I have visited both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and it’s fair to say both cities offer tourists enough sights to see and experiences to…erm, experience. But if you were to ask me which destination I prefer and why? My answer would be Bangkok over KL. And here’s why:
Both Bangkok and KL have their share of big malls, but that’s not why I like to shop in Bangkok. In fact, branded goods (clothes, luxury goods and cars especially) are more expensive in Thailand as taxes on them are very high. But what I love about shopping in Bangkok are the street markets!
Bangkok is in my opinion the best street shopping destination in the world! JJ weekend market, Platinum Fashion mall, MBK… these are some of my favourite places to find, great, hip clothing at very affordable prices. In fact, the more you buy, the cheaper you get the clothes. Many shops at these markets not only sell individual pieces but also offer wholesale purchases. Women obviously have way, way more choice than men, but isn’t that the case everywhere? Aside from clothing, electronics are often cheaper in Bangkok compared to India — especially if you buy from authorized dealers who issue the VAT refund form for tourists.
Malaysia has a unique culture of it’s own, sure, influenced by the three main races that make up the nation’s population. Although in Kuala Lumpur, it’s largely Chinese, Malay and Indian. Thailand’s intrinsic culture is due to the fact Thailand is the only South East Asian nation that was never colonized by any foreign country. Thai culture has its similarities and influences from Hinduism, but there are many aspects of their culture that remains uniquely Thai.
From cultural dances, to the historic temples in Old Bangkok, there is a lot of Thai culture to experience in the capital city itself. Kuala Lumpur has it’s fair share of local heritage, but for the most part, it’s another big Asian city.
I love Malay food, but a lot of it tastes quite familiar to the Indian palette because of the common ingredients used. Thai food on the hand isn’t known for it’s excessive use of spices. Sure, as a Keralite, Thai food isn’t a major revelation either, because the three popular ingredients famous in Thai cuisine – rice, coconut and banana – are also the popular ingredients that define Kerala cuisine! So for me, Thai food is very easy to digest. I also eat beef and pork, so I don’t make a big fuss when I can’t find pure vegetarian food or anything else religion forbids. Also, given the fact Bangkok attracts millions of tourists, there is no shortage of world-class international cuisine on offer. Best part? Food in general is cheaper than in KL.
For all the ill-repute and misconception Bangkok gets for it’s adult nightlife, Bangkok is a far safer city than Kuala Lumpur. You could walk out on the streets of Sukhumvit past midnight all by yourself and the chances of you getting robbed or attacked are very low.
I’m not making this up, but two of my friends have been victims of theft in KL. One guy got his chain snatched by a bike gang and the other guy had his wallet pick-pocketed. Gangs are quite prominent in Kuala Lumpur and their turf wars have impacted the city’s reputation for safety. Kuala Lumpur in my opinion is only a bit better than India’s finest city (whichever that city is).
As I mentioned, Bangkok is surprisingly safe at night. Which is why parts of the city go on long after midnight. Bangkok has a enough world-class restaurants to cater to every taste and budget. From famous rooftop bars, nightclubs galore, cabaret acts and cultural shows — take your pick as you have enough entertainment options.
Despite having been to richer, fancier cities like Singapore and Hong Kong, if there’s one thing that makes you fall in love with a place, it’s often the people. Thais (generally speaking) are some of the loveliest people I have encountered. They smile at you (Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles” for a reason), they are willing to help even if English is a problem, and compared to us Indians — far better behaved (as shameful as it is for me to admit).
Bangkok is the capital and the largest city in Thailand. Being the main entry point for most foreign visitors to the country, Bangkok is also a great hub from where one can visit, not only every other major tourist destination within Thailand, but with an hour-long flight, also visit neighbouring countries as well!
Bangkok alone is home to world-famous attractions such as the majestic Grand Palace, countless Buddhist temples and a ride along Chao Praya river is a must-do for any tourist — night or day. Go a bit further out from the city and one can witness Thailand’s famous floating markets. Some amazing sights left for me to see are markets like Maeklong, famous for being right beside a railway line!
All the above reasons are why Bangkok topped the 2013 Global Destination Cities Index by MasterCard as the “most popular destination city in the world”. So next time you yearn to visit Thailand, get your mind out of the gutter (mostly applies to men) and appreciate what more Bangkok – and Thailand in general – has to offer!
This entry is for the Dream Asian Destination Blogger Contest presented by AirAsia’s “World’s Best Online Travel Fair”.