A day exploring Chinatown

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on October 15th, 2013 filed in Sightseeing, Temples, attractions

The archway marking the main entrance to Bangkok’s Chinatown precinct is an easy stroll from Hua Lampong rail and Metro stations. Although the district is noted for the massive gold Buddha at Wat Traimit and the diversity of its dining venues, there is plenty more to see and do.

Sampeng Lane runs parallel with one of the main roads through Chinatown, Thanon Yaowarat. Apart from the cars parked along the street, Sampeng is a throwback to more than a century ago. Most of the buildings along the street date from the time after the first Chinese settlers arrived. Merchants run shops that offer herbal remedies, gold and traditional household products and ornaments. Eateries selling noodle dishes are interspersed with street vendors offering fried delicacies.

Wat Chakrawat is a temple with a group of very unusual inhabitants. Ponds at the temple are home to a bask of crocodiles and visitors are always advised to keep their hands away. The temple also features a collection of buildings that illustrate how the designs of religious structures have evolved over the past 200 years.

At Wat Tramit, the Samphanthawong Museum is a must for culture vultures. Exhibits and displays at the museum, some with English language signage, trace the history of the first Chinese pioneers to settle in Bangkok and follow the lives of their descendants and heritage. The 1Stop Bangkok attractions guide lists the main highlights for tourists.

A colourful shrine surrounded by phalluses

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on September 15th, 2013 filed in Culture shock, Sightseeing, attractions

A peek inside shops, alleys and homes in Bangkok will usually reveal a shrine with some small offerings and lighted joss-sticks on it. In the grounds of the Swissotel Nai Lert Park near the British Embassy, there is a pavilion and shrine that has to be one of the most unusual in Thailand and probably the world.

The plot of land the pavilion and shrine stand on is literally littered with penis statues which are usually adorned with ribbons, garlands of jasmine flowers and other eye-catching decorations. One of the phallic statues stands more than three meters off the ground.

The shrine is dedicated to the memory of Chao Mae Tuptim a mythical figure of legend who was believed to be the goddess of fertility. Thai women often visit the shrine and offer donations of flowers and joss-sticks when they are trying to conceive. There seems to be some truth in the powers of the goddess as pregnant women returning with more offerings are a frequent sight.

Although hopeful females make up the majority of the shrine’s visitors, there is no shortage of older males and females making the pilgrimage. Many claim there is no harm in hoping for a little health and wealth and say they hope some of the goddess’s benevolence may come their way. This 1Stop webpage lists the main sights in the Thai capital.

Delectable culinary delights at the Witch

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on August 15th, 2013 filed in Dining and wining

Bangkok is heaven for foodies. Its culinary spectrum covers everything from the ubiquitous kuay tiew noodle soup to concoctions made out of truffles and oysters. At Witch’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant, on Soi Ruamrudee, diners are able to select from a cosmopolitan collection of menu entries.

As the name implies, oysters are the signature offering here and are imported and served in styles such as Rockefeller and Kilpatrick. While oysters are the Witch’s bread and butter, many diners purposely time their visits to coincide with the Wagyu beef noodles happy hours between 11:00 and 16:00 when they are served up at a discounted price.

The Witch’s menu also offers a diverse assortment of tapas snacks and main meals with New Zealand lamb, imported steaks and fresh seafood all featuring prominently. A selection of pizzas, chicken and mushroom pie, and chorizo al vino (Spanish sausage) are among other delights on the menu.

The restaurant’s bar is on the ground floor and is stocked with around 100 different wines as well as a good choice of beers and spirits. Women may find Wednesdays the best day to visit as they can drink as much wine or Tiger beer as they like between 17:00 and 20:00. Our 1Stop guide to dining in Bangkok carries a list of other recommended eateries for a splurge.

Hunting for classic French cuisine in Bangkok

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on July 15th, 2013 filed in Dining and wining

Dining options in Bangkok have mushroomed over the past five decades and international visitors are now able to choose from a cosmopolitan selection of restaurants. While Thai gastronomy is undoubtedly one of the planet’s most delicious, after eating it for a while a change is as good as a rest and it is nice to spurge on a French meal.

The Paris Bangkok Restaurant is located on Soi Saladang 1/1, near Lumphini Park, and the first choice of many Bangkokians for a celebration of Gallic delights. A la carte offerings include perennial favourites snails in garlic and parsley butter and flaming Cognac Chateaubriand steaks. A set price three-course lunch is a good budget option.

The Aubergine is farther down the same soi and housed in old diplomatic edifice. The menu here is so diverse that it is next to impossible to list all its gourmet gems. Close to Ploenchit Road, Le Beaulieu is located in the Athénée Tower’s lobby. Patés, bouillabaisse and oysters are among the delights created under the watchful eye of Chef Hervé. Le Beaulieu is trés chic yet imbued with a cordial aura designed to make guests feel at home.

Anybody out and about in Patpong might find Le Bouchon a good option. This well-established venue is on Soi 2 and what it lacks in stylish décor is more than made up for by the quality of its food. The 1Stop Bangkok guide to fine dining has more ideas about where to go for a meal to remember.

An outing to a landmark Bangkok sight

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on June 15th, 2013 filed in Sightseeing, Temples, attractions

The Thai capital of Bangkok is renowned for its beautiful temples. Wat Arun, Wat Pho, the Golden Mount and Wat Phra Kaew are the four temples that appear on the sightseeing itineraries of most international visitors. Those with a little more time on their hands often take in a few of the lesser known temples.

Wat Benchamabophitr was established in the Dusit District in 1900 by King Rama V as a complement to the just finished Chitralada Palace across the road. While Wat Benchamabophit does not feature on foreigners’ sightseeing excursions it attracts countless numbers of Thai visitors every year and has become so much of a national treasure that it has been immortalised on the reverse side of the five-Baht coin.

The temple’s main prayer hall was built out of Carrara marble imported from Italy and which gave it the nickname of the Marble Temple. The hall is archetypal Thai elegance with lofty pillars, elaborate decoration and sweeping eaves. Statues of guardian lions and a cloister with 52 Buddha icons are among other draws at the temple. One of the temple’s statues marks the final resting place of Rama V.

Wat Benchamabophitr is open to the general public every day from 08:30 to 17:30. It is located on Sri Ayutthaya Road, roughly midway from Thewet Pier, on the Chao Phraya River, to Phaya Thai BTS Skytrain Station. Our 1Stop guide to attractions in Bangkok details the visitor highlights of the Big Mango.

A daytrip for lovers of nature

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on May 24th, 2013 filed in Day trips, Sightseeing, activities

Organised daytrips in and around Bangkok allow visitors to take in all the main sights and attractions. The Grand Palace, Ayutthaya’s historic temples and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market are among firm favourites with tourists. One of the alternates to these tours for nature fans takes in Khao Yai National Park and includes an elephant trek.

The tour is a full-day option that sees tourists picked up from their Bangkok hotels early in the morning for the 160km journey to Khao Yai. The park’s lush landscapes, jungle, grass meadows and a tract of intact rainforest are a delight for the eyes. The 2,000km² park is home to many protected species including Himalayan ribbed bats, wild elephants and barking deer. While sightings are not guaranteed there is always an odds-on chance of espying at least one rare creature.

Stops at Nakhon Nayok and Pakchong Creek are usually a feature of Khao Yai tours. At the former, tourists explore the town’s market and are given the opportunity of sampling tropical fruit varieties such as durian, rambutan and the local genre of mango. At Pakchong, visitors climb aboard an elephant’s seat (howdah). Mahouts then lead them on a 45-minute odyssey through shade-giving forest.

This 1Stop Bangkok section has further details about the wealth of daytrip options for city visitors.

A hotel like a home away from home

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on May 17th, 2013 filed in Accommodation

Bangkok is renowned for the diversity of its hotels and guest houses. The options cater to all conceivable tastes and budgets. With so many to choose from there are bound to be some bargains about. One of the most popular and budget friendly hotels on the lower-end of Sukhumvit Road is the Ambassador.

With advance bookings via our 1Stop Bangkok partner site, the four-star Ambassador is a bargain when considering its central location, abundance of guest amenities and elegant ambience. The hotel is just 100 metres along Sukhumvit’s Soi 11. The BTS Nana Skytrain Station and the diverse retail outlets on Sukhumvit are only a few minutes walk.

Rooms and suites at the Ambassador are well-appointed with facilities that include bars, satellite televisions and wireless internet access. The shopping arcade on the ground level is packed with tailors’ outlets, jewellers’ shops, currency exchange booths and most other travellers’ service amenities.

The spacious swimming pool on the third floor has a small menagerie beside it. A jacuzzi, steam rooms, saunas, a spa and a fitness centre round off the Ambassador’s draws. The high level of services and comfort in the hotel ensures that guests do not have to leave the premises if they do not want to.

The quieter cousin of Khaosan Road

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on May 10th, 2013 filed in Accommodation, Dining and wining

One end of Soi Rambuttri is just two minutes walk from Khaosan Road, yet this short distance seems to have placed the two streets thousands of miles apart. While Khaosan is loud and brash, Rambuttri boasts a more genteel aura and gives insights as to how the surrounding district of Banglamphu must have looked before the tourists arrived.

The bottom end of Rambuttri runs parallel to a section of Khaosan before looping around Chana Songkhram Temple. There are still lots of shade giving trees on the road and cafés where it is possible to sit at a streetside table and people watch. Guest houses on Rambuttri tend to be cheaper and more likely to have vacancies than those on Khaosan. With full facilities at budget prices, the ever-popular Rambuttri Village Inn is the first choice for many visitors.

There are quite a few vendors dotted along the street selling cheap and cheerful delicacies including the ubiquitous pad Thai fried noodles, barbecued chicken and spring rolls. For slightly more upmarket dining experiences, Bombay Blues and Oh my Cod! serve up the best of India and England respectively. The 1Stop Bangkok guide to Khaosan Road has more details about this vibrant area of the city.

Great dining before a night out in Patpong

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on May 3rd, 2013 filed in Dining and wining, Nightlife

When thinking of Patpong the first images that come to mind are the glitzy lights and winsome dancers of its legendary a-go-go bars. This is not the Bangkok red-light district’s only draw as its street-vendors provide some of the capital’s best shopping and there are also several relaxing bars and restaurants which offer a respite from the hubbub outside their doors.

Bobby’s Arms is a British pub hidden away in the backstreets of Patpong. The best way of getting to it is via a car park ramp on Patpong Soi II. When it opened in the 1970s Bobby’s was one of the very first to offer quintessential English tavern décor and cuisine in Thailand. Ethnically themed pubs are now common in Bangkok, yet many loyal expat patrons say Bobby’s is still the best.

A pool table, darts, live televised sports fixtures and draught beer by the pint ensure western patrons feel at home. Cottage pies, fish and chips, all-day breakfasts and daily specials are among delights that more than satisfy a desire for a spot of home cooking. Live music on weekend evenings ends with a grand finale on Sundays when Bangkok’s Dixieland band takes the stage.

Our 1Stop guide to nightlife in Bangkok has more information about the diverse variety of pubs and clubs in the city.

A new Bangkok shopping experience

Posted by Sukhumwit Steve on April 26th, 2013 filed in Shopping, attractions

Bangkok is famed for the variety of its shopping destinations. Venues range right through from small markets, swish hotel arcades and shopping centres to the biggest outdoor weekend market in the world. A fairly recent addition to the city’s retail therapy options is Asiatique The Riverfront.

As its name implies the Asiatique occupies a riverside location which in this case is Bangkok’s main waterway, the Chao Phraya River. The Asiatique is a 10-minute ferry trip from Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station. The Asiatique runs free ferries from the pier at the station. People heading for the centre need to make sure they get one of these ferries at the pier because other companies do charge.

The Asiatique is a revamped port that has been transformed into a fusion of a night market and modern shopping mall. The port’s warehouses boast several hundred chic retail outlets and a diverse choice of cafés. Designer and traditional Asian clothing and beautiful hand-crafted souvenirs are among items on sale. The restaurants serve anything from doughnuts to Thai delights such as tom yam gung (spicy prawn broth).

A ride on the giant ferris wheel onsite gives great views of the surrounding area. There are puppet and ladyboy shows most evenings. Asiatique The Riverfront opens every evening from 17:00 to 24:00. Our 1Stop guide to shopping in Bangkok provides details about other retail centres in the city.

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