#HipsterTravel: Bangkok, Thailand

As a girl, traveling alone is almost like a taboo, especially in my culture. My parents & family are not an exception, but at least, over time, I proved that they could trust me and eventually they gave me the freedom that I worked hard for. Traveling to Bali or Singapore alone has become somewhat normal for me, but to go to Bangkok on my own, was an ill-received news to my parents at first, but I managed to convince them that I'd be safe, and that I have a friend in Bangkok whom I could rely on, in case of anything.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Bangkok in the present (as of the time now I'm writing this post), is a vibrant metropolitan, with so many new hipster cafes and restaurants, shopping malls, excellet street food, as well as home to the current Asia's number 1 restaurant on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. It's a shopping heaven for bargain hunters, but a living hell for those who have traffic jams and crowded places. The red light district is obvious and the ladies or katoey (ladyboys) would come out pretty early, but they're pretty much benign as long as you mind your own business and be polite. A clubbing heaven for the partygoers. It's pretty much like Jakarta, but more fun and slightly less traffic jam, in my personal opinion.

To get to Bangkok, you would either arrive at Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang Airport. For this trip, I arrived at Suvarnabhumi, which was quite far in the outskirts of Bangkok. Then I took a taxi to the city center, where my hotel is. Do take note that taxi passengers will be required to pay the airport fee of THB 50 and a toll fee of THB 25, not yet including the accumulated charge on the taxi meter. So, don't be surprised or fret when the driver asks for this money.

It seems that, when visiting Bangkok, there are a few mandatory places of interest that a traveller must visit, in order to be able to claim that they've indeed been to Bangkok, such as visiting the Palace, the temples (Wat Arun and such), taking the river cruise, etc. I've done those a few years back, when I visited Thailand for the first time. So for the recent trip I did, I could focus on other face and parts of the city. In this (rather long) post, I'm going to share with you what are the things (to do, to eat, to visit) that I consider to be un-mainstream.

1. Travel the city by BTS Train
Hipster Bangkok for Hipster Travellers (www.culinarybonanza.com)
View of downtow Bangkok from Chong Nonsi BTS station
The last thing you want to happen is to be stuck helplessly in a traffic jam during Bangkok's peak hours, which is in the afternoon, after office hours. It's true that there will be slight congestion at the station, with so many people trying to buy the one-time use ticket at the machine, people queuing to change for coins (so make sure you come with at least THB 100 worth of coins) as well as at the train platform. But one thing amazes me, is that even at the platform, people would form a neat queue by the doors. This is something which I didn't even see in the super neat Singapore. So, Bangkok, once again, you amazed me! Traveling with BTS also presents a great and an eye-opening opportunity to observe the urban landscape of the sprawling mega city, as the various lines criss-cross over different parts, as such, you would see everything, from brand new skyscrapers, to the slum housing areas. 
BTS Station in Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
The long queue at the BTS skytrain platform during peak hours
BTS Station in Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
On the contrary, this is what BTS looks like during the day

2. Stay at a smart hotel
Smart hotel in Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express, Smart hotel for smart hipster travellers
A smart hotel does not mean that you'll be deprived of all the luxuries of comfort during your stay, if you know where to look. In fact, a smart hotel means that you get all the necessary comfort during your stay, but with some self-service elements, which actually lowers the cost of your stay. During my quick trip, I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sathorn and Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11. Both are chain hotels by the world renowned Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), which also has other brands from ultra luxury to smart hotels like Holiday Inn Express (HIEX). I've already share in great details about HIEX Bangkok Sathorn (click here to see the full post) and so, this time round, I'll show you what HIEX Sukhumvit 11 is like:
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Lobby and lobby lounge
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
The restaurant next to the lobby
HIEX Sukhumvit 11 is situated at the hook juncture, at the end of Sukhumvit 11 street, so there are 2 entrance to the lobby. It's a modern lobby, and right next to it, is the restaurant where hotel guests have their smart buffet breakfast. I was lucky to get the room at the short corridor end on the high floor, so the view outside my window is a lovely sight overlooking the busy Sukhumvit 11. Besides that, my 24 sqm room was also quite spacious, with a sofa next to the bed.
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
view from my room
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Breakfast is a simple affair here (do not expect a sprawling feast like in 5 star hotels) and everything is self-service.
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11 (www.culinarybonanza.com)

For complete address, see Directory at the end of this post.

3. Get lost inside Chatuchak Weekend Market, find your way out and then get lost again!
Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.culinarybonanza.com)
If there's a place on earth that I would happily get lost in, it would be Chatuchak. It's a paradise for bargain hunter like me! You can find literally anything here, if you know where to look, or if you know your way around this sprawling maze of stalls and makeshift tents. But be careful about the heat, during the day, when the sun is high, the sweltering heat will stop even the most enthusiastic shoppers.

So, some of my personal advice to prep you for Chatuchak:
- Bring enough cash, because finding an ATM in this maze is just not worth the waste of time.
- Always keep track of what you have purchased, or you'll end up wondering why you're left with an empty wallet at the end of the day, aka the Chatuchak syndrome, because things are so cheap!
- Come with a face towel (you will sweat a lot, I'll promise) or a handheld fan
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated
- If you are so bad with direction, just follow the main street, that's uncovered and where you'll find plenty of attraction along it. This street will eventually lead you to the main exit nearest to the BTS station, Mo Chit.
Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Heaven for wood stuff, utensils & spices
Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Coconut ice cream with 3 choice of toppings THB 35
Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Chicken Pad Thai THB 120
Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.culinarybonanza.com)
My hipster chatuchak finds!! >,<"

4. Sign up for a Muay Thai class
RSM Muay Thai Academy (www.culinarybonanza.com)
RSM Muay Thai Academy (www.culinarybonanza.com)
If you do muay thai back at home, why not try it at the place where the martial art was born? I was initially unsure if there would be a place that offers a one-time muay thai class for beginners and a tourist like me (which means the coach has to be able to speak basic English). But lucky my friend who's living in Bangkok found a place, it's the RSM or Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy. A day pass would set you back THB 550 (means you can stay here all day, if you can and want to!). Due to lack of time, I only stayer and you'll be taught the basics in muay thai. It is a class after all, so you'll be taking turns for a quick private punching sessions with the coach. But it was well worth the experience.

For complete address, see Directory at the end of this post.

5. Eat to your heart's content, from street food to Asia's Best Restaurant, give them all a try!
Mango Sticky Rice (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Mango Sticky Rice at the street side THB 80
What I notice about the cafes & restaurants in Bangkok, is that they serve complimentary mineral water for any order, which is a good thing and so unlike Jakarta, where they'll charge about 10x the retail price of mineral water. Bangkok is also crazy about Japanese food, there's practically a place selling Japanese food, from street side small sushi kiosk, to high end restaurants.

Here are some of the mention-worthy restaurants / cafes that I visited and dined at:
Shio Yoshoku Cafe & Restaurant (www.culinarybonanza.com)

Shio Yoshoku Cafe & Restaurant
After looking for Shio Yoshoku at Ari for quite a while (the location on Google Maps was misleading duh!), we finally found it! We came all the way here to try the infamous Caramel Rare Cheesecake: very smooth texture and light cheesecake, with caramel juice that flows out like a golden river. Besides that, we also tried the Carbonara Pizza and actually really liked it! Thankfully, now you need not to look for Shio Yoshoku with much trouble, because they've opened at EmQuartier, Bangkok's newest high end shopping mall.

Gaggan - Progressive Indian Cuisine (www.culinarybonanza.com)

Gaggan - Progressive Indian Cuisine (blogged, see full post here)
My trip to Thailand was confirmed after the 2015 Asia's 50 Best list was announced and the name Gaggan from Thailand, topped the list. Naturally, I wouldn't waste my trip and made an effort to secure a table for myself during my short trip. Here, you would be served Gaggan's personal recreation of some of his favourite childhood street food in India in small, (some are single-bite) servings. There were 3 set menus to choose from, choices of THB 1,800 (15 items) / THB 2,000 (16 items) / THB 4,000 (20 items). PS: secure your table early, by calling the restaurant, the helpful staff speaks and understands English and she was helpful in helping me secure a last minute table there.

Roast Coffee & Eatery (www.culinarybonanza.com)

Roast Coffee & Eatery (blogged, see full post here)
I fell in love with Roast at first sight, firstly, the modern clean decor and interior of the whole place with beautiful natural lighting that come from the glass walls. I already got a good vibe from just being there. And in general, the crowd that flocks to Roast seem to be knowledgeable coffee drinkers. And then i saw the menu and that was the end of my cool & composed facade. It was literally the first time I saw a hybrid of menu/kinfolk (notice I didn't use magazine here). Another reason I fell head over heels for Roast is the food. Looking at the menu, i can attest that the food served here is as solid as the coffee it served.

Salt Aree (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Salt at Aree, is a heaven for hipster souls looking to escape the hustle bustle of main Bangkok areas. Citing its website, Salt is a wine and cocktail bar, as well a restaurant that offers both Japanese and Western fares such as sushi, sashimi, wood-fired pizza and French cuisine. The place itself is divided between indoor and outdoor areas. This place is definitely highly recommended, I'll share in greater detail about this cafe soon. 

Jim's Burgers & Beers (www.culinarybonanza.com)

Jim's Burgers & Beers
We stumbled upon this place after having dinner at Salt, it's a very small & casual shop-house located in the neighborhood of Aree, which you would probably miss, unless you look for it intentionally, or live in the area. This place is a heaven for beer lovers, because it has all sorts of beers and ciders, bottled or draft. To accompany the beers, Jim serves comfort food: burgers, chicken wings, sandwiches, etc. I had a bottle of Brother's Toffee Apple Cider and it was lovely!

Dean & Deluca @Mahanakhon (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Pain au Chocolate THB 75
Dean & Deluca @Mahanakhon
Mahanakhon is located just across the main street from where I stayed, Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sathorn (access by crossing the BTS overpass). The trendy cafe and gourmet supplies store from New York at MahaNakhon Cube, is said to be the largest flagship store in Asia, with a floor for the gourmet store alone and a mezza nine floor dedicated for the cafe / restaurant/ To me, it was like entering a wonderland of gourmet food!

For complete addresses of the above, see Directory at the end of this post.

6. (Not so hipster, but it's hard to resist anyway) Shop 'til you drop
Like there's any need for me to suggest this anyway...LMFAO. Bangkok is practically jam-packed with shopping malls, almost every BTS station is connected or within walking distance to some sort of a mall or a plaza. There's no shortage of places to go or things to buy. On my recent trip, I went to EmQuartier, Bangkok's latest high end shopping mall, just across from another high end shopping mall, The Emporium. The good thing is, both are accessible via BTS skytrain (Phrom Phong station). If you're looking for your cheap fashion fix, there's no better place than Platinum Fashion Mall or MBK.
MBK Shopping Mall (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Wholesale or retail shopping, find bargain stuffs in the comfort of a shopping mall at MBK
Hipster Bangkok for Hipster Travellers (www.culinarybonanza.com)
The shiny brand new mall in Bangkok
I'm so happy that pretty soon, I'll be back in Bangkok again. After which, I will update this post again, with even more hipster activities, which I had not managed to do yet in this trip, due to lack of time. There are a few things on my Bangkok bucket list such as running at Lumphini Park, visiting the flower market (Talad Rod Fai), and a handful others. Hope this post could be useful and help make your experience in Bangkok a less typical one ;)
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Love the spacious boarding lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Hipster Bangkok for Hipster Travellers (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Until we meet again, Bangkok!


1. Holiday Inn Express Sukhumvit 11
30 Sukhumvit Soi 11
Wattana, Bangkok - 10110
Ph: +662 1194777
Click here to open in Maps
Nearest BTS Station: Nana
Instagram: @HolidayInnExpressAMEA
Twitter: @HIExpress
Facebook: Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sukhumvit 11

2. Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sathorn
51 Soi Pipat, Silom, Bangrak
Bangkok - 10500
Ph: +66 26602800
Nearest BTS Station: Chong Nonsi
Facebook: Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Sathorn

3. RSM Muay Thai Academy
Jasmine City Hotel, 2nd Floor
Sukhumvit 23
Bangkok - 10110
Ph: +66 21852384
Click here to open in Maps
Nearest BTS station: Asok
Instagram: @RSM_Academy
Facebook: RSM Academy (Muay Thai)

4. Shio Yoshoku Cafe & Restaurant
127 Sukhumvit 49
Bangkok 10110
Ph: +66 26628378
Click here to open in Maps
Facebook: SHIO Yōshoku Café & Restaurant

5. GAGGAN - Progressive Indian Cuisine
68/1 Soi Langsuan
Ploenchit Road - Lumpini
Bangkok, Thailand 10330
Ph: +66 26521700
Click here to open in Maps
Facebook: Gaggan
Instagram: @Gaggan
Twitter: @GagganBangkok

6. Roast Coffee & Eatery @EmQuartier
1st floor, The Helix Quartier, EmQuartier
BTS Phrom Phong Station
Ph: +66 941763870
Click Here to open in Maps
Instagram: @RoastBKK
Facebook: ROAST

7. Salt
Corner Soi Ari 4
Phaholyothin 7, Samsen Nai
Phaya Thai, Bangkok
Ph: +66 26196886
OPEN HOURS: 5 pm - midnight (daily)
Click here to open in Maps
Facebook: SALT AREE

8. Jim's Burgers & Beers, Aree
148 Rama 6 Soi 30
Sam Sen Nai, Bangkok - 10400
Ph: +66 20009585
Click here to open in Maps
OPEN HOURS: 5 pm - midnight (daily)
Facebook: JIM's Burgers & Beers

9. Dean & Deluca @Mahanakhon Cube
96 Narathiwas Road
Silom, Bangrak
Ph: +66 22341434
Click here to open in Maps
Nearest BTS station: Chong Nonsi
Facebook: Dean & Deluca Mahanakhon Bangkok
Instagram: @DeanDeluca_Thailand

For live and regular updates,
stalk my Instagram: @ellynatjohnardi


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