Mission Possible: A day of awakening in Thailand

Micah Levin Isla - The Philippine Star

BANGKOK — The Tuk Tuk-laden streets of Thailand’s bustling capital beckon, singing a different yet familiar tune. The exciting symphony of foot traffic begins to intensify. Heed the call, for it’s that time of the year again.

The annual Amazing Thailand Grand Sale by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and VISA International is back in full swing, promising more travel-worthy deals until Aug. 15 — as if the mesmerizing opulence of Buddhist temples and the aromatic promise of green curry aren’t reasons enough to pack your bags and fly to Indochina.

Fourteen teams across Asia-Pacific were summoned by the TAT to get a taste of the two-month retail extravaganza by way of a shopping challenge. And yes, #TeamPH (yours truly and the Diaz couple of www.ourawesomeplanet.com) showed up in fighting form, because we Pinoys were born for this kind of battle, weren’t we?

Though shopping on a budget is totally right up our alley, no one goes to battle unprepared. So for a day, we trudged through Bangkok to acquaint ourselves with the vibrant district and engage in activities meant to awaken the senses — the proverbial warm-up before marching into war. And in true #PhilStarEntertainment fashion, we share these amusing tricks to maximize your time in the land of smiles, before or in between the shopping sprees.

Take your cue from the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and ease your mind into meditation. Go up the Sky Bar at Centara Grand in Central World and marvel at Bangkok’s cityscape: A breathtaking blueprint by day, a hypnotic constellation of lights by night. Draw inspiration from the metro’s unique skyline, whose distinct ancient-modern charm still lingers even at a certain altitude. From giant pixels swirling vertically to erect the MahaNakhon skyscraper to conspicuous dome-capped towers, Bangkok from above is truly a sight to behold. (From this vantage point, you may start pondering on a certain shopping game plan, too.)

Speaking of shopping plans and inspirations, do visit the Ananta Smakhom Throne Hall or the White Marble Palace that sits loftily within the Dusit royal compound. Reminiscent of Champs-Élysées’ charm and many European cathedrals, the grand structure currently houses some of Thailand’s luxurious treasures and prized art pieces by legendary and contemporary artisans alike. Inside you’ll find a royal barge mimic layered with gold, silver, and metallic beetle wings, and a legion of mythical creatures carved into golden litters on display. There’s a chamber dedicated to Her Majesty’s vast collection of jewelry and purses with intricate embellishments — so exquisite that it easily shatters the Imeldific brand of luxury. (Fret not, you can definitely score a purse fit for royalty from one of Bangkok’s many lifestyle malls like Central Embassy, Central World, Central Chidlom, Zen and Siam Paragon without breaking into the Throne Hall.)

It’s no secret that in Thailand, the food is a tourist attraction in itself. Obviously, there’s an overabundance of authentic Thai restaurants at every turn, ready to serve your favorite dish in rich coconut milk, spicy sea bass, gai hor bai toey (pandan-wrapped chicken) and some stir-fried river prawns. Apinara in The Groove, Taling Pling in Sukhumvit, Ko Dang Talay in Asiatique and Sala Rattanakosin by the river Chao Phraya are reliable when it comes to Thai culinary traditions with a modern twist. If you’re really pressed for time, embark on a gastronomical journey, minus the hassle of inter-province travel at Eathai, a chic food court inside Central Embassy that gathers the historic flavors from the four regions of Thailand: Central, North, Northeast and South. Getting a taste of what the entire country has to offer without leaving the metropolis sounds like a wise and efficient strategy, isn’t it?

As the afternoon falls, rendezvous with renowned Thai mixologist Nath Arj-Han at Hyde & Seek Peek-a-Boo to sip on a refreshing view of Bangkok one inventive cocktail at a time. The respected Samui-born barman, who once worked with our very own chef Rob Pengson, pours his musings about Thailand into every iced glass he serves. Try the Naughty Little Girl (one local strawberry popsicle dipped in a concoction of Tanqueray gin, aromatic wine, orange brandy, and peach liqueur), which was inspired by little girls at Che Che market playing with, well, popsicles. Tip: When deciding on a pre-shopping drink, a mocktail is the way to go, for obvious reasons.





Hyde & Seek is within The Groove — an ultra hip complex where the young cosmopolites of Bangkok congregate. The hotspot features 15 concept restaurants including the European gastro-pub 1881 by Water Library, the American-Chinese bistro Gold Mine and S’MORES Hunting Lodge, a steak-offering tavern that gives Bangkok a slice of the great American countryside.

More than adequate sustenance, the key to winning any battle lies in the condition of the mind. End the day by returning into a renewed state through Divana Nurture Spa’s treatments that integrate conventional Thai medicine, oriental healing wisdom and modern medicine. Tip: Ask for the detoxifying lymphatic massage for guaranteed rejuvenation. Now, if you’re not into “close encounters” (i.e. massages), you may buy a ticket to see the award-winning production, Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives, and take home some tips for finding balance and inner strength from the three-centuries-old combat discipline. The epic spectacle of stunts, drama and music is a visual reminder that Muay Thai is not just a self-defense option but also an art rooted in passion and commitment to perfection.

All the above suggestions may optimize your shopping experience in Bangkok and could curb exhaustion for you to fully reach the nirvana of all retail experiences. (By the way, there are 14 lifestyle malls participating in the sale conveniently located along prominent BTS stations — National Stadium: MBK Center; Siam Station: Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Discovery; Chitlom Station: Gaysorn, Central World, Zen; Ploen Chit Station: Amarin Plaza, Central Chidlom, Central Embassy; Asoke Station: Terminal 21, Robinson; Phrom Phong Station: Emporium, Emquartier.)

We came prepared on the day of the shopping challenge; senses fully roused. In the end, we lost the war to China. The Chinese stole everyone’s thunder for a back-to-back triumph — but it was fine. Because being in Thailand to shop during the amazing grand sale is akin to winning anyway.

So when the mere prospect of flying to Bangkok sprouts into your consciousness again — just answer the call right away.

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