Bangkok Confidential, Part 2: I Heart Books, Boots and Bamboo

Bangkok Travel Blog

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at the National Gallery in Bangkok


            I’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 I’m traveling, I always make it a point to go to any book shop retailing previously owned books (it’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, it’s the perfect place to shop! 

 
    Oh PUH-LEAZE, let’s stop being hypocrites here and admit this simple TRUTH: Even these so-called budget travelers/backpackers/flashpackers can’t resist to indulge in wee bit of retail therapy when traveling.

Street Beat
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. There’s something to satisfy anyone’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. It’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 you’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.  I’ve been fond of bath and body products, the fondness for which started during my teens, when I began using my mother’s Pond’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. That’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 Bamboo’s products is well worth it. Plus, I love the fact that this is a Fair Trade shop, socially responsible.  

     And after a day’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 Ricky’s Coffeeshop. I’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 don’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. It’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!

 

 

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No, I don’t have any illusions about the so-called City of Angels.  It’s definitely not home for this gypsygal soul (that will always be Ubud, Bali  nor do I have a personal “connection” to Bangkok. I couldn’t fathom some people’s notion that Bangkok has, well, “character”. I mean, what the f***k is that? As far as I’m concerned, all places, all cities have character and culture of its own. 

Manila is definitely “characterful”. In one Manila-based media company where I used to work, the place is brimming with PRETENTIOUS characters. These pretentious people’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 didn’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 couldn’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, Yogyakarta.   

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, it’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 Bangkok’s airport.

 

Bangkok offers many choices for a traveler of any budget and inclination.  There are upscale hotels and restaurants, but if you can’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.  

Khao 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 information centers.

mga_galang_paa says:
Yours is as straight-forward and honest a travel journal should ever get. I loved reading it! I'll continue reading next time. A great day to you!
Posted on: May 27, 2008
at the National Gallery in Bangkok
at the National Gallery in Bangkok
Street Beat
Street Beat
Teddy Bear Rice at a cafe in Phra …
Teddy Bear Rice at a cafe in Phra…
At Rickys Coffee Shop
At Ricky's Coffee Shop
Bangkok
photo by: Deats