In a blink of an eye, it’s already November and here I am, furiously typing out the second part of my Men’s Guide to Shopping series for Bangkok before I plunge myself deep into study for my upcoming exams. Clearly my priorities are all over the place.
It will come as no surprise that I love Bangkok. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve repeated my adoration of Bangkok to anyone who would listen to me extol its praises over and over again. I mean, fantastic food + cheap shopping? Can there be a better exemplification of heaven on Earth? I think not.
For those who are new to my Men’s Guide to Shopping in Bangkok, I’ve previously written a detailed one which covers more specifics ie. an idiot’s guide to Bangkok.
Ok, enough pleasantries and chit chat. Let’s dive right into it.
Taking the cab
Here’s a lesson I learnt the hard way. I had to make my way from Platinum to Siam Square and I decided that I would be smart and walk.
It took me 45 minutes and about a litre of body fluids before I managed to reach Siam Square.
So when it was time for me to return back to Platinum Mall, I chose to take a cab. S$1.60 and 5 minutes later, I found myself back at the entrance.
Twas really a fool for walking.
You’ll remember I previously mentioned that getting around using the BTS system in Bangkok was far more efficient than taking a cab. I must now qualify that statement – If you are traveling in group of three or more, take the taxi. It was so ridiculously cheap I couldn’t believe that I ever felt justified taking the BTS. Imagine this. We sat in the taxi for a good 45 mins, and the cab fare turned out to be S$8. That’s S$1.60 per person. Flabbergasted? So was I.
Now there might be some concerns about whether you can trust taxi-drivers in Bangkok. Let me assuage those irrational fears. There is nothing to be worried about. As long as you flag a taxi from a legitimate taxi company, you’re going to be just fine.
Pro tip : Always remember to ask them to charge by the meter. Now I was traveling in a group of five, so sometimes we had no choice but to accept a flat fee simply because squeezing five passengers in a taxi was illegal per se. So we were strong-armed in accepting flat fees. But if you have a group of four or less, there is no reason for the taxi driver to refuse charging by the meter. There will never ever ever be a situation where the flat fee is cheaper than running by the meter unless an apocalypse happened causing all traffic in Bangkok to come to a standstill. (read : never ever ever)
But, for those who are interested in feeling the pulse of the city rather than simply hopping from place to place, I’d still say go with the BTS system. I say this because when I was in the cab, all I saw were the tail lights of the other 1,000 cars ahead of me. Taking the BTS gives you a glimpse of Bangkok the way the locals see it. You are amongst the locals in their day-to-day lives. The BTS takes a scenic route through the city. Take in that urban landscape. It’s something a taxi-ride cannot provide.
Taking the tuk-tuk
For the uninitiated, here is how a tuk-tuk looks like :
It is literally a scooter that has been upgraded to seat four people who have a taste for danger and adrenalin. The tuk-tuk used to be an affordable way to travel in Bangkok, but as the city became more urbanized and taxi companies grew, the tuk-tuk has relegated itself to be a tourist attraction in its own right.
Believe me when I say the tuk-tuk riders are skilled in traveling in places no car has ever went before. They have the ability to weave in and out of traffic, to go against the traffic if needed, to ignore the traffic lights and get you to where you want to be in a theme park-esque fashion. It is quite a thrill. My advice for Bangkok virgins, is to take the tuk-tuk at least once.
Five fools squeezing in one tuk-tuk. I was on the floor in case you were wondering…
Note that the tuk-tuk is significantly more expensive than taking a cab. For one, they don’t have a meter so the fare would depend on your bargaining skills. A safe estimate would be that the fare of a tuk-tuk is easily twice or thrice the cab fare. In absolute numbers it doesn’t really mean much, for a 15 minutes taxi ride would cost 60฿. So a tuktuk would probably ask for 120฿ – 150฿. It’s still ridiculously affordable. PLUS, if you are in a rush, a tuk tuk will get you to your destination faster than a taxi could.
I previously strongly recommended Holiday Inn Express, Siam. I’m not un-recommending that. I think it’s still a fantastic budget hotel that provided me with a more than comfortable room + amenities, decent breakfast and a great location for a great price.
This time, I have another recommendation to make. It’s a little more hoity-toity upper class aristocrats-ish, and with it a price tag that’s a little larger, but it’s so. so. good.
When my mother initially recommended Hotel Berkeley, I chided her. I searched Hotel Berkeley on Google Maps and found that it was a good 15-20 minutes away from the Siam BTS station. Compare this to Holiday Inn Siam which was a mere five minutes walk to National Stadium BTS Station. Of course, this was before I had the epiphany of realising how awesome Bangkok taxis were.
But when my group of five planned to book Holiday Inn Express, we found out that Holiday Inn was unable to accommodate an extra bed in their rooms. So after searching for many alternatives, we ended up with Hotel Berkeley.
For those shopping fanatics, Hotel Berkeley is conveniently located diagonally to Platinum Fashion Mall and right next to Amari Watergate Hotel. Which means that hopping over to Platinum for a little bit of shopping isn’t just a manner of expression anymore. It’s a fact.
Space wise, the rooms and toilets were big. The hotel was well furnished with a hint of antique grandeur. And in a span of five days we were privy to at least three huge national events that chose to host their event at the ballroom of Berkeley. How’s that for an accolade? I can almost see it engraved in a plaque – “Number one choice for large companies to host events in”
If that isn’t enough, here’s a sneak peak at the breakfast buffet spread.
And this was just round one. Of the first cuisine offered at their international breakfast buffet.
So travelers, take your pick. If you have a little more dough to spend and you’re traveling in a larger group, I suggest going for Hotel Berkeley. If not, Holiday Inn Express Siam still remains one of my top choice for accommodation in Bangkok.
Making a Suit / Shirt in Bangkok :
I was never privy to the fact Bangkok plays host to a huge industry of tailors. Not until I returned from my first ever trip from Bangkok to a chorus of voices chastising me about why I didn’t make a suit when I was there. Then all of a sudden, it was an endless chase on finding out which tailor was deserving of my time and effort to tailor a suit. I was a man on a mission. I spoke to almost everyone I knew who had done a suit in Bangkok before, and each swore by their tailors. #loyalty
But there comes a time when you’re stuck in an infinite loop of research trails and the only way to get yourself out of it is to commit to one, give it a go and pray that everything turns out well.
So on this trip, I made it a point to visit one of the more highly recommended tailors in Bangkok to make a suit and document the process.
Where is it? : Opposite Platinum Fashion Mall – Amari Watergate Hotel, Level 3
When does it open? : Oddly enough, I can’t find their opening hours but it should be safe to state that they open everyday.
Note that I am in no way sponsored to write this post, but I do feel that their quality of service and products deserves a glowing recommendation at the very least.
Alex’s Fashion is no stranger to Singaporeans. In fact, having been to his shop thrice for three days, I’ve seen different groups of Singaporeans crowding in his stores – all to make suits and shirts. If it’s got other Singaporeans’ stamp of approval, you can be sure that it won’t disappoint.
I must explain why I recommend Alex Fashion. Now, clearly there are better tailors in Bangkok with premium quality. But with premium quality comes a premium price. And a balance must be struck. Obviously, the best bargain would be one where you get a better quality than the price you pay for. Clearly you may go to a tailor which offers you Egyptian Cotton suits at Prada prices, but that’s a choice only the wealthy can afford to make.
I made two suits (2 jackets + 2 pants), 2 additional pants and 2 shirts for a price of a little over S$500. That’s very reasonable. And the quality? More than acceptable! If it were taking the O.W.L.S, I would grade it an Exceeds Expectations – only Harry Potter fans would understand. The material was soft and comfortable without feeling cheap. The tailors were attentive to the requests and fitting was done till satisfaction.
Here’s a photo of the suit and shirt I tailored at Alex’s Fashion.
Not convinced? Hop over to Alex’s Fashion tripadvisor page where it has received 4.5 star ratings spanned over 160 reviews.
Still not convinced? For Singaporeans, Alex’s Fashion is coming down to Singapore from the 18th – 22nd November. They will be setting up a pop-up store at Hotel Supreme, Cavenagh Road, Orchard. You can head over to take a look, and if you like what you see, do a fitting there and then! They will get your suits / shirts done in Bangkok and ship it right to you without you having to leave the country.
Where go for Massage :
Health Land, Asoke
There are a huge variety of massage places in Bangkok, but Health Land came highly recommended by my family members after having visited the massage and spa centre on separate occasions.
Health Land is not very conveniently located, so it would be best for you to take a taxi to Health Land. If you choose to take the BTS and walk in, alight at Asoke station and walk in between Terminal 21 and Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok for a good 10-15 mins. Health Land will be on your right.
The price range is very reasonable – For a two-hours long
torture massage session, we only paid 500baht per person. And the masseuse are all properly trained. Trust me. I had to endure endless cracks and kneading until I felt like passing out. But that’s just my poor tolerance for massage. My other friends fell asleep during the massage because it was so good. I was both appalled and envious.
Pro Tip : When you get to the massage and spa centre, be quick. Book a slot and if they can fit you in straight away, go for it. The five of us hemmed and hawed over whether we had enough time for a two hour massage session that we got completely eclipsed by a busload of China people and had to wait for an hour before we could get the massage.
Four people leaving the massage parlour refreshed and only one left more stressed than ever. Me.
Food in Bangkok rarely disappoints. You can literally plonk your butt at any street food stall or hawker and have amazing food. This belief I’ve always held dear to my heart. And stomach. So when it comes to recommending food, I’m usually hesitant because it would be an infinite list. But after much thought, I’ve decided that two things are worthy of mention.
Sabx2 pig’s trotters rice
How to get there? : Take the BTS to Chitlom / Siam and walk towards Platinum. From Platinum, cross the overhead bridge towards Pratunam and turn left. Walk towards Shibuya Glow Hotel and turn right at the first alley. Walk along the alley and look out for this store on your right. You can’t miss it.
When does it open : Daily from 0900hrs – 1500hrs except Mondays
Remember how I was filled with regret when I didn’t get to try the famous pig’s trotter rice at Sabx2 the last time I visited Bangkok? Well, this time I made it a point to feast on it.
I… really have no words for it. Just look at the picture.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that I am literally salivating right now. The meat was incredibly tender, and with every bite of the meat, a burst of its juicy sauce envelopes the taste buds. The fat melted almost immediately when chewed and coats every morsel of rice indiscriminately. Wash it down with their homemade Chrysanthemum tea, and you’re ready to order another plate just because life henceforth will never be complete unless you have this everyday.
Absolutely a must-have.
Four Seasons Roast Duck
Where is it? : Siam Paragon, Ground Floor
When I was in London, there were two famous duck places that polarised all Chinese that ever went to the UK and had roast duck. It was a battle reminiscent of the Pepsi vs Coca-Cola battle – Four Seasons Duck versus Gold Mine Duck. In the end, our little group chose Gold Mine and had no regrets. But I’ve always wondered how the Four Seasons Duck would hold up against Gold Mine.
Cue Bangkok Four Season Roast Duck.
My review of the Four Seasons Duck might be a tad hyperbolic, especially in light of the extremely disappointing duck I had in Scotts Square, Singapore but OH MY GOD I LOVE FOUR SEASONS DUCK.
If you asked me to choose between Goldmine and Four Seasons, I would have a harder time than Meryl Streep had in Sophie’s Choice because both are ridiculously good. I mean, the duck was juicy and tender without the usual “duck” smell that one often associates with poorly cooked duck. It was not oily but yet the skin was crispy. The meat was not lean but plump and fat. It was a the creme de la creme of poultry.
In fact, I love it so much that I insisted my family have it when we return to Bangkok once again in December. I already cannot wait. For those who are averse to having duck, I beseech you to give this a try. Usually, those who avoid duck avoid it because of the unpleasant raw taste that it has when it isn’t cooked well. I guarantee that won’t happen with this one.
Other Attractions :
Thus far, I’ve been to a number of places in Bangkok :-
- Siam Night Market
- Platinum Fashion Mall
- Pratunam Market
- Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Srinikaran Night Market (Talad Rot Fai)
- Union Mall
So on this trip, I made a conscious decision to go to different night markets, just so that I can expand the tired repertoire and see if I can discover new gems.
- Art Box
Art Box is a concept night market that doesn’t open every weekend. You have to be lucky or deliberately plan your trip around it so that you’ll be in Bangkok during the weekend that it opens. I’m going to keep this review short because I didn’t really like it.
It was relatively small, the food was more Western fusion than Thai street food and the stores were catered to those with an eclectic taste. The general vibe was hipster-esque, and with it comes the army of young Thai hipsters who were instagramming the crap out of Art Box.
I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip down just to visit this night market. If you are in the area and could pop by without much of a hassle, do so. It might be your cup of tea. It certainly wasn’t for me.
2. JJ Green
JJ Green is a night market that is next to Chatuchak weekend market. What tourists usually do is to wait out the hot afternoon in Chatuchak, settling down at a hawker for dinner before taking a slow and short walk to JJ Green to continue shopping through the night.
There isn’t anything particularly special about this night market, so I would say that you should give this night market a visit out of convenience. If you’ve already made your way to Chatuchak and managed to stay there past 4-5pm, have dinner at a nearby hawker and walk in JJ Green.
And that’s it for Part II! While Part I was more of a general guide to kick start a newcomer’s Bangkok experience, Part II is decidedly more focused and precise in expanding the list of attractions to visit.
I hope you’ve found the above useful! At the end of the day, you really can’t do any wrong when in Bangkok. So have a blast, binge and shop yourself silly. If you think I’ve missed anything out / got something wrong in my Men’s Guide to Shopping, let me know!