Spending the lunar new year in Bangkok was a good idea. You get away from the relatives and crowds back home and indulge in crowds in different city. But then we had not explored this city in much depth before, so this is also timely.
And you would have also read about our good fortune to have booked this package at a steal, well ahead of time (ie June of 2016) for this journey. As affordable as it was, it did not mean that corners were cut. Contrary to expectations, the entire journey came out very well.
Let’s read on!
Arriving late in the afternoon we got to the hotel around 7pm. Since it is late, we decided to have a simple meal at nearby Terminal 21 and turn in for the night.
|This journey started off very auspiciously… We were upgraded to Premium Economy! Probably because the flight was well overbooked…though the food was not different. 2½hours later, we were arriving! As we descended into the airport (East from Bangkok), we could see vast stretches of seafood farms.|
|We had booked “Happy” taxi for 800 baht, which is a tad on the expensive. But it came with “concierge” pickup. It’s like an Uber version of limousine transfer service… The drive to the city took slightly over an hour, surprisingly there was not a lot of traffic, well at least only closer to Sukhumvit…|
|After meeting with Pary – our guide for Saturday, we took her advise and headed to Terminal 21. Located at the Ashok station, this mall has a airport theme, each floor representing a city and its respective food and dining delights!|
|Our objective is to sample the food court here. Cheaper than the other food courts, we bought the store value card (200 baht loaded) and filled our table with Pork leg rice, Horfun, crispy chicken salad and fish porridge. Gingko nut soup topped it off.|
What a day!
Getting upgraded was one thing that did not remotely flash in our minds! And grateful we were as it made the journey so much more delightful!
We had expectations of really really bad traffic from the airport to downtown Bangkok. Surprisingly that did not happen and we were at the hotel in about slightly over an hour! Yes we paid a lot more with Happy Taxi, but it was worth it, since it mean a chaperoned experience through the chaos of a very busy airport! Plus hotel transfers are rather steep. The hotel, as we found out later, had been mainly serviced residential with many other locations across the city.
Here’s here we were located:
Today’s a shopping day! We took the BTS to MBK mall before turning around after lunch to Platinum mall. It was a fruitful day for Suan indeed!
|The nice thing about the Aetas is the complimentary transfer service to the BTS station. And it’s in a ‘tuk tuk’! Supposedly every 15 minutes it is rather flexible and we must had been one of the few folks who used this service very often! Best of all, you can call for a return pickup, which we definitely did!|
|The MBK mall was our first stop, but it was not really shopping that we were looking for. We passed the goldsmiths and gem dealers on the way to Ping’s Teochew restaurant. This one’s reviewed often and popular amongst Singapore reviewers. We had the signature fish maw soup, which seemed small was sufficient. The soup really packed an umph! Equally satisfying was the oyster omelet…and here is a photo of the ‘Mustard green’ 芥菜 we ordered.|
|They say that the lunar new year celebration this year is muted, yet we still saw lion dancing and beautiful displays at the malls. MBK is located near National Stadium BTS station and cost us 25 baht from Phloen Chit.
Next up was Platinum mall (15 baht BTS). Now we have heard so much about it! Quite a walk from the Siam BTS station, we were fortunate that the above-ground walkways were ready! No walking on the dusty streets. The mall is filled with small stalls just like the ones in Seoul. Except for pets you can buy almost anything there!
|The rest of the late afternoon and evening was spent at Central World shopping center, eventually dining at Nara Thai. This branch did not have noodles! While it is pricier than other Thai restaurants, Suan liked the taste, especially the sour sea bass soup…Mel on the other hand was more at home with the fried rice.|
It is the lunar new year. And in the city there are quite a few ethnic Thai Chinese folks.
You can almost say that the Chinese here in Thailand have assimilated and fused themselves and their culture into that of the Thai! Ok perhaps some might disagree…
Anyhow, we had a really nice time shopping (well Suan that is). For this journey we had opted out of the night markets and open-air bazaars. Those are usually more vibrant in the evenings and we had other plans for the nights…so to make up for it we chose the ‘day markets’ – air conditioned. Woohoo! Far better in our opinion and not much of a tad less in terms of merchandise. Perhaps not (no) makeshift food stalls…but to be terribly honest we don’t miss those.
Ok so what happened to 28th January? Well, we figured that the day out to Ayutthaya deserves its own page. If you’d like to take a pause at this point and glance over, then read on here for this old capital of Siam.
We took time to journey up and down the Chao Phraya river today, taking ferries up and down. Did not get to the Grand Palace as it was too crowded but we did manage Wat Pho!Arriving late in the afternoon we got to the hotel around 7pm. Since it is late, we decided to have a simple meal at nearby Terminal 21 and turn in for the night.
|Today is aimless shopping day. ↑ Well, we took the hotel ‘tuk tuk’ to the station and had to take a photo of how all that looked like. The BTS ride to Phrom Phong cost 22 baht. We are taking aim at EMQuartier today. The mall itself was not all to impressive and we were in any case here for lunch. Greyhound cafe that is. It only opens at 11am and we were the first customers.|
|Its signature fried chicken wings was what we had aside from the beef noodle and stir fried flat noodle. All in for 650 baht, a simple meal. Now we have to try the outlet in Paragon Singapore in order to make the comparison. It was quite popular too, as it filled up quick as we got closer to 12pm. Gotta be here early!|
|There is a spiral shaped building adjacent to the main shopping hall and it only starts from the 5th floor. Only restaurants, the walk path spirals up to the 8th floor.
After a this nice introduction to this otherwise bland mall, we headed by BTS to Saphan Taksin. The main pier, it has multiple ferry services that run along the river. However, we gravitated to the blue line – tourist line which costs 40 baht per person for a one-way trip! Compare this with the Orange line supposedly for just 15 baht…the blue line however does not stop everywhere and only to the main tourist drop off points. We alighted at the Maharaj station and walked towards Wat Pho.
|Oh boy was it crowded! Because it’s the lunar new year…and also a Sunday. But we eventually saw the reclining Buddha, after walking the temple grounds.|
|The ferry from Wat Pho to Wat Arun just across the river only costs 4 baht per person!It runs every few minutes because it’s a continuous stream of tourists (and perhaps a few locals) taking the trip across the two temples. it can get crowded as you see in the photos – only standing room. Fortunately for us we got on one as its first passengers and had the privilege of sitting down for our selfie!|
|Wat Arun’s main Prang is under restoration, so we did not get inside. However we did take photos of the demons standing guard here. Again we took the blue ferry line back to Saphan Taksin, only to wait for the free boat to Asiatique|
|Nothing more than a mall hugging the riverside, Asiatique was good for us only for a stroll through. In fact, we left barely an hour after we arrived! The best part though is being here at sunset. It was indeed beautiful to see the setting sun against a serene river.
We headed back straight to Terminal 21 for dinner instead. Tonight we tried out a few more dishes and ended the day with some Durian sticky rice.
Today’s Sunday, so a day of rest and it coincides with the 2nd day of the lunar new year. Hence loads of locals were out in force in addition to the many thousands of tourists like us. But it was surprisingly quieter at the EM Quartier shopping mall. Perhaps that’s the reason we got into Greyhound cafe easily.
Anyway our attempt at getting around to the temples really sucked. Now as you know the country is still in mourning. Thus traffic in and around the Grand Palace was truly jammed, especially with all the controls. So we went to Wat Pho instead. It’s ok, not overwhelming after our day out in Ayutthaya.
It is such a trap to take the so called Tourist express boat on the river. For 40 baht per one-way trip, it was such a rip off. Even more expensive than the BTS. Somehow at Saphan Taksin we cannot find the other colored lines. Perhaps we did not search hard enough. But those are priced lower per trip and stops at any pier…the no flag line that is…next time perhaps!
We did not really enjoy Asiatique, because it’s rather hyped up. Yes there is a free ferry there and it’s really crowded. But there is nothing exceptional, maybe views along the boardwalk as the sun sets is the only consolation…
A full day of shopping at the Siam Paragon area. It is so huge! And today there is an event where a member of the royal family was there…so it was high security and crowded too!
|This is a posh mall much like its counterpart in Singapore. There are a few connecting malls with the Siam name here. At Siam Center where we first begun our day, we walked past theme cafe such as Moomin. But our ultimate stop was at Petit Audrey, listed by Suan’s research. The food in our opinion was not spectacular though we missed out on dessert since the servings are not small.|
|After a morning and afternoon, we settled at the Mandarin Oriental cafe for a stop. We had macaroons, one of which was called Elvis’s favorite. Now we know what Elvis’s favorite was – peanut butter and jelly!|
|There was an educational fair for Swiss institutions today. And a Thai Princess was gracing the occasion. So in the late afternoon parts of the mall were cleared and cordoned off…
Honestly aside from buying something from Siam Center, cannot recall Suan purchased anything from Siam Paragon. Perhaps they were all branded stuff but what we mostly did was window shop. For the evening, we again headed to Terminal 21 seeking dinner as it was madly crowded at Paragon et al. We could not get into Buon Chon and had to settle for Ootoya.
We spent virtually the whole day at the Siam malls of Center, Discover and Paragon. All are quite byzantine in size and definitely more than a rival for Singapore’s Orchard road. However despite how enormous the malls were, Suan only bought a pair of shoes. Not quite the haul one might expect.
Trying to get dinner here in the Paragon even on a Monday night was quite the challenge! Again we returned to our trusty Terminal 21 mall a couple of stops away hoping for a better result. Wow! It seems that Bangkok people eat out a lot! Fortunately we were able to settle for Ootoya, a familiar name.
If you were expecting us to say we found comfort, well unfortunately that was not the case. While presentation and pricing was good, quality remains lacking. You get what you pay for and in this case no Japanese rice, not even the one grown in Australia. It was a little meshy jasmine rice underneath the bed of Tonkatsu. Hmm, perhaps we should really stick to Thai food when in Thailand?
We managed to smoothly get to the airport in ~45 minutes as there was no traffic. Best of all, we were upgraded to Business class!
|Because our flight is at 12pm, we left the hotel around 8:30am with a metered taxi. Surprisingly there was hardly any traffic beyond a short delay initially due to road accident. Total fare – 350 baht plus 70 baht of toll fees. Had a quick lunch after we checked in. We had been upgraded! And to business class no less!
We tried to use the lounge but they had not issued us any invitation cards, so no access for upgraders!
The airport’s landmark set of statues that represent the scene of ‘the Churning of the Milk Ocean’. It’s an auspicious thing, akin to feng shui, Thai style of course.
|The business class seats on an A350 feels small though it is a 1-2-1 configuration. We think it is because there are more rows crammed into the cabin. Well, beggars cannot be choosers right? We settled nicely in for the 2 hour flight home.|
|Food was generally quite good, though Suan complained that the beef that she ordered was a little tough. My choice of the pork was excellent, and it went well with the Chardonnay too. And we managed to watch one more movie too! All in this was an extraordinary way to end the journey.|
This has been extraordinary. Perhaps it’s the end of a “bad” zodiac year for us and the Rooster year will bring tidings of fortune! LOL. Ok, time to buy the lottery a little more often. Maybe the probability of a win this year rises.
Now we know what we had been missing out. Sigh.
Already plans are underway to redeem some free hotel nights for next year’s lunar new year. Combine that with a free flight redemption we will sure save some money to stay for up to a full week. Imagine that! Stay tuned. This is not the end of our Bangkok adventures…