A different kind of Bangkok

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A different kind of Bangkok

A different kind of Bangkok – Traditional, authentic and lively

I know that many of my followers are tired of reading about doomsday stories, government actions (or inactions), webcasts and podcasts so I thought I would entertain you once again with a travelling story. We are all very serious about what is happening in our lives and our businesses, but I would like to give you a few minutes break from reality and the ‘new normal’.

My choice of travel destination is limited to my adopted home city Bangkok and its surrounding provinces, since at the time of writing this story in June, travel movements are still restricted in Thailand. So I decided to leave my home and checked into a small boutique hotel built on stilts over the Chao Phraya River right in the middle of Bangkok. It was a simple place, more a guest house than a hotel and it reminded me of my Asian backpacker days more than 30 years ago.

It is with the backpacker spirit that I started exploring the city and it was a fantastic discovery, or re-discovery I should say. Many parts of Bangkok have changed tremendously in the past decade. In my day to day life I mostly live in the modern part of town, forgetting that traditional streets where life has virtually remained unchanged are just a few kilometres away.

I embarked on a Chinatown discovery, not along the busy roads but in the back alleys parallel to the Chao Phraya River and it felt like moving in a time warp. Wholesale shops selling anything from mushrooms to nuts, motorbike spare parts to lunch boxes, spirit houses to incense sticks. The smell of street food is all around, day or night.

There are fewer cars in this part of Bangkok giving way to tuk-tuks and motorbikes loaded with goods of any kind. These hidden parts of Bangkok are traditional, authentic and lively with kids waving from windows on the upper floor while mom manages the grocery store downstairs.

I used to avoid Chinatown due to its notorious traffic congestion, but with the opening of the new subway line in 2019 into the Chinatown area it is now easy to get around and this has completely changed the traveller experience. Best is to explore the area on foot by using boats and the subway to move from point to point so one gets to see both worlds – life along the river and the back alleys of Chinatown.

The new Chao Phraya Sky Park Bridge is getting a lot of media attention these days, but in my opinion it is not really worth a visit. However, it opens up new ways of exploring the city. Get off at the Sanam Chai subway station and visit Museum Siam, walk past the Flower Market area towards the river and the Praisaniyakhan Building (Bangkok’s first post office), then cross the bridge and make it to the Princess Mother Memorial Park.

If museum visits are not your thing, you will enjoy the lively area and the daily life of the people as well as numerous temples along the way. From near the bridge area you can take a boat, or make your way back to one of the restaurants for dinner near the Flower Market.

For night owls, a new area has sprung to life in another part of Chinatown called Soi Nana, not to be mistaken with the Nana bar area in Sukhumvit. You won’t find any soapy massage places here – instead funky bars that are some of the new hot spots in town patronised by Thais and the occasional foreigner.

Wallflowers Café or Tep Bar are just two of the trendy places I would like to mention here and they are a lot of fun to hang out in. They are small and quirky, serve delicious cocktails and also offer high quality bar and tapas food.

My two days on the river in Bangkok made me realise once again that Bangkok is one of the best cities to visit in the world. Which other city shows you such diversity? A mix of the modern and traditional, amazing cultural and religious sites, street food and Michelin starred restaurants, colourful markets and Gucci shops and all of it in comfort and safety.

Asian Trails offers a wide range of tours and Explore excursions in and around Bangkok that our team will be happy to share with you.

I hope this story took your mind away from the daily business for a few minutes and I wish you continued strength and courage in these difficult times. Take care and all the best.

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