Bangkok Update December 2016 – 3 months after King Bhumibol Adulyadej passing.
The Land of Smiles occupies a special place in many people’s heart. To many Asians, it’s the quintessential food, massage, shopping and adventure capital of Asia. Vibrant, exotic, chaotic and fun, it’s a city that never quite sleeps. This trip in mid-Dec 2016 was organised by Jetabout Holidays to gain first hand experience if Bangkok has lost any of its fun quotient following the unfortunate demise of the country revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the 13 Oct 2016. The government announcement of an official 30 days mourning, closing of many nightclubs (popular hangout Soi Cowboy, for example, is closed indefinitely), several movie theaters, operation hours of bars until 1 a.m. , banning of loud or raucous activities, sombre dress code . etc, cast an air of gloom. More on the dress code , it is not mandatory for overseas travelers or expats to wear black. More subdued colors, and just communicating that respect, will go a long way to be appreciated by the local man-in-the-street.
Moving on about three months into the mourning period, the big question is Bangkok any less attractive as a travel destination ? I like to say a big “NO!”. In fact, this is as good as any other time to visit Bangkok. Also, this is a rare unique opportunity to observe how a nation mourns her beloved monarch. Not only did I had a great time navigating the streets of Bangkok, experiencing amazing local street food, I had the chance to feel at first hand, the resilience and unity of the Thais in this time of collective grieve. A hardy nation embracing change while bracing for a new era. Bangkok is moving on as before, with a vigour and pace that epitomize all that is the “Land of Smiles” we are familiar with.
I hope the following pictures shot by myself during the trip showcase some sights of the city during the trip and I can attest that Bangkok has not lost its smiles, nor its edge. I would visit this photogenic city at the drop of a hat, if the chance arises again.
Tuk-tuks at Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown. Still an exciting experience to be shuttled around by this ‘hot-rod”. There is theoretically a ban on new tuk-tuks as they are noisy and polluting, but it doesn’t really seem to be being enforced at present. Nevertheless, most locals are not too bothered with tuk-tuks nowadays and, were it not for their popularity with tourists, the days of the tuk-tuk on the streets of Bangkok would surely be numbered.
Tuk-tuks fares are non-metered like most registered taxis. Do have sense of value judgment when going on these rides. In general, if you don’t want any problems. Don’t take those that spend all the time parked in tourist areas, In addition, avoid offers from tuk-tuks for ‘shopping trips’ or ‘sightseeing tour’ for 20B/hour or similar, as it ends up wasting a lot of time. In the evening, when the shops are closed, is the best time to take a tuk-tuk if you want the experience.
Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha. An oasis of calm and serenity in the fast-paced city. It’s my fourth visit to this iconic venue, but I never felt any less inspired to capture different angle during each visit.
Beautiful structure for cityscape at the Chong Nonsi BTS station, set at the far end of the Central Business District (Sathorn Road), overlooks one of the most picturesque skylines of Bangkok. Lots of photographers converged here for wedding, fashion or architectural shots. This was a nice surprise discovery as we chanced upon this venue when we strolled here for transportation on the BTS. Our hotel, the Como Metropolitan Bangkok, was located just about 10min walk away.
At the Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. This is my fave mall of malls in Bangkok. Terminal 21 is a one floor one theme shopping mall. The concept is market streets of the world. It is decorated based on well-known streets in cities such as Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul. This mall has the longest escalators in Thailand, at 36 metres. And the food court , Pier 21 (5th floor) will satisfy any hungry souls in great ambience and reasonable price. There is a superb Thai massage spa, Let’s Relax (6th floor) that will pleases all tired bones in an elegant setting.
Bangkok may be predominantly a Buddhist society, but it is cosmopolitan in outlook. Shopping malls in the shopping belt are all decked out in bright lights to welcome Christmas and the new year.
Wat Pra Keaw, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Everyone’s fave temple attraction in the city. I see hordes of tourists, and “selfies queens and kings” with their selfie sticks. Can you spot the colourful dressing of some of the visitors? Whatever the hues of the clothing, it’s always golden moments at this gorgeous attraction. Remember that ‘wats’ (temples) are sacred places and proper dress codes are enforced. No shorts, slippers, sandals, or revealing tops, otherwise entry to the temple will be disallowed. There’s also a shop that offers proper attire rental should you need it (30bht per piece, with a 100bht refundable deposit).
The Emerald Buddha, It is a figurine of the meditating Buddha seated in yogic posture, made of a semi-precious green stone (jade or jasper rather than emerald), clothed in gold and about 26 inches (66 cm) tall. It is housed in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok (Wikipedia) . I read elsewhere that only the Royal family are allowed to touch the statue. No photography is allowed inside the temple where it is housed. This was picture was shot from outside the temple entrance using a telephoto lens (200mm).
Statue of a kinnari. The Kinnari, (usually spelt ‘Kinnaree’) in Thai literature originates from India, but was adapted to the Thai way of thinking. The Thai Kinnari is depicted as a young woman wearing an angel-like costume. The lower part of the body is similar to a bird which enables her to fly between the human and the mystical worlds. One of the most popular subject tourists like to pose with at the temple.
Nature in action at the waterlilies planted in ornamental pots at the temples. Never failed to please me with its vibrant petals. So I am like a honey bee , attracted by it’s beauty.
The iconic Damnoen Saduak Floating Market , one of Bangkok most popular attractions, renowned worldwide. The floating markets are well supported locally and mainly serve as tourist attractions. One of their goals is to facilitate domestic and international tourists experiencing the culture of riverside shopping. Worth waking up early for the 1.5 hour commute from Bangkok.
Fruits vendor at the market. The market starts getting crowded at 830am onwards and ends by early noon. Do go early for a more enjoyable outing. During peak hours, visitors on boats ride in the klong (canal) can experience grid-lock as the ‘flotilla’ of boats massed at various section. But that’s where the fun is , I guess.
Moo Ping…Thai’s grilled skewered pork vendor, smoking up the air at the market. Providing another sensory aspect to the experience at the market.
Visitors on boat ride enjoying the snacks sold by the hawkers. The prices of snacks sold here are slightly more pricey than at city street food stalls. But definitely not prohibitive. Things come at a slight premium at world renowned attractions.
Happiness comes from within. And it shows on this snack seller. Makes eating her food that more delicious too.
Khanom Buang vendor. Khanom Buang..Sweet Thai crepe with meringue and foy tong (sugary egg strands) on top. Very few visitors can resist this colourful tasty snack.
A parting shot of the exotic floating market before we left. My fourth visit here, but never get bored. As this riverine attraction changes a little each each time I am here. Different mood, lighting, people…
A resilience nation embracing a new era
I was initially worried about what response I will get when I tried shooting this group of local Thai mourners queuing at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. They could have traveled long distance from the outskirts of Bangkok, waited hours as they inched towards the King resting place. Instead of being irritated by me, they flashed their smiles and acknowledged my gestures. Such is the grace and fortitude of the Thai people.
Prayer altars are set up at many areas for those wishing to offer prayer to the late King.
Mourners leaving the Grand Palace after completing their mourning session. It’s a humbling experience to see a nation so united and dedicated in their time of mourning. For most Thais, King Bhumipol is the only king they know and grew up with. Think of the reverence you would show as if you were attending the funeral of a close friend’s demised loved one. Then you would be able to better understand the magnitude of the emotion landscape.
We had the privilege to be hosted to two excellent hotels during our exploration trip, with each hotel offering a different experience and epitomizing the famed Thai hospitality. Staying at a good hotel during any overseas trip makes the trip more memorable. I would strongly recommend these two amazing hotels to readers planning their next vacation in Bangkok.
Avani Riverside Bangkok
The Avani Riverside Bangkok, is owned by the Minor Hotels that owns and manages, among diverse businesses, the famous Anantara chain of hotels. The Avani Riverside is a departure from the “conservative slick” set up of the Anantara resort and having opened recently in April 2016, is equipped with the latest technologies and of course, you can expect similar top-notch service. Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, this upmarket hotel is about 8 km from both the Wat Arun temple and the Grand Palace. It’s also 13 km from Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World. Guests will especially love the rooftop infinity pool among its wide range of amenities. If anyone asked me to sum my sentiment of the hotel, it would be “gorgeous hotel near the heart of Bangkok but away from the hustle and bustle”.
The roof top infinity pool at level 26. Expansive of the Bangkok skyline across the Chao Phraya River.
The hotel roof top lounge , Attitude.
Beautiful high-ceiling hotel lobby with awesome view at Level 11.
Attitude Rooftop Bar and Restaurant during early evening.
Ferry pier (via Anantara Riverside Bangkok) – complimentary ferry shuttle across to Sathorn Pier.
Amazing view to wake up to at Avani Riverside (this room is a junior suite)
Spacious junior suite (62m²) with modern fittings.
Bath tub with spectacular view of the sun rise.
View of the Chao Phraya River during sun rise. All rooms face the river.
Como Metropolitan Bangkok
Como Metropolitan Bangkok is a contemporary and chic hotel, conveniently located in the central business and embassies district of Sathorn. Located just 10-minutes away from Silom’s buzzing nightlife scene and easily accessible by Skytrain or BTS train networks. The hotel combines passionate service with award-winning Thai restaurant, Nahm, Glow restaurant for COMO Shambhala Cuisine, and Met Bar. There is one word that comes to mind when describing this hotel after my short stay – “Wow !” . There are various superlatives I can use but I have to say Como Metropolitan Bangkok is just lovely the minute you stepped into the hotel. I like to think of it as “An Oasis in Bangkok”.
The cosy refined hotel lobby
Spacious Metropolitan Room (51-54 sq.m) with refined fittings and furnishings.
Bathroom with very functional layout and amenities.
The hotel wellness spa by Como Shambhala
Hydro massage pool in man’s bathroom.
25m lap pool with daily schedule of complimentary Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates classes, as well as other health-related group activities.
The hotel Thai fine dining restaurant – Nahm. Rated 38th best worldwide and 7th in Thailand.
This trip was organised by Jetabout Holidays. Please check out their website for promotion from S$200 at Como Metropolitan. For customised itinerary , you can email firstname.lastname@example.org /or to call: 67341818
Footnote : All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Holiday Tours and Travel (Singapore) and all rights reserved.