The Museum of Siam is unlike any other museum in Bangkok. It manages to hold its own alongside tourist greats such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

1. It’s unique!

How many museums in the world are devoted solely to the people’s identity? The Museum of Siam is all about “Thai-ness” and as the galleries show, it’s a lively discussion that everyone, even non-Thai can engage in.

2. The galleries are awesomely cool!

Nothing boring or old-fashioned here. Everything is presented in a hip and modern way and it’s not just scanning QR codes on your mobile phones. Wanna learn about Thai cuisine? Put one of the displayed plates on a scanner on the table and you get to see the ingredients being virtually loaded.

Everything here is interactive.

3. Everything you’ve wondered about is all here!

Want to know why boat noodles are called such and why they are always served in small bowls?

Just flip these plates and see the answers.

How about those small figures in Thai shrines?

There’s an entire gallery on Thai beliefs explained briefly.

These boxes contain artefacts used in certain practices. Feel free to get these, put them on the table, and explore.

4. Play pretend!

Take a seat in one of these wooden desks and pretend you’re a Thai student in a classroom.

You can also dress-up in some Thai clothes and have a photo taken.

5. The gift shop is awesome!

I enjoy museum gift shops as they often have made-for-them items. The Museum Siam’s is of no exception. There are many cute items and they’re not that expensive. Check-out the microfiber cleaning cloths and the hip t-shirts.

Getting There

The BTR Sanam Chan station is on the museum lawns. If staying riverside, get off at Tha Chang or Tha Tien (from Wat Arun) and walk.

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Loving IconSiam

The only time I ever go to a mall is when I’m in another country as it gives me a sense of people’s tastes, needs, and desires. The same reason I like checking-out convenience stores (hello 7-11s of the world!). Bangkok truly does super malls well. From Siam to Sukhumvit, these huge commercial centres offer a glimpse of Thai consumerist lifestyle with a little culture thrown in. Having frequented Siam Paragon and Pier21 for the past few years, I was excited to visit IconSiam. Since, I was staying at Banglamphu, the mall was just a boat ride away.My primary reason in going to IconSiam was to check-out the area called Sook Siam which promised everything Thai you could hope for from food to crafts. It did not disappoint.The area is vast and crammed with every imagineable Thai treat you read about in travel books and blogs. The street-food set-up meant you could graze from stall to stall. Being a holiday, the place was understandably crammed. Fortunately, I snagged a spot in one of the wooden benches scattered around so I can have my crispy pork (150 baht) in peace. One section was laid out like a floating market with vendors in traditional hats.I could have spent the entire day just trying everything. You could eat here everyday and get to try all the Thai street food to your tummy’s content. The prices are surprisingly low, just a few baht higher than stalls out on the streets.Some of Thailand’s best restaurants also have spots here for some sit-down meals.Getting ThereThere are free shuttle boats from the following piers: Ratchawongse, Si Phraya, and Saphan Taksin. The latter has the most number of people waiting to get on the boat as it is a BTS station. When I went mid-morning, there was a long line. Boats, however, are frequent. I only waited about 15 mins. If taking the shuttle at Si Phraya, do take note that the boat docks at the pier about a few meters away from the one used by the Chaophraya Express boats.Getting AwayJust line-up to go back to any of the 3 piers mentioned above. The Chaophraya Express boat (Golden Flag) and the Chaophraya Tourist boat also docks here. You can get a ticket at the booth near the dock.

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Life’s a Beach in Jomtien

I never expected much from Jomtien Beach or Pattaya. I knew from travel guides and the internet that the bar scene was more memorable than the beach. It’s another destination that was never in my bucket list but somehow got there due to my travelling companions who figured spending a few days for some vitamen sea before plunging onto the convention which we came for in Bangkok.

Took the airport bus to Pattaya as soon as we arrived from our Manila flight last Tuesday. Of course, the taxi driver ripped-us off with his 100 baht/person fare from the Jomtien bus stop to our hotel. We checked-in at the 60s sounding McCoy Beach Jomtien Hotel just a short walk to the beach. I really liked the spacious and modern rooms with its luxurious double beds. I could have turned the entire 2 days into a staycation.

It was off-season so there weren’t too many people on the streets or on the beach. I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the shore and the water was. Made me wish I brought swimming gear.

One thing I noticed was the pharmacies that seemed to be present every 200 meters, much more than 7-11.

Even more surprising was how much I eased into the slow pace of Jomtien— simply enjoying the street food in the evenings, having pad thai, drinking tonic water and hanging-out at the Chinese seafood resto-bar while listening to a Chinese pop songs sung by a Thai singer, and getting a foot massage. I was almost sorry to leave. Perhaps, because we were on the quieter section of Jomtien and it was off-season but somehow, 2 nights in Jomtien was just the rest I needed.

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Just another Bangkok day

I had barely unpacked my clothes last Saturday after my trip in HongKong and there I was flying to Bangkok last Tuesday. I was arriving ahead of everyone else for the Southeast Asia Music Education Exchange (SEAMEX) 2018 at the Thailand Cultural Center. With about 30 people in the delegation I’m heading from my university, I just need that one day of solitary mindfulness. Always good to have a little me time.

Having been to Bangkok so many times, there’s nothing to do anymore but just head to After You, my favorite spot for shibuya toast.

I arrived at opening time (11am) which meant a choice of seats and no lines. Ordered the honey toast. Big size as always.

It has been five days already as I write this and so far everything has been going great inspite of walking around the city with such a large group. We even managed to survive rush hour at Sukuhmvit MTR.

A colleague and I have been staying in this wonderful hostel at the back of Grand Mercure near the Phra Ram 9 MTR station. LITA Bangkok just opened about 3 weeks ago and it has been the best budget place I’ve ever stayed at in all my Bangkok trips. It’s a little more expensive than the others but the place is clean, modernist, and spacious.

The staff is very welcoming and friendly. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t mind getting stuck due to the rain or the heat. It was a joy to be coming home to such a nice place after an entire day of walking. The students and my other colleague were staying at X9 Hostel just 300m away which made it convenient to meet and organize things.

In spite of being in this vibrant and busy city so many times, there’s still something in Bangkok that makes it enjoyable. The street food, the gentle manners of the Thai, the organized chaos that seem to underlie the city, all these come together to put some sense of why I still don’t mind coming here.

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Bangkok Day

So I did what a hundreds of other tourists do on a Sunday, head to Chatuchak Market.  

Went early at around 9 with the goal of eating my favorite Thai street food, particularly (barbecued pork) and Thai sausage.  Found the area where all the food stalls are and found my pork barbecue.  Soft and tender, it’s still the stuff of my dreams whenever I head to Thailand.  Had a plate of pad thai so I could get a seat at one of the tables lorded over by ladyboys.

Took a stroll at the perimeters of the market and got a couple of stuff I needed such as coconut water scoop and a small wooden massager.  Passed a stall of grilled sausages and got a stick.  The sausages are the next best thing to the pork barbecue.  

After all the hype, I finally got to try the “original” coconut ice-cream, the one with the crowds and the green umbrellas and….sadly, it didn’t taste like coconut ice-cream.  It was bland.  Perhaps I should have bought the one served on a half coconut shell with coconut meat and two toppings.  I purposely chose the B40 version (2 scoops in a cup) so I could really taste the ice-cream.  Disappointed.

I knew I have had enough of Chatuchak when I sat down for a crispy pork rice at one of the eateries by the road out to the BTS that was utterly bad.  The rice was cold and the pork looked more like bits.  It’s the kind of horrible meal that makes you want to go to the kitchen and scold the cook.  

So I finally left the market and headed to Siam for some air-con.  First stop was Afters at Siam Center Mall.  I was in luck this time as there weren’t too many people and I got a table right away.  The Shibuya Honey Toast came with two scoops of ice-cream and a generous amount of cream.  It was heavenly! If I had another day in Bangkok, I would have returned for the Sticky Toffee Toast.  This cafe gets plus points for the refillable unsweetened iced tea!

Checked out the food court at Siam Paragon and was once again tempted wirh the barbecue and sausages.  I love this food court as it has all stuff of street food.  Was thinking of taking some back to the hotel for dinner but then I remembered the street food at Sala Daeng.  Back to the hotel then to put up my feet and forget about the barbecue and sausages.
Went  out in the late afternoon to verify the hotel ‘s claim that it was just a few minutes walk to the Pratunam market.  They were right!  I ended-up checking out Platinum Mall and walking all the way to the Chitlom station where I caught the train to Sala Daeng.  

The soi around Sala Daeng were my former haunts back in those days when Bangkok was THE destination for me.  I had fond memories of Th Convent where some of Bangkok’s street food were.  Unfortunately, the stewed pork leg stall run by two sisters was no longer there. 

 I finally got my crispy pork rice plus some shrimp spring rolls with the sweet syrupy sauce it comes with. It was only 8pm or maybe being a Sunday, the area was a little lethargic. 

Bye Bangkok!  It was good seeing you again after a year.

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Back in Bangkok

Touchdown Bangkok for a 2 night “recovery” stay (hahaha!) before flying back home on Monday.  As the Thai Airways flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi, an elderly Japanese guy at the center column of seats looks across the plane windows and ask the guy seated across him, “This Bangkok?”  The guy answers in the affirmative.  If he had asked me, I probably would have said, “Bangkok?  No!  This Kathmandu.  Plane landed in Bangkok already.  You did not get off?  Plane now return to Kathmandu!”  Hahaha!  Some cheapskate stole the Eau de Toilete at the toilet.  It was there when I used the toilet twice.  It was gone when I returned a third time.

Deposited my luggage at the left luggage counter then took the Airlink to Rachadaprop station for the minute walk to GX Luxury Hostel.  I really like this place.  It’s clean, has very comfortable beds and pillows and the charcoal body wash is tops.  Unfortunately, it’s cramped so it’s good only for a few nights stay.

Had dinner at 

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Joy Ride at the Chao Phraya

I never fail to get in one if those express boats that ply the Chao Phraya whenever I’m in Bangkok.

It’s not the sights but just the feel of being in a commuter boat—people getting on and off, the bump when the boat steers on to the pier, and the voice of the female ticket seller.  Plus of course, the splash of river water on the side of the boat occassionally spraying passengers at “window” side and the general feel of being on water rather than on land.

So this afternoon after resting a bit at the hotel coming back from Chatuchak, I caught an orange flag express boat to Nonthanburi, its terminus.  The thing is, when we reached Pra Athit, the driver announced that it was the last stop and we were turning back.  I guess because everyone got off the boat except a middle-aged couple and a white guy who looked kinda pissed when told it was not proceeding further.  Like the couple, I told the driver I was going back and would just pay the TH 14 again.  Not many people got on the boat so it was kinda empty.

The boat quickly filled at Tha Chang as that’s the pier for the Grand Palace which is filled with so many people these days;  not just tourists but Thais in black paying respect to the departed king.  See this pic taken yesterday at the palace’s entrance.

Back at Sathorn pier, I just decided to head to the BTS and spend the rest of the day in Siam.

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Chatuchak Saturday

Khao San Road yesterday, revisited another Bangkok haunt–Chatuchak.  Never knew Chatuchak was open even on Saturdays (got the tip from the hostel owner).  I always assumed it was a Sunday only market.

Not too many people yet at 10am.

Found myself in Sections 25 and 26 which is the place for northern Thai stuff. If you ddon’t ever get to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, you can get all yoir stuff here for that hill people look.

​Saw many of the same clothes, accessories, and souvenirs sold in Chiang Mai though with less variety. The earrings I bought for my sis near Warorot market in Chiang Mai for TH 100 was at TH 120 at Chatuchak.  Not bad considering you  can bargain it down to TH 100. Bought 5 pairs at Chiang Mai and got them at TH 90 a piece.

Was primarily looking for music instruments and found some.  Bought a small gong for TH 1000 at a shop that had much brass crafts including rain drums.  Asked if they were original, the elderly shop keeper (owner?) replied, “new antique.”  Just as I thought.  After all, if they were real, the National Museum would have had their necks.

Bought a small percussion instrument (TH 200) at this shop selling African instruments similar to the ones being sold at KL’s Central Market and at the markets in Bali. 

Djembe all lined up in a row at another shop.

As written in Lonely  Planet Bangkok, I went in search and found Stall 464 at Section 8, Soi 5 which sells Thai music instruments among others including djembe (again!)

Lots and lots of music instruments in this store   In fact, a Thai lady was buying a quim when I was there.

How about some khlui ?

The owner, a kind round man was very jolly and was delighted to find out I was Filipino as he used to have a Filipino boss in Dallas.  I bought 2 drums and 2 jaw’s harps.  His sister-in-law who runs the shop gave me a free rattle that costs TH 150 aside from the discounts.  Good deal!

That ended my Chatuchak sojourn as I had to head home and pack the instruments. 

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Morning at the Museum

Been to Bangkok so many times but never made it to its national museum.  I always make it a point to visit a country’s cultural repository and now I can’t remember any reason why I overlooked Thailand’s.  Perhaps, because after seeing all the glorious architecture and images at Bangkok’s temples and palaces, visiting its museum may seem anti-climactic.

Granted, Bangkok’s National Museum pales in comparison to the national museum’s of its ASEAN counterparts, it still merits a look. Hopefully, the continuing renovations improve it considerably.  Formerly the National Palace, the museum is spread out in different buildings in the complex some of which are inaccessible due to the ongoing renovations.

This red building was once the residence of a former queen.  It was dismantled from its original location and brought to its current location.

Most impressive of the open galleries is that of Thai History.with its collection of antique religious sculptures some spaning different historical eras from the Dvarvati to Ayyuthaya to Bangkok. Highly recommended to watch the short video on Thailand’s different historical periods  first to better appreciate the figures.

An impressive towering bronze figure

This giant Buddha head is massive.

A bronze drum. Thailand’s link to Vietnam’s Dong Son culture.

Very impressive are the gold figurines in a gallery housing the museum’s most important collections including royal palanquins, howdas  and  thrones.

Most poignant however is an airconditioned tent that had been set-up near the entrance showcasing photographs taken during the king’s funeral rites.

I admit being a bit teary-eyed seeing how much the Thais love their king.  The photographs are magnificent and you get a free postcard reproduction of one of the photos.

The museum was quite underwhelming considering Thailand’s heritage but hopefully the renovations will one day give it the merit it deserves.

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First Night in Bangkok: A Tasteless Fried Rice and a Killer View

Unbelievable but I just had the most in tasteless fried rice in Bangkok at an outdoor restaurant called Steak Chef Noi.  To a cuisine that prides itself with the use of herbs and seasonings, it comes a surprise.  Besides, how can you go wrong with fried rice, the global dish if every foreign traveler in Asia?  Perhaps I should have ordered any of the Western food they have in their menu.  After all, the chicken nuggets came perfectly fried.  After all the delicious meals I have had in Chiang Mai, this dinner in Bangkok was such a disappointment.  At least, the resto was just across the Bangkok Hub Hostel, a nice enough place just 2 minutes walk from the Saphan Taksin BTS station and Central Pier.  Very convenient. Friendly English-speaking owner, too.  The only downside is my room is on the 5th floor up some narrow flights of stairs.  Sizeable clean room with a killer view.

The Sathorn Tower otherwise known as the ghost tower.  This building was supposed to be a Bangkok landmark but was never completed due to what people say is a string of bad luck.  Perhaps being built on an ancient burial ground (unverified) could be the root cause?  The stuff of urban legends.  It attracts many adventurers who scale it for its marvelous views.

So I’m parking my self  for 3 nights  in this Thai capital before flying back home to Manila on Sunday morning.  

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