I just came back from two -week trip exploring Bangkok and Pattaya, and this blog probably would not to do the justice to my personal experience of this beautiful and contrasting Thailand! First of all, to get there, and it all worth it, I had to spend total of 37 hours flying “economy” class cramped in a box like sardines, from San Francisco thru Soul Korea to Bangkok and finally by bus to Pattaya, kind of fun long trip not for everyone. Landing in Bangkok was a shocker, out of this world airport, so modern and well developed it reminded me of the “Star Wars” episode, especially if you compare it to my humble little northern california village. Tropical heat embraces you and wonderful blend of orchid, coconuts and other oils gets inside with first deep breath, as well as 7 million people and bright lights all around you wakes up the rest of your senses. I called it Asian Las Vegas! It truly is magnificent and so contrasting. Along the side of 60 something stories hight modern sky-scraper with Chanel and Gucci store fronts from the future would be a strip with huts and food stalls from the past. But, the people here are the most hardworking, sincere and humble. And that what I loved about the Thailand!
Best way to see Bangkok and their Temples is at dawn by boat, “Grand Pearl” , for 1700 baht ($50) per person, you get to enjoy 2 hour river run, with swedish style served asian fine food and a top deck with entertainment, it would be hard to say good by to “Elvis” and “Gangnam style” singers. Or from the roof top of lets say “Lebua” Tower. Either way, the experience will make you say “Holy s..t! Its beautiful!”
Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho perhaps the most famous and most visited temples in Thailand. Views from inside and out will take your breath away, the ornate constructions that are 230 years old will make anyone appreciate grandiosity of the Buddhist faith. Wat Pho also known for their statue of a Giant Buddha, also know as “Mother of Pearl” for her/his legs decorated with see shells. Avoid a little scam that we experienced, even thought I have read about it ahead of time; a man approaches, says he knows that the Kings Palace is closed today but would be open in the afternoon for tourists, so, he would recommend to take some sort of boat tour instead from this company (and you might enjoy it for what is worth). Decline the offer and proceed to the main gait which, to your astonishment, is open and have no special hours for tourists.
The city is always under construction, and they use cheap labor from Burma, for about 200 baht ($6) a day, these guys can built anything from a Sky Scrapper to a HandCrafted Wooden Temple, sometimes without modern arhctitectural tools and gadgets!
Means of transportation around the Thailand varies from comfortable to not, modern to traditional, economy to luxurious. My advise, avoid general scam by Tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok. They only go short distance, for exotic ride, not very safe if you get in a traffic collision. The scam is such, in broken english will try to explain to you that for 20 baht they will take you where you need to go but first they have to stop at a Jewelry store of some friend and you are obligated to buy some gold then and after some fuel cost, they would take you the place you need to be. Avoid parked taxi or Tuk-tuk, they likely to rip you off, drive without a meter.
I ve got to mention the food. It is nothing like you taste it in states, even if its done in original Thai restaurant and by Thai people, some thing gets lost in translation. But here, the food has amazing taste with reach deep flavors and years of perfection. In fact, you can enjoy home cooking right on the street for just 80 baht (about $2) or have a sit down dinner at one of the best restaurants in Bangkok: Sirocco, Mezzaluna or Breeze, located on the 56 and 63 d floor of Lebua State Tower with sky views of the night Bangkok where only a glass wall separates you from vast land of city lights with a life time gourmet food experience. For about 12,000 baht (around $400) dinner for two, a small price to pay for a fantastic rooftop experience, and if you lucky, you even get to meet and shake hands with James Ho, a shy and talented young corporate Executive Chef from Malaysia. Just imagine, you are standing at the gates of heaven, the door opens up and you step into a lighted blue bridge made of glass, no railing, and you could see the night sky, roof tops of the skyscrapers, illuminated all at ones, all around you and you squeal in excitement like a 5 year old. But its just the beginning, you are greeted by a person all in white, who guides you through the “heaven” lit by candles, down the steps of heaven and into an open platform of tables covered with crisp immaculate white linens and soft music, light breeze and warmth of this places embraces you like the safe shelter, the lost resort you have been searching for all your life! And that is when you scream pleading, “God, please, I dont want to die yet, I am not ready, I have not experienced this amazing dinner yet!” You have to try “Chef’s Tasting Menu”, its to die for! You can See and read more about dining experience at Lebua on their website at Lebua Breeze .
Shopping: from expensive to weird, from cheap to modern, and small to grand, Bangkok has it all. You want to spend hours walking never ending stalls of the Largest Bangkok flee market and bargain till the cows come home or spend quality time with your Visa or Mastercard in 4 story airconditionned modern Siam Market or MBK shopping centers, its entirely up to you. And, yes, everything is for sale in Bangkok, you ve got the money, they have the time. Speaking of time, you want to buy a Gucci dress at 3 am, you ve got it! Call the taxi and you are there. Electronics, hand made goods, cars, souvenirs, jewelry, food, pets, anything you like.
Historical Sites: there are plenty of those who comes to Thailand to see the culture and the history, the timeless Thailand. Below is “Sanctuary of Truth”, Pattaya, is currently under construction (has been for the last 13 years), with a 2025 year of completion deadline, this is a truly a site to see. Made by hand with no nails out of teak wood by Burma people, is amazing living monument. Something out of a “Indiana Jones” movies, you feel when first enter the site. I would recommend to get a guide, who can tell you that it was built on an inheritance of a wealthy Chinese magnate who died at age of 88 not being able to see the end result. But not to worry, his legacy is continued and supported by his son and the donations you can make at the site. The temple is to believed hunted by a woman’s spirit, so, be nice and buy her a gift when you are there.
Flower market is another amazing place to visit while in Bangkok, they do take care of the dead better than alive, so much color and fresh smell at the market, it would take your breath away. Best time to visit is early morning.
In Bangkok National Museum, for 200 baht, you can see the National treasures of the Thailand, well preserved and displayed, so it is worth visiting. Its a great tour back in to the art history and archeology of the country, Thailand’s finest artifacts, furniture, royal jewelry, old musical instruments, pottery, and fine art pieces! Loved the old sepia photographs of royal families.
If you want to see the “night life” in Pattaya (pronounced Pa-ta-’ya), walk “The Walking Street” in downtown, where you can understand why the King of Thailand has “abdicated” in a sense this place for its known lust, sex and rock-&-roll, like the Vatican city in Rome, with own rules and regulations, Pattaya in Thailand has the life of its own. The sex is obvious, the night life is wild, you can get chlamydia and syphilis by the pound here, and cheap liquor by the bucket. Despite the traffic and rock-and-roll, the place feels relatively safe, with “tourist police” all around it. Dont forget to get a Thai massage (and not the one you are thinking about) and foot massage, ready available almost on every corner of the main street. For about 300 baht ($9) you can get an hour oil massage, by the end of one you would think you had died and gone to heaven!
Alcazar Transvestite Show is a must to see! Adopted by buddhist philosophy, half woman, half men body is normal in Thailand, may or may not bring you closer to nirvana! For 100 baht, anyone can take a close-up photo with your favorite dancer at the end of the show.
A bit about hotels I stayed. In Bangkok- Hope Land Executive Suits, a bit far from town but close to BTS Skytrain, 3 stops and you are at MBK and Siam Shopping Centers with great food courts and airconditionned building. Nice and quiet. You want to stay right in the heart of Bangkok, I would recommend “Shangri-La” Hotel! In Pattaya – “Zign” Hotel and Spa, right on the North end of Pattaya’s beach, grand newer place, with the largest selection of foods for breakfast, amazing pool and 3 large great restaurants on site with more food and night life across the street. The best feature is, its located within walking distance to the “Sanctuary of Truth” temple. Some of the Pattaya beach are shot from the Zign Hotel balcony.
Erawan Falls, located in a Thailand National Erawan Park, about 2 hour drive by car, is worth seeing. Not only you get to swim in 7 tiers, and hike in exotic and tropical gardens, and listen to birds and very loud cicadas, but to get a life time experience of the so called “Fish-Spa”, where you get your feet nibbled by some local fresh water fish for free, is extremely unusual and totally unexpected experience.
Riding elephants should be on anyone’s list of things to do, not only its fun and exotic, you also support daily leaving a herd of elephants and a whole village of thai people who rescues and cares for them. The elephant village in Pattaya is located about 25 minutes ride by bus, for about 1000 baht, you can take an hour Trekking around or for 2500 baht can stay for a whole day, participate in elephant training and see their show. Ride back home on very-very old Land Rovers with the wind in your back! Also, you will get a quick rundown on how they use the silk worms to make beautiful tapestries.
And this trip was also about meeting me dear friends from Russia, Anna and Sveta, who is now living in Japan, as well as spending time with my mom! Sorry for taking you away from your loving husband on Valentine’s day! Great memories!
They finally tied the knot..It was crazy, fun and a beautiful wedding..Music by “Morgan -Hunt” Photography and DJ was playing softly in the background while the girls were walking among the guests with drinks and platters of very very testy snacks…It was warm and inviting, with home made food and tables in the backyard, kids were playing on the lawn, just like a big family reunion! It was fantastic. Jim and Michelle, thank you for letting me be part of your celebration of love and commitment. I wish both of you to have lots more of such beautiful and warm and loving days in the future!
It was such a light and easy going wedding, with beautiful summer breeze and gorgeous warm sunset over the lake, with the reception that took place on the lawn under the canopy with the view of of the water. Becky and Patrick finally said “yes” in front of their family and friends. It was simply breathless!
On behalf of the bride and groom, big thanks to Jody Copelin at “Hair with a Heart”, Matt with “Premier Entertainment Services” for great music, Tammy for wonderful flower arrangements, “David’s Bridal” and “Men wear house” for bridal dress and tux rentals, “Sandy’s Specialties” for making an unforgeable dinner and the cake, and other people who were behind this amazing wedding as well as the bridal party!