Bangkok Shopping Spree

Bangkok is known the world over for its amazing shopping venues. From multi-winged, multi-leveled malls to floating street markets on canals, Bangkok offers the avid shopper a wide spectrum of shopping delights.

In normal circumstances, I avoid these high traffic areas like the plague because they are of no use to me. I cannot buy souvenirs to take home because there’s simply no room in my backpack. But, since Marilyn was heading to India for a visit home, she wanted to buy some presents for her family.

One night we walked over to a local lady’s market near our guest house. I wasn’t sure what to expect at a “lady’s market” (this is Bangkok after all), but it turned out to be a market geared toward women. There were a heap of stalls selling clothes, accessories, handbags, make up and underwear. They also had a row of food stalls selling a variety of convenient finger food, noodle dishes and soups.

Another day we visited Siam Paragon, Siam Central and Ma Boon Khrong (MBK) Center, all of which were humongous, air-conditioned malls. The first two places were geared toward foreigners and wealthy Thais and contained name brand items. Because of the high price points, we didn’t see many locals aside from the shop workers. There were no crushing waves of people pushing and pulling to move about. The experience was relaxing and could have taken place in any mall inside any other major city around the world.

MBK was slightly different because it offered name brand reproductions and allowed you to bargain with the shopkeepers. Essentially, it was an indoor street market with products and stalls crammed together under one room. There were different levels and wings, all color coded and numbered, to help you find suitcases, leather goods, electronics, clothes, souvenirs and many other items.

One major difficulty that I think average shoppers may encounter are the consistently smaller sizes available at all the shopping outlets. Thai people are extremely petite, and the malls only seem to import smaller sizes. Even if you’re of average height and weight, you may find it hard to find clothes or footwear that fit you. For those of you who do, consider yourself lucky because the price for most items are considerably cheaper than you can find at home. Bargain hunters will rejoice!

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Ancient City of Ayutthaya

Marilyn and I were keen to visit Ayutthaya, an ancient city located north of Bangkok. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya gives visitors a peek at the historical remnants of one of the most influential cities in the region.

We began our journey by taking the BTS to Victory Monument in Bangkok. Then, we hopped into a minivan that took us directly to Ayutthaya. Along the way, it stopped to let people off or drop off goods, however, this didn’t take very long. Despite this, it still took us more than two hours to arrive at the ancient city.

When we arrived, I’m pretty sure we fell for one of these scams that locals pull everywhere in Thailand. According to several websites, the minivan will stop outside of the city and insist that foreign passengers get out. Then, tuk tuk drivers approach you and offer you rides to the city.

Even though we knew this, we felt pressured to get off with everyone else. The driver insisted that this was the city, but it didn’t look like anywhere near the center of town. Marilyn and I found a map and decided to walk into the city. The tuk tuk drivers continued to hound us about a ride, but we vehemently declined.

As we walked toward the middle of town, tuk tuk drivers circled us like vultures. Some followed along beside us trying to get us to get into their vehicle. This was seriously off-putting to me, especially after coming from Bali where this happened often. Marilyn, who is originally from India, took this all in stride. She told me that it was just like being at home again.

We walked for an hour and finally came to a small shop that rented out mopeds. I wasn’t about to drive one of those on my own because I’d never been on one before. Luckily, Marilyn was fully indoctrinated and was comfortable packing me on the back. We paid for the scooter rental and off we went to discover Ayutthaya.

To be honest, I probably lost a few years of my life being on the back of that moped. Marilyn was a good driver and there wasn’t too much traffic in Ayutthaya, but there’s just something very vulnerable about being on the back and letting all control fall into the hands of someone else. Perhaps it was a good lesson for me since I’m definitely a control freak in normal situations?

We visited several of the major sites within the ancient city including many interesting ruins and temples. Some of the sites were free, but most charged an entry fee. The temples we visited were open and active in Buddhist practices. We saw monks in their saffron-colored robes making offerings to their gods. Many visitors also participated in worship of some kind.

As the sun began to set, we quickly zipped back and returned the moped. Then we had to hurry and find a minivan back to Bangkok. People told us the last bus back left at 6 p.m., and we definitely didn’t want to miss it. After searching for a long time (with tuk tuk drivers still hovering around us), we finally found a minivan back to the city.

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Bangkok Bound Baby

After a month of puttering around in Bali, it was finally time to continue my travels. I was bound for Bangkok, baby! I know, I know . . . you immediately think of scenes from The Hangover Part 2. But, c’mon, really? How long have you been reading my blog?

When I arrived at Don Muang Airport, Marilyn met me at the Arrivals hall and we continued to our hostel together. She had traveled around Thailand for a few days ahead of me and would have so many interesting stories to tell. I couldn’t wait to see her again!

At the Bangkok airport, I worried I wouldn’t see her if the crowd was anything like the one in Bali. Luckily, there weren’t as many people and taxi drivers surrounding the exit so I found her easily.

What helped me single her out from the crowd was the massive backpack she was toting. I nearly fell over laughing at how humongous it looked on her! Now, Marilyn isn’t a big girl. She’s petite and can’t weigh more than 110 pounds (less than 50 kgs), but I swear her pack had to be pushing 53 pounds (or about 24 kgs)! She even had a rolled up painting attached to the side.

Together we managed to get on the airport bus that would shuttle us to the nearest BTS station. The BTS or Skytrain is Bangkok’s mass transit system that efficiently and effectively moves people through town. It’s a wonderful and inexpensive way to travel within the city. It allows you to avoid all the taxi and tuk tuk drivers who constantly seek your business.

When we arrived at Mo Chit station on the Sukhumvit line, we bought our BTS tickets and hopped on the train. At Siam station, we transferred to the Silom line and road until the Wongwian Yai station. From here it was a short walk to our accommodation, U-Baan Guesthouse.

Joy operates U-baan Guesthouse and is really funny and sarcastic. She’s full of advice and her English is good. Her hostel is in a regular neighborhood, which gives you great insight into how locals live. Joy is also open and knowledgeable about many parts of Thailand. She’s familiar with backpackers and their interests so her suggestions are usually spot on. I’d definitely recommend her place if you’re passing through Bangkok.

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Filed under Accommodation, Thailand, Transportation