In October I had a very last minute opportunity to go to Thailand to visit my friend, Sam, who is teaching in Bangkok right now. Thailand had never particularly been on my radar, but I had been getting restless and thought a little adventuring might just be the cure. Besides, when a round-trip flight to the opposite side of the globe costs less than it would to get from California to NYC, why wouldn’t I go?
That being said, I had absolutely no expectations when I arrived in Bangkok – and I think that was the perfect approach for me. If I had tried to anticipate it, I would have tried to control it and then I never would have enjoyed myself because it wouldn’t have matched what I had in mind.
So what were my favorite experiences in Bangkok?
5. Chitralada School
Sam is teaching at Chitralada, the royal school, which meant that I had the rare opportunity to be allowed onto the school grounds as her guest.
Most of the students were already gone for the holiday, but the teachers had one final day of grading, so Sam was able to show me around. Other than taking a taxi from the airport to her apartment, this was literally the first thing I did in Thailand and it was the perfect way to ease me into it.
While we walked through the grounds, Sam gave me an inpromptu lesson on Thai culture and the history of the school. She pointed out water monitors, a large lizard-like creature that I had no idea existed, sunning themselves on the lawns. We got coffee at the cafe and in my jet lagged state, I promptly spilled it all. Oh well. You win some, lose some.
4. Siam Paragon
This shopping mall has it all. And that’s no exaggeration. You’ve got stores like Gap and H&M. But then you’ve also got Parada, Louis Vuitton, and Lamborghini. There’s also a food court with everything from ramen to Cinnabon.
Sam and I treated ourselves to a spa day where I had my first experience with lash extensions, something I never would have bothered with for $150 at home. But when I can get lash extensions and a gel manicure for less than $50? Yeah, I’m gonna splurge. Lots of people go to Thailand for “beauty vacations” because the beauty treatments are so much cheaper.
I ended up with a whole new outfit (dress, shoes, and accessories), a manicure, lash extensions, lunch, and a coffee for less than $70. I was a happy camper. And since Siam is said to be the most Instagramed location in the world, of course we had to get in on that.
3. Caturday Cat Cafe
Sam surprised me with this one too. It’s exactly what you think it is. It’s literally a cafe with cats. If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love my kitties and I’m sure you can understand my excitement.
The decor was appropriately cat-themed and while the food itself was nothing special, that’s not why people go anyway.
Though the cats didn’t stay in one place long enough for me to get a head count, there must have been close to two dozen kitties dozing, climbing, purring, cuddling, and stealing food.
Perhaps the best part was the kind of cats they had. They had little smoosh-nosed cats and cats that must have been 90% furr and cats that seemed far too big to just be cats.
Guests aren’t allowed to chase the cats or pick them up, but the rules didn’t seem to apply to the cats themselves. I had to extract more than one from my bag and somehow our french fries kept going missing…
4. Ratchada Train Market
Man, oh, man. If you like to eat as much as I do, you’re in for a treat.
Sam took me to Ratchada the first evening I was in Bangkok. Having arrived around three in the morning and surviving jet lag on about four hours of sleep, I wasn’t sure how much adventure I could handle that night and a market sounded a bit overstimulating.
I am so glad she ignored me.
The market itself is located behind Esplanade Shopping Mall and is surrounded on three sides by bars and outdoor restaurants. A lot of these bars had live music and several of them had rooftop seating.
The market itself is half food vendors and half everything else vendors. To be honest, I didn’t make it passed the food, but from what I saw the other half of the market sold everything from clothes to cellphone cases.
The first night we went I had some amazingly fresh sashimi and pork gyoza for a grand total of two US dollars. Maybe not the most authentic Thai meal, but I was delicious. Just goes to show how multicultural of a city Bangkok is.
We took our assortment of vittles to a rooftop bar. They were happy to let us eat there so long as we bought a drink. Strawberry Martini? Yeah, not a problem.
5. Wat Pho
We saw several Buddhist temples in Bangkok (there are nearly fifty), but my favorite has to be Wat Pho, home to the 150 foot reclining Buddha.
The architecture is nothing short of breathtaking. The amount of detail is amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring. I don’t have adjectives to do it justice – which really should tell you something since I’m never at a loss for words.
The temple grounds are expansive. (Sam and I got separated and didn’t run into each other again for a good 45 minutes.) The temple plays host to the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand and there are lots of gardens that you should take the time to walk through, but the reclining Buddah is the real crown jewel of the temple.
Measuring just over 150 feet long, the reclining Buddha and its chapel were built by King Rama III in 1832. The feet are ten feet high and fifteen feet long and inlaid with mother of pearl that depicts various symbols of Buddhism.
For obvious reasons, you aren’t able to get close enough to the reclining Buddha to touch it, but pictures are allowed without flash. Honestly, I wish there was a way to see it from a little further since I couldn’t get more than a third of the Buddha in the picture. But it’s a small qualm and absolutely worth the small entry fee (I think it cost 10 Baht to get in, which is about $0.30).
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