What’s in Bangkok for a Filipino traveler?
We hear about Bangkok. We hear about Thailand, but what’s to see when you’re from Manila or the Philippines? What’s to consider when visiting Bangkok as a Filipino?
Last July 2017, I stayed at Bangkok for four (4) days and three (3) nights. My parents attended a homecoming reunion hosted by one of my father’s college batchmates from Thailand.
I have a knack on going with loved ones and friends on trips. I do this so I can spend time with them and benefit from the discount you get with group travels. Alternatively, I do clueless commuting (like my solo Japan trip last November 2016).
Too bad I wasn’t geared for this. I don’t have words enough to explain how Bangkok is ‘THE’ place to be if you want to go for a wardrobe overhaul. Converted to Philippine Pesos, you can get fashion finds for as low as PhP 300. All this already with the quality, fabric and style as what I see in Forever 21 stores.
Their fabric, cloth quality and cut are refined craftsmanship. They are comfortable to wear. They have the flair. They set the trends (you see in Manila). The clothes are flattering.
If I get to visit Bangkok, Thailand again, I’ll make sure to save up and bring home an enormous amount of fashion finds with half the cost.
If you plan to shop in Thailand, You can check out Platinum Shopping Mall .Forget about shopping in Hong-Kong or Korea if you have been there. Bangkok. Is. The. Real. Thing.
Soap, Incense, Essential Oils
As Thailand is teeming with fresh produce, byproducts created also abound. Soaps, dried fruit incense, oils and balms are sold in bulk. Bring them to Manila and you’ll think your home as spa when you get back.
Compared to Manila, branded Bangkok outlets sell on discounted prices and sometimes are a bit cheaper– this is even after you convert to Pesos. There are also stocks and styles that are far newer than those available in Manila.
Once in a while, I still think of that preppy Swatch watch priced somewhere around PhP 2500 . I haven’t seen it anywhere here and if it does, it could range somewhere around PhP 3000-PhP 5000.
Near to 50% of Thailand’s population are entrepreneurs. This means they usually own their small-medium businesses in Thailand.
As it was, I even brought back a handcrafted local fancy watch as a souvenir I found at a local shopping center. Compared to our local China quality goods, those sold in Thailand stalls were refined and pleasant to look at.
2. Food Trip
Thai’s food is a part of their daily routine. They’re usually a mix of sweet, chili, spicy, and sour experiences all at the same time.
The same goes true with street food in markets and city centers. You can pick anything, and it will be priced amply as when you’re in Metro Manila, or sometimes even cheaper, while still set in a very inviting manner.
4. Curry & Spices
One of the best things about Thai food is their wide variety of flavors. Being only a gulf accross India, and a land travel to the middle east, it’s no wonder they share a lot of trade goods, which includes curry and spices.
Being in Metro Manila, does not usually bring you a chance to taste something as vast. When I look back, I can still savor the flavour and the experience it brought during our stay. There’s one particular dish: The Thai Green Curry, which does not have an equivalent to the usual food available here.
So, as part of my experience, I made sure to bring home spices and curry at home. I liked Thai’s green curry the best. This way, I will enjoy the memory and the taste a little longer when I cook one of this week’s meals.
5. Milk Tea
Thailanders are somewhat big on milk tea. There’s even packed teas sold on groceries, one in Thai Tea in particular is called Chatramue. It’s imported globally and has been a well known brand since 1945.
I drink milk tea. I’ve been intentionally trying tea places around Metro Manila for a time now. Which is my favorite? I’m still on the move for the best one.
What I have learned however is, milk teas make a good pairing with spicy food because it alleviates the sting chilis bring.
In Thailand, most of their dishes are mixed with chili. Milk tea and milk products bind well with the compound that makes chilis hot. This makes it easier to wash the hot sensation away. This pairing is also observable with Indian cuisine where spices are prevalent.
What’s more, Milk teas are sold cheaply for as low as somewhere around P45 in train stations and thorough-ways. I made sure I did not miss this, as a milk tea drinker myself.
2. Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Apart from being a foodtrip capital, when you’re in Thailand, don’t miss this their fruits and vegetables. If you live healthy or you’re into dieting in general, Bangkok will bring you joy. It’s teeming with centralized fresh quality produce. Fruits in Bangkok are also priced in an all time low.
My parents enjoyed every bit of our trip because Bangkok’s cultural cuisine always consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can easily tell how Thai people are being well fed and healthy. Majority of them are lean, due to their healthy diet.
What’s more, Bangkok has this gigantic harvest central marketplace. As a local reference, each market section is the size of a City of Dreams building in Pasay City. It was amazing.
As a tourist, it’s conceivable that their central government is making sure their food distribution is effective while every Thai-lander has adequate healthy food to eat.
6. Buddhist Temples & Ancient Ruins
We’re mainly a Catholic country. We are used to religious sites that are made of historic Spanish architecture.
When you visit Thailand, however, their central religious sites are roofed in gold. They also have a fusion of Hindu and Chinese religious architecture which is a cultural heritage on its own. This is something you should definitely spot away from your usual Filipino grind.
The same goes true with their royal shrines and government estates. We were able to visit Thailand’s Summer palace. Its the royal family’s estate where they spend the hot summer months.
During the trip, we were also able to drop by one of UNESCO’s Top 10 sites at the Historic City of Ayutthaya. Here, Siamese ruins from 1350’s meld the present and the past in one place.
I made sure I touched those olden bricks. They somewhat bring me a feeling I was looking into the past. It’s a similar feeling I had when I visited Kyoto in November 2016.
7. Beauty, Wellness & Cosmetic Surgery
One of the common stories we know locally are our kababayans visiting Bangkok for certain cosmetic procedures. Think Vicky Belo’s business in a national demand. This one’s very true.
My cousin, who now works there, shares that even their elite highschool students go to cosmetic procedures for as low as a PhP20,000 equivalent. A professional’s month-worth of wages.
There’s also a recognizable discount on cosmetics and beauty products. Comparing it in Manila, price difference can range up to a hundred. One factor: first world countries like the UK or Japan source their manufacturing in Thailand. This similarly affects products such as those in fashion and retail.
8. Industrialization & Architecture
As I was able to visit Tokyo, I can’t help but think that Thailand is setting its base with it’s trajectory being like Tokyo eventually. Humongous buildings are lonely constructed on the outskirts of the main thoroughways. They were not just high but also boulder like buildings.
Highways and interchanges have also been set in advance before the bulk of buildings start sprawling. Nonetheless, traffic is just as heavily bad. The massive population concentration in the city center makes midnight car queues observable.
9. Progressive Asian Blueprint
Compared to Metro Manila’s current progression, we are knots far away from Thailand by now. I have heard stories, how in the 80’s, Philippines used to be ahead our Asian neighbors. This is not the case anymore.
In Thailand, industrialization and progression has already run far from what we know at home (Philippines). As a tourist, if I were to score the Asian countries I am familiar with, it would somewhat look like this:
Industrialization and Personal Progress Scores
Philippines – 1/100
Thailand – 30/100
Hong-Kong – 50/100
Tokyo, Japan – 100/100
Of course, these are relative ratings based on what’s only visible to me as a guest, while also having Philippines as a reference.
Meanwhile, no progress comes with its social challenges. Relating it to home (Philippines), they are almost similar. Thailand has it own economic and political issues. It’s always something to look out as a country grows bigger.
10. Economic Zoning
Lastly, here’s one of the most memorable things you have to see before landing in Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok. It’s a view only available through skyscape. If you can, book a flight that still allows daylight.
Thailand has a breath taking economic zoning skyscape. It’s something that’s even more awe-striking than Japan.
I think, this is mainly because, Thailand has well-built a centralized economic system. Vast lands are properly zoned and aligned. Well-partitioned farmlands, container yards, and factories: Goods are systematically assigned as to where they are produced, stored, shipped, and then distributed to the country and overseas.
I will have to go back
There were also experiences during our trip that were awkward. I can list some on a separate post which could include topics such as: rude mishaps, animal cruelty, traffic (let’s not even go there for now), and socio-economic challenges.
But overall, for Thailand, I will have to go back.
Right now, I’m even thinking of hoarding fashion finds when I get back.