Arts and Leisure
Bangkok’s art scene can seem a little bewildering at first glance. Although Thailand has a long history of dance and music, there are few venues offering chances to see art performances and when they do, the subject matter is often limited to very traditional topics.
The contemporary art scene is really thriving but it’s much more difficult to access for outsiders, as venues open and close frequently and concierges will inevitably steer you towards commercial galleries.
Don’t despair, or, worse, go home from your vacation thinking this is a city without culture! The city’s few performing-arts venues, though small, are still worth a visit.
Although you won’t be watching traditional Thai dance in a lavish performance hall that seats thousands, smaller Sala Chalerm Krung and Patravardi Theatre will still give you a chance to see some good (and entertaining) performances. Another plus—tickets are rarely more than 1,500 baht, very inexpensive compared to what you’ll pay in other major cities.
Finally, don’t be put off by the fact that lots of cultural events are taking place in shopping malls. Though there may be a little more of a commercial element to some things than you’re used to, much of it is because these modern, comfortable structures have become the city’s town squares and plazas.
The propensity to stay inside where it’s cool doesn’t apply universally. Bangkok’s public parks are excellent places to get some exercise and very popular with local residents. There are also some very good public sports facilities such as National Stadium and the pool and gym at Lumphini Park, where you can get some exercise, experience “real” life in Bangkok, and not have to shell out too many baht.
If you don’t want to be outside, there are plenty of upscale gyms with good facilities, too. If you want to go really upscale, don’t even bother breaking a sweat: Instead head for one of Bangkok’s many health spas for a massage.
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition