By Chris Meechan-Ring
“Bustling” is the best way to describe Bangkok. The city brims with energy at every corner and there is literally something for everyone in this town.
The city has many cultural sites, is a shoppers paradise, a foodies dream and a hedonistic after-hours wonderland.
Traditionally a Buddhist city, Bangkok has many temples that are worth visiting. Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha is probably the most recognisable with its 48m gold-leaf Buddha statue that almost fills the entire main temple building. While there is a steady line to go past the statue it is well-worth a closer look, especially the intricate mother-of-pearl designs on the feet. There is also the chance to pay alms to the monks here.
While we are on cultural sites, no trip to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to the Grand Palace. The Thai people revere their royal family and this is a very special site. It is important to be dressed appropriately with knees and shoulders covered, although you can rent a sarong at the entrance if you find yourself underdressed. Interesting to note, that so respected are the royal family it is actually a punishable offence to disrespect them in any way. The complex of palaces and temples are intricate and very beautiful with gold, gemstones, mosaics and paintings adorning the walls and roofs of the building. Housed within the complex is the Emerald Buddha (although it is actually made of Nephrite), this statue is most sacred and its history is a fascinating story.
Bangkok is known for shopping, but even those who don’t travel to shop should visit one of the mega-malls. A particular favourite is MBK which is half a department store and half an indoor market where you can barter for goods. Entire floors are dedicated to gold, electrical goods, fashion and more, a wander up and down the aisles is an experience in itself! To get to MBK you just take the sky train to the last stop, it is cheap, efficient and blissfully air conditioned! Both the train and the mall provide a welcome escape from the humidity.
If you have time to travel a bit further afield, be sure to check out the floating markets. About an hour and a half drive from downtown Bangkok, these canals are tightly filled with canoes and small motor boats. You can simply hop on one and go for a cruise through the markets, enjoying some local food or a cold beer as you sit back and take it all in. Floating markets are a flashback to years gone by as this is a traditional way of trade in Asia. The markets are a great place to pick up silk or other souvenirs so have your cash and a good sense of fun ready as you barter your way through.
Last, but not least, be sure to sample as much local food as you can. The flavours are fresh and spicy and true authentic Thai food beats the local takeaway here in Australia any day. As well as your traditional curries and soups for the more adventurous there are lots of delicacies and street food to try, you will not be disappointed.