New travelers to Thailand are often surprised to hear me say how much I love Bangkok. It’s a city that needs time to grow on you, I agree, but now that it has I’m pretty much addicted. I love that after dozens of trips here, there’s always something new to do and discover. So what did we get up to in this five day session, other than lounging at our new favorite hotel, and taking a group field trip to the National Stadium? Actually, a pretty impressive amount considering we are all seasoned veterans of the city.
Of course, we hit up our old standards. We ran errands at Pantip and Platinum (I love the names of the malls here), we partied on Sukhumvit, and we went to Chatuchak Market and ate so many snacks we basically had to be rolled out.
Speaking of partying on Sukhumvit, I really can’t say enough good things about Nest, my favorite area rooftop bar and eatery. Even if they did accidentally give us spring rolls covered in chocolate and ice cream when we ordered friend bananas as a dessert.
I also can’t really say enough good things about what good sports the local tuk tuk drivers were about taking us to McDonald’s on a nightly basis on our way home, a ritual that quickly devolved into french fry food fights in our hotel rooms. I never said we were classy!
But aside from that, we also made time for some really impressive new experiences. I swear. One such adventure? Finally trying out WithLocals, a site I’ve been excited about since their launch, for myself. The concept is to bring locals and travelers together in an authentic way and provide income to talented local chefs, artists, and guides. Hey, as much as we’d all love to get organically invited to dine in the home of a hospitable local person we meet on our travels, in reality it’s not that easy — or in the case of say, a woman traveling alone, necessarily safe. I love that WithLocals allows you to experience something between that dream scenario and the typical tourist reality of eating out every night in a restaurant.
We combed through biking tours, art workshops, and dining experiences before finally settling on DineThai, a dinner hosted by Bank and Mandy.
We gathered on their beautiful rooftop, home to both fantastic views over the city and a lush garden used to produce many of the ingredients we were about to eat. Bank and Mandy were fascinating hosts, having met working on an organic farm in Northern Thailand and currently working on producing a documentary about food production in Thailand. Their food reflected that — organic, local, and seasonal. Not to mention delicious.
After booking, Bank sent over a menu that we were able to choose from. We settled on pomelo salad with coconut dressing, vermicelli salad with needle mushroom, chicken and mackerel kebabs with massaman sauce, and silken almond pudding in ginger tea for dessert. We were blown away — our friend Will, who is a chef as well, had joined us and even he was taking notes as Bank described her process and recipes. The meal was divine, the setting was gorgeous, the company was perfection and — I feel like I need to qualify this any time I’m with my Koh Tao crew — our hosts were really good sports about hanging with a somewhat chaotic group of characters.
Not only would I try WithLocals again, I’d actually go right back and dine with Bank and Mandy again too.
I almost cried when I saw this photo — we look so civilized!
After three nights of what boiled down to non-stop debauchery and indulgence, most of the boys returned to the island and just Heather, Chris and I were left to face the event that had inspired this trip to Bangkok in the first place. A midnight charity run through the streets of Bangkok. Yes, after three days of fueling ourselves on french friends and red bull vodkas, we needed to run. Put our sneakers on and run. Six kilometers. Through the streets. Of Bangkok. At night.
As the evening approached, I could see that our enthusiasm levels were seriously dangling. While we indulged in a pre-run foot massage, I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. I was exhausted and felt like crap. Still, we gave ourselves a little pep talk, bought some ridiculous matching team tank tops off the street, and rallied for registration.
I couldn’t believe the crowds at the Amari hotel — or the fact that it was still EIGHTY FIVE DEGREES FAHRENHEIT when we were lacing up at 11pm. Bangkok — it’s nothing if not steamy!
Our spirits were considerably lifted by the enthusiasm of our fellow runners. We didn’t know it was a dress up run!
By the time midnight rolled around, I had absorbed some of the energy of the crowd and was pretty pumped. Plus, I saw that one of the sponsors of the run was the “Billion Million Trading Company Lt.” and that laugh alone would fuel me through the first mile.
We were both shocked and bemused to realize that no, the streets of Bangkok do not shut down merely for a few thousand citizens doing a charity run to raise money for children’s hospital! No! Traffic was kind of stopped one way, meaning we were constantly dodging cabs and sprinting past cars. Well, this Thailand — safety seventh!
Heather — who had literally run the Chicago Marathon and boarded her flight around the world forty eight hours later, because why not — and Chris are much faster than I, but were really sweetly encouraging and never made me feel like I was holding them back. I am so not a natural runner, and so I was really proud of myself for running the entire 6K, except for when I sipped and strolled through the water stops.
And what kind of luxury run was this! There was even a popsicle and cool towel stop. Yes please.
I had a loose goal of finishing in under an hour and when I saw that we were getting close to both the finish like and that time on the clock, I found one last burst of energy to push through to the end. We actually made it with fine minutes to go. It was exhilarating.
It might not seem like much to some champion sprinters out there, but considering this was only my second ever official run, I was pretty pleased with the whole thing. For a few hours of our time and our $30 registration fee we had an incredibly unique Bangkok experience, we got to dress up and make fools of ourselves, we were really immersed with locals (I was surprised how few foreigners were there), and we even got to work off a few of those fries.
Plus we got these nifty medals.
Bangkok, you continue to surprise and seduce me! Next stop, Pai…
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Many thanks to WithLocals for hosting our dining experience. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.