Top 3 Bangkok’s Best Festivals
New Year – Turn Over a New Leaf
While the New Year countdown is pretty self-explanatory with the fireworks and street parades being an absolute sensation, the other two are worth delving deeper into.
Songkran Festival – Splashing Water
In a nutshell, Songkran Festival is essentially a countrywide water fight that takes place over a few days in Thailand’s hottest month of the year (April).
Many business, banks and restaurants close during this festival and many locals use this time to travel across the country for family reunions. The symbolic meaning behind the water buckets, garden hoses and water guns (aside from the glorious merriment and joy of the whole shebang) is to represent washing off all misfortunes and hardships of the previous year. The giddy glee, squeals of happy surprise and the spirit of the holiday is shared amongst locals and tourists alike and with the oppressing heat of Bangkok’s streets, the capital is the perfect spot to relish and appreciate the delight that Songkran brings.
Loi Krathong – So Beautiful So Thai
For those who prefer a celebration sans water guns, Loi Krathong is arguably the most picturesque and loveliest of all Thai festivals.
Loi Krathong falls on the 12th lunar month of the year, generally in November, and is a beautiful celebration where everyone gathers around riverbanks and lakes to pay respect to the goddess of water. This is achieved by releasing ornate lotus-shaped rafts down the river, adorned with flowers and candles. The thousands of flickering candles and moonlight reflection against the gently lapping water create a truly magical atmosphere. This same festival is also complete with the releasing of thousands of paper-lanterns into the night sky creating a sight that visitors will remember for years to come.
The main Loi Krathong jamboree in Bangkok is held at Asiatique or along the riverbanks of Wat Saket in the Old City. For travelers around Khao San Road, head over to Phra Athit Pier. Lumpini Park in Silom, and Benjasiri Park and Benjakiti Park in Sukhumvit are also good spots.
Shopping in Bangkok – A Shopaholic’s Paradise
Chatuchak Market – A Quintessential Market Shopping Experience
The legendary weekend Chatuchak Market on Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road with its 8, 000 market stalls, needs almost no introduction. Having gained worldwide recognition as being one of the largest markets in the world, Chatuchak is a shop-‘til-you-drop kind of experience. From secondhand sandals to pythons, everything on planet earth can, in all probability, be purchased here.
Open only on Thursday through Sunday, the market opens at 9am and closes at 6pm, with Friday nights closing at midnight.
Asiatique The Riverfront – the Ultimate Shopping & Entertainment Combined
Asiatique The Riverfront is a big, open-air shopping strip that is a wondrous hybrid of night bazaar and mall.
A ten-minute walk from the Saphan Taksin BTS station, Asiatique is a conglomeration of 1, 500 stalls and 40 eateries all situated on the former docks of the East Asiatic Company. The market starts from around 5pm daily and with the carnival-like atmosphere, complete with entertainment and performances, this spot is a wonderfully unique place to do a bit of retail therapy.
Rot Fai Night Market – Shopping with a Twist
Last up for special shopping experiences in Bangkok is the Rot Fai Night Market in Srinakarin.
From sunset to midnight, Thursday to Sunday, Rot Fai delights its patrons with an array of vintage memorabilia, collectables, fashion items and one-off trinkets, yesteryear knick-knacks, street food and cheap cocktails and beer. Located on Srinakarin Soi 51, just behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall, Rot Fai offers a special shopping experience in a festive and different environment.
Top 3 Unusual Things to Do in Bangkok
Airplanes Graveyard – a Must for Urban Explorers
Just off Ramkhamhaeng Road in the eastern suburbs of Bangkok lives an open wasteland with two abandoned and deteriorating aircrafts lying in pieces on the ground.
The peculiarity of seeing massive planes discarded is made even odder upon realizing that the aircraft bodies are also makeshift homes for a three Thai families who use the airplanes to make a make a bit of extra money. The eerie airplane graveyard makes for excellent and curious photographs; and the unusual experience is growing in popularity with urban explorers and adventurers wishing to get off the beaten tourist track. The unofficial entrance fee seems to depend on how many people you’re with but costs roughly TBH 200 per person.
Siriraj Medical Museum – the Museum of Death
Another unique and rather macabre activity to engage in while in Bangkok is a visit to the Siriraj Medical Museum, also dubbed the Museum of Death.
The museum consist of five small medical museums filled with medical curiosities, impressive collections and fascinating exhibits on human anatomy, pathology and forensic science. The best way to get to the museum is to take the ferry from Chang Pier to Wang Lang/Siriraj Pier in Thonburi. The museum is open daily (except for Tuesdays) from 10am until 4pm with entrance costing THB 200.
Goddess Tuptim Shrine – Kids, Anyone?
Honoring Chao Mae Tubtim, a female fertility spirit, is the Goddess Tuptim Shrine, another unique activity in the heart of Bangkok city.
Standing next door to the Swissotel Nai Lert Hotel, the fertility shrine is filled with hundreds of phalluses or lingams (penises) in various sizes, colours and materials. Some of the sculptures are small enough to wear as a necklace while others are taller than 6 feet and adorned in colourful ribbons. The shrine is said to have a power to fulfil wishers and help women who are desperate to get a child. Entrance is free.
Top 3 Bangkok Nature-Friendly Experiences
Lumpini Park in Silom
Lumphini Park in Silom is the ideal reprieve from the city with its manicured lawns, trees, playgrounds and manmade lake with boat rentals. This natural haven amidst the urban sprawl is a great spot for all ages to come and lie under a tree and read, jog, workout, cycle, picnic or just stroll around connecting with Mother Nature. Keep a lookout for squirrels and monitor lizards. Open daily from 4:30am until 9pm, entrance is free.
Bang Krachao – Bangkok’s Green Lungs
Peeking out from the western bend of the Chao Phraya River is the small, artificial island of Bang Krachao featuring the beautiful 100 acre Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park.
Known as Bangkok’s ‘green lung’, Bang Krachao covers 16 square kilometres and is most visited by nature lovers and cyclists. Undeveloped and free of any high-rises, this green haven is a preservation effort to offer city-dwellers a quiet and tranquil respite in nature. Renting a bicycle (around TBH 80 for the day) and cycling around the park’s elevated walkways lined with lush trees is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. To get there take the MRT to Khlong Toei Station, upon arrival get a taxi to the pier or Khlong Toey Port. At the port, turn right into the area of a Buddhist temple and follow the path down towards the pier. Entrance into Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park on Bang Krachao is free.
Flight of the Gibbon – Go Wild, High and Above!
Another fun means to experience nature while in the capital is via whizzing and whooshing around treetops on a zip-line.
Located halfway between Bangkok and Pattaya, Flight of the Gibbon is located within a spectacular forest inside Khao Kheow Open Safari Park. Although this activity is around an hour away from Bangkok itself, the park arranges pickup and drop-offs from the city included in the price. This is a full-day nature submersion filled with abseiling, forest walks and of course, zip-lining. A delicious Thai-style lunch is also thrown into the fully included price of TBH 3800 per person.