I find myself hardly doing any touristy things at all. Budgetary constraints are a small part of why and the main reason is now that I’m living here for a while, I quickly wanted to slip into normal, everyday life.
Everyday life seems antithetical to the adventure that we seek in travel and it quite often can be, but when you first get to a new location just noticing the contrasts between everyday life here and in your own country can be more of an eye-opener than any tourism based escapade.
What I have learned from my time living here in Bangkok is how to achieve a healthy balance between “Thai normal” activities and tourist attractions, and how to pack it all into 72 hours.
- Chatuchak market. You’ve definitely read that one on a list before, but I’m not including it entirely on it’s own merits, but because of the next item on the list.
The market in Chatuchak is an experience and a culture of it’s own. If you’re experienced in travelling through Asia, then you’ve probably experienced similar, but on a smaller scale and if you’re a newbie to this glorious part of the world, then expect a whole lot of sensory overload.
What you’ll see here is nearly every product imaginable including knock-offs ranging from average, to products that are indistinguishable from the originals.
- Shopping Centre/Mall in Siam or Phom Phrong. Wait. What? Waste your time in a shopping centre?
There’s two reasons for this: 1 is that if you’re from a reasonably small city (such as Perth, like me) you’ll be amazed at just how large some of these places are. The more important thing is so that you can witness the amount of people spending huge money on brand name items, when they can get an imitation for a 10th of the price just down the road in the Platinum market.
When I was in China, a friend took me through the markets in Shenzhen (another spectacle) and they had everything imaginable. I saw imitation watches starting at around $5 and I was shown a shop that was selling imitation watches for $150. They were incredible and so well made, that I was blown away by how good a knock-off watch could be. That was the same day that I learned the Louis Vuitton store in Beijing, sells more than any other LV outlet in the world.
How could it be that in a country where you could get an identical quality (and don’t give me that BS about how genuine LV’s are hand stitched, superior leather etc.) for less than a 10th of the price. I’m talking about buying the $100 imitation in a place where you can get cheap ones for $5, yet people are paying over $3,000.00 for the original.
It’s not out of some sense of honesty and disagreeing with the counterfeit trade, it’s purely a desire for status. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it sure is fascinating to witness human nature.
- Soi Cowboy. This is not meant to imply that the debaucherous late night activities that films like the Hangover 2 made famous are an adequate representation of Thai culture. That would be like saying that the inside of a China Town brothel in Sydney is an accurate depiction of Australia. But my god, you have to witness some of these places just to believe them.
If you make it 20 metres down the street without being grabbed by a lady in her underwear (or a not-so-lady) then you either look very poor, or exceptionally ugly.
Take the whole family along, it will be a great way to show your daughter that she needs to study to avoid that sort of life. Just don’t let her actually speak to any of the ladies, because half of them are actually doing it to pay their way through university.
I mean, who doesn’t want to speak to an almost naked 25 year old who’s got a visible caesarian scar and tells you she’s doing a marketing degree. It’s one of the fastest ways to realise just how imbalanced the Western world is to the rest of the globe.
- Temples (etc.) Alright, alright. You may as well get a little bit of “culture” in while you’re here.
Go see Wat Arun temple, it’s definitely one hell of an impressive sight. Just remember all the usual stuff about dressing conservatively with no singlets, shorts etc.
Throw in a quick visit to Wat Phra Kaew while you’re out and about on your culturally sensitive day trip and make sure to take some snaps for your instagram account so you can remind people how cultural you are.
- Eat Small Meals. Food in Bangkok is awesome and hugely varying. There’s no way you can fit an adequate amount of sampling into 72 hours so just eat small dishes as you go so you can eat every time you pass somewhere nice looking.
There are quite often pop-up food markets that are full of all variety of smells, sounds and food and street food can be pretty delicious too (if you choose wisely). There will be lots of ultra basic, little enclave type restaurants just off the street and they’ree often good for a cheap and ultra tasty meal.
- Pat Pong.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Bangkok when you’re short on time? Let me know in the comments.