Bangkok is much more than the ‘Sin City of Asia’. Thriving on an abundance of temples, and thronged with shopping hubs, here’s why this capital city should be your next vacay destination. Thanks to GoAir‘s recently launched connection from Mumbai/Delhi to Bangkok, heading to this city is easier than ever! By Bayar Jain
There’s a lot that the city of Bangkok has to offer for Indian tourists. And, guess what! Low-cost carrier GoAir just launched two flights starting from Mumbai and New Delhi, respectively. The USP of the GoAir flights is their departure timings. (07:15 from Delhi, and 13:45 from Mumbai). This alows travellers to make the most of their stay in the city without having to compromise on sleep. Thanks to GoAir, you too can explore this vibrant, pulsating city. And while you’re there, keep this itinerary handy!
Formerly known as Siam, Thailand has a striking resemblance with Hindu traditions of India. Its openness to erotica aside, Bangkok, in particular, is no less than an escapade to a mini-Hindu nation interspersed with a plethora of Buddhism. On leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport, happy faces find a space in every corner. ‘Hurry’ doesn’t seem like a word in anyone’s dictionary, as everyone calmly make their way through the mile-long traffic. Within the airport too, the on-arrival visa line seems to be extending across many turns. However, once you pave your way through the rush, you learn why the city is ranked so high among tourist destinations.
When here, visiting the Wat Phra Kaew or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a must. Officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram, this wat (Thai for temple) is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Located in the centre of the city, the Wat Phra Kaew consists of a series of structures enclosed by a perimeter wall.
Clothed in striking gold, the semi-precious jade figurine of a meditating Buddha himself exemplifies the serene nature of the Thai people. Surrounding this glittering temple is an intricately carved complex comprising of at least 100 buildings, if not more. On entering this compound, you find yourself shadowed by the yakshis, the mythical guards of the temple. Six such guards are sprinkled all over the compound, believably to guard the Emerald Buddha from evil spirits. Straight ahead is a seemingly relaxed looking statue of Cheewok Komaraphat, the doctor of Lord Buddha and father of Thai herbal medicine. A look around, however, gives you a sense of the grandeur that is unique to Thai temples. Embellished with gold and decorated with intricate carvings, each of the multiple structures here was constructed by individual tastes. As a result, multiple architectural forms and figurines find a home here. Whether it’s a traditional golden stupa for meditation, tiled buildings in Persian styles, or even Byzantine mosaics, each come together to create a harmonious confluence. The emerald Buddha temple and the Pantheon has a wooden roof, covered in orange, green, and dark blue polished tiles on the outside. A combination of mosaics, golden reliefs, and mirror and glass inserts are prominent at every turn. Depictions of Ramayana, the Hindu epic can also be found painted on the walls.
However, keep in mind that the Thai consider their temples a very sacred space. Due to this, dressing modestly within the compounds is of utmost importance. Although sarongs are available on hire outside the premises, it is advised to wear full length clothing during your visit. Sleeveless, tight fitted clothing, and see-throughs should be avoided. Moreover, no photography is allowed inside the temple. The outdoor areas, however, are camera-friendly.
Following the Grand Palace, a stopover at the Jim Thompson House and Museum should be on your list. Jim Thompson was an American born practicing architect who was sent to Bangkok to serve as a military officer following the World War II. Despite the end of his service, he fell in love with the city and decided to settle there permanently. His love for the nation intensified on seeing the highly skilled silk craftsmen of the region, and he took it upon himself to revive the dying art. Thanks to him, Thai silk has now accorded worldwide recognition.
Apart from learning about his contribution to the weaving industry, visiting the Jim Thompson house serves as a bridge between traditional Thai housing, and the more contemporary styles that are visible today. Customs of the early builders converge with the modern here. While traditional Thai houses followed the ‘one room, one house’ principle, Thompson turned things around. He combined six teak buildings to create one continuous home, a model that continues to exist even today. The traditional stilts, i.e building houses on an elevated platform to prevent from flooding, red paint for preservation, and a ‘spirit home’ still find a space.
‘Spirit homes’ are small temple-like homes built outside the main structure. According to Thai beliefs, when building a new home, we’re snatching the land away from the spirits of the deceased who once lived there. The spirit home is their way of paying homage to these deceased, while also apologising for taking away their former home. By building this mini home, the Thai believe that they are providing the spirits with an alternative home to reside in, instead of rendering them homeless.
Moving ahead, a stopover at the Chao Phraya River for a dinner cruise while in Bangkok is a must. Like all urban rivers, this river was initially chosen by early settlers owing to its fertility and abundant fish. Now, the river ferries over 50,000 people every day! A juxtaposition of calm and chaotic best describes the Chao Phraya River. Operating between 06:00 and 19:30 daily, five public boat lines operate on this river. Cross river ferries to drop you off from one riverbank to another also operate from major piers. The best way to make the most of your cruise is by gorging on their scrumptious buffet style dinners offered on the cruise. Live music to the tunes of river waters add to the magic of it all.
Thailand is famous for its Thai massages, and rightfully so. While in Bangkok, pamper yourself with a traditional no-oil Thai massage in any of their massage parlours dotted all over the city.
Where to shop
Whether its souvenirs to take back home, durable yet trendy clothing, local Thai ingredients, or even toys to spoil your pets, Bangkok’s Chatuchak market has it all. With over 15,000 stalls and 11,505 vendors, it’s very easy to get lost here, so come prepared!
To get the most of the South East Asian flavour, don’t forget to visit the Floating Markets. Not only are they a shopoholics’ paradise, but they are also great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a bygone way of life.
Where to stay
Located just 30 minutes from the Suvarnabhumi Airport, Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort is an elegant retreat in the buzzing centre of Bangkok. It’s easy walkable access to the BTS Skytrain makes it an ideal property for any tourist in the city. This resort redefines modernity by creating a melange of contemporary with hints of traditionality. Their large rooms, whether the deluxe rooms, executive suites, presidential suites, or the royal suites, each room guarantees maximum comfort. Balconies with views of the city, or their verdant garden, or even the adjacent canal flowing next to the hotel is assured from every room. An oasis-like swimming pool coupled with the lush greenary of trees dating back to over a century makes this resort naturally soothing. The presence of BDMS Wellness Clinic offering a range of preventive healthcare treaments like physiotherapy, digestive wellness, dental and fertility treatments, further adds to the wellness experience, which the hotel swears by. Conscious travellers can head to their Rim Klong Cafe, which serves a range of signature coffees, gluten-free bread options, healthy mocktails, and nutritious boosters. Their breakfast buffet at the all day dining restaurant Tamarind also keeps the health quotient in mind by including a range of edible seeds, organic produce, fruit platters, live omlette counters, and fresh juices in their seemingly endless spread. The Sala pool bar and the Cinnamon Lobby Bar are other alternatives spaces here for one to unwind. Keep an eye out for the daily complementary ‘chocolate hour’ at the hotel while you’re here.
GoAir recently added the Bangkok sector to their list of international destinations. Daily non-stop flights from Mumbai and Delhi, respectively, can help you reach this cultural hub in no time!