The Bangkok of Champions
By Oscar Raymundo
There’s something inherently grand yet tumultuous about Bangkok: the streets humming with traffic, the nonstop nightlife, the elephants on the sidewalk.
Though most travelers venture to Thailand to experience unearthly tranquility, its capital city presents a fast-paced, action-packed alternative for those looking for some extra oomph. As anyone who has ever taken a frenzied ride on a tuk tuk will tell you, it’s no surprise that Bangkok is 007’s favorite place to pull off a car chase.
The around-the-clock urban thrills and an exoticized sense of urgency make this Asian metropolis a travel destination where winners take all. So if you’re planning your own Bangkok adventure, make sure to stay alert and pack your 5-hour Energy in bulk.
1. Befriend a Monk
Fasting and celibacy require such ironclad commitment and self-sacrifice that it’s no wonder these guys command the ultimate respect around these parts. Several times a year, thousands of monks gather in the streets to receive alms, a Buddhist tradition. Sometimes, the monks may reciprocate by handing out lavish oils to visitors. You’ll need to need to set an alarm, though; almsgiving usually takes place early in the morning.
2. Eat on Top of the World
There are only a few places in Bangkok where you can rise above the smog (and conquer your fear of heights). Located at the top of the Banyan Tree Bangkok, Moon Bar shares its 360-degree view of the city with
Vertigo, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. Or make your way to the 63rd floor of the lebua hotel for a cocktail at Sky Bar before heading to Sirocco, the highest al fresco restaurant in the world, for dinner.
3. Sleep Like a Rock Star
The Siam is not your typical family-owned resort. The Sukosol family’s bejeweled and eccentric matriarch lives next door to the biggest gay bathhouse in
Bangkok and has donated more than $1 million to charity. And if Kamala Sukosol is the Liza Minelli of Thailand, her vocal prodigy daughter Marisa is its Barbra Streisand. You’ll sleep like a baby at this five-star hotel, and may just catch a glimpse of a member of this famous family — including Marisa’s rock star brothers Kriss and Sukie of Pru— while you’re there.
4. Get Drunk On Thai Whiskey
- Nat Geo Expeditions
A glass of wine a day can reduce the risk of heart disease, but a shot of Yaa Dong (alcoholic medicine) can reduce fatigue, cure insomnia, and even increase your sex drive. These popular Thai tonics come in different flavors and varying potencies, but their names translated are equally silly: Towering Dragon, Moaning Mistress. Okay, you get the picture. Just don’t ask about hangover cures.
5. Cheer On a Boxing Match
Bangkok has two stadiums dedicated to Muay Thai, or the “art of eight limbs.” Rajadamnern holds Muay Thai competitions on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays while Lumpinee Boxing Stadium hosts matches the other three days of the week. Each tournament consists of several matches and features martial artists of wide-ranging levels of skill, from 15-year-old beginners to more experienced boxers. Legal gambling takes place on the second floor of each stadium and is conducted via quick hand signals.
Oscar Raymundo is a San Francisco-based writer who contributes to Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, and The Huffington Post. Follow his story on Twitter @OscarRaymundo or on his personal blog.
[Related: National Geographic Travel’s Guide to Thailand]