Anniversary Sojourn in Bangkok
To celebrate our first Anniversary as husband and wife, my husband and I were thinking of an exotic getaway complete with spa breaks that won’t break our bank accounts. Sure enough, the first place that sprung to mind was none other than Thailand! So, armed with our trusted handycam, a Bangkok City Guide booklet, and enough luggages to last us for a week, we went off to our first out-of-the-country adventure as a couple.
Land of Wats
Among the many things that fascinated us in Thailand apart from its beaches are its temples that one can find liberally dotted around in Bangkok. The Wats, as the temples are locally known, come in all shape and size but the grandest and holiest of them all is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha also locally known as “Wat Phra Kaeo”. It is situated inside the Grand Palace which itself is huge befitting its name and inside, we found magnificent Thai structures, statues of mythical creatures, medieval wall paintings, and other smaller Wats which made the trip truly visually and mentally enriching.
It was interesting to note the custom where we all had to remove our shoes and place them on a shoe rack before entering any Wats. What we didn’t know for this particular visit at the Wat Phra Keow was that everyone had to sit with toes pointed backwards since this was how respect was accorded to the Emerald Buddha. Taking pictures or footages were also not allowed so we contented ourselves at gazing at the statue made out of pure green jade (contrary to its name, emerald is to connote its rich green hue instead) and dressed in gilded attire. A few moments after, we are all ushered back out again with a silent prayer that our shoes will still be there while another batch shuffles back in.
Along with our Wat tour, was a quick visit to Nakhorn Pathom where Buddhism was said to have first started. So armed with one lotus flower, and three sticks of incense, one for Buddha, one for his teachings, and lastly one for the monks, (these are the most basic offering as we were told) we made our way in a clockwise direction (for good luck) to the ancient Phra Pathom Chedi to join the eager throngs of worshippers participating in such an exhilarating but nevertheless orderly ritual.
There was even a part where we were encouraged to drop coins in all the copper and tin bowls laid out in long processions on tables scattered around the temple. This act was to ensure that any requests or wishes made were granted!!
City of Smiles
No one can leave Bangkok without seeing their famous Thai Floating Markets so off we went to Damnoern Saduak Floating Market (translated as “easy to find” according to our Tour Guide). The first half of the journey was done on land but the second half was yes, you guessed it right, done on none other than what the Thai proudly calls their “James Bond Boat” which is basically a small precarious looking canal boat. (It was termed James Bond since it was made popular in one of the James Bond movies with Roger Moore). I thought the ride was a bit scary but I guess our prayers were answered since we arrived in one piece and dry! Upon reaching the place, you would find a lot of people selling in the boats themselves; expertly balancing and maneuvering it while calling out and offering their products. One rule of thumb that we learnt was to always bargain, as they really hike the prices up and to bargain with a smile. Smiling never fails to win people over especially the Thais who are also known for being gentle, smiling people.
After the shopping trip, we also had a quick stopover at the Thai Royal Handicraft Center to marvel at exquisite teak wood art and furniture before having an intimate lunch at the nearby Rose Garden Resort and then finally capping the day by watching the Thai Cultural and Elephant Show.
As soon as the sun goes down, usually, the activity wanes as well but not in Bangkok. Brilliant and colorful signboards vie for attention as they illuminate the dark sky and streets while more tourists ply the sidewalks enjoying the cooler breeze. We really enjoyed strolling along Khao San Rd. which is one of the famous places to visit popularized by the movie “The Beach”. It’s very relaxing to simply hang-out and meet fellow tourists over a cup of coffee or a dish of spicy sweet Pad Thai since it is soo cosmopolitan!
The bright lights and bar entertainment were enticing but for a more subdued and romantic evening on the day of our anniversary, we chose to book ourselves for a sightseeing dinner cruise down the famous Chao Phraya River famously known as the “River of Kings”. We chose the Loy Nava Luxury Dinner Cruise, an interesting teakwood rice barge converted to a luxury boat, amongst the multitude of modern cruises available since it boasted of a feasting on authentic Thai food with live traditional Thai entertainment along the city’s brightly lit landmarks. It was a truly romantic and intriguing way to celebrate the occasion and cap a long but fun-filled day.
In between the sightseeing and shopping, I would have to say that the most enjoyable part of the trip was the Spa time we specifically arranged during our stay there. We indulged ourselves to the famous “Thai Massage” Bangkok is very well known for. The City boasts a cornucopia of Spa or massage establishments that one could indulge in. True enough, our first stop at the Mandara Spa at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel (the hotel we stayed in) was well worth the price! One literally falls into deep slumber under the skillful hands of the Thai masseuse combined with the aromatic scents and tasteful ambiance that delights and soothes the senses. Plus, the use of the luxury Spa Suite for a whole day that came with the Ultimate Indulgence package we availed of was just perfect for that intimate one on one.
We also tried the Divana Spa which we highly recommend to people who prefer a more rustic and native inspired location. The ingenious use of a traditional Thai house as a Spa with its lush green garden which doubled as a backdrop for some of the treatments offered created the perfect hideaway in the middle of a bustling city. Our therapists were very accommodating and very skilled and the Spa is well known for its use of their own homegrown herbs for their scrubs. I’d have to say as well that they make a great concoction of Lemongrass tea which I bought by the loads!!
Just when we thought we had sampled every imaginable Spa treatment offered already, we came to know about the temple massages and so off we trotted over to the Traditional Thai Massage School at the Wat Po Temple to get a good dose of authentic Thai massage. Believe me it was not glamorous as what we have experienced in the previous Spas. The air was thick with chattering while we submitted ourselves to the mercy of our therapists who knew no English but was a master at manipulation! Our bodies got its much needed stretching, kneading and stroking to different stress relieving positions. Oh well, for 250 Baht, we thought it was a steal!!
Before I end our travelogue, it wouldn’t be natural for me to say that that we didn’t indulge in the normal rounds of shopping and in Bangkok they have a shop for everything whether you are a techno geek, a die hard fashionista, or a meticulous bargain hunter. Chatuchak Market is simply huge and for those penny pinchers out there, this is your place since it has almost anything under the sun! Pantip Plaza is for those who are into IT gadgets and other techno stuff which my husband enjoyed tremendously. For ladies, one thing to really indulge into while in Bangkok is their famous Thai Silk and the best place to get them is at Jim Thomson’s Boutiques but it can really make a dent in your wallet! A good alternative to go to for the same authentic goods at half the price is at the government supervised shop called Narai Phand tucked away in a busy corner of Rajadamri Avenue. I bought most of the souvenirs and gifts there since you are assured of quality and authenticity and the price is reasonable.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to go wherever your feet will take you, Bangkok is truly a place that excites and entices all senses and as a cardinal rule, always wear a smile on your face, it will help you out a long way! All in all, Bangkok is everything we thought it would be. We are already planning this year’s visit!