Bangkok is a popular destination for Singapore’s residents; many of our friends expressed surprise when we told them that we hadn’t yet, in our nearly three years here, visited the chaotic and inviting city.
We recently took advantage of a rare four-day weekend to travel to the Thai capital.
I have recently become so enchanted with A’s, now nineteen-months-old, magical thinking. And this flit between imagination and reality was on display during our morning jaunt to Wat Pho, the largest and oldest wat (temple) in Bangkok and home to an enormous reclining Buddha.
But it was not the impressive, imposing Buddha, gilt in gold foil and mother-of-pearl, in which A was interested. She traipsed about the temple complex’s sprawling grounds–nearly 20 acres of courtyards, gateways, and stunning temple structures.
A adores lions. The wild cat’s roar was the first animal sound she could reproduce on demand. (She is indeed our “Singapore [City of Lions] baby.”) So, when she came upon a Chinese guardian lion, she was overjoyed. She would not stop chatting with it. And she would not budge from that spot despite our protestations that, yes, yes, Lion was her dear friend, but wouldn’t she enjoy meeting Sheep as well?
I spent that morning not reflecting on Wat Pho’s collection of gilded Buddha images, but simply observed her. And I witnessed expressions on her face that I’d never seen before. Her dedication to the imaginary is astounding.
Bangkok, to my surprise, is a haven for vegetarians and vegans. We devoured a delicious pad see ew, stir fried noodles with vegetables, and black sticky rice with mango at May Kaidee’s Vegetarian Restaurant (59 Tanao Road). This no-frills joint serves up cooking that is easy on the chilies and heavy on the coconut milk and tamarind, making it perfect for little palates.
Bangkok’s temple complexes provide ample space to run and play. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, 2 Sanam Chai Rd.) is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and home to and enormous reclining Buddha. Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn, 158 Wang Doem Rd.) is absolutely stunning at sunset.
Lumpini Park (Rama IV Rd.), in the city’s central business district, has wide expanses of grass, a wonderful playground, and a public outdoor pool. It’s also a perfect way to while away an evening watching water dragons slink in and out of the park’s two lakes.
Plan Toys, a line of imaginative toys made of sustainable rubberwood and a “house favorite” around these parts, is manufactured in Thailand. Plan Creations (114/1 Soi Sathon 10), a nondescript shop, carries what seemed to be the entire range of the company’s beautifully-crafted playthings, from puzzles to play kitchens. Items are priced at nearly 25% below retail.
For this trip, we opted to stay in a one-bedroom serviced apartment at Mayfair Bangkok Marriott Executive Apartments (60 Soi Langsuan) rather than in a hotel. We much appreciated its location (a short walk to the Ratchadamri BTS Skytrain station), its pool, and its playroom. Its full kitchen was also our savior on the night that A was having “no more pad thai.”
Leave the stroller at home. The city’s uneven and/or nonexistent sidewalks make buggy-ing around a PITA. We baby-wore A while on the Skytrain, the easiest, most headache-free way to get around traffic-clogged Bangkok; on the Chao Phraya River’s long tail speedboats; and in the occasional tuk-tuk. Even the lightest of umbrella strollers would have been an unnecessary encumbrance.
Pooja Makhijani is a writer, editor, teacher, and New Yorker living in Singapore. She blogs about arts and culture in Singapore at notabilia.wordpress.com.