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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Trust you've already the posts below. To establish the flow that is....

Thailand, as I mentioned earlier, was a sea of yellow when we arrived. The ride from the airport to the hotel was about an hour long. Though we were saved the grief of the incessant traffic jams, that Bangkok is notorious for.

It was a smooth drive all the way through. Though when the van turned into China Town, I started getting truly anxious.

I have in the past made some absolutely grave mistakes when it comes some of the choicest places to stay. A classic example was the last trip to Amritsar, when I happened to stumble upon Mrs Bhandari's Guest House on the net. Despite Dad's constant reminders "Beta the Army mess will be nice", I decided to have my way, only to be sorely disappointed not just by the what the place turned out to be, but in the inflated bill that I was handed when I checked out.

History looked like, it was about to repeat itself.

The alluring Shanghai Inn, definitely seemed a far cry away when the van made its final stop.

"So this is it?" I asked, mildly bewildered.

The driver simply pulled out our bags. We went a floor up, only be transported into another world. Shanghai Inn, looked even more promising than the pictures that I had seen. The kids were excited seeing the stunning riots of colour, the lamps, the collectible horses that Dhruv decided were meant for riding. The room was grand (even though I had settled for the cheapest), it had all my type of stuff. Once inside you could not for a moment tell you were in Bangkok or for that matter even in China Town. If you still don't believe me, take a look its website.

Quick tip: Book through the internet though, it works out a whole lot cheaper.

Having settled into our room, it was time to do the things that tourists do.

I had a handful of stuff to read thanks to my colleague Joe's Thai wife. She had taken the trouble of going down to the Thai Embassy in Singapore and putting just about everything I could ever need to survive in Thailand. And I haven't even met her! So whatever, some firang folks may have to say about Asia's apparent lack of manners - don't believe it.

Thanks to all the literature that she had painstakingly put together for me, I got going with a quick history lesson, that hopefully will stand the kids in good stead some day.

Bangkok or Krung Thep means the 'City of Angels'. Its antecedents date back to 1782. Today with a population of around 10 million, it is the bustling metropolis that it has been made out to be. Whether you are into art, history, culture, shopping, touring or eating, Bangkok has something for everyone - right from street shopping to air-conditioned mall shopping. Bangkok, in many ways also evokes memories of Bombay. Just like India's rapidly growing city that accepts just about everyone in its fold, Bangkok too draws an increasing number of rural Thais. The best way to see how some of them adapt to the city life is to hop on to the Tuk Tuk - it's absolute fun and get onto the:

Actually, the cruise as we soon discover, is quite a misnomer. It is one rocky ride, but undoubtedly one of the most exciting things to do in Bangkok. You get to see most of the city, the Venetian way. As you stumble along the choppy waves, the contrasts between the grandness of the five star hotels from Shangri-La, Marriott, Orchid Sheraton to the houses (if they can even be called that) on stilts unfolds. The best way to explore the Chao Phraya river is on the long-tail boat. As you roll on you can almost see an old way of life come alive through the 'Bangsai Floating Market', 'Taling Chan' and all the breath-taking temples along the way. While we couldn't visit the Royal Grand Palace due to the celebrations, we did catch a fantastic view of it from the left bank of the river. This one truly was a ride to remember. Watch out for the cameras though, along one rather nasty jump my video-cam was drenched in wonderfully muddy water.

If riding the waves is not your kind of thing, then you can take the road to visit Wat Phra Kaeo. Built way back in 1782, it houses the Emerald Buddha. Sitting atop an 11-meter tall gilded altar, he is protected by a nine-tiered umbrella.

The Reclining Buddha which was built to remind people of Lord Buddha's nirvana dates back to 1832, which happened to be the reign of King Rama III.
Beyond the sheer significance, there is lots more in store for history buffs. There is Wat Pho which dates back to 1688. Beyond these, there are a host of other stunning temples, that we will probably re-visit another time.

If you happen to be a fan of Thai silk or Asian artefacts, then your visit can't be complete without a trip to Jim Thompson's House. Located alongside Saen Saeb canal on Soi Kasem San 2, off Rama Road, the house is a journey through the rich arts and crafts of South-East Asia and a perfect way of remembering the life and times of Jim Thompson. An American, he came to Thailand during World War Two, and is widely credited with reviving the country's silk weaving industry. Jim Thompson disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia in 1967. In the Jim Thompson House compound visitors will be guided to see many interesting collection of antiques and artworks from all over Southeast Asian region.

If you have kids, a stop at the Dusit Zoo is an absolute must. You can foot paddle your way to discover the child in you or explore the animals amid the lush greenry.

They say smart travellers arrive in Bangkok with their bags empty. A visit to the Night Market and the Chatujak weekend market tells you why. And I didn't even have to step into any of the air-conditioned malls.

My husband is the ulitmate foodie and while we sampled all types of food in Bangkok, I would highly recommend the award-winning Thai restaurant Basil. It's located in the shopping district of Sukhumvit Road at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. This stylish restaurant brings out the finest in traditional Thai food. It might be a bit of a pinch on the pocket, but oh the aromas, the whiff of spices and basil, makes this one place you absolutely must visit.

We got lucky at Shanghai Inn. It also housed the spanking new 'Yin & Yang Spa' where we took our aching bones day in and out to get the ultimate Thai massage after each long day in the sun. The folks there were so warm and friendly and the sheer price will tempt you to get on board the next flight to Bangkok - a little over $10 (US) for one whole hour. In an environment that was quite spa like. Actually more than the rooms, it was the warmth of the people who there, that did it for more.

Regular visitors say there is no bad time to visit Thailand's capital. Though April is the hottest month, and it pours in October. Tourist numbers usually surge in August and December. While June isn't one of the most popular months, it turned out to be quite alright for us.

Like all good things, Bangkok too isn't perfect. You need to watch out for cabbies or Tuk Tuk drivers who promise to get you to your destination for a lark. They invariably make stops at shops and can turn unbearably nasty if you don't buy stuff at the stops they make. We almost got trapped in one of those. So do read what they say in those handy guide books.

Next, we hop on to the train to Chiang Mai and bring you all the Tamarind Delites. Watch this space, will ya?