24 February 2009

Bangkok ~ Mai Pen Rai means Never Mind!

Bangkok, my favorite city in SE Asia. Have been in Bangkok over a dozen times but this is my first Trip since the brand new Suvarnabhumi Airport opened 3 years ago!

Bangkok, still as vibrant, interesting, exciting, mysterious and friendly. You'll never be bored in Bangkok as there is always something to do from morning till nite...shopping, walking, eating, getting a massage, eating one more time, people watching, eating again and partying.

Bangkok Short Breaks: 27 Jan to 30 Jan 2009

Moving around Bangkok

Besides the many efficient Taxis (quite new Toyota Vios), Bangkok has an effective transport system in the form of MRT & BTS Skytrain which complements each other in destinations.
For shoppers, who needs to get to the popular Bangkok Shopping Malls listed below, there is the Skywalk at Central World which opens from 6am to 12 midnight. You can walk from Chidlom BTS Station all the way to Siam BTS Station (approx. 15 mins). Then, from Siam BTS Station, you can take another 15 mins walk to MBK Center or CentralWorld Shopping Complex on the other ends. This walk will let you visit the whole shopping belt of Central Chidlom, MBK Center, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld Shopping Plaza, Gaysorn & Amarin Plaza .
It is a nice walk because the bridge is wide and spacious and is sheltered.


Siam Paragon (www.siamparangon.co.th)
Located next to Siam Discovery Center and Siam Center, with the BTS Skytrain & SkyWalk next to it, D this shopping mall was opened in late 2005. It is a very large mall with a impressive number of shops (selling; electronics, sports equipment, clothes, household equipment, books, toys etc.) and a huge supermarket, called Gourmet Market, at the ground level. You will also find a bowling alley, karaoke rooms, a concert hall and Siam Ocean World, one of the largest aquariums in Asia. It is probably one of the largest Mall in Bangkok with flagship, Paragon Shopping Center and over 250 famed international & local brands.

MBK Center (www.mbk-center.com/en/)
Approx 15 mins from Siam Square (via the SkyWalk) is the popular MBK Center (Mah Boon Krong) reputed to be the most visited Mall in Bangkok, with 7 Floors of 2,000 shops! This is where the local Thais shop and you can get almost anything esp. luggage, ladies & mens wear, shoes, Thai snacks, cell phones, electronic gazettes, arts etc.
The Tokyu Department Store, occupyng 4 Floors, should not be missed.

Central Department Store (www.central.co.th)
Also about 15 mins from Siam Square (via SkyWalk) at the other end is Central Department Store (Chidlom). Nice place to shop and you can get good quality "Made in Thailand under License" product at good prices. It has 7 Floors of shopping space.

CentralWorld Shopping Complex (www.central.co.th)
The largest shopping center in Thailand and South-East Asia with an amazing floor area measuring more than 500,000 square meters. It was renovated and reopened in 2006. Originally the name was "World Trade Center", but because of 9-11 the name had to be changed. The shopping mall attracts the middle and upper class in Bangkok and is a department store, but you will also find hundreds of retail shops in Central World. This Complex house the Isetan Department Store & ZEN.

A short walk and you'll get to the famous Erawan Shrine where you'll local & tourists come to pray for luck & wealth. They even sell the Thai Lottery outside the gate!

Opposite CentralWorld, you'll find the Gaysorn Plaza (www.gaysorn.com) with designer labels such as LV, Gucci, Hugo Boss & Prada.
You'll come across Amarin Plaza (www.amarinplaza.com).
The stylish Amarin Plaza is linked to Erawan Bangkok via a skybridge. The five-storey shopping plaza has an almost festive aura to it, drawing in a mixed crowd - from affluent Thais to expats and business travellers - with highly desirable brand names such as Guy Laroche, Valentino and Crocodile, to name but a few.

The Emporium (www.emporiumthailand.com)
A department store and a very exclusive shopping complex in one. If you are into luxury brands, fashion and quality goods, there is no problem to find your Chanel dress, Louis Vuitton handbag, Montblanc pen or Rolex watch here in the small boutiques. The Emporium is located on Sukhumvit Road, Soi 24, next to Benjasiri Park.

Around Siam Square area & the Novotel, there are many small shops & small restaurants (over a hundred) fruit drink bars, coffee shops. But Siam Square is best known for its apparel and fashion (mostly local Thai produce) outlets, that are very popular with Thai youngsters. Hard Rock Cafe is located on Siam Square Soi 11.

Suam Lum Nite Bazaar (www.suanlum-nitebazaar.com)
Of course, if you feel like doing some Nite Shopping (most Department Stores closed by 10pm), you can take a cab or MRT Subway to Lumpini Station and a short walk to the Suan Lum Nite Bazaar where local entrepreneurs display their wares & items from creative gifts, trendy home items, clothing/jewellery boutique shops by local designers, packaged dried fruits, quite a few stalls selling the usual market CD's/clothing. The Bazaar opens at 6pm & close at midnite everyday. There is also a huge open air Beer Garden, Food Court and Concert Stage where they serve International & local Thai fare with nitely entertainment by local bands. Nice way to relax with some Thai noodles, dessert and a Singha beer after a long, stop-look-ask-bargain-buy outing in the VIP Suam Lum Nite Bazaar. Of course, there are also a few Massage Centers that offer Thai Massage to soothe your tired legs or body.

Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.jjmarketplace.com)
Note: info extracted from www.bangkok.com
Covering 70 rai (35 acres) of land with over 15,000 stalls and more than 200,000 visitors every Saturday and Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok is the mother of all markets - and possibly the biggest weekend markets in the world. If bargain-hunting gives you an adrenalin rush, get ready for a head-spinning, earth-moving experience. Conquering this massive market is no easy feat though. The reward for taking a lot of patience along - together with a bottle of water - is that you can find pretty much anything here.

How to get there: Take the skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station and exit down the right-hand stairs, follow the crowd for a five-minute walk, and you're there. Another option is to take the subway (MRT) to Chatuchak Park station, and follow thesignage directives. For the plant and flower section, get off at Kampheng Phet MRT station

What they sell: Clothing, jewellery, handicrafts, antiques, ceramics, pets, vintage magazines/stamps/coins, collector's items, knick-knacks and just about anything and everything else one could want from a Thai market, or any market. And then some!
Open: 08:00 - 18:00 on weekends.

Brands Recommendations:
For Ladies - handbags, purse, lingerie, nitegowns and shoes by Guy Laroche
(made in Thailand under license). Of course, I have seen lots of ladies crowded around Wacoal underwear (heard it is much cheaper). There are many other local products which I think the ladies can make better judgement.

For Men - underwear, socks, wallets, belts, shorts, shirts, t-shirts, jackets, pajamas by Guy Laroche & Arrow. Guy Laroche's underwear, socks and belts are3 my favorites as they are of high quality & last a long time. Sometimes, I opted for Jockey underwear and Arrow socks.
I bought a couple of Arrow shirts at about THB700 each (discounted 70%) at Paragon Shopping Center which is made of Cotton & Thai silk (Cottasilk) - very comfortable but need dry cleaning. For Office Attire, I would go for Excellency (a higher brand of Arrow) which looks smart, very comfortable & durable.
In fact, Arrow has a range of Black Tie shirts, blazers & suits.

For Children, I understand there is a good local brand called Puppet plus others.

Bangkok Malls: MBK Center - good value for money

Bangkok Malls: Siam Paragon - the newest & the greatest

Bangkok Malls: CentralWorld & Amarin Plaza

VIP Shopping: Suan Lum Nite Bazaar - Opens Everyday from 6pm to mid-nite.

Chatuchak Weekend Market: It's so huge that you can get lost. Don't even attempt to cover every nook and corner..it's organized chaos but it's fun.

To really enjoy the local Thai delicacies, we'd recommend the Food Courts that are found either on the basement or the top floor of most Department Stores. Of course, to enjoy good ambience, you can opt for some of the local Thai Restaurants.

Food Courts:

The best Food Center is located on the 6th Fooor of MBK Center. There are over 50 stalls which serves Thai delicacies & desserts from all over the Country. You are spoilt for choice & to really taste most of the food, you'd have to come back a few times. On the 5th Floor, there is a slightly upmarket International Food Court which serves food in a restaurant environment.

We discovered another highly recommended Food Court in Amarin Plaza (2nd Floor) near Grand Hyatt Erawan and Erawan Shrine. Though less than half the size of the MBK's, the Amarin Plaza Food Court is very clean & quiet.

The Food Plaza at the Emporium is also very popular among the Elite Class and Expats of Bangkok, though it is very designer & quite pricey.

Ymmy Food: At MBK's popular Food Center on 6thy Floor with over 50 stalls; my all time favorite Thai Egg Noodle- Pad Thai

Food: Clean & Comfortable in Amarin Plaza; Delicious Beef Noodles

Ban Khun Mae Thai Restaurant, opposite Novotel on Siam Square, serves great authentic Thai dishes (http://www.bankhunmae.com/)

Great Eats: Authentic Thai Restaurant, Ban Khun Mae at the background
Good Food, Great Company: Dining at Ban Khun Mae with Ian Grant & wife Nusara

Great Thai Food: Top to Bottom, L to R:
Appetizer - Tapioca Ball and Steamed Pancake Stuffed with Sweet Pork and Peanut, Suam Tum (Spicy Papaya Salad), Baked Prawan with Glass Noodle, Wok, Tom Yum Kung, Marinated Chicken in Pandan Leaf, Deep fried Mushroom with Crispy Garlic, Chicken Green Curry, Fish Cake and Mango with Sticky Rice