No Temple, No River Cruise, No Reptile: See And Experience A Different Face Of Bangkok
It wasn’t so long ago that your regular Bangkok tourist would have temples, the floating market, snakes and crocodiles as staples of their itinerary. That was then. Now, there’s a more diverse face that Bangkok presents to the world.
In the recently held Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 Awards Night, of the Top 10 Restaurants cited, three are found in Bangkok, including the first placer Gaggan (for the 4th consecutive year). While Tokyo can boast of four of the Top 10, when you consider that such cosmopolitan cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Seoul are part of the survey, that’s quite an impressive feat for Bangkok’s gastronomic landscape.
So on my recent visit to Bangkok, it was culinary and shopping adventures on our minds. For the four days we were there, restaurants and malls were our primary destinations of choice. Temples, and the rest, had been part of our previous forays to Thailand; so to forego them all, and stick to dining establishments and shopping was just fine.
The facade of Gaa
Paste at Gaysorn
Gaysorn Village’s Central Atrium
Gaggan is the more than obvious culinary Mecca to bow to; but good luck getting a reservation and not relying on a sudden cancellation. Right across the road from Gaggan, there’s Gaa, the creation of Gaggan’s former sous chef that’s been around for just a year—Indian cuisine made playful via Thai influences.
And there’s Paste for a modern take on Thai heirloom cuisine. Paste is Bee Satongun, this year’s Best Female Chef, an honour our own Gaita Fores copped back in 2016. Sühring and Nahm are the other two Bangkok restaurants in the Top 10, while Paste is No. 31.
Central Embassy Mall Lobby area
The street food scene of Bangkok is alive and well, with Michelin stars being bestowed on stalls that feature Crab Omelettes and Chicken Rice; but be ready to stand in lines of over thirty minutes during lunch hour to get a table, as that’s how avidly patronized these stalls are, after being commended by the Michelin Guide.
At the lower ground level of the Central Embassy Mall, they’ve created EatThai, where some of the renowned stalls have been invited to create extensions within a Food Court setting. Call me "spoiled" in my advanced age; but if you’ll offer the same fare in an air-conditioned food court with comfortable chairs and tables, I’m all yours!
Athenee Hotel lobby
It was my first time to stay at the Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel; and I am happy to call it my new Bangkok second home. It’s on Wireless Road, a two minute walk from the Ploen Chit BTS Skytrain station, and as this is the area where a number of Embassies can be found, it’s near the action, and yet relatively quiet. And I loved how the 4th floor Pool & Garden area was like a little oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of central Bangkok.
Pool area on the 4th floor of the Athenee Hotel
Bookstores are my "amusement parks," and besides the reliable Kinokuniya at the Siam Paragon’s second to the top floor, my new discovery was Open House, on the 6th floor of Central Embassy. How the books were arrayed and displayed at Open House amidst the food outlets was an open invitation to spend countless hours perusing the books while munching on tasty morsels.
At Open House Bookstore, Central Embassy’s 6th floor
If travelling with children, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World is found on the Lower Ground floor of Siam Paragon. That’s over 10,000 square meters and over 5,000,000 litres of water, the largest aquarium in all of South East Asia. Giant Spider Crabs, the Giant Pacific Octopus, Stingray Sharks and Penguins—they’re all found at Sea Life, providing both entertainment and education.
Sea Life at Siam Paragon
Dining, shopping, bookstores—Bangkok has offerings that should satisfy the more discriminating among us; and the Skytrain and elevated walkways make central Bangkok a breeze to traverse. Yes, the traffic jams of Bangkok can still rival Manila’s, but the infrastructure is in place to help us tourists avoid that inconvenience.
Photos by Philip Cu-Unjieng