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Uncovering the best family holidays

Bangkok, Thailand

Traditional vs Modern: Bangkok's Chatuchak Market vs Siam Ocean World

Our first weekend in Bangkok we knew we had to head to Chatuchak. This weekend market is one of the largest and best-known outdoor markets in the world. With over 200,000 visitors per weekend. There are over 8000 market stalls selling anything, from antique furniture to bunnies in ballet dresses, authentic hawker food to skinny leg jeans, and hand-made ceramic figurines to exotic plants. This is one place you can literally shop till you drop. And best to brush up on your bargaining skills if you want to grab an extra special bargain.

Our taxi ride there was quick and only $7 from our place located outside the city. We like Saturday and Sunday traffic… Well before 4pm and rain.  You can also get there via skytrain (BTS) or subway (MRT).

It can get hot in there so make sure you are wearing light, comfortable clothing and even some sunscreen, my fair skin was tickled pink. We went early in the morning to avoid the noonday heat, but it still was exceptionally warm. You might want to bring a backpack to start storing all the goodies you pickup. Of course there is hardly any ATMS and vendors don’t accept credit card so bring cash with you.

The market is open Saturday & Sunday 9am – 6pm.  If you haven’t got toddlers and love a good night market they are also open Fridays from 6pm – midnight.

We did not actually come away with any goodies as we are still trying to get down to a 2 bag travel team (still not succeeding), but we did enjoy our first taste of Bangkok Street Food. We found through out the warm day vendors with steel drums. Inside these steel drums were cylindrical cavities. Inside these cavities were different flavoured ice poles.  Everyone was happy to walk around with one of these from cola, lemonade, strawberry and other exotic flavours. 4 of them cost us less than $1 and were refreshing and occupying for the kids as we wandered aimlessly through the markets.

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My husband was also enthralled with the pork on a stick, it really is delicious. He also decided for research purposes to try a “real” ice-cream sandwich. This vanilla ice cream with unknown jellies and tidbits is squished inside a sweet bread roll… yes a normal bread roll you might eat for lunch. It got a thumbs up.

A few hours after our arrival the kids were tired of walking and we headed north to the playground. The ground was wet and muddy from the previous night’s rains. The equipment was mostly broken, run down and rusted. The kids played on what they could until I spotted a used condom on the ground and then we departed quickly. Check out our market and park photos here.

By then the noon day heat was burning my shoulders so we escaped to the nearby BTS station and caught our first skytrain to Siam. This train ride is approximately $1per person, kids under counter height are free. The view is fantastic, but unless it is the middle of a weekday I’m afraid you won’t see anything other then the sweaty armpits of the person crowded into your personal space.

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From Siam there are several malls you can go to and we decided to visit the first one we came across, which was Siam Paragon. Opened in December 2005 this mall is huge with Ocean World located in its basement, as well as Madam Tussads, a large cinema with iMax as well as the elite Enigma cinema. The Enigma is a Members Only Movie Club cinema where one ticket will set you back over $90.

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There are endless numbers of restaurants and a lovely food court with one vendor (I personally tried) selling award-winning world class Pad Thai. We have tried several restaurants. Peri Peri Chicken, which is Thailand’s version of Nando’s, complete even with an all-too-similar logo and Portuguese background story. We also enjoyed an Italian buffet at Belguardo (www.belguardo.com), which was $42 for all 4 of us, this included as much as you can eat freshly cooked pasta & salad dishes on demand. There was also a buffet bar filled with entrees, pizzas and desserts.  It was a personal favourite of Josh’s who devoured 3 pastas dishes in quick succession.  Surprisingly, the food wasn’t typical “buffet quality”, that you might expect from somewhere like Sizzler, but really top notch. The service was friendly, efficient and worthy of praise. A five star experience. See photos.

We considered going to Ocean World straight after the market, but made the smart move of heading home to give the kids a well-needed afternoon nap.  After they were refreshed, we headed back to Siam Paragon and made our way to Ocean World, located on the bottom floor. The entry tickets weren’t cheap at around $83 of 4 of us including a 20% discount we received on a brochure when entering Siam Paragon. However, the quality of the attractions certainly made up for that. We’ve been to a few aquariums around the world and this one comes out on top in terms of wow-factor. There are all the favourites: sharks, stingrays, eels, giant crabs, clownfish (“Nemos” as Mia calls them) and even spiders and lizards (yes, that’s right). The range of animals is very impressive. It’s one of the largest aquariums in South East Asia with over 30,000 creatures to see.

For an extra fee there are additional attractions like a glass-bottom boat ride and underwater ocean floor walk in a diving suit, but we skipped those. 

Unlike other aquariums we’ve been too, it was really sensibly laid out, good signage and had a great atmosphere. There were toilets at just the right spots and some snack stations when you started to get hungry or thirsty halfway through. Importantly for toddlers, there were plenty of benches to stop and rest and just admire the natural beauty of these amazing creatures.

You'll also spot some posters around with creatures strangely looking like Finding Nemo & Shark Tale characters, but with different names. And a section of fish tanks in fridges, microwaves and other human appliances. 

Josh liked the educational aspect and the kids enjoyed the interactive touch pools (Caius, a bit too much when he grabbed a starfish and waved it around), and I enjoyed the penguins. There is a great seating area right outside the penguin exhibit where I managed a long moments rest admiring their beauty.

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I have to admit Josh and I are still arguing about this as I type this post cause Sydney Aquarium still holds a special place in my heart, however Josh insists Ocean World has been his favourite of all of them. The only thing that Josh and I can agree on is the lame movie at the end. You can save your time and skip the 5D movie about some random fairytale prince trying to find his talking rose, it had nothing to do with oceans, sea creatures or animals (it was included in our ticket).

Overall, a fun day out and some lovely memories that we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives, and I’m sure the starfish won’t forget Caius anytime soon.

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Posted by farzana on
just came across your blog and LOVE IT!!!..very informative and as a mother of 2 little ones this will come in handy for our upcoming trips.kp up the great WOR.
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