It’s back to school tomorrow! But today, it’s time to share the top ten things I loved during my latest trip in Bangkok (read about my last Thailand trip here).
And yes, I did lose my precious Samsung S8 (my first-ever big spend using the money I earn from writing, huhu) somewhere in the Baiyoke Sky Tower. I was planning to edit a vlog so it was too bad… I guess I loved this Bangkok trip so much that my phone decided to stay behind.
EAMSC 2019 and AMSA International (Why was I in Bangkok?)
Tourist Tips (Some tricks against tourist traps!)
Ten Things I Loved in Bangkok
EAMSC 2019 and AMSA International
Before I start the countdown, I want to explain why I travelled again so soon after our Taiwan trip for New Year (read about it here), even though I am still kind of sick. I joined my first-ever academic conference –the East Asian Medical Students Conference 2019 in Bangkok. (!!!)
The theme this year was on ‘Diabetes and Obesity: The Unrecognized Burden‘. With more than 300 delegates from over a dozen Asia-Pacific countries, it was a melting pot of ideas and people. The Philippine delegation had around 35 representatives, including Lea and me (with Nicole and Angel) for the White Paper and Video Competition. Though we didn’t place, the experience of writing and then presenting a paper was exciting in itself.
Because the conference was held in Bangkok, we got the opportunity to visit different Thai hospitals and universities, like Chulalongkorn and Mahidol-Siriraj. We got to tour a cool medical museum, find out more about med school life in other countries, and listen to the academic work of others.
I also have my family to thank for sponsoring my trip so readily. Thank you so much!!!!!!
10/10 experience, will try again! (But I can’t, because I’ll be a clerk with little time next year. Cries.)
Just some things I figured out along the way.
Don’t get your money changed in the Bangkok airport kiosks right outside the Arrivals area of Suvarnabhumi, no matter how much the bank/exchange staff say its the same rate all throughout. Please!!! You’ll get your money’s worth in the Super Rich and other stalls down in the basement of the airport, or even in Bangkok shopping centres.
I only figured this out on my way back and so I would like to kill my past self for wasting so much money on a bad exchange rate.
Best case scenario is bringing an international debit card for withdrawals (obviously).
Traveller Sim and Wi-Fi
Bangkok is not a Wi-Fi city. The best thing to do is to get the traveller sim cards they sell at the airport. They provide a lot of data for a good price, like THB300 for 7 days of unlimited data. That would have been more than enough.
Unfortunately, my phone was still locked to my local network, so I couldn’t use a foreign sim card. So many missed opportunities!
At least now I know to buy an unlocked phone for future travelling. In fact, I just bought a new Vivo V11i, and it is definitely both unlocked and dual sim.
Commuting Around Bangkok
I will always love the BTS, even though I think it’s getting more and more crowded. I rode it on my own going from BACC to the hotel (happy to report I barely got lost). However, getting around on a taxi was so cheap and easy, especially because I was always with other people to split the bill. Download the Grab app, which is popular in Bangkok with so many advertisements. #NotSponsored
Lastly, don’t get ripped off by the Tuk-tuks! They can charge an arm and a penny for a short trip. Haggle down a price, or pretend you’ll take a cheaper taxi ride instead. They’ll probably bend a little bit.
My Top Ten in Bangkok
The whole conference was a giant top one, but I’d like to give a few special mentions. A strong runner-up is the fact that I was in Bangkok the same time as two of my favorite K-Pop idols, Bambam (from GOT7), and Lisa (from BLACKPINK).
P.S. I’ll be adding more pictures as soon as I get permission from friends!!!
Here it goes:
10. Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha
Can you really say you’ve been to Bangkok if you haven’t been to the Grand Palace? Honestly I don’t know (I can only remember visiting the Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho from previous trips). But the insane crowd despite the heat tells me that you really have to visit.
FYI: As the official residence of the Kings of Siam and Thailand since 1782, there is a large inner area that is completely closed off from tourists. It was built by King Rama I (at the time of this writing, the Thai king is Rama X) in 1782, apparently to enable him to expand and also defend his kingdom. If you’re planning to visit this place, be sure to follow the dress code!
For next time: If you’re going to the Grand Palace, which closes at around 3:30PM, chance a visit to the Bangkok National Museum. It’s apparently an insanely big museum. Unfortunately, it was closed during my free day.
9. Presenting a Paper
The experience of presenting a paper to a foreign audience and to Thai panelists was amazing. We were all nervous going in, but I think we did a pretty good job. After all, we spent around two or so months writing the paper, shooting the video, and preparing the oral presentation. I only wished we knew more about what we were getting into.
Congratulations to the winners of our competition, which was the team from Hong Kong. But an even bigger congratulations to my friend Lea, who took a challenge she didn’t have to, and who led our ragtag team of novice policy writers.
8. Platinum Mall
Platinum Mall (Pratunam) and the surrounding bargain market area are always great places to shop. I went there with Patricia, Angel and Lea, and, between the four of us, we probably bought a luggage’s worth of food and souvenirs to bring home.
What’s funny is that maybe 30% of all the clothes I brought for this trip were bought in Pratunam from my last visit, while another 30% were imported clothes I bought in Filipino bargain malls like Divisoria and Landmark (they even have a ‘Made in Thailand’ tag). I just really love Thai-style outfits, okay.
You can buy elephant print loose pants for around USD4, fashionable sweaters and blazers for less than USD20, cute earrings for a dollar, and more.
I can honestly say you can spend a whole day in Platinum Mall, which has three zones or buildings with at least six floors of clothes, accessories, bags, food, and souvenirs. If you’re looking to buy gifts (for others or for yourself, lol), Platinum and the night markets are the places to go!!!
7. Thai-style Street Food
We keep buying and eating food but our stomach seriously felt bottomless. My favorite Thai street food would still be cheap mango sticky rice and pad thai. This time around, I got to try some kind of spicy pork kebab, mataba chicken, crispy pork, and lotus rice.
6. Royal Winter Festival
The conference was scheduled just in time for all of us to visit the Royal Winter Festival. If you can’t go out of Bangkok to visit the other cities and provinces, the Royal Winter Festival can give you a little taste of other cultures and Thai history.
FYI: This is the second-ever Royal Winter Festival, also known as the “Un Ai Rak Khlai Khwam Nao (Love and Warmth at Winter’s End) Winter Festival”. It runs until January 19 only.
For next time: A lot of tourists and even locals were walking around in traditional Thai dress, which I found beautiful and posh. I wanted to try it out for only THB250, but we were in a group tour so I didn’t bother. Next time!
If there’s one reason why I’ll push my family and friends to come back to Thailand, it would be ICONSIAM. This shopping mall carries high-end brands like Chanel, ready-to-wear brands like H&M, and a huge Apple store. You might think it’s not different from Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery, which anyone who has been to Bangkok has seen, but just wait to be amazed.
First of all, ICONSIAM has an entire (air-conditioned) Thai village setup in the lower floors, which was honestly as good as that of the Royal Winter Festival. They even had this awesome ‘floating river market’ with boats selling really cheap street-priced Thai food called SOOK Siam.ICONSIAM also has an honest to god waterfall in the top floor food court, a ferry (!!) shuttle from the BTS, and a giant Japanese department store. We didn’t get to personally see, but the cinemas also looked ridiculously cool.
FYI: This mall only opened to the public on 10 November 2018, and the whole complex is not even completed yet. It houses the first Siam Takashimaya department store, which is a franchise of a popular Japanese store chain.
Shout out to Lea, (Jean) Rya, and Jude for the IconSIAM side trip!
4. ChaTraMue Thai Tea
What is Thai food without Thai tea? I must have drunk half a dozen glasses of Thai Milk Tea over the course of five days. What’s so great about it is that, unlike Taiwanese Bubble Tea, Thai Tea doesn’t come with pearls or sinkers as a default (I hate jellies in my drink).
They’re so reasonably priced, even the ones sold by the number one brand ChaTraMue. For a shop that’s been around since 1945, the drinks are really cheap at USD1. And delicious, but that goes without saying.
3. Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre
I know I keep coming back to BACC, but it just changes every time and it’s also completely free. It’s one of the most beautiful and best curated arts and culture galleries I’ve ever been to. I honestly wish we have something as big as this in the Philippines.
Though I lost my photos and videos along with my phone, it doesn’t really matter because the installation and pieces are best appreciated in person. Many of the artworks were interactive. There were nine floors of art (and one awesome library in the basement). My favorite exhibition was Chumpol Kamwanna and Prasart Nirundornprasert’s Endless War. Ah, I wish I had my own photos to show you!
FYI: It turns out that BACC was holding the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 right when I visited. Seventy-five artists from 33 countries with over 200 works participated in the BAB2018.
I recommend spending at least two hours in this center. It’s conveniently located beside Siam Discovery and a few metres from the National Stadium BTS station. You can recharge yourself with all the art in the middle of a busy shopping day.
2. Siam Niramit
Brochures always claim that this-or-that is a ‘must-see’ show. I was preparing myself to be disappointed and then to conclude that the show Siam Niramit is a tourist trap. Instead, I was surprised, amazed, dazzled, incredulous, and so much more.
Siam Niramit is a technical marvel in the guise of a cultural dance and music show. It features traditional performances from four different groups of Thailand, and a funny musical intermission number with an anklung. For the second act, they featured a slice of Thai religion with performances on hell, purgatory, and heaven.
The storytelling was simple and the choreography was great, but it was really the production value that took it to the next level. I have never seen such impressive props and sets (and I’ve seen Lion King, Wicked, and more abroad). At some point, a guy even dove into a pool that was built onto the stage, then there were actual boats floating on water, flying dancers, a dragon… How they changed the sets so quickly is beyond me.
If someone tells you THB1000 or 2000 is way too expensive to spend on a traditional culture show, don’t believe them. It was worth every cent!
1. Friends #Group2 #TeamPilipinas
How can I explain how nice it was to make new friends during this trip? It wasn’t just the delegates from other countries that made my experience special, but also members of team Philippines.
So I would like to thank (ahhhh, so formal…) everyone in #TeamPilipinas, especially my fellow performers for the bastardized Mindanao dance, the cultural booth committee, and the publications committee. I got to see my fellow Biomen who are now studying in other medical schools, like Stef (who is still as chill and cute and calm as I remember), Doms (best RC, and also best for giving me a chance to join, and also best in general), and Ash (we did our most in the front and center of the Mindanao dance rip us).
I got to meet and hangout with Steph-with-a-ph from UST, Patricia from St. Louis, and Ari and Nicole and Angel from ASMPH. My IMBA family also came through with the friendship feels, so shoutout to my child Rena, and my chingus Jude and (Jean) Rya.
And finally: Group 2!!!!!
I was so worried coming into this conference because I’m 95% an introvert and I don’t like small talk. But somehow seeing each other 24/7 for five days through keynote lectures, hot trips, bus rides, and a variety of meals just bonds people together. We didn’t even get to drink alcohol as a group and it was still fun?
Hearts to Alyaa from Indonesia for being the best foreign roommate ever!!! Thank you for suffering my presence, dude. I would also like to thank K-Pop for bringing worlds together, because that’s a big chunk of how I got to talk to Tata, Agnes, and Gaby from Indonesia.
There are way too many memories, and I’ll probably forget most of them. But I don’t think I’ll forget how astounded I was at the amount of food our Korean groupmates ate during the hotpot dinner (uh, hello to May, Brian and Jae), how some of us sat on the stairs and talked outside Montien until we were shooed away, how we bought the cheesiest friendship bracelets in the world.
I’m following (almost) everyone on Instagram, including my groupmates from Taiwan (Wendy, Jimmy, Remus –who I find all cool and chic and attractive –hello), Adit, Fang, and our group moderators.
Our group moderators!!!! Maybe I need to write a separate blog post about our cute and amazing group moderators Nuch, Nana, Link and Nine. They were working so hard to keep us updated and in line, and then I found out they were mostly at least four years younger than me and so now I want to adopt them. I will never forget the varying tones of “Group 2, follow me!”.
Everyone, please come to the Philippines so that I can feed you.
I realized that unless you live in that city or country, you’ll never really know a place. No matter how many times I visit, Bangkok has something new to offer. This trip was extra special because it came with several more lines I can add to my resume, and new friends.
Though I regret the loss of all the photos and videos I took, I’ll take it as a sign that I’ll still be able to come back and retrace those steps and experiences. Maybe some things will be different, but I will love Bangkok all the same. Also I’ll take it a sign to not be an idiot who loses her phone in a public toilet!!!! I’m still screaming at myself.
I wrote most of this post while on the plane back to Manila, and I’m already so excited for my next trip. Where will we go next?