Thailand

Bangkok - The Top 10 Amazing Things To Do That You've Never Heard Of

by Anon on April 17, 2012

This is, quite simply, my list of amazing (but rarely experienced) moments in Bangkok that everyone should try.

 

1) Take a trip to Monk Bowl Village

Let's start with the simple, the visual, the most immediate.  Monks Bowl Village isn't much more than a semi-isolated spot, tucked away on a skinny alley in the middle of a dirty soi (neighborhood) in the midst of a slow decay. Three families work in oddly fitting unison, making bowls by hand in a time consuming process that yields around one monk bowl a day.  A monk bowl, by the by, is exactly what it sounds like it is: a bowl used by monks to collect donations.  The bowl itself is equal parts artistic and religious, with each element (from the number of metals used) and design being bespoke symbolism.  The place itself is odd juxtaposition of sacred practice and crumbling surroundings - the calm meditation and running streams associated with Buddhist monks nowhere to be found. Instead, you're greeted by constant noise and movement defining the alley - carts cut through the street against the constant banging, with rows of pots in varying stages of development cluttering the area.  Finding a family is easy enough, as is learning about the process and use for the bowls.  Buy one if you want an interesting souvenir, or just enjoy knowing that every monk in Bangkok has in some small way a connection to this little place.

 Address: Soi Ban Baat, Boriphat Rd

 2) Rain Dogs

This is the bar of bars for those moments where only the most spontaneous and odd will do.  The bar itself appears like an urban oasis, hidden underneath a highway overpass, down what appears to be a deserted ally.  It is, quite simply, the last place in Bangkok one would expect to find a drink.  But Rain Dogs does more than just offer a drink.  It offers refuge for those best moments.  How?  By being so damn good at everything, that's how.  For starters, it's open till 4am (or, as the Bankok police have yet to discover it...whenever the last customer leaves).  It also hosts, in the most logically illogical random fashion, local artist exhibitions (and not of the touristic tacky type).  It also gives patrons control over the music (from a long and esoteric track list) and is more of an unfinished (and unwindowed and undoored) structure than building.  And best of all, you never leave without at least one new 'wow, that was a great moment/conversation/interaction' memory.

 Address: 16 Soi Phrya Phiren off Soi Sawan Sawat

 3) Take a Trip to the Real Bangkok-Yai

Bangkok-Yai is, for most, a superficial destination in Bangkok.  Many ruins, monuments, and general sights from the ‘old times’ are located here; and so many tourists rush through the designated stops before running back to the newer sections of town.  Bangkok-Yai is, however, much more than just tourist attractions.  It is, more than any other area in Bangkok, a place where older traditions remain.  Take a trip to a Soi or two (aka neighborhood) – with Soi Isaraphab 33 being my personal favorite – for a moment to see how people from Bangkok live, work, and eat.  Try to find Sivalai Place (if you are looking for one of the only Thai owned hotels), P’ng’s place (for the best food served out of a woman’s home…anywhere), or the local market (for non-touristy stores and wares).  Or perhaps just walk (or moped) around, taking in the local moment.

 Address: Bankok-Yai; Soi Isaraphab 33

 4) Escort Lunch

This particular experience takes effort.  It takes planning.  It takes volunteering a helping hand for a day.  It also makes for an unforgettable and completely unique experience.  It also isn’t for everyone, as some might find eating lunch with prostitutes in Bangkok’s red light district something to be avoided.  My only response: it’s a moment – a surreal moment that makes you question exactly what you know.  Let’s begin with the what.  What, exactly, will occur, should you seek this out, is a lunch on the rooftop of a parking garage with many women working in Bangkok’s red light district.  The food (Issan from the North) is as authentic as it comes, as it’s only meant to be served to, well, red light district workers.  The stories and the conversation, however, are truly unforgettable as you’re not looked at as a customer, but a person to mutually learn from.  Which brings us to the how.  The only way I know of is to volunteer at a local nonprofit providing services to workers in the red light district.  Usually, this involves teaching English for an hour before lunch.  The idea behind this, of course, is to help those in need work towards finding better jobs in other areas. 

 Address: Soi Cowboy (or any other red light district area with a local non-profit presence)

 5) Dropping in on the Weavers

Thailand, as many know, is known for silk.  For many, buying silk takes place at a clean, polished store front.  No mention is made of how it’s produced.  Which is why, I think, finding those women who weave the silk is so interesting.  As a complete dichotomy to the final product, weavers work in small, hot, windowless buildings.  They work constantly for little compensation.  And despite this, those individuals I met were some of the most friendly, cheerful, and nice Thais I met.  Learning not only about how the silk is made, but about why they work where they work, and how they work like they work, is an experience.  It’s also eye-opening and, in some cases, completely unexpected.

 Address: Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road (around the Jim Thompson House, ask around for exact locations, as they move occasionally in this area).

 6) Fish Massages at Suan Lum Night Bazaar

 Turning back to the less depressing, a fish massage provides a unique way to relax.  The massage, as the name may suggest, is given by hundreds of fish, which suck, nibble, and eat dead skin on one’s feet.  It sounds disgusting, which is fair.  In reality, however, it is not only an experience, but a very pleasant massage.  As an added benefit, feet come away cleaner than ever before.

 Address: Lumpini MTR

 7) Tawandang German Brewery

Unlike other places on this list, Tawandang gets points for kitchy.  It is, more than anything else, a Thai take on German dining, which, not unexpectedly, has gone horribly wrong.  It has, however, gone horribly wrong in an amazing way.  Non-domestic beer in giant pitchers?  Check.  Cabaret, ‘German dancing’, and (possible) yodeling?  Check, check, and check.  The best try Bangkok can give to German sausages?  Check, and A for effort.  As the least serious place to visit on this list, it wins ‘must do’ points for on the sheer enjoyment scale – you will not leave disappointed.

 Address: 462/61 Rama 3 Road

 8) Siriraj Medical Museum

Although recommended as an almost obligatory entry in many guidebooks, this Forensic Museum is absolutely worth the trip to the non-queasy.  Its nickname (the Museum of Death), atmosphere (temperature controlled spaces give way to a more jerry-rigged system), and exhibits (mummified serial killers, to start) make this one of the world’s most unique museums.

 Address: Siriraj Hospital Pier (near Chao Praya)

 9) Eat street food – particularly of the insect variety

Street food is omnipresent in Bangkok, with insect based street food relatively common as well.  Despite what may seem to be the last thing one would want to consume (the beetles beings perhaps the worst offenders), the food is excellent.  The street food (and Bangkok) experience isn’t complete without at least one sampling.

 Address: Anywhere and everywhere

 10) Visit Muang Boran

Sitting just outside Bangkok, Muang Boran appears to be the offspring of good intentions, money, and an almost pathological love of Thai history.  In essence, the entire area is an enormous park, rife with reconstructed monuments, buildings, and art from Thailand’s past.  The entire area is grandiose, over the top, and yet somehow completely amazing.  Meant to be an ode to the ancient city, it actually delivers.

 Address: 296/1 Sukhumvit Road, Bangpoo, Samut Prakan 10280


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