Places to Visit in Bangkok

The River of Kings

Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, ThailandAt one time the very life blood of Bangkok, the majestic Chao Phraya River and all the various canals and waterways gave rise to the city’s former worldwide reputation as being “The Venice of the East”. Since the founding of Siam’s new capital in 1782 by King Rama I, to the people of Bangkok the Chao Phraya River has been a source of protection, trade, food, fun and worship. Although many of the riverside’s traditional Thai wooden houses have been replaced by modern skyscrapers and hotels, to all Thai people the Chao Phraya River will forever be the river of life.

Either on it or by it, a little of the city’s very own CPR will breathe fresh life into party weary limbs and provide a chilled out journey into history, so for those of you whom are up for a day of messing about on the water, here are a few highlights of river life to check out while cruising down the heart of Bangkok.

Zone A

Located in the north, the tiny island of Koh Kret is where Bangkok’s Mon community settled during the reign of King Tak-Sin. Sights to see are Wat Paramaiyikawas (Temple), Wat Chimplee (Temple), Wat Klong Kret (Temple), The Ceramics Centre, and Khanom Wan Canal (Dessert Canal).

Zone B

Beginning at the Wat Chalemphrakiat Worawihan, heading south along the river other sights to see are Nonthaburi Provincial Government House, Wat Khemapirataram (Temple), The Rama VI Bridge, Wat Rachathiwas Worawihan (Temple), Bang Khunphrom Palace, and the Phra Sumen Fortress. 

Zone C

A short journey west along Bangkok Noi Canal sights to see are the Royal Barge Museum, Wat Suwannaram Ratchaworawihan (Temple), Baan-bu Village, Thonburi Railway Station, and Wat Srisudaram Worawihan (Temple).

Zone D

Continuing south along the main river visitors will see Ratcha Woradit Pier and Rachakij Winijchai Throne, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Kallayanamitr Woramahawihan (Temple), Santa Cruz Church (Catholic), Phra Buddhayodfah Bridge, and Sullaka Sathon (Former Taxation House).

Zone E

Located south west of the main river along Sanam Chai Canal you can see Wat Nang-Nong Worawihan (Temple), Wat Raja Orasaram Ratchaworawihan (Temple), Wat Sai, (Temple), Wat Nang Shee Shotikoram (Temple of Nuns), and Wat Nang Ratchaworawihan (Nang Temple).

Zone F

A short journey south west of the main river along Bangkok Yai Canal visitors will see Wat Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan (Temple), Wat Moliokkayaram Ratchaworawihan (Temple), Wat Intaram Worawihan, Charoen Mosque, and The Old Palace. 

So, whether you decide on one of the leisurely evening dinner cruises, or purchase a day river pass entitling you to unlimited travel between Nonthaburi in the north (Zone A) to Thonburi in the south (Zone F), or even would simply like to travel to one of Thailand’s former capitals, Ayutthaya, by boat, a visitor’s trip to the Kingdom would not be complete without a journey along “The River of Kings”. Enjoy.

And remember…

Keepitreal

Royal Barges in Thailand

Royal Barges in ThailandOne of Thailand’s most spectacular sights for visitors would have to be the flotilla of Royal Barges carrying the Thai Royal Family elegantly down the Chao Phraya River during traditional annual celebrations. Although such a spectacular marine procession can only be seen just a few times a year, the Royal Barges themselves, when unused, are housed and maintained in sheds located about 45mins walk & ferry away from KSR and can be viewed daily by the general public between 8:30am to 5:00 pm at an entrance fee of just 30 Baht. It’s a chilled out way to spend time between waking up and happy hour and another great opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal to some unique and important Thai works of art.

Beautifully hand crafted, a Royal Barge procession would total an approximate number of 25 boats; however, only few of these are the “actual” Royal Barges with most numbers taking up roles of Royal Escorts, and fantastical Mythical Creature Barges. Once you’ve found the Royal Sheds (which requires a little patience) you will see that every Royal Barge is headed by a mythical figure or creature and is ornately decorated. The barges themselves reach an approximate length of around 50m and require a crew of over 40 men to row each. These majestic barges are all hand crafted, intricately carved, colourfully painted and inlayed with hundreds of tiny mirrors/glass shards to make each barge seem to shimmer and sparkle, day or night. Of course, as expected, the largest barge of all named “Suphanahong”, is reserved for the King alone. The barge itself is over 50m in length, is wonderfully decorated and has to be powered along by 50 oarsmen.

Royal Barges in ThailandGetting over to the Royal Barge Museum is quite easy. The sheds themselves are located along Khlong (canal) Bangkok Noi, which is just across the Chao Phraya River, and is very close to the Pinklao Bridge. You can head over to the Museum in a taxi or Tuk Tuk, but if you’d prefer to avoid the traffic around Pinklao Bridge, then take the river instead. From KSR take a short walk around to Phra-Athit Pier, on Phra-Athit Rd and catch a ferry boat just across the river to Station Pier. When you?ve crossed the river, follow the road up to the Arun Amarin Road junction. Here, take a right and head across the bridge for the canal, getting off the bridge on the other side via the stairs to your right. A small sign and the few food stalls around mark the entrance to the museum. Although the entrance path is quiet long (hence the need for patience), just follow the signs as you zigzag between local homes; spotting the “house of beer” will mean that you’re on the right track, until you finally reach the Royal Barge Museum. Enjoy.

And remember…

Keepitreal

Suan Rot Fai

Suan Rot Fai
Suan Rot Fai
Suan Rot Fai

It’s difficult to believe that any wild life can exist among Bangkok’s noxious atmosphere beyond a few sparrows, pigeons and cockroaches. But the City of Angels is home to an amazing number of bird species and many can be found alongside one of the main arteries, Phahonythin Road.
Alongside the more famous Chatuchak weekend market Suan Rot Fai, or Railway Park, is a northern version of Lumpinee Park. A few small acres of green where Bangkok’s residents can jog around the 3 kilometre track, lift weights or just stroll aimlessly among the well manicured lawns while a few metres away the rest of the city is snarled up in yet another traffic jam.

A lake dominates the park with paddle boats for hire. An oriental Serpentine. But round the lake a variety of trees and shrubs are home to a bustling eco system that does its best to survive in less than promising surroundings.

After five minutes of strolling round the track I had already seen five different types of bird including Tree Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Olive-backed Sunbirds, Magpie Robin and Great-billed Crows. The sounds from the trees hinted at many more but these birds, less at ease in the company of humans, kept themselves hidden in the canopy while high above swifts circled the early morning skies.

Obviously binoculars would come in handy as well as patience. Birds for the most part are shy and wary of danger. And with good reason. One blogger spied a Reticulated Python curled up in one of the trees but it is unclear if it had been raised in the park or had escaped from the nearby Chatuchak Market where a brisk trade in endangered wildlife carries on apace.

I saw cuckoos, herons and doves but I heard plenty more. The sounds teased you to the tree and vainly you would scan the upper branches looking for some tell tale sign of feathered movement. Sometimes you would get lucky but often they remained just out of reach.

Not so the Tree Sparrow. These small birds coloured various shades of grey are unafraid of humans and collect confidently in small packs. They can be found all over Bangkok and their dullness and ubiquity can breed familiarity. Likewise the pigeons. But among the feral mongrels that hunt in pack it is possible to see the Rock Pigeon as well as Spotted Dove.

Magpie Robins are another that has little fear of man. About the same size as the Tree Sparrow but with a longer tail these black and white birds can often be seen at ground level and are a frequent sight in the park.

With the MRT right next to the park, Suan Rot Fai makes for an interesting early morning wander, with or without the birds. For a map and list of species that can be found in the park check out www.thaibirder.com.

Ko Kred – Bangkok’s Hidden Gem

Ko Kred - Bangkok's Hidden Gem
Ko Kred - Bangkok's Hidden Gem
Ko Kred - Bangkok's Hidden Gem

The artificial island of Ko Kred lies cuddled between two bends of the Chao Phyra River at a point where the river wends to its narrowest. It is a counterfeit structure, as this straight and narrow channel was cut to speed the journey of river traffic as it plied between Ayutthaya and the Gulf of Thailand.

This 10 kilometer square island is a delight. There are no cars, and the roads are narrow concrete strips splayed out around the island. The only traffic is an occasional motorbike or bicycle. What bliss, a stone’s thrown from Bangkok, a city that is being strangled by the motor vehicle!
 
As you step off the ferry that has brought you across the river from Pakkred in a brief minute or two, you step back into a Thailand of 50 years ago. This island is home to a community of Mon people who came here from their homeland in the river Kwai valley north of Kanchanaburi . The temples and Buddha shrines scattered around the island are visible evidence of this neo-Burmese heritage.
 
The island is the site of a pottery industry. The rich clay soil provides an ideal medium for the red terracotta earthenware pots and water containers that were the mainstay of this economy. Sadly, others elsewhere, produce alternatives at a cheaper price and brick kilns have outlived their usefulness. Now the potters have turned their attention to the tourists who visit the island, usually on a Sunday in one of the large tour boats that sail up river from Taksin Bridge. However, the rich soil also supports a verdant landscape of palms, and fruit trees giving the place a wonderfully tranquil and rural feel. As a visitor you can walk around the island, hire a bicycle or zip quickly by on one of several motor cycle taxis. It’s quite a long walk, just over 5 kilometers, but a wonderful one at that! The path takes you under plantain tress with bunches of bananas overhanging the walk way and down below limes, papayas, pomeloes and all sorts of fruit I cannot identify grow in profusion.
 
For the really discerning travellers, there are rooms available to rent a very reasonable Bt 200 per night. The KoKred Restaurant has a verandah that juts out over the river. It is an ideal venue to eat or just sit, sip a drink and watch the sand barges and other water traffic as they glide by.
 
You don’t need to take the big cruise boats, chock full of tourists. Instead make you way to Victory Monument on the BTS. This missile like structure, which commemorates the Indo-Chinese War of 1940-41, serves as transport hub for Bangkok. Walk along the arterial skyway, and below you will see a sea of bus stands. Go as far as you can, descend and then wait for a 166 Bus. This will take you to Pakkred by motorway, thus avoiding the worst of the traffic jams. On reaching Pakkred, which is the terminus. You alight obliquely opposite the TMB bank, walk straight ahead until you encounter the motorcycle taxi-rank situated at the rear entrance of Jusco. Mumble something about KoKred and the driver will take you to the ferry stage at Wat Sana Nua. Enjoy the trip!

About the author:
Alister Bredee is a freelance author specialising in articles on health related topics.

Ancient City

Ancient City, Near Bangkok, Thailand
Ancient City, Near Bangkok, Thailand
Ancient City, Bangkok, Thailand
Ancient City, Bangkok, Thailand
Ancient City, Bangkok, Thailand
Ancient City, Bangkok, Thailand

There are so many interesting places to explore in Thailand that trying to visit them all can take many months, if not years. One good solution to this is the Ancient City, which contains 116 replica monuments, buildings and shrines other places of interest in Thailand.

Officially named Muang Boran in Thai, the Ancient City covers 320 acres and is arranged in the shape of Thailand. The park was opened to the public on 11th February 1972. In my opinion, the best way to explore the park is by bicycle, which can be hired for just 30 baht by the park entrance.

CITY 1 After paying my admittance fee, I pass through the city wall and gate. Modelled after Thailand’s oldest stone fence, which dates back to the 12th century B.E and is situated near the Maha That Temple in Sukhothai, the gate features beautifully decorated rounded pillars.

I cycle through the gates and first come across a reproduction of a city sala, which is a wooden building, constructed by townspeople within the city walls to act as a meeting hall. The one here is modelled on Wat Yai Intharam in Chonburi.

After looking around the sala I cycle past the stupa of Phra Maha That to the old market town. This mini town has been recreated to represent the atmosphere of an ancient Thai self-contained community. There are shops selling goods, theatres, casinos and religious monuments. One of the best features of the Ancient City is the fact that you are free to wander in and around the structures, and I spend some time exploring the traditional-style houses and shops, which are filled with relics and implements. Everything is perfectly placed and it feels as though this is an actual village, the inhabitants having left momentarily to attend a meeting or festival.

As I climb on my bike once more, I am particularly drawn to the bell tower, a red-hued wooden structure elaborately carved and decorated in the ancient style.

Scattered with pagodas, statues and carvings all following the Chinese style, the palace garden of King Rama II is not to be missed. Next to it, the audience hall of Thonburi, with its murals depicting the fall of Ayutthaya provides an interesting insight into Thai history and style.

Situated next to a beautiful pond, the Khun Phaen House shows an Ayutthaya-style house, which would have been owned by a wealthy family. I park my bike for a minute and wander around, gazing enviously at how the other half lived.

Back on my bike, I ride past a large statue depicting a battle atop elephants, past a wooded area and pause briefly at three stone pagodas, replicas of those at Three Pagoda Pass near Kanchanaburi. The originals are a bit difficult to get to unless you are willing to go on a package tour with dozens of other tourists, so I welcome the opportunity to view these at my leisure.

Also not to be missed is the reproduction of the Grand Palace, complete with murals but minus the crowds and the nearby Sanphet Prasat Palace of Ayutthaya, complete with shining silver roof and red brick ruins.

Further into the park, I am taken by the sight of the Phra Kaew Pavilion, an octagonal, red-roofed building set beside a lily pond and ornate bridge.

But for me, the highlight of the park is the footprint of the Lord Buddha, originally located at Saraburi. I have often read about this relic, which legend tells as having been discovered by a hunter named Phran Boon. One day, the hunter shot and wounded a deer. After following the deer to a pond it was drinking from, Phran Boon saw the deer’s wounds magically disappear.

Investigating the pond, the hunter realised that it was actually the footprint of Buddha. An impression of the footprint is located in an elaborately decorated shrine atop a flight of steps and for me, visiting the replica is still an auspicious event.

I spend the next two hours cycling around the Ancient City, past the magnificent ruins of Lopburi, Singburi, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai.

The outstanding Garden of the Gods provides another resting point, as does the scale version of a traditional floating market, complete with vegetable sellers in boats, bridges and networks of waterways.

At the very north of the park I am filled with awe by the reproduction of the Prasat Phra Wihan, originally of Si Sa Ket. This ancient monument is seated atop a high hill, reached by a long flight of steps. Surrounded on all sides by lush plant life, I am reminded of the monuments of Angkor Wat. Climbing to the top offers spectacular views over the park and of the lush fields and waterways beyond.

Cycling around the Ancient City takes me about four hours and each site offers a new surprise. As I approach the exit I am greeted by yet one more surprise. The enchanting rainbow bridge is a tribute to Thai people’s belief that rainbows symbolise Thailand’s fertility, happiness and natural beauty.

As I reach the city gate once more I feel reluctant to leave and contemplate going around again. However, the park will be closing soon, so I’ll have to wait for another day.

Information Address:

Samut Prakan,
km 33 (old) Sukhumvit Road,
Bangpoo

The admission fee is 300 baht for adults, 200 baht for children.

Website: www.ancientcity.com


Getting There:

A taxi from Bangkok should cost no more than 400 baht. Alternatively, catch air-con bus 511 from the Southern bus terminal (Ekamai) to the end of the line. Then take minibus no 36, which passes by the entrance.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she she is a travel writer.

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!

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!

Patravadi Theatre – Play Acting

Patravadi Theatre
Patravadi Theatre
Patravadi Theatre

No matter how long I spend in Bangkok, I am constantly confronted by new experiences and unknown treasures. One such gem is the Patravadi Theatre. Located on the far banks of the Chao Phraya River, the theatre is a training ground for Thai artists and it also showcases classical and contemporary work. I first discovered the theatre by accident after getting off the ferry at Wang Lung pier and visiting Siriraj hospital. Afterward, I decided to explore the colourful narrow alleys full of food stalls and small shops, which run alongside the river. At the end of one alley I came across a sign announcing the entrance to the Patravadi Theatre Company and was compelled to investigate.

Choosing the right hand path, I found I found myself in a beautifully ornate Thai-style garden. From June to February, the garden doubles as an open-air theatre, where up to 450 people can enjoy weekend performances. This is Bangkok’s only open-air playhouse and offers a unique experience for those in need of cultural entertainment.

In one corner of the garden, a photography gallery displays images of the performers and stills of the performances. Across the garden is a large restaurant, which offers picturesque views across the river. Known as Studio 9, this Dining Theatre by the River offers entertainment as well as tasty, affordable Thai food.

The theatre was founded in 1992 by Patravadi Mejudhon, who also serves as the theatre’s artistic director. The main goal of the theatre is to provide training and experience for Thai artists. The theatre provides workshops to both professionals and students of the Mahidol Universities. In addition, the theatre’s exchange programme brings directors and choreographers from all over the world to train in Thai classical folk dancing. The site of the Patravadi Theatre was originally home to a school, built by Khunying Supatra Singholaka, Patravadi’s mother. The aim of the school was to serve the community and to this day part of the site has been reserved and maintained for this purpose. The Patravadi Theatre has developed widely since its creation. Its blend of traditional Thai decoration and culture with the addition of contemporary styles makes it a unique experience. Now, with an extra five art centres around Thailand, the Patravadi Theatre continues to grow, occasionally playing host to choreographers, directors and designers from around the world.

Not only bound to Bangkok, the Patravadi Theatre has performed on behalf of the Thai Government in cities such as London, Paris, Milan, Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur. The Patravadi Theatre provides both short and long term visitors as well as residents of Bangkok with a much needed dose of culture. Visit www.patravaditheatre.com to find out about current and upcoming events. Special performances can be arranged upon request. For details, contact Khun Arunrak on (66) 018431598 or email anurak@patravaditheatre.com

If you are interested in taking part, contact Khun Pang (66) 01855165541 or email school@patravaditheatre.com

No visit to the Patravadi Theatre would be complete without sampling the refreshments at the Patravadi Restaurant. Open daily from 11 am-9 pm, the restaurant offers relaxing herbal teas and juices, Thai, vegetarian and Italian food and delicious homemade deserts.

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!