A respite from reality
Prepare to get lost in your fantasies, whatever they may be: Bangkok is an amazing, exuberant city that can tempt the most cautious travelers to flirt with their vices. It’s a city of energy, colors, chaos, fashion and — lest we forget — parties, offering a break from reality while you feed your thirst for adventure. Go for a short break, a long break, a weekend, whatever, because many intoxicating nights await as you delve into your dreams, let go of your hang-ups and keep reminding yourself of what we all know is true: What happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok.
The night I arrived was chaotic, but I’ll never forget my first glimpse of Suvarnabhumi Airport. I was in awe of the diversity of the crowds in the line at customs — people of all shapes and sizes, couples of all combinations. This very un-Incheon facility will quickly pull you out of the ICN bubble. But on the transportation front, getting downtown from Suvarnabhumi is just as easy. Skip the taxis and head straight to the basement for a cheap ride on the city’s subway. As the train speeds downtown, enjoy one last period of calm before reaching the diversity, poverty and wealth of Bangkok’s humid city streets.
On my first night, I dropped my bag off at the hotel and headed to Silom for a quick cup o’ joe at Coffee Society — the heart of the gay district— before partying at DJ Station with some newfound Korean friends. The next day I headed across town to Sukhumvit for plentiful shopping, people-watching and dinner at a place called Cabbages and Condoms. Sukhumvit sits near a wide range of restaurants, shops, tourist traps and massage parlors that will keep you busy, and if you enjoy a nice stroll, head toward J-Town or grab some Korean treats a few feet from Terminal 21.
The more I explored Bangkok, the more I realized just how easy it was to do on foot. I hit the Grand Palace (beautiful, but be prepared to take your shoes off a lot), saw the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), grabbed lunch on the go and then walked along the Chao Phraya River and on to the Museum of Siam — all in one afternoon. If you’re feeling ambitious, the National Museum, National Theater, National Art Gallery and Phra Sumen Fort can all be seen in a day. Round everything out with a trip to Mont, a delightful local restaurant specializing in chocolate toast.
The city’s Chinatown and Bang Rak districts are the oldest and quaintest parts of the city, with alleyways chock-full of the best street food you’ve ever had, but if you came to Bangkok to shop, then Siam Square and the Paragon Mall are where you need to be. A shopper’s paradise awaits you, packed with the young and trendy and surrounded by artsy and expensive brands (and a few more affordable Chinese and Thai ones, too). Paragon is better for Western labels; the space isn’t so pretty, but it’s got H&M, Gap, Starbucks and all the standard mall fare, not to mention a swank IMAX theater and an oceanarium.
Another great shopping spot is the crazy Prathunam flea market, which is near the tallest building in Bangkok: Baiyoke Tower. Easily accessible from downtown, the tower’s awesome 360-degree view of the city from the 84th floor must be seen to be believed — a great way to spend a quiet evening in high style. If you’re all partied out and tired of the crowded streets, the Asiatique complex on the river is another nice place to chill out in the middle of an otherwise very chaotic city.
Bangkok is so much more than the Amsterdam of Asia; it is the heaven, the hell and everything in between for party-goers, shoppers, sun worshippers and those who just want to dive into something very different. Many are so awestruck by the availability of every indulgence that they let themselves go the moment they land. Bangkok is crammed with clubs, bars and massage shops where you can meet all kinds of interesting people (and a few prostitutes that’ll make you do a triple take). Gay, straight, open-minded, just go yonder and explore — Bangkok awaits.
Most of the major Korean airlines run multiple daily flights to Bangkok from Seoul, but the cheapest options will be through smaller operations; Jin Air, in particular, offers a super deal: nonstop Seoul to Bangkok for around 350,000 won. Check out skyscanner.com for more details.