Derika and I just got back from a 2-week adventure in Thailand. We went with a friend who is a chef and is originally from Thailand. Chef T owns a cooking school in California called Tspoons, if you love to cook and you live in SoCal you should for sure check it out.
We have wanted to go to Thailand for years now and when we found out that Chef T was planning a trip, we knew that we had to make it happen. I mean… it is basically my dream come true. To go to a country that I have been obsessing over with a native, who loves food just as much as I do. This is the first organized trip that Derika and I have ever been on, and I have to say that it did not disappoint. As a result, I think that this next set of blog posts will also probably be one of the more challenging ones to write. Between Derika and I, we took over 600 photos and ran non-stop through Thailand for 9 action packed days. That is a whole lot of photos and information to weed though. I apologize in advance for the number of photos in this post, but we just saw and did so much awesomeness that it is hard not to share. In hopes of making these posts a bit smaller, I am going to break them down, by the three cities that we visited, and I will probably throw in a food post for good measure. I hope you enjoy the ride!
Now, let’s go to Bangkok!
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which was a little oasis on the river in a very busy city. The photo above is the view from our room. We did not get to spend much time at the hotel. However, we did manage to check out the hotel restaurant right off the river, which had an adorable boat that would take you to the other part of the hotel across the river.
Their breakfast buffet was amazing and had one of the most epic mimosa bars that I have ever seen!
Our room also came equipped with some cozy slippers and a different fresh fruit to snack on every day.
The room also had more light switches than we knew what to do with.
So this would only happen to me, so I need to go off on an embarrassing tangent about the one million light switches in our room. The first night in out hotel room, I came running into the bedroom squealing at Derika that the room offered a make-up button! She looked at me dumbfounded. So I proceed to ask her a hundred questions as to what kind of make-up services the hotel provided us with, if I pushed the button. Immediately she started rolling around the bed laughing, and informed me that the hotel did not deliver make-up to the room when you pressed the button, but rather that someone came to your room and made up your bed. FAIL! Only I would think that this cute little Thai person would come to my room and do my hair and make-up if I pushed this magical button. Moving on…
Visit The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple
I wasn’t able to take a picture of the Emerald Buddha at the Emerald Buddha Temple, but you can see a bunch of photos of him here. Make sure that you wear you long pants, closed toes shoes and cover your shoulders for your temple and Grand Palace adventure.
In the temples you are required to take off your shoes so you can get great photos like this…
We spent the afternoon zipping around the temples and learning about the palace. All I can really say for sure is that this something that you need to see for yourself. It is filled with gold, more gold, statues and some more gold and the attention to detail is mind-blowing!
Cross the River and Visit the Temple of the Dawn
So you will notice a theme here. Thailand loves their temples and each one is more breathtaking than the next. I particularly loved the Temple of the Dawn, because we got to ride a cute little water taxi across the river to get to it. Below you will see Derika and Srinipa hanging out on the taxi as we crossed the river. Srinipa was our amazing tour guide in addition to Chef T, who accompanied us on all of our Bangkok adventures. She is one of the most adorable and sweetest people, that I have ever met and she knows ALL of the things about Bangkok!
I also loved the Temple of the Dawn because it had a giant Buddha that you could rub its belly and wish on upon arrival.
It was also one of the few temples that you could climb up to the top of. Most of the folks in our group who climbed to the top were dealing with sore legs the rest of the trip, but it was worth it!
Visit Ayutthaya City (Old Siam)
Ok, so we also got to climb up the temple in Ayutthaya City, but it was not as high up as the Temple of the Dawn.
What I really liked about this temple is all of the neat rituals that you got to partake in before you went into the temple. Upon arrival we were asked if we would like to purchase a flower, some incense and a piece of paper that has a gold leaf in it (Ignore the sweaty girl in this photo below and just look at what I have in my hand).
Once you get your supplies you head to the entrance of the temple, where you get on your knees and place the flower in a bucket and say a little prayer or wish, then you get up and light the incense and put it behind the flowers in the sand, then you will take the gold leaf out of the paper and placed it on the teeny Buddha to solidify everything (notice Chef T placing her gold leaf on the tiny Buddha below).
After you do all of this you get to see an epic giant golden Buddha!
This picture does not do it justice, but the Buddha is about as big as a 2-story house. While you are hanging out with this Buddha, you will notice a lot of people kneeling before him shaking a cup full of sticks. I like to think of it as the lucky stick game. You grab a cup that is stuffed with sticks that are numbered. Gently shake the cup until one of the sticks falls out of the cup and onto the rug. Look at the number and take that number to the fortune lady, pay her some money and she will give you a piece of paper with your fortune. We got too excited about the sticks and forgot to take a photo, but here is my fortune…
Apparently, I am going to be healthy, debt free, delight and happy! Oh yeah, if I get pregnant I am apparently having a boy!?
Take a Cooking Class at BaiPai Thai Cooking School
The BaiPai Cooking School was one of my most favorite things that we did while we were in Bangkok, but I love to cook so of course it was going to make the top of my list.
The school was located in an open air building in Bangkok…I basically want to live in the building that the school is in!
The chefs that taught us were really friendly and funny. They basically cooked a dish first while we watched, we got to taste it and then we headed to our own cooking stations, where we made our own version. They even accommodated the vegetarian on the trip with plenty of veggie options, so I was a happy camper. We grilled, simmered and seasoned our hearts out!
Basically, a good time was had by all and we left with some new Thai cooking skills and a full belly! More details about what we cooked in my upcoming Thailand food post!
Shop your way through the Asiatique Night Market
Asiatique Night Market is a fancy version of the many markets in Thailand. More of the locals shop here and it feels a little less touristy. They have a bazillion shops, so you can shop till you drop. They also have a huge ferris wheel.
And an outdoor area where you can visit some street food vendors, if you are feeling a little munchie.
Visit the Damnoensaduk Floating Market
They Floating Market is tied with the cooking school for amazing things to do in Bangkok! Ok, so it is far away from the heart of Bangkok and a bit touristy. But look at how happy this cute little Thai lady is below!! How can you not want to go and hang out with her!?
So basically you wave down a boat, negotiate a fee and off you go!
Our group was big enough that we needed to split up into two boats.
This is such a unique way to shop! You are on a boat with shopping stalls on either side of you and all of the snacks you could possibly imagine. All of the snacks are also on boats, and come right along side of your boat as they prepare whatever you ordered. You could also buy your honey and garden plants if you wanted too.
They even had beverage boats with beer….
I started to shoot video of the market, but then the beer boat distracted me…
So now that we got our beer, here is a quick video so you can get the idea of how amazing it is to shop by boat. However, I still managed to mess it up! I don’t know why I called it the ‘video’ market in the video!? I think that I was just so excited to take some video…Fail! At least I can laugh at my ridiculous self.
We only got off the boat once to stop at a walk in market and to see this cute little man make palm sugar. Palm sugar is what is used in Thai food such as curries to add a bit of sweetness to dishes.
This man was so adorable and was super excited to give us the opportunity to try out our palm sugar skills. I think he made 30 mounds of palm sugar to our one, but we had fun. 🙂
Visit the Chatuchak Market aka the JJ Market
Due to a flight delay Derika and I were not able to get to Thailand a day early to visit the Chatuchak Market on the weekend like we had planned. Instead we spent that time in Beijing. I am not jaded…
Anyway, this market is open during the week and on the weekend. If you are lucky enough to go to the market on the weekend you will have the opportunity to visit over 8,000 vendors and have the most epic shopping extravaganza of your life. If you are not in Bangkok on the weekend you should still check out the market. Each day has a different theme and we just so happened to be there on plant and garden day.
In addition to seeing a sea of unique Thailand plants, we had the opportunity to check out the fresh food market. This was awesome, because we got to see the fruits and vegetables that we have been eating all week and see and try them before they were cut and carved up.
We checked out some Thailand apples that looked like they came straight out of a zombie movie, they tasted a bit like a pear.
We saw and tried some mung beans that were molded into imitation fruits and vegetables.
We ogled the mystery meats.
My favorite part of the market visit is when Derika got to try durian for the first time. Even though the photo does not look like it, she actually liked it!
Durian is (I pulled this right from Wikipedia) a fruit whose “edible flesh emits a distinctive odor that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.” I think it has a bad rap, but I think that you get the point. 🙂
Get a Thai Massage!
Our whole group went and got a Thai massage at Health Land Spa in Bangkok. I was kind of nervous, because I did not know what to expect. However when I found out that some people in our group had never had a massage before, I relaxed a bit more. Also this is a little weird, but accidentally the location booked our group of 12 into two big rooms, which was ridiculous, but in some weird way it turned a potential awkward situation into a comical one. For starters, you get to wear outfits like this…
After you get into your amazing outfits, you cozy up on a mattress on the floor and wait for your tiny Thai massage therapist. Instead of it just being one person in a room there were 6 of us in each room giggling uncontrollably at first. They do the massage though your awesome massage clothes and pretty much, bend, adjust and manipulate you into putty. It cost us each about $20 for a 2 hours massage, I wish I had the time to do one every day while I was in Thailand!
Go Have a Cocktail at the Sky Bar
Our last night in Bangkok a few of us from our group decided to head out on the town and have a farewell cocktail at the Sky Bar, which is said to have one of the best skyline views of Bangkok and to be the worlds highest open air bar! All I can say is that if you have some free time in the evening you should definitely check it out. The cocktails are a bit pricey, but the view was something that a photo could never capture!
Bangkok was a city that I will remember traveling to forever. Sure it seemed to have more traffic than New York and was a bit dirty in some areas, but the locals were super nice and so very happy, the sights and temples were even better in person, and the food was so amazing that I was still craving curry even after my trip! I highly recommend a stop in Bangkok on your Thailand adventure.
Next stop…. Chiang Mai!