Lost Girl of the Week: Mallika Khuansathavoranit

Lost Girl of the Week, Thailand, Tours & Attractions — By on September 27, 2006 at 6:42 am

Age: 25
Currently living in: Tarragona, Spain

Mallika originally hails from Bangkok, Thailand but now lives in Spain. Her love of travel and adventure most likely burst forth during her childhood — during a six-year stay in the United States, she travelled extensively around North America with her parents. Her father, on impulse, once took them to Niagra Falls and drove all the way to Quebec before heading home. (They would’ve taken a road trip to Alaska, but her mother put her foot down and nixed that idea.) After returning to Thailand, graduating from university, and entering into the corporate rat-race, Mallika took time to travel around the country as well as to Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, and Macau. In September 2005, she relocated to Tarragona, Spain. Besides wanting to conquer the entire Iberian peninsula, her future travel plans see her taking jaunts all around Europe as well as visiting Mongolia and Japan.

Check out her mini-guide to Thailand:
[Note: Wat (pronounced “what”) is the Thai word for temple.]

Chiang Mai is a beautiful, mountainous region with softer-spoken Thais than in Bangkok. One of the places to go would be Doi Suthep (“doi su-tep”), a mountain that features the famous Wat Prathat Doi Suthep at the top. I’ve been there with my family, and it’s a beautiful place. There is also the spectacular Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, which is a must-see. Here’s a good link to various other sightseeing spots in the region: http://www.chiangmainews.com/sightseeing/details.php?id=15

A great activity to do in Chiang Mai is to take part in a Thai cooking class. From what my (foreign) friends have told me, it’s extremely fun — plus you get to show off some new culinary dishes back home. There are almost 20 cooking schools in Chiang Mai. My friends decided to go with a place called “A Lot of Thai” and they loved it. It’s one of the smaller schools, and a day’s tuition costs 800 baht (US$20). This includes the use of all utensils and buying all the ingredients (the teacher takes you to the market to buy them, teaching you how to identify the various ingredients so you’ll be able to pick them up yourself when you’re at an Asian supermarket back in the States, for example). Here’re some links with regards to cooking classes: http://www.enjoythaifood.com/thaicookingcourses/a_lot_of_thai.php and http://www.alotofthai.com/

Beaches, beaches, beaches. Should you go south, you have to go to one of the many islands around the Andaman Sea or in the Gulf of Thailand. Not to be macabre, but the places where the tsunami hit in Dec. 2004 were some of the most beautiful in Thailand. From my own personal experiences I would recommend Koh Samui, Koh Phang-ngan, Koh Tarutao, and any of the Phi Phi islands. (Koh — pronounced like GO, but with a very short O sound — is the Thai word for island.)

Ayudthaya (also spelled Ayudhya) — Definitely one of the good places to go. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, it was ransacked and burned by the Burmese but still retains its former golden splendor. There’s a lot of history here and a lot of things to sight-see.

More information about other places to go, such as Kanchanaburi (the location of the bridge over the River Kwai) and Lopburi (home to many monuments and a large number of monkeys), can be found at this particular website: http://www.thaitravel.info/

Known in Thai as Krung Thep (which means “city of angels”), Bangkok is famous for its blend of old and new — temples that are hundreds of years old stand within the same neighborhood as modern office buildings, for example. It’s also infamous for its traffic, unfortunately. Lots of cars means lots of exhaust, and although it’s barely noticeable to us, everyone I know who’s from a different country has commented on it. It won’t pour acid rain, but the pollution and traffic are probably more than what some people are used to. In addition, contrary to some cities around the world (especially those in Europe), Bangkok isn’t really made for walking — the heat as well as the less-than-nice sidewalks are not inducive to such an activity. It’s much better to get a taxi, as they are dirt cheap: traveling 10 kilometers, including some traffic, would cost you about 80 baht (US$2).

One thing I have to definitely point out is to be careful when crossing the street. In Bangkok, automobiles are king. Always take a pedestrian bridge if you see one. If not, cross at zebra crossings — and don’t take a leisurely walk whilst doing so either, because you’ll either get honked at by annoyed drivers (and cause a car accident because they’re stopping for you) or get run over by an over-zealous bus driver. I myself tend to take quick strides or out-and-out run. (This doesn’t apply to zebra crossings that are at intersections where you can see that traffic lights are red, of course, but here too you should not be too quick to trust the you-can-walk-now green light for pedestrians. Always check for cars trying to speed through a red light.)

Because the city never seems to sleep, at any time of the day or night you could get a new pair of shoes or satisfy your hunger pangs for whatever kind of food you want to eat. Restaurants are open all day and well into the night, and most never close at any point during the day. Food vendors line every street. Turn a corner and there you are running into someone selling fresh fruit, while a few steps away there’s a vendor offering Thai snacks next to a street-side food stall, with small tables set up to make you a more substantial meal – noodles with roast duck, anyone? Department stores, ranging from the older, smaller buildings to huge complexes that comprise seven floors (plus a basement for a sprawling supermarket and food court), open from around 10:30am to 9pm. In addition, quite a few of the numerous mom-and-pop stores open until midnight, not to mention the 24-hour convenience stores that are always on standby to meet your needs.

Some places to go for sight-seeing that come to mind:
There’s a reason that pretty much every guide book and tour owner places the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Pra Kaew) as two of the places you just have to see when you’re in Bangkok. They are beautiful places, and even locals go there often (you’ll find that the ratio of locals to foreigners is about 65:35). Nearby is Wat Po, which houses a huge reclining Buddha. Another place to go to would be the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) — beautiful place that looks even more spectacular at night.

Places to go for shopping:
Chatuchak (pronounced “juh-to-juk”) weekend market — largest outdoor market in Asia, or so they say. You can find anything, and I do mean pretty much anything, here at a pretty good price. It’s an open-air market that spans a huge area (I don’t remember how big) and has maybe 9,000 individual shops and sellers. It’s only open during the weekend (although some shops do open on Friday). Comfy shoes are a good thing when you go. Also, be prepared to get lost. (I don’t think I’ve ever -not- gotten lost, and I’ve gone to Chatuchak a hundred times).

Yaowarat (pronounced “yow-wa-raht”) — Bangkok’s Chinatown, which is definitely not sleazy or in any way unsafe. There are lots and lots of shops here and in nearby Sampheng (“sum-peng”) that sell a whole range of things, from appliances to fabrics to hair accessories to stickers and gifts.

Siam Square and Maboonkrong (pronounced “mah-boon-krong”), also known as MBK — This is where one of the major shopping districts in Bangkok is located. (Siam Square is both the name of the area as well as the name of the shopping mall located there.) You can find clothes, shoes, accessories, and all sorts of brand-name stuff here. Near Siam Square is the newly-opened Siam Paragon, which is full of expensive brand-name shops and even has some kind of underwater aquarium (like a miniature sea world or something) inside. [Note: Siam Paragon opened after I had already left for Spain, so I’ve never been in there personally.]

One thing to note is that Maboonkrong is a great place to get Thai-style gifts and stuff for people. Although other places are probably cheaper, you will be able to walk around in air-conditioned comfort and pick and choose stuff from here. (Before moving to Spain, I went to MBK to get all my Thai gifts. Most of the sellers are on the 3rd floor, I think. I am not sure.) Tiny silk purses, silk scarves, candlebras, wooden figurines, small statuettes, Thai-style clothes, pillow cases, and all manner of Thai stuff is here. You could spend the whole day in the Siam Square area (and in nearby Ratchaprasong, where there is Central World Plaza, Gaysorn Plaza, etc.) and shop your heart out for anything and everything.

Other shopping malls that I frequent that could be worth a trip if you decide to spend a day just shopping include Central Ladprao, The Mall Bangkapi, and The Emporium. If you’re at Siam Square, you can take the sky train to The Emporium, which is kind of a combination of brand-name shops as well as an upscale department store. One of the attractions would be the huge Kinokuniya bookstore located on the 3rd floor.

In regards to food:
If you feel adventurous and comfortable enough, I have to tell you that the street vendors make the yummiest foods and snacks in Bangkok. Some people are horrified by the idea, thinking of it as unsanitary, but believe me — you will be fine. Give it a try, even if just once. Here’s an album of Thai food: http://www.enjoythaifood.com/photoalbum/

A couple of restaurants you should try (that isn’t Thai food, that is):
– MK Suki (a suki franchise that is really good, with great service — you can find one in almost every major shopping mall, like those in Siam Square).
– Bar-B-Q Plaza (a grill-type franchise with yummy food)
– Somboon — great Chinese food, can be found in a few places

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    1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    hey bic,

    nice article from u.

    not sure whether u’ll come see this comment or not. if so, please get back to me at boonthept (at) hotmail.com

    long lost friend…