Bangkok - the colourful and bustling Asian metropolis

Visit a local market to experience the Thai way of life

Visit a local market to experience the Thai way of life

By Paul Horstermans

So you’ve visited the Thai capital before and you think you’ve seen the city’s sights, sampled the spicy cuisine and shopped until you… well anyway. But have you participated in the pre-dawn aerobic activities at Lumpini Park, played an exhausting game of takraw with the locals, celebrated a holiday which you didn’t know existed, absorbed some contemporary art, got lost at the bustling JJ market, made an offering at a temple, tried to find out where the tastiest som tamwas served, smiled at the faces of total strangers, enjoyed watching the stunning sunset over the famous Temple of Dawn? Phew! Yes I know it’s exhausting. If all of these activities are new to you then it is really the time for another stay in Bangkok.

Beating the heat
Yes, a very important tip when visiting Bangkok in all but two months of the year (December and January). If it’s not the unrelenting sun bearing down on you, the clammy humidity will leave you dripping. The Thais hate the heat too, and simply hibernate in airconditioned malls and cinemas. Step indoors to a cool 22 degrees and you really begin to feel the heat when you have to venture out again. The coldest places in the city are always the movie houses, so cold in fact that you’d better back a sweater. Yes, a sweater for Bangkok!

Join in with the locals
The Thai population embraces their national holidays. What other nation celebrates the new year thrice within a period of just four months? – Abundant Thai, Western and Chinese new year festivities take place in Bangkok! The Thais highlight each Buddhist holiday on their calendar as well as the bank holidays, ethnic holidays, traditional holidays including Christmas and if you don’t mind, even your birthday might be celebrated by some of your Bangkokian friends like a public holiday. Keep you eyes on the calendar of local festivals before you come.

Go shopping for Buddhas
Many travellers think of it as a paradox, a unique juxtaposition of the profane and the holy. Its only possible in a metropolis like Bangkok. However, if you can see an ultra-modern shopping complex next to an ancient Buddhist temple, it’s not always an accidental mix-up of zoning experts, but more Bangkok’s natural character whose expansion is epitomised by both spiritual enthusiasm and modern ambition. People seek refuge from congestion and heat in the department stores. They enjoy spending time window shopping, not always purchasing goods but also watching and hanging out.. At temples, they enjoy the tranquillity of the gorgeous gardens and peaceful pavilions. They spend their time looking inward while meditating, entirely distanced from earthly possessions. These totally different worlds are indispensable to the essence and image of contemporary Bangkok.

Try a meditation course to escape the chaos

Try a meditation course to escape the chaos

Meditate on the city’s character
An alternative way to take home a very special souvenir from any visit to Bangkok is by participating in a meditation course. It will also do you good. Throughout the temples in Bangkok you can find many meditation centres. The practice is intrinsically connected with Buddhism but that doesn’t mean you have to be interested in religion to join classes. As a technique doing daily relaxation, meditation can be practised by anybody as it isn’t very difficult. Several courses in Bangkok are in English and the International Buddhist Meditation Centre can give you the addresses of excellent meditation teachers.

Hanging out at a local market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as ‘JJ Market’ is a great spot to wander around for hours. The market represents about 9,000 stalls and even the locals once in a while get lost in the vast network of labyrinthine alleyways. The best idea is to follow your instincts and be adventurous. Head to section 24 if you looking for a wide selection of cheap clothes. Want to by a puppy, pussycat or even a turtle or snake? You probably find the pet that suits you at section 13 while section 19 is loaded with ceramics. Try section 2 to 26 for a wide range of antique furniture and home interiors. 

Also available here are gemstones, amulets, orchids, glassware, books and ethnic products from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and China. If hunting for cheap goodies develops an appetite, no need to worry as there are numerous food stalls available in the section known as Chatuchak Plaza.

Exercise in Lumphini park
This is a wonderful green, peaceful oasis in the heart of the city, the only large one in fact and it offers respite from the skyscrapers and traffic. Not surprisingly it’s popular in the cooler early evenings when you can join hundreds of Bangkokians jogging, cycling or walking. Or you can join a mass aerobics session or something a little less energetic – the classic dawn or dusk Tai Chi sessions.

About the Author

Andrew Bond is a travel writer who has been living in Thailand and writing about the region for more than 10 years, contributing to numerous local magazines and major web travel brands. He travels around South East Asia by tuk-tuk, bicycle, cyclo, jeepney, taxi, moto, elephant or foot in search of new smells, sounds, sights, and atmosphere. Share your travel bits with him on Google +

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