at the National Gallery in Bangkok
Iâ€™m no shopaholic, but once in a
while, I do need some retail therapy. Most of the time, I buy books (an
addiction I shared with my sis, Aoi Soba and some of my closest
friends). Whenever Iâ€™m traveling, I always make it a point to go to any
book shop retailing previously owned books (itâ€™s cheaper and more
eco-friendly). In Bangkok,
I get to indulge on my bookaholism (without having to bust my budget)
by simply going to the secondhand bookshops that abound in Khao San (my
favorite hang out: Shaman Books). Which brings me back to another
reason why Bangkok is ideal place for travelers ďż˝" Why, itâ€™s the perfect place to shop!
Oh PUH-LEAZE, letâ€™s stop being hypocrites here and
admit this simple TRUTH: Even these so-called budget
travelers/backpackers/flashpackers canâ€™t resist to indulge in wee bit
of retail therapy when traveling.
For some, they buy gifts to treat
themselves, the others buy trinkets for friends and family back home.
And of course shopaholics just buy anywhere and for any reason that they can think of!
In Bangkok, you can really indulge. Thereâ€™s something to satisfy anyoneâ€™s budget and taste. There are air-conditioned shopping malls in Rama 1 road, the vast Chatuchak Weekend Market (where
you really need a map just to shop. Itâ€™s sooo big, you can find
anything here - from shoes and plants to antiques and fishing
equipment); specialty shops and cafes in the business district of
Sukhumvit, and if youâ€™re just too lazy to go anywhere to shop, you can
just stay in Khao San and just shop there.
Teddy Bear Rice at a cafe in Phra Athit
I for one, enjoy shopping in Khao San, not only for the books, but also because:
a) I love going to Boots (the UK-based retail chain has several branches in Bangkok) to purchase handmade soaps and yummy scented lotion. Iâ€™ve
been fond of bath and body products, the fondness for which started
during my teens, when I began using my motherâ€™s Pondâ€™s cold cream and
Oil of Olay.
b.) I enjoy shopping at Lofty Bamboo, a boutique that sells bags, shoes, clothes, coffee and soap made by local Thai communities Thai. The
products are a bit pricey though.
At Ricky's Coffee Shop
For instance, I bought one woven bag
for my sister and I had to pay roughly US$20 US dollars for it. Thatâ€™s
quite expensive by Thai standards as you can buy similar items for half
the price in Chatuchak or in one of those stalls in Khao San. But the
high degree of craftsmanship exhibited in Lofty Bambooâ€™s products is
well worth it. Plus, I love the fact that this is a Fair Trade shop,
And after a dayâ€™s shopping and sight seeing, I usually find myself in
Phra Athit, just a few blocks away from Khao San, where I often have a
light dinner or snack at one of those artsy cafes based in one of the
rows of Chinese shophouses. My favorite is Rickyâ€™s Coffeeshop. Iâ€™m no
fan of chinoiserie, but just sitting there, eating tuna pesto sandwich
and drinking coffee, just relaxes me.
One of the main reasons which make shopping (and of course sightseeing) quite easy in Bangkok
is the fact that this is a popular destination and thus there are tons
of available information about this city. Aside from the usual suspects
(Lonely Planet and Rough Guides), the Internet also offers a lot of
info (my favorite sites: www.travelfish.org and www.journeywoman.com). I donâ€™t bother buying and bringing bulky guidebooks whenever I visit in Bangkok. I just go to any 7-11 store or bookshop and purchase the very informative and funky Nancy Chandlermap
and booklet. Itâ€™s so handy and reasonably priced (around US$8), and I
just love looking at it. Nancy Chandler designs postcards too, and I
love buying one and having it framed. It's cheap chic!
No, I donâ€™t have any illusions about the so-called City of Angels. Itâ€™s definitely not home for this gypsygal soul (that will always be Ubud, Bali nor do I have a personal â€śconnectionâ€ť to Bangkok. I couldnâ€™t fathom some peopleâ€™s notion that Bangkok
has, well, â€ścharacterâ€ť. I mean, what the f***k is that? As far as Iâ€™m
concerned, all places, all cities have character and culture of its
is definitely â€ścharacterfulâ€ť. In one Manila-based media company where I
used to work, the place is brimming with PRETENTIOUS characters. These
pretentious peopleâ€™s idea of traveling is to go to L.A. for a week and then brag about it, treating that trip as a status symbol. I didnâ€™t have the heart to tell them that when I was in Singapore,
even Singaporeans of modest means can go to L.A. AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR.
I actually know one well-traveled Singaporean who thinks that L.A. is soooo OUT and BORING. My Ireland-based sister couldnâ€™t be bothered by L.A. and decided (wisely,
I would say) to spend her hard earned money going to more interesting
places like London, Edinburgh, Siem Reap and, maybe in the near future,
I will admit though that when I was younger and was just starting to travel, I thought that Bangkok
was so exotic that I often found myself going there just to take a
short break from my high pressure job as a business reporter in an
international newswire. Later, as I travel more and learn more about life, Bangkok lost its allure. That was the time that I only stop by Bangkok enroute to somewhere else.
Which brings me back to the MAIN reason why I want to live in Bangkok, itâ€™s the perfect place for this incurable wanderer. Bangkok after all, is a major travel center in Asia and you can get practically any connecting and/or direct flights anywhere from Bangkokâ€™s airport.
Bangkok offers many choices for a traveler of any budget and inclination. There
are upscale hotels and restaurants, but if you canâ€™t afford to stay and
dine at The Oriental, there are always more modestly priced
establishments. Backpackers, flashpackers and budget travelers like me
just go straight to the backpackers ghetto of Khao San, where for US$20
a night or less, one can avail of a clean air conditioned room with
cable tv to booth.
San is also home to all kinds of establishments that offer products and
services any traveler might need: travel agencies, money changers,
internet cafes, fastfood outlets, pharmacy, bookshops, bars and tourist