There are some places in the world where everyday expenses are sky high, such as Iceland. When you’re visiting there, you’re constantly looking for ways to save money while still enjoying yourself. Other places in the world are very affordable, and you’re able to treat yourself to some indulgences without breaking the bank. Thailand is one of those places.
My friend Samantha and I are on a girls’ trip to Bangkok, and we decided today would be a day of decadence. After stuffing ourselves at the lavish Century Park Hotel breakfast buffet, which was included in the price of our room, we headed to Siladon Spa for a four-hour massage. This is something I would never do at home, because I really can’t relax knowing I’ve spent so much money on something so decadent. But a four-hour massage in Bangkok? Just $58. For four hours!
We chose the Siladon Voyage Package, which included a foot massage, body scrub, aroma oil massage, and herbal ball compress, which was ฿4000 (Thai baht) per person or roughly $116 USD. The spa was running a buy one, get one free special, though, which made it half price for each of us. It also included a lovely little tea break in the middle.
I had no idea what an herbal ball compress treatment (luk pra kob) was, but it turned out to be my favorite part of the session. Ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and other herbs are wrapped in muslin and steamed, then the hot compress is rolled on your body in small, circular movements. The practice began in Thailand 5,000 years ago, and they definitely know what they’re doing.
They also mean serious business with the massage itself. When we arrived, we selected an herbal oil (choices included lemongrass, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and rice) as well as the level of pressure we wanted (light, medium, or hard). I went with rice oil and medium pressure, but I definitely should have selected light pressure, because my masseuse had thumbs and elbows and knees of steel. Think of Thai massage pressure the same way you think of Thai food. Trust me when I say that you cannot handle Thai hot or a hard Thai massage.
As we left the spa four hours later and walked toward the train station, we came across a lovely little French restaurant called Bistro Convent and decided to have a late lunch of escargot and Champagne. Day of decadence indeed! (Although it cost us less than $30 each including gratuity.)
After freshening up at the hotel, we met our guide from Bangkok Tuk Tuk Food Tours for a behind-the-scenes look at Thai cuisine.
Our first stop was a family-style restaurant filled with Thai locals, where we were served a duck and vegetable salad, fried pork with a spicy soy and scallion dipping sauce, and pork neck soup. So far, so good!
Our tuk tuk then took us to Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai, where we made our way to the back of the restaurant. There, in a tarp-covered alley, we watched a row of chefs cook egg noodle dishes in makeshift kitchens consisting of metal folding tables and propane burners with open flames.
After enjoying roast chicken with egg noodle, we took a break from the food to visit the Bangkok Flower Market, or Pak Klong Talad. This huge space offers millions of flowers at bargain prices, including intricate floral wreaths and sculptures that are purchased as offerings for temples and shrines. The market is part of Bangkok’s Old City near the Saphan Phut Memorial Bridge and just around the corner from Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
We bought flowers for our next stop, the Wat Pho royal temple. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is a mouthful: Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn (Thai: วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร). We’ll stick with Wat Pho.
Wat Pho is closed to the general public at night, and we were virtually the only people there. It is the highest grade of the first-class royal Thai temples, and the intricate detail of the Chinese porcelain-covered spires is breathtaking. We’ll head back later in the week during the daytime to see the 150-foot gold-leafed reclining Buddha statue.
Just across from the entrance to Wat Pho at the end of an unassuming side street is Sala Arun bed and breakfast. Up a steep staircase (topped with an even steeper spiral staircase) is the Eagle Nest rooftop bar, which offers 360-degree views of the river and the three temples.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the tuk tuk food tour concluded with authentic Pad Thai at Thip Samai Pad Thai, which is heralded as the best Pad Thai in Bangkok. Total price for three meals, a private tour of the flower market and Wat Pho temple, a beer at the rooftop bar, and tuk tuk transportation that dropped us off at the front door of our hotel? Just $55.
Total for our day of decadence? A very affordable $150, which makes my bargain-loving heart happy.
Today’s expat evaluation: +1 for insanely inexpensive massages, +1 for authentic French food outside France, +1 for flowers and temples, +1 for an exciting local food scene.