BANGKOK was the most-visited city on earth last year, the first Asian city to boast the accolade. Yet few tourists seem to venture beyond Sukhumvit, Silom and Siam.
Whilst there’s certainly enough to keep one busy in the city’s throbbing heart, a couple of days in an area of Greater Bangkok rewards with a slice of life lived as a middle class local. So try Ari.
This buzzing enclave, home to well heeled Thais, expats and hipsters, has a lot to offer the even mildly curious.
It may not have the glitzy, seemingly endless malls of Siam but Ari is only two BTS stops or a 20-minute stroll away from Chatuchak weekend market, one of the largest of its kind in Asia. This cornucopia of kitsch plays home to purveyors of everything from novelty penis soaps to Kardashian outfits for your chihuahua.A rollicking retail ride, it’s not for the crowd squeamish.
If you feel flummoxed by the rows of pants, pickles and parrots take some time out to people watch at Viva 8 Bar where you can munch on a very passable paella whilst on the look out for tourists with suitcases of tat and a local guy who strolls the aisles with his guitar playing dog in a baby sling.
If “JJ market,” as it’s locally known, is just too much then Ari’s Villa complex has cute clothing boutiques and a gourmet food emporium while Big C at nearby Saphan Kwai is a down-to-earth shopping center with cheap jewelry and sunglasses.
Ari is oozing with street snacks. From the many pad thai sellers on Soi 7 to the best roast chicken stall outside fashionable Greyhound Cafe, there’s always morsels to munch on.
Be sure to try a roast pork and noodle soup from one of a deluge of local vendors and be aware that lunch time, when local workers from IBM and nearby government offices descend, is super busy for the many coffee shops, rice and curry joints and sushi cafes in the area.
If perching on a plastic stool is less than fun in your Gucci heels then Ari has plenty of upmarket eating options. Lay Lao is wildly popular – try the pork rib sour soup. Rock Bar rocks. Salt and Fat Bird are terribly trendy and good for tapas-sized snacks.
If skewers and sushi in a pub setting is your thing, then head to “Soi Aqua” which is jam-packed with Japanese eateries and hostelries. Download eatigo for discounts.The oddly named Old Dirty Gastro Bar does flagons of Belgian beer.
For those who like to stay up late there is live music at Beer Park, just around the corner from a string of go go bars. Still a touch seedy but a more suburban seedy bunch than the Sukhumvit crowd.