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Travel Diary: Bangkok

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Bangkok! I had visited Thailand briefly a decade ago as part of a summer semester abroad, but David had never been. I was eager to see how the city had changed, and David was curious to see how it compared to Vietnam. We enjoyed our time in Thailand greatly, and found that the six days we spent there was too short to fully take in such a great city.We spent a couple of of days getting adjusted to our surroundings and catching up on a long backlog of work from design clients back in the states. For the rest of the time, we enjoyed exploring the city, catching up with a few Bangkok-based friends over cocktails, and finding a complete new set of dishes for our future home!

Our home-away-from-home was The Sukhothai Hotel, located centrally in the city. I fell in love with the traditional Thai glamour of their space, and discovered it was matched by an equally warm hospitality. Upon checking in, we were greeted with generously-sized bracelets of fresh Jasmine flowers. I got to wear both since they didn’t fit David’s hands!

Our room looked out into the inner courtyard, a serene garden with a central lawn surrounded by a moat full of flowering lotus plants. In the mornings, we’d wake up and glance outside to check the weather, and see a member of staff pulling a small wooden boat through the lotus, ensuring they didn’t disturb the plants as he removed the leaves that fell from the trees the night before. Viewing the serene courtyard brought an instant sense of calm, and was reminiscent of the wonderful garden courtyards we saw in our time at Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco, Peru. There’s something about a hidden oasis, tucked outside the view of the busy city. Bangkok had been experiencing heavy rains in the evening, a welcome nightly ritual that helped cut the humidity, bringing cooler temperatures and a relaxing way to fall asleep with the sound of rain on the lotus ponds outside.

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Bangkok is a sprawling city where you can find anything and everything, from modern high-rise business areas with miles of air-conditioned malls to the old city with it’s night-markets steaming with street food (deep-fried scorpion anyone?). Here are our favorite things from exploring Bangkok:

1. Marble Temple. My favorite Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, it’s worth seeing in person for it’s expansive, beautiful Thai style carvings. Try to go when it opens before tour buses start arriving to experience the sense of calm intended for visitors to enjoy.

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2. Dinner at Celadon. Specifically, Celdaon’s incredible Galangal Menu which which helped us branch out and explore Thailand’s culinary offerings beyond pad thai.From the dried shrimps wrapped in chaplu leaves as a starter to the gaeng mussamun nuea kae (lamb curry), every dish was a showstopper and presented beautifully on Celadon dishes.

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3. Chatuchak Market. Every weekend, Bangkok has a large local market — Chatuchak Market. Hundreds of vendors fill out 10’x10’ stalls to sell everything you can dream of in the home goods, apparel, and knick knacks departments. As I’ve mentioned before, collecting treasures from around the world has been a goal during our travels, and I was thrilled to successfully find a complete dinner set that I fell in love with. The celadon green textured plates, bowls, and serving dishes reminded us of the leafy Bordallo Pinhiero pottery from Portugal, yet with a distinct Thai twist. Along with the blue Japanese ramen bowls we found on Okinawa, this set would be distinctive to serve in one our meal rooms. The whole set was incredibly heavy and cost a pretty penny to ship home! Fingers crossed nothing breaks; it will be overseas for several months on the slow boat while we continue our travels. Even still, the total price was much less than we’d pay in the States and I’m looking forward to dinner parties back home using these beautiful plates! 

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4. Jim Thompson’s House. A must for anyone visiting the area! Jim Thompson was a WWII American spy who moved to Bangkok and started a silk company. His efforts revived Thailand’s silk industry, making it what it is today – renowned for it’s quality world-wide (The Sukhothai even uses his silks to upholster many of their walls). When he wasn’t producing silk or being sneaky, Mr. Thompson enjoyed architectural design, and he built an estate with 5 traditional Thai cottages, which he filled with Thai and Asian treasures he procured throughout the region. His estate still stands, and now visitors can tour the gardens and property. I wish I could show you how awesome his collections and design sense are but unfortunately pictures inside the buildings are not allowed.

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5. Cocktails and a Cigar. One of our favorite nights in Bangkok was catching up with a friend who showed us some of Bangkok’s best spots. We started at The Rabbit Hole which serves inventive cocktails and delicious fare, then crossed the street and wandered down back alley to Black Amber Social Club. From it’s delicious cocktails and live jazz, to it’s selection of fine cigars, Black Amber is a hidden gem (truly — it’s very nondescript from the outside).

6. Streetfood at Sukhumvit Soi 38. Some of the best street food in the word can be found in Bangkok if you know where to look. Our friend showed us a great stall not too far from Bangkok’s central business district. The “restaurants” are clustered in an open-air food court, with several vendor’s behind their food carts. We loved trying the traditional chicken peanut satays and the ultra-spicy green mango salad. (Bring tissues! The salad is that hot!) 

7. Explore Old City & Thai food at Madame Musur. If you tire of modern Bangkok, take a few hours to explore the old city, heart of the night food-markets where you can try a variety of strange candied and fried insects or go for a Thai massage. It was fun to look, but we didn’t eat any insects this time. (I sampled silkworms in college and now feel like I have nothing to prove. 🙂 If you’re in the area, Madame Musur offered good Thai food at reasonable prices in a bohemian lounge setting. 

8. The Thailand Post. A tip for those of you traveling through South-East Asia! Some countries are more reliable than others when it comes to shipping souvenirs internationally. We found two large, treasured bamboo bird cages in Saigon, and were warned that shipping them from Vietnam is risky. The owner of an antique store advised us to ship them from Thailand (and even offered to help us do it!). We ended up carefully carrying them all across Vietnam and into Thailand. It’s very safe to ship from Thailand to the United States and anywhere else in the world.

Be sure to subscribe here to receive future travel diaries from our world tour. Next up, Luang Prabang, Laos!

xx, SF

Thank you to The Sukhothai for your warm hospitality!

All Photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com

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