A lot of friends, travel sites and blogs (like this one, I guess) will tell you that Bangkok is one of the must-visit cities in Asia. In fact, you yourself have probably gone, or you know someone who already has. You probably know all the right places to go to, or the right prices for haggling, or you’ve already heard about all the places like Chatuchak and Patpong.
But allow me, a Bangkok newbie who has finally set foot on Thai soil, to try to verify what you’ve experienced in Bangkok. Or if you have yet to go, let me try and push you into the plane.
1. It has its own vibe.
Yes, it’s a southeast Asian country. Yes, it shares a lot of similarities with its ASEAN sister countries. But the land is spiked with a different chili. Literally and figuratively.
It’s not as busy as decidedly cosmopolitan Hong Kong and Singapore. But neither is it slow or boring. It’s not wild, but neither is it tame. It’s got its own flavor (usually in varying degrees of spicy), and its own beat (from the cultural dances with golden costumes to the newer pop sensations).
So if you’ve been to the other ASEAN countries, make sure you still go to Thailand.
2. It’s one big bangketa.
If you love shopping, Bangkok is one big bangketa.
It’s like Greenhills on steroids. Or the force of a dozen divisorias.
Chatuchak is well-known, sure. That’s a great choice.
Then, you also have the Floating Market, made famous through countless shirts and NatGeo photos. You get a glimpse of how business was and is done by the river people of Thailand, plus you get to choose from a host of other souvenirs and food items.
There’s also the Pratunum area. You have the street vendors that sell everything from massages to padlocks to pad thai to lanzones. Then further down the street you can go to malls that can give you wholesale discounts like the Platinum. Or, you can look for high-end shops and restaurants in Central World.
3. It’s friendly.
This might be one thing they share with Pinoys. The Vietnamese have a bit of chip on their shoulders. The European countries might have a bit (okay, not just a bit) of snootiness. The Thai are just… well… happy to see you.
4. It’s politically stable. Generally.
Despite coups and power-grabs, Thailand is able to maintain political balance mainly because people will always follow its king. So even during the latest coup, Bangkok still remained open to visitors. I guess another way of looking at this is you get to see firsthand how a leader can be so well-loved by his followers.
5. It’s culturally rich. On its own.
Despite being right smack in the middle of India and China, it was able to develop its own culture. Its Buddhism is sometimes mixed with Hinduism, and its traditions may also have its origins from those two big populations, but the culture was able to come into its own. Experience the people who weave this culture into the fabric of their daily living.
6. The food!
Each native dish is a firecracker in your mouth. Not just because it’s spicy, but because it’s like different colors dancing on your tongue.
7. The airport
In the off-chance your flight gets delayed, you might not mind so much. The airport’s beautiful and will keep you engaged.
8. The wildlife
Each country has its own fauna to be proud of. Thailand is no different. India’s got its cows and tigers. Australia’s got its koalas and kangaroos. Make sure you get a picture with an elephant. And make sure you’re far away when she starts pooping.
9. Family fun and not so family fun
Of course Pat Pong is world-famous for adult entertainment. But there’s a lot of stuff to do for families, too! There’s the aforementioned shopping, a theme park, the river cruise, and even riding the elephants.
10. Muay Thai
If you love watching (or you actually engage in) Mixed Martial Arts, come on down to where Muay Thai was born. Watch in one of the stadiums. Or buy one of those daring shorts.
11. The history.
It’s one of the more ancient civilizations, especially if you think about the ancient cities Ayuthaya and Sukhothai (no, they’ not just massage parlors and restaurants). You also get to experience firsthand, the culture that no Western country was able to colonize.
12. You can play a game of Spot-the-Real-Ladies
Thailand is also famous for sex-change success. Many ladies are very very pretty. But some of the pretty ladies are actually boys. It’s like Minesweeper, but using people.
13. You can use it as a gateway to other destinations.
If you want to head to Pattaya or Phuket, Bangkok is your jumping point. Even if you want to explore the Indochina region, Bangkok is still a great starting point.