I was in Bangkok for 5 days in January 2023. I felt that I needed some time off from work to rest my mind and just spend my days walking around the city where no one (except for two friends and colleagues from the Embassy) knows me.
Here are my observations/notes:
The streetfood and market scenes are very much alive in Bangkok.
I only had a rice meal once in my 5-day stay ’cause there are so many options. Noodles were everywhere and they cost only 50-60 baht (in food stalls) or even 25 baht in some. Those same types of noodles cost 4x more in restos so it’s better not to go there, except if you really think that the food is delectable.
On my first night of walking in the area, I passed by an elderly lady selling hopia, 4pcs. 40 baht. It was delicious and the dough smelled like newly-baked pastry with egg. I ate it while drinking soy milk. (I noticed too that there are so many brands of soy milk to choose from in grocery stores.)
Seafood, vegetables, fruits abound; I thought how interesting it would be next time to rent a place where I could prepare/cook simple meals instead of staying in hotels. (Speaking of hotels, there are numerous options that will not break the budget; better if they’re not more than 15mins. on foot from a Metro station.) I also checked the price of onions– 2 big onions cost only 39baht in the grocery store; cheaper in markets.
The Chatuchak weekend market feels like Divisoria; only bigger, has more options, and has an adjacent wet market and countless food stalls.
I visited two (2) malls but only briefly and just to check out recommendations from friends who stayed or are staying in Bangkok. But oh my! I had to walk some distance coming to these establishments from the Metro station, for the distance on the map may be deceiving.
A friend commented that my Bangkok experience wouldn’t be complete if I don’t ride a motorbike. But I haven’t really gotten used to it. I might fall.
My Lola’s Kitchen Visit
Just 5 mins. on foot from the PH Embassy in Thailand is “Lola’s Kitchen.”
Joey, my former coteacher whom I haven’t met for many years, suggested the restaurant. The place is owned by a couple –Filipina wife and Thai spouse. Joey treated me to bihon, Spanish bread and halo-halo. We shared stories, lessons and “wisdom” learned through the years.
I also met the two Filipino employees in Lola’s Kitchen– Jenna and Pol. Jenna has been working in TH for almost 7yrs.; Pol 2. Both agree that the working conditions and pay are okay.
When asked if they see themselves working for a long time in TH, both didn’t give a direct answer. Jenna said probably but that she’s getting old so she’d want a more stable livelihood; while Pol said that he’d go with the flow of life.
We parted ways with a smile and well-wishes to take care.
On Day 5, hours before my flight and after checking out from the hotel, I went to Benjakitti Park. I met a lizard, my unexpected companion at the park.
We maintained some distance from each other but exchanged glances. His presence spiced things up and made many who passed by look or take a snap.
What lizard this? I don’t know yet… Is its bite poisonous? I dared not try to find out as I still had a flight to catch.
On Day 2, I walked over 4hrs. in the area with a friend to visit three (3) Buddhist temples in one (1) afternoon.
I was curious of the design, vivid colors, and intricate roofings.
I was expecting to feel a sense of solemnity and spirituality, but looking at the exterior, it was more of a feeling of seeing something new, of curiousity, of how they chanted and exchanged prayers in that late afternoon.
I guess, our beliefs and mindset affect how we view areas and houses of worship. Because, when I used to walk around Paris and areas in France that I visited, I’d be so happy to see churches, even small ones, and feel a sense of peace when I enter the place and have a silent conversation with God.
Perhaps, the experience would be different if the establishments were not in a bustling city and if I were able to enter the temples, meditate for several minutes, and just empty my mind… The best part was hearing the chants and the melody. I didn’t understand the prayers but it was beautiful.
On Day 3 of my visit, which is a Friday, I went to the Philippine Embassy. VC Susan kindly received me. Ms. Ivy, whom I have known since 2016 also welcomed me warmly. The Ambassador was not feeling too well that day so I was not able to see her, though she was so kind to send me a message.
I liked the expansive Embassy grounds and the building itself. It’s like a homey place with its own park right in the middle of the city. The two (2) local hires who worked at the Embassy were also very polite.
There was an elderly Pinoy selling sweet pastry several steps near the Embassy gates. I was not able to buy from him as I wanted to be on time for my appointment and I was already feeling warm after walking for about 30 minutes from the Metro station, then the Emporium mall.
Overall, I loved my visit. The weather was very similar to the Philippines. The streets were similar too, except for wider sidewalks and more streetfood.
Some practical tips
I thought I wouldn’t make it in time for my flight. The queues were too long — for the payment of the travel tax, check in, immigration. So it’s advisable to pay the travel tax online to save 15-30 mins. I didn’t really have any bag to check in but the system required that I checked in on the counter, so I did. (Even for my flight back to the Philippines, I wanted to check in and get my boarding pass online but the confirmation email was only sent an hour before my flight, at which time I had already manually/personally checked in). There was a woman in her late forties who approached me. She was looking stressed. She said that she is flying to Hongkong, queued in the wrong counter, wasted about 45 minutes, and was now in danger of missing her flight because the line for those with checked in luggage was kilometric. I was in line to the counter with no bags to check in but I requested the lady at the counter to please accommodate the woman while explaining her situation. She agreed. The lady thanked me profusely especially since I waited for her for 10 minutes, so we could go together to the immigration area.
But since it was an unofficial trip, I wasn’t too stressed. A man advised me to skip the lines and go near the front in the immigration, but looking at all the others in line, I just couldn’t do it. I learned too, that many of those in line were in my same flight, plus the airport crew assured us that we’ll still be accommodated. As soon as I passed through the immigration, I half-flew to my boarding gate. I arrived there 15minutes before the flight schedule but all the passengers were still seated. In a few minutes, boarding commenced.
I had planned to drop by the Currency Exchange center to exchange peso to baht, but there was no time. Luckily, it was a breeze to do it in the Bangkok airport. So I think, if you also have the time prior to your flight to have your currency exchanged, it will save you time and give you a peace of mind.
Also, the days leading to my trip was exciting. Monday, vaccination wasn’t required; suddenly in the late evening/early morning, it was. Then it was not required again by evening. I wasn’t too affected since I had my certificate and vax cards ready but I was monitoring if suddenly, an RT-PCR test would be required. Thankfully, there weren’t new requirements but I brought my portable testing kit just to be sure.
Lastly, check if there are required online forms that need to be accomplished. It will save time. I cannot yet verify the link now but I will share it as soon as I found the correct one.
Well, the main advice is be early in the airport (about 4 hrs before the flight) for an international trip especially since so many passengers are now eager to fly to various areas. In that way, you can relax and not be frazzled before your flight and be able to walk at just the normal pace while feeling and hearing the wheels of your small luggage on the airport floor, and anticipating the adventures and experiences in your destination. 😉
2 Comments Add yours
Nice itinerary and tips! Would you say Bangkok is kid-friendly? Been thinking of taking my family on a trip there.
Also, nice to see that you kept in touch with Joey! Not sure if he’d remember me, but I do remember him.
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Yes, I’d like to think so. Transportation is efficient. There are parks to visit. There are some malls too.
You may choose the part of Bangkok where you will stay depending on the activities your family prefers to do.
Yes, Joey and I maintained communication since FEU days. I am happy for him; he has achieved so much already in his career. We both learned life’s lessons through the years. I’ll surely relay your message. 🙂