Bangkok - Travels with Kids

Friday, 23 October 2009

We'd only been living in China nine months when we decided enough Beijing lung-clogging pollution was enough - and headed off to Bangkok for some lung-clogging pollution... Thai style.

Oh how we loved Bangkok. On our way to Phuket (I'll write about this soon), we stopped off this vibrant, noisy, colourful and gorgeously wonderful capital for two days, catching up with friends, and zipping about town. We just couldn't get enough.

We stayed at the stunning Banyan Tree hotel right in town - probably one of my all-time favourite places to stay anywhere in the world, let alone Asia. Many Asian hotels are becoming crotchety about allowing more than one child to sleep in your room (even if that second child is the size of a flea, as was Riley's case at the time) but the Banyan Tree was so accommodating.

Both Ella and Riley slept in the 'living area' of our room. We had a neat sliding door that closed off the rooms and they had plenty of space to snuggle on the couch and the single bed alongside it.

There is nowhere like Thailand for aesthetic beauty (and warmth) and the rooms are just so understated and stunning - with beautiful blooms, fresh fruit and oils or incense at every turn. Great thing is - this kind of attention to detail isn't exclusive to fine hotels.

Breafkast at the Banyan Tree

The swimming pool is located high up the hotel tower and overlooks a stunning vista of the city. Boundary fences are high and strong, making parents less nervous.

A must-visit is the rooftop restaurant/bar - the Vertigo and Moon Bar - which have quite incredible panoramic views of Bangkok, 61 floors high. The entire floor is open-air and the layout is quite disarming when you first walk onto the roof... surrounded by glass fencing it appears you are walking on air. This is not the best place for anyone with a fear of heights.

Parents might keep a vice like grip on the kids (even though it's perfectly safe) but the staff warmly welcome little ones, and we spent many an occasion sipping mocktails with our tots in tow, gasping over the stunning view (or was it the lung-clogging pollution?).

During out stay in Bangkok, we did one of our favourite things to do - just cruise town on public transport. We took the train - or the Bangkok Mass Transit System - which spends a lot of time above ground, allowing you to see all.

The Sky Train prioritises stops at department stores, temples, parks, markets, museums, the riverfront and other attractions, making it a cheap and fast way to get around town. We also, of course, did a lot of fancy footwork.

There are lights to cross roads in Bangkok but often times you will find yourself faced with an impenetrable stream of traffic. Pick up the kids and walk across slowly but purposefully, without making any sudden movements and the traffic (mostly motorbikes) will cruise seamlessly around you like Moses parting the sea. Nerve-wracking at first, but easy to get used to and, frankly - sometimes it's the only way across.

The kids loved the Sky Train but they particularly loved the long boats on Chao Phraya river. What a trip!

We paid about AU$50 for our trip on the river - which took a little over an hour, and we had the entire boat to ourselves (it seats about 20 or 30). Most 'river guides' will want to take you on a two or three hour trip, but one hour is enough for little ones, especially in that heat, so we negotiated a shorter ride.

Watch the price on this one - guides will presume you mean $50 per person, and we frequently came across people who paid this. AU$50 for all four of us for an hour was probably STILL far too much to pay, but it was good value to us and gave this poverty-stricken worker a decent pay packet for an hour's work.

It was fascinating to cruise the backwaters of Chao Phraya river. At once there are water-logged slums and exquisite mansions, ramshackle houses and gilt-edged temples, all jostling in the same area for water space.

Everyone is just so friendly and you feel like royalty as you chug down the narrow waterways, waving at smiling faces. This is amazing exposure for the kids, and we took great pains to explain to both Riley and Ella about the condition of these people's lives.

Obviously part of a team of tourist-hawkers, this fellow was waiting for us at the turnaround point on a back waterway and we indulged him with a few puchases, including this stunning (!) foldable hat for Ella. Well, she loved it.

To add excitement and drama to our trip, the boat's motor conked out and the guide had to stop on the 'wharf' of a ritzy home where he attempted to fix the choked propellor while being nipped on the ankles by these pesky dogs...

It's hot hot hot on these trips - make sure you take plenty of water, hats and sunscreen.

Riley sweats it out

Back on dry land, we toured the streets on foot...

...and then headed back to the Banyan Tree for a cooling swim. Below is the garden outside the breakfast restaurant. You can glimpse the magnificent Banyan tree to the left.

Lunch - poolside

Because we had limited time in Bangkok (we plan on returning in 2010), we only managed to snag ourselves a lovely stroll through a large park near the hotel with manicured trees (in the shape of elephants, no less!) and rides and the odd gold-coated pagoda mingled in the sweltering heat.

Other recommended sites for kids in Bangkok include:

I hope to take you on an adventure to all these places when we return from a trip to Thailand mid-next year.

For a plethora of things to do in Bangkok with kids, see Bangkok for Kids and Families.

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