This is my entry for the Dream Asian Destination Contest held by Air Asia in association with Ripple links. AirAsia.com is an online travel portal which is currently running “World’s Best Online Travel Fair!”
I can’t help beginning my write-up with the fact that the timing of this contest is eerie in its perfectness. Mere days back, the hubby and I were excitedly and very animatedly discussing where to spend our fifth anniversary (which is a whole year away, but while we are notorious procrastinators in every other sphere of life, celebration plans find us at our enthusiastic best). So, after an armchair-tour of practically the whole world, we decided that the best way to celebrate our five years of loving and hating each other would be to go back where we started – Bangkok, where we honeymooned as a naïve, love-struck and full-to-the-bursting-brim happy couple what feels like only yesterday, but is actually four topsy-turvy years back.
So, as I have already made it abundantly clear, my choice of destination would be Bangkok – the city of frivolous fun, bustling chaos, quiet exoticness, myriad colors, mind-boggling diversity, majestic silhouettes, scrumptious food and lots more. But this time, it isn’t going to be just the two of us. We will have our 2 year-old bouncing baby boy with us! So, while sketching the itinerary (my mom tersely asks where all this initiative was when I was in school), an added thing to keep in mind was to make it toddler-friendly, while not compromising on some cool grown-up fun. Like last time, the ideal trip would be spread across four days, full of things to do and lots of rest time as well, while allowing for flexibility pertaining to toddler tantrums and sleeping disorders.
Day 1: Four years back, there was no ; but this time it would be downright silly to not take advantage of its unbelievably low fares (a round trip on the cheapest domestic airline between Bangalore, where we work, and our hometown, Kolkata, costs about the same as one between Kolkata and Bangkok when you fly !).
The FD2672 lands in Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok, in the wee hours of the morning. So, we would have plenty of time to take a cab to the hotel, unwind, grab a filling breakfast and set out for the day. On the cards for the first day is Wat Arun, the majestic, glimmering temple adorning the west bank of the stunning Chao Phraya river, right in the morning when it is at its quietest. One can’t help being transported back in time at the sight of this intricately designed ‘Temple of Dawn’, with its vast structure and towering spires. After spending about forty-five minutes admiring it, we would head off to Wat Pho, which is a short ferry ride away, on the opposite bank of the river. The point of irresistible attraction here is the Reclining Buddha, gleaming golden and bright, never failing to arouse respect and awe.
Next in line is the King’s Palace (or Grand Palace), without a visit to which any Bangkok trip would remain sadly incomplete. This famous landmark is spectacular, to say the least, and witnesses throngs of tourists flowing in to admire the amazing craftsmanship reflecting off its every nook. Wat Phra Kaew, nestled in the same complex, proudly houses the beautiful Emerald Buddha, revered by the Thai people with all their hearts, and with a quick peek at the same, we would head off to lunch.
Bangkok is any foodie’s dream come true. I remember having awesome rice/noodles and curry, plus bottled water, for less than 200 bucks during our last visit. This time around too, I have every intention of gorging on the succulent grilled chicken, chilli pork, sticky rice and flat noodles, and exotic soups during our stay.
The evening will be dedicated to the place that had got us awestruck the first time – The Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak. We had never seen, not even imagined anything like it, ever. Hundreds of boats, gently swaying in the water, selling everything under the sun at one place, especially fresh vegetables and fruits. It’s one busy and happy and very, very colorful place and even if I don’t make any purchase, I would love to see it again, just for the sheer buzz of the place, if not for anything else.
Day 2: The second day, the day of the anniversary, will be spent reliving the happiest day of our honeymoon, at the Safari World. This place is a wonderland for sure, and I would love to experience it all over again. I still remember our jeep ride down the forest and us shrieking in delight every time we spotted a wild animal – tigers, lions, wild boars, elephants – a few feet away! I still smile as I think of the hilarious antics of Orang Utangs, the snow-white polar bear in its icy environment, our tentative feeding of bananas to giraffes, and grains to chirpy, colorful birds, and posing for the camera with giant macaws perched on our shoulders. But what I remember the most vividly is the unique, goosebump-evoking experience of feeding a tiger cub, and this moment is frozen for ever in our memory, apart from being proudly displayed in Orkut back then, Facebook now and in our drawing room. My son coos and jumps up and down in delight every time he spots a doggie or a moo-moo from the balcony. I can see him getting totally berserk at the sight of so many animals at one go, and I am willing to bet that he would want to bring the tiger cub home, after we are done taking a picture of him with it.
Day 3: The third day would find us headed for Siam Ocean World, which had been such a fun-filled, exciting day that I can’t wait to relive it once again. We would hold our son’s little hands and walk him down the ethereal blue 270 degree tunnel, looking up to watch 30,000 amazing sea-life from all over the world float right above us, from the deadliest predators to the cutest and meekest aquatic creatures. The next stop would be the mind-boggling display of the most bizarre, the most exotic and the most awe-inspiring specimens the marine life has to offer, transported from the waters all over the globe. I would not miss the LED-lit jelly fish display for anything, nor would I forgo a chance to say hello to the darling penguins at the Rocky Shore Zone and the otters at the Rain Forest Area. And the glass-bottomed boat ride was such an adrenaline-pumping experience that my Bangkok re-trip would remain unsatisfactory without repeating it. If my hyperactive toddler agrees to do us a favor and sit quiet for a while, we can even catch a session of the Fish Therapy, where you sit with your feet dipped in a tub and let the tiny fish gnaw away the dead cells off your feet. Hubby still reminds me how I had shrieked and giggled every other moment last time.
Siam Ocean World
Did I mention that Siam Ocean World is housed in the biggest, glitziest mall in Bangkok – Siam Paragon? It would be a crime to go all the way and come back without doing some shopping! There, apart from some cool food joints, reside the biggest (and unashamedly expensive) names in fashion, with several more affordable ones thrown in. I hope to pick up a few trendy clothes, a couple of tote bags, rompers for my kiddo, t-shirts for my hubby and a host of gifts for family and friends back home.
Day 4: The last morning, a Saturday, would be a perfect time to laze around in Chatuchak Weekend market; though, of course, ‘lazy’ is not the word that would come to anybody’s mind when they see this vibrant, buzzing place. Chatuchak Weekend Market is a place which can turn shopping-haters into dedicated shoppers and compulsive shoppers downright insane. This place has everything – and I am not exaggerating (if you look hard, you would probably find a few people selling white elephants as well!). I hope to have tremendous fun haggling, negotiating and bargaining (and embarrassing hubby in the process) and pick up some cool deals in clothes, bags, shows, home décor pieces and junk jewelry. A befitting end to the hard work would be the famous Thai Foot Massage at one of the innumerable massage centers lined up by the road. After half an hour of this bliss and a rest stop at the hotel, we would dress up for something that I have always repented missing out on during the honeymoon trip – dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya.
The luxurious cruise ships idle along the shimmering expanse of the Chao Phraya River, entertaining the guests on board with a mouth-watering dinner buffet, live music and a host of other entertainments. Friends who have experienced this ride swear that if Bangkok is splendid by day, it is no less than spectacular by night. I have especially heard how unforgettably stunning the Wat Arun looks from the ship, all lit up and glimmering. And I really can’t think of a better closing for the wonderful trip, with good food, music and a last glimpse of all the gems of the wonderful city that drew us to it a second time.
Chao Phraya River Cruise
Day 5: We either hop on to Pattaya like last time, or go ahead to enjoy the promisingly picturesque Phuket, or, head back home with , who are currently running the World’s Best Online Travel Fair.
Image courtesy: Google Images, personal file, and Air Asia