Bangkok is the most fabulous city. Political rioting aside, I could so live there. If you've never been or have only passed through the airport on your way to somewhere else, do consider staying a few days. Here's why, according to me.
1. Thai food. My oh my. I truly love Asian food. It's one of the things I miss most about living in Santiago. And Thai food is so, so good. Red curry, green curry, pad thai, stir fries, roast duck, satay chicken, tom yam goong (hot and sour prawn soup - az swears by this when he has a cold)... I can go on. Everything cooked in peanut oil and fish sauce with lemon grass, chillis, kaffir lime leaves and ginger. And the best thing about Thai food in Bangkok is that it's cheap and it's everywhere. At the big markets, a plate (that looks like this) costs about $2. Can't beat that!
2. All the other food. Bangkok is truly a metropolitan foodie dream. At Siam Paragon, one of the big shopping malls, their food court is an entire floor. And it has everything - delis, bakers, sandwich bars, coffee shops, restaurants etc. Maybe it's not so fun doing your food shopping in a mall but it's worth a trip, or several.
3. The restaurant scene. If you prefer a/c with your pad thai or perhaps some wine (you can have ice cold beer with your $2 plate at the markets, of course), there are thousands of restaurants to choose from. I confess I've never ventured past the cheap and cheerful markets for my Thai fare. But see this article for inspiration, if you need it.
4. The markets. The Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok is so much fun. 1km2 of tiny, tiny stalls selling everything - clothes, handicrafts, home decor, shoes, books, crafts, blah blah. Take your walking shoes and a wad of cash (in small denominations). Nothing else. Chances are you'll buy a wheelie suitcase there to put all your wares in. And everything's cheap because it's made in Thailand. Love it.
We love the Lumpini night markets too. It is full of all the usual handicrafts and home decor things that Thailand does so well but there's also a section of original Thai designers. Very cool. It also has a massive outdoor food court the size of a football field. Thai food stalls down one side, cold beer on the other. Karaoke singers on a stage at one end, a giant screen playing football (on mute) at the other.
Other people would probably cite the shopping malls as part of Bangkok's great shopping experience. I'm not much into that. When I was eight weeks pregnant, we made an an emergency shopping trip to Bangkok to buy bras - I suddenly couldn't fit into any of mine and certainly couldn't find any in Hanoi. If you think that's a flimsy excuse for a weekender to Bangkok, think again. Hanoi roads are crap. Travelling by motorbike over potholes on said crappy roads is not fun. Anyhow... I eventually found the bras. But it took a long time trawling through mall after mall, trying to explain with helpful hand gestures, "pregnant boobs, need bra". Ahem, yes.
5. Thai people are so friendly. Even the police, if ever you should need them, which I hope you don't. In my experience, police in Asia are somewhat scary. One time in Phnom Penh, I had to visit a police station after my passport was stolen. It was creepy. I happily agreed to a "donation" just to get the hell out of there. In Hanoi, the traffic police wait on corners to pounce on drivers and charge them for all sorts of "offences". They can even confiscate your motorbike. Upon seeing a tan-coloured uniform on the road ahead, the best course of action is to make a quick u-turn. Or just drive around them (but they get cranky when you do that).
TuoiTreNews - no more hiding behind trees or electricity poles for the traffic cops
But Thai people are lovely, friendly and refreshingly down to earth. Women over 40 don't pretend they need to squeeze into skinny jeans. They're too busy enjoying life and eating good food. That's how it should be (and how it's not in Santiago!)
6. Thai massages. Not in the kinky ones, of which Thailand has plenty. But the super-hard, back bending, contortionist massages administered by hefty women (and men) that leave you feeling like a cooked phat noodle. I'm not sure they even do soft massages. There's no oil involved but you wear a loose-fitting, cotton tunic. I'm a massage-addict but even I silently groan in pain throughout. For a lesser mortal, perhaps steer clear.
7. The art and the ambience. It's hard to consider Bangkok as a tranquil place but inside most buildings, the art and Buddhist-zen decor can make you think you're elsewhere. I'm not talking about the gold Buddhist statues and dragons, though that's pretty cool too in small doses. The linens (cushion covers, table cloths, curtains etc) are gorgeous patterned silk, and there's nothing you can't buy for a home - paintings, lamps, candles, furniture... and it all seems so elegant and serene.
From Maco magazine
Have I raved enough? Are you booking your flight online yet? It's a bit far from Santiago but the Thais are savvy enough to know how to hook tourists, so I'm sure it will be just how I remember it...