|View from 'Above 11' at Sukhumvit Soi 11|
Reaching 2 days early at Bangkok made sense. We have to go for a destination wedding at the beach resort of Hua Hin and a couple of days at throbbing Bangkok before that sounds like a good plan.
In the last 2 decades Thailand has been like a second home with a visit every alternate year if not each year.
We have explored the lanes and by lanes of Bangkok, even exploring the crowded wholesale garment markets like Bobeye several times to buy gifts. It didn't matter that they sold each item by dozens. For dear wife Pratunaam market was most desirable and all those little lanes near Indira Regent hotel were perfect for bargaining for some good deals. So good were the fake Nike shorts that I wear them a decade after having bought them. Pantip plaza ( Computers & Electronics) and Platinum plaza (fashion related) all came up later in the same area. Lumpini park, the Grand castle, Chao Phraya river, Wat Pho (temple of Reclining Buddha), Chinatown, Patpong, Thania Plaza (Golf plaza at Patpong), Siam Centre, MBK, Safariworld........you name a place in Bangkok and we have been there several times. Now a visit to Bangkok means enjoying the culinary experience and the international feel of cafes.Some shopping is always an option but not of the fake variety which Bangkok was famous for. And once in Thailand, you can always find some great massage places for very little money.
I like the area we are staying in this time as we have stayed here a few times before. Sukhumvit, Soi 11. It does get difficult to reach here during rush hour and sometimes you can be trapped in a cab for hours while going out. So the better option is walking to the Nana BTS station and this overhead train will get you to any place in no time. Soi 11 is also full of action with bars, restaurants, cafes and Nightclubs all over. Its a perfect place to stay if you want to party all night long.
We will probably reach early evening to our hotel ( depending on traffic). I can imagine being hungry at that time and see myself walk up to Daniel Thaiger Burger joint. They have most delicious juicy burgers. We are pretty deprived of juicy beef burgers in India so I think I will grab this opportunity. Daniel Thaiger is pretty popular in Bangkok and just a couple of years back they got this permanent place, otherwise it was all on mobile vehicles.
This would probably be followed by a session of Thai Massage before getting ready for the evening entertainment. There are some decent and clean places just outside the hotel for massage and after the flight and travel, it would be a good idea to spend an hour for a massage. Could perhaps dispatch dear wife for shopping while I get my body twisted around by these strong Thai women.
An Evening at Soi 11
|Zanzibar - settings of a garden at Soi 11|
As the evening progresses Soi 11 starts coming to life. The lights come on and music starts reverberating from the restaurants. The bars start filling up and soon they get packed and overflowing. The place which most people miss here is Cheap Charlies Bar which had to close down last year due to some real estate construction. So it may not be a bad idea to start the evening at Zanzibar - the garden restaurant. It has great tropical setting in the middle of a bustling area.
|View from the Loo of Above 11|
Above 11 rooftop Bar (Frazer Suites hotel) : This is a lovely place for drinks and some snacks and you get stunning views of the city. You can of course go to Lebua Hotel for their Sky Bar or Sirrocco or visit Vertigo at Banyan tree for similar views, but they are all over hyped and much more expensive. At Sirrocco on weekends it is difficult to even stand. I liked the atmosphere of Above 11 and the music they played. It has a most interesting loo and you can enjoy the views from 32nd floor as you piss after a few Beers.
If you like roof top bars there is another one called the Nest at Le Fenix. It has a Cabana look and gives a beach atmosphere. Soon the DJ starts belting out the music and you are set for the evening. If you don't want to make bookings and climb up the rooftops of the hotels, Mulli sports bar is a large bar on the ground floor. With different television sets showing live sports action its a perfect place to catch a football game or a grand slam. It also serves Irish food and beer.
If you like some interesting cocktails and want to be transported to Cuban atmosphere with the hats, cigar and all - then Havana Social is the place for you. They have a strict reservation policy. It has interesting interiors and as you explore the place, it is much larger than it looks. My friend Kunal had taken me here the last time and the place was in one of the quiet lanes not too far from Above 11. A telephone instrument is at the door and you have to punch in the code given to you at the time of reservation. This opens he doors and transports you to Havana atmosphere. The crowd was really smart here and you could try different cocktails over an evening. Then the music takes over and you can dance as long as you wish.
|My friend Kunal introduced me to Havana Social.|
Marshmallows kitchen and Bar looks pretty good from outside but I wasn't too impressed with the snacks and service. It has decent food but nothing much to write about. For food I really enjoyed Chilli Culture Thai kitchen. It is one of the best Thai restaurants in that area. Prawns in Red curry, stir fried vegetables and some other things we ordered were damn good so we went again the next day. The quality remained very good. Martini with chilli was fabulous and went very well with this kind of food.
There are several more bars and restaurants in the same lane but I don't think I will try anything else unless the atmosphere looks great. Not the types to go to Nightclubs I would let the youngsters in the group to try out The Levels Club & Lounge (at Aloft Hotel) or The Sugar Club.
Planning for Day 2
The Chatuchak Weekend Market
My dear wife loved the Chatuchak weekend market the last time we were there. It actually has a lot of interesting little shops. Last time I bought a lot of things for my bar. While there are rows after rows of garments, shoes, belts, wallets etc, some shops selling lamps, garden items, glass-work etc are really interesting. Bargaining is important here and the heat can dehydrate you.
The market is divided into Zones and Zone #2 is most interesting and known as Hipsters paradise full of boutique shops owned by Thai designers. It is near Kamphaeng Phet Subway station exit 2. But we will go by BTS (Sky train) which will go from Nana station to Mo Chit Station (exit 1). From there it is just a short walk. Several times hotels give you incentive to go free by cab but condition is that they make you stop at Jewellery factory somewhere and that takes up too much time. By train you can get in 20 minutes or so. You could even go to Subway station at Sukhumvit by tuk tuk or cab and go right upto Kamphaeng Phet Subway station. Zone 5 and 6 is also nearby and you get a lot of clothes there.
|Boutique shops at Zone 2|
There are plenty of coffee and cake shops and I am told that you get the best Roast Pork in Bangkok here. But for me the best part of Chatuchak market is the delicious coconut Ice cream which is available near Kamphaeng Phet Subway station at a shop called Coco JJ . Everyone there knows about it and you have to patiently stand in queue and wait for your turn. They give you a scoop for around Baht 60 and it is accompanied by coconut juice. You can't just stop at one.
|Coconut Ice cream|
Malls & Shopping around Sukhumvit
Bangkok has gone through several changes since we first visited the place more than 2 decades back. There was a time when there was no guarantee that you could catch your flight even if you started for Airport 5 hours before the flight time. They tackled this problem on war footing and super highways were built. Yet, Sukhumvit Road and areas around the place remain heavily congested. Some huge malls and luxury hotels have come up which gives it a glossy look. For shopping, our favourite place remains the Central World. Not only it has a wide variety of shops, but I like the restaurants on top floor. All type of international food is available here. One can spend a lot of hours here. MBK seems to have lost its charm as we have moved away from fake stuff but it is worth taking a round if time permits. Terminal 21 caters to all type of customers and has all the big names in it and The Emporium shopping mall is an upmarket designer mall. All these are just a station or 2 away from Nana BTS station so dear wife has a lot of choice where to spend her afternoon. The Siam Centre, Prathunaam market, Sukhumvit street shopping and Central department store at Chidlom are other options worth exploring.
Khao San Road
It has been rightly described as centre of backpacking universe. The street is full of backpackers, pubs, shops and a different kind of atmosphere and extremely popular with youth, hipsters and students. There are several Nightclubs here but most prominent is 'Superflow Beach Club' which is a day/Night club and inspired by beach clubs of Bali and Ibiza.There are several famous bars like Brick Bar, Molly 31st and Tak Sura. I have met many people who have taken a trip to this enchanting road in Old City. They either love the place or hate it. No one could be neutral about Khao San road.
Dinner at a Local place
Recently, a 70-year-old Thai street food seller who makes wok-fired dishes has been awarded a Michelin star at the launch of Bangkok’s first guide. Jay Fai, or Auntie Fai, is known for her scorching portions of noodles with prawns and crab, cooked over charcoal fires. The eccentric chef wears ski goggles to protect her eyes from the hot oil sloshing around giant woks in her tiny shophouse.(327 Mahachai Road, Phra Nakon district). It may be worth visiting Auntie Fai for the real taste of Thailand.
Otherwise, Sornthong Seafood restaurant at Rama IV remains a favourite. Their Curry Crab makes it worth spending an evening there. You can sit inside or outside and the menu is vast. Beer and wine is available along with cocktails. It is reasonably priced and is extremely popular.
We are going to be in Bangkok for around 40 hours before proceeding to Hua Hin. The plans seem pretty ambitious for so short a time. But with a bit of energy and enthusiasm - much of it is doable. I am sure we will enjoy those 40 hours if things go according to plan.