From new sky bars to soap-making courses, and from traditional puppet shows to cool ice-skating sessions, the City of Angels never stops surprising.
by Rachel Ross.
You step off the plane and feel a giddying rush. Bangkok. Famous for its oddities,
antics, and antiques, the city is a dizzying maze of cultural beauty, exquisite exploration, and gritty excitement. Together, we seek to delve into this ever-changing metropolis to draw out the experiences you would regret to miss.
A Big City Island
Jump onto one of the Chao Praya River’s many water taxis that dart up and down the length of Bangkok. It’s an adventure in itself: purchasing a one-day unlimited ticket for less than the price of breakfast, watching the city go by, and jumping on and off for small adventures!
There is one slightly longer ride you may want to try, however, so sit back for 40 minutes and enjoy the river view as you journey to the outskirts of the city…
Take river boat to Pak Kret Pier, Nonthaburi province, east of Bangkok) is your final stop, leading you to Koh Kret, a kind-of-secret destination. Every tourist, paradoxically, dreams of a beautiful, untouched, authentic place with the bare minimum of other tourists. And Koh Kret provides this: an island, a village, a temple, a monastery, a museum. It’s a tranquil green oasis spotted with lush plant life and steeped in tradition, with unchanged architecture nestled among amazing Buddha statues.
This is an all-morning or all-afternoon exploration and, as you wander through the narrow side streets, you’ll bump into friendly locals and have a chance to sample real Thai cuisine, made by locals for Thais (and also, you).
This bizarre island village encapsulates all that is contrasting in the Big City: in one moment a sky bar, a city-surrounded temple, and in another small river boat, a quiet, confident beauty that is wholly reminiscent of Northern Thailand. It’s truly a place for those who want to breathe in some meditative air.
Island open 24 hours a day; temple and museum open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A Day of Spa, Creation, and Cuisine
Aromatherapy is often overlooked as an experience in itself and dismissed of its healing and positive effects. But not today. Today, as you breeze into the House of Lakshmi Mantra (Sukhumvit Soi 12, Bangkok; 084 926 2442; www.lakshmi-mantra.com), a combination of essential oil fragrances washes over you: zesty lemon clearing your mind, hypnotic jasmine seducing your heart, and dusky rose soothing all worry.
House of Lakshmi Mantra is tucked away in an old house, now a spa and restaurant. The true experience, among the cuisine and spa treatments, is the DIY soap-making course run by the owner.
Choose your favorite aromas and create your very own combination of solid aromatherapy. Soap is often relegated to something arbitrary, boring, and necessary, but it’s something we use each day: the smells inciting emotion and the texture affecting the touch of your skin all day. Why not use something you, yourself, have created to your own perfect, personal taste.
After your master class, you may as well enjoy a well-deserved treatment and dinner, all under one roof, as you savor the knowledge of learning a new skill.
Mon, Wed, and Fri 11:30 a.m. to10 p.m.; Sat and Sun 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Starts at THB 1,200
Puppetry in the Seven Heavens
The phrase “puppet show” may conjure images of small street performance boxes and tiny figures controlled by a singular puppeteer (I feel like you’re picturing an elderly man, perhaps with a beard). However, as you walk into the Aksra Theatre (King Power Duty Free Complex, Soi Rang Nam, BTS Victory Monument; 02 677 8888), you are presented with the pure antithesis of this perception. From the traditional paintings, carved sculptures, and Seven Heaven ceiling to the advanced audio-visual technologically, this theatre is the perfect place to host shows and events, and to awe you into the beginning of your experience at the Aksra Puppet Show. Take your seat, and enjoy…
In the foreground of the extravagant set, you are presented with the skilled puppeteers, donned in black, manipulating the large, colorful puppets which are dressed in classical Thai costumes. Through the art of puppetry, dance, and a live orchestra, you experience Thai, Japanese, and Korean cultural scenes. Throughout, the stories and songs capture the magic of myth and tradition, and give you a unique and enlightening show you won’t soon forget.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Show times: Mon to Wed at 7:30 p.m.; Thurs to Sun at 6:30 p.m. Starts at THB 800.
A Work of Art, By… You!
As you wander down the busy roads and discover the little side streets of Bangkok, you see both beautiful, mass-produced souvenirs and one-of-a-kind, exquisite rarities. Striking craftsmanship is everywhere, beckoning you to take it home.
Still, even more remarkable is turning this notion of craftsmanship into an experience for yourself; creating something of your very own and bringing it home as a memory, and a possession …
Book a tailor-made creative wine social, like a bachelorette party, or just pop along to one of their scheduled classes – Attic Studio (45/4 Sukhumvit Soi 31, Bangkok; 083 301 1314; www.attic-studios.com) provides an inspirational experience for all. Strolling into their studios, you feel a sense of calm combined with a collective creative energy. If you sit at the easel as a complete beginner, then it’s a day of fresh experience for you! And, if you’re friendly with a canvas, this studio seeks to hone your skills in a community atmosphere.
Whether it’s painting, life drawing, or sculpture that beckons, this studio is a safe space away from Bangkok’s mania to spend an hour, a day, or a few.
Tues to Fri from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sun (by appointment) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starts at THB 1,400.
These less-known, more hidden, interesting things are only the tip of the experience ice-berg of what Bangkok has to offer…
Dazzling Sky Bars
Ever get that excited feeling when you’re flying into a city at night because you know you’re going to see an ocean of twinkling lights? Witness a Bangkok sunset and watch the sea of lights appear at one of Bangkok’s many beautiful sky bars, such as The Dome at Lebua (1055/11 Silom Road; 02 624 9555), Cloud 47 (47th floor, 323, Silom Road; 09 1889 9600), or Zense (17/F, Zen, CentralWorld, 999/9 Ratchadamri Road; 02 100 9898).
Eat by Blood – The Third Floor
(Verasu Building, 83/7, Witthayu Rd., Lumphini, Pathumwan; 02 254 8101)
A restaurant that matches your food to your blood type, making sure the flavours suit your body, and advocating the health benefits of certain foods. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Muay-Thai Master Class
Learn to Muay-Thai box like a pro in just one day! Well, perhaps not like a pro, but you will certainly break a sweat and learn some neat tricks in a one-day intensive training class. You can check out these:
Chacrit Muay Thai School and Gym (15/2 Sukhumvit Soi 39; 02 260 5816)
Vithawat Muay Thai (Soi Phrapinij, Narathiwas Road; 08 1407 1993)
Baan Chang Thai (38 Ekkamai Soi 10, second junction; 02 391 3807)
Makura Cat Café
(Srinagarindra Soi 51; 08 654 0331)
As the name suggests, this café, across from the Rod Fai Market, is one of Bangkok’s eateries that provides furry kitties to cuddle alongside your lunch break. Open Mon and Thurs from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Wed, Fri, Sat, and Sun from 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Rod Fai Market
(Srinakarin Road Soi 51, behind Seacon Square)
A vintage market, a one-of-a-kind in Bangkok. From rare clothing finds to vintage shining automobiles, it’s a place for shoppers and antique lovers. Open Thurs to Sun from 5 p.m. till midnight.
If you are crazy for vintage, you may also want to visit the amazing Papaya Vintage Shop Ladprao (Soi Lat Pharo 55/2, Lat Pharo Road Wang Thong Lamg, Bangkok; 02 539 8220), near Chatuchak. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Bangkok Ice Skating
Feeling the Thailand heat? Pop on some skates and cool off with an ice-skating session. You can check out these places:
Ice Planet (7th floor, Siam Discovery Center; 02 658 0071)
Imperial World (999 Sukhumvit Road; 02 380 4230)
Sub Zero (Esplanade, Ratchada Road; 02 354 2134)
Wakeboarding in Bangkok at Taco Lake
(175/1 Km. 13 Bangna-Trad Road, Moo 12, Bangplee-Yai, Bangplee, Samutprakarn; 02 316 7809)
You may forget you’re in the city as you glide across the serene waters of Bangkok’s Taco Lake. Open Mon to Fri from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sat, Sun, and holidays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(95 Soi Phraeng Sapphasat, Tanao Road; 08 0587 6331)
More creative classes in: ceramics, photography, indigo dyeing, product design, and slow life organic workshops. Open Tues to Sun from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.