What is Thai-ness? Well, if you haven’t been to Thailand before you may not quite know, but don’t worry — you soon will.
It is the essence of Thailand, a culmination of the quirky, weird, interesting and wonderful things that make this country what it is and nowhere is it stronger than in the capital, Bangkok. It is a term the locals embrace and are, appropriately, very proud of.
The city is a collision of two contrasting worlds. Sprawling mega-malls lined with classy food-courts and high-end boutiques sit side by side with deteriorating shop buildings and beautifully adorned Buddhist temples. A heaving city, thick with population and humidity mixes with the ice-cool interior of another side of Bangkok. This is what makes it unique.
Set among the glitzy five-star hotels are a number of abandoned buildings, including the most famous of all; The Sathorn Unique. Construction on this concrete behemoth began during Thailand’s economic boom in the 1990s, but construction was brought to a holt when the GFC hit.
The 49-storey tower now sits completely empty, a half-finished concrete giant looming over the city. During rough weather, debris flies from the crumbling building onto the streets below. Locals believe it is haunted, earning it the name of ‘The Ghost Tower’. Visited only by daredevil adventures from around the world who come to climb it, the tower offers unbeatable views of Bangkok for those willing to risk life and limb to see them.
Bangkok offers a contrasting food scene, from the ultra-classy restaurants that will cost you an arm and a leg to the tasty offerings of street food vendors. These roadside stalls are where you’ll find the locals, eating noodles at a temporary food stall, covered in sweat amid the exhaust fumes of passing cars. If you don’t need a fancy restaurant to make your meal memorable, a curry or noodle dish from one of these spots can change your life.
Visit the famed Wat Traimit Temple, home to a 5.5 Tonne Golden Buddha which was accidentally discovered under a thick layer of plaster after being dropped from a crane. Head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the largest in the world, where everything and anything you can image is for sale. Then, stop into a local movie cinema to see a film; tickets come with a private waiting room, reclining single-seats, a massage, ice cream, wine, popcorn and free wifi, all for $30AU.
For an escape from the busy streets and intense heat the aptly named ‘Tourist Boat’, or Chao Phraya Express, is the way to go. It’ll take you along the Chao Phraya River in comfort, dropping you off at key sightseeing locations.
To experience another side to the city away from the hustle and bustle, Lumphini Park is the place to be. Bangkok’s largest open, green space does not disappoint. In the late afternoon the park comes alive with locals exercising en masse, from huge scores of runners to people taking part in al fresco aerobics classes. Amongst the happy residents of the park are the gang of terrifying Komodo Dragons living in the pond. Hire a peddle-powered swan boat and get up close and personal with them.
Have you been to Bangkok? Share your favourite Bangkok experiences in the comments below!