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Discovering Bangkok: Part 1

There’s a lot of cities in the world, which have a wealth of culture, dive bars, hidden gems, quirky cafes tucked between little alleys to offer, unbeknownst to the millions of steps pattering past to the check off the next location, on the list of Top 10 Things to do when in XYZ! Unknown to most people, the feeling of curiosity, exploration and wonder is what such places readily satisfy. Bangkok has most comfortably earned its place as one of the top cities in the world, to offer a variety so wide, it blew me away the first time I started exploring this city based on recommendations from locals.

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So Heng Tai mansion, photo: GoJo Tours

Exploring Bangkok, is much like a market that has been set up inside a giant maze, wherein a left turn instead of right could show you something completely different. Keeping that in mind, I did what I do when I’m in the mood for an adventure; plug in my headphones, and start walking. Doing just that, around Bangkok’s first ever developing neighbourhood, Silom, was especially interesting, because it barely manages to suppress, to those willing to take a peak, the art & culture, the stories, and the history of what Bangkok was, and how it got to where it is today.

If you have your walking shoes on, a cold bottle of water, and your sense of adventure, then exploring Silom is going to be one of the coolest things you do, because going down it’s back alleys is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen in Bangkok.

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Bangkokian Museum, photo: alamy.com

Bangkokian Museum
Have you seen the Disney movie UP? Well, imagine a well built metropolitan city, with an old house built in the 1930s, with a charmingly sweet history of a local family, sitting smack in the middle of everything. Imagining it? Yep, now that’s exactly what the Bangkokian Museum is. This little gem of a museum sits in the back streets of Silom, and completely runs on donations, and some wonderfully informative volunteers who are happy to show you around, share the history, and teach you some dance moves if you’re brave enough to ask. Until the early 2000s, this house was still occupied by the family that originally had it built, after which it was preserved as a museum to depict the life of middle-upper-class Thai families after WWII. With 3 houses to explore, 150 y/o books to marvel at, and secret air raid shelters in the garden (ask the volunteers about it!), this serene museum is unlike most.

Location: Google Maps
Entrance fee: Free
Opening times: Open Tuesday-Sunday – 9am to 4pm. Closed on Mondays.
Approx time to spend: 45 min – 1 hour.
How to learn more about it: Onsite volunteers, and information plaques.

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Neilson Hays Library, photo: Coconuts

Neilson Hays Library
Albert Einstein famously said “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of a library”. Now who can argue with the genius of wise old Al? If there was a time to take the aforementioned quote to heart, it would be in regards to Neilson Hays Library. Founded in 1869 by a group of 12 women, with a mission to further the education of women. At first portable library, which was made larger by a Dutch-American missionary called Jennie Neilson, who remained the most active member since arriving in 1881, for the next 30 years. She received tremendous support from the locals, and the royal family of Thailand. Jennie’s husband Dr. T.H. Hays, built the library in her name in 1921. The library thrived, until 1941, during WWII, when the Japanese troops used the library for lodging it’s troops, the end of which resulted in many stolen letters, rare books, and original blueprints of the library.

Location: Google Maps
Entrance fee: Free
Opening times:Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM (closed Monday)
Approx time to spend: 30 min – 45 mins.
How to learn more about it: Library staff, and information plaques.

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So Heng Tai mansion, photo: bangkokways.com

So Heng Tai
Did you ever want to hangout in a 230 y/o Chinese Mansion hidden away in the back alleys of a city?
Have you ever wanted to scuba dive in a swimming pool, in the middle of a metropolitan city?
Would you like to pet some pure bred beagles while sipping on some of the best mango smoothies you will ever have?
If you said yes to all of the questions above, then congratulations! So Heng Tai is the place where you can do all these things at the same time! It’s tricky to find, as it hides behind a lot of narrow alleys, but there’s plenty of signs around for you to be able to find it. The staff are excellent, and will sit and talk about the building as well if you’re interested enough. Pro tip: go there around 11 am, and take a book with you. It’ll be one of the most peaceful places you’ll find in Bangkok.

Location: Google Maps
Entrance fee: Buy 1 drink off the menu. Max price is 80 THB.
Opening times:Tuesday – Sunday, 9 AM – 6 PM (closed Monday)
Approx time to spend: 30 min – 45 mins.
How to learn more about it: Staff, and information plaques.

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Mother Roaster, photo: wongnai.com

Mother Roaster
One of the more interesting culture shocks I first experienced in Bangkok, was the coffee culture. From cold brews, maple flavoured, to nitro coffees (still don’t know what that means…). Mother Roaster stands uniquely in front of most for 2 reasons. 1- The unique story behind the cafe, of Pa Pim, a 70 y/o barista, who started grinding coffee beans by hand, and started selling coffees, because retirement was too boring, and 2- The coffees are some of the more amazing ones you’ll ever have the pleasure of ordering.

Location: Google Maps
Opening times:Tuesday – Sunday, 10 AM – 6 PM (closed Monday)
How to learn more about it: Pa Pim takes the orders herself!

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Street art at Charoen Krung Soi 32, photo: GoJo Tours

Charoen Krung Soi 32
If you have an appreciation for some funky, and personally, some very unique graffiti art, Soi 32 is a gold mine, and probably Bangkok’s most famous graffiti exhibition, from local and international artists, including Bangkok’s very own Banksy. At the end of the alley, there is a boat pier which does tours, and has tuk-tuk drivers hanging around. Politely decline if they offer tours or tuk-tuk rides around Bangkok. They are more than likely to scam you out of a lot of money. Around noon, everyday (except Monday), a local market sets up shop with all kinds of food, and local delicacies for those brave enough to try!

Location: Google Maps
Entrance fee: Free
Opening times:24 hrs
Approx time to spend: 20 mins to walk to the top and back

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