Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bangkok Shopping during the Monsoon Season

My close friend D has never been to Bangkok before, so with loads of leaves to clear we found a travel agent and planned a short trip to the city! So get ready for a long and image heavy post!

Firstly, we learned that we should never have made such last minute decisions, because the short trip turned out more costly than it should... and our travel agent was sadly extremely unreliable, she was a sweet girl but screwed up so much it was quite impossible...

Anyway, also we should have researched more on the monsoon season, as Bangkok usually gets flooded during this time of the year, and we went during the period where it was at its worst...

We were still quite stubborn about going despite the floods, so packed my umbrella, my wellies, and off we went!

 I love love flying in the morning now... how often can you see a gorgeous sunrise like this in the sky?

As we approached Bangkok... we saw the floods... 

 So for this trip, since it was already quite pricey, we decided to splurge a little and stayed at a 4 star hotel - Pathumwan Princess

The service was very good, and the rooms as seen above is extremely comfortable! The hotel itself is very modern and clean. And quite honestly, in my personal experiences with Bangkok, it's still quite a rough city, where the city streets are still not as developed as Singapore's, so having a nice hotel in Bangkok is essential as it gives you a nice welcome back each time you venture out to the city... ok maybe I'm just spoilt.. but hey, I'm on holiday!

 The view from our room.. we were on the 17th floor.. The hotel is located in the city centre, do check them out here.

 The bathroom.. it has a glass window that looks into the sleeping area, don't worry, there are electric curtains that will draw itself when you switch it on to get some privacy..

They also provided toiletries - toothbrushes and toothpaste, shower gels, shampoos, razor with shaving cream, shower caps, cotton buds and complimentary bottled waters that they replenish everyday after housekeeping.
The toilet's shower was luxurious with a rain shower head from the ceiling, and of course the detachable one is also provided. We had a little problem with the toilet's plumbing on the last day, but we attributed it to the flooding that the city's sewers were getting blocked up..
The hotel also had a gym, spa and pool on the 8th floor.. as you can see they were also fully equipped with a fitness side, they were all on the roof of the 8th floor.
The pool.. didn't get much of a tan as you can see the monsoon rain clouds were coming in...

The daily buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant City Bistro was good too.. there were good selection of western and asian cuisines. The hotel also had a couple of other restaurants too.

So for all Singaporeans, Bangkok is where we go to shop our butts off! As with the exchange rate and the actual retail price there are all cheap to us, we were in the land of shopping madness!
And so we began with the typical malls that was within our district... The great thing about Bangkok now is that they have these overhead bridges in the city centre that links up almost all their popular malls [within the district] together! So it makes it easier for us to travel around and not take a taxi - taxis are affordable there but the traffic jams are the ones that will slow you down more than walking..
 Our first stop was MBK [aka Mahboonkrong ], this mall is actually linked to our hotel, this mall was well-known for it's knock-off products... When I visited it 5 years ago, the stuffs were much more affordable than it is now..

 The mall sells practically everything, from clothes, souvenirs, to electronics...

Ok so this was the next one we visited, Siam Discovery - it was connected to MBK by one of those linked up overhead bridges [elevated walkways]. Mostly highend retail shops that are not really authentically Thai - mostly international brands - all genuine products and not the knock-offs
 Siam Centre - pretty much the same as Siam Discovery.. And there was Siam Paragon - same as Siam Centre and Discovery - all high-end retail products, didn't get a photo of it though.. The largest one of the 3. Very nice and clean malls - we didn't really shop at any of them.. pretty much just passed through..
Oh right, there was Ocean World at Siam Paragon too, but we didn't enter as the entrance fee was a little crazy... like SGD40 to get? But there were loads of tourists interested so maybe it was our loss..

Ok here is a photo of Central World  mall... we did stop here, D wanted to shop at Naraya - a popular brand of Thailand that makes these cloth bags that are very girly and pretty - most recognisable by their distinctive bows - totally not my style but I did found a couple of bags that didn't have a bow!

So other than shopping centres, if you are really looking for the original Bangkok shopping, it will be their flea markets! Bangkok has several flea markets all over the city, with unique Thai products, and filled with knock-offs at cheaper prices, and they are the best place to haggle!

Since we were there for only 4 days, we couldn't cover all the markets we wanted to go... so we went to Patpong night market - which opens every night from 6pm till after midnight..
We bought some T-shirts, and shawls, but the one thing that really made me stop were these hand-carved soaps...

The soaps smelled so nice that we stopped to watch the seller carve the detailed flowers from bar soaps! They made such unique and beautiful souvenirs that I bought quite a few - cheap too!

The other famous weekend market that everyone visiting Bangkok needs to visit is of course Chatchuchak market! It is the largest flea market that sells everything! From clothes, to furnitures, to pets! Yes pets.. I mean it, like puppies and bunnies... my colleague mentioned to me when she went years ago, the pets were not kept humanely, but this time when I went, the animals were kept quite freely, in spacious open-air fences where the puppies were hopping about excitedly and playing, and those in the cages seem quite comfortable with the fans all blowing at them to fight the stuffy heat in the tents...

some of the random things at the market...

Look who we met at Chatchuchak! The Transformers bots! yes.. they were all for sale... even the giant life-sized ones...

 our shopping bags at the end of the day!

One of the things I loved about Chatchuchak markets are the handmade stuffs! I bought some accessories that were handmade - 
The bangles were all hand-painted, and the rings were so unique and hand-made too! The white one were even made out of real pearls, wired together, and the green one is also a real gemstone crocheted on with beads - actually the rings were bought at from Platinum mall - another popular fashion mall but with not as cheap prices as the markets.

 Above are more hand-painted wooden bangles, and the ones next to them are actually leather cuffs. There was this old uncle who sold his hand made leather cuffs at Chatchuchak, and they were all single pieces, the cuffs have patters carved out and even painted on.

I loved all the accesories in Bangkok as they were all mostly handmade, they were so unique and inspiring and well-made too.. It's definitely something worth investing in as they are personal creations from the 'artist' and you will never find it anywhere else.

Other than these accessories, I bought these pouches and bags that were also hand-made. With cute fabric designs they were also layered with plastic to make it water-proof -
I also bought other manufactured products, but the things I really look out for and happy when I buy overseas are all these hand-made unique pieces.. In Thailand there are many of such products that you will be spoiled for choices, such as their pashmina shawls - which are affordable; and there are several places that sells these spanish emboridered clothings, those are not as affordable but totally worth the investment especially when they are of good quality - which I got too!

So other things that you must do when in Bangkok is to eat, eat, EAT!!

 When in Thailand, you have to have their famous Tom Yam soup! They are mostly available everywhere as it has to be on of their national dishes!
 Next up is Pad Thai! So good! Try the one at the food court in the top floor of Platinum mall, just be less daring with the chili flakes - D put too much in hers here and it really burnt!
Chilli flakes in Singapore have no kick, but the one in Thailand should have warning signs!

Ok, this was discovered by accident.. it's these sweet snacks that was selling in MBK, not sure what it's called, but they look like mini crepes and filled with all these asian flavourings.. So the one D had [on the left] was filled with these jam-like spread of coconut with sweet stringy egg yolks and I think it had raisins in them... mine on the right was filled with these cream-like stuffs which I suspect is either gooey marshmallows or more likely sugary stiff egg whites, and topped with sweet stringy egg yolks. They were really really sinfully sweet and good! Mine smelled extremely eggy, but if you can tolerate that, it tastes soo yummy! Try it if you come across it in Bangkok!

Here are some tips of travelling around in Bangkok, there are cabs everywhere, the ones in the city all have meters, it's pretty affordable. But for trips from or to the Airport are standard - 400baht [more or less SGD16] But as mentioned before the travelling in the city can be really bad due to their heavy traffic, especially with the floodings... So the train system is good way to get around - very convenient, very cheap and very easy to navigate!

If you're not sure of how to get around, ask your concierge, the one at Pathumwan Princess was very helpful, we bothered him with tons of questions on where to go and he guided us very well! Also the train stations have all these signs around that also have English translations, it can help guide you the right directions!

One other must-do when you visit Thailand is to experience their massages! All asian countries are well-known for their individually unique traditional massages, the Indonesians have their own, the
Chinese have their reflexology, etc. so Thai massage is no exception, a must try! D and I went to have a couple during our trip, and they are all mostly affordable even the ones in the city district and touristy areas, as long as it is not the spas. There are random small businesses all over the city that provides such massages, just try to stay out of dodgy areas - although D and I did try one in Patpong [which is also a famous red-light district area], and they were trustworthy and good!

If you take my suggestion and try one of those small businesses for a Thai massage, it shouldn't cost more than SGD15 for an hour. If you go for those spas it can cost up to hundreds, all depending on the luxury standards and packages you pick..

Alright to end this post, here are more shots of the city in all random-ness...

I thought it was so funny that as they prep for the flood they piled on all the sand bags around the malls [this was in front of Platinum Mall], and everyone walked about as though it was completely fine..

Tuktuk in the rain...

More rainy shots... it rained through the trip... Monsoon season duh!

 heading to chatchuchak!

And so with the rain pouring non-stop on our last day, we bid Bangkok farewell and escaped before the flood hits the city centre!

All in all it was a successful shopping holiday!
mind you, this were not my loot! It was D's.. and she did go over her baggage weight allowance!

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