Good Things Come in Threes

Linda Lou Burton posting about Bangkok, Thailand from Little Rock, Arkansas – “Bangkok is as intoxicating as it is diverse; a melting pot of exotic aromas, interesting sights and visual delights. It is a city with infinite layers to explore.” That’s the message on the Hotel.com website, which then presents a splendid list of Things To Do in Bangkok; the choices offered put me in mind of Twelve Days of Christmas, hum that tune as you read and you’ll see what I mean!

  • 2 Days In All
  • 6 Floating Markets
  • 7 Things in Chinatown
  • 9 Things in Old Town
  • 10 Best Tours
  • 11 Best Thai Restaurants
  • 12 Night Markets
  • 20 Must See Temples
  • 21 Rooftop Bars
  • 67 Best Things

I clicked on the 67 Best link (wondering how 67 things can all be Best and thinking it should be Great instead) and read about everything from the Grand Palace to a Crocodile Farm, making special note of 11 Best (Great? Top-Notch?) Thai Restaurants. My own hotel is one of the 21 Rooftop Bars so I’m set there. I decided that #1 of the 67 really is Best, here in the “hottest capital city in the world.” You know I’d pick the Palace first.

The Grand Palace, #1

The dazzling Grand Palace is the most famous landmark in Bangkok. It was built in 1782 and for 150 years was home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. Within the palace complex is also Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains the greatly revered Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century. The Grand Palace, with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is Thailand’s most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dressed before entering the temple.

There were a few words I had to get the hang of before I began touring. I learned that “Wat” is a temple. “Stupa” is a bell-shaped tower containing a relic chamber. “Wihan” is a shrine hall that contains the principal Buddha images. Not knowing all the words doesn’t detract from the beauty of the temples, or dampen my appreciation for what they mean to those who worship there, but it’s nice to make a connection, as I did when visiting the mosques in Morocco last year, or standing in the shadow of Uluru a few days ago.

So let’s review: a wat is a temple; a stupa is a bell-shaped tower, and a wihan is a shrine hall containing Buddha images. Got it? Can you pick out the stupas?

Wat Arun. Wat Benchamabophit. Wat Phra. Wat Saket. As I read about these sacred places, which attract tourists because of their architecture and beauty, I tried to narrow my visits to just one more. But how to choose? If you can’t do it all, Hotel.com suggests a sunset dinner cruise to see the temples along the river; Wat Arun looks magical, illuminated against the night sky.

Chao Phraya: The River of Kings, #2

You know I love rivers. My hotel room overlooks this river, and has restaurants beside this river. I will get on this river, likely in several different ways. There are ferries and tour boats and longtail boats that even go to the canals. This river, named by King Rama I, is the lifeblood of Bangkok. Around 50,000 people use the ferries to get around each day. Slow cargo barges coast upstream. Kids frolic in the russet-brown water. Wooden shacks lurch over the riverbanks. Soaring hotels hem in solemn temples. Wooden sampans sell noodle soup to hungry river workers. It is calm and chaotic, modern and traditional, religious and secular, ugly and sublime, foreign and indigenous. I will enjoy the Chao Phraya every day I’m in Bangkok.

Siam Niramit, #3

Billed as one of the largest stage productions in the world, Siam Niramit brings back the glorious past of Thailand with a spectacular 90-minute show. The colossal 2,000-seat Ratchada Theatre’s stage occupies more than half the theater space, built to accommodate the show’s monumental set pieces and a legion of performers, including real elephants and goats, recreating the ambience of Siam. The show covers 700 years of Thai history, structured in 3 acts: Journey Back into History, Journey Beyond Imagination: The Three Realms, and Journey Through Joyous Festivals. The Siam Niramit compound houses the theater, a miniature Thai village, and a restaurant; it’s decked in contemporary Thai style with small salas (gazebos); you can also feed the elephants!

Those are my Top Three choices. I will never make it to 67.

PS Those 11 Best Thai Restaurants? More numbers.

  1. Baan Home Cuisine, real Thai family cooking, Chef Ton brought recipes from his childhood, traditional ingredients and cuisine.
  2. Bo.Lan Restaurant, recognized for many years as one of the best Thai restaurants in Bangkok, not your everyday local eatery.
  3. Issaya Siamese Club is a 100-year-old house in the middle of a luscious green garden; exceptional service and the culinary flair of Chef Ian Kittichai.
  4. Long Table, for appetizers 5 deep-fried tiger prawns lined up in a row, served on a fried betel leaf, with crispy, browned lemongrass sprinkled on top, distinctly Thai.
  5. Nahm Restaurant, Thai cuisine prepared according to ancient recipes,  a Michelin-star chef.
  6. Saffron at Banyan Tree, high above the city on the 52nd floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel, fantastic views, delicious food.
  7. Sala Rim Naam at the Mandarin Oriental, amazing riverside location, legendary Mandarin Oriental service, truly great food.
  8. Steve Café and Cuisine, riverside location with no tall buildings blocking the view, old-fashioned wooden boats passing by, very Thai food, quality ingredients.
  9. Supanniga Eating Room, an old shophouse with outside terrace, owner Eh serves traditional Thai dishes from his grandmother’s recipes.
  10. Thanying Royal Cuisine, fresh ingredients, elegant presentation, set in a charming classic house with a small shaded terrace on the side.
  11. The House Of Smooth Curry, traditional Thai dishes, service and food quality are 5-star but the atmosphere is unstuffy.

Can you possibly pick just three?