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Bangkok: Thai High.

Summary: Going solo in Thailand can be a young traveller's dream come true.

KANIKA SHARMA finds her fix in a cocktail of shopping, food and some

adrenaline pumping adventure

Going solo in Thailand can be a young traveller's dream come true. KANIKA SHARMA finds her fix in a cocktail of shopping, food and some adrenaline pumping adventure

Great food, fantastic shopping and some sky diving on the side! Going solo never felt better. One long weekend I find myself on a flight to Bangkok. That fact that Bangkok and Pattaya are popular bachelor party hubs got reconfirmed by the many "guy-groups" aboard my 5 am transfer to Thailand. But I couldn't be more excited about life as I peered out of the plane window.

While scuba diving and mountain climbing are often on an adventure junkie's bucket list, mine included jumping from a plane. About two and a half hours from Bangkok is a sky diving academy--Thai Sky Adventures, which organises tandem jumps (with instructor) and professional skydiving courses.

Before plunging into a food and shopping whirl I headed for an adrenaline fix. Getting off the plane I took a bus from Ekkamai Bus Station to Sri Racha, I took a hot pink tuk tuk to the academy. The driver taught me a bit of Thai on the way because there was only so much we could communicate with phonetics and sign language. I boarded the tiny plane with an Indian instructor, a former army officer Pradeep Rao, who asked me to 'enjoy' the jump. Indeed! With my heartbeat trying to keep up with the speed of the plane as it took off? As we reached 11,000 ft and got ready to take the plunge, I shut my mind--it was now or never to fulfill a long standing dream... Free falling, from above the clouds while the sun was quietly fading away in a distance, made me feel alive like never before.

Once the chute opened, I shot back up, and magically the exhilarating ride transformed into a serene one as I glided down to terra firma and enjoyed the bird's eye view while it lasted. I soaked in the beautiful 360 degree views around me with the best seat in the house. The moment my feet touched the ground, it was not a sigh of relief but a moment of pride as the crew patted my back and gave me hugs. Wrapping up the day with chats and tales the crew dropped me off at Pattaya--about 40 minutes drive, from where I took a bus back to Bangkok.

Shop till you drop

A paradise for shopaholics, Bangkok never disappoints with its range of luxury and high-street ensembles. I headed to a one stop for all shopping--Central Bangkok. Located in the heart of the Central Business District of the city is a shopping network that caters to all fancies. Starting with top brands, I visited the Central Embassy that has leading Thai designer boutiques who have created special new concept stores and some duplex boutiques of stores such as Ralph Lauren and Chanel. What makes it different is that 35 percent of the merchandise selections include brands that have been launched in Thailand for the first time. From Paul Smith to Prada, Red Valentino to Roberto Cavalli, they have it all.

Central Embassy is connected to Central Chidlom, the flagship store of Thailand and Southeast Asia's leading department store chain. Expanded to seven floors, each floor is dedicated to menswear, womenswear, childrenswear etc. Each floor is colour coordinated and I found some interesting animated characters and mannequins. Central Chidlom also has a luxe galleria that used to house all designer labels before the Central Embassy was built. It also has Central Food Hall that has imported food products and a special section for different kinds of cheeses. Yes, this place brought out the mouse in me and even the refrigerated temperature could not keep me away from it. The freshly baked breads and fresh salads on display did make my stomach grumble.

Nearby, welcoming you to another world of shopping is ZEN, which is the largest lifestyle department store in Asia and stands tall with seven levels that have various Thai, Asian and younger-trendy brands that meet your eye. Despite visiting various one-stop shopping destinations, there is another one that you just can't miss--CentralWorld. This one made me feel a bit at home with showrooms of high-street fashion brands like XXI Forever, Zara and Mango along with many Thai brands like Disaya. This is more than just a shopping arcade that includes a cinema hall, an ice-skating rink, a food court, furniture store, bank and electronic mart. For superhero geeks, like me, you have the C-Gate store that has a superhero cafe and pop vinyl bobble heads of many characters--one place where Marvel, DC and Disney come together. There is something extra for tourists. At the information counter, I filled up a form and could avail a 5-10 percent discount at select outlets.

After indulging in mall-hopping, I decided to hit the flea markets. You can either visit the Chatuchak Saturday Flea Market which has many small shops for food, clothes, bags, accessories and more that spoils you for choice. But the humidity makes it an ordeal to survive the stuffy lanes. If in Central Bangkok, an easy reach is the Platinum Fashion Mall which has many small boutiques and shops that are packed together on different floors. The saving grace being it is air conditioned. As I made my way from one floor to the other, the number of bags in my hand increased and so did my greed.

Getting the chopsticks ready

Walking up and down the escalators, weightlifting (read too many shopping bags) it was a matter of time when my grumbling stomach would overpower my enthusiasm and will to shop. Apart from indulging in the local street food, there are two other options in Central Bangkok. I visited the Groove, which has a collection of lifestyle bistros, bars and bakeries from all over the world--think Maxim's Bistro, Fauchon and Harrods. The outdoor seating, live band performances and delicious food (not just Thai) brings the evening to a perfect end.

Another restaurant, Eat Thai in the Central Embassy is worth a trip. I was suggested to do an early lunch as the place is packed post 1 pm. Eat Thai has an array of dishes from all regions of Thailand and some of the best street food. I decided to go for the tasty chicken rice with hot and sour and black bean sauce with a Thai milk tea on the side. Though not a fan of Thai food, I polished it all off.

Party parcel

While Khao San is known to be THE party hub of Bangkok, a couple of girlfriends and I decided to head to Sukhumvit Soi 11 for a ladies' night out. A lane with small pubs on either side of the road--bit of Indian touch, makes you feel at home. The pubs don't cater much for food; for that you have the roadside stalls serving you munchies; but drinks start as low as 80 Bhat. At 11 pm, we knew the party had just begun for a beat boxer and a couple of B-Boys turned the road into a stage and started jamming--just like a scene right out of the Step-Up movie franchise!

A perfect ending to the most awesome quick getaway experience ever! The three days in Bangkok were about excitement, endless nights and empty pockets. But isn't that's how it's supposed to be when you are young and wild and free...

AT A GLANCE

Getting there: You can a take direct Thai Airways flight from Delhi to Bangkok and back. An early morning flight gives you a chance to make the most of the whole day. When to go: Offseason months are the best time to travel so that you can get easy bookings. Otherwise, you can travel to Bangkok anytime of the year.

Stay: Centara Grand at CentralWorld, 999/99 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand. Tel: +66 (0) 2 769 1234, Email: reservations@chr.co.th; Price: Rs. 7,900 upwards. Good to know: ERB: A perfume shop in CentralWorld lets you make your own perfume. Like a botanical chemistry laboratory, it looks like Poison Ivy's, straight out of the Batman and Robin flick, but what the fragrances do, is completely different. Safe and sound: The best way to travel around Bangkok and onwards is to use the public transport. The BTS is well connected around the city (just like our Delhi metros) and the buses run on time (unlike a few roadways services in India). Be it 9 in the morning or 11 in the night, they are the safest and most effective way to make you reach your destination. The tuk-tuks are a steal but it I would suggest you haggle for the price. Mine quoted 300 Bhat and came down to 140 that included a tip as well.

Secret

PERSONAL SHOPPER

At Central Chidlom, you can book a personal shopper free of cost who would help you shop around the mall. They help you pick your outfits and guide your way through the seven levels of shopping alleys. All you have to do is make a prior booking.

Reproduced From India Today Travel Plus. Copyright 2015. LMIL. All rights reserved.

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:May 1, 2015
Words:1582
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