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BANGKOK'S TOP EXPERIENCES
By Lauren Kramer
For Travel Writers' Tales

The city of Bangkok teems with relentless activity, from traffic jams that make the Lower Mainland's rush-hour roads look like a breeze, to street vendors making dentures and repairing clothing. Feel like having a fried pomfret fish or a plate of pad thai? The street is the place to find it, for next to nothing in price. On every corner Thai culture is palpable - you see it, inhale it and feel its frenetic activity all around you. It can get overwhelming - so here's our list of top activities in the city.

Feed your feet to the fish: Chances are you've eaten many a fish. In this experience, the tables, for once, are turned, as the fish get a good meal at your expense. Fish spas consist of large tanks occupied by hundreds of hungry Garra Rufa and Honey fish imported from Turkey. The foot treatment involves dipping your feet and legs into the tank and watching as the fish swarm and nibble on your dead skin cells, leaving your skin smoother and healthier in the process. It's daunting at first, ticklish next and a very cool experience once the sensitivity wears off! Cost: $5 for 15 minutes' immersion.

Surrender to a Thai massage: The many massage parlors that dot the city are visitors' favorite respites from the constant stimulation of the street. For less than $10 any number of blissful, hour-long treatments is possible, from back massages to scalp, foot and leg treatments. The Thai masseuses we encountered were experts at delivering therapeutic relaxation. Given the affordability of the treatments, it's easy to justify succumbing to their hands on a daily basis for a series of treatments that rejuvenate, comfort and energize road-weary limbs. Average Cost: $8

Shop Chatuchak: Chatuchak Market is Thailand's largest weekend market, a 35-acre warren densely populated with some 8,000 vendors. The goods are diverse, ranging from Thai handicrafts to silk table runners, fresh coconuts to live animals. Every price is highly negotiable, so arrive with patience, comfortable walking shoes and a sense of fun. Come also with the awareness that at the prices you'll pay here, the goods you'll return home with will not be the highest of quality. We purchased wooden spoons, kids' watches, pashminas, wallets and flip flops. With a few exceptions, most of the items broke after their first few uses. Still, the fun is in the shopping! The heat in Bangkok is searing so break frequently, drink lots of water, indulge in the freshly sliced fruit and juices and haggle with a sweet smile.

Ride a khlong boat on the Chao Phraya River: Khlong boats look like prehistoric vessels as they plough the muddy waters of the Chao Phraya. But there's nothing dated about their engines, which move these boats and their passengers quickly and effectively from pier to pier. Useful as public transportation, they also give visitors an opportunity to examine life on the river, from dilapidated homes that look like they're about to crash into the water, to fish farms where catfish swarm for food amid the pollution. Between it all lie luxurious hotels, skyscrapers and the silhouettes of ancient temples like Wat Arun, constructed in the early 1800s. Cost: 50c-$7, depending on the length of the ride.

Check out Patpong Night Market: As late afternoon arrives, Bangkok begins to assemble the Patpong night market in the Silom neighbourhood, also known as the city's Red Light District. If you care to, this is the place to see a 'show' where ladies of the night blow smoke and shoot ping pong balls and darts from their nether regions. But if that doesn't interest you, check out the assortment of handbags, clothing and fake watches including convincing replicas of Rollex, Breitling, TAG Heuer, Cartier and Bulgari. It's an interesting place for an après dinner stroll, though chances are the men in your group will find it more interesting than the women.

Have a drink at Skybar, the rooftop bar on the 63rd floor of the State Tower at Lebua, where parts of The Hangover II were filmed. The drinks don't come cheap at this stunning hotel, but with them you get an incredible, panoramic view of the city and the Chao Phraya River. This is a 'see-and-be-seen' spot, so dress to kill and come to people-watch.

IF YOU GO:

More Info: www.lebua.com

Photos by Lauren Kramer

1. Not all the food at the Chatuchak Market is recognizable to westerners, so come with a sense of culinary adventure and don't be afraid to ask questions.
2. Haggling is the name of the game at Bangkok's markets, where Jimmy Choo imitation handbags and purses are a dime a dozen.
3. Bangkok's temples are amazingly elaborate testaments to Buddhist belief and well worth visiting.
4. A city of contrasts, Bangkok is dotted with skycrapers, shopping centres, markets and temples. Through it all runs the Chao Phraya River.
5. A fish spa is a ticklish but novel experience wherein hungry Garra Rufa and Honey fish from Turkey nibble at your dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling butter soft.

 


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