what to do in Bangkok

Exploring Bangkok is a fascinating experience any way you do it, but the ultimate luxury is to see Bangkok with a private guide and driver. We benefited from a carefully orchestrated itinerary that flowed naturally from one sight to the next. Our guide arranged all the details, took care of admissions, offered informed commentary on what we were seeing, suggested activities, and even provided bottles of cold water for us. We were incredibly well taken care of.

After meeting us in our hotel lobby, we visited a local street market that most tourists will never find. Walking through stands selling flowers, fruit, fish, candles, and incense (among many other things), we saw floral garlands being made, savored the wonderful aromas of the food stands, and experienced a slice of the everyday life of many residents of Bangkok.

The Grand Palace
is a must-see for every world traveler. The grounds of the palace occupy 54 acres, and its temple, Wat Phra Kael, contains the famous Emerald Buddha. The Grand Palace is an incredibly ornate complex of buildings decorated with gold gilt, ceramic tiles, and jewels. It rivals the opulence of Versailles.

Although most of our transfers
were provided by an air conditioned minivan, a welcome respite from the heat and humidity, we were given the opportunity to experience a ride in a tuk-tuk for the short trip to Wat Pho. Tuk-tuks are small three-wheeled motorcycles that provide taxi service throughout Bangkok.

Wat Pho is the home of the Reclining Buddha, an immense gold-plated statue 150 feet long with inlaid mother-of-pearl in the soles of its feet.

We then enjoyed a private ride on a colorful long-boat through some of the canals of Bangkok, seeing homes and temples built at the water's edge. Our tour ended with a wonderful lunch at Supatra River House.

How to arrange a great private tour? The Virtuoso network has on-sites in virtually every country in the world, knowledgeable local experts who know their destination thoroughly. Virtuoso on-sites have access to the best guides, the most reliable drivers, and can provide access to exclusive experiences. Every private tour can be custom-designed to satisfy the interests of the most discerning travelers. Just contact your Virtuoso luxury travel consultant.

Virtuoso luxury travel consultant
(Search here on Google)

copyright (c) 2007 by David J. Ourisman. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to rent out my brand new holiday 5 bedroom teak wood home in Bangkok Taling Chan district.

It's by Thanon Wongwan Rob Nok and by the Klong Bang Tal - 5 minutes drive to South Bus Terminal (towards Kanchanaburi, Cha Am, Hua Hin, Phuket, Krabi and Malaysia) on Thonburi & 15 minutes to Chao Phraya River, Khaosan Rd, the Old King's Palace & the Wat Pho. There is also a frequent bus to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Pictures on request.

check it out on google maps:
lat=13.79381307 latitude
lon=100.408499781 longitude

Around are traditional houses with orchards, gardens, peace and clean air.

Suit family with children and animals as the place is safe and has a terrace under the elevated on stilts house.

Goes cheap, even short let - as I can't go on holidays to Bangkok as often as I use to go. At the moment stays there my daughter with her children, but she can move to my sister in law house just the next door.

A much better option of staying in Bangkok than the town centre, with it's noise, pollution, traffic jams and crowds of tourists. In a Taling Chan home-stay you will immerse yourself in a traditional lifestyle and learn a little bit about Thai culture and customs. Walks through the fruit orchards and flower groves make a very challenging experience.

You can feel here like living in the traditional thai willage - yet 5 minutes walk is 7/11 shop, cash machine and a daily street market. A short ride there is a famous traditional thai floating market in Taling Chan by the Chakphra Canal.

There are several nice homestays in that area - old thai teak wood houses on stilts just overlooking slowly moving canals. You are in the middle of verdant and vast, lush gardens.

There is nothing comparable to it in the whole of Thailand - a dream student home stay or a holiday accommodation.

Prices in US$: 30/day, 100/week, 300/month

There is something subtly exotic about wood. No other substance seems to mature in the same way, changing it's texture and smell in a second life that defies life's normal rhythm.

The traditional Thai teak house represent a style of living that is almost absent from Bangkok these days - with citywide modernisation, it is hard to find older houses that are still in use.

Villages such as Lampang in the North, featuring predominantly teak houses, are becoming more and more rare as people switch to modern building materials.

Built around the concept of simplicity, Thai stilt houses were the functional solution to a hot climate in the days before air-conditioning.

The gap between the floor and ground enables a cool breeze to to naturally ventilate the entire house, and the open window style still in practice today further aids this process.

Building with native teakwood gave the houses a natural beauty that is still imitated in today's architecture (think of the sweeping, upturned eaves of many Thai roofs.)

Prized for it's durability and attractive finish, teak has been logged almost to the point of extinction, and the magnificent trees (sometimes reaching 50m in height) are today rarely found outside dedicated plantations.

However, there remain some people trying to revive the traditions of teak workmanship, incorporating it into new homes and proving that old materials can be re-used with stunning effect.

In the heart of the Taling Chan district lies a canal that seems entirely detached from the regular bustle of city life, yet connected to the rest of the klongs that form the city's ancient corollaries.

I am introduced to this world by Kanya, a masseuse currently overseeing the production of a new home with her husband Yan. She leads me along the narrow path by the canal and I soak up the atmosphere of a quiet backwater entirely different from the Bangkok I am used to.

Across from us sits a magnificent example of wooden architecture, an obviously new house by the water's edge surrounded by palm fronds.

Kanya explains that this has been built with the express purpose of being a party house, and I feel a pang of jealousy for their frivolously beautiful enterprise.

Just back from the canal's edge sits her house, an obvious labour of love that sits next to her sister's, also being built with an eye for past wooden beauty.

While the ground floor retains some modern materials, the upper floor is furnished with a stunning mix of old teak boards and ornately carved pine shutters, the darker wood setting off the light to beautiful effect.

Inside the house the smells of wood craftsmanship pervade the rooms, and there is a feeling of inherent age that is difficult to achieve in new properties.

The main room upstairs stretches the breadth of the house, overlooking a patch of genuine wilderness that teems with life, and I'm pleased to hear they have no plans to get rid of it. 'We wouldn't want to lose the birdsong' explains Kanya.

Throughout the house, we walk on gigantic beams that have the solid, immovable quality of wood that has been in existence for a great deal of time; '100 years old, maybe more' she says proudly.

Taken together, the ancient wood and the laid back pace of the canal provide an intoxicating mix that would likely tempt even a die-hard village-dweller to consider city life.

My Taling Chan visit has reminded me that Bangkok is a city of many faces, where the old can sometimes lie comfortably beside the new (without complaining about the price of milk these days.)

And while the building of super-malls with concrete and steel continues apace in Bangkok, there are signs that the traditional is also making a comeback, with interest in attractions such as Vimanmek mansion (a gigantic teak house made exclusively with teak - no nails!) and Jim Thompson's house on the rise.

It seems that there are also a number of people who are willing to sacrifice convenience for beauty in building of their own Thai homes, as the growing number of teak queries for 'traditional thai teak wood homestay Bangkok' posted online show.

A trip along the Chao Phraya shows a great deal about the city's character, from individual riverside lives to gigantic trade barges, peaceful restaurants to stunning Wats best seen by boat.

But a surprising part of this journey are the properties that have fallen by the wayside of development, beautiful teak houses left abandoned by their owners that have the potential to be truly amazing locations.

With all the development occurring along the riverbanks, it is a shock to see such treasures lying idle, and if Thailand is to maintain it's heritage this would surely be a good place to start. After all, a teak house party by the river is not to be sniffed at...

The Taling Chan house featured is available for long and short term rents

Best time of the year to travel.

The best months to travel through Thailand are December and January. Second best are November and February. These months constitute the 'cold' seasons. In Bangkok temperatures are still as high as during a good West-European summer though. At night, it cools off a bit but temperatures will rarely drop below 20 degrees Celsius, even at night.

From roughly March till May, Thailand experiences the hot season, when temperatures can soar into the 40 degrees range. Not the best time of year to go walking about cities or countryside.

From roughly May till October, we have the rainy season. It is quite unpredictable when it is going to rain though, and there are sometimes episodes of up to two months during this period, when there is no rain fall. Other years, rain falls more consistently almost every week. Traditionally rain falls during the late afternoon. It seldom lasts more than a few hours.

Flooding of areas of Bangkok and in the provinces occurs, more at the end of the rainy season in Bangkok (the drains are more clogged by then).

Temperatures tend to be high, but cool off somewhat each time it has rained.