at the central roundabout and meld into real-life Myanmar: have a cup of local tea at any of the signature Burmese teashops where you sit at low tables and socialise with the locals while watching goofy Burmese music videos. Or keep on going a few minutes more to see a Buddhist temple on your left. You’ll find the monks here much shyer than those in Thailand – they’re not accustomed to being the centre of attention. Wonder why so many women on the street have their faces painted with yellow powder? It’s called thanaka and is meant to increase the beauty of the skin. Myanmar is full of distinctive differences that make a day of strolling around a picturesque and rewardingly eye-opening activity. Back on the Mae Sai side, there’s an overflowing market here too, though

with significantly less interesting stuff on sale than in Tachilek. Still, its long windy street on the hill west of the main road welcomes browsing and from here you can climb up to Phra That Doi Wao temple for endless views over both Myanmar andThailand. Given its location midway between Doi Mae Salong, Doi Tung and the Golden Triangle, it’s not a bad idea to consider using this odd little riverside town as an alternative to Chiang Rai for discovering the area. There’s not much in the way of memorable accommodation, but some reasonably- comfortable options are to be had. A few kilometres outside of town the high-standard Du Doi Suay Resort (Phaholyothin Rd | 053709-800 | B2,500) is nestled among the paddy fields yet conveniently close to the highway. Places by the border cater primarily to the backpacker set but there are comfier options – Wang Thong Hotel (Paholyothin Rd | 053733-388 | B950) is a decent value three star place with a swimming pool; ask for a room with a view of Myanmar.


Arts

performing arts

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

Theatres

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.

สยามนิรมิต ถ.เทียมร่วมมิตร

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

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bangkok 101


TCDC (Thailand Creative & Design Centre) Quick Bites: Design for Better Eating

cultural centres

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.

Kiosk

Goethe Institut

Alliance Française (map C4) 29 Sathorn Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-670-4200 | 10am-6pm close Sun | www.alliance-francaise.or.th

T

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

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Arts

cinema

B

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 quietly www.movieseer.com. while the national

Thai Cinema

anthem is played in respect to Thailand’s king.

Noy Thrupkaew

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.

POPCORN PARADISO

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 nightclub Bed Supperclub, 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 plush white divan beds to eat: the perfect position for watching a movie.This month kicks off with vintage sci-fi: 1966 Oscar winner Fantastic Voyage on Sept 7, about a team of scientists who travel through a fellow scientist’s body, and MGM’s first big-budget science fiction film Forbidden Planet on Sept 14.Then, on Sept 21, Gene Wilder helms Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein: the hit 1974 parody of 1930s Universal horror movies shot in gleaming black and white. Last up, on Sept 28, is Gabriele Salvatores’ antiwar story Mediterraneo. Set during World War II, it tells of a unit of Italian soldiers who find refuge on an island in the Aegean Sea that may or may not be deserted. Dinner starts at 6:45pm. 02-651-3537 www.bedsupperclub.com 58

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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

bangkok 101


reading & screening

In Print

Bangkok is home to an eye-popping array of excellent book shops, 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. 101 Thai Forms Wijit Apichartkriengkrai | art4d | 352pp If the little things – your everyday ephemera – are what make a culture, Thailand is in trouble. That’s the overarching gist of this dinky coffee-table book, the opening of which finds the author lamenting a fake plastic age in which synthetic foreign crap has usurped organic Thai forms. It’s not as po-faced as it sounds. Wijit quickly hops off his soapbox, after which you’re on a kaleidoscopic nostalgia ride. It’s a blast browsing these 101 sassy vignettes sketching the native foods, games, trinkets, tricks and toys of his rustic childhood – among them things as useless as coconut husk stilts and as useful as banana-leaf food wrappers. But, on the flip, it’s also sobering to realise that most have, “like some species of wildlife”, faded from sight. A bittersweet but amusing read to slot on your shelf alongside a copy of Thai pop culture bible Very Thai.

On DVD

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

FROMMER’S BANGKOK DAY BY DAY Colin Hinshelwood | Wiley Publishing Australia | 184pp | US $12.99 Frommer’s latest is different from your average brick-sized guide book, and not just because the author often writes in the first person. Slim and tote-bag friendly (rings a bell!), its 13 chapters, divided into sections like The Best Dining and The Best Nightlife, feature only the crème de la crème. No crap, no smut, no wordiness – it's an approach we at 101 can relate to. Downers? While it’s generally wellresearched and written, there are some shoddy recommendations. Kanchanaburi’s ethically dubious Tiger Temple is given the thumbs up, for kids, for instance. The photos also lack panache. Still, with heaps more good recommendations than bad, lots of handy maps (including a tear-resistant fold-out) and some inspiring thematic tours – our pick: the food safari – there’s more than enough here to make each precious day in Bangkok a memorable one.

THAI FORESTRY: A CRITICAL HISTORY Ann Danaiya Usher | Silkworm Books | 238pp | B625 Not as wooden as it sounds, this outspoken new book traces the century-old tension between those who manage Thailand’s forests and those who live in them. A former The Nation writer recounts the watershed moments when imported forest management theories, often imposed without concern for local conditions, were challenged by the public. And picks holes in the ideas themselves (including one which sought to break the bond communities had with forests – scary when you consider the number of forest-dependent minority groups here). Arriving hot on the heels of last year's Community Forest Act, it's a controversial read, intelligently argued and often riveting, that should stoke the debate it passionately seeks. And be read by anyone interested in Thailand’s ecological well-being.

Forever Yours (Chuafah Dinsalai) Tawee na Bangchang | 1955 | B250 | www.thaifilm.org Imagine it: being handcuffed to your soul mate. Forever. This heaven-or-hell scenario faces the two young protagonists in this enchanting classic. Handsome Sungmong commits audacious adultery with sassy minx Yupadee, the trophy wife of his elderly uncle. When he catches them vowing their eternal love for one another he, after some evil-villain like moustache twirling, tests their resolve by chaining them together. Suddenly, saccharine 1950s rom-com looks more like Shakespearean tragedy, as they get what they wished for – each other – and go slightly schitzo in the process. Superb cinematography – the film hopscotch’s from the sunny optimism of chirruping jungle landscapes to the claustrophobia of an indoors set – dainty costumes, and some delightfully hammy acting make Forever Yours perhaps the prettiest slice of 1950s Thai cinema still in existence. Its slowly souring story – love doesn’t so much conquer all, as crush seems to be its message – makes it also one of the most affecting. ar ts

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Food&Drinks

dining in bangkok

The Dining Room, Grand Hyatt Erawan

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.

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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

Butt Out

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

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Bai Yun, Banyan Tree Bangkok

meal deals

More puck-shaped treats to tide you through the Chinese moon festival, this time from Bai Yun. Featuring durian, lotus seed, assorted nut, red bean and custards, these ones are preservative free and made fresh daily. Available through September, they’ll also be on sale at The Emporium and Siam Paragon malls. Call 02-679-1200.

La Scala, The Sukhothai

Swedish guest chef Jonas Lundgren will appear for a three day cameo at The Sukhothai Hotel’s La Scala from September 3-5. A Bocuse D’or 2009 silver medallist (one of the most prestigious chef competitions in the world), he’s known for doing extraordinary things with ingredients like Aberdeen Angus Beef, cod, scallops and wild shrimp. Call 02344-8888 ext. 5736.

Liu, The Conrad

Golden custard, red bean, light lotus seed and classic durian are just a few of the Cantonese mooncakes being served at Liu until early October. They’re available in various sizes, prepared by Chef Wong Kam-Yau, and if want his knowhow he’s holding a mooncake cooking class on Saturday 19. Call 02-690-9299.

Rang Mahal, Rembrandt Hotel & Towers

One of the top curryhouses in town, Rang Mahal is offering a thali lunch meal starring your choice of delectable vegetarian or non-vegetarian kebabs and curries with Indian bread, basmati pulao rice and dessert, all presented on a silver tray. Taking place from Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, vegetarians pay B375++, meat-eaters B395++. Call 02-261-7100.

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 2-3 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

Grand Pearl

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thai cuisine

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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.

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Tom Yum Kung (Spicy Shrimp Soup)

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

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thai sweets

‘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.

September is best for: jicama (Man Kaew) Known as the jicama or yam bean this plant originated in Latin America but has become very widespread in Asia. Often incorrectly referred to by Thais as a fruit, the man kaew is actually a vegetable. Like most Thai fruits, they are eaten raw, or dipped in a salt and sugar mix, but keep in mind that aside from the root, the rest of this plant is incredibly poisonous and has been commonly used to kill insects. Man kaew is often found in savoury dishes like soups, curries, and stir fries as well and is known to have a string of medicinal uses. Some believe that it helps relief aches and pains, fevers, as well as high blood pressure. Since it is made up of almost 90% water, the man kaew is also a great thirst quencher. 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

Kanom Thai

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!

Khao Tom Mut Its name may be a bit misleading since it doesn’t have anything to do with boiled rice (Khao Tom), but this is perhaps one of the most recognizable and widely available Thai desserts around. Translated to “tied boiled rice” it’s actually bananas mixed with coconut cream and sticky rice which is wrapped and steamed inside banana leaves.

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street eats

Street Food Hotspots

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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.

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Nym

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.

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 the 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.

Mee Krob

A stones throw from backpacker barrio, Khao San Road, sits Tanao Road. Walking down this storied street – one of the city’s oldest – while your peek into its beautiful, narrow two-storey shop houses is a must when in the area. As is diving into Kim Leng restaurant, which sits 50 meters from the beginning of Tanao Road on the right hand side. It moved a while ago from Khao San Road but, thankfully, kept the superlative kitchen team. The big menu here is beyond exciting because it contains a glut of old, rare Thai recipes – so many, in fact, that it’s a challenge deciding what not to order! A must is the mee krob (Thai crispy noodle). These deep fried noodles and shrimps come caramelized with a sweet salty and sour taste, and have a simple texture that always leaves a satisfied smile on my face. For something more adventurous try the tom som, a clear sour brown soup that sings with fresh squeezed tamarind and features bass notes of kapi (shrimp paste). Please come and try something unusual; but not on your lonesome – if you’re to stand a chance of trying everything you need to share! n Kim Leng Pochana is on Tanao Road and open everyday until 8pm. 64

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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 SUEA NON KIN (map D3) 231/2 Sukhumvit 31 | BTS Asoke| 02662-1779 | Mon-Sat 5pm-Midnight |$ Finding this new restaurant/bar set in a revamped old house is a bit of a chore, but one glance and its obvious many hip and ar tsy locals have already made the discovery.This cozy joint, full of vintage armchairs and adornments featuring the wild cat, was established by three owners all born in the Year of the Tiger, its name roughly translating to “a tiger that sleeps all day but always gets it prey”. The simple Thai menu is a collection of dishes the owners have enjoyed from around the country, like deep fried fish wantons from Samut Sakhon, and smoked pork rib from Khao Yai, while the spicy sour soup with pork and the fried mackerel smothered in chilli sauce will both definitely have you roaring from the heat. The outdoor patio is perfect for sipping on one of their 13 signature “Tiger” cocktails, while the singer-less live band on Fridays and Saturdays may entice you to test your vocal chords.

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Mango Tree

Suea Non Kin

restaurants

CABBAGES & CONDOMS (map D3) Sukhumvit Soi 12 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-229-4610 | 11am11pm | $ Cabbages & Condoms is a bit like a pleasingly off-kilter Disneyland – fairy lights, traditional musicians, and an explosion of condoms. Condom lampshades, condom sculptures, condom wall-hangings are all part of the restaurant founder’s campaign to make the prophylactics as common and shame-free as cabbages. The restaurant helps fund Thai senator Meechai Viravidaiya’s whirlingly imaginative approaches to health and development issues - silk weavers from one of the senator’s projects display their craft at their looms, brown-rice crackers from another initiative appear on the table. If only the food were similarly inventive. Although fresh and served in hefty, affordable portions, the cuisine is somewhat deracinated, lacking Thai food’s customary kick and sass. Still, it’s dining for a good cause, a fun environment for a large party, and an adept kitchen for those with dietary restrictions - bring friends who are just wading into Thai food.

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MANGO TREE (map C4) 37 Soi Tontawan, Surawong Rd | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-236-2820 | 11:30ammidnight | $ Tables at this King Rama VIera house, the home of a posh international chain, aren’t fought over quite as keenly as those of its sister branches in London and Tokyo. That said, tucked just off seedy Surawong Road, Mango Tree is great for a gorge on the milder side. Inside, flocks of unobtrusive wait-staff serve up delicately-styled, politely-spiced Thai staples. From tom yum to green papaya salad, everything is free from the tyranny of too-much chilli. End result? No red faces; other less assertive flavours excel (the herbal blast of the shallot and lemongrass drenched river prawn salad a prime example). Starters are excellent (try the deep fried chicken in padanus leaf ); as are desserts (hmmm, stewed bananas in coconut milk) and, it transpires, most things in-between. Sit outside in the frangipani-lined courtyard, for traditional khim music (weekdays) and Thai dancing (weekends) beneath the old mango tree it’s named after.

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Butler's

INTERNATIONAL PLA DIB (map C2) Corner of Soi Arisamphan 7 (off Ari Soi 5) | BTS Ari | 02-279-8185 | Tue-Sun 11am-2pm, 5pm-midnight | $ This place is a bugger to find, but then Soi Ari has repor tedly been wor th exploring for the past couple of years, as the gay-friendlier-thanusual area has undergone a funky gentrification. Pla Dib is one of the juiciest cuts to have appeared on this burgeoning scene with no-frills – picnic benches, and whitewashed industrial décor: a hip, minimally attired clubhouse. This laid-back eatery seems to be enjoying the inthe-know clientele that it deserves. Equipped with a live sushi station and proper wood fried pizza oven offering a mix of reasonably priced Thai, Japanese and international fare, and it’s wor th asking for specials: like a duck confit in plum sauce that was totally different to signaling its Gallic charms on the clipboard menu. The owners have got the concept right: onsite DJ playing chilled house at a level you don’t have to yell over; and the priceless feel of a place enjoying a flush of well deserved word-ofmouth.

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BUTLER’S (map C3) L/F, Gaysorn 999 Ploenchit Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02-656-1107~8 | www.gaysorn.com | 10am-8pm | $$ Mall dining can be star tlingly good here. Not only is the food-court fare toothsome, you can also, if your wallet can take a walloping, dine in super posh style. With its swish gazebo, honeycomb motifs, elegant tones and sharp service, Butler’s – on the basement atrium of Gaysorn – falls firmly in the latter camp. And stays there. Award-winning US pastr y chef, Tim Butler, uses mostly local produce to create playful, often outlandish twists on light modern

food & drinks

western – highlights are the pâté de foie gras, with its Pollock-esque looks and light mousse texture; the tender Argentinean striploin steak with sautéed mushrooms, rocket salad and a moreish polenta. Butler’s true passion, though, is his three-course dessert menu. Order the Pineapple carpaccio or Thai tea for a double sensor y whammy: once on seeing, again on tasting. And for proof that fine dining can, gasp, be fun try the chocolate consommé: a Kahlua biscuit raft bobbing on a sea of rich melted chocolate.

เกสรพลาซ่า แยกราชประสงค์ ถ.เพลินจิต

bangkok 101


CRÊPES & Co. (map D3) 18/1 Sukhumvit Soi 12 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-251-2895 | 9ammidnight | www.crepes.co.th | $ This cosy little oasis, with its quiet tropical garden, makes for a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of nearby Sukhumvit Road. Crêpes & Co’s popularity is evidenced by the teeming weekend brunch crowd, from tables of families to groups of hipsters nursing hangovers. The eclectic variety of crêpes, served by attentive wait staff donning sailor garb, may just transport you to Brittany, but crêpes are just the beginning at this Bangkok institution. Patrons can also feast on a unique array of authentic Mediterranean fare inspired by family recipes - the French owner was raised in Greece, Spain and Morocco. A full menu of superb salads, exotic treats like couscous and authentic tajine-braised dishes (glazed clay pots, fired stovetop) and buildem-yourself brunch combos, available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

เครปส์ แอนด์ โค 18/1 ถ.สุขุมวิท 12 Crêpes & Co.

Boqueria

BOQUERIA (map D3) 87/2 CRC Tower GF, All Seasons Place, Wireless Rd | BTS Ploenchit | 02-6853930 | 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm | $$$ Ian Chalermkittichai was Thailand’s only native born executive chef when he left Bangkok’s Four Seasons hotel in 2003 to open the acclaimed Kittichai restaurant in New York. Kittichai is still going strong, but in 2008 Ian came back to launch several projects around Asia. One of them is Boqueria, inspired by the Barcelona wet market of the same name. The chefs prepare seasonal products from Thailand, Europe and Australia using the modern scientific technique of sous vide, employing vacuum packed, tightly controlled low temperature cooking. It has wonderful results on dishes like herb encrusted halibut with fava beans and caramelised leek emulsion, and makes a superstar of white asparagus with morel mushrooms. Situated in a shopping mall, Boqueria has good value lunchtime sets, starting at B258. Dinner is quiet, but it’s a tasty option if you’re in the area.

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chic bangkok Cheryl Tseng

Best for Italian Where Sukhothai Hotel, 13/3 South Sathon road (map C4), 02-344-8888, www.sukhothai.com BTS Chong nonsi Open noon-3pm, 6:30pm-11pm Price $$$$

La Scala

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a Scala is a happening Italian restaurant located in an illustrious hotel favoured by affluent travelers, known as The Sukhothai. The unusual layout makes every table a unique dining experience, from the patio that looks out to the gorgeous pool, romantic tables by the window, a communal counter that looks like a sushi bar to the long tables that appear to be suspended from a solid bronze wall. The stunning glass bricks and balustrades are like sculptural art. These striking elements, designed by the famous Japanese firm Studio SPIN, steadily attract Bangkok’s upscale crowd, who come to savour delectable dishes likes wagyu beef tenderloin on wilted endives, pine nuts and raisins seared foie gras escalope with summer truffle sauce. For dessert, it’s Grand Cru chocolate tortino with blood orange sorbet mascarpone sauce that stands out. La Scala’s wine list is well-edited and varied, ranging from bottles of modest Italian to superlative French. 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.

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Masala Art

Isaan Eats

AMERICAN The Great American Rib (map D3-4) 32 Sukhumvit Soi 36 | 02-661-3801| www.greatrib.com | 11:30am-11:30pm | $ Craving solid food? Thais and farang alike rave about this open-air oasis of authentic, down-home barbeque. Great American Rib Co’s Rob Vaughn chef churns out mountains of mouth-watering meat from a trio of smokers, along with some respectable Tex-Mex fare (another relative rarity in Bangkok). The BBQ combo platter of Marinated Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken and Pork Pastrami Tenderloin, with home-baked Jalapeno Cornbread and a choice of sides, is plenty to feed two or three hungry souls. For starters, don’t miss the homemade potato skins and the El Paso Nachos. From juicy ribs and burgers to mac n’ cheese and original buffalo wings, the dishes here are made all the more interesting with Cuervo shots, draft beer and margarita pitchers at rock-bottom prices.

เกรท อเมริกัน ริบ คอมพานี สุขุมวิท ซ. 36

INDIAN Masala Art (map E4) 88 Thonglor 8, 2F, Unit-L 205, Sukhumvit Soi 55 | 02713-8357 | www.masala-artbkk.com | 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm | $$ Featuring modernist black looks, varnished mahogany tables, decent plonk and a painterly menu that refers to starters as “soft hues” (and gets away with it), Masala Art may just be the city’s ritziest curryhouse. Still, even with its mini-mall spot midway down trendy Thonglor, Masala Art is no triumph of style over substance: there’s lots of enjoyable traditional North Indian fare under the pretty surface. The lal mich paneer tikka (cottage cheese with red chillies) is excellent, as is the aloo ghobi, a cauliflower/ potato side done just right. Though hardly scientific, mains like chicken dhansak seem certainly to benefit from the onsite spice grounding policy. Kudos also for giving us health conscious curry-heads the option of having these – and the 90 or so other tandoori, bread and curry dishes – cooked in olive oil. To lower your body temperature before you head back out, molest a bowl of rich, Bailey’s kulfi – it’s fantastic. Adventurous without losing sight of fundamentals, flash not brash, Masala Art is one tasty package.

มาซาลา อาร์ท ทองหล่อ ซ.8

bangkok 101

Isaan food – Northeast Thailand’s unadulterated cuisine ­– is everywhere. Bangkok’s streets teem with rot khen (vendor carts) and no-frills restaurants serving comfort foods to the city’s huge Isaan migrant population: dishes like laab (ground-meat salad), gai yang (grilled chicken) and som tum (green papaya salad). Not that they’re the only fans. Though many draw the line at nibbling insects, every strata of Bangkok society – from homesick taxi drivers through to their Prada-clad passengers – has its enthusiasts. Indeed, many rank this sweat-raising blend of Lao and Thai cooking (which serves sticky rice with fresh vegetables, chillis, herbs and whatever creature’s within grasp) as just about the best Thai culinary creation going. Almost every sidewalk has a lip-smacking Isaan kitchen (here gastro-gems spring from the humblest setups). But a meal at one of the following will have you vowing that your days of tart-sweet Thai food are over. n Café de Laos 19 Silom Soi 19 | 02-635-2338 | 11am-2pm & 5-10pm | $$ Who said you have to forgo ambience? At Café de Laos you get posh looks and rustic Issan nosh. You’ll pay more than you would streetside, though. n Isaan Rot Det 3/5-6 Soi Rang Nam | 02-246-4579 | BTSVictory Monument | $ The best northeastern fare on Rang Nam (a soi renowned for it) is served at this no-frills shophouse. Explosive som tum, crisp vegetables and lots of spice-flushed local faces. n Kumpoon 7F, CentralWorld, Ratchadamri Road | BTS Chidlom | 02646-1044 | $ Zingy Isaan delights meet air-conditioned mall. Perfect for when a sweaty you won’t do. n Soi Polo Fried Chicken 137/1-2 Soi Polo,Withayu Rd | 02-655-8489 | $ Golden-brown, succulent and blanketed in crispy-garlic, its gai tord (fried chicken) is legendary. Very busy at lunchtimes. n Vientiane Kitchen 8 Naphasap Yak 1, Sukhumvit Soi 36 | 02-258-6171 | BTS Thonglor | $$ Sat beneath traditional thatched-roofs, guests dine on classics as well as daredevil dishes like boiled ants’ eggs spicy salad. Includes lively Laotian music.

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Food&Drinks

Coyote

ITALIAN LA VILLA (map E4) 131 Soi Sukhumvit 53 (PaideeMadee), Thong Lo Soi 9, | BTS Thong Lo | 02-712-9991 | www.lavillabangkok.com | 11:30am2pm, 5:30pm-11pm | $$ Move over trattorias. In the labyrinthine side streets west of Thong Lo is the home of the dining movers and shakers that need their fix of full-blooded wines and sturdy Italian food. Bangkok goes global with whiffs of New York loft and Milanese sexiness. The mondo glass entrance door reveals an open dining space with cement floors and D&Ginspired photos. Here local gourmets chomp down on first-rate delicacies. Swordfish Carpaccio. Veal Ravioli. Saltimbocca. Others go for the small but fab antipasti buffet. Behind the bar, a quieter dining room beckons families in need of time alone beneath Artimedes lamps. Out back, wine lovers congregate in the stylish Club Nove. Thin, crispy beauties emerge from a pizza oven that was shipped from Italy in one piece. Under the watchful eyes of the North Italian chef, the crew in one of Bangkok’s biggest kitchens fuse ingredients imported from all over the Med. An insider’s must.

ลา วิลล่า ซ.ไปดีมาดี สุขุมวิท 53

La Villa

LIMONCELLO (map D3) 17 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-0707 | noon-2pm, 6pm-11pm | $ LIMONCELLO (map D3) 17 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-0707 | noon-2pm, 6pm-11pm | $ A cozy, super-cute space with warm lemon-yellow walls and arching ceilings, Limoncello is the quintessential neighborhood pizza place – albeit an upscale one. Although the restaurant also serves delicious pastas, the pie is the main draw. Crust is thin and tender, tasteful verging on tepid at times. With such an understated crust, simpler options may be the better – too many ingredients and you risk a bolshy, gloppy center to your pie. Look for the parma ham and marscapone pizza – only a few top-quality toppings, lightly applied, but oh so decadent, with a whisper of smoke from the wood oven to add extra depth. Although you may at times wish for a crust with more body to stand up to more assertive ingredients (or your raging appetite), Limoncello is good for a light, sophisticated bite.

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MEXICAN Coyote (map C4) 1/2 Convent Rd, Silom | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom | 02-631-2325 | www.coyoteonconvent.com | 10ammidnight | $$ With its talented American chef, classic Tex-Mex menu and lively, margarita-fuelled atmosphere, Coyote is a place to party as well as to sample Mexican cooking. Among a traditional starter line-up, the crab taquitos are a definite standout. For a main course choose one of the platters – tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas and fajitas – and pick the fillers that best suit your palate. Add a little (or a lot of) spice from the infamous “Wall of Flame,” boasting over 50 hot sauces from around the world. Save room for dessert – the peach pecan chimichanga is out of this world. Don’t leave yet, Coyote’s relaxed vibe and kicking music will entice you to stick around and choose another margarita from the over 75 varieties, ranging from a medley of Thai fruit to daring experimental flavours like chocolate and bourbon. A second branch at 575-579 Sukhumvit Road, near the mouth of Soi 33, offers more of the same.

โคโยตี ซ.คอนแวนต์ ถ.สีลม

bangkok 101


Food courts

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. 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.

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.

Open daily for Dinner

18.00 hrs. to 22.30 hrs.

www.lecrystalrestaurant.com

For Reservation :

สำรองโตะลวงหนาที่

Tel. 053 872 890-1

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

Steaks, sandwiches, burgers and a selection of Thai food. A dining experience guaranteed to impress. A place to relax, enjoy and be yourself. Treat your family and friends to the ultimate dining experience. Open daily for Lunch & Dinner

11.30 hrs. to 14.00 hrs. and 18.00 hrs. to 23.30 hrs. For Reservation : สำรองโตะลวงหนาที่ Tel. 053 224 123

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JAPANESE

Le Dalat Indochine

VIETNAMESE LE DALAT INDOCHINE (map D3) 14 Sukhumvit 23 | BTS Asoke | 02-661-7967 | 11:30am2:30pm, 6:30pm-10pm | www. ledalatindochinebkk.com | $$ Oliver Stone sometimes dines at this elegant Vietnamese surrounded by lush gardens. Maybe he enjoys the leafy herbal hit that is a meal here. Or maybe the Vietnam War movie director just sees next project potential: the ageing pictures that line the walls of this wooden two-storey house tell of the love affair between the owner’s mother and father (a Vietnamese beauty and the son of the French governor of Laos) during the last gasps of French Indochine. Ponder their screenplay-worthy story over

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a cocktail in the indoors terrace bar, then amble into the bourgeois dining room – all blue and white tables, ornamental trees, Lotus leaf vases, attentive staff in traditional ao dai. The dishes, most accompanied with bowls of verdant herbs, don’t disappoint. Must tries include appetizer Bo la lop (marinated brochettes of beef wrapped in wild betel leaves); the Bouillabaisse-like Bun Rieu soup (a Gallic-tinged alternative to obvious pho); and Cha Ca, a fragrant portion of turmeric Red Snapper coated in dill that slips down very nice thankyou with rice noodles and a sweet tamarind sauce. Finish off with a flane brulee and a good giggle at the salacious toilets.

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food & drinks

Maru (map E4) 95/5-6 Thong Lo Soi 3 | 02-712-5001 | BTS Thong Lo | Daily 5pm-Midnight There are great meals, and then there are never-ever forget meals. This Thong Lo restaurant definitely qualifies as the latter. In a city where Japanese food is just as, or arguably more, popular than the national cuisine it’s a shame that most people get their fix from tired chain restaurants in shopping malls. Maru, however, caters to those truly in the know. We can say from experience that their sushi rivals those served at Tokyo's world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market, whether it’s smooth cuts of salmon, or uni, the melt-inyour-mouth sea urchin roe, to the crown jewel, O-toro, extra fatty tuna belly. Of course, paying the bill isn’t as blissful as the eating, but believe us, this is one meal worth filling your piggy bank for. Tuck in at the counter next to the throng of salarymen and simply ask for what’s fresh. Of course, there’s much more on offer than just raw fish, practically everything we sampled knocked us off our chairs, from grilled eel, to crunchy tempura and even small side dishes like the absolutely irresistible miso eggplant.

มารุ ทองหล่อ ซ.3

bangkok 101


SWISS

Chesa

Keyaki (map C4) 22/F, Pan Pacific Hotel Bangkok, 952 Rama 4 Rd | BTS Saladaeng, MRT Silom | 02-632-9000 ext 4205 | 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6:30pm – 10:30pm | $$$ Keyaki has the spare, innocuous setting familiar to anyone who’s spent time in nice Tokyo hotel restaurants – inoffensive and unassuming, so as not to outshine the excellent food. Attentive, kimono-clad waitresses bustle about as diners, most of them Japanese, take in the panoramic view and the beautifully prepared food. Sashimi is faultlessly fresh and wellcut, with none of the ragged edges or

bangkok 101

tough sinews of lesser fish. Simmered dishes and miso soup show off the gentle smokiness of a truly good dashi (stock made with bonito flakes and kombu seaweed), the tempura is lacy and greaseless, and the slowstewed pork is savoury-sweet and marbled with luscious fat. The enormous lunch bento boxes are a steal for anyone on a budget – hit the syokado box for a touch of nearly everything. Skip the indifferent fruit ending and opt for the ice cream – mini-scoops of nutty black sesame, rich red bean, and the bittersweet greenness of the matcha.

รร.แพนแปซิฟิค ถ.พระราม4

food & drinks

Chesa (map D4) 5 Sukhumvit Soi 20 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-261-6650 | www.chesa-swiss.com | 11am-11pm| $$ Once you survive the vicious traffic on Sukhumvit and arrive, get ready for a feast Schwyz style with lots of carbs; the Swiss had to survive the brutal winters somehow. Swiss cuisine is Europe’s ultimate comfort food, and that’s what Chesa delivers. The fondues and raclettes are what dozens of diners come for. Sure, the menu brims over with excellently prepared, inexpensive treats - highlights are the filled chard dumplings, a boletus mushroom risotto, the salmon tartar, and Geschnetzeltes, sliced veal and kidney. They’re all perfect, but it’s Chef Thomas’ fault almost everybody seems to order that melted cheese - he serves up Bangkok best fondue (and the Toblerone mousse and goodvalue wines aren’t bad either). The brunch is neat, and the lunch menu a bargain. Thus, reservations are highly recommended.

เชซ่า สุขุมวิท ซ.20

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ISAAN Café de Laos (map C4) 19 Silom Soi 19 | 02-635-2338 | 11am-2pm & 5-10pm | $ So urbane is the globetrotting gourmet who knows their tom kha from their tom yum, and even enjoys a fresh slice of durian. We’ve seen them, the groups of Thai diners scrutinizing the dishes on their table, discussing ingredients, tasting cautiously – and then smacking their lips, digging in, the feasting only interrupted by big satisfied grins.These Thais are on a culinary expedition into Northeastern Thailand, the Isaan, bordering on Laos (hence the name), home of som tam (spicy papaya salad), minced larb dishes and sticky rice. Some call the food’s fiery, simple nature peasant, but we prefer unadulterated. A warm colonial house (and its cute terrace) is the perfect setting for a dizzying gastronomic trip among almost forgotten, often neglected dishes. Some sound adventurous, but this is the ideal place for tongue somersaults.

คาเฟ่ เดอ ลาว สีลม ซ. 19

Café de Laos

Arirang

KOREAN Arirang (map C4) Sathorn Soi 12 | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02635-4775 | 11am - 2pm, 5 - 10pm | $ Considering that the rabid craving amongst most Thais for anything Korean doesn’t seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon, Arirang, one of the more popular Korean restaurants in Bangkok, has no reason to hit the brakes either. After their success anchoring the front of Korea Town, they’ve now expanded to the Sathorn business district. Obviously abiding by the “if it ain’t broke” adage,

this branch is almost a carbon copy of the original, from the wood-panelled walls, to the faux water-wheel. The same goes with the menu, with all the favourites available from bi bim bab, the traditional mixed rice served in a piping hot stone pot, to sam gye tang, a refreshing ginseng chicken soup. Of course, not many patrons pass on firing up that table-top grill and charring some meats. The menu will satisfy all your carnivorous cravings with every cut of meat imaginable for your BBQ’ing purposes.

อารีรงั สาธร ซ.12

SHANGHAI 38

Dim sum with a view. Your ears pop on the way to the 38th floor. A retro beauty awaits you: a dramatic place straight from The Last Emperor. Plush red velvet, a grand piano and a haunting river view are the perfect backdrop for a lunchtime feast. Glided menus hold a selection fit for royalty. The Dim Sum fried and steamed to perfection. A nice surprise is the Thai-influenced dessert treats – have the orgiastic Mango Pudding. B588++ for all-you-can-eat dim sum from Tuesday to Friday and B788++ on Saturday and Sunday (with Peking duck).

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food & drinks

WHERE Sofitel Silom, 188 Silom Rd BTS Chong nonsi, 02-238-1991, www.accorhotels-asia.com OPEN daily 11:30am 2:30pm PRICE Tue – Fri B588++, Sat – Sun B788++

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B

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.

brunching

featured

brunch SATURDAY BRUNCH When the smart alec who invented the word “brunch” (reportedly a Brit named Guy Beringer in 1896) did so, he was probably unaware it would become intrinsically linked with Sundays. It’s just that the traditional day of rest lends itself perfectly to leisurely, late-breakfast-early-lunch-style grazing. Well, forget everything you’ve ever assumed about brunch! The days of enduring disruptive latemorning hunger pangs on any day that isn’t Sunday WHERE Sheraton Grande are gone. That’s because the Sukhumvit, Sukhumvit Rd innovators at the Sheraton BTS Asok (map D3), 02-649-8888 Grande have moved the darn OPEN Saturday Brunch11:30amthing an entire day forward. 3pm PRICE 1,250++ for adults Simply haul your rumbling and 690++ for children guts over to the Orchid Café any given Saturday from 11.30am onwards and be rewarded with a bumper buffet-style spread, taking in everything from sushi and smoked salmon to beef medallions and Caesar salad at its self-serving stations. You won’t get the ambience of live jazz that plays out upstairs at The Living Room during the hotel’s legendary Sunday Brunch – you’ll have to stuff your face with fine cuts from around the globe to the accompaniment of chilled piano tinkling instead. One tip: don’t waste precious feeding time trying to find bacon and eggs – they’re not displayed - but ask and a fat pile of crispy rashers will be delivered directly to your table.

รร. เชอราตัน แกรนด์ สุขุมวิท ถ.สุขุมวิท

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Food&Drinks

tea

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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.

tea

featured

ERAWAN TEA ROOM

Though it overlooks a seething crossroad, a high tea at the Erawan Tea Room equals inner-city bliss, especially after a romp around the area’s mega-malls – a classic contemporary room, cosy upholstered chairs, opium-mat smoked wooden tables, five-star service, floor to ceiling glass windows onto Erawan, Bangkok’s busiest shrine. And lovely loose-leaf tea there is – no less than 40 plus varieties, ranging from black teas like smoky Assamica to herbal brews like the Roibosh Lemon. Served in little Burmese silver teapots, all are available for purchase. And yet it’s the bite-size snacks that make this perhaps the best value – and edifying – high-tea set in town. For a very easy on the pocket B220, each person gets two small but filling platters filled with an eclectic hotchpotch of indigenous kanom (snacks). Think savouries like the Thai style curry puff, solitary stick of pork satay, and WHERE 2F, Erawan Bangkok steamed and flower-shaped dumpling filled Mall, Ploenchit Road, 02-254with crab meat; and delectable sweets like the 1234 BTS Chit Lom banana dumpling in banana leaf, crispy rice OPEN 2:30pm-6pm pudding and mango with sticky rice. Quite PRICE Tea Set B220net frankly it’s an education in exotic Thai eats as well as a light, snack-y meal-cum-high-tea. As a concession to the old-school, the set also includes a scone with Chiang Mai strawberry jam and clotted cream. Conclusion: only your innovation-averse high-tea purist would be disappointed.

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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++

bangkok 101

ban


101

■ 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.

bangkok 101

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.

late-night dining

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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.

Sunrise Tacos

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

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Food&Drinks

sweet treats

C

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.

desserts featured

CHERUBIN

Lots dabble in dark choc cakery. But very few dessert shops take it the orgiastic levels of this one. Seriously, steel yourself. Once you step into Cherubin’s chic twotone interior – think dark and creamy – a glass display case welcomes you with dark chocolate cakes, brownies, cheesecakes and desserts-in-a-cup. Temptations like the “Nuts about Chocolate”, a towering light sponge with a sliver of choc fudge running through it. Topping it is a post-apocalyptic forest of contorted almonds coated in yet more chocolate. It’s yum, but no match for the soufflé-like French Chocolate Cake. Ease your fork through its light brown top and watch as it gets lost in viscous, bitter-sweet chocolate from France. It’s about as sexy as chocolate cakes come. Look out also Where Sukhumvit 31 for the warm choc brownie served with vanilla ice (about 100 metres down cream – that’s home-made vanilla bean ice-cream. on left), 02-260-9800 BTS Everything is made fresh on-site, recipes are their Phrom Phong Open own, and you get to enjoy your pick in the company Tue-Sun 10:30am – 7 pm of about 50 furry onlookers – we thinks the owner Price $ Khun Pat may have a teddy bear fixation! Still, no one’s perfect, and she did invent one of their other best sellers – the steaming hot cacao kick that is their pure hot choc shot. Needless to say the city’s chocoholics often fall off the wagon here – and who can blame them.

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■ 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

bangkok 101

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101

Buffet Venues ■ THE MED The Westin Grande Sukhumvit | 02-207-8000 | daily 6am11pm | Breakfast Buffet: 6:00am-10:30am B650++, Lunch Buffet: noon-2:30pm B750++, Dinner Buffet: 6:00pm-10:30 B1,050++ ■ 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 bangkok 101

B

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

featured

Citi Bistro

buffet

Interconnected with the most frequented mall in Bangkok, this downtown international buffet has long been a favourite amongst MBK shoppers looking to refuel after an exhaustive day of bargain-hunting. This multi-national feast will be sporting a heavy French accent this month as they have flown in Chef Christophe Perrin, from Le Panoramic Restaurant in the French Alps, to man the live central show-kitchen in September. It’ll still feature the usual selection of dishes from around the world, like sushi, a carving station, and freshly cooked pasta, but WHERE Citi Bistro, the real highlight will be Chef Perrin, who will Pathumwan Princess Hotel, be adding his own personal flair and dishes like 02-216-3700 BTS National frog’s legs in garlic sauce, escargot with puff Stadium OPEN 11:30am – pastry, pan-fried foie gras, as well as special 2:30pm, 6pm – 10pm homemade French sausages and a selection PRICE Lunch B650 net, of meats and seafood from the charcoal grill. Dinner B1,300 net There’s also a handsome selection of cheeses (French food only dinner) while the dessert area will be frying up piping hot crepes to go along with other sweet indulgences like the utterly orgasmic chocolate fondant. You can also pick up some tips from the man himself as the chef will be running cooking studios during lunch each Thursday and Saturday followed by a three-course meal.

รร.ปทุมวันปริ๊นเซส ติดกับห้างมาบุญครอง food & drinks

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Food&Drinks

wine

featured

wıne bar Wine Loft

Adding a new dimension to Bangkok’s growing wine scene is Wine Loft. What started as a hobby for oenophiles Moss Sachdev and Ken Narula is now perhaps Bangkok’s most innovative wine concept store. The chic and tastefully outfitted Wine Loft, with branches in Sukhumvit 31 and Thong Lo, stocks 300 labels, with more than half being palate-tempting Italians, as well as French and New World wines. The marvellous thing about Wine Loft, though, is its wine-tasting station. The temperature-controlled machine ensures oenophiles get what they’re paying for. A staff member simply inserts a card, with B2,000 credit, into a slot before asking you to choose any of the four reds and four whites. Prices start from as little as B120 for a tasting glass to about B630 for a full glass. Once you’re done, you simply hand the card to the WHERE 24/1 Sukhumvit31 cashier to settle your bill. Best-sellers range (Soi Sawasdee) BTS Phrom from B800 to B2,000 a bottle. Customers Phong, 02-260-0027 OPEN may choose to enjoy their wines and 11am - midnight Champagne while ensconced in comfortable chairs on the mezzanine floor, while cigar lovers savour their Cubans in an adjoining zone that also serves up some great single malt whiskies. And if you’re peckish, there is a selection of moreish morsels. Not many though because this is, after all, a wine shop.

ไวน์ลอฟท์ สุขุมวิท 31

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

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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

Siam Winery

‘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...

Bourbon St. Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Serving up Asia’s finest Cajun and Creole cuisine since 1986.

“A must when you visit Thailand.” Newsweek Fixin’ breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7am-1am Crawfish n US & Local Steaks Gumbo n Mexican buffet every Tuesday n Jambalaya n Fine cognac and cigars n Blackened Redfish n Wi-Fi available n Oyster bar (raw, char-broiled, bienville & more...) n n

941 Sukhumvit Rd. Between Sukhumvit 51-53 Mon - Sat 5.30 PM - 1 AM

Live Band Tue - Sat 8 PM - Midnight For Reservation Tel: 02-662-7605

Boutique Hotel available daily, weekly or monthly 29/4-10 Sukhumvit Soi 22 (Behind Sports Man Bar) Tel: 02-259-0328/9, 02-259-4317 Fax: 02-259-4318 Email: info@bourbonstbkk.com www.bourbonstbkk.com

f of ive % dl 30 orte ters p ys ly Im O on


Nightlife

one night in bangkok

Q Bar

B

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.93) – 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.89), 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.90), 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

bangkok 101


r

Q BAR ENCOURAGES RESPONSIBLE DRINKING


Nightlife

Club 87 Plus

nightclubs

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

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 ar t) 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.

Club 87 Plus (map C3) Conrad Hotel, 87 Wireless Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-690-9087 | 6pm 2am The relaunched Club 87 Plus has breathed new life into the Conrad hotel’s flagship nightspot. It’s bigger, sleeker and sexier than before and has targeted its main audience from the get-go. Don’t be expecting minimalist jungle or Ibiza-style foam parties, but if you’re the kind of cat who likes 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 (Tues-Sun, 10pm-2am). They’ve been around forever and now 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, while jazz fiends can warm up in the Conrad’s other live venue, the Diplomat Bar.

โรงแรมคอนราด ถ.วิทยุ

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 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-or-miss, but weekends are always packed and 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 on offer!) 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 bigname 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

เบด ซัปเปอร์คลับ ถ.สุขุมวิท ซ. 11

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nightlife

bangkok 101


Calypso

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) Club Culture comes from the owners of the online clubbers’ guide, Buzzin’ Mag and Café Democ. Climb carpeted steps, pass through a curtained stairwell and you’ll enter a space where chandeliers and Thai wood carvings hang from the 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. 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 aim to promote new talent, while still bringing in the big guns, ensuring an eclectic roster of break beat, electronica, trance, indie rock, drum ‘n’ bass and house music of all genres. คลับ คัลเจอร์ ถ. ศรีอยุธยา 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 bangkok 101

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 red spaceship of a nightclub has been an international rave hotspot ever since it landed on RCA (p.93) back in ’07. The reason: a line-up that could turn a white-hot London nightclub green. James Lavelle, Grandmaster Flash and Derrick May, to name but a few DJ giants, have all rocked this industrial warehouse-like space, aided in no small part by the ear drum/body/ table-rattling soundsystem (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.

แมมโบ ถ.พระราม3

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.

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Nightlife

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

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Bamboo Chic

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.

รร.สุโขทัย ถ.สาทรใต้

nightlife

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

bangkok 101


Nightlife

indie bars 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.

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. Situated in the shadow of an expressway, it’s well known among Thai indie kids and artsy expats (jobbing journos mostly) for its cheap booze and left-of-centre arts agenda. A big living room with scuzzy sofas and walls of feral art hosts the happenings, while windows and patio doors, onto a tatty garden with birdcage and pond, blur the boundary between indoor and outdoor space. DJs, live bands and screenings feature sporadically, but otherwise the music policy is the same as at your very laidback mate’s house: bring your iPod to plug in and play, request what you want or start your own jam session on the drums.The vibe swings pleasantly between rowdy and chilled, depending on what’s on and who rocks up (and in what state). Join their Facebook group for the skinny and the much needed map.

เรนด๊อกส์ ถ.พระราม 4

Shades of Retro

SHADES OF RETRO (map E4) Soi Tararom 2,Thong Lor | BTS Thong Lor | 081-824-8011 | 2pm-midnight | cash only Tired of trotting around Thong Lo, looking at cool but overpriced tchotchkes? Head on over to Shades of Retro, a hidden spot awash in neonostalgia and stuffed with vintage furniture, vinyl records, old rotary telephones – hipster attic, here we come. A combo furniture store-café, Shades provides a quiet hangout for the writer/designer/artiste crowd by day, fun people-watching at night, and nice jazz at all times. Curl up on a nubby couch, flip through a Wallpaper magazine and soak up the atmosphere, which flirts with being too ironic for its pants. A cool, friendly crowd and bracing cocktails or coffee served up with popcorn humanizes the hip, thankfully. Cheers for the trendy Thong Lo crowd.

เฉดส์ ออฟ เรโทร ซ.ธารารมย์ 2

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

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Salsa Hacha Dance Studio

latin rhythms n Señor Pico (map D3)

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’re after, hightail it over to Flava at Dream Hotel at 8pm on Sundays. For more details, check out www.salsabangkok.com and www.tangobangkok.com. n La Rueda (map D3) Sukhumvit Soi 18 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-261-9669 n Salsa Hacha Fusion Café and Dance Studio (map C4) Silom Soi 6 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02634-3383-4 | www.salsahacha.com n Tapas (map C3)Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-632-7982

Khao San Road

Rembrandt Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 18 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-2617100 ext. 7550-1 n Barsu (map D3) Sheraton Grand Hotel Sukhumvit Soi 14 | BTS Asok | 02-649-8358 n Noriega’s (map C4) 106-108 Silom Soi 4 | BTS Saladaeng, MRT Silom | 02-233-2814 n Bed Supperclub (map D3) 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-3537 | www.bedsupperclub.com n HOPS (House of Pro Studio) (map C2) 4th floor, Baan Ratchakrue, 33 Paholyothin 5 (Soi Ratchakrue) | BTS Aree, Exit 1 | 02-619-6132 | www.hopstudio.net n Flava (map D3) Dream Hotel Sukhumvit Soi 15 | BTS Asok | 02-254 8500 n Rumpuree World Dance Studio (map C3) Amarin Plaza, 5th Fl Ploenchit Rd | BTS Chidlom | 081-4390200, 081-430-6884 n Siam@Siam Hotel (map C3) 865 Rama 1 Rd | BTS National Stadium | 02-217-3000 | www.siamatsiam.com n V9 (map C4) Sofitel Silom, Silom Road | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-2381991 | www.sofitel.com

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PHra athit rd

10 The streets around Khao San Road – that famed budget travellers’ mecca – are buzzing with a frenetic mix of dek naew (trendy teens) and Police Station 1 bronzed backpackers. Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge complex, 6 3 2 Burger Brick Bar [1] is a red brick cavern where young locals bounce along kHao san rd King 8 5 4 to excellent live ska. A few doors down, Lava Bar [2] is a dark hip7 9 hop dungeon, while Sunset Street [3] is an architecturally interesting conglomerate of bars, but mostly attracts sweaty backpackers. Down the alley opposite, Zest [4] focuses on live Brit Rock, while Hippie De Bar [5], tucked down another alley, is a retro-cool cocktail house. More full-on, The Club [6] is a techno-rave palace offering free UV glowsticks and a huge dancefloor. Just off the strip, Gazebo [7] is an open-sided 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 [8] in a beautifully restored colonial mansion. Elegant Hemlock [9] is invaded nightly by artsy folk, drawn to the eclectic Thai food at rock-bottom prices. Minimalist but friendly Joy Luck Club [10] deserves a mention. For outstanding seafood and absolutely no flair, check out Thon Po [11]. 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.

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Nightlife

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.

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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

bangkok 101


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. 

รร.ใบหยกสกาย ถ.ราชปรารภ

Amorosa

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

อรุณเรสสิเดนซ์ ซ.ประตูนกยูง ถ.มหาราช

รร. บันยันทรี ถ. สาทร

bangkok 101

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 All the ingredients for an agreeable open-air bar are in place at Amorosa: cool breezes, soft Latin Jazz, balmy Mediterranean looks, tropical cocktails and passable wine list. But the showstopper is the view: perched atop 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 makes a just and fitting reward after a day of temple hopping (unless you’re a devout Buddhist that is). And if you fall for that view, the hotel’s Thai restaurant, The Deck, and six lovely suites mean you can prolong the love affair.

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Nightlife Threesixty

jazz clubs

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

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nightly. There’s also a jazz jam every Sunday and occasional concerts 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

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 lounge – 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

nightlife

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

ถ. เจริญนคร

bangkok 101


nightlife areas

ROYAL City Avenue (RCA)

road

AL

LO C

RA

M

A9

road

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 [1] 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 [2] preaches bass-thumping trance and house. Next door, granddaddy Route 66 [3] seethes with spaghetti-strapped students and baseball-capped boppers, who flit between its three glam zones and outdoors chill-out zone. Beside it, HOBB [4] 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 [5], 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 [6] is a rickety wooden pub great for warm-up drinks; while music cave Overtone [7] attracts the drain-pipe jeans, rock-guitar rabble. There’s also Zeta [8], a live-music bar with a strict girls-only policy. No men, gay men, drag queens or peeping Tom’s allowed. RCA road

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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 [1]? 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 [2]; 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 [3], a countrified bar only a tad bigger than a broom cupboard. Nest 1 [4], 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 [5]. 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

Q Bar

SUKHUMVIT road

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nightlife

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Nightlife

Bangkok Rock

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 | daily 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 jamming nightly. Bangkok’s widest selection of vodka – 90-some varieties to choose from. An intimate atmosphere, especially in The Vodka Room, chilled to a nipple-raising minus10 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 time-capsule. Raintree hosts musicians 94

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. North 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, and would nightlife

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

bangkok 101


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

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

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 Zesting up Khao San’s sterile music scene is this cozy joint down a dinghy alley. Laudably free of the usual awful Bob Marley/Chilli-Pepper/Country Road covers, it comes good on the promise of its black and white photos of London teddyboys with a ska-funkblues-rock line-up that, after a few drinks, may well have you bobbing around like one. You may not understand a word of it, but most of the local bands

here are tight 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 cover. Beats the schlock ‘n’ roll heard elsewhere on the strip.

เซสท์ 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 straggly-haired presence, as has pretty much every lightening fingered axe-grinder in the Kingdom. Not bad for a live music cave tucked along RCA, a club-strip 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 upand-comers at this last bastion of good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll.

โอเวอร์โทน ถ.อาร์ซีเอ โซนดี

Indulge yourself in the finest music the world has to offer, every evening in the luxurious comfort of Niu’s On Silom Jazz Club & Wine Bar, and Concerto Italian Restaurant. The international spotlight this month is on Tim Garland, recognized as one of the most important British jazz musicians in years, and a man whom Chick Corea has called “one of my favorite saxophone players and composers”. His latest recording Libra is “a masterpiece by any standard” (All About Jazz) and “an absolute feast for the ears” (Record Collector). Joined on stage by Gwilym Simcock on piano, and Asaf Sirkis on percussion, the passionate music of Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio will delight and enchant you.

Enjoy two nights of superb contemporary jazz with Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio, exclusively in Thailand at Niu’s On Silom.

For reservations for the shows at 9:30pm on September 17 and September 19, please call 02-266-5333, or email us at reservation@niusonsilom.com. For more information, please visit our website at www.niusonsilom.com.

bangkok 101

nightlife

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Nightlife

pub crawling featured

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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.

The huntsman

Located in the basement of the Landmark Hotel, The Huntsman is something of a Bangkok institution serving thirsty beer lovers for the past 17 years. Its enduring appeal is probably not down to the tartan carpet and chintzy curtains, which WHERE 138 wouldn’t win any taste awards. Fortunately, Sukhumvit Rd, 02-254-0404, BTS the eye is distracted from the clan colours by the central bar and nice touches like art deco Nana OPEN windows and lamps illuminating the comfy 11:30am-1am booths. The rest of the sizeable space is filled with a mix of free-standing tables and high stools. It certainly has a lively feel and plenty of distractions. Not least of these is the range of beers. Check out their daily drinks offer between 3pm and 8pm and their happy hour on food. Indeed the food is an attraction in itself, with the quirky menu featuring classic English dishes such as bangers and mash, shepherds pie and sherry trifle. They also have a Sunday carvery and beer-themed food nights. Entertainment comes from three screens showing the sport and the Filipino house band Sweet Inspirations, who belt out classics nightly from 8pm.

รร.แลนด์มาร์ค ถ.สุขุมวิท

Cigar Lounges

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 lounges typically feature luxurious P&L Club leather sofas, 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 Lounge & Humidor 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 96

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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. 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 | For more PCC venues, see www.pacificcigar.com n Balcony Lounge & Humidor Lobby level, InterContinental Bangkok, 973 Ploenchit Road | Club Perdomo 8am-1am | 02-656-0444 bangkok 101


Pubs 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 [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] 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 [4]. 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 [5] 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.

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Sukhumvit AREA PUBS

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Sukhumvit Road, a haven for expats, is jammed with joints catering to ale aficionados. Beside BTS Phrom Phong station, The Robin Hood [13] 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 [12], 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 [11] 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 [10], 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 [9] 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 [8], 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 [7]. 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 [6] 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

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nightlife

■ 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


Shopping

shopper scene

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. n Shinawong No C500 , C501 Ayudthaya Soi 8 Suan Lum; No27, 6F MBK Centre| www.shinawong.com

THANN

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

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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. Panta

shopping

n ThaiCraft

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

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 bangkok 101


L’arcadia

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, homegrown “stuff” that Bangkok is justly famous for.

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. 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.

bangkok 101

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. 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 shopping

specialise in long-lasting lotions, gels, 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


Shopping

UNIQUE boutique

PAPERCUTS AND THE PENCIL SHARPENER

This clothing store in the teen mecca Siam Square is well-known among locals thanks to its famous owner, rocker heartthrob Pae Arak Amornsupasiri from the popular band, Slur. But for fashionistas in the know, Papercuts is more than just a corner shop with rock-star credentials. Its two designers, Manisa Sakdiyakorn and Saitarn Karncharanwong, are both Bangkok fashion week veterans, whose big break in the industry came when they were still design students in university. Together Where Room A1, ground with their friends, one of them Pae, floor, Lido Theater, Siam they have conceived Papercuts, a Square Soi 3, +66 2-251collection of simple yet sophisticated 1292, www.myspace.com/ attires in the style dubbed “Zakka papercutssharpener BTS Siam Rock”. Zakka is a Japanese concept Open 12:30pm – 8:30pm that puts warm, homey touches into a design, while Rock comes from Pae and Saitarn, whose alter ego is the bassist of an all-girl grunge band, Yellow Fang. That explains why the colour tones of the clothes don’t stray too far from dark edgy shades of soft hues, black, gray and navy blue. There are two product lines: Papercuts and The Pencil Sharpener is the more mature collection of jackets, dresses and blouses, while Papercuts Crayon doesn’t go beyond comfortable jeans and t-shirts. The designers produce at least one new design each week to keep their fans coming.

โรงหนังลิโด้ สยามสแควร์ ซ.3

Shopping Tips

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.

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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

bangkok 101


SIAM SQUARE

shopping tours finish HERE soi 2

soi 3

Rama 1

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.

soi 4

soi 5

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BTS Siam

THONG LO In recent years this long boulevard has emerged as a scene to see and be seen in; an upmarket playground for well-heeled, studiously cool zeitgeist followers; somewhere boasting conditions favourable to celebrities, models, media types and international school students, who linger there sipping endless moccachinnos, playing with their phones killing sweet time while secretly yearning to be talent-spotted. As befits such an eminent locale – if indeed Thong Lor is still riding fickle fashion’s unsteady slipstream as you read this – luxury condos, trendy nightspots, boutique lifestyle emporiums, and designer spas line the avenue. Hop off the BTS at Thong Lo station and on to a local red bus near the entrance to the soi, ride it until almost the end of the street then stroll back. Grab a restorative coffee at J-Avenue, on soi 15, hosts an Apple shop, trendy alfresco cafes and stylish Asian eateries, as well as boutiques flaunting sexy heels and handbags. And, incidentally, if there seems to be an unusual proliferation of blushing brides carousing about, it’s because Thong Lor’s posh wedding studios have formed a latter-day marital Mecca for Bangkok’s great and good. On the corner of soi 10, the Third Place, where at TrueLife@Thong lo you can sip smashing smoothies and use the Internet.

bangkok 101

start here

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Shopping

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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

1

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

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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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OP PLACE This fine objets d’art shopping plaza across from The Oriental Bangkok corresponds well to the classy hotel. 12

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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.

phetburi rd

ploenchit rd

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.

chidlom

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.

Ratchadamri rd

ERAWAN BANGKOK BTS Chid Lom Posh boutique mall adjacent to the Erawan Shrine. Think Burberry. BTS Chitlom

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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

uri 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.

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bangkok 101


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Breathable Performance material Junior and Women sizes available Trendy styles School team and Staff uniforms. T-Shirts/Polo shirts. A full range of sports apparel i.e., football, rugby, tennis and badminton attire. Screen printing, embroidery and sublimation services available. Minimum order only 30 shirts.

Head Office: Thailand : 222/109 Panya Intra Road, Bangchan, Klongsamwa Bangkok 10510 Tel/Fax: +66 (0) 2 907 3505


Shopping

markets

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.

สวนลุมไนท์บาร์ซาร์

Chatuchak

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.

ตลาดนัดจตุจกั ร

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.

ปากคลองตลาด

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”.

เทเวศน์

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.

นครเกษม

bangkok 101


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! Silom

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

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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

shopping

sidewalks 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 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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Accommodation

boutique bangkok

In each new issue Bangkok 101 brings you the best of Bangkok’s new breed – those quirky, elegant, or downright luxurious lodgings that fit under the trendy, boutique hotel banner.

SAMSEN 5 LODGE (map A2) 58/1 Soi Samsen 5, | 02-628-9799, 086-7005530| samsen5lodgebangkok.multiply.com | Lover’s Room B1,200, Courtyard Room B1,500, Chinese Room B2,000 Somehow this ickle inn manages to squeeze three rooms and the architect owner’s workshop into an 80 sq metre former shop. Fortunately, his design ethos – “the preservation of ecology and culture”– means Samsen 5 Lodge’s rooms are more homey boho havens than cramped cells. Close to the river and the Old City, each one boasts an en-suite, tall windows onto a tiny garden courtyard, soft daylight and breezes. Pieces of Asiatic furniture and décor – reclaimed antiques, framed photos, reading tables – brighten up bare walls and concrete floors. And, though it contradicts the owner’s zero-energy aims, there’s air-con and a flatscreen TV should you need them. The Chinese Room is biggest, the Courtyard Room breeziest, and the Lover’s Room the pokiest. While taking your breakfast on a bench in the corridor may be too luxeless for some, the hotel offers good deals for long stays and the warmth and insight of the small staff will soon have you tipping off your friends, especially the artsy ones. Location is superb: it sits on a calm soi opposite a temple, and yet is only minutes walk from louche and loud Khao San.

สามเสน 5 ลอดจ์ สามเสน ซ.5

THE EUGENIA (map D3) 267 Soi Sukhumvit 31 | BTS Phrom Phong or Asok | 02-2599017-9 | www.theeugenia.com | from B5,800++ a night What better place to stage a colonial reverie than in a country that’s never been colonized? You can play with the fantasy with less guilt, although the Eugenia is quite earnest in its devotion to French colonial décor – this 12-room boutique hotel is done up in elegant columns, Southeast Asian and African antiques, zebra fur rugs and all. The Eugenia offers classic, luxuriously subdued rooms – often with four-poster beds and old-fashioned tubs – a clubby, cozy lounge, and a gorgeous emerald pool. The hotel boasts heaps of atmosphere but doesn’t lose modern amenities, providing wi-fi throughout and VOIP phones in the rooms. Not feeling pampered enough? Gorge on the delicious complimentary breakfasts, and if you really want to splash out, hire one of their six vintage cars complete with chauffeur to squire you around town. Over the top? A bit. But the Eugenia manages to make you feel classy, not crass.

เดอะยูจีเนีย สุขุมวิท 31

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H e a l t h & We l l n e s s

Thai-massage

body & beauty

B

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 / BTS Phrom Phong / 02-204-2008-9 / www.

ABHYANGAM & SHIRO DHARA

urbanretreatspa.net <http://www.urbanretreatspa.net> /Though 10am-10pm /$ Bangkok has more Ayurverda-inspired spas than you can 30-minute Himalayan Crystal pink Salts with shake an incense stick at, it’s lacked a dedicated facility… until now. Yogurt and Honey Scrub + 60-minute MacHelmed by Kerala-trained Doctor Baspin, the Amruth Wellness Centre adamia Oil Massage: 1200 baht Tucked away inisathe sidenew street closefor to those Phrom looking to maintain or regain well-being go-to Phong, Urban Retreat is precisely that – a Ayurverda’s year old principles. Located in Thonglor, the quiet spot closeusing to the bustle of 5,000 Sukhumvit and the upscale Emporium shopping mall. city dweller, it boasts the full Ayurvedic city’s heartland for the me-me This new, smallarmoury spa is popular withapparatus, Thais (medicines, expertise). And unlike at your average and long-term foreign residents drawn spa it’s not deployed indiscriminately. No, instead every patient receives by very good services that don’t suffer for being affordable. Spa menuwith is trim and – without it he won’t know your dosha a one-on-one Dr. Baspin tidy, with a focus on massage, although

(the balance of your bio-energies), and you won’t get the most from your treatment. It’s an approach aimed at devoted Ayurveda disciples, but they also offer some drop-in treatments – of which we tried a 90 min abhyangam and shiro dhara. The first is a 4-hands oil rub that may, for those used to dreamy rubs, prove a little uncomfortable. Performed by two lithe young men, it takes place on a droni massage table made of wood, not the snoozy mattress you’re probably used to. The shiro dhara afterwards involves oil being meditatively dribbled across your forehead and scalp using a bronze vessel. Despite its allusions to medieval torture, it’s a calm-inducing experience, the benefits of which are many. Other dosha-balancing delights include walk-in yoga classes.

WHERE Amruth Ayurveda Wellness Center, Thong Lor soi 8, 02-715-9440, www.amruthayurvedawellnesscenter.com OPEN 7am - 10:30pm PRICE B2,000

อมฤต อายุเวด้า เวลล์เนส เซ็นเตอร์ ทองหล่อ ซ.8

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typical SPA cost range

Spa of Qinera

spas

$ under B600 $$ B600 – B1,000 $$$ B1,000-2,000 $$$$ B2,000+ Credit cards accepted unless otherwise noted RUEN NUAD (map C4) 42 Convent Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02632 2663 | daily 10am-9pm | $ Set off Convent Road, a century-old house shelters a boutique spa that gives you oodles of atmosphere and world-class massages for prices you’d pay in the dingiest Silom parlours. There’s no menu to speak of. Just choose between the length of a traditional Thai, aromatherapy of foot reflexology massage – that’s it. Once upstairs, you’ll pause to settle into peaceful surroundings. A labyrinth of semi-private rooms have been installed into the high-ceilinged second floor (inspired interior ideas from the serene décor). Two VIP rooms are breathtaking. The Glass Room has a private outdoor shower amid a tiny tropical garden; the Room with the Downstairs Shower is self-explanatory. The therapists here enjoy a good reputation for their knowledge and friendliness – a standard massage can turn into a medical Q&A. The studio next door offers excellent facials. Few come here just once. This is one place you’ll still be thinking about on your way to the airport.

เรือนนวด ซ. คอนแวนต์

Ruen Nuad

bangkok 101

SPA OF QINERA (map C4) 172/1 Soi Pipat 2 | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-636-8306-8 | www.qineraspa.com | daily 10am-10pm | $$$$ A two-minute walk from the skytrain brings you to this stylish little slice of heaven, named in tribute to the Qin Dynasty (which oversaw the unification of ancient China over 2,000 years ago, history buffs). The funky modern reception area features bold but earthy colour tones, and a striking cut-out porthole entrance leading to a plush five-seat sofa with attached foot Jacuzzi. Meanwhile, colour-coded treatment rooms are themed after the five Yin Yang elements – fire, water and so on – while guests don black silk robes to their itinerary of indulgence. The signature treatment is an oil massage that left Bangkok 101 in a shambles of relaxation (which was taken as a good thing). Much thought has been invested in the concept, the venue and the impeccable service. Highly recommended.

HARNN HERITAGE SPA (map C3) Siam Paragon, 4th Fl | BTS Siam | 02610-9715/6 | 10am-9pm | $$$ Before you drop from shopping at the monster mall that is the Paragon, stop in here for a spot of soothing. An extension of the high-end Harnn beauty product line, this tiny spa is all Thai, all the time, and offers excellent, traditional therapies. Done up entirely in black stone, the rooms are small but high-ceilinged to compensate for tight quarters. Despite the excellent layout, however, rooms can feel cramped and crypt-like. Once a treatment begins, any claustrophobia melts away – the signature package, which includes a thorough sesame scrub, a very relaxing oil massage, and a hot sesame compress applied to key meridians on the body, is a very complete pampering session. Staff are wonderfully professional and personable. Done relaxing? Pick up some Harnn products to continue the spa experience at home.

สยามพารากอน

Harnn Heritage Spa

สปา ออฟ คินเนอร่า ซ.พิพัฒน์ 2

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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.

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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

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pa

M

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

bangkok 101

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.

Teeth Whitening

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

Thailand has long been known as ‘The Land of Smiles’, a well-earned moniker for such friendly people, sharing their smiles at every chance. Stay here any length and you’ll find it’s downright contagious. So if you catch yourself indulging in the ageold Thai tradition of smiling, and your teeth are less than pearly, perhaps a BriteSmile teeth whitening should be high on your agenda? Fortunately it comes with a much more reasonable price tag than in the West. Also, in keeping with another Thai tradition – hospitality – most procedures, unlike the majority of dental visits, are completely painless. Teeth whitening involves lightening the natural color of teeth, but it is certainly not for everyone. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers some simple rules as to each tooth’s eligibility and of course always recommends consulting with your dentist first. Generally, the stains left behind by such things as coffee, smoking and red wine are a telltale yellowish (or burgundy in the case of the latter) and should be pretty easy to rectify; whereas brownish and grayish hued teeth (as well as bonding or front teeth with fillings) are increasingly more difficult to enhance. A consultancy will tell you what you can expect from a whitening before you decide to commit. In keeping with Thailand’s medical practices, dentists here are welltrained – in most cases overseas. And the technology here is state-oftheart. As for service, we can guarantee you will get to practice your new smile before you leave the dentistry’s doors in ‘The Land of Smiles’. n BriteSmile Siam Paragon, 2nd Fl 02-610-9630-3 n Bangkok International Dental Center (BIDC) 157 Ratchadapisek Rd 02-692-4433 www.bangkokdentalcenter.com n Bumrungrad Hospital - Dental Center 33 Sukhumvit 3 (Soi Nana Nua) 02-667-2300 www.bumrungrad.com n Bangkok Dental Spa Bangkok Hospital 2 Soi Soonvijai 7, New Petchburi Rd., 02-310-3336 www.bangkokhospital.com health & wellness

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Sports

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 (Bangplee Camp) Soi Boonthan Anusorn | 02-755-3329 | 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

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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

ติดกับสวนลุมไนท์ บาซ่าร์

Fairtex

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

เวทีมวยราชดำเนิน ถ.ราชดำเนิน

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

Major Bowl

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


Courses&Ser vices

courses

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

Baipai

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.

รร.สอนทำอาหารไทยใบพาย ถ.นนทรี

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

(รถไฟฟ้าสุรศักดิ์)

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

Wat Po

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

bangkok 101


o

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.

making merit

Community Based Tourism in Chiang Rai If our Chiang Rai feature (p.46) has inspired you to head up to this mountainous and hill-tribe rich region in the country’s north, but you’re looking for a bit more from the trip than just a luxe room with a view, there are a number of local operators up there offering what is known in the business as Community Based Tourism (CBT). Roughly speaking this is tourism for those who want to interact with – and learn about – local hill-tribe communities, not just snap pictures Afect of them then hop back in the van. Usually such trips involve staying with a local family or in community lodgings while you enjoy hands-on activities, like trekking, fishing, handicrafts, farming and cooking, or get your teeth into some conservation or poverty alleviation project. And, even if you don’t get around to building your host village that new

Natural Focus

bangkok 101

Afect Phu Phiang

chicken hut you blithely promised them at the start of the week, at least your money is going to the villagers and the preservation of their communities, not a fatcat at some faceless tour company. Here is a shortlist of respected operators in Chiang Rai: - Phu Phiang is part of Thai Craft, the “fair trade” organisation specialising in helping village artisans achieve self reliance by generating income and helping preserve their indigenous craft traditions. They offer 3 day/2night tours to the traditional Akha community of Baan Huai Kee Lek and the tiny Lahu community of Baan Ja Boo See.You’ll learn about all aspects of life – from farming to religious rites – but expect particular emphasis on crafts. www.phuphiang.com - Natural Focus works with four hill-tribes – the Akha, Lahu, Lisu, and Mien – to provide ecotourist trips that help preserve their environment and culture. Four different types of tours are offered, from mountain life tours that allow you to participate in all aspects of life, to voluntourism (teaching etc), youth projects and community service (school building etc). www.naturalfocus-cbt.com - Afect offers 3 or 7 day (and night) dorm-stays in an Akha tribe village.Your picked up from Chiang Rai and driven deep into the verdant hills to learn about their life cycle. There’s forest trekking, lectures on rice field culture, workshops on shamanism, and as much rich whisky as you can handle. All profits feed back into the community. B4,000 for three days, B6,500 for 7 days. www.akhaasia.org

cour ses & ser vices

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Business

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).

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.

Business spotlight

Ascott International Meetings Packages

The Ascott Bangkok Sathorn, Somerset Park Suanplu and Somerset Lake Point are three plush modern serviced apartments. In a city full of plush modern serviced apartments. So, what marks them out from the crowd? Apart from their being superbly appointed with contemporary fittings, kitchens, living rooms and modern conveniences that is. Abridged answer: free-meeting facilities. That’s right, book yourselves and 9 of your fellow colleagues in at any of these three properties until September 30 and you’ll get free use of their swanky, state-of-the-art meeting rooms. That’s a whole heap of baht you’ll save on pesky MICE costs; just the thing you need at a time when the bottom line never was more important. And naturally each of their residences – which range from studios to three bedrooms and penthouses – offer all the comfort, convenience, frills and privacy business travellers Where have come to expect from their “home from home”. Opt for the - Somerset Park Suan Plu, 39 Soi Suan Plu Somerset Suan Plu or Ascott Bangkok Sathorn if you’re doing - Somerset Lake Point, 41 Sukhumvit Soi 16 business in the Sathorn area; the Somerset Lake Point if you’re - Ascott Bangkok Sathorn, 187 South Sathorn Rd, in Sukhumvit. 02-676-6869, www.somerset.com/en/thailand 116

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101

real estate

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. bangkok 101

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

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Photo courtesy of Raimon Land

The River


Reference

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

A

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

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sa-wàt dee sa-bai dee réu sa-bai dee láew khun lâ arai ná kho˘ thôt khòp khun (mâak)

reference

˘ 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

bangkok 101


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 | mebkk@asianet.co.th 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

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Reference

getting around

B

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. a tuk-tuk driver offers to deliver you 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 orange 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.

BTS

ROAD TAXI Bangkok has thousands of metered, air-con equipped 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 at the street level outside the terminal, an additional B50 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

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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. For more information: www.bts.co.th

reference

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. For more information: www.bangkokmetro.co.th RIVER (also see River Tourism on p.24) EXPRESS RIVER BOAT Bangkok’s vast network of intercity waterways offers 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. Crossriver 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.

bangkok 101

Bangkok 101 - September 2009  

Metrobeat: BANGKOK FILM FESTIVAL september 2009 100 baht Making Merit: COMMUNITY BASED TOURISM IN CHIANG RAI Daytrip: THAI FILM MUSEUM Over...

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