Have you ever wondered what Bangkok was like before big eye contacts and fast food chains? How about before buses, cars, skyscrapers and even tourism?
Head to Bangkok Varee at CentralWorld now and find out.
From July 14-31, 2016, CentralWorld and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration are recreating ancient Bangkok, AKA “The Venice of the East” with exhibitions, performances, shopping and cuisine that hark back to another era. Browse vintage products, taste ancient recipes and let the sights, sounds and atmosphere show you a centuries-old way of life, all in celebration of the 234th anniversary of the founding of Rattanakosin.
For Bangkok newbs, that was the year 1782, when our forefathers established the Kingdom of Rattanakosin on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and founded the capital city of Bangkok as we know it.
Two centuries ago the Chao Phraya was a crucial element in the lives of all Bangkokians. It’s even how the city got its name. The river’s powerful flow towards the Gulf of Thailand caused islands of earth to appear, giving the city the name Bang Koh, or Village of Islands. Over time the name became Bangkok.
The numbers 2, 3 and 4 inspire the event concept. CentralWorld Square, the outdoor space along Ratchadamri Road, is divided into two sides representing Thonburi and Phra Nakhon, the two halves of Rattanakosin divided by the Chao Phraya. Within those two areas, you’ll get up close and personal with three districts of Thonburi and four districts of Phra Nakhon.
The traditional food served at the festival is as distinctive as the lives of the people who built these old communities, and each bite will serve as a reminder of what life was like long ago.
One area in particular is known for delicious food. Bangkok Noi, one of three districts of Thonburi, was a trading post famous for its cuisine. At Bangkok Varee’s version, you can sample authentic Pad Thai served in classic basketwork, try a 70-year recipe for tasty Kuaytiew Lod (stuffed rice noodles from the Bangkulad floating market), indulge in a bite of Chao Kuay (garlic chive cakes from Talad Plu Market), and dig into traditional Thai rice steamed in lotus leaves from the historical Ban Khan Tok shop.
Staying in Thonburi, head to Taling Chan, a district known for its floating market and fresh local eats, such as spicy Khanom Jeen (rice noodles with curry) and Somsa Meekrob (sweet and tangy crispy noodles). Put away the grocery apps and shop like your great grandma for once, by choosing the freshest vegetables, fruits and plants straight from Taling Chan farmers.
Next, head to the district of Kudi Chin, an old Thonburi community where people from different religions and ethnicities lived together peacefully. Taste Portuguese style snacks and deserts, savor some Khao Mok Kai (traditional Muslim chicken and rice), and take home some Vietnamese steamed wantons.
After Thonburi it’s time to cross the Chao Phraya and experience the four local communities along the canals of Phra Nakhon.
Ta Tian used to be a fresh food market in front of the Grand Palace. The sellers transported their fish, produce and meat by boat to sell here before taking the remainder to Pak Klong Market. Pak Klong district was home to a large Chinese community who dwelled alongside the blooming colors of the city’s largest flower market.
Float down the canals (and by that we mean casually stroll over) to Banglamphu, the district that begins at Phra Arthit Road’s iconic Phra Sumen Fort. Here you’ll find traditional offerings for Thai monks, clothing and fashions from a bygone era – which might just be back in style depending on your level of hipster – and authentic Thai foods like Khao Chae (chilled rice served with jasmine water and condiments).
At the district of Phu Khao Thong discover how to cook a 1,000-year-old Buddhist recipe for rice with honey and porridge, which still sounds pretty damn delicious after all these years. Try your hand at making royal garlands and reward yourself with old fashioned Thai desserts like jelly cakes, moon cakes and cherry plum snacks.
There is also a variety of music, comedy, folk songs and performances put on by bands, local communities and university students. Imagine yourself as a villager enjoying a traveling comedy troupe at the turn of the 18th century. Yes, this was entertainment back in the day, so put down those smartphones and laugh along while you learn about the ancient customs, values and dialects.
Visit Bangkok Varee @ CentralWorld Square from July 14-31, 2016, embrace the long gone atmosphere of Rattanakosin and be prepared to feel nostalgic for a time when Bangkok was known as the “Venice of the East”.
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