A second (or third) visit offers a perfect opportunity to get to know the city better
These days, everyone extols the virtues of ‘offbeat’ travel but the truth is, when you’re in a famous city like London, Paris or Bangkok, it’s hard to look beyond the obvious without first looking at the obvious. And that’s why, it’s the repeat visitor who is privy to those quirkier, shadowed portions of a city that seldom make it to travel guides.
Art in Paradise Museum
This is a one-of-a-kind interactive museum at Din Daeng that many tourists have never heard of. Reserve an entire afternoon for traipsing through the wonderfully realistic 3D paintings in this vast, multi-storeyed set-up. Illustrations show you how to pose so that you look like a part of the scene being depicted and instructions will guide your friend on where to take the best picture from. This place is not designed for solo visitors because how else will you take home photographs of windsurfing (with your hair perfectly in place) and drifting down a Venetian canal in a stately gondola? Time your visit well to avoid long waits for photographs at every painting. And look out for a Thai-speaking Mona Lisa who bids you goodbye at the end of your amusing visit.
Monuments of Bangkok
Bangkok’s beautifully constructed temples are tourist magnets but the city is also home to two historical monuments in interesting neighbourhoods, which merit a visit. Head to Democracy Monument at Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, built by Phibun on the lines of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, to commemorate the Siamese Revolution of 1932 and finish with a traditional Thai lunch at Methavalai Sorndaeng, a quaint fine dining restaurant located bang opposite the monument.
In the evening, make your way to Victory Monument at Ratchathewi District, built in June 1941 to celebrate the Thai victory in the Franco-Thai War. After you finish inspecting the tall pillar and the military statues at its base, head to the Victory Monument Night Market for some retail therapy and a dinner of street-side boat noodles.
Anantha Samakom Throne Hall
The former reception hall inside Dusit Palace is probably the grandest and most awe-inspiring royal museum in Bangkok. What makes Anantha Samakom Throne Hall truly unique is its Renaissance-style and neoclassical architecture, clearly reminiscent of European castles. The credit for this goes to its Italian architects Mario Tamagno, Annibale Rigotti and Ercole Manfredi. Women are not allowed to enter the museum in trousers but you can also get a free wraparound skirt that the attendants are happy to fasten for you. The best part is, you get to keep whichever skirt you choose to wear. Photography inside the museum is prohibited so you will have to commit to memory the stunning Fresco drawings and mural paintings that portray everything from kingly duties to chapters of Siamese history.
Walk around the city
Ditch your itinerary and take a walk around Lumpini Park to see how the locals relax. Sample some fried banana and grilled seafood at stalls manned by the ubiquitous ‘lady boys’. Discover little known temples and shrines on forgotten sidewalks; sometimes they have better stories to tell than the larger Wats (temples).
Inspired by London’s Hyde Park, Lumpini Park serves as Bangkok’s green lung and often hosts eclectic fairs and festivals. In January this year, the park hosted the week-long Thailand Tourism Festival where visitors could shop, eat and view enthralling performances from different parts of Thailand. Do look out for drones buzzing around and capturing footage of who-knows-what.
Satisfy your ‘instant’ hunger pangs
One thing you must do in Bangkok, especially if hungry between meals, is pay a visit to a 7-Eleven store. There, you can witness and participate in the unique process of buying, making (at a hot water dispenser) and consuming a cup of instant noodles all under the same roof. What’s more, if you’re in the shop before 2pm or after 5pm, you can also purchase a can of beer and swig it with your Ramen. Be warned though, the flavours are nowhere as spicy or strong as the versions you get in India. And you might be hard put to find a 100% vegetarian instant noodle.
Do it like the locals
The denizens of Thailand’s capital city are known for their penchant for ‘casual chic’. So if you visit the famed Siam Niramit show and want to blend in with the locals, don’t dress up. Turning up in shorts and a T-shirt is more than fine; it’s ideal. And it’s not really going to take away from the experience of watching mesmerising stories of ancient Siam unfold on what is purportedly the world’s highest stage.
Also, don’t miss MBK Market for a satisfying shopping spree. There are others more famous but trust me, this one is the real deal. It has the widest variety of clothes, bags, shoes, make-up, accessories, medicines, toiletries, perfumes and a lot of other things at great prices. At times you can bargain but sometimes, the prices are fixed.
Clichés worth repeating
Yes, (nearly) everyone does the dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River on their first visit to Bangkok but it still deserves an encore for two reasons. One, it’s the best night view of the temple-studded city you’ll ever have and two, every ship offers a distinctly different experience. Go for the one operated by ‘Wonderful Pearl Cruise’ and you’ll have the privilege of sharing floor space with an Elvis Presley lookalike who also does a mean rendition of ‘can’t help falling in love’. Also, the buffet dishes on this ship stand several notches higher than some of the others; notable among which are the sushi platters and baked fish in pandan leaves.
How to reach: Most major airlines fly to Bangkok. Indians can get visa on arrival.
Where to stay: The recently opened Aetas Lumpini is an excellent choice close to Lumpini Park. The Sukhumvit Soi area has some great boutique resorts.
Where to eat: Nahm Restaurant at The Metropolitan for some swanky fare and the food markets for humbler eats.