With all the information that’s available online, who needs a guidebook? Looking for a hotel, a good restaurant, sightseeing attractions? It’s all on the Internet. But what if you’re a traveler who wants to see the heart of a place, the spots that go beyond the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China?
You have a choice. You can wander on your own, absorbing the life around you in neighborhoods not mentioned in the big fat guidebooks or you can turn to another sort of travel guide, one that takes you to places never mentioned by the big books.
Eric Lim is an urban explorer who’s found parts of Bangkok that many of its inhabitants don’t know. Bypassing the crowds of tourists whose phones are busily sending posts to Instagram, Tour Bangkok Legacies makes its mission clear right from the start: “...we won’t be going down Yaowarat Road; almost everyone visiting Bangkok’s Chinatown has done it.”
This sets the guidebook’s tone. Lim’s passion is history and he has spent over a decade tracking down the places in Bangkok where its history hasn’t been packaged and commodified. He gives just enough background detail to add an essential dimension to what’s being seen, and he provides careful directions on how to get there. From temples to street markets, from quirky museums to the homes of artists and craftsmen, Eric Lim reveals a side of Bangkok that’s irresistible and almost invisible to the casual traveler--or the clueless resident.
Carving this confusing city into coherent sections, Lim includes the stories behind the life that swirls around the visitor along with essential information--where to stop and have something to eat. Within the wild confusion of Chinatown, he points out an old shophouse that serves traditional porridge, and explains exactly what should to be added to it for the best flavor. Hungry for seafood? He tells how to reach Bangkok’s five-kilometer mangrove forest that is the city’s only seafront and the name of a restaurant perched on a pier that’s only accessible by boat. He recommends relaxing at a floral museum, where tea and local desserts are served on the terrace or in the garden; having lunch in an artist’s house by the side of a canal, where vendors sell food from their boats; or eating at one of the city’s floating markets while watching a Thai boxing match..
Lim doesn’t ignore the universal yearning to shop but he believes in going straight to the source: where to buy paintings from the artist, where to find the makers of bamboo flutes, khon masks, Thai bronzeware, and silk by going to the communities that these craftspeople live in.
Best of all, Lim tells how to get to these places on local transportation: buses, passenger pickup trucks, the subway, skytrain, and, the supreme choice, the boats that travel the Chao Phraya. Yes, these options take time but they’re frequently faster than a taxi in Bangkok’s traffic-clogged streets--and for people-watching, they can’t be beat.
For an unforgettable journey, dust off your passport, pack your suitcase, pick up Tour Bangkok Legacies, and get ready to explore a secret city. ~Janet Brown