A Surprise Visit to Bangkok, Thailand

Traveler: Alexandra Rakhimova – Art Historian & Stylist

When did you escape? In the beginning of January, after we spent the New Year in Uzbekistan followed by a few days in Dubai.

What was the purpose of your travel? My best friend since school Anna, moved to Bangkok for work and I wanted to surprise her with a visit.

With how many people did you travel? I travelled together with my husband Sardor.

Where did you stay? We stayed in the Kempinksi Siam, it is a great hotel with great service and food. What I liked the most about it, is that it is right next door to one of the best malls in town – Siam Paragon, you can actually walk into the mall straight through the hotel and anything from a pharmacy to Starbucks is just a minute walk away.

What did you most like about the trip? The cultural difference. I travel so much around Europe, that I no longer feel the great difference in culture or mentality between nationalities and cities, but Bangkok is so different – the mentality, the culture, the values, the religion… it fascinates you. It is like you are in another world. It is so intriguing to learn the traditions, the history, the different interests and priorities of the locals. Although Thailand is also highly affected by globalization and many aspects are already the same as everywhere else, nevertheless, the strong sense of their unique culture is still present, and I think it is so important they preserve it this way.

elephant bangkok

Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? Visiting Ayutthaya! A beautiful ancient city filled with ruins of breathtaking temples, it is so culturally saturated it is almost unreal. I also really enjoyed riding the elephants there, they are so huge and heavy, yet I did not find anything scary or intimidating about them, in fact to me they seemed so vulnerable, so graceful even, as odd as that sounds.

Your most surprising find during the trip? I was taken away and extremely surprised by Thai designers! At Siam Paragon’s department store I found a whole floor filled with amazing pieces, all by local designers. The fashion industry is really established, and the brands are extremely sophisticated. I was impressed not only by the creative designs, but also by the quality of fabrics, the cuts and the good fit! The local crowd is so tiny, I was so surprised that for the first time ever I didn’t need XS or S, but in fact M!

Favorite restaurant or food you have tried during your trip? Bangkok has a lot of street stalls, street food is incredibly popular there, however we didn’t risk it. I fell in love with a place called the FACE. In order to find it you have to go through Bangkok’s most famous street-food street. The FACE fuses three of my favorite cuisines – Thai, Indian and Japanese. The atmosphere and interior is amazing, it is an incredibly comfortable atmosphere to be in and enjoy a delicious dinner. Such atmosphere is a result of the collision of the Old and New Thailand, and the interior blends the traditional Thai culture with the international style. The FACE has its own spa and it gives of a relaxed atmosphere. Dimly lit throughout, the courtyard area is a great place to sit amid the subtly lit flora and sound of trickling water, the perfect spot for a post-dinner glass of port. It’s difficult to imagine you are in central Bangkok; the serenity is quite overwhelming and the tranquility is enhanced by the gentle sound of traditional Thai music. Delicious food, lovely atmosphere and outstanding service and hospitality – definitely one of Bangkok’s hidden secrets.

Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? Apart from the FACE, which is a must-visit, everything else seems to be pretty well known – definitely visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the temples of Wat Arun and Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. When visiting the grand palace please make sure you come early, because it closes at 15:00, and be aware of fraud outside the Grand Palace. Tourists are tricked into buying an expensive boat trip to kill time, because they lied to that it is Buddha Day and the palace is closed until 15:00, when in fact it closes at 15:00 with no exceptions.

Also, it was only after we rode the elephants in Ayutthaya that we found out to our greatest disappointment, that the elephants there are treated really badly and beaten, so tourists are encouraged not to ride them there, but instead visit the Elephant Sanctuary, where they are cared for and you can enjoy a day with them in their natural habitat.

Would you go back? Of course! But this time I would like to travel further to the beautiful islands of Thailand – Koh Samui and the Phi Phi Islands.

Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? Besides the traditional souvenirs such as the amazing spices and noodles for Pad Thai, fragrance diffusers for the home and delicious dried fruit, my most extraordinary find was my FLY NOW BANGKOK jacket and skirt.  On the last day in the morning, I found the most extraordinary brand FLY NOW. They have a Gold Label with the most unique pieces, when I first saw the display I thought it was Vintage Dior or Galliano or something. I already put my eye on so many pieces, when to my great disappointment once I started trying everything on, I couldn’t fit into anything! I can’t imagine how small the Thai models are – they must have no ribs. Because it was demi couture, there was only one piece of everything, and the made to measure orders took 3-6 months. I desperately needed one of the suits for Paris Fashion week, which was in two weeks. Luckily I pleaded, and they managed to make the jacket for me in a week and ship it straight to Paris, where the street style photographs just loved the look! It was so Parisian chic, although it was my little souvenir from Thailand.

Any tips that might be useful to know before going there? Be prepared for a cultural shock in all ways! I was too taken by the beauty of the antiquity and the architecture, while Sardor was just too shocked by the number of lady boy’s, so perhaps morally prepare for an astonishment.

Next stop you would like to visit? Japan! I dream to go there when Sakura is in bloom.