If you want temples, Bangkok’s got ‘em – from famous landmarks such as the spectacular Wat Phrakeo & Wat Arun, to lesser known but equally beautiful temples like Wat Samphanthawongsaram Worawiharn & the Erewan Shrine, there are noteworthy temples tucked away in virtually every corner of the city. But few are quite as well hidden or mysterious as the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine, aka the Penis Temple.
For any woman like me who enjoys a bit of shopping; Bangkok is guaranteed to not only satisfy every desire but break your wallet but your feet, shoulders and back in the process.
The danger and the lure is of course that as the shops are open from 10am till 10pm everyday, it’s impossible not to keep going on adrenalin and sheer greed.
Wandering into Bangkok’s bustling Arab district (around Sukhumvit soi 3-5, just across the road from the sleazehound mecca of Nana Plaza) really is like entering another country – the shop signs are in Arabic, the smell of shisha smoke fills the air, and you feel rather inadequate for not having a moustache. If you suddenly woke up here with no idea where you were, you’d assume it was Cairo or Casablanca.
On his foul-mouthedly entertaining Kitchen Nightmares show, one of Gordon Ramsay’s pet hates is restaurants with overly-complicated or multiple menus. “Keep it fucking simple!” is one of his regular aphorisms, and so I hope Bangkok’s popular French bistro Le Petit Zinc isn’t lined up for an appearance – not that it should be, it’s wonderful, but upon arrival I’m handed two menus, both containing apparently similar dishes at different prices, with no explanation as to what, if any, is the difference between them.
For two countries so close geographically, there is very little cultural overlap between Thailand & Vietnam, and that includes the countries’ cuisines. Just as it’s nigh-on impossible to find authentic Thai food in Saigon or Hanoi, so it is a real challenge finding proper Vietnamese cuisine here in Bangkok. Which, given the fact that both cuisines use pretty much the same ingredients, is rather surprising.
There are few things we Brits enjoy more than an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even for those of us born long after the end of World War 2, the spectre of rationing remains as a terrifying vestigial folk memory, and those of us who grew up listening to our grandparents telling frightening tales of queuing up for whale meat & powdered egg go slightly giddy when presented with a groaning counter of meat, seafood & dessert & invited to eat our fill.
Going for pizza in Asia is like buying new David Bowie albums – you remember how good it’s been in the past, and you really want it to be good this time, but you know in your heart of hearts that disappointment is the only likely outcome. You wander in whistling Heroes or Life on Mars, you shuffle out humming Hello Spaceboy.
I live in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, just a short tuk-tuk ride from Asok BTS station. The balcony of my condo has fantastic views of the gleaming towers of the ‘new’ Bangkok – shopping centres, luxury hotels, office blocks. In 10 minutes I can be shopping at Tesco, Boots or H&M, sipping a latte at Starbucks, or having lunch at McDonalds, Burger King or Subway. In short, this part of Bangkok, the part in which, along with Silom, most tourists spend their time, is much like any other modern city.