WELL DONE. We made it! It’s finally October 2017, the ‘Golden Holiday’ of Korea. Since the government’s announcement to make Oct. 2, 2017 a day-off, the country has been buzzing with excitement for the past three months. Social media has been overflowing with flight ticket promotion ads, personal travel hacks, national tourism campaigns, etc. The hype is no exception for university students who are full of energy, passion, and youth—all perfect for traveling. Where are you headed for this long awaited break? Still underprepared and unsure of what to do? Why not take a spontaneous trip to Thailand—the beautiful land of smiles? Only 5 hours away from Korea, Thailand is renowned as one of the best holiday destinations in the world. Accustomed below are some of the must-goes I’ve gathered during the 16 years of stay in Bangkok. Help yourself.
A spectacular show about the history, belief and culture of Thailand, the Siam Niramit show is an excellent introduction of Thailand. Despite having lived in Thailand for over 16 years, the show never fails to impress me every time I watch it when relatives and friends come to visit our family. The large stage, always full with color, music, and extravagantly dressed performers, is a true feast for your eyes and ears. Using the world’s tallest proscenium arch, the performance is never limited in space and thus demonstrates very dynamic scenes—performers will levitate, elephants will walk past you onto the stage, and even a small river will appear!
There are three Acts; each about the history, belief, and culture of Thailand. The first unfolds the story of the beginning of the diverse culture in Thailand, having been a meeting place for traders from many regions. The following Act reveals the core belief shared among Thais—the existence of heaven and hell. It is, perhaps, what connected such a diversity of people. The show ends with the jolliest Act that demonstrates the many festivals and ceremonies of the nation.
The lighting, music, costumes, storyline, performers’ acts, all work in harmony and are able to create a masterpiece that lingers in the audience's mind. It almost reflects a teamwork that we, university students, pursued during group presentations in school. Like how two heads are better than one, the synergy created by teamwork is irreplaceable by one carrier*.
In addition to the indoor performance, there are some outstanding pre-show attractions. Not only is there a life-size replication of an old Thai village to tour around, but also there are outdoor dance performances to watch, traditional snacks to try, and very traditional activities such as rice pounding and silk weaving to experience
The performance starts at 8 p.m. However, there is a free meal to enjoy from 5:30 p.m. The meal is included in the price of the ticket. Set in a big hall like a buffet, there are both Thai and Western cuisines. Enjoy as much as you’d like, for as long as you’d like before show time!
ASIATIQUE the riverfront
Most beautiful at night, in the dark, while it glows with light and laughter, Asiatique is a merge of a mall and a traditional night market. As such, there are many market-stall like shops that sell a variety from cutting edge fashion items to very old-style bowls. From cheap street style restaurants in the middle to high end, posh, lobster-selling restaurants along the river side, there is also a great selection of dining to choose from. Facing the Chao-phraya river of Bangkok, Asiatique used to be a harbor.
Now, it is one of the hottest ‘it’ places for the youths in Thailand and from overseas. For those of you drained from the rigorous midterms and assessments, the vibrant Asiatique will have you pumped from the pulsing energy of other youths. It will remind you that you are alive, and that you are not alone in the struggle of growing up and preparing for your future.
Asiatique is also a remembrance of the alcohol-free fun we can have at night. Pressured under the alcohol addicted society, many Korean students may have had to drink even when they preferred not to. To those students, a fun night may only indicate an alcohol-drenched night. But it isn’t. Asiatique is packed with entertainment and activities—from Thailand’s tallest ferris wheel to bumper cars, a two-floored merry-go-round and live music—the list grows by day. Tired after a long day, I always love to treat myself with a freshly made watermelon smoothie at the riverside and just enjoy the breeze of wind, the buzzing energy of people and the beautiful atmosphere that embraces the entire place.
Damnoen Saduak floating market
Have you ever imagined shopping at anywhere other than a shopping mall? What if you didn’t have to walk around on feet? At Damnoen Saduak, boats are the stalls as well as the method of transport for sellers, traders and customers. Each boat is about ฿800 ($24) and can carry up to 6 people, depending on weight. Although now less traditional and more aimed towards tourists, Damnoen Saduak provides a genuine experience of paddling through a swarm of wooden boats each offering food, drinks, paintings and little assortments as souvenir. It feels like a festival as you wave hellos to the other passing visitors. Make sure to bring your camera along to capture the quintessential Thai post card picture of the wooden boats traffic on water. The food is also cheap, making it desirable for those on a low budget trip.
It gets extremely hot. So try to go very early in the morning. The earlier, the better. Personally, I always head out at 7:30 a.m. from home.
Bargain. The vendors will call very high prices in the beginning. Don’t submit to it. Bargain your way down and refuse to buy if you feel over-charged.
As a tourist in Thailand, you probably came expecting a beach day. The bottom half of the country surrounded by the sea, Thailand is famous for its beautiful tropical beaches. Peaceful than the tourist-packed Pattaya city, Hua hin district is about 144 kilometers away from Bangkok.
The beach in October may be different to that of the bright and sunny summer time. Nevertheless, you will find that the unusual calm and slightly grey beach is surprisingly comforting as a tired city dweller on break. October is the peak of the wet season and so you may witness some huge rainfalls. Pouring out of the sky like warriors determined to conquer, the endless train of raindrops seems capable of flushing away your worries as well.
Emporium food court
Clean and well-organized but not too posh with flamboyant decorations, the Emporium food court is perfect for those looking for quality food at a reasonable price. Located in one of the biggest malls in Thailand, the food court is reliable and ensures good sanitation—health is vital while traveling abroad.
You will feel like you are eating real Thai street food in the food court. This is because the many stalls, each offering different types of dishes, are gathered in the middle of a big hall for you to select. You may also choose to sit anywhere among the neatly scattered chairs and tables. Wander around and buy various dishes from different stalls, then bring it to your table to enjoy. The variety offered is enough to entertain your taste buds for at least a week. However, if you feel bored or worried about going full-on-Thai, there are also some stalls that sell Japanese and Indian food.
The must eats:
One of the most common yet popular Thai food, Moo ping (grilled pork on skewer) and Khao niaow (sticky rice) are perfect partners. The marinated sweet and soft pork along with the chewy sticky rice will have you addicted, in mere seconds, and begging for more.
Price: ฿20 ($1) and above per stick and per bag of sticky rice
Fresh green papayas and carrots sliced and tum** with tomatoes, dried shrimps, peanuts and a secret mixture of natural sauces, Som tum is the Thai Kimchi. Spicy, salty, sweet, and sour at the same time, Som tum is the perfect representation of the dynamic flavors of Thai food. It takes less than 5 minutes to make and the dish goes well with everything—a must to order when eating Thai food!
Price: ฿55~65 ($2)
Another representative of common yet popular Thai food, Kuai tiao nam sai can be easily found almost anywhere in Thailand; from vending stores on streets to high end restaurants. Even argued as the best rice noodle dish in the world, Kuai tiao nam sai is made with meat broth, rice noodles, fish cakes, some vegetables, and herbs. It is a comfort food that I enjoy eating after a long and tiring day.
Price: ฿60~90 ($2~3)
Probably the most renowned food among tourists, Pad thai is one of the easiest Thai food to try. A mixture of noodles, eggs, onions, etc all stir fried in tamarind sauce, Pad thai is hard not to enjoy. Sweet yet slightly sour at the same time, it waters your mouth.
Price: ฿60~95 ($2~3
At the entrance, you will be given a card. Charge it with cash, and simply hand your card to the cook whenever buying food at the stalls.
Khanom Wan Thai (Traditional Thai desserts)
Easily found on streets, restaurants and even in shopping malls, there are over 100 types of traditional desserts in Thailand. Unlike many other Asian countries, traditional desserts are as popular and common as western desserts are in Thailand. One particular reason I enjoy Thai desserts is that it exemplifies the beauty of waiting.
An example is the Khanom Krok which translates to coconut pudding/custard. Before you can eat it, you watch the coconut mixture being poured into the preheated pan. You are instantly met with the sizzling sound of the pudding being cooked. Then, your nose is hit with the sweet and charcoaled coconut scent. You carefully try to pick up the hot puddings with your fingers before being able to finally taste them. Waiting and letting my senses explore before finally tasting, always brings memory of my childhood—the times I waited for my mom’s cake to bake in the oven, the times I smelled my pop corns burst out with its lovely scent of butter after waiting five agonizing minutes.
With Thai desserts, have the luxury to invest some time waiting for your sweet paradises. Let your senses explore and experience the joy we had forgotten and overlooked due to the busy nature of our society. Be sense-ual!
Why so many desserts you may be wondering. Well, Thais love their sweets. According to the *Thai Business News* in 2015, Thai people consume 26 teaspoons of sugar per day—4 times more than the recommended amount by WHO. So, while enjoying yourself, try not to get too high on sugar rush!
*carrier: used in Korea to call a person that does all the work of the group projects due to a lack of interest from other members
**tum: the act of using a mortar and pestle to bang down on the ingredients in order to mix