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Red Retreat

VENICE OF THE EAST CALLING

My drawing room is currently piled high with souvenirs from Thailand. I am someone who has a souvenir from every place that I travel to. In fact, my memory-sakes and the books that I bring back from every place hold the key to my latest travel. A friend, once, said that there was no need to travel to places after all the reading and researching that I do, but this has been my childhood hobby and I have learnt it from my father- read, research and travel, though it is always not in that order. This time I felt the strong need to do a large amount of reading to understand Bangkok’s sights, sounds and complexities. And once I started, I felt like Alice plummeting down a rabbit hole of information.

PLACES TO VISIT
Sightseeing here is hard work, but with patience and determination, you find that there is a lot to discover. This city was once known as the “Venice of the East” because canals crisscrossed it. Scattered concrete skyscrapers share space with traditional wooden homes and temples gleaming with golden Buddha images. Phraya River is one of the must visit places and is one of the most famous landmarks of the country, offering glimpses of spectacular buildings.

Grand Palace: It is a magnificent complex of buildings of great significance. It is surrounded by 1,900 meter-long walls. Construction of the complex began way back in 1782. Today the Palace is used for a number of royal rituals, state banquets and other official functions, though some parts of it like the inner court are not open to the public. The two oldest buildings are the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Phra Maha Monthian. The Grand Palace complex is a sacred site and visitors have to follow a strict dress code like full pants or long skirts and long sleeve shirts along with covered shoes. Don’t fret, if you are not dressed properly because you can hire sarongs at the entrance. Also available are headsets that give you a detailed audio guide complete with translation facility. Wat Phra Khew: On the grounds of the Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s sacred places and is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.



The vast, fairy-tale compound includes the former residence of the Thai monarch. This is Bangkok’s main tourist attraction and a pilgrimage destination for devout Buddhists and nationalists. Outer palace buildings that visitors can view include Borombhiman Hall, a French-inspired structure that served as a residence for Rama VI.
Queen’s Gallery: After that I boarded a tuk tuk for a ride with police escort to the gallery. These cute creatures reminded me of India’s autorickshaws. This perhaps is the most convenient mode of transport here. But for me going around in a tuk tuk was more of an exhilarating experience in this unknown city.

TIPS FOR TUK TUK RIDE
• Like in India, fares vary depending on the distance, time, the traffic and most importantly the mood of the driver. The shortest trip will take 30 baht.
Don’t be taken for a ride. You can haggle with the driver.
Avoid taking a tuk-tuk during peak hours (07:00- 09:00, 16:00 - 19:00).
They are ideal for short trips and faster than cabs. Take it whenever you don’t feel like walking.

Thai Song Dam Cultural Centre: It is at Moo 5, KhaoYoisub district. Thai Song Dam or Lao Song is a group of minority people from Dien Bien Phu near the borderline between North Vietnam and Laos. They have migrated to Thailand, more than 200 years ago and have a distinct culture, language and lifestyle, e.g. wearing all black. They have considerable expertise in textile weaving and basketry. The village market displays equipment and appliances used in their everyday life, miniature models of their houses and the ancient scripts. They even demonstrate weaving procedures. This is an excellent place to shop for bags, clothes and accessories.



Ban Khao Tao Handicraft Training Centre: It is a must visit for all art lovers. You should not miss the unique clothes woven with nine horizontal threads. The handmade fabrics with floral designs (yok dok) are durable and are as shiny as silk.

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN
If you are in Bangkok, don’t miss seeing this beautiful and sleepy sea side town, Prachuap Khiri Khan. It is a delightfully laid back place, one of the real jewels of the southern part of Thailand. The broad bay is a tropical blue punctuated by bobbling fishing boats and there are many beaches close by, all overlooked by honeycombed limestone mountains.



It possesses various interesting tourism attraction such as beaches, islands, forests and mountains. The most famous beach is Hua Hin, which has been a popular resort housing a summer palace built by Rama VII.

Routes to reach Prachuap Khiri Khan from Bangkok:
• If you are travelling by car, take Thon Buri-Pak Tho Road (Highway35) which winds through Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, takes a left turn into Phetchaburi and takes you to Prachaup Khiri Khan. The total distance is approximately 280 km.
• Or take the Highway 4 that passes through Phutthamonthon, Nakhon Pathom, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi culminating at Prachuap Khiri Khan. The total distance is approximately 320 km.



FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you are a sea food-lover, Bangkok is the right place to be in. It is also one of the world’s best cities when it comes to street food. The Night Market is packed with nationally recognized delicacies, including oyster omelet, stewed pork shank on rice, fish soups and different types of noodles. Eating street food has a many benefits for a traveler. Firstly, because it is safe since one can see what is being cooked and how fresh it is and at the same time one gets to interact with the local people and know about their authentic delicacies. Secondly, it is incredibly cheap, without compromising on quality or taste.
You must try the ‘Panang Gai’. It is a chicken dish made of red curry paste and is doused with coconut cream. The dish is then served with finely chopped kaffir lime leaves sprinkled on top. The dish has such dynamic flavours that the taste still lingers in my mouth. Another dish that you must try is ‘Gai Pad Met Maung’. It is a simple chicken dish where the chicken is seared in a hot greased wok along with onions, dried chillies and crunchy cashew nuts. The specialty of most of the dishes here is that they are cooked in oyster and fish sauce and they go well with rice.

NIGHT MARKETS
Bangkok has the biggest and arguably, the best market across South East Asia. While swimming through a sea of crowds, which are majorly tourists, can be tiring during the day because of the heat, it is better to enjoy the energy and buzz of the night markets. It is only after dark, the food, drink and live music come to life making you sway and tap your feet with the rhythm of the city. The dark, winding mazes of endless stalls can be overwhelming, but it is a must see. So if you are looking at some serious and cheap shopping, then night markets are the places to go. Most of them are well organized with a plethora of walk up-friendly bars and a few extremely energetic live bands, setting a casual tone to the place.

 
 
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