Unbeatable travel deals are definitely one of the many perks of living in South East Asia. This is undoubtedly a welcomed blessing for a spirit consumed with wanderlust, such as my own.
My decision to travel to Bangkok alone was a spur of the moment decision. I booked my ticket and hotel stay in a heartbeat without a properly thought out itinerary. I had mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness as departure date loomed. While I was excited about a getaway, I also dreaded the idea of travelling alone in Bangkok. Although I have been to Bangkok before, the city can be overwhelming without carefully laid plans.
Flying has always made me nervous but the fear of air holes and turbulence has never stopped me before, even though I have to admit I barely slept the night before my solo trip. I spent the evening packing and unpacking resulting in the lightest luggage I have ever packed. I then grabbed a Lonely Planet Bangkok guide, and my adventurous spirit was ready for action.My flight to Bangkok was smooth. Thai Airways hospitality is a true reflection of what awaits you when you finally land in Thailand. The cabin crew was warm, welcoming and helpful.
We touched down at 1700hrs. The beginning of rush hour, the awakening of chaos, beautiful chaos. I love watching Bangkok at night, when the rest of the world is preparing to unwind, take it a pace slower, Bangkok, the city that never sleeps, comes to life. Getting stuck in traffic can be frustrating or entertaining. Personally, it’s the latter. Side street food vendors setting up, special food carts pushing through heavy traffic, other people seated on plastic stools devouring their bowl of noodles as they chat away, an army of motorbikes dangerously cutting through traffic as if participating in a motor competition, women and their sleeping babies begging on the street, side street sex toys stall with dildos of all colors and sizes on display ….. I mean, driving through Bangkok is like watching a staged circus.After about an hour and a half, I finally arrived at my hotel, Citadines Sukhumvit 11. I was warmly welcomed with a hearty Sawasdeekah, followed by the Wai gesture – A slight bow, with palms pressed together in a prayer-like position – The humblest way to show gratitude and respect; to honour one another: An element of the Thai culture that I deeply resonate with and love practising.
The Ascott Limited (part of Capitaland) is one of the leading international serviced residence owner-operator. It boasts more than 500 around the world. It operates award-winning brands namely: Ascott, Citadines and Somerset, as well as equally fabulous: Quest, The Crest Collection and Lyf.
I love Citadines for their variety of Apart’hotels. They offer a choice personalized services and facilities to suit their guests’ needs. My room was spacious and comfortable. It felt like home away from home. A space so refreshing to the mind. I looked forward to winding down in the evening after a long day in the buzzing streets of Bangkok.There are a couple more Citadines around Bangkok, but what drew me to this is its strategic location on Sukhumvit Road, Soi 11, dining venues and nightlife destination for tourists and locals alike.
Bangkok is a party animal. I had planned to soak in the tub and have a good night sleep (that had evaded me the previous night due to travel jitters), but in between check-in and the warm bath, my mood had completely switched. I was ready to venture out and experience the night scene.
One of the perks of being an expat is that you always know someone in different parts of the world. After settling in, freshening up and having a quick bite at the hotel, I called up Sylvie, a friend from Ivory Coast who has just moved to Bangkok from Manila. Luckily Sylvie was also in the mood to go out, so we gave each other a Rendezvous at the hotel lobby. As I dressed up and did my makeup, Black Eyed Peas song, “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night” was ringing in my head.
We walked to Havana Social, also known as the secret Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11: a Cuban themed speakeasy bar. Its “Secret” nomenclature is born out of the fact that it is hidden in a narrow alley off the main soi 11. There are no signs to direct interested parties, and It is almost impossible to tell there is a bar or any establishment for that matter. We saw Telefono sign that led us to an unusual entrance with an old retro telephone booth. To gain access to this secret spot, we tapped in a secret code that automatically swung the door open. Suddenly, we were transported to the decadent nightlife of prerevolutionary 1940’s Havana.Dim lights, Panama hats hanging on the wall, cracked ceilings, clothesline, retro furniture and vintage wall hangings meticulously transformed this little bar at Bangkok to Cuba. In a balcony-esque structure, Latin music emanates from the band, that makes you want to swing your hips. A little staircase beside the DJ booth led us to a cigar lounge and another mini bar. This became our hideout whenever we wanted to take a break from the crowded dance floor.
We had an amazing time until 1am when I decided to use the remaining energy wisely and walk to my hotel room. I had hit a Jackpot on my first night in Bangkok.
I woke up like a champ trying my best to ignore my throbbing head and my sore feet. Blame it on Havana Social’s Ricardo Robson, Bacardi black rum mixed with orange juice, honey and honeycomb and the salsa boogie.
YOGA ELEMENTS STUDIO
I finally dragged myself out of bed, drank a gallon of water, freshened up, slid into my yoga pants and headed off for my yoga session at Yoga Elements Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 13. It was a convenient 5minutes walking distance from Citadines.
The studio is very clean and serene. Mats and towels are provided by the very friendly and helpful staff. The teachers are very kind, knowledgeable and mindful. Before class, I had a chance to chat with a few local practitioners who had come in that day. If you are ever in the area their drop-in rate is 600Bahts.It all seemed like a good idea until I was in my first downward facing dog of the session when I felt like my brain was going to pour out through my eyes. They should invent yoga for a hangover. A few modifications here and there accompanied by mindful breathing allowed me to survive the session. By the time I was settling into my last pose which calls for letting go and allowing one’s body to melt into the ground below, I just wanted two things, coffee and more coffee.
After freshening up and changing into something more comfortable, I called a Grab taxi to D’ARK restaurant located at Piman 49 on Soi Sukhumvit 49.
D’ARK is stylish, modern sleek and fresh. Its high ceiling and hanging pendant lights over a big island table bringing the entire space to life. If you are looking for an Instagram shot of a great interior design with your cup of coffee D’ARK is the place.
Apart from the beautiful interior their artisanal coffee is outstanding. I had an almond cappuccino and a smoked salmon egg benedict. The service was great. Travelling solo means having strangers take your photos and one of the waitresses happily offered to snap away- the few shots that you see below.
As I sipped my coffee I grabbed a copy of The Tattoorialist: Tattoo Street style book by Nicolas Brulez. Brulez is a photographer who for the past 3 years has documented the tattoos of hundreds of people around the world. They say tattoos are the scars we choose to have. Personally, I have three and it was fascinating skimming through pages of a book with over 300 photographs, reading stories behind other people’s tattoos designs, and what chapter of their lives inspired them to get one.
There is a small lounge upstairs. On one side, there are coffee black and white photography artwork hanging above furniture, and on the other side, a bookshelf hosting a series of Assouline coffee table books. The ambience is inviting and relaxing, I spent a couple of minutes flipping through The Lights of Paris by Jean Michel Berts. For a moment there, I was nostalgic, remembering the first time I visited Paris. I was fascinated by its streets at night, architecture and people. One of my favourite memories was visiting the pristine Basilica of The Sacred Heart. I was just a young girl from Kenya. Paris was never my dream and there was I standing in the footsteps of the most gorgeous white basilica I had ever seen.It was a morning well spent.
SHOPPING IN BANGKOK
My husband believes that shopping malls in Bangkok have been constructed in such a way that once visitors enter, they never get the way out, and in the process of losing themselves, they just keep on shopping.
My next stop was Bangkok’s most legendary shopping mall: MBK centre. On weekends, you will probably find half of Bangkok teens shopping here. Who can blame them, it is the perfect stop for good bargains. MBK is like a fancy Asian wet market, only it is dry, with air condition systems and escalators
If you ever bump into me in MBK centre, it will be on the 4th floor where you will find me scouring for electronics and miscellaneous gadgets. I love the phone accessories section. I bought a long overdue power bank and a new Samsung phone cover. I got lost on my way out (of course!). The exit may have been moved or something and in the process, I bumped into a cute cross body bag and a T-shirt. I impulsively bought them. My husband’s theory is accurate after all.
From MBK centre you can easily walk to three other shopping malls: Siam Discovery, Siam Centre and Siam Paragon, in that order. These three target deep-pocket clients. They carry both local and international brands with fixed price tags.
From MBK, I walked through Siam’s new skywalk covered in art. There are lily pad-like structures over benches providing shade for whoever wants to spend a few minutes lounging here. It is a fun and colourful space: A great excuse for visitors to take a break from the malls and snap away some photos.
Siam Paragon was my last stop of the day. Getting a taxi late in the evening can be tricky, especially when it is Black Friday. I wasn’t ready to queue for another hour, so I settled for a 300Bahts tuk-tuk ride to my hotel.
In Bangkok when you are not shopping, you are eating or at least thinking about where you will have your next bowl of noodles. So, I called up Sylvie to get our night shift schedule.
We both had the most delicious Tom Yum al fresco at Rosabieng Restaurant located on 3 Sukhumvit Soi 11. The restaurant serves excellent Thai food and comes highly recommended. We decided to sit outside due to the cool November weather, devouring our mouth-watering bowls of soup as a live jazz band provided the entertainment for the evening. We couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant evening. Havana Social was inevitably our next and final stop for the day as we were assured of a good time there.
I took an R&R from the busy streets of Bangkok. After a quick morning session at Yoga Elements, I spent the rest of the day with my Italian friends- who had just moved to Bangkok.
From a tourist point of view, it was fascinating getting the views of people who live in Bangkok. All the things that we want to see and experience is what the residents run away from.
They have a beautiful house tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. it is incredible how a couple of minutes’ drive can have you completely disconnected from the chaos. It felt like a whole new different city. Just like a coin, Bangkok has different faces.
At this point, I am embarrassed to say that we still went back to Havana Social that evening. Three times in a row! Who can blame me? It is fun, the music is amazing, the cocktails are even better, and it was conveniently located a few blocks from my hotel.
Sundays’ are a bit more relaxing, hence one gets an opportunity to experience the venue without the big crowd excitement.
To try something different, Sylvie suggested hopping on motorbikes and heading to Titanium Bar on Sukhumvit 22. Todd Philips once quoted, Bangkok like Las Vegas, sounds like a place where you make bad decisions. Here I was with a Helmet ten times bigger than my head, cutting through Bangkok traffic and even managed to snap a photo while at it. I thought I was going to lose one shoe, or scratch my knees from a passing tuk-tuk, or my helmet would have flown away …It was exciting and scary all at the same time, but it ended well.
Titanium bar has a good ambience, the hosts are absolutely friendly and welcoming. There was a live band competition and we were fortunate to watch The Full Gusto band performing. I loved their energy, stage presence, and how they got the audience to engage. We enjoyed singing along with them, holding imaginary microphones and pouring our hearts out to familiar lyrics like we were part of the competition.
The most interesting part though was visiting their -10 degrees ice bar located upstairs. Vodka enthusiasts, you will be happy to know they have an extensive menu of vodka to choose from. I tried a shot of Lychee vodka. I still don’t know the logic behind drinking in an ice bar, but it was the highlight of my evening- so much that we went back for another shot before calling it a night.
DAY 4 | AYUTTHAYA DAY TRIP WITH ASIA DISCOVERY TRAVEL AGENCY
My day started at 6.30am with a designated driver from Asia Discovery picking me up from the hotel. I had signed up for a full day tour to the ancient city of Ayutthaya: A UNESCO World Heritage with historical temples and monuments worth visiting.
Ayutthaya was once the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam. It was founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1351 and was destroyed 400 years later by the Burmese Army and flooding.
Ananya, my tour guide was lovely and most importantly intelligent and knowledgeable. She narrated everything with so much passion and humour. By the end of the day, I had learnt so much about the country’s history and culture.
BANG PA-IN ROYAL PALACE.
Our first stop was at Bang Pa-In Royal Palace also known as the Summer Palace. The palace was built during the Ayutthaya era, and it was formerly used by the Thai Kings.
My favourite part was climbing the Ho Withun Thasana: A vibrantly painted lookout tower. From the top, you have a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.I also learnt about the tragic story of Queen Sunada that drowned when the royal boat capsized on the way to Bang Pa-in Royal Palace. It was an offence to physically touch anybody from the royal family, so the witnesses did not dare to save her and her daughter.
AYUTHAYA HISTORICAL PARK
Ayutthaya historical park covers the ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya. There is a wealth of history behind the ruins and knowing a bit of it helps one to appreciate more and get a sense of what it used to be like.
THE MONASTERY IN FRONT OF THE FUNERAL PYRE| WAT NA PHRA MEN
This ancient temple was built during the late Ayutthaya period. It was established on the grounds where the royal prisoners were apparently cremated after execution. What makes this temple remarkable is the fact that it was not destroyed when Ayutthaya was defeated by Burmese troops.
The ceiling is covered with decorated glasses. Eight octagonal pillars with sculptures that resemble closed lotus flowers, support the roof structure. Inside the ordination hall, is the largest most beautiful and graceful crowned Buddha in a royal attire. He is seated in a ‘subduing mara’ position.
Next to the ordination hall is a small Viharn that hosts a Buddha image in an unusual seated position carved out of green stone. Here we also received blessings from an old monk. Someone should have given me a heads up because I almost jumped when he hit my head.
TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA | WAT LOKAYASUTHARAM
One of the most beautiful Reclining Buddha I have ever laid my eyes on. The statue is quite gigantic and impressive. There is a small altar where locals and visitors can give offerings and pay their respect by lighting incense and placing lotus flowers.
ORCHID WHITE RIVER CRUISE | AYUTTHAYA TO BANGKOK
After what seemed like a crash course on Thailand’s history and culture, it was time to relax aboard White Orchid. We enjoyed a full buffet lunch as we cruised our way through Chao Phraya river banks.
We caught glimpses of how locals live and make a living along the river. Houses of different colours stood aligned along the banks on top of stilts, local merchants bought and sold goods from boat to boat, and families went about their daily chores. As I took this scenery in, I felt a general sense of nostalgia wash over me. I felt a desire to stay a little longer, maybe even for a day or two and experience what it would feel like to wake up every morning on the banks of Chao Phraya river.I was snapped out of this fantasy as we approached Bangkok. My driver was waiting as we disembarked. I tuned in to one my favourite playlists by Ludovico Einaudi as we drove through Bangkok traffic. I knew the drive back to my hotel will take a while, so I just surrendered to it instead of getting apprehensive.
RED SKY AT CENTARA GRAND
This was my last evening in Bangkok. Despite being exhausted I still wanted to go out and bid the city a proper goodbye. I went to Red Sky Bangkok: A swanky rooftop bar and restaurant located on the 56th floor of Centara grand with an impressive view of the city. While on the streets of Bangkok, especially at night, it is almost impossible to miss Red Sky colour changing arches. It was my lucky night, despite the bar being busy, I still managed to get a table right next to the arches. A refreshing glass of Le Petit Rose amidst the city skyline was the perfect way to relax and unwind before heading back to Manila.
Lora By Lora. x