Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Bangkok is bustling. Spending four days in the serenity of the great temples in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang before heading to Thailand threw the intense urbanity of the country’s main metropolis into stark relief. Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia, and I was exited to let its energy sweep me up and send me off to explore.
After taking the train from Suvarnabhumi Airport to central Bangkok, I hopped into a taxi to get to my hotel, The Metropolitan. Unfortunately, my map had the hotel’s location wrong, and my driver couldn’t figure out where the hotel was when we realized that we were in the wrong place. After an hour of circling the neighborhood, we finally arrived.
The hotel was located in the Sathon district and was set back from the main road in a secluded area. After passing by the large outdoor pool, I walked into the spacious lobby to check into my room, which the hotel had offered me on a complimentary basis.
The room was on the 9th floor and had views over the pool and gardens. It was incredibly large and had a king size bed, dark wood floors, sofas, chairs, a desk, a TV, and a massive bathroom with both a shower and a tub.
After setting my bags down, I went out to catch the metro to the first destination on my Bangkok sightseeing agenda: the markets. The hotel’s concierge recommended a food market called Or Tor Kor, which I was excited to explore. Next to it was the largest market in Thailand.
I arrived at Or Tor Kor around lunchtime, and let my appetite be whetted by stacks of purple mangosteens, fresh slices of pineapple, sweet sugar cane juice, and all kinds of tropical fruits I had never seen before. At one end of the market was an area with tables and chairs that was surrounded by vendors selling everything from satay to curry. I bought lunch from one such vendor and sat at a table to eat red curry with chicken.
After getting my food fix, I headed across the street to Chatuchak Market, which locals call JJ Market. There I found myself in the largest market I have ever been to. The perimeter of the 35-acre space was lined with stalls packed with everything from clothing to jewelry and ice cream that was served in coconut halves.
Inside the covered area, impossibly narrow walkways separated rows of market stalls brimming with paintings, metal goods, leather sandals, silk skirts, and souvenirs. In all, there were 8,000 vendors offering everything imaginable.
After walking around for an hour, I left the market and headed to the next destination on my Bangkok sightseeing itinerary: the Jim Thompson House museum. On my last trip to Bangkok, I covered most of the traditional sightseeing highlights, including the Grand Palace, the golden Buddha at Wat Traimit, and the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. The one thing I didn’t have time for was Jim Thompson’s house.
The house was a museum created from the home of an American that moved to the city and reinvigorated the Thai silk industry after World War II. While living in Bangkok, Jim Thompson collected all kinds of art, antiques, furniture, and sculptures. In 1967, he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia, never to be seen again. After his disappearance his home was made into a museum.
The museum was as good as I hoped it would be. The house was packed with treasures both ancient and modern, and attached to it was a contemporary art exhibition space, a restaurant, a bar, and a large gift shop selling the silk products that Thompson made famous.
After the museum, I headed back to my hotel and got ready for dinner. The Metropolitan had offered me a meal at its restaurant, Nahm, which was the sister establishment of Nahm restaurant in London. Having had an amazing meal at the British location in January, I couldn’t wait to try its Thai equivalent.
Like last time, I went with the tasting menu, which consisted of a selection of canapes followed by a salad, a soup, a relish, a curry, and a grilled dish. They were all served at the same time to provide a balance of flavors throughout the meal.
The portions were enormous for just one person, but the food was so good that it was hard to stop eating. I found some of dishes to be overwhelmingly spicy (although they weren’t considered spicy according to my server!), but others balanced them out with cooler flavors.
The end of the meal coincided with the end of my time in Bangkok. I had to leave for the airport at 4 o’clock the next morning, so after dinner I went up to my room to get what sleep I could.
As short as my time in Bangkok was, I was happy to have had a day in Thailand on my Southeast Asia trip. The city was energetic and exciting, and got me enthused for my next destination: Borneo.