#TravelThursday: Wats, shopping, beer in Bangkok

David Lozada
A former Rappler intern tells us about his memorable trip to Bangkok, Thailand

PLACE OF PIETY. These are some of the life-sized statues of Buddha inside Wat Pho. All photos by David Lozada

MANILA, Philippines – In November 2012, I was in Bangkok, Thailand to attend an international youth forum for ASEAN youth. Luckily, I had enough time to explore the capital of Thailand.

1. Wats

“Wat” is the Thai term for “temple.” Being a predominantly Buddhist country, Bangkok has lots of temples scattered all throughout the city. I was fortunate enough to visit two of the more important ones. 

Wat Phra Kaew is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is said to be the most important temple in Thailand. The main feature of this temple is the small statue of Buddha carved out from a single jade (not emerald) rock. Illustrations of the life of Buddha fill the interior of the temple. Photos were not allowed to be taken inside.

The second temple we visited was the famous Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It cost around 100 Baht (US$3) per person to enter the temple. For children, the entrance fee is half the price. 

THE RECLINING BUDDHA. This structure stands 15 meters high and is 43 meters long

I had always wanted to see the Reclining Buddha and so I was very excited to enter the temple. I was awed when I finally saw the structure: it was gigantic and gold-plated. Visitors weren’t allowed to touch it.

I found out that the Reclining Buddha wasn’t the only attraction of Wat Pho. There were smaller temples and hundreds of life-sized Buddha statues around the compound.

The temple dress code:

  • Men and women are required to wear pants and shirts
  • If you’re wearing sleeveless tops and shorts, you will be required to wear a robe before entering 
  • You’ll be required to walk barefoot 

When in Bangkok, one should never miss the chance to visit one or two Buddhist temples. They are good windows into understanding Buddhism and Thai culture more.

2. The Grand Palace

NATIONAL SYMBOL. The Grand Palace is used during official ceremonies and state functions

As part of the forum activities, we also visited the Grand Palace. The current King of Thailand resides in another palace; but the Grand Palace is still used during official ceremonies and functions.

GRAND, INDEED. The structure at the back is one of the gold-plated temples inside the Grand Palace

The structure was very beautiful and traditional. Almost all of it was gold-plated. All throughout the Palace, we saw giant soldier-like structures. According to my student liaison Isaraporn Kitcholwiwat, these structures were the “protectors” of the Palace.

WELL-GUARDED. Dozens of these statues 'guard' the temple compound

Aside from the gigantic structures, there were also life-sized half-human-half-animal statues. These were the “animal spirits” that frolic around the Palace.

I wasn’t required to pay any amount to enter the Grand Palace since it was part of the forum activities. Based on the signage, though, entrance costs around 500 Baht  (US$17) for foreign tourists and is free for Thais.

3. Shopping

Bangkok is also known as one of the shopping capitals of Southeast Asia. I personally think that it’s because everything is relatively cheaper there than in the Philippines (this is aside from the fact that there are shopping malls and markets almost everywhere).

MBK. Taking a photo break while shopping with some co-delegates and friends

MBK is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) shopping centers in Bangkok. It has 6 floors, each floor selling one type of product (i.e. 2nd floor – gadgets, 5th floor – shoes). Here, you can haggle to get lower prices. T-shirts are sold at 150 Baht but you can get them for 100 Baht if you buy two or three. Thai silk scarves are at 300 Baht but if you’re good at haggling, you can get them for as low as half the price.

I only happened to pass by Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery so I cannot really say too much about them. What I do know, however, is that these are the malls where the branded and high-class (at least in Siam Discovery) stores are. This is also where one will find fine Thai restaurants.

MINIATURE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. Near the food court of Terminal 21, you’ll see San Francisco’s famous landmark

Terminal 21 is unique. It is designed like the entire mall is an airport and every floor has a specific country theme. It is full of branded shops and miniature replicas of different international landmarks. The food court here is a good place to experience different cuisines, with food stalls varying from Chinese to American.

PLATINUM SHOPPING CENTER. Pronounced 'pratunam' by locals, this mall is a good place to shop if you’re planning to buy clothes in bulk

Platinum Shopping Mall (known locally as “Pratunam”) is a good place to shop when one wants to buy lots of clothes. The shops offer wholesale prices. 

ART OF HAGGLING. The best places for bargain prices are the street shops

If you’re looking for the cheapest prices in Bangkok, there’s no better place to shop than in the street shops. Some of the products in the malls can be found in the street shops in almost half the price. Again, you can haggle.

A shopping tip: Have a Thai shopping guide or companion. It’s easier to get lower prices when you’re with a person who knows the language. 

4. Beer

If you’re like me who loves having a good time while exploring a country, then you’ll certainly enjoy Bangkok. There are various clubs and drinking spots around the city.

GOOD TIMES. The beer garden has different mini-concert stages in the 3 major bars owned by beer companies Chang, Leo, and Singha

The most famous one is the Beer Garden at the Bangkok Centre. Here, you’ll find 3 drinking areas run by 3 beer companies – Chang, Singha, and Leo. Single beer bottle prices are okay, but it is cheaper to order beer towers and buckets. 

Khao San road is where most tourists party. The entrance fees and beers are more expensive compared to those in the Beer Garden. It’s where you’ll experience street parties, though. There are also fast food restaurants in the area where one can sober up.

My co-delegates and I went to The Safehouse, a club. I paid 700 Baht for entrance but it was worth it. This is where we PARTIED (resulting to hangovers the next day).

5. Going about

Bangkok is a wonderful city. It’s not so easy to understand its culture and traditions, but most of the Thais I met were welcoming and fun to be with. The city is a good mix of old and modern.

Someday, I hope to go back and explore the places outside Bangkok. Khob kun Krub! – Rappler.com

[Have YOU started planning your summer itinerary? Where are you off to? Tell us! Or share with us your most memorable trip so far. Email your story and photos (lots of them) to desk@rappler.com. Use the subject heading #TRAVELTHURSDAY.]

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