5 Things You MUST Do in Bangkok

2013 has undoubtedly been the Year of Travel for me. From exploring tiny Italian towns (and overdosing on coffee) to celebrating my birthday in Paris and then experiencing the pristine beauty of Austria, I have had a fabulous time. And to end the year, I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand for a weeklong break in Bangkok couple of weeks ago! While I have yet to document all of my European travels, I thought I’d end the year with the latest trip.

As you may be aware, Thailand is going through a bit of a political upheaval. In fact there had been several demonstrations a week before I visited as well. While I was in Bangkok, I did not face any trouble. However, do check out the official travel advisory before you plan a trip.

With that disclaimer in place, let me take you through some awesome things you can do in Bangkok. The city is not just about shopping, you know! Here’s my pick of 5 things you must do in Bangkok.

 5) Get a bird’s eye view of Bangkok

Bangkok’s skyline boasts of some really tall buildings, but the tallest among them all is the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. Located in the heart of downtown Bangkok, Thailand’s tallest tower is home to several restaurants. Take the elevator to the 82nd floor to Crystal Grill, which has a long buffet of seafood and grilled meats and veggies. Watch the chefs in action in the open kitchen. Then enjoy your meal while overlooking the gleaming lights of Bangkok. After your meal, head over to the Observatory Point, a revolving deck on the 84th floor. As the deck does a slow 360-degree turn, you will see golden, ribbon-like snaking freeways, impressively tall buildings and all the way up to the Gulf of Thailand.

4) Visit the Grand Palace & Wat Pho

Yes, this is firmly on the tourist circuit in Bangkok and for a good reason. Punctuating Bangkok’s skyline with colourful roofs, ornate carvings and tall spires, Grand Palace is a complex of buildings that was the official residence of the Kings of Thailand. It’s still used for royal ceremonies and state functions. 

There are highly decorated buildings, tall, multi-coloured yakshis (mythical giants) who act as gatekeepers and bejeweled statues. 

The complex comprises several courts, pavilions, pagodas and Thailand’s most revered Buddhist temple – Wat Phra Kaew (temple of the Emerald Buddha). The 66cm tall Buddha idol is made of jade and stands in an extremely high altar. 

Don’t forget to sprinkle yourself with the holy water and make a wish outside the temple! 

Nearby Wat Pho is another temple complex that houses the giant statue of the Reclining Buddha. The Buddha's feet are inlaid with 108 panels of mother-of-pearl depicting auspicious Buddhist symbols. 

3) Promenade on the Riverside

Asiatique the Riverfront is Bangkok’s latest night market. The city’s old warehouses of the East Asiatic Company have been converted into a sprawling open-air complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment options. Walk around the riverfront and browse around the shops – be warned that this is an upscale place so don’t go looking for cheap, street shopping! For dinner, try Baan Khanitha By The River – located in a white, colonial-style bungalow and directly facing the Chao Praya River, this restaurant is known for its excellent Thai cuisine. Try the fish in neem paste, which was quite delicious. To end the meal we had what is easily the best Thai dessert – Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut Ice cream.

2) Take a Thai Cooking Class

Escape the bustle of Bangkok’s downtown by taking a boat down the Chao Praya River into old Bangkok – where you will see traditional Thai homes by the river and an occasional monitor lizard! Located on the Bangkok Yai Canal is Amita Thai Cooking Class, conducted by Tam. 

An extensive herb garden, individual cooking stations, warm instructors and the intermittent ‘hellos’ and ‘good mornings’ from the pet parakeet Basil – it’s a delightful place to learn simple, yet authentic Thai cooking. 

We learnt how to make Pad Thai, Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew nuts, Chicken in Coconut Soup and Tab Tim Krob – jewel-coloured water chestnuts in syrup with cold coconut milk. Tam also made vegetarian variants of all the dishes. I will be doing a detailed post on the class soon (along with a recipe).

1) Get a taste of Muay Thai

This was definitely the highlight of my Bangkok trip – kicking some b***! Muay Thai is basically Thai boxing – apart from punching, it also includes a spot of kicking and elbowing. We went to Sor.Vorapin Gym, where we began with some warm-up exercises and skipping. Then on came the gloves and we learnt how to inflict maximum pain on the hypothetical attacker by using our fists, elbows and legs. We also did a spot of sparring in the boxing ring. It was a fantastic experience and the instructors were very encouraging, and didn’t mind getting punched ;) After that sweaty hour-long class, I felt more rejuvenated than any Thai massage!

And then of course you can't miss out on the street food, the night markets and the floating markets. But then who said making a top 5 list was easy? ;) 

Have you visited Bangkok and tried any of these? What are your recommendations for the city? Leave me a comment below. 

This trip was courtesy the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). My travel companions were fellow travel writers and bloggers – Priya of Red Scarab, Ekta of Shadows Galore and Ankita of Ankionthemove. We were accompanied by Suladda who represented TAT Mumbai and our local guide was Poom of Absolutely Fantastic Holidays. She regaled us with stories and anecdotes and really made our trip so much more interesting! Thank you TAT for a well-organised and fun trip.

Image courtesy Shadows Galore

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