Bangkok – SEA’s Hottest Tourism Destination?

January 23rd, 2007   •   4 comments   

Bangkok’s Chinatown bustles with nightlife!

Bangkok has changed quite significantly in recent years. The city has positioned itself as one of Asia’s most happening shopping and dining destination, cleaned up its act, and become increasingly sophisticated, modern and cosmopolitan. In fact, if you look at the cityscape at night, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from Singapore, Hong Kong or KL.

In our recent trip there (amidst the NYE bomb scare and other toddler catastrophes), I have observed several points which we may wish to note here in Singapore.
First let me share the plus points of Bangkok as an experience rich destination:

1) Staggering Retail Variety. The sheer variety of merchandise amazes me! This is especially prevalent in the world famous Chatuchak market, Suan Lum night market and Ma Boon Krong discount shopping mall. The upmarket shopping malls at Central World Plaza and Siam Paragon (which are huge) carried some of the most luxurious brands on the planet.

Bangkok offered a huge array of different shops offering all kinds of merchandise for sale, at different price levels. You can buy practically anything and everything that you want, often at value for money prices. What’s more, they don’t just offer the same of everything, unlike Singapore’s numerous “copycat” malls with identical chain stores.

2) Vibrant Night Life. This is a city that never sleeps and I am not talking about the seedier aspects. In fact, I find that the sleaze which Bangkok used to be associated with is practically non-existent.

At the Suan Lum Night Market for example, there was a bustling beer garden with a very decent band playing the hottest Thai Rock (a band called Ice?) where people chilled out amidst all the shopping and dining. The crowd was very cosmopolitan and made up of tourists and very sophisticated Thais who were dressed to the nines. Very cool indeed.

3) Warm Hospitality. The Thai people are generally gracious and this can be seen in the way they speak to you. What we were pleasantly surprised too was that when we rode on the skytrain with a toddler, they would automatically get up and vacate their seats for us, often a few at once. There was no hesitation whatsoever.

4) Food Glorious Food. If you think eating in Singapore was great, wait till you visit Thailand’s Chinatown area. The “cze char” there was simply delicious and the portions of meat and vegetables that come with “hor fun” are generous. You can also indulge in bird’s nest at the street hawkers or shark’s fin soup with thick slabs of fin. All at a price that would make you weep when you get back here and think about it!

5) Entrepreneurial Energy. This was something that I encounter everywhere we go – from the narrow and crowded alleys of Chatuchak to the sprawled area of their Safari World. People will set up make shift stalls everywhere and eagerly peddle all manner of goods for your consumption, from snack foods, drinks, clothes, toys, watches, accessories, and more.

6) Accessible Transport System. While their card reading system isn’t quite as sophisticated as our MRT system’s EZ Link, I must say that the Skytrain makes it a lot more convenient to get from point to point in Bangkok. Many of the stations stop right outside major tourist hubs.

So what are the minuses? Not that many actually.

1) Taxis and Tuk Tuk Touts. What irritated us quite a bit was how many taxi drivers “pretend” to switch off their meters so that they can charge us an arm and a leg. These touts would drive from potential customer to potential customer, choosing where they would go and only if the price was right.

2) Reckless Driving. Taxi drivers also drive like there is no tomorrow, speeding away at speeds in excess of 120 km/h on the expressways and leaving us green in the face and muttering prayers under our breath. Peak hour traffic can also be quite terrible, although I must say that we luckily didn’t have to face the brunt of it during our recent trip.

Having been to both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City in recent months, I can now see why STB is so worried that Singapore is in real danger of losing its competitive edge. Our neighbours are fast catching up with us, and what they lack in technology can be more than made up in terms of nimbleness, flexibility and pure entrepreneurial fervour. If we don’t buck up and transform ourselves, we may find that we are deader than a Dodo give or take a couple of years. Perhaps this is why we do need an IR or two to up our desirability quotient?

Any views to share?

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  1. posted on Jan 23, 2007 at 4:30 PM

    Can’t provide any valuable inputs since I last visited Bangkok more than 20 years ago in 1986. From what I read in your post, Bangkok is very different now. Back then, there was still a lot of sleaze. Patpong was the hottest spot in town. What happened to it now? Is it still in existence? Oops, sorry that I asked. I forgot that you were there for a wholesome family holiday.

    Alright, I think I should confess (especially to ECL), I saw a ‘Tiger’ show then. All I can say is that it was revolting, even to a hardened sex blogger like me. And I can’t bring myself to blog about it.

  2. posted on Jan 23, 2007 at 10:32 PM

    It certainly has changed quite a bit. Now Bangkok is a lot more sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Patpong is still there (we didn’t have the chance to visit it obviously), but its probably rather inconsequential now. The heady mix of exceptional service and hospitality, exotic spread of savoury goodies, wide variety of retail goods (both indigenous and imported), as well as vibrant entertainment scene makes Bangkok very attractive. In fact, many Singaporeans were there during our trip, and I know people who travel to Bangkok 5 to 6 times a year (or more) at the drop of a hat to recharge and rejuvenate.

  3. posted on Jan 24, 2007 at 7:12 AM

    You talking about me? I love Bangkok!!! For the food, spas & shopping lah.

    Having been there so many times, surprisingly I have never seen a ‘Tiger’ show! OK, next time I go, watch the show & blog about it since Victor cannot do it.

    I do agree with the points Walter brought out. What can Singapore offer to its tourists? I have many foreign guests every year and I have to go to Sentosa Island, Mandai Zoo & Jurong Bird Parks almost monthly. For repeat visitors, that’s not much for them to do except eat & chat with me (See, I’m more interesting than the tourists spots in Singapore), even the shopping here doesn’t interest them.

    The authority needs to relax lah, let me start a ‘duck house’ or ‘chicken house’ & have it listed in 3 years. I got experience mah. muahahaha…….

    IRs ah? I have been to casinos in Las Vegas, Melbourne and Gold Coast, so I will compare them when the time comes. But I can foresee that it is not cheap for the visitors.

  4. posted on Jan 24, 2007 at 1:09 PM

    eastcoastlife I think you can bring your guests to some of Singapore’s museums and heritage corners. There are some pretty interesting and unusual ones that offer something a little different from the ordinary. Alternatively, try island hopping and charter a boat out to Kusu, St John’s Island etc. Oceanskies will be able to share with you the interesting walking tours that Original Singapore Walks has to offer.

    For more ideas of what to do, check out Better yet put it in your RSS readers!

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