Unearth the hidden gems in Bangkok
I LOVE Bangkok and I am sure many Singaporeans share the same sentiment. It is only a two-hour flight away and makes for a great destination to eat, shop and play.
Thai people are a lovely bunch as well, always smiling and polite, making it a tourist-friendly destination.
While Bangkok might not be new to many people, there are still plenty of hidden gems to discover.
This travel guide will show you some of the best things to see, eat and do as well as the hottest places to shop.
WHERE TO HANG OUT
You can find many night markets in Bangkok but none like Art Box Bangkok.
The concept is interesting.
Shops are housed in shipping containers instead of the usual tents and the vibe is quite different from the other night markets - it is younger and more chill.
You can find local designer products such as handcrafted jewellery and unique T-shirts.
There are food trucks too. Expect more "hipster" street food such as gourmet burgers, grilled meats and strange cocktail concoctions quite different from the ones you will find along the street.
Look out for band performances as well.
But do check the market's website (www.artboxth.com) and its social media pages (such as @artbox_th on Instagram) to see if the market is open before you head there.
Art Box is not open all year round and, according to its Instagram page, the market is closed until the last week of next month.
The market is next to the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre MRT station.
Just like Singapore, Bangkok has its fair share of roof-top bars to check out.
Of these, I went to Moon Bar on the 61st storey of the Banyan Tree Hotel on a friend's recommendation.
It is a nice place to have a drink or bring a date because of its magnificent view but the price of a drink is not cheap. Expect to pay more than 300 baht (S$12) for a beer and you will find the service a little lacking.
Still, if you want a place away from the crowd, it still makes a good place to enjoy the skyline of Bangkok.
THINGS TO DO (BESIDES SHOPPING)
MASSAGE AND SPA
A trip to Bangkok for me will never be complete without a massage. Depending on what you are looking for, you can find a body massage from as little as 300 baht to a luxurious spa at 3,000 baht.
You will find many massage parlours along the roads and I typically choose one that has a few tourists inside.
If you are planning on enjoying a proper spa day, Healthland has quite a good reputation, a reasonable price and many outlets around Bangkok.
GET A TAILORED SUIT OR DRESS
Many foreigners who visit Bangkok schedule a trip to the tailors. On my trip, one of our friends planned to make his wedding suit at one of the tailors near Nana BTS and we were all impressed with the suit's quality and how quickly it was made.
It is best to check out recommendations from friends and have at least three to four full days to ensure you get a good fitting for your suit and business shirts.
Compared with Singapore, your suit will probably be less than half the price of a made-to-measure one and finished in less than half the time.
WHAT TO EAT
If you have a weak stomach, you might want to stay clear of street food. Otherwise, it offers a great way to try a variety of Thai food at affordable prices.
Some of my favourite food includes pad thai, som tum (Thai papaya salad), tom yum noodles, oyster omelette and mango sticky rice.
One of the best places to find street food is at the famed Sukhumvit Soi 38 where you can find mobile hawkers with trolleys and plenty of small tables and seats to dine along the road.
If you prefer a more comfortable place, there are food courts aplenty in most of the big malls, or try one of my favourite Thai restaurants called Inter at Siam Square.
OR TOR KOR MARKET
Or Tor Kor Market is a hidden gem. The thing is, many tourists head to the famous Chatuchak market for shopping and food but miss out on Or Tok Kor Market just across the street.
The market is very local and feels a bit like a wet market in Singapore, with a section for hawker food. But rest assured, it is a very clean and comfortable place to eat and walk around in.
I enjoy the market very much because there is cheap and good food, as well as plenty of seats.
Along the sides, there are stalls selling a variety of food, such as dried food ingredients, Thai desserts, dried fruits and nuts as well as takeaways.
If you love shrimps or crabs, Or Tok Kor Market is a great place to eat freshly steamed ones which have been shelled.
You can also drop by the market for breakfast at 9am before you head over to shop-till-you-drop at Chatuchak market.
CABBAGES & CONDOMS
As one of the most unique dining concepts in Bangkok, the Cabbages & Condoms restaurant will either shock you or ensure an evening of giggles throughout dinner.
The restaurant, located around Sukhumvit Road, was conceptualised in part to promote a better understanding of family planning and to generate income to support various social development programmes of Thailand's Population and Community Development Association.
Not only does the restaurant offer great food, it also promotes condom use in a fun and amusing way for health and safety reasons.
And then there is the decor which uses condoms.
WHERE TO SHOP
If you are shopping for apparel and accessories, you will not want to miss Platinum Fashion Mall which offers six floors of shopping across two buildings with cheap bargains to be found.
There is also one floor dedicated to food.
The mall, along Petchburi Road, acts as a wholesale centre for many other street stores.
There is also Union Mall, touted as the latest bargain mall in Bangkok.
It is said to be the new favourite of Thailand's fashion-forward youth. The place is more spacious and less crowded, which makes for a better shopping experience.
You can find more shops that stock goods with a slightly better quality.
But prices were much higher on my last visit, similar to those that blogshops are offering in Singapore.
Union Mall is located above the Phahon Yothin MRT station, a stop away from Chatuchak Weekend Market.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world's largest weekend markets, covering an area of 11ha.
It is divided into 27 sections and contains more than 15,000 booths selling all manner of things.
Expect clothes, ceramics, accessories, antiques, food, aromatherapy products and even plants and pets.
It will take you more than two days to cover the entire market.
If you prefer to shop in luxurious shopping malls, there is no shortage of them in Bangkok.
They include Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, Gaysorn and Terminal 21.
These malls usually come with an anchor department store and other big brand names that are familiar to Singaporeans - Zara, Levi's and Mango.
I typically visit these malls for food and lingerie.
For the latter, you can find great bargains for brand name lingerie such as Triumph and Wacoal at almost half the price of what you will find in Singapore.
Visit the lingerie department at Siam Paragon and you can easily spend a good two to three hours.
There are also brand names - such as Morgan, Elle and Guy Laroche lingerie - which you will not find in Singapore.
For food, you can visit the supermarkets if you aim to get local foodstuff to bring home. The cost is not much more than what you will pay at the markets.
This article first appeared on Get.com, a lifestyle and personal finance website.