Bangkok never ceases to surprise and amaze me. It truly is one of the great cities of the world. On so many occasions when I venture into unknown territory in Bangkok, the combination of history, culture, sights, sounds, smells, tastes and warm Thai hospitality lead to an incredible experience. Don’t be afraid to venture out and about in Bangkok — it’s quite safe and full of (good) surprises.
A great example of this can be found by taking a stroll along Maha Chai Road, one of my
favorite evening walks. Maha Chai commences at Wat Rajanadda, less than a kilometer from Democracy Monument. For me, the most interesting and fastest way to get there is on the public boat along the Klong Saen Saeb canal. It leaves from Pratunam Pier, opposite CentralWorld Shopping Center. Ride the boat west to the final stop, Phanfa Pier (around 15 minutes, and only 12 baht … 40 cents US!).
To get to Maha Chai Road from the pier, cross the bridge next to the old Mahakan Fort.
You’ll see the large buildings of Wat Rajannada across Maha Chai Road. If you arrive before 4pm, you might consider walking up the Golden Mount, Wat Saket in Thai, for a nice view of Bangkok. It’s very close to the pier — ask for directions.
Even if you’ve visited many wats, it’s worth taking a quick look at Wat Rajannada. In the evening it is delightfully calm and peaceful. The complex includes a beautiful temple with 37 spires called the Metal Castle (Loha Prasat), modeled on Indian temples and the only one of its kind remaining in the world. There is also an interesting market for Buddhist articles and amulets which is worth a look (closes around 6:30pm).
Don’t be afraid to take a small walk into the fort across the road, or along the paths running beside the canal and the wat, to gain a look into daily life of the people living here.
Following Maha Chai Road you’ll pass another wat on the right. Slightly further along on the
left you’ll notice two very busy restaurants called Lueang Pha Phad Thai and Thip Samai (respectively, addresses #313 and #315 Maha Chai Road). They’re known for serving the best-in-Bangkok Phad Thai, a wok-fried noodle dish. You may have to wait for a table and end up seated on plastic stools on the sidewalk, but that just adds to the experience. Believe me, it’s delicious!
After you’ve had your fill, continue along Maha Chai, and on the right, you’ll find the crumbling remains of the old Bangkok Prison. In this case, you should definitely go directly to jail. Behind the gun turrets you’re in for a pleasant surprise: a lovely public park complete with open-air gym full of sweaty, bulging, semi-naked men. A sign out front says there is a “Corrections Museum” here that “presents the development of punishments from the old days to the present time.” I’m dying to see what they are (as I’m sure you are). I’ll visit during opening hours and report back to you (along with some of my own ideas for punishments…).
Continue along Maha Chai for another 15 minutes until you reach a river. On a street to the right of the bridge is Bangkok’s sprawling flower market, Pak Klong Talat. You’ll smell it before you arrive – flowers everywhere, every color imaginable. It’s like going to gay heaven (my version — and no, I don’t want to pollute my mind hearing yours). The flowers are so cheap that its almost rude not to buy a few bunches for yourself (I know you love flowers, don’t deny it), or to give to that hot guy you saw at the open-air gym up the road.
Flowers in hand, you’re ready for a super photo shoot at the end of Maha Chai Road on Memorial Bridge, with a picturesque backdrop of Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn, and the majestic Chao Phraya River.
And there you have it, a short stroll featuring majestic monuments, sizzling woks, bulging muscles and a sea of blooms. This walk can be taken during the day however I prefer the cool of early evening. Allow yourself a few hours so you can stop and enjoy the food, shopping and sites along the way. Enjoy!