If some of you wondered why I did not indulge in the conventional activities of Bangkok tourists, consider that I've been here more than 25 times and I took this extended trip down South mostly to rest. I've been to all the great restaurants in Bangkok: Gaggan (Pellegrino's best Asian restaurant), Nahm (#5), Eat Me (#31), The Dining Room (#39),and #40 L'Atelier (#40). Actually, I've never been to #15, Suhring. Maybe next time. Gaggan is that tall guy.
However, if you've never been here and plan to come, here is a top fifteen of things to consider:
- Visit the most important shrines and temples:
- The Grand Palace (above)
- where the King lives, but he also has 19 other royal palaces and a bunch of other mansions
- this is the only location in Southeast Asia where I dropped Pearl's Ashes
- here rests the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew (or Kaeo)
- is not made of emerald, but of jade or jasper
- also has an origin about 800 years ago, but one story has it going back to 43BC in India
- visitors are expressly warned not to take a photo of the statue...but you know me:
- Wat Arun
- Wat Pho (reclining Buddha)
- Erawan Shrine (which was bombed two years ago, next to the Hyatt Erawan, where I've occasionally stayed)
- Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha)
- made of gold: body (40%), chin to forehead (80%) hair and topknot (99%)
- weighs around 5.5 tons and worth around $250 million just for the gold
- origin could have been 800 years ago, probably in India
- through most of its life was covered in stucco and only rediscovered in 1955 when it was dropped, revealing the gold
- housed in new building in 2010
- Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (also known as the Phallus Shrine--and I am not showing photos out of respect for the King)
- Then too, there must be thousands of temples just in Bangkok. A popular number seems to be 30,000 for the country. Even Quora has no answer.
- Chao Phraya (their main river--just don't look at it...but I saw many splashes of large fish in the muddy mess)
- Chatuchak Weekend Market (only on Saturdays and Sundays--be prepared for heat stroke and the same old stuff throughout the shopping area)
- Walk through Khao San Road for street food and cheap shopping
- Visit the Bangkok National Museum
- Try Sea Life Bangkok, an aquarium, and Dusit Zoo
- Have a massage
- Experience the nightlife at Patpong, Nana Plaza, etc.
- Stroll Lumpini Park
- Consider a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk, but reach an understanding on cost before you depart (read this to gauge how much to pay)--and, by the way, taxis all have meters, but you need to negotiate double or triple the fee in special situations such as coming back from a Royal Cremation ceremony
- Watch Muay Thai (kickboxing--I went once and left because a large cockroach kept circling my seat)
- Come during Songkran (April 13-16, 2018)
- Try not to come during the monsoon period, but this lasts from late June until October, so wish on luck; plus, here are eleven things to do if it rains (which you can also do at home)
- Visit Jim Thompson House for the history, but don't buy anything--I bought a $150 Thai Silk tie, and stained it the first time I wore it
- For once in your life, taste durian
There is a variety of options close to Bangkok. Perhaps the most cultural is Ayutthaya Historical Park, a city founded in 1351.
Murder on the Orient Express, that classic book by Agatha Christie and movie. A new version starring Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp will soon come. Rotten Tomatoes has given it a 99% "want to see it" rating. Well, there is another one, train, that is, the Eastern and Orient Express, from Bangkok to Singapore. I made this journey. What an experience.
My final meal in Bangkok was mostly free at the The Sala, the colorful square below my room:
Satay, prime rib sandwich, Singha Beer and a martini. I just couldn't refuse a Johnny Walker Gold label on rocks at the end.
I sat there just in total contentment about my Bangkok stay. Earlier in the day, taxis were difficult to get, so the bellman negotiated a high, but reasonable, price from the Plaza Athenee' to the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit. The going was so slow that I finally gave the driver 20 baht (65 cents) more than that amount, about a ten minute walk to my hotel As I was picking up my bag, he bowed to me with his hands together in prayer and wished me a pleasant trip to Heaven. My first reaction was that I was not ready for that royal ascendence, if there is one, but I think he meant well. Secondly, you don't need to give a tip in Thailand. However, my Sala server was so efficient and friendly that I left a 100 baht tip (about $3). As I was leaving, she bowed the same way with her hands together and said I had a good heart. The people of Thailand make a crucial difference!
Typhoon Saola will pretty much roll over Narita Airport late Sunday night:
I am scheduled to arrive around noon on Monday. Still looks okay at this point.