Shopping in Bangkok – 1

Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. But, the truth is … It really is. Everywhere you go in Bangkok, you’ll see people shopping, haggling and generally having a good time at it. Shopping, apart from eating, might well be described as the national activity of the Thais and, trust me, they’re good at it.

There are generally two schools of thought to the whole shopping in Bangkok thing. One type of people like to shop in swanky malls in air conditioned comfort and the other group wants to see the ground reality and love to shop in stinky bylanes and crowded markets. I belong to the first school of thought and I’ll tell you why, in a while.

Bangkok offers umpteen shopping avenues for both kinds of people. There are huge airconditioned malls as well as open air markets offering bargain buys at dirt cheap prices.

This post is an attempt to guide the first timer to Bangkok in his/her quest for the eternal shopping experience.

We’ll start with the obvious, the Siam central area. Siam central is the BTS interchange station for the Sukhumwit and Silom lines. The BTS is connected by a skywalk to the Siam Center mall and this is where most visitors start their trip in Bangkok, like we did, mostly because of the fact that its connected to the Skytrain station.


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Suan Lum Night Bazaar

Suan Lum night bazaar is a market in Bangkok’s Pathum Wan district, at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless/Sathorn Roads, opposite Lumpini Park at the Bangkok Metro’s Lumpini Station.

To reach here you can take the BTS to the Sukhumvit interchange and then take the MRT to the lumpini park station. The market is just outside the Lumpini park station of the MRT.

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Travelling in Bangkok using the BTS (Skytrain)

Bangkok as a city is known for two things, the exquisite architecture of the Grand Palace and the various Wats (temples) and the traffic. Every tourist that comes to Bangkok has the historical monuments on his/her TODO list and getting stuck in traffic used to be an unavoidable part of the journey.

The BTS (complimented by the underground MRT system) has dramatically changed this. The Bangkok LRT systems cover a lot of the tourist attractions and it is now entirely possible to stay in Bangkok and not use the taxis and tuk-tuks for transportation at all, if you’re fine with walking around a bit.

Coming to the city from the Airport still requires one to use a taxi or a bus, that also will change in the next couple of years once the BTS airport link becomes functional, work on which is going on at a rather frantic pace.

Now, coming to the topic this post is all about. Hordes of repeat tourists come to Bangkok every year and this post is not meant as a guidebook for them. This post is meant to direct first timers to Bangkok and help them make some sense out of this chaotic, yet, charming Asian metropolis.

The BTS system is divided into two lines, the main Mo chit to On Nut, Sukumvit line, and the smaller National Stadium to Saphan Thaksin, Silom Road line, with an interchange station at Siam.

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Abloom Exclusive Serviced Apartments, Bangkok – Thailand

We stayed at the Abloom serviced apartments during out recent visit to Bangkok. The hotel is a short 5 minute walk away from the Sanam Pao BTS station and a very convenient place to stay, if you’re not interested in being close to the touristy areas of Sukhumvit, Silom or Siam center, this is an excellent option at a reasonable price.

The area is predominantly a residential area but the proximity to the BTS station makes it an ideal base for all your sightseeing visits to the other parts of Bangkok. The Jatujak or JJ weekend market is just two BTS stops away while the Siam center interchange station is 3 stops away in the other direction. The Sanam Pao station is close (walking distance, infact) to the Ari and Victory monument stations (both in the opposite directions). There are a couple of malls and posh eating joints close to the Ari BTS station but if you’re in the mood to sample some local street food, go to the Victory monument station and eat your heart away.

The 7-11 next to the Sanam Pao station is going to be your lifeline while you’re staying at the Abloom apartments, since being a serviced apartment, they do not have a 24 hour cafe and you’ll have to thank the 7-11 for all your midnight cravings 🙂

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Suvarnbhumi International Airport, Bangkok

Suvarnbhumi international Airport opened late in 2006 and has been catering to the huge air traffic that Bangkok gets each year. Suvarnbhumi is by all standards one of the biggest airports in the world and coming from an Indian airport it was actually intimidating as I stepped out of the Aircraft into the huge terminal. Ok, Maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, but you get the drift. The aiport is huge, modern, clean and easy to navigate, unless you get tired walking the kilometer or so of duty free shops. Thankfully, the airport has moving walkways.

Thailand has a visa on arrival facility for Nationals of certain listed countries, including India, China, Bhutan and 17 other countries. The complete list of countries is available here. The airport is well marked and all signs are in Thai as well as English and it wasn’t difficult to navigate around the airport for us. This was in contrast to the Kuala lumpur international airport where we were lost for the first 30 minutes as all signboards were only in Malay. I found the arrival experience at Suvarnbhumi much better than KLIA.

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Day 14: Pathankot to Chandigarh

The last day of a road trip like this one is always the boring. On one hand, none of us wanted to go back to our regular lives and on the other hand we were looking forward to being with family again. I had only about 200 kms to cover today since I was going to spend the night at Chandigarh at my parents place and the rest of the gang were going back to Delhi which was a good 500 kms away. It was quite humid in the morning but thankfuly it was cloudy and we didn’t have to face the summer sun.

We had barely gotten out of Pathankot and were getting petrol filled when it started drizzling. We took out our rain gear and kept moving on. Within a couple of minutes the drizzle turned into a heavy rain and when I saw, heavy, I mean downright downpour. It was almost as if the gods had started throwing buckets ful of water at us. The roads started getting flooded in no time and it was getting difficult to drive. I was actually more worried about the water getting in the engine since the water was almost till the exhaust. Our rain gear also was of no help in this downpour and we were all soaked. Fortunately, I had the camera and my phone stored in a polyethene bag seperately so that was safe. I would have loved to take a picture of the flooded streets but that was the last thing on my mind at the time.

We stopped at a roadside dhaba for a nice and filling breakfast of paranthas. The turn off for Chandigarh was a little ahead and we bade farewell to each other. I moved on towards Chandigarh and the rest to Delhi. The weather was lovely and I reached Chandigarh safe and sound for lunch and slept peacefuly for hours at home after eating a hearty meal 🙂

Day 13: Srinagar to Pathankot

We couldn’t see much of Srinagar in the evening since coming in to the cantonement after getting out would have been a problem for us and also since Srinagar isn’t the safest of places, the cantonement closes its gates in the evening and no one is allowed to go out or come in after that.

The gates open at around 7 in the morning and there was no point getting up before that, so we had a good sleep and got up at our own sweet time. Got out of the cantt, after collecting our cameras and mobile phones which had been deposited at the main gate, and started on towards the city to get petrol for our bikes. Bikes tanked up we started towards the Dal lake and stopped there to take a couple of quick shots.

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Singtel confirms iPhone launch for India (and other markets)

Singtel in a press release has confirmed that it would be distributing the iPhone in India through Airtel. This along with Vodaphone’s press release earlier this month has made India one of the few countries in the world, where the iPhone will be available on two competing carriers. I’m dying to see the competitive wars unfold ! Here’s hoping the Indian iPhone consumer gets a good deal 🙂

Day 12: Kargil to Srinagar

The trip was coming to an end and we were both sad and happy about it. Happy because we’d finally be back to civilisation, to our families and sad because, lets face it, we were having way too much fun.

We got up early and since the plan was to reach srinagar by afternoon, we had to be quick. We tied the luggage to the bikes, made a few quick calls back home to let them know we’re safe. Kargil was the hotbed of activity during the Indo-Pak war in 1999, otherwise known as the Kargil war, and our families back home were rightfully worried when we didn’t get in touch at all after leaving Leh.

Kargil is a major military base and the town has Army presence all over. There are points in the town where the enemy (Pakistan) posts are visible and signs like the one below have been put up to warn visitors of the presence of the Pak army.

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