3 days in Singapore (Day 3)

Shopping, packing & Changi were on the menu  for day 3. Unfortunately as soon as we left the hotel it started pouring, I thought all my plans were ruined. To my utter surprise most of the shopping areas Little India, Mustafa, Bugis Street are all covered and street shopping is possible in the rain.

Bugis Junction, located above Bugis MRT Station, has a couple of great food courts where we tried our hand at Japanese Octupus Balls, Crepes and Thai food.

Takoyaki

We walked across to Bugis Street Flea Market situated along a walkway through Bugis Village. Exploring Bugis needs time. It’s like our very own Sarojini Nagar … cheap stuff at cheap prices ;).

I also recommend Singapore Expo, it has some good sales going on & totally worth checking out.

Mustafa Mall (http://www.mustafa.com.sg) is one-stop-shop for everything one can buy. Three floor of Jewelry alone! The sports section was good. There were a couple of floors for electronics and an entire floor for chocolates. So may things so many people and I hated it! After being used to clean calm Singapore this was like Badabazaar of kolkatta with an a/c. The counters were overloaded with stuff which was literally falling on the customers. People love this place because it is cheap. Sure, Hershey is cheaper there than at duty free (I found out the hard way), but I wasn’t in the mood to be in Big-Bazaar Singapore Branch.

Seeing ‘The Merlion’ was the last halt before going to Changi. The Merlion is considered to be the tourism mascot of Singapore. Getting a picture clicked with the icon is a must. There is an 8 meter high Merlion statue at Fullerton Road & another one on the Sentosa Island. In case you didn’t know, the Merlion is a mythical beast – said to be half lion and half fish. It symbolizes the courage, strength and resilience of the Singapore people.

By evening we were off to the airport, returned our Singapore Tourist Pass at the Changi MRT and felt sad that the 3 days were over so soon.

3 days in Singapore (Day 2)

Day two was blocked for the Jurong Bird Park. Even if you aren’t a bird lover, this place is a treat to visit. There are more than 9000 birds here (of over 600 species), in a variety of themed exhibits.

Highlights include a special climate-controlled home for five species of penguins; the world’s first underwater viewing station where visitors can see the watery activities of all seven species of pelicans; the world’s largest walk-in aviary with man-made waterfall and 1500 free-flying African and South American birds; 500 parrots from 110 species; and colorful birds of paradise. You can also feed the birds, watch bird shows, and checkout the sky train (As you can see that I read the sign boards very diligently :).

My favorites were the Eagles, Pelican Cove, Talking birds and the Penguin Expedition.

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To reach the Jurong Bird Park, we took the MRT from the Outram park station to the Boon Lay station, which is the last station on the Green line. Just outside the Boon Lay station is the local bus depot from where we took bus number 194, which dropped us right at the gate of the Jurong bird park.

The park is quite some distance away from the city center in the midddle of the industrial zone. Crossing a bus terminal on to a four lane highway, with the smell of coco from the Cadbury factory, with in 15 minutes, we reached the colorful entrance to the park.

Jurong Signboard

Jurong Bird Park is a 20 hectare open-concept park, open from 9am to 6pm daily. Scrolling around the park would take you more than two hours. It’s a good idea to come as early as possible before it becomes to hot & humid (http://www.birdpark.com.sg/attractions/parkmap.html).

We had some incredible fresh fruit juice at the Boon Lay MRT station, on the way back. Mango & Grape juice resembling what is sold as slush in India (SD$1), very refreshing.

Out next stop was lunch at Plaza Singapura, on Orchard road, next to Dhobi Ghaut MRT. After which we just went around to all the major MRT stations on the NE line and since we had the Singapore Tourist Pass we could just pop in and out of the MRT to see the various places. Very useful! if you – like us want to see the ‘other side’.

Most Itineraries list out these ‘Things to see in Singapore’

  • Civil War Memorial dedicated to the civilians who lost their lives in the Second World War.
  • Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles the founder of modern Singapore
  • China Town for interesting little curio shops, Chinese herbs, mahjong sets & jade. The little red lamps all over the street add to the mystique.
  • Little India is the most crowded & smelly area of Singapore. Mustafa the 24/7 market is its pride & joy. In case you are missing Indian food (!!) you’ll get butter chicken & naan here for sure.
  • National Library Singapore
  • Zoo & Night Safari
  • Botanical Garden & City Hall
  • Marina Bay is the last stop of the MRT North Line (it is undergoing massive renovation – avoid)

There are other places & malls which are highly recommended by others BUT my suggestion – just chill out at Boat Quay or Clarke Quay. For the evening we decided to do  just that. With one hitch -while getting out of the MRT under the StanC building we got lost.

Tip: It’s important to read the signs to which side one wants to get out from. It’s obvious, I know, but still! The walk from the one level below to out of the MRT is about 500 meters and you don’t wanna get disoriented. Although for us some good did come out of this. By serendipity we found Satay Club @ Boon Tat Street & Lau Pa Sat crossing. The aroma of the BBQ satay’s was irresistible and we dived into our mutton, chicken & prawn’s satay.

Satay

Anyway, talking about Boat Quay and Clarke Quay – the view was awesome (and on our daytime visit too we were not disappointed). We sat on the steps next to river & enjoyed the view of Raffels Hotel, Esplanade building, the lit up bridge, boats & the river. We had some wonderful Hoegaarden at a refurbished inn. A great way to end the day don’t you think ?

Why Sing is King?

Uniquely Singapore has some seriously exceptional stuff. Actually, it’s unique because one doesn’t expect such things in such a small area. One has to bear in mind that Singapore is an island country half the size of Delhi. The law & order is amazing, so-much-so that you’ll find T-Shirts mocking it by saying ‘Singapore is a FINE city’.
Here is a list of what I think you might not have known about Singapore … in no particular order…

  • It’s a multi-racial country with the main races consisting of 77% Chinese, 14% Malays and 8% Indians and 1% Eurasians. With 10 official religions in Singapore and 4 official languages are English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
  • In the late 13th Century, a prince by the name of Sang Nila Utama from Palembang came hunting in Singapore and he saw a lion, hence, naming the place, Singapura. Singapura is a Malay word and “singa” means lion and “pura” means city. Thus, the name Singapura (Lion City) or in English, Singapore
  • Nearly 10 percent of its 3.2 million people are in the military – 50,000 as full-time professionals and 250,000 on standby.
  • There is an official Singapore website for almost everything.
  • Singapore is refreshingly different from other countries for a Study-Abroad-Experience. In terms of cutting-edge infrastructure, world-class education system and dynamic cosmopolitan vibe thanks to a blend of Eastern and Western cultures.
  • Changi Airport is recognized as one of the best airports in the world. With 80 airlines serving more than 180 cities in over 50 countries, it has established itself as a major aviation hub in the Asia Pacific region. The airport is more than just a place to catch your plane. This huge airport also features a movie theatre, TV lounges, and several gardens and restaurants where you chill out while waiting for your flight to be called. There are also tones of shopping possibilities.
  • It boasts of a full fledged Amusement Park, Zoo, Night Safari, Bird Park & a Rain Forest.
  • The Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest observation wheel. The wheel, at 492ft in diameter, beats the London Eye by more than 40ft. From the top, 541ft up, you feel you are looking down from halfway up a mountain, with fine views out over Marina Bay and across to Malaysia. www.singaporeflyer.com
  • The Singapore Grand Prix, staged for the first time in September through the city’s streets, is quite unlike any other – it’s run at night. The 3.1-mile circuit is flooded with powerful lighting to replicate daylight. And this is no urban dawdle – the cars race flat-out (at 200mph) along Raffles Boulevard and make an impressive zip across the century-old Anderson Bridge. www.f1singapore.com
  • Mustafa is a 24-hour six-storey shopping centre stocks everything from Indian chutney and diamonds to plasma TVs and cars. That’s not all, it is claimed prices are cheaper than elsewhere, so insomniacs, shopaholics and jet-lagged tourists know where to head to if they’re looking for a late-night bargain.

Travel Tips for Singapore

The first part is getting there:

Tickets: We went by Tiger airways (nothing to write home about, absolutely no leg room), you can get the cheapest fares here, no doubt. Singapore Airlines is another option & I believe, you can call there call-centers & enquire about special rates. Also, if you book 90 days in advance you may get the cheaper fares. So try your luck!! There are other options – Indian Airlines, Jet and so on.

Visa: TT services in Bangalore is where we got are visa done, it’s reasonable, fast, service is good & most of all they are recognized by most of the embassies (http://www.ttsvisas.com/visa)

Forex: Take some startup amount, as there are tones of Citi bank ATM at almost all major MRT stations. Credit cards are accepted ever where & you do get better conversion rates. Stancy & HSBC also work.

Researching: Information about Singapore extremely easy to find. Singapore has an official website for everything that gives you the cost, timings, FAQ’s and what not. I guess most of the country lives on tourism, so everyone make you feel at home.

Once you are in Singapore– neither is getting around difficult nor getting likeable food. All info is in English, like I said: it is a tourist friendly country, and since it is cosmopolitan – every type of food is available.

Navigating: When you arrive at Singapore, pick up a map at a tourist information booth. In the Uniquely Singapore guide, find out if there are discounts offered for some restaurants and places of interest.

Calling home: Although you do get calling cards to call home. The most convenient thing is to use the local telephone booths. Just read the instructions, a 2 minutes call to India costs about 80 cents.

Airport to City: If you have a large group (more than 3) hire a taxi van called Maxicab, it costs SD$35 from the airport to your hotel. For two or three people a regular taxi will do. Busses & shared taxies are available as you exit the airport. But I feel that the best thing is take the MRT. Not only is it the cheapest but the most convenient. All you need to know is which stating you have to get off. So always ask the hotel/hostel location w.r.t to MRT station, when you book them. Or check all your destinations via www.streetdirectory.com

If you are traveling by a budget airline & get off at the Budget Terminal, you will need to go to Terminal 2; there is a free bus service to get you there. Also see, http://www.etour-singapore.com/singapore-airport-to-hotel.html#airport_shuttle

Singapore MRT Map

Travel within the city: The best way to see Singapore is to get The Singapore Tourist Pass. The STP costs just S$8 per day and comes with the option of 1/2/3 Day Pass. The Pass, if issued in Singapore, comes with a rental deposit of S$10 which is fully refundable at the end of 3 days. This can be used in all MRT & some of the busses as well. It would be a good idea to pick it up as soon as you reach Singapore at the Changi MRT station. www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home/getting_around/transportation/stp.html

If you feel SD$8 is too much for a day (since a trip anywhere in MRT will cost max of SD$1.75), get the SMART card. That has a deposit of SD$3 and is very convenient. You can use them in some McDonalds also ;).

Eating: The food in Singapore is spicy much to liking of Indians. There are many Indian restaurants in Little India and if all else fails you always have the Singapore Roti Prata which is available at most food courts served with filter coffee.
Vegetarians can hog on the vast variety local fruit. All manner of exotic fruit is available in Singapore, but if you’re feeling brave then why not sample the delights of the durian (kathal). Known as the King Of the Fruits, the durian looks like a big green spiky pear and is notorious for its appalling smell – but if you can get past that, they are actually quite tasty. Or try the Dragon Fruit, it looks good but its quiet tasteless.

Red Dragon Fruit

Weather: Carry good walking shoes, Singapore is a city best explored on foot. Also carry an umbrella or a windcheater. The days can start sunny with a mid day shower & pleasant evening. Be prepared for all of it.

3 days in Singapore (Day 1)

Traveling is fun & 2008 has been a lot of fun for us!! After Srinagar, Goa, Pune, Delhi, Bangkok – Singapore was Unique. Well! I’m not saying the other places were bad, trust me, I had a blast at each & every place. The difference was that this was spur-of-the-moment plan. No research, No itinerary & also No Shopping (will tell you about this one later). But I’d  heard somewhere that ‘Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness’, Now I can tell you…its true!

The weekend & a Monday that we spent in Singapore were packed with things one would not expect on a small island country. It’s just 700 sq km, nevertheless the entertainment never ends.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Atrium, courtesy my brother, on Outram road. It’s a hassle free hotel with comfortable rooms. Amongst other things, the room has a hairdryer, Iron, Coffee-Tea Maker and a Room safe, which were a boon. The only disadvantage is that it’s a long walk from the MRT & one has to take a cab mostly. They do have a hotel shuttle to Orchard Road, but the timing didn’t suit us. www.agoda.com gives the best rates for the rooms.

 hiatrium

Sentosa Island Resort was first on the list. To get to Sentosa we took the MRT going to Harbourfront, the last MRT stop. The station connected to VIVOCITY, a harbor front mall that is supposed to be one of the largest mall in Singapore. On the top floor of Vivocity is where we took the Sentosa Express (SD$3 /per head) to … well Sentosa!

 Sentosa is still a WIP resort & we were told that it will be completed by 2010. Current touristy highlights include a huge aquarium, the chance to feed the tame peacocks that walk around the streets (one of them did a dance routine for us :), and a waxworks museum where you can find out about Singapore’s  history. There are some clean beaches (nothing much if your last holiday was in GOA), a cable car ride and a handful of other things.

Since time was at a premium for us, we didn’t want to look around the entire park. We went to the Underwater World & Dolphin Lagoon (SD$23 per head). Totally worth it. The dolphins put up a great show. We were told that the dolphins are born grey & turn pink as they grow older. One suggestion, if you are planning to go there, check out www.sentosa.com.sg for events, promotions/discounts and schedules, before you visit & make your schedule accordingly.

Chicken rice singapore

We were back at Vivocity for lunch; they had 3-4 food courts apart from the small stalls scattered about everywhere. We had Hainanese Chicken rice. Chicken rice is Singapore’s unofficial national dish, and is a simple combination of roasted or steamed chicken atop a mound of rice cooked in rich chicken stock. The accompaniments   chilli sauce, ground ginger and dark soy make all the difference.

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In the evening of day one, we decided to go to Orchard Road. We got off at the Orchard MRT Station & walked up to the Dhobi Ghaut MRT. The hustle-bustle of people, the Christmas decorations, the street performances & colorful window displays were scintillating. There are a dozen shopping mall in this area, but after the Bangkok trip or even comparing it with India it seemed overpriced.

We ended our evening with some gud’ol Burger King & Ben’n’Jerry sinful chocolate ice-cream.

5 Must Do's while in Pune

1ne : MARZ – O – RIN

Self Service/ No Smoking/ Veg, Non-Veg – that’s what Marz-o-rin’s menu card reads. One of Pune’s most loved & known café, situated right on MG road opposite Buddhani wafers – Marz-o-rin is a must visit when in Pune.

Still maintaining the old world charm of the British, the cozy little balcony upstairs is ideal for a coffee and sandwich break. The place is a favorite with the oldies (the regulars, who come to discuss the hot topic of the day) as well as the teenage crowd out on a (low budget) date.

Famous for the Chicken Sandwiches and Milkshakes, they also serve – Burgers, Rolls, Bakes, Salads, cakes, pastries and a variety of beverages. It’s not like a regular CCD or Barista – the food is good, service is quick and the prices are still very affordable. For example, the chocolate shake at Marz-o-rin costs a mere Rs. 30 !

The beverage menu is widespread with fresh juices, hot coffee, chillers, milkshakes and falooda. The sandwiches, pizza and hot bakes are available in white and brown bread options. I had the chicken sandwich with creamy spicy mayo (best enjoyed grilled with extra mayo), chocolate milk shake (which was sweeter than what I usually have), followed by a brownie. Everything on the menu is for Rs. 30-50. Yes! Seriously. I recommend sitting on the 1st floor balcony, and spending time gazing at the passers-by on MG Road.

T2o: Burger King

Not the ‘multi-million-dollar-Burger-King’… this is Pune’s most famous Burger join … the undisputed champ of the biggest-heaviest-Juiciest- Burgers and all well within a price range of Rs. 30 to Rs. 75.

It’s a dream world for non-vegetarians with chicken burger, mutton roll, sausage surprise and the ever popular King Burger (the King Burger is a humongous steak burger). On the menu you’ll find Jumbo burgers which are of the size of a quarter-plate, dripping with mayonnaise, and I’ll bet you can’t finish one.

The place is always crowded, the service is slow, and there is no parking available near the Camp outlet… but no one seems to mind ! If you have time, little money and you are hungry… this is the cheapest and tastiest option available.

Th3ee: The German Bakery

To some the German Bakery is a ‘maybe’ in Pune, for others it’s a daily ritual, but certainly if you have been there once you’ll go there again. Frequented by travellers, Osho followers, college kids, artists, hippies, trouble-makers and everyone in between, TGB is more than just an old wooden shack in Koregaon Park.

On the menu is fresh carrot juice, cake slices, Banana Lassi, Cold coffee, Masala Chai, Fruit Cream, herb Bread and some healthy options too. The prices range from Rs. 20 to Rs 90.

Its all about great food and superb coffee, but most of all, a fabulous experience. Making friends with random people, just observing or daydreaming … it’s a place to do whatever you wanna do !

F4ur: Osho Chappals

Comfortable, Economical, Cool and Colourful, you just HAVE to pick up Osho’s while in Pune. Available in all sizes, for men & women, starting at Rs. 50/- , yup you read it right Rs. 50/-

The original osho chappals have a sole made of certain ‘chatai’ type material and has a thick velvety V shaped straps, the original color was the osho red. Now one can match every outfit with the colors available. I picked up the metallic gold & silver this time.

They don’t last very long, but you certainly won’t be wearing a 50 bucks chappal for a marathon !

Fi5e: Budani Wafers & Kayani Bakery

How can one talk about Pune and not about Chivda from Budani and the Shrewsbury buscuits from Kayani!!

They are a must buy. Budani Wafers at MG road is famous for the potato chivda (starts at Rs. 140 per kg) and cheese wafers.

And everyone knows about Pune’s most sought-after Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani Bakery on East Street. The bakery has been a landmark since it was established by brothers Hormuz and Khodayar Irani in 1955. The Shrewsbury biscuit, which is Kayani’s flagship product, is possibly the most delicious biscuit you will ever eat. I also love there crisp wine biscuits.

The biscuits are often sold-out and both the joints have a siesta time from 2pm to 5 pm… so get in line as early as possible.

Riding on the clouds – Panchgani

My first visit to Panchgani (and Mahabaleshwar) was also my first real ride on my new Motorcycle, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. This was back in 2004 and I still remember the planning I put in for that. Of course, I was new to Pune and didn’t know anything about any highway around the city and this was my first trip out of the city. My planning was almost flawless.

Considering that Panchgani is just about 100 kms from Pune, the planning was overkill, but its better to be prepared than Sorry, right ?

A ride to Panchgani has almost become a thereupatic session for me now. I go to Panchgani whenever I want to escape the maddening city crowds (Although, it doesn’t really help when, on a long weekend, Panchgani is swamped with tourists from across the state) and the monotony of office life.

A trip to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar during the monsoons is a plus. Fabulous views and awesome weather (if you like the rains). The small town covered with monsoon clouds looks absolutely stunning.

The Route

To save all you readers the planning, here is the gist of it. Panchgani is about 105 kms from Pune. Take the NH4 (Pune – Satara – Bangalore) highway out of Pune. Cross the katraj and khambatki ghats and about 85 kms from Pune you’ll see a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it signboard directing you to a right turn on the highway towards Panchgani.

From here on the nice and broad national highway gives way to a small and winding state road which passes through a small town called Wai, before climbing up the Panchgani ghats. The road is well maintained all the way and you’ll be hard pressed to find a pot hole even in the worst of the monsoon season.

As an aside, considering the amount of rain this part of the country gets, I wonder how our municipal council leaders even have the cheek of blaming the monsoons whenever they’re questioned about the bad quality of the roads in our cities.

Places to Stay

Panchgani has lots of options to suit every budget. My wife and I usually stay at the Eco-camp whenever we visit and if we’re there during the rainy season, than Hotel Mountview it is.

Camping has never been more fun or convenient – Eco-camp provides the bare essentials of modern living and the thrill of camping. Our visits to this place have always been delightful. It has a couple of spacious tents neatly setup on a cliff, over looking the most spectacular view of the valley. They have family tents which accomodate 8 people and small two person tents also. The tents also have electric points good enough for plugging in the mosquito repellant or mobile chargers. The loos are cubical type, clean and with hot water available.

The best part about the place is the Barbeque area/ bonfire (wood and stuff was provided), so it’s a good idea to bring some marinated stuff. The tariff is about Rs.150 per head. (02168-241164 meg_andre@hotmail.com, ask for Megan).

Don’t miss the sunset, when you’re there.

Another great place to stay is Hotel Mountview. Words from a friend of ours “Hotel Mountview  -Khambatta’s Garage – the most awesome’est place to be at, in Panchgani …. Parsi out of this world food, a view to die for and much much more…Anyone whose been there can vouch for this :)”. Again its not very expensive & a lot of fun. I can assure you of good food, which is included in the tariff (about Rs 800/day).

Panchgani is known for the many british style boarding schools and the excellent strawberries, not in the same order, of couse 🙂

Drive down a couple of kilometers from the town towards Mahabaleshwar and you can have a lovely Lunch at the Mapro farm. The cheese sandwiches, pizzas and strawberry creams are out of this world. Don’t forget to buy some fresh Jam and syrups for yourself.

Holiday Destination – Gulmarg

 

My favorite mountain resort in India is most definitely Gulmarg. Like Barney from HIMYM would say… Gulmarg’s beauty is LEGENDARY.

Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is the nearest Airport and Gulmarg is about 2 hours from Srinagar.

It’s proximity to Srinagar makes it easily accessible and visitors flock from far and near to take in its splendor. The journey to Gulmarg is half the attraction of reaching there, in any season. In the summer the sight of the rolling hills sprinkled with wild flowers makes Gulmarg look like a Van Gogh painting and in the winter it’s like a clip from Dr Zhivago with snow covered fields and houses.

My love affaire started with Gulmarg started about 20 years ago when I went there to visit my dad, who was posted there, during my summer vacation. I have the fondest childhood memories of the place. Horse-riding, picnics next to the streams and non-stop games … something I’ll remember forever. I even tried learning golf and have a scar on the left eyebrow to prove it (the golf club flew from my friend’s hands … ;).

From what I’ve heard, Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All people living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests. Everyone else is required to leave the village by sunset, as per the curfew rule set in 1990.

I am probably among the lucky few to have visited Gulmarg twice in the same year 🙂 My most recent trips were in March & August this year.

Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 metres ASL, and is the country’s premier ski resort in the winter. Jan to March is the tourist season for skiing and June to Sept for golfing/ getting away from the heat of the plains. 

If you go to Gulmarg and don’t go for the Gondola ride you really have missed something. And make sure you go up to the second phase of the ride. You’ll get to see ultimate views of the Srinagar valley. As everywhere in the mountains, the weather changes in minutes & sunny Florida can turn into gloomy London. So, you definitely need luck on your side.

Another must do while at Gulmarg – Lunch at the Hotel Highland Park. It is a heritage Hotel overlooking the Golf Course and is one of the oldest hotels in Gulmarg. We had a mini wazawan (a full wazawan is a 36-course wedding banquet ) on our last visit.

I can still smell the roganjosh (a rich red coloured gravy with a generous doze of Kashmiri chillies), Yakhni (a curd based, cream coloured preparation) & Gushtaba (meatballs moulded from pounded mutton like large-sized Rista but cooked in thick gravy of fresh curd base) and the vegetarian delights like Dam-Aaloo and Guhchi (local mushrooms). The flavors of Kashmiri food are unlike anything else you’ll taste elsewhere in India.

Shiv Mandir at Gulmarg

A reminder of the excellent time we had at Gulmarg last month.

The red building in the picture is a Shiva temple, probably the only one in the country with a Muslim priest.

This temple has been featured in a number of bollywood movies and the guides around the place will happily fill you in with the names even if you aren’t interested 🙂

Gulmarg is also the venue for the most famous winter festival in India in which hordes of international tourists also participate. Gulmarg is covered with snow during that time and the slopes are fit for skiing and other winter sports. The festival is probably the only time the locals make some decent money and it can be quite hard to find hotel rooms, so if you’re planning to visit around that time, book early.

It is a pity that such a beautiful place has been all but ruined by the ongoing militancy in the valley.

Things to do in Bangkok

Bangkok is a big and bustling metropolis and, for a first time traveller, it can actually get a bit overwhelming to take in all that the city has to offer.

 

Bangkok is a big and bustling metropolis and, for a first time traveller, it can actually get a bit overwhelming to take in all that the city has to offer.

The monuments, the Wats, the markets and the sheer grandiose of the (appropriately named) grand palace can leave even the most hardened travellers spellbound.

Of course, the humid weather, the traffic and the pollution does take some sheen away out of the whole experience, but that shouldn’t really stop anyone from experiencing this beautiful city in all its glory.

Bangkok has something for everyone to offer. If you’re interested in historical monuments, head straight to the Grand Palace. If you’re the religious type, start with the Wat Po and follow your instincts from there on. There is a shrine at practically every corner in Bangkok. If you’re in Bangkok for shopping, head straight to either the Jatujak/Chatuchak/JJ weekend market, Pratunam market or the various malls surrounding the Siam square. If you’re in Bangkok for pleasures of the more sinister kind, Bangkok will still not disappoint you, although you won’t get much help from me 🙂 Hint: Ask around for the Silom area of Bangkok 😉

Don’t let the traffic and the pollution stop you from enjoying this beautiful city. Bangkok is a very easy city to move around in, if you know how. I’ve written a post earlier on using the BTS in Bangkok and that should be of some help, I hope. In this post I’d like to lay out a short and sweet 5 day itenerary for anyone new to Bangkok. I hope that by the end of the 5 days you’d be able to see and love Bangkok the way I did.

Day 1: Arrive at Suvarnbhumi International Airport. Reach your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, exploring the areas close to your hotel.

Day 2: I hope you’re staying close to the BTS (Skytrain), as that is by far the most convenient way to travel in Bangkok. Take the BTS to the Siam square station. Enter one of the malls and spend some time lazing around. Eat some nice thai food and the MBK mall’s food court. Chat with some local shopkeepers about things to do in Bangkok and for directions to the Grand Palace as you’ll be visiting that the next day.

Day 3: Take a taxi/river ferry/Tuk tuk to the grand palace. Don’t listen (or even look at) any tout/agent standing outside the grand palace. The agents will most probably tell you that the palace is closed for the day and offer to take you around some other attractions for a small fee. The grand palace and the Wat Po next door is never closed. NEVER. Walk in, take your ticket and spend the next couple of hours admiring the palace. Come out and walk to the Wat Po (If you’re lost, ask for directions from a tourist, since you will never be able to make tell if an official looking guard standing at the entrance is actually a guard or an tout dressed  like one.

The “Grand Palace is closed” scam is probably the biggest in Bangkok and all tourists invariably get hit by it. Just don’t listen to the touts and keep walking towards your destination, even if they sound and look angry.

A tip: Start your day early since afternoons are hot in Bangkok.

If you followed the earlier tip, you would be done seeing the attractions around this part by afternoon. Take your lunch at the small open air market next to the Grand Palace river pier. After lunch, you can visit the Wat Arun across the river or spend some time in an air conditioned mall 🙂

Day 4: Take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to the Pratunam market and spend a couple of hours shopping for your near and dear ones. Bargain hard. If you’re a computer geek, get your fix at the Pantip Plaza, opposite the Pratunam market. For lunch, try the street food available all around the area. Pantib Plaza has a KFC too, by the way, in case you’re really missing home 🙂 Spend the evening at the Suan Lum night market. Shop some more, drink some beer at the open air beer garden, listening to some thai rock music (!). Eat authentic thai food for dinner or spend your dough at one of the many Italian, Indian or English food restaurants.

Day 5: Make sure that your last day in Bangkok is a weekend, so that you can experience the chaos of the wonderful JJ weekend market. It’s not everyday that one hears of chaos and wonderful in the same sentence, let alone being used to describe the same place. But that is the JJ weekend market for you. One can easily spend the whole day here or even more than a day, if one wishes to. The weekend market is an institution and a landmark in Bangkok and no trip to Bangkok can be complete without experiencing it.

If you’re done with your shopping spend your last evening in Bangkok spending the last of your money at one of the fancy fine dining restaurants at Siam Paragon 🙂

Day 6: Take a cab back to the Airport. Have a nice flight.

Hopefully, you’d enjoy your stay in Bangkok as much as I did. A lot of the itineraries that I see floating around the net also include a trip to the Pattaya beach town as a part of a 5 day trip. I’d advise against that. Go to Pattaya if you have more time, but spend time in Bangkok and really get to know the city.