Monthly Archives - April 2009

Surprise in the City

Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City
Surprise in the City

I have lived in Bangkok for several years and like to think that I’ve sampled most of what the city has to offer. I’m usually among the first to visit a new bar or restaurant and the person my friends turn to for travel advice.

So when my family visited during my birthday and told me they were going to show me a new side of the city, I was more than slightly skeptical. For the past few days I had been playing tour guide to these Thailand newbies, and now it was their turn to take the lead. They were, however, completely right. On the evening of my birthday we took a taxi to River City Pier No.2 next to the Phra Pinklao bridge on the far side of the river.

My father disappeared into the River City Shopping Complex and reappeared a few minutes later with tickets and a triumphant smile on his face. Taking my arm, he ushered me down to the waters edge, where the Chaophraya Princess cruise ship was waiting. I had often seen this boat and others like it gliding along the Chaopraya River in the evenings, but it had never occurred to me to go on a trip. It was just for tourists, surely.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I stepped aboard the cruise ship not knowing quite what to expect and was immediately soothed by the light saxophone music playing in the background. This ship was elegantly decorated in oriental and occidental styles and felt slick and sophisticated.

We were led to the top deck, which was large and had a large number of tables and chairs placed around the edge. After being seated we were each presented with a ‘welcome drink’ fruit cocktail and told that the cruise would start in just a few minutes.

There are many other families and couples on the deck and the air is charged with excitement and expectation.
At 8pm we began our journey, gliding down the Chaophraya River towards Taxin bridge. On the way we pass the famous sites of Wat Arun, The Grand Palace, Bang Khunprom Palace and the Kanlayanamitr temple. Although quite familiar sights for me by now, I have never seen them from the middle of the river at night. All the sites are illuminated, giving them a magical quality.

Cruising serenely down the river has an enchantingly relaxing effect. Gone are the heat and crowds that can make this trip somewhat stressful during the daytime and there is a cool breeze coming from the river.

Before long it is announced that the international buffet is open. Everyone grabs a plate and charges to the center of the deck, where there are dozens of dishes to choose from; anything from fresh seafood and sushi to spicy Thai curries and steaks cooked to order. Everything is presented stylishly in large silver tureens and both looks and tastes wonderful. It’s not often that I get the chance to combine my favorite Thai and western dishes and we all dine happily while a beautiful female vocalist sings in the background.

Just as we are finishing our meal the boat turns around and makes its way back along the river. Now knives and forks are replaced with cameras as people snap away at the unique views of some of Thailand’s most beloved sites.

Once again I am encouraged to play tour guide and reveal some interesting ‘facts’ about the things we pass, although this time it is pure parody. Unless, that is, Wat Arun really is the birthplace of Indiana Jones and also Thailand’s oldest radio tower.

After two hours we return to the River City Pier. Our journey is at an end. My father turns to me, grinning expectantly and I have to admit that he’s done it. For those of us who think we know the city well take note: there is always some wise guy with a guidebook and a fresh perspective ready to make us eat our words. All with the best of intentions, of course.

Information:

Trips on the Chaophraya Princess Cruise cost 1,350 baht for adults and 1,000 baht for children under ten. The fee includes a welcome drink, international buffet, live band and a two hour boat trip.

For more information and booking visit www.thairivercruise.com.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she teaches English at Rajabhat Suan Dusit. Kay has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Bangkok Parks – A Certain Shade of Green


Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green
Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green
Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green
Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green
Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green
Bangkok Parks - A Certain Shade of Green

I love everything about living in the city: the hustle and bustle, the vibrancy and the fact that I never know what I might find around the next corner. However, there are times when I long to get away from the traffic for a while and relax somewhere green. Luckily, there are plenty of great parks in Bangkok, all with something different to offer.

Lumphini is Bangkok’s largest, oldest and perhaps best known park. Easily reachable from Saladaeng Skytrain Station, the park covers a colossal 50km². Not only is Luphini Park a beautiful green zone, it is also a great place to see Thai life at its best. Large extended families picnic on blankets under the trees, young couples walk along holding hands, stalls are set up for barbers to ply their trade and merchants to sells snacks while all over the park you can see Indian men playing cricket and young Thais and westerners cycling and playing football in the sunshine.

Lumphini Park really has something for everyone; there is even a swimming pool and outdoor gym, with a stage holding regular performances in the evenings. Originally named Sala Daeng, the park was donated to the people of Bangkok by Rama IV in 1925 and named after Buddha’s Nepalese birthplace. There are several entrances to the park, but perhaps the most convenient is the large main entrance marked by a majestic statue of Rama VI and located near Silom Skytrain station.

From Lumphini Park you can take the Skytrain straight to Mo Chit and explore Bangkok’s second largest green area. Located next to the famous weekend market, Chatuchak Park is extremely beautiful and features a large lake and tennis courts.

Cross the road behind Chatuchak, walk a few meters and you will come to one of Bangkok’s best kept secrets. Known as Suan Rotfi or Railway Park, this is perhaps Bangkok’s most beautiful and least visited parks, full of great facilities guaranteed to keep you coming back time and again.

The best way to explore this lush wonderland is by bike, and bicycles can be hired from the far end of the park. As you pass, pause to explore the Insectarium and Butterfly Centre, where you will find a colourful collection of butterflies, plants and insects. The park also contains a gym, swimming pool and some beautiful places to sit and relax.

When it’s time to make a move, take the Skytrain to Prompong station and walk to The Emporium Shopping Centre, which is located on Sukhumvit Road. Here you will discover Benjasiri Park, which was built to celebrate the Queen’s 60th birthday in 1992 and contains some magnificent Thai sculptures.

Romaneenart Park was recently built on the site of the city jail, near the Giant Swing and Wat Suthat. The park has some nice fountains and this can be a good place to chill out for a while after a heavy shopping session at nearby China Town and Little India.

One of my favourite ways to end a day of exploring the city is to take a ferry down the Chao Phraya River just as the sun is setting. Get off at pier 13, where you will find the inviting Santichaiprakan Park. Situated on the banks of the river, there is always something interesting to see here, especially in the evening, when the cool dusk air attracts jugglers, bongo players and Thai teenagers to show off their break dancing skills or play takraw.

The great thing about Santichaiprakan Park is that it is located just a short walk from Khaosan Road, and what could be better than finishing the day with a meal and a beer or two at your favourite bar or restaurant?

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep
Wat Doi Suthep

“I have to tell you, I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” my friend pants, red faced and breathless as we climb the steep flight of stone steps. “Come on, we’re nearly there, you can’t quit on me now!” I pant back. Who would have thought that 309 steps would prove to be such a challenge? We should have taken the tram to the top, but it’s too late now.

Finally, we reach the top and nearly collapse in relief. The temple grounds of Wat Prathap Doi Suthep, situated at the top of the mighty Doi Suthep Mountain, are large and interesting, full of towering chedis, enormous bells and intricate stone carvings.
But it is the view that really makes this journey worthwhile. After circling the central chedi, I make my way to the white balustrade at the edge of the temple grounds and find myself breathless once more.

The view over Chiang Mai is simply spectacular. Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is located about 20 miles from Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital, at an elevation of 1,685 meters above sea level. From my lofty perch I can see right across the mighty city to the jungle that surrounds it and a winding, sparkling river in the far distance.

The Buddhist temple of Wat Prathap Doi Suthep was founded in 1383 under unusual circumstances. A famous Thai legend tells that in the 14th century a monk from Sukhothai had a dream telling him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Upon following the directions of the dream the monk found what is believed to be the Lord Buddha’s shoulder bone.

The relic displayed magic powers such as glowing, vanishing and self-replication, so the monk took it to King Dharmmaraja, ruler of Sukhothai. But the king was uninterested in the relic, which did not reveal its magic powers to him.

However, King Ku Naone of the Lanna Kingdom requested the relic, which was then placed on the back of a white elephant and released into the jungle so that the elephant might find a suitable location to build a temple to contain the relic.

The noble elephant climbed up Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times and died on the spot. This was seen as a sigh that the temple should be built on the top of Doi Suthep.

Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is highly revered and a major pilgrimage destination during Buddhist holidays, especially Makha Buja and Visak. Around Wat Prathap Doi Suthep are 47 murals that illustrate the past loves of the Buddha and of the Jataka Buddha before he became enlightened.

Another focal point of the temple is the large chedi, which is bell-shaped and formed in the Lanna style. There is also a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue of the multiple-armed elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh.

After exploring all that the temple has to offer, I climb back down the steps and buy a cup of hot tea at the market at the base of the temple. The view over Chiang Mai is still spectacular from here, and it is a peaceful place to reflect in before returning to the madness and mayhem of the city.

Wat Prathap Doi Suthep is situated around 22 miles from the city of Chiang Mai. There is a winding road to the top of the mountain, but it is extremely steep. As I amble back down the mountain I pass a group of red-faced cyclists, who are clearly regretting their choice of transportation.

Getting There

The easiest way to reach Wat Doi Suthep is to go by songthew, which is a small open-backed truck with two rows of wooden benches running down the sides. You can catch a songthew from the market area at the corner of the Manneenopparat and Chotana Roads. Expect to pay around 150 baht for a return journey.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Dusit Zoo

Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo

I am not usually a fan of zoos. The though of powerful and beautiful wild creatures confined to cramped, macabre-looking cages gives me the urge to storm into the nearest zoo and release the mighty beasts. However, for a long time my Thai friends had been singing the praises of Dusit Zoo. “You must go,” they would enthuse. “It is so wonderful.” Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. And so, feeling extremely skeptical and a little guilty, I found myself at the zoo entrance one Friday afternoon.      

As soon as I enter, I am greeted by the arresting natural beauty of the lake. Dozens of ducks and geese waddle on the grassy shore and float freely in the cool water. Over-hung with lush trees, the lake is a piece of Eden in Bangkok’s bustling metropolis.

Following the signs, I make my way over a bridge and find Bird Island. I push through the mesh-covered door and simply stare in amazement. I seem to be in the middle of a dense jungle! Overhead, birds and butterflies flutter and flap freely. In amongst the rich exotic plants, peacocks and other brightly-hued birds wander.

This is so far from the image in my mind that I feel my heart soar. As I explore, I find a few beautiful hornbills in cages. However, these cages are large and full of vegetation. As the graceful birds demonstrate, there is plenty of room for them to shake a tail feather.

Feeling elated, I leave Bird Island and find the gorgeous big black bears. They reside in a large, grassy compound. I am delighted to see that there are no cages in use here. Instead, the bears are surrounded by a moat filled with live fish; lunch on demand. The bears are enjoying a midday snooze, lazily stretching and wiggling their noses.

Next door, the mole-like sun bears are showing off their bellies by standing on their hind legs. They stay on a similar island, this time with a waterfall providing a natural shower.

Taking a left, I discover the impressive white Siberian tigers. They too live on a natural grassy island, sheltering from the heat in the shade of a natural rock cave.

So far I have been impressed by the zoo’s natural approach to animal captivity. However, when I wander through the tiger tunnel I am met by the more traditional zoo scenes; tigers, leopards and lions confined to somewhat small, metal cages. In one, a lioness is lovingly licking the back of her mate. She seems unaware of her cramped conditions, but my heart goes out to her nonetheless.

Feeling rather irate, I find one of the zoo workers and question him about the animals’ conditions. “Why are some of the animals in such natural-looking enclosures, whilst others are cruelly confined?” I demand angrily. “It is a shame, I know,” the friendly Thai man calmly replies. “But we are trying to change the cages. We must wait for more money, you understand?” The man points to the gorillas, who also relax on their own natural island. “In many zoos, these beautiful animals would have cages too, but not here. Here they are freer.” As I watch the gorillas swinging through the trees, I cannot help but agree.

Dusit Zoo covers an area of more than 47 acres and is home to over 300 mammals, 1,300 birds and 190 reptiles. It was formerly part of the Royal Dusit Garden Palace, or “Khao Din Wana” in Thai. Established by King Rama V, this was his private botanical garden.

In 1938, the Prime Minister of Thailand asked King Rama VIII to grant him the land so that he could open the zoo to the public. The king consented and, once it had been established by the Bangkok Municipality, the zoo was opened. It was turned over to the Zoological park Organization in February 1954.

The zoo has employed many field-trained zoologists, who have helped design the enclosures. The idea was to ensure that the instincts and behaviours of the wild animals were preserved as much as possible.

Wandering around the grounds, I come across the lemurs. These too are housed in mesh cages, although rather larger with tree trunks to climb and rope to swing from.

As I watch, a cheekily confident ring-tailed lemur springs onto the mesh right in front of my nose, making me jump!

A little further into the park, I come across a family of happy hippos wallowing in a large muddy pool. I watch transfixed as the male and female play with the tiny – well, tiny for a hippo – baby. The way their ears swivel is enchanting in way a way I could never explain.

After a lot of searching, I finally track down the elephants. Their enclosure is currently being transformed, although the keeper doesn’t know the plans.

Finally, it is time for me to leave. I cannot resist visiting the sun bears once more before I leave. One stands on his hind legs and wriggles his nose in farewell.

Information:

Entrance to Dusit Zoo costs just 100 Baht. It is open 9 am – 6 pm daily.

Getting There:

The main entrance is off Ratwithi Road. You can take many buses, including 70 from Chosen Road, 18, 28 or air-con bus number 10.   

About the author:

Kirsty Turner This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Incense

Incense
Incense
Incense
Incense

In many parts of the world incense is an important part of daily life, associated with religion, ritual and health. As you wind your way through narrow streets in bazaars and market places stalls are crammed with colourful boxes of incense with exotic and evocative names and the air is filled with rich incense smoke as you wander past temples and shrines. But what exactly is incense and why does it play such a prominent role in society, especially in temples?

Incense traditionally comes from tree resins, but can also be produced from certain bark, flowers, seeds and roots. There are two main types of incense; Eastern and Western.

Western incense comes from the gum resins of tree bark such as the sticky gum found on fir trees. The gum hardens to become resin, which is collected by cutting it from the tree with a knife. The pieces of resin are called grains and are sprinkled on burning coal to release their fragrance.

Eastern incense is produced from plants such as sandalwood, patchouli, agar wood and vetiver. These ingredients are ground using a pestle and mortar. Water is then added to make a paste along with saltpetre – potassium nitrate – to help the mixture burn evenly. The mixture is then processed in various ways.

In India, the mixture is spread on a stick of bamboo to make agarbatti, or an incense stick, whilst the Chinese sieve the mixture to form strands. In some cases, incense cones are also formed and incense paste can be formed into Chinese characters, which bring good fortune when burned.

Throughout history, incense has been used by many different cultures and religious faiths to produce a wide range of results. In ancient times it was believed that plants were scared and closely associated with the gods. The burning of certain plants was believed to drive away demons and encourage the gods to appear on earth.

In Hinduism, incense made from sacred wood and flowers is burnt to purify the atmosphere and provide worshippers with a clear frame of mind to perform ritualistic worship or meditation.

Egyptians associate incense with the dead. Incense is specially blended with each ingredient selected for its unique magical properties, which carry the soul of the dead to heaven along with the prayers and good wishes of the mourners.

The Native Americans are also known to have burned mixtures of herbal smoke in ceremonial cleansing and healing rituals. These rituals date back thousands of years and are believed to drive away negative energies and restore balance. Herbs and plants such as cedar, sweetgrass, sage and tobacco were tied into bunches and fanned through the energy field to attract positive forces.

Incense is widely used throughout Buddhism for a number of purposes. It is burned in large quantities at all religious ceremonies and in daily worship. In Tibetan Buddhism, incense is also used in healing and can be used to treat a wide range of symptoms including skin diseases and fatigue.

It has long been thought that the burning of certain fragrances can heighten the senses of sight and smell and in today’s society incense is playing a prominent role in aromatherapy.

Many aromatherapy specialists promote the extensive use of incense, attributing it with a wide range of beneficial properties. Certain types in incense are used to reduce anxiety, stress and fear, alleviate insomnia, accelerate healing, revitalise and renew energy.

It is believed that each fragrance has its own vibration and can be carefully selected to aid mood enhancement and assist personal development.

To produce the most beneficial effects for your personality, many aromatherapists recommend blending your own incense. This is a lot simpler than in sounds and can also be a lot of fun.

To start, choose a selection of wood and spices that you feel positive towards. You should use at least one resin or wood as a base, which should be frozen for at least 15 minutes before use. The ingredients must be in the form of a fine powder; you can use either a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder to produce the powder.

Although there is no limit to the ingredients you can use, it is easiest to start with just three, such as one wood and two herbs. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the resins. Place the mixture in a ceramic dish or a large seashell and set light to it to release the calming aroma.

Most incense sticks for sale in shops or on street stalls are produced in factories in China or India. Production is simple and economic. Large bundles of wooden sticks – known as ‘punk’ sticks – are bought from a specialist supplier in bundles of 100 sticks.

The ends of the sticks are cleaned and the bundles selected for a particular fragrance with the ends painted the colour relating to that fragrance. The bundles are then left to dry overnight.

The fragrance oils are mixed the next day and the punk-covered ends of the bundles are dipped into the fragrance and left to dry overnight once more.

Once dry, bundles are individually wrapped in wax paper, sealed in plastic bags and placed in bins to await orders for sale.

So there you have it. From cleaning the mind to honouring the spirits and mourning the dead, incense is used in numerous ways by many different cultures and religions. However, all seem to agree that these small scented sticks have the power to release human spirit and potential.
 
About the author:

Kirsty Turner This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Dream World

Dream World
Dream World
Dream World
Dream World
Dream World
Dream World
Dream World

A sense of magic seems to hang in the air as we make our way towards the enormous castle gateway. I am bouncing up and down with anticipation, unable to contain my excitement. Although no longer a child, this is a childhood dream come true. Today, my friends and I are going to Dream World; a large, Western-style amusement park just outside Bangkok.  

We pass through the iron gates and pay our fees, then charge into the park. Upbeat music mixes with my mood, causing me to skip along. I’ve been looking forward to visiting Dream World for some time and I’m not disappointed by what I see. Here, the natural Thai flare for fun and style has been utilised to make the park a true fantasy wonderland.

First stop is the obligatory roller coaster, an elevated orange tangle of track, which loops suddenly and violently, causing its passengers to scream loudly, although I cannot tell whether from delight or terror.

I am reluctant to join the queue but am persuaded by my friends’ enthusiasm and it is not too long before I am strapped firmly in place and making my ascent along the steep track. I have just a few seconds to admire the view of paddy fields and surrounding countryside before I am being whisked violently through a series of sharp turns.

The ride comes to a halt just a couple of minutes later and I climb out, grateful to be on solid ground once more. My friends take one look at the startled expression on my face and burst out laughing. General consensus that day; no more thrill rides.

We wander through a garden full of large cartoon statues including The Flintstones, a hungry shark and a man soaking in a bath full of suds. Just ahead I see the Giant’s House and can’t resist taking a look.

Inside the house everything is blown up to 50 times the usual size, which instantly makes me feel like a small child. There is an enormous giant snoring in a bed and I tiptoe past him as I bravely explore his house.

Everything seems realistic and yet magical at the same time; it feels just like being inside a fairy tale. There is a magic mirror, goose with golden eggs and even large cobwebs with spiders. Fantastic. The best part is that you are free to play with things and climb on them as you choose. For once, there are no barriers.

Perhaps the main attraction is Snow Town and we head there now, my Thai friend impatiently pulling me along. For most Asian people this is a rare opportunity to experience snow, and a room has been specially created with rooms around 0 degrees C.

We are handed a large padded coat each and a pair of rather large wellington boots and waddle our way in to the snow room. Although somewhat smaller than I had imagined, Snow Town is suitably snowy and filled with quaint decorative touches such as model penguins, Eskimos and a colossal snowman.

To one side is a long icy slope and people are queuing up to ride large padded tyres down the slope. Having had plenty of practice at this back home in England, I am happy to watch and throw snowballs at my friends as they reach the bottom.

As we emerge from the winter world, a loud announcement tells us that the Hollywood Action Show is about to start. We settle ourselves on the large wooden benches opposite the stage and the show starts with a bang – literally. The theme of the show is a SWAT team invading a criminal den and is full of stunts and special effects that keep us on the edge of our seats.

After lunch it is time for the Haunted House. Thai people really believe in ghosts, so make sure you take a Thai friend along for maximum enjoyment. As we walk through the darkened corridors my friend is shaking with fear, screaming so loudly and frequently at absolutely nothing that the rest of us can’t help but laugh. We finally emerge from the Haunted House crying with laughter, much to the confusion of the nearby staff.

The next few hours are spent indulging in all that Dream World has to offer. The go-karting track provides the opportunity to race and let off a little steam, while the bumper cars are also a good way to vent unspoken frustrations. Also exciting are the water rides, especially The Super Splash and White Water Rapids, where you can cool down after walking around in the heat.
 
Finally, evening starts to draw in and it is almost time to leave. Before we go, we all pile into the cable car for an aerial view of Dream World just as the sun is setting.

Information: The park is open daily from 10:00 – 17:00. Entrance to Dream World costs 450 baht for foreigners, which includes most rides, although attractions such as Snow Town and go-karting cost extra.

Most travel agencies offer a package tour that includes transfer to and from your hotel, entrance fee, a guided tour and lunch. The tour costs 1,000 baht and is a pretty good deal.

Alternatively, it is easy to find Dream World on your own. Air-con bus 523 from the northern bus terminal and bus 538 from Victory Monument will take you right there.

The address is: 62 Moo, 1 Rangsit Nakornnayok Road, Km 7 Thanyaburi, Pathumthani.

For a full colour map, go to: http://www.dreamworld-th.com/english/index.php

Email: info@dreamworld-th.com

Baiyoke Tower

Baiyoke Tower
Baiyoke Tower
Baiyoke Tower
Baiyoke Tower

It’s not often that I get the chance to see the way the other half lives. I’m usually more comfortable hanging out on Khaosan Road and am more likely to be found chatting to backpackers and eating pad thai at 2 a.m. than chilling out in one of Bangkok’s exclusive clubs or hotels. But when a friend suggested that we check out Baiyoke Tower II’s exclusive international buffet, it was an offer too good to refuse.
Walking into the extremely posh hotel for the first time, I felt a little out of my depth. Everyone around me was dressed in expensive designer label clothing, and there was not a backpacker in sight. My friend and I get into a large, highly polished elevator and are whisked up, up up to the 77th floor, moving so fast that my ears pop.

The 77th floor offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the city, complete with information board to explain exactly what you’re looking at. As I gaze out at one of the best views of Bangkok my discomfort melts away and is replaced by awe.

Baiyoke Tower II was opened on January 1998 and at a colossal 304 meters or 997 feet is Thailand’s tallest building. The main part of Baiyoke Tower II is occupied by the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, which has 673 rooms for guests and is the tallest hotel in southeast Asia, the third tallest in the entire world! According to the tower’s information boards, there are a total of 2,060 steps from the bottom of Baiyoke Tower II to the top and it takes more than an hour to climb them from top to bottom. For once, I’m happy to take their word for it, preferring to take the lift instead. All around the 77th floor are photographs of Bangkok from the past and life-sized models of things such as tuk-tuks and an old shop front, which make great photo opportunities.

At 5:30 the dining room is open and we find a table next to the window so that we can enjoy the view as we eat.

The buffet is fantastic; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much food in one place before. Organized into sections by type and country of origin, there are well over a hundred dishes available, everything from fresh seafood to BBQ to creamy Italian pasta. Prepared and served by gourmet chefs, everything is perfect.For the next hour my friend and I dine in style on a mixture of French soup, seafood, steak, Japanese food and much more.

At 6:30 we take another elevator up to the revolving top deck on the 84th floor to watch the sun set. Completely unobstructed by trees or buildings, I have a spectacular view of the dramatic dieing of the day. It takes about 5 minutes for the deck to rotate back to the starting point and I go around several times, locating some of my favourite Bangkok landmarks and watching with interest as the scene turns to night and the lights come on all over the city.

One of the great things about the buffet is that you can return anytime you want within the dining hours. Our table is still waiting for us an hour later and this time we fill up on the delicious deserts.When we have eaten our fill we go to the Roof Top Bar and Music Lounge on the 83rd floor, where we sit by the window and enjoy the view over Bangkok. The room is lit only by candlelight, with light jazz music playing in the background.

On the way back to the street I manage to resist the urge to return to the buffet, knowing for certain that I will return sometime soon.

Information:

The buffet lunch is open from 11a.m.-2p.m. and costs 310 baht for adults, 155 baht for children.

Dinner is from 5:30-10p.m and costs 410 baht for adults, 205 baht for children.

Top tip: if the booking is made by a Thai friend you will save 50-100 baht!

For more information visit www.baiyoketower.com or call 02656 3000

Getting There:

Baiyoke Tower II is located at 222 Ratchaprarop Road, Bangkok.

The nearest BTS stop is Chidlom, and from there it is a short taxi ride.

You can also catch buses 13, 14, 15, 54, 62, 63, 72, 73 and 74 to get close to the tower.

About the author:


Kirsty Turner
(Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Ready, Set, Go-kart!

Ready, Set, Go-kart!
Ready, Set, Go-kart!
Ready, Set, Go-kart!
Ready, Set, Go-kart!

The smell of petrol fills the air, the sound of revving engines mixing with the rock music that filters out from the speakers. Tension mounts as I glance at my opponent and catch his steely stare. A large bet has been placed on the outcome of this race, so the stakes are high. Also, a large group of friends have come to watch, so I am determined not to lose.

The flag is lowered and we pull away with a loud screeching of tyres. Controlling the car is much easier than I had thought, although it takes a while to accelerate and gain speed after manoeuvring around the many tight corners as the track twists and turns its way around the floor.

I am enjoying the feeling of driving the kart so much that I have almost forgotten about the race. Suddenly, I look up and notice that my opponent is miles ahead! Although all the karts actually have the same speed, my kart just doesn’t want to go as fast as his for some reason. It’s nothing to do with me, I’m sure of that!

Situated in the RCA Plaza, the PTT Speed Way was opened in March 2004. The track covers 7000 square meters, making it the biggest indoor go-kart track in Asia. The track receives around 100,000 visitors each year, with most people turning up to race on weekends.

The PTT Speed Way has also been graced by visits from several celebrities. Thai super stars Byron Bishop and Ray Mcdonald are exclusive members, and international celebrities include Formula One racer Nico Roseberg.

The great thing about go-karting is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be good at sports, or even particularly good at driving. Everyone between the ages of 7 and 60 can join in the fun, and you don’t even need a driving licence! This is the perfect place to live out your Grand Prize fantasies and discover whether you have what it takes to be the next Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello.

As we race, we are watched over by three guardian angels, ready to be on hand should anything go wrong. But this is very unlikely, and I feel safe and confident as I speed around the track.

I look back and see my opponent just behind me. Somehow, I’ve overtaken him without even realising it! My chest swells with pride as I realise that in a few minutes I will be the winner of the race. I look up at my friends, who are intently watching the race from high above us, and give them a triumphant wave.

But no. It suddenly occurs to me that my friend is still the leader, now nearly a full lap ahead and virtually unreachable! I curse myself for being heavier than my opponent, realising that it is the difference in our weight that has given him the edge. Try as I might, there is nothing I can do to catch up now, and I can already here the sound of his boasts as he tells people how easily he outraced me.

My sense of defeat soon passes as we reach the finishing line. My opponent’s grin of triumph, combined with my shaking hands and feeling of elation as I climb from the kart more than make up for losing. All that’s left now is to settle the bet, and we head back to Khaosan Road for a slap up meal and drinks – all on me!

Information:

An 8 minute race costs just 390 baht, including all equipment. Special prices are available for large groups. Facilities include a large air conditioned pool room and bar, where you can relax with a drink and watch others zoom around the track.

Opening times are 16:00-24:00 Monday-Thursday (closed Wednesday), Friday 16:00-03:00, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 13:00-24:00.

The Karting Stadium is located near Sukhumvit at RCA Plaza, Soi Soonvijai, just off the Rama 9 Road. There are several ways to get there; you can catch air-con bus number 12, take the BTS to Ekkamai and a short taxi ride from there, or simply get a taxi straight to RCA.

For more information, email pr (at) easykart (dot) net or phone 081 9177 564.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Wakeboarding in Thailand

Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand
Wakeboarding in Thailand

“Daa…” Splash! My friend loses control of his wakeboard and plunges headfirst into the lake. But seconds later he is up, huge smile on his face. “This is awesome,” he beams, giving me the thumbs up sign.”

It’s a sultry Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the sunshine beside a sparkling clear blue lake fringed by palm trees and the red sloping roves of temples, which glitter and shine as the dun hits them. Hard to believe that this is just outside Bangkok, but the truth is that a short taxi ride away from the busy capital, this peaceful haven is just waiting to be discovered.

The great thing is, even on a Saturday the beautiful Taco Lake is far from crowded. In the middle of the day there are only around two dozen people, including a couple of families who have brought picnics and cheer and laugh as dad plays on the lake.

Wakeboarding is a surface water sport where people ride a wakeboard over the water, towed behind a motorboat or a cable on a circuit. Wakeboarding uses a combination of waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques and emerged in the 1980s.

The sport is largely recognised to have been invented by Canadian Paul Fraser, who developed the concept and design with the help of his brother Murray. But it was in the mid 1990s, when wakeboarding was added as a competitive sport in the X Games II, that it became really popular. The interest in the sport was so intense that it prompted the World Skiboard Association to redefine itself as the World Wakeboard Association.

Although it looks tricky, wakeboarding is quite easy to get into and very addictive. The boards are buoyant and the core is usually made from foam or honeycomb mixed with resin and coated with fibreglass. There are metal screws inserted, which attach bindings and fins. There are lots of different fin styles and shapes. Generally, the closer the fins are to the center of the wakeboard the better the board releases from the wake.

Riding the wakeboard is quite simple, in theory at least. The rider performs jumps by hitting the wake and launching into the air or by hitting a special ramp known as a kicker. There is often a rail bar – known as a slider – which the rider can balance along in the same manner as a skateboarder.

As with any extreme sport, there are a whole host of wakeboarding manoeuvres waiting to be mastered. Here are some of the most popular tricks to try:

Raley: this is where you hit the wake and swing your body backwards, up overhead, parallel to the water. Then

swing your board and body back down and land on the other side of the wake.

Fakie/Switch: Ride the board with your weak foot forward.

Butter Slide: The rider approaches the wake and snaps the board sideways to slide on top of the wake.

Surface 360: Spin the board 360 degrees while riding the surface of the water.

If all that seems a bit too much like hard work, you can try kneeboarding instead. Kneeboarding originated in Southern California in the mid 1960s. As with wakeboarding, the participants are towed on a board behind a motorboat or cable.
 
However, kneeboarding is somewhat easier than wakeboarding as the rider sits on their heels on the board, secured to the deck with an adjustable strap over the thighs. This means that there is no need to balance, which can be a problem for wakeboarders. Although easier to master, kneeboarding is still a lot of fun and there are a lot of tricks to learn and perform.

After three hours of messing about on the lake, everyone is tired but happy, nursing their aching muscles. So we head back to Khaosan Road to drink a few beers and eat pad thai on the street.

Information:

Taco Lake is located about a 30 minute journey from Bangkok in Samut Prakarn Province. To get there, follow the KM 13 Bangna-Trad Road for 150 meters and look for signs for the Intensity Pro shop. You can also phone +66 1855 5295 for more information.

The lake is open daily from 10 a.m. tickets cost just 300 baht for two hours. A standard board is provided for free, or you can pay 100 baht to hire a special board for the entire day. Lifejackets are also provided free of charge and there are plenty of facilities such as changing rooms, benches and a restaurant.
 
About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Veggie Delight

Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand

Travelling in Thailand can be tough if you’re a vegetarian. Your senses are constantly assaulted by the myriad of meats on sticks barbecued on every street corner and the scent of fried chicken fills the air as you wait patiently for a bus to whisk you away.

Vegetarianism is definitely a lesson in tolerance, and I have learnt to turn a blind eye to the invasions of the meat loving society. Well, almost. Even more difficult, however, is finding decent veggie food, especially if you are on a budget. I spent my first six months in the Land of Smiles surviving mainly on pad Thai and boiled corn, not exactly a rich and varied diet.

But the truth is there are some excellent places for vegetarians to eat in Bangkok, if you know where to go. Here are some of my favourites:

May Kaidee, located 33 Samsen Road (Soi 1) and tucked away on 1117/1 Tanao Road, behind Burger King at the end of Khaosan Road is probably the most popular vegetarian restaurant in the area. Offering an incredibly diverse range of vegetarian Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes, this is a great place to meet friends. All the dishes are freshly prepared and cooked, with flavours combined to perfection.

The pumpkin soup is simply fantastic, especially with ground ginger on top, and the organic brown rice is healthy and delicious. Dishes are affordable at around 50 Baht each and cooking courses are also available. Open 9 a.m – 11 p.m. daily.

Situated at the end of Soi 2, just off Samsen Road, Cafe Corner is also a great place to unwind. Converted from a traditional Thai shop, the cafe opens right onto the street and has a unique Bohemian feel.

Unusual, uplifting music is played in the background whilst you tuck into baguettes, pancakes or vegetarian Thai food. The range of cocktails makes this the perfect place to gather in the evening as well.

All the vegetables used are organic and come from farms in Suphanburi, Ratchaburi and the cafe’s own garden.

Just a ten minute walk from Khaosan Road, the recently opened Tham-na Home Restaurant can be found at 169 Samsen Road. The restaurant offers deliciously healthy vegetarian and vegan food served in a light and stylishly decorated restaurant. The restaurant’s motto is; “Vegetarian food for meat lovers,” and is a real treat for anyone who appreciates good food. The menu is filled with international favourites such as Japanese dishes, Thai food, hearty breakfasts and fresh, organic salads. There are western staples such as roast potatoes, or you can try the fried lotus root for an exotic alternative. Highly recommended is the baguette with mozzarella cheese and tangy sesame mushrooms.

Tanao Road is becoming a haven for vegetarians and Ethos restaurant brings a slightly Bohemian and cozy feel to the area. The menu is full of vegan and vegetarian dishes featuring flavours from around the world. Customers get to choose between the western style dining tables or sitting on the floor on pretty patterned cushions. Gorgeous red lamps made from red paper hang over the tables and complete the scene.

The Thai vegetarian dishes are a vibrant blend of colours and textures, fresh, crisp vegetables and tasty tofu chunks. The restaurant also serves large portions of western food such as lasagna, falafel and comfort food such as apple crumble and custard. Ethos offers free wifi, making this a great place to spend an afternoon trying the incredible selection of teas and the rich and creamy fruit lassis.

The vegetarian section of Chatuchak Market is one of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets. Also known as Chamlong’s Restaurant after Bangkok’s former governor K. Chamlong, this area features a collection of over thirty stalls selling delicious Thai, Chinese and Western dishes. Each stall offers its own speciality and fake meats are used to create dishes such as “fish” curry in banana leaf and “chicken” skewers.

Best of all, these delicious dishes are incredibly cheap, ranging from 10-20 Baht each, so you can afford to try a whole range. Run by the Santi Asoke monks, food is served daily from 8 a.m. – 2p.m.

Finding Chamlong’s Restaurant can be tricky at first. Take the subway to Kamphaeng Phet (exit 1) and turn right. Walk for five minutes and follow an alleyway between bars to a large warehouse. You can also take bus no 3 from Banglampoo.

If it is authentic Indian food you crave, look no further than Soi Rambutree, opposite Khoasan Road. Here you will find quite a few eateries offering eastern promise, all with an extensive vegetarian selection.

As you can see, there is vegetarian food to suit every taste in Bangkok. Don’t forget to try the Thai speciality Pad see-u Pak (rice noodles with egg and broccoli). Whatever you choose, remember to say arroy maak (tastes very good) at the end of your meal.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!