Bangkok: Between two ages
angkok, circa 2559: A new skyscraper opens its doors, the tallest in the city. MahaNakhon has 77 stories and measures nearly 315 m. According to the Gregorian calendar, this took place in August 2016. Its dazzling design, with a pixelated effect, as if the building has not quite finished loading, represents the new wave of skyscrapers in Bangkok.
In the coming years, the city will continue to grow vertically, paying tribute to its Thai name “The City of Angels.” With more than 111 buildings measuring over 100 m, it has already surpassed other major cities such as London and Toronto. And nearly 50 new constructions are planned, including several luxury apartment blocks such as MARQUE Sukhumvit, on one of the capital’s main arteries.
With M for modern
The EM district in Bangkok is now a reality. Located in the epicentre of Sukhumvit Road, it consists of two luxurious shopping malls: Emporium and EmQuartier. In total, 650,000 m² packed with leisure and entertainment options.
Most of the new buildings are located in the city’s financial and commercial district, between Silom Road, Siam and Sathorn, where MahaNakhon is being built. Amid this futuristic scene, several metres below the rooftop bars and hotel terraces, is the Bangkok of the past and present: street-food stands, monks in orange tunics walking from the temple, and motorbikes and tuk tuks, dodging traffic lights among steel giants. It has all the charm of a metropolis that lets you change centuries, without needing a time machine. All you have to do is follow the Chao Phraya River to the Grand Palace, or lose yourself among the klongs (canals) in search of the city’s famous floating markets.
One of the oldest places in the city is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. It was the most important during the reign of Rama I—considered the founder of Bangkok, after he took his capital there in 1782—although it may have been founded in the 16th century, and later renovated to serve as a royal temple. For the Thai people, it is also the first public university in Thailand, since everyone had the opportunity to learn about medicine, history and other subjects, by reading the 1,360 inscriptions on the marble that decorates it. These inscriptions are the origin of the principles of traditional Thai massage, which is so popular among tourists today. A pavilion near the temple is home to the Massage School, where you can get a massage or take a course in how to give one.
Back in the 21st century, you can find the art of Thai massage reinterpreted in the spas of the most luxurious hotels in the Thai capital. The one at the Banyan Tree Hotel is on the 21st floor. That is 40 floors below the hotel’s famous restaurant, Vertigo, one of the most renowned rooftops in the city. Shangri-La and the Mandarin Oriental also offer exclusive treatments for customers who want to disconnect from the “noise” within the urban vortex of the city centre. Just one more contrast within the diversity offered by the capital of Thailand.
It is like that with everything. You can choose to go shopping in an ultra-modern mall like Central Embassy, or in a traditional market, aboard a wooden boat. Enjoy a traditional soup for dinner, on a plastic chair in Chinatown, or get the 2.0 version at Paste restaurant, one of the best in the city. Nearby is the Erawan Shrine, an urban altar, always strewn with flowers, where locals dressed for office take their offerings, from fruit to traditional dances. A whirl of colour in the heart of the urban jungle—that is Bangkok.