A taste of Thai tradition
For a taste of traditional Bangkok, hop on board a long tail boat to glide past the traditional stilted wooden houses and busy markets that line the city’s network of klongs (canals) on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River by long tail boat. For even more colour and chaos, head out of town to cruise the daily Damnoen Saduak floating market in a long-tail boat to check out the hundreds of boats selling fresh produce, souvenirs and yummy Thai food. Closer to town there are plenty of bargains to be found at the Chatuchak weekend market, and a maze of more than 15,000 stalls hawking everything from handicrafts and high fashion.
Visit the garden-enclosed patch of serenity that was the home of the late Jim Thompson, an American architect and an avid collector of Asian objets d’art. This living museum is a collection of old teakwood houses from across Thailand that he purchased and reconstructed to create an elegant but whimsical residential complex to showcase his love affair with Southeast Asian art and heritage.
To explore even more significant Thai art and historical artefacts, visit the Bangkok National Museum or, for something completely different, The Erawan Museum, one of the most kid-friendly museums in Bangkok, topped with a gigantic three headed elephant. The musuem houses a stunning private art collection in an epic building designed to represent the three-tiers of Thailand’s Theravada Buddhism: the underworld, the human world and the heavens.
Kick back even further into Thailand’s traditions at Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives, a theatrical but fun introduction to the Thai martial art of kickboxing where kids can witness some impressive Muay Thai moves from a cast of retired Muay Thai fighters. If your teens would rather enjoy a taste of the real thing, book a ringside seat at a real Muay Thai Kickboxing match at Ratchadamnoen or Lumpini Stadium.
Which Wat where
Bangkok’s 400 wats (temples) are the city’s heart and soul. A visit to the spectacular Grand Palace, home of the Thai King, is a must for its glittering golden roofs and epic statues of mind-boggling monsters and monkey gods. Next door to the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, also known as The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which is said to be the birthplace of Thai massage, and muscle melting massages are on offer for just a few bucks. Another must visit is Wat Arun, one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. Located on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the Wat derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna and kids will love clambering up its pretty mosaic-covered steps.
If signs of temple fatigue are showing, Wat Pariwat will quickly reignite the kids interest because they’ll find Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, Wolverine and Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter sharing the limelight with deities and mythical creatures’ figures in the wild temple murals and mosaics. Inside, you’ll even find David Beckham carved into the altar.
Kiddy café culture
Bangkok gives even Tokyo’s kawaii themed eateries a run for their money, with cute and quirky cafes popping up all over town. Splash into a shrine to all things mermaid at Siam Square’s Mermaid Castle Café, where your own little mermaid can stock up on sparkly mermaid fashion and collectibles before gobbling gorgeous Mermaid cupcakes. Perhaps your kids would rather ride the pastel rainbow into Sathorn’s Unicorn Café at Sathorn, where they can don a Unicorn onesie and dine on a rainbow-hued menu. And if you haven’t already overdosed on cuteness, Sanrio Hello Kitty House Bangkok awaits, with Hello Kitty themed food, drinks, homewares and toys.
Older kids aren’t forgotten either. While some might like to lunch with a robot at Hajime Robot Restaurant, a barbecue buffet where you’ll be served by real robots, lovers of anime will want to head straight for the Totoro-themed May’s Garden House with its menu inspired by the films of Studio Ghibli. And mum and dad are going to love the flourishing coffee scene.
There is no shortage of places to sit and lounge with a perfectly blended brew but whimsical Oneday Wallflowers, nestled in a down a side lane on the edge of Old Town is a favourite. CHATA Specialty Coffee, a gorgeous glasshouse café secreted behind the walls of Baan 2459 in the backstreets of Chinatown is another. If you’re still hankering for sweet treats, take it up a notch with a decadent afternoon tea at the Bangkok Peninsula, where the kids can delve into towers of tiny cakes and tasty treats. There’s also a Thai twist on the traditional afternoon tea that fuses local ingredients and tastes with the usual high tea staples.
For outdoor fun, surf the city at Flow House in central Sukhumvit, where a double FlowRider creates simulated waves for surfing and body-boarding. For more watery action head to Taco Lake, a cable wake park for wakeboarders and water skiers with equipment and lessons from beginner to advanced. If you prefer your outdoor thrills a little more chilled, hire a bike or rent a kayak or paddle boat to cruise the lake in sprawling Lumpini. If you want to build up more of a sweat, there are also free aerobics session and a basketball court to shoot some hoops.
Ride the Asiatique Sky Ferris Wheel on the banks of the Chao Phraya River for stunning views over the city. Then head to Dinosaur Planet, a super cool prehistoric-themed amusement park with life-sized dinosaur replicas, wild rides and an education centre where kids can learn about fossils, dinosaur eggs and the history of the dinosaurs.
Dream World is the place for everything from antique cars and bumper boats to an indoor play area, Snow Town – with real snow – and stomach-churning thrill rides like the Skycoaster and water rides including the Super Splash or the Grand Canyon. For thrills and spills, head to Siam City, a dual theme park and water park located in the heart of Bangkok where you can scream you way around hair-raising rides, cool coasters, speedy slides and an epic wave pool.
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