Bangkok–Markets, Movie stars, Massages, Malls, and Mother’s Day!

May 2019

On Day 17 of our Intrepid “Best of Vietnam and Cambodia” tour we departed from Siem Reap, Cambodia; a mere 10 hours later, arriving at Bangkok, Thailand. Our group of 12 (plus our guide Sareth) traveled in 2 separate vans and experienced 2 border crossings together prior to arriving at the Nouvo City Hotel in downtown Bangkok.

There were limited photo opportunities during this day of travelling and border crossings, so this blog post includes highlights from 3 days exploring Bangkok prior to returning home to Canada.

At 6:30 a.m. we departed from the Dinata Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap heading toward our first border crossing. Our group exited Cambodia at Poipet and entered Thailand at Aranyaprathet.

We were extremely grateful to have Sareth guiding us through the lines and expectations for border crossings. There were issues to overcome…lines that suddenly closed…stamps or documents that ‘somehow’ disappeared. Sareth translated and chatted with customs officials and extra personnel until everyone was eventually cleared. Photography was not permitted in the two border crossing locations.

Due to massive population’ traffic, we were late arriving in Bangkok. Thailand’s capital, has an estimated population of over 10.6 million people. The city is known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. My husband and I were happy to be returning to the familiarity of this more peaceful country.

After dropping off our belongings at the Nouvo City Hotel we headed out for ‘real’ Thai food at a nearby location where our group filled the seating capacity of the establishment nestled on the edge of the soi (street). The Thai meal was authentic and a wonderful final dinner experience for our group.

Some of our group planned to spend a few extra days in Bangkok, while others were departing in the morning. My personal and very special reason for returning to Bangkok again prior to flying home, was that my son resides here and has worked As a senior engineer at Western Digital in the Bangkok area for over 5 years!

Our first full day back in Bangkok happened to correlate with Canadian Mother’s Day! (In Thailand Mother’s Day occurs on August 12th in 2019). During the last 2 trips to Thailand, we focused on exploring and learning about Thai culture, Buddhism, local cuisine, and different areas of the country.

During these final few days we would be experiencing Bangkok from a tourist perspective. Our agenda for Mother’s Day in Bangkok was shopping at JJ’s (Chatuchak) Market, taxi to Esplanade Mall, Massages, lunch at Sizzlers, an afternoon Movie (Pokemon Detective) with Thai subtitles, Swenson ice cream treats, and late return via taxi to the Nouvo City Hotel.

As it was Sunday my son, Alexander, was able to join us and make my Mother’s Day complete!

Meeting Alexander at Chatuchak (JJ’s) market ended up being a huge challenge as communication with taxi drivers, hectic roads, misunderstandings, and masses of exits and people resulted in extensive texting before we finally met up. This is the largest market in Thailand with more than 15,000 stalls and 11,505 vendors, divided into 27 sections.

Although still extremely hot and crowded, the temperatures and humidity were not as intense as our previous visit in early April–which happens to be the hottest month of the year in Bangkok. As we wandered through one of the main walkways we were suddenly immersed in cameras and filming paraphernalia.

Tourists and local merchants were scanning curiously to determine the person/people at the center of this attention. They were filming a lady in a white dress with long brown braids who was walking through JJ’s fanning herself with a red heart shaped fan and carrying a large straw hat. Who was this mystery woman?

Obtaining our souvenirs, we were off to sort out our next mode of transportation. Taxi or MRT? Luckily, Alexander speaks and understands Thai so we got a better price for the taxi.

Esplanade mall was our next destination as it was in close proximity to my son’s apartment, had reasonable prices, and he frequented the movie theaters there. We usually experience Thai massages from local shops along the sois or beach locations. However, we decided to pay a bit more than usual (350–400 Baht equals $15–$17 CAN) and try a “mall” location massage. The essential oils scents and little treats afterwards were a lovely touch. I prefer the head/neck/shoulder massage while the 2 men tend to prefer the foot massages. Traditional Thai massage can be pretty brutal for novices who are not expecting to have forceful body manipulation. At these prices, why not partake as often as possible!

Lunch at Sizzlers was Alexander’s choice. It’s a chain of restaurants specializing in salad bars, burgers and steaks. After 5 years residing in Thailand, he craves non traditional Thai food at times. He consumes these Canadian type foods with such ecstasy and enjoyment.

Next, a movie experience Thai style. Having substantially different movie preferences, our compromise was to watch “Pokemon Detective”. After purchasing tickets from a kiosk (like in Canada), Mark purchased his popcorn and we entered the movie theater.

Luckily, we were able to select movies in English (with Thai subtitles). The seats were super comfortable. Prior to the movie commencing, a song was played. Immediately people stopped talking and everybody stood up. The song and video depicting the King’s life was a dedication to the current King of Thailand and respect was an expectation. When the video dedication ended, everyone sat down and the movie started.

What follows a Pokemon movie experience better than a visit to Swenson’s ice-cream parlor? These cold treats are pretty expensive for a Thai wage, but the dessert specialty location was packed. Alexander had recommendations about his favorite menu items. The desserts were delectable.

A tropical down pour hit as we departed from the mall and again as we made our way back to the hotel. Income for taxi drivers must increase dramatically during the long rainy season here because as soon as the downpour commenced taxi drivers raised their prices and most only accepted lengthy fairs.

Our hotel Nouvo City Hotel was located in a historic area of Bangkok adjacent to the famous Banglamphu canal. Today we planned to explore this area starting by investigating around our hotel. The views from the rooftop swimming pool area illustrate the vastness and intensity of residences in the Bangkok metropolis.

We enjoyed the pool located on our 3rd floor level. However it was really annoying when a couple decided to take racy photos in the pool using a drone. Try to relax under the fountains while a drone zooms inches from your head! In my opinion there should be a privacy bylaw against drones in pool areas!

Air pollution levels vary and can be moderate to dangerous in Bangkok, but on this day the skyscrapers of the downtown area were visible. Our hotel room had a lovely view of the canal (Klong) complete with a window that didn’t open due to unpredictable air quality and variances in water pollution/smell levels. It was exciting to view long tailed boats transporting passengers or freight along the waterway.

I discovered an interesting article explaining the history behind the Banglampu canal from welcomeguide2thailand.com  The canal dates back to 1782, when Bangkok was designated as the capital, and is over 3.4 kilometers long created by over 10,000 laborers. Bang Lamphu canal is 1.1 km long and is a section of the canal line that offers transportation access around the city. Bangkok waterways are symbols of a city that was known as the “Venice of the East” for much of the 19th Century.  

On previous trips to Bangkok we took guided tours on the canals and also experienced the klong water transport system with the locals. This is an experience you don’t want to miss unless you have physical limitations–be prepared to jump in and out of the longboats quickly.

Sometimes the longboats did not even come to a complete stop at the docks, so be ready to move quickly; know your exit stop prior to boarding; have correct currency ready; and watch out for the fee collectors who hang off the sides and maneuver around the vessels as they speed down the canals. P.S. Most of the fee collectors did not speak English.

Off to north Bangkok destination Union Street Mall to meet up with Alexander and his lovely girlfriend Benz for dinner at popular MK restaurant. This mall has 8 floors housing over 1,240 booths and shops and adjacent to MRT Phahon Yothin station.

Our next adventure was to explore the largest Chinatown in the world at Yaowarat Road, Bangkok. The 1.5 km road was originally built in 1891.

Street food, markets, and famous temples are the main draws for this populous and popular area of Bangkok. According to the Chinese zodiac, it is the year of the pig and souvenirs were readily available. The clothing shops displayed brightly coloured ornate traditional clothing for very reasonable prices.

Market places displayed a multitude of choices of nearly any type of food or herb imaginable. Seafood options were plentiful and extensive. It is a fascinating area to explore. Unfortunately, it was Mark’s turn to suffer travel aggravation and our visit here ended up being cut short.

Heading back to the hotel we passed the majestic complex of the Grand Palace for the Kings of Thailand. Bangkok’s famous palace complex was built in 1782 and features buildings including Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains a beautiful Emerald Buddha dating back to the 14th century. The yellow cloth banners symbolize the King. Purple banners symbolize the presence of the princess.

After 1925 the Royal family no longer resided here. The Grand Palace is now mainly used as a tourist attraction except for occasional ceremonial events. The fee to enter the Grand Palace is 500 Baht $21.50 CAN/person.

Back to our soi 2 Samsen Road, Banglamphu where interesting buildings influenced by French, as well as tailors flashing Armani titles and suits made to fit in 24 hours, intrigue.

Consuming more charcoal pills to settle irritated intestines, we headed out closer to home base. One last massage prior to departing from Bangkok tomorrow…

Checking Trip Advisor (our “go to” app for recommendations) we located a nearby massage shop receiving great ratings. Upon arrival the outside looked less than appealing, but we thought we would be open minded. We entered the massage location, but nobody was in the reception area? Suddenly 2 people quickly descended the stairs to greet us. As they led us upstairs to our locations a young couple quickly exited the disheveled bed I was directed towards. My husband and I quickly created an excuse and departed the establishment. This was our first experience with terribly inaccurate ratings.

However, further down the same block we discovered Samsen massage which was a clean, well run massage location making our final 300 Baht massage experience in Bangkok a satisfying success.

This video represents our adventures: exploring our Hotel, meals with Alexander, Chinatown, Grand Palace, our Soi, and final rainy moments.

It was time for final good-byes to wonderful friends Andy and Jen from Australia, and one last meal with my son, Alexander.

It is never easy for a mother to say good-bye to her child no matter his/her age when half a world separates them! So…until we meet again my son. Love you forever and always.

This has been a phenomenal 6 weeks in Asia. Thank you Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia for sharing your people, culture, history, geography, and unique perspectives with us. I feel richer and more informed from this experience.

Tomorrow we depart to return to Canada. What’s next for this curious adventurous soul and her equally globally curious husband?