Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bangkok: Shopaholiday in Thailand - Day 2

It is day 2 of my Shopaholiday in Bangkok. On day 1, I spent the day in the city exploring The Platinum Fashion Mall, Pratunam and CentralWorld. On day 2, it was Saturday and time to visit the very popular Jatujak (or some call it JJ or Chatuchak). The Jatujak weekend market is all the hype and highlight of shopping in Bangkok.

Bangkok: Shopaholiday in Thailand
Day 2 (31st May 2008)
"Hootin'" at Jatujak (Chatuchak)
I do not usually take photos of the hotel room. Though the view from my Bangkok Palace hotel room was not breathtaking at the 10th storey, but it does have an unblocked view over the top of most shorter buildings. We could have hired a taxi from the hotel taxi service, but we decided to try out their BTS skytrain which took us directly to JJ.

The BTS takes us directly to Jatujak at the last stop up north. The journey from Siam Center took us no more than 20 minutes and cost us THB35 pax for a single ride. The moment we reach the last station, we were awed by the scale of JJ weekend market! The area is just so damn huge! JJ is like our Bugis Village but more well-organized though the stalls are much more heavily packed together, the walking space much narrower and way more number of stalls. Below is a map of JJ. The right image shows an example of how to interpret the stall address. There are two Rows of stalls back-to-back on a single Block. A few Blocks then make up a Column. A few columns separated by Soi (lanes) make up a Section. There are a total of 26 Sections not including the adjacent Dream Section and Jatujak Plaza! I would not even imagine the number of stalls in JJ, probably in thousands!

WARNING! Large file size! Click on map to enlarge or download.

Before we began, we were determined to visit every single stall, but it did not take us very long to realise that it was impossible, hence we decided to let ourselves get lost in the ocean of stalls. There were just too many interesting stalls that we had to spent at least 15 minutes at one stall to browse and bargain. Yes, bargain despite the already cheap price! There was just no time to be snap pictures.
Small assorted flavoured donuts at THB10 for a stick of 3.

There are a few sections in JJ that sells pets and pet accessories. There were just too many lovely, adorable, fluffy rabbits, puppies and kittens in crates. Though many times I felt sorry for them and thought that people who buy them are supporting poaching. I would never tolerate such inhumane acts, but according to a friend, these lovely puppies are usually imported pedigrees which are bred for sale legally. We have no right to question their legal system. They just wailed at everyone, as if telling them to "buy me home, buy me home!" I had very much wanted to get a lovely Persian kitten or a Siberian Husky, but the Singapore Customs would never let them through easily with heavy taxes and quarantine. There is no way I am putting these cute cuddlies through the quarantine.
Look at how this Chihuahua tries to lick the young children!
While some goes wailing all day long, others decide to just enjoy the wind from the electric fan and take a nap.

One of our objectives was to find flowers, not fresh of course, but fake flowers. We were like lost in gardens of lovely plastic flowers. We managed to buy a few at ridiculously cheap prices and found what we had wanted. There were flowers in stalks for D.I.Y. projects and those that were already decorated in my lovely styles. I would have shipped them back if I had restrained myself.

The heat and stuffy environment made us really hungry, so we made our way to JJ Plaza for lunch. At JJ Plaza, there were more stalls, but we just had to grab our bite first! We decided to try out Yum Saap, a restaurant serving Thai food. We had Green Curry with Thai Fishcake, Tamarind & Chilli Soup with stir-fried vegetables, and Thai Mango Salad. Prices are reasonably cheap with each dish around S$5.

Enjoying our lunch, we did! Especially when the Green Curry, Tamarind & Chilli Soup were so damn spicy that choked me a couple of times.

After lunch, we continued to cheong the stalls at JJ again. We hoot many cool clothes and handicrafts, until we had two recycle bags full of hoots by the end of the day. We really had enough of the walking, squeezing, bargaining under the unbearable heat, but the gratification was well-worth it!

Ice popsicles along the streets and cheap pouches for sale.

Even at the end of the day when JJ closes at around 5-6p.m., there were still heaps of people walking around.

I would not mind trying the yummy-looking fried breaded shrimps and sunny-side up quail eggs.

A view from the bridge towards the BTS station.

The BTS skytrain network is simple and very efficient. At the main station/interchange at Siam Center, there are actually two levels of tracks. Interestingly, the trains are much shorter than the platform, so one Singaporeans would usually get pwned when they wait near the ends. We knew where to position ourselves thanks to the tips from friends. These pictures were shot from the atrium between Siam Discovery Center and Siam Paragon, where a grand recycling awareness event was taking place. Thailand is presently actively promoting 'Going Green'.

Back at Siam Center, we decided to visit the famous Erawan Shrine. Erawan Shrine is located at Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, which is beside Gaysorn (an upmarket fashion shopping mall) and CentralWorld. Though many shopping malls have their own four-faced Brahma shrines, but Erawan Shrine is particularly famous for its four-faced Brahma. It is said that many worshippers who made wishes there had their wishes answered. Worshippers would wish for career advancements, academic advancements, prosperity in businesses, health or love. The majority of Singaporeans who pray to the four-faced Brahma at Erawan Shrine, are businessmen. There are just too many people I have known, had their wishes answered. However, those who make wishes that are eventually answered, must promise something in return, which is usually to return and make offerings to the same shrine, or else misfortune will fall upon them. Devotees can then make offerings such as garlands, incenses or even a traditional Thai dance ritual. I made no wishes or promises, but prayed for world peace and health.
History of Erawan Shrine: The government-owned Erawan Hotel suffered bad omen such as many injuries and mishaps during the construction. It was believed to be caused by laying the foundations on a wrong date. An astrologer then recommended a shrine devoted to the four-faced Brahma to be built, to ward of the bad omen. The shrine was built then built in 1956 and the hotel was successfully completed. From then on, people started to pray at Erawan Shrine and had their wishes answered. The Erawan Hotel was demolished in 1987 and taken over by Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. Unfortunately, the much-revered Erawan Shrine was vandalised and destroyed by a mentally-ill man in 2006. The man was immediately beaten to death by enraged bystanders. Much more inside story to this whole ordeal can be found online.

Street hawkers selling garlands and incense for offering to the much-revered four-faced Brahma at Erawan Shrine.

We then visited the nearby Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery Center, but soon found our way back to CentralWorld via ZEN. ZEN is another section of the huge CentralWorld shopping mall. With our heavy load of hoots from JJ, we just wanted to go easy with our evening and CentralWorld seemed the best place to relax.

Fio could not resist shaking hands with this cute mascot of a restaurant.

We decided to binge on some ice-cream at Baskin' Robbins. We had strawberry sorbet (IIRC) and Praline. Cheap and delicious!! ... and of course the waitresses in 'lovely' uniform! ;P

We then had dinner at LEE Cafe. No! This has got nothing to do with the "Lee" in Singapore. I had read some good reviews of the Chinese food served at LEE Cafe. We happened to walk past another outlet at Siam Discovery Center, so we decided that we should try it at CentralWorld. We did not have proper green vegetables for the past few meals, hence we ordered a simple plate of stir-fried leafy vegetable with garlic. We ordered Claypot Tofu as well as Sweet-&-Sour Pork. The Sweet-&-Sour Pork was a tad too sour with too much ketchup, but the Claypot Tofu was fantastic! The sauce from the Claypot Tofu was probably the best that I ever had! I told myself that it has got to be the fish sauce! The friendly staff even approached us during our meal and asked for our feedback in Mandarin. Note that restaurants in Bangkok do not usually serve free iced water, instead they will give you bottled drinking water which is chargeable.

After dinner and a little time to spare, we window-shopped a bit in CentralWorld. Again!? Yes, it is just so big to explore in a few hours! We had wanted to catch Narnia: Price Caspien at the theatres, but with our bulky load of hoots, we did not stay out too long. Along the way back to our hotel, Fio was so tempted to stop by for a foot massage (less than S$10!), but we were rather put off by the dim lighting and touting masseurs. Nevertheless, they are actually the non-sleazy massage parlours.

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