Bangkok hangover: Heady days at the quintessential tourist destination

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster. Imagine staying for three nights.

Daytime markets and buzzling late-night bazaars. Soaring skyscrapers with panoramic views of the city. Hip districts full of high-end stores and massive malls with hundreds of outlets. Homegrown theme parks. Amazing beaches. World-class museums. Ornate temples and tranquil nature parks. Top-notch cooking schools. Numerous festivals dedicated solely to food — and more food.

Bangkok’s got everything. There, it’s almost like the pandemic never happened.
It remains a dazzling destination that rewards anyone who takes the time to explore its many layers — whether you’re seeking glimpses of traditional Thai heritage or shopping for the latest fashion trends, craving for authentic Thai curriestom yum and pad thai or eager to visit its famous temples.

Elephant show, main attraction at Safari World.

“From a once concrete jungle as they say, Thailand is now a top tourist destination with different modern buildings,” said Len Rivera, manager and Philippine representative of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “Thailand’s fascinating architectural designs are the likes of Mahanakhon Tower, Baiyoke Tower and Icon Siam, to name a few, with interesting local touches designed by visionary architects, and is now what Bangkok is.”

Rivera disclosed that the Philippine market saw a significant growth year after year at an average of 15 to 20 percent before the pandemic. In 2019, over half a million Filipinos visited Thailand. But, the pandemic in 2020 precipitated a sudden stop in tourism flows and a significant contraction in economic activity. However, since the opening of Thai borders in 2022, Filipino travelers are slowly making their way to Thailand, their second top country of choice after Singapore at the time.

“To date, we are now moving on a positive figure and we hope to sustain the market through innovative programs that will enrich the expectations of each traveler. We’d like to showcase the grandiosity of Thailand, most especially the warmth of the people welcoming all visitors to ‘The Land of Smiles.’ We also want to promote Thailand to Generations Z and Y,” Rivera said.


Sights, sounds and shopping

A recent visit to Bangkok allowed a group of media from Manila to explore the city in three full days. Our amiable Thai tour guide named Bo (real name: Nattapong Jongboonsab) said three to four days are relatively enough to feel all the activities and adventure the city can offer.

“Filipino travelers love shopping, and Thailand is the shopping paradise for most. Night markets are in abundance and they never fail you,” said Rivera.

FAIRYTALE castle at Jodd Fairs DanNeramit night market.

Yes, shopping is almost a national pastime in Thailand. The all-day markets, massive malls and high-end stores offer shopping prospects where the experience is as important as the things on offer. Quality ranges from fairly high to incredibly low, and knock-offs are everywhere.

The night markets — spread all over the city — have dedicated stalls selling traditional get-ups, while others vend watches, handbags, shoes, artworks and a variety of BKK-focused souvenirs.

And like the street markets, temples abound. If you have to see at least one, go to Wat Indharahiwan, where the tallest standing Buddha that seemingly watches over Bangkok like a god incarnate is located. The stunning statue stands at 32 meters high (105 ft). Located in the Phra Nakorn district, the temple itself predates the founding of Bangkok in 1782 and was originally named Wat Rai Prink.

If you want to see Bangkok in its full glory, drop in at Bayoike Sky Hotel, one of the city’s tallest buildings with an observation deck. The 360-views are stunning, with sweeping vistas of the entire city below — and best seen at night. Here, you’ll see visitors from around the world jostling for selfie spots. Just a few floors below, there’s a cozy restaurant that offers an array of food and dining options, plus a vast view of the city skyline.

FOOD market at Siam Premium Outlet.

For families on tour, the Safari World and Marine Park is a must-visit. It isn’t just for the little ones, but also for thrill seekers of all ages. Don’t miss the dolphin show, bird show, orangutan show, elephant show and sea lion show.  Weekends are often packed, so drop in on weekdays to beat the long queues.


Thai cooking class

It is said that one of the best ways to learn more about a country’s cuisine is to visit its markets, and so we did. We went to one of the wet markets to see the freshest produce and local ingredients. We also stopped at one of the city’s famed cooking schools, Sompong Thai Cooking School on Silom Road. Our Thai teacher named Koy shared the importance of Thai ingredients, such as kaffir, galangal root, basil, red and green chilies.

“Here, we teach our guests how to cook authentic and healthy Thai food in a fun and relaxing atmosphere like you were at home,” said Koy. Each student has his/her own individual cooking station and a free cookbook with recipes, such as Green Curry with Chicken, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup, Thai-style Fried Noodles and Mango Sticky Rice.

It’s typically a half-day cooking class, after which you get to eat and savor what you cooked.


Amazing Thailand

These days, a visit to Thailand can either be a tour group package or DIY (do it yourself). But Rivera has this to say: “It’s not a matter of which is better than the other. The younger generations love to experience and explore on their own so they opt for DIY. Those taking a package tour may be first time travelers or those who just want to relax, enjoy their holiday without any hassle,” she said.

“In short, a tour package is recommended for those travelers who want everything in place with their top picks of the places they want to visit. DIY is better for travelers who want to have control of their time in every place they visit.”


For Carmina Romero, Cebu Pacific corporate communications director, this is the best time to see and experience Bangkok.

“Bangkok is one of the most loved destinations and we want travelers to rediscover their love for Cebu Pacific and Bangkok,” she said. “Traveling to Bangkok truly offers a rich and diverse experience — from its cultural heritage and delicious cuisine to its warm hospitality and affordability. It is a great city for leisure travelers.”

Cebu Pacific currently flies twice daily between Manila and Bangkok. It also operates direct flights to Bangkok from Clark six times weekly.