Two weeks ago, I headed to Bangkok for a much needed getaway over the Good Friday weekend. Though I didn’t step into MBK or Pratunam, and even missed my Thai Massage fix, this was by far the best trip to Bangkok I’ve ever had.
Contrary to popular belief, Bangkok’s awesomeness goes beyond the massage parlors and mega malls of MBK, Platinum and the likes. The next time you spend a weekend in Bangkok, visit not MBK or Platinum Mall but first, strike off the list below:
1. HANG OUT WITH THAI HIPSTERS AT TALAD ROT FAI MARKET
Growing in popularity as Bangkok’s Hipster Hangout, Talad Rot Fai is a mini, local version of Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak weekend market, with a strong retro hipster vibe. Translated to “Train Market” in English, there is probably no better way to name this open-air bazaar set, situated right next to an abandoned railroad track.
Talad Rot Fai market has made old school charm the next big thing.
There is no way you can miss the retro hippie vibe when the very entrance of the market is a row of indie cafes/bars with live music and comfy, retro red barber seats. Walk further in and you’d find yourself in a typical night market bazaar, with rows of stalls selling local food snacks and clothes.
Unlike Chatuchak Weekend Market where you see many tourists, at Talad Rot Fai market, you’d find yourself amidst many Thai locals. After all, Talad Rot Fai’s quirky nature has made it one of the favourite weekend hangouts among Thai hipsters.
At the end of the market, you will find lanes of vintage cars where people sell their vintage finds on a piece of cloth. Amongst old junk like used fire extinguishers and unattached steering wheels, you’ll find vintage gems like charcoal irons, gramophones, vinyl players, lunch box tin cans and old telephones.
Get a drink from one of the makeshift VW bar-vans. It’s one of the things I missed but I’d definitely do so the next time I visit.
If you’re into the whole vintage old school charm thing, you will love this place. Visit Talad Rod Fai market because you need to realize that Bangkok isn’t just about the lively streets at Chatuchak weekend market. There’s an alternative side to everything.
Talad Rot Fai Night Market
How to get there: Take the train to Kamphaeng Phet station. Turn right at exit 1 and the market’s a few blocks down on the right.
When: Weekends, from 2 p.m. to midnight.
2. MUNCH ON BUGS AT KHAO SAN BACKPACKER STREET
If coconut ice cream was Chatuchak’s signature street food, deep fried bugs would have to be Khao San’s signature street dish. While I’ve backpacked to several South East Asian countries, I had never actually gone through the bug-crunching experience. Not until I stepped foot into Khao San’s backpacker street, that is.
You know the spread of insects is crazy when even cockroaches are offered in different varities – the average flying ones you see at home or the hissing kind you only find in the zoo. Baby frogs, praying mantis, maggots and the likes were among the “typical” spread. Say hello to insect buffet and goodbye to your innocent taste palate.
Obviously, we couldn’t go to Khao San and not go through the whole standing-on-a-street-feeding-on-insects experience. & if we had to go through it, we decided we had to do it in full force. So we told the guy to grab one of each bug for each of us. Words can’t describe the fun we had daring each other to eat the bugs. It wasn’t just the grossed out fearsome facial expression but the unexpected look on our faces when the thorns on insect’s legs hooked onto the side of the mouth.
While I wouldn’t say it’s pleasurable or comforting on your taste buds, it was definitely high on the fun factor. Who would have thought that the same bugs that freak people out when alive, could bring so much laughter when fried. Since they charge 10 THB for you to take a photo, you’re better off buying a small scoop at 40 THB.
Khao San Backpacker Street
How to get there: Take the taxi from the nearest BTS station, National Stadium, as Khao San Road is quite a distance away from the BTS station.
When: Everyday, all day but Khao San really comes alive only at night.
3. CHILL OUT TO LIVE MUSIC AT A WATERHOLE
There are only two typical post-dinner activities in Bangkok – (1) Get a traditional Thai massage or (2) Get drinks at a waterhole. We did the latter and headed to Brick Bar, an underground bar located near Buddy Lodge Hotel. While my preferred choice of music at a bar would be live acoustic music, Brick Bar made me realize that live music need not be acoustic in nature to be fab.
I’m not sure of the name of the band but the team of eight blew me away with their crazy, amazing covers. Apart from the typical singer, keyboard player and guitarist, they also had a saxophone player and two trumpet players. While I didn’t understand half of the songs played since they were in Thai, the atmosphere more than made up for it. If you’re looking for a place with great music and good natured party fun, Brick Bar is the place to go to. I knew Brick Bar has to be one of the best bars in Khao San, or even Bangkok, when every single English cover they did was a hit and not a miss.
Visit Brick Bar if you’re at Khao San, because happy endings don’t just come in the form of massages. They also come in the form of pretty damn good music.
265 Khaosan Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 629 4556
How to get there: Look for Buddy Lodge Group – the same building as the Buddy Hotel and Cafe, McDonald’s and Coffee World. Walk right in and you’ll see the entrance to Brick Bar.
When: Everyday, from 7.00 pm to 1.30am.
4. GRAB A CUPPA CHA YEN ALONG THE STREEETS
Vietnam is famous for its coffee. Taiwan is known for its Bubble Tea. If every country had a signature drink, Thai Iced Milk Tea (pronounced as CHA-YEN in Thai) would be it for Thailand.
Ranging from an average of 20-30 THB, this little local delight is truly comforting and desirable, especially in Bangkok’s crazy hot weather. How can one not love the thick and rich milk tea that flows through the perfectly crushed ice? With pretty layers of condensed milk and evaporated milk, CHA-YEN is more than just the perfect local drink. It is also a photo-worthy shot. Unless you’re a sugar junkie, remember to shout “MAI-WAN” after your “CHA-YEN”, because MAI-WAN means less sweet in Thai.
5. SHOP AT CHATUCHAK MARKET
While most would rave about MBK, Pratunam or even Platinum Mall, my favorite shopping destination in Bangkok has to be Chatuchak Weekend Market. Maybe it’s because I’m not the typical shopaholic girl, but I honestly never understood why so many fly to Bangkok to confine themselves within a mega mall.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is the one place that sums up Bangkok perfectly. Whether its Thai street food, or clothes fit for Fashionistas, or cute furry pets or indie music like the XX and the likes, you can find it all at Chatuchak Weekend Market.
Save a day for Chatuchak Weekend Market, because you can’t say you’ve been to Bangkok if you’ve never been to Chatuchak.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
How to get there: Take the train to (N8) Mo Chit Station (Sukhumvit Line). Take exit 1 and walk straight 100m to Chatuchak Park on your right.
When: Weekends, 9am to 6pm.
6. EAT COCONUT ICE CREAM AT CHATUCHAK MARKET
This dessert which fits perfectly in one hand, is yet another reason why you need to visit Chatuchak Weekend Market.
At just 35THB, you’ll get a scoop of local coconut ice cream on top of freshly scrapped coconut flesh in a round coconut husk bowl, topped with 3 mixes of your choice. Mixes include red bean, attapchi, yellow corn, peanuts and colored glutinous rice.
I never thought much of coconuts until I had this. Trust me when I say this simple coconut bowl will change your impression of coconuts altogether.
7. HIT THE CLUBS AT RCA
I used to think Thai girls were the reason why Thailand was the default choice country for partying but boy was I wrong. It’s not just the Thai girls, but the affordability of partying that makes it amazing. With the rise of Thai clubs and party culture, you can’t miss out on clubbing in Bangkok. As Bangkok’s designated nightlife zone, Royal City Avenue (RCA) is the epicenter of clubbing in Bangkok city. Since we wanted to indulge in party atmosphere with young Thai locals, Route 66 was the choice club.
At 300THB per pax, this cover charge covers not just your entrance fee but your drink of choice. With drink options ranging from the typical Gin and Tonic, bottled beers, to Long Island Teas and Mojitos, you will definitely be spoilt for choice. If you thought that was awesome, things are just about to get better.
The stub comes in two parts. Upon your first drink redemption, the bartender would return you the 2nd half of your stub. This gives you 60 THB off your next drink, which you can combine with other stubs to get a drink.
Unlike most clubs where you need to open bottles to be entitled a table, the clubs in Bangkok don’t prioritize the rich but the early birds. So if you’re intent on getting a table, make sure you arrive early, preferably before 10pm.
To be honest, I had no idea what the live band was singing since almost every song was in Thai. But just indulging in the party atmosphere and seeing happy people bobbing to the music was pretty fun.
While the party experience may differ from country to country, one thing never changes – the need for the post-alcohol supper fix. In Bangkok’s case, this means sitting by the road side stall with sticks of grilled pork (10 THB per stick) or sinking your teeth into piping hot fried chicken – comes in the form of cutlet, drumstick or wings. Indulge in club street food, because that’s the only way to fully complete your Thai party experience.
Royal City Avenue (RCA) Block A
How to get there: Take the taxi.
When: Everyday, 8pm to 2am.
Save the best for the last they say, so this is it. While it is true the above experiences made me see a different side to Bangkok, what truly made this trip memorable and different from my previous trips was that this visit was not one bit touristy.
Instead of bunking in a hotel, I stayed with my cousin’s “foster” family. Each morning we’d wake up to purring cats and we’d bum around while singing along as the boys played the guitar. We’d have meals together like a real family and head out thereafter. Even though most of our plans were random, spontaneous and even involved running errands, it was great.
Thanks to happy memories and simple joys like singing along to the guitar, taking a stroll by the park, singing our hearts out to live music, shopping together and daring each other to eat the next most crazy looking bug, Bangkok now holds a different memory to me altogether.
I hope one day, you too will remember Bangkok as being more than just the malls of MBK, Pratunam and Platinum Mall. Like, bookmark or share this because I’m pretty sure you’ll be visiting Bangkok very soon 😉