Bangkok Shopping Skybars Hedonistic Paradise
Bangkok – sultry, sweaty, blissful, exciting, in the heart of Asia. What more can a destination have, as a stopover to or from NZ? Being born in Penang, Malaysia, we'd visited Bangkok before my stroke and after.
We only had a short stopover. With more time, we could do so many activities, sightseeing, ...and the customary shop, shop, shop till you drop. It’s incredibly humid here but and it's supposed to have monsoonal rain soon and I can feel the temperature rising. Being the wet season gave me cause for concern – however hopefully it would be dry during our very short stay. We had so little time and so many attractions; which were the ones to do this time round?
Try the tallest building in Bangkok? The Baiyoke Tower attraction, 2nd tallest building in Bangkok, for a tour. Otherwise called Baiyoke Sky Hotel, tallest hotel in South East Asia, one tour offered the Observation Deck plus exotic fruits of the Asia. Tropical fresh, seasonal fruits, durian, mangosteen, rambutans. We were tempted...
At Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the floating market at the hotel is a novel idea... being in a landlocked hotel. The highest floating market in Thailand, the flavoursome meals on the boats it is an authentic theme, at the Baiyoke. It is a feast of the eyes and tummy. Back to reality, to the question of Baiyoke Sky Hotel. Located on the 83rd floor, floor-to-ceiling windows provide guests with stunning views of the city, sophisticated drinks and snacks – should we go?
Looking at the list of Skybars; at least 20 were named as the top Open-Air Skybars in Bangkok - we only had a few days to spare. At last, we'd decided; shopping in the daytime, at dusk every night we'd try a rooftop skybars – that's a plan.
Shopping is one of the main reasons for making a Bangkok stopover. When we had previously been to Bangkok, these were hip, trendy, cool; too many establishments and shopping centres to choose from. Vintage boutiques, trendy cafes, art galleries and great food.
Central World is the largest megamall in Thailand. Trendy fashion icons Timberland, Zara, MNG... it has also an open-air skating rink, in the heat of Bangkok! PAUL Boulangerie is one of the many eating places in Central World, although it has the look and feel of an upper class Parisian cafe rather than an average food stall. The food was excellent, with servings quite large and service very helpful and quick. Authentically French? - the patisseries were decadent so in our opinion it's a big yes.
Siam Paragon is very popular with young, well-heeled clientelle. Incredibly massive, seen-to-be-seen shopping theatre, right at the heart of Bangkok, anchored by the Paragon department store. Though, perhaps not as immense as Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Durban, largest mall in Africa, Gateway Theatre of Shopping is also the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere. Or colossal The Dubai Mall, largest in the world, Siam Paragon was substantial enough for my 'gait' to handle.
Spread over many floors, Siam Paragon's glass, steel, chrome, shiny and new, very opulent, has all the classy brands like Prada, Jimmy Choo, Versace, Balenciaga. Luxury cars had pride of place on one floor; jaw-dropping price-tags and display of Aston Martin, Bentley, to name a few. IMAX theatre, Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium and more.
There was a crush of humanity waiting for the lights to change, outside. Duty policemen liven up the day, when they pheep-pheep on their whistle to move the traffic along, at every junction in the centre of town; like a sea of ants; noisy.. As with all of Asia's culture, there is always the other end of the spectrum. Outside this epitome of excellence of the ultra-privileged, there is another side to Bangkok.
Street hawkers had set up shops, on the pavements alongside and outside of other genuine shops: flower-sellers, merchandising knickers and bras, T-shirts aplenty, watches and knock-off designer bags, food-sellers and hawkers in the make-do gas canisters or charcoal burners, to cook or heat up. Suddenly they were there, every day of the week …wheeling in rack upon rack of clothes-on-hangers, where did they all come from? They were congregating at empty space, as the night markets starts its business, competition reigns supreme. Fragrance of delicious dishes perfumes the air from food sellers doing a roaring trade.
And then... the rains of Shambala came; it'd been threatening all afternoon. The roadways suddenly were gushing with one foot of water, the drains unable to cope with the onslaught of the rain. Umbrellas were little use, as it was nearly horizontal rain, and blowing a gale. Outside the big shopping complex were cleaners and maintenance staff with rolled-up trousers sweeping the rain from the footpath and gleaming marble tiles. Welcome to the Bangkok's monsoon.
Platinum Shopping Mall prides itself in being the largest wholesale mall in Bangkok. If you are bargain mad, going clothes-crazy, Platinum should be among the favoured things to do in Bangkok. The excitement of rows upon rows of jostling clientelle, cheek by jowl in the thousands of shoplettes, who could fault it. Pratunam, name from the past - famous outdoor market in Bangkok that specializes in wholesale fabrics, clothing, and plenty of fake branded goods. Crowds of tourists from the world over, Pratunam as their choice destination? – we certainly did a long time ago..
Unending streams of locals and tourists clamour the pathways, pavements and side-streets. Always going somewhere in a hurry, it seems like. There are taxis, private cars, buses, sky-trains (BTS, MRT, and Airport link), and motorbike-taxi.
And of course, the ubiquitous tuk-tuks. Motorized rickshaws, tuk-tuks brought the solution to Bangkok's transport necessity around 1960. Safely requirements? We've seen half-a-dozen piled into a single tuk-tuk, grandkids, dog, shopping and all. The tuk-tuk driver are fiends on the roads, alleyways, even cutting through traffic stopped in multiple queues waiting for traffic-lights to change. .. because they can!
For locals in central Bangkok, school kids, students, tourists... walking: above ground? The Bangkok Skywalk is an elevated footpath or sidewalk which joins many of Bangkok's shopping malls. It's unlikely you'd wear high heels if going out for a serious shopping expedition, you'd almost certainly do damage to your ankles if trying to walk on Bangkok's normal sidewalks on ground level - they can definitely be bettered. There are holes, uneven slabs, motorbikes, hawkers and any number of obstacles which making walking a trial. Even more so for one who has already gait challenges.
The skywalk on the other hand, is very wide, clean and usable. There are many signs to direct you to a hotel, or to a shrine, Central World, Siam Paragon shopping theatres, etc. It is a haven from the hot sun and rain and you do get to see what other people miss if they are on ground level.
There are shrines and altars all over Bangkok - the Erawan Shrine is a Hindu shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, that houses a statue, of the Brahma God was especially cast and gilded. During our previous visits to Bangkok, we were treated to the joyful celebration of a graceful Thai Classical Dance troupe performances, while we were on the Skywalk, at night looking down.
Street food in Bangkok? The man the sold pad Thai on your street corner in pre-2000's, very cheaply, was getting harder to find. He was one of the 4 or 5 hawkers that do a brisk trade, wind blew embers from his fire, every night. The tables were fold-up-able, metal stools, drinks corner where you went to for cokes, beers. They congregate now at night markets with open-air hawkers.
Like the days of Penang (Malaysia) food culture, open-air. You can get them at now at food hawker centres, either open-air or enclosed in Penang, but possibly a more sanitised version. In Bangkok, the ones in the modern shopping complexes are easily accessible. In the good ole days, taste-heaven with those perky, fragrant, piquant flavours, or now, food is everywhere; you just had to know where to find them. Cheap, fresh and delicious flavour of lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, done just right. And the Thai desserts are sublime.
As the day dims to dusk; Skybars abound...
Situated above the chaotic bedlam of people, traffic, shopping; the cool and chic hotel makes an extremely convenient location for those staying in Pratunam. For which we can vouch, as we escaped from a day’s shopping into the hotel. A very relaxed Skybar with enough good views of the city, at an easy, central location. Added bonus, an amazing view of Baiyoke Sky Hotel, as well.
Drinks were reasonably priced, bar snacks and dinner at the open-air restaurant, or private dining room and I thought that this was a very cool expanse – great ambiance and space to unwind, if rather casual.
The tall tales of Hollywood invasion, and skyscrapers, that had me thinking of ...skybars...? State Tower, what was so special about it? Bangkok's 4th tallest structure, and the scene of the hit movie Hangover Part II – ah-ha! Suspended on a precipitous overhang, 820 feet in the air, the Sky Bar is one of the highest rooftop bar in the world.
Now this makes sense. Enjoying a glamorous cocktail in a sumptuous location, high up in the heavens could be ultimate chic. Dizzy heights, enough to cause vertigo... oops, that's another skybar, which we didn't have the opportunity to visit this time round.
When the taxi drops you at Lebua at State Tower, the building is immense, almost larger than life like the things of movie special effects made true. Lebua at State Tower has received worldwide recognition and numerous prestigious awards for fine dining and iconic rooftop bars.
At the Sky Bar's at Lebua, the legendary Hangovertini which was created for the cast of The Hangover Part II while they were filming at Lebua, was definitely a drawcard. But more so was the location of the stunning Dome that's lit up when night falls – it is breath-taking and quite surreal. Everybody wanted photos of thi sensational movie location! And then the dazzling, multi-coloured magnet that is the island skybar...let's P-A-R-T-Y...
One flight up from Sky Bar on the 64th floor, and with even more stunning views, is Distil: Bangkok's highest bar. Both the Skybar Rooftop at Lebua, and Distil, overlook the river and have an unparalleled 360 degree vista of Bangkok - it is absolutely stunning.
This location is an absolute must-do for a sundowner cocktail, with most incredible, impressive white Dome as the backdrop, because it reminded me of an ancient cupola somewhere in Greece. Definitely one of our favourites.
The Red Sky, the night after, at Centara Grand at Central World. Have you heard about the abseiling bar staff, sommeliers, going about their frenetic work pouring drink after drink at the counter? Then when they run out of a particular wine, they abseil up to the heavens to get another bottle. What? No-one does this... do they? I had to see this for myself.
Another grand entrance, and another express lift that gravitates from level 0 (ground) to level 55, in seconds. And...oh my! - what a vista! Conveniently perched high above the glittering cityscape at Centara Grand Hotel at Central World, a fantabulous shopping centre, it has views of views of Pratunam and Siam areas.
The staff were very concerned to see my leg brace at the skybar, and everything was done to my stay-at-their-establishment pleasant. Much like the Lebua Skybar staff who were very attentive when seeing my gait and guided me along with Murray, to their deep seats to enjoy the environment and ambiance. The Red Sky rooftop bar is ultra-chic, al fresco, popular with locals, as well as tourists; it has a fantastic location.
The gigantic structure in the shape of a huge 'A', unmistakeable in the night sky, was lit up when dusk fell. We were just in time, and it is a kaleidoscope of colours, merging hue after hue; great live music with supercool DJ.
Panoramic 360 degrees, we saw Baiyoke Skytower from a distance, the people on the streets, they seemed like a myriad of very tiny ants. The huge, open-air, 'A', like a vari-coloured arch, enclosed an intimate space where visitors were having a quiet tete-a-tete, or a romantic dinner.
And... the abseiling sommeliers? - wine angels I've heard them called. A stylish glass staircase winds sinuously down to the floor below, and lit up with mysterious, alluring, cobalt-blue lights. Over two stories high, the lofty cellar is a giant column of translucent glass that houses the wine-bottles, like pearls of liquid ambrosia. It is called a wine cellar, but perhaps it is more of a wine tower. Temperature controlled, the wine is sourced from all over the world. Over 300 different labels to choose from, 3000 bottles in total, the wine angels do abseil up into the ether and miraculously bring down your required bottle. It was really bizarre but very cool!
Well, it was hi and bye for us. A revisit to Bangkok is definitely on the cards.