What Fun Awaits

Paragon 2
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Welcome to Krungthep, where never-ending fun and excitement await at every corner.

By John Howe.

Bangkok is a crossroad between traditional Buddhist values and breakneck capitalism, between East and West, between what old and what is daringly new. So where to start in this frenetic city? Nowhere better than the modern god of consumerism – shopping.

Shopping
Paragon 1Bangkok is truly a shoppers’ paradise catering to every taste, trend, and pocket. The city is studded with high-end shopping centers and malls,
dotted with small specialist boutiques, threaded with tailors, laced with shoe shops, lined with Thai arts and crafts outlets and hemmed with street and night markets. The city does not have the equivalent to London’s Oxford Street, New York’s 5th Avenue or Paris’s ‘Triangle d’Or’ but what it does have are massive modern shopping malls that protect from worse of the heat and rain. Perhaps the best of them are Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Central World Plaza, and the newest addition, Terminal 21 – virtual shrines to global consumerism where luxury brands from Hermes to Louis Vuitton Cartier to Cadeaux, Rolex, and Omega abound. But the more modest pocket is not forgotten; global retailers like Marks and Spencer, Next, and Isetan stand side by side with less illustrious counterparts. Chinatown is one area that must be on every one’s ‘to visit’ list. Chinatown is a thriving, heaving maze of alleys and lanes fed by the main Yaorawat Road where you can expect to find everything from offerings to dead ancestors, ethnic jewelry and particularly food, food, food. Lively by day and night Chinatown does not sleep, it is a magnet for modern gourmands who flock to the area to sample delicious street cuisine. Chinatown is home to gold shops galore, browse two or three of them but don’t expect to bargain for that necklace, bracelet, or ring.
Markets
Chatuchak 2crowding the sidewalks of Silom and Sukhumvit, or the organized chaos of Patpong and Chatuchack (JJ) weekend market. Patpong on Soi Patpong 1 is easy to find as it connects two of Bangkok’s busiest roads Silom and Surrawongse. The market comes alive at 7 p.m. but its construction starts at around 4 p.m. when forklifts shuttle back and forth with rods, tubes and large pieces of plywood ready for the construction gang to assemble Lego-like into temporary stalls. As dusk descends on the busy scene lights flicker on to reveal the bits and bobs for sale; everything from reproduction Rolex and Longines, to dubious DVDs, shirts and T-shirts, along with silks and cottons of all kinds. Bargain hard and don’t accept the asking price.

Chatuchack Market, open only on weekends, is a massive semi-covered Aladdin’s cave of treasures. To avoid the madding crowds and the heat of the day arrive early when it is possible to browse in some comfort. It seems that everything is available for sale besides the usual shirts, trousers and shorts, look out for replica Buddha ‘relics’; pets from cats and dogs to snakes and exotic fish.

Massages and Spas
Spa 2It is impossible not to notice the mass of massage parlors that line every street and lane, each of them offering a smorgasbord of massage treatments from a simple foot or body massage to full service spas where every luxury is offered. For a true pampering experience in salubrious surroundings, select a high-end hotel and relax for a couple of hours or all-day at their spa where trained masseurs and masseuses provide a professional and relaxing massage, scrub, or detox therapy. You will emerge from the spa refreshed, re-invigorated, and ready for what nighttime Bangkok has to throw at you.
Bangkok After Dark
DANCER-0668Bangkok offers an exciting range of after-dark experiences, from fine dining 70 floors above the teeming metropolis, to the sounds of international DJs flipping the shellac at some of Asia’s liveliest and hippest nightclubs such as Bed Supper Club and Q Bar. Saxophone Bar, at Victory Monument, is noted for its funky jazz performances by local and internationally renown performers. Tawandang Brewery is a cavern of a bar and restaurant, with a microbrewery that produces some of the best white beers and lagers this side of Bavaria.

At the other end of the scale there’s Cheap Charlie’s, always full from opening to close with an early night crowd of office workers chilling after a day at the office to the later crowd of revelers off to enjoy late night reveries at other salubrious hostelries around Sukhumvit Road. Calypso ladyboy show is an explosion of spectacular sets, gorgeous dancers, fantastic frocks and energetic musical numbers. Here is it possible to meet Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and 40s Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda all recreating their well known numbers. Calypso is a show that every member of the family from the youngest to the oldest will enjoy. Their new venue is at Asiatique.

Let the train take the strain
Bangkok’s secret train leaves Thonburi’s Wong Wian Yai station on the hour every hour starting at 4.30 a.m., from Thon Buri’s Wong Wian Yai station and exactly one hour later the journey ends at Mahachai, a fishing community in Samut Sakhon, the line terminates at this pretty little Gulf of Thailand town, the train then trundles leisurely on the return journey to Thonburi. The passengers are as varied as the ever-changing scenery outside. Office workers, school kids, shoppers carrying fresh fish, vegetables and fruit from Mahachai’s markets, and job seeking hopefuls fill to capacity the three carriage train as it passes lush, green paddy fields, forests and palm oil plantations. The train stops at each station where ramshackle characters blend with the ramshackle station buildings. The journey is worth all the Bt45 for a round journey ticket. Try and you will not forget it.
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