One of the latest tourist attractions to open in Thailand is Madame Tussauds Bangkok. This is a world-class attraction in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district on the 6th floor of Siam Discovery. I went to visit this place back in December 2010 shortly after its grand opening. I have already written my review of Madame Tussauds Bangkok. I found many of the 70 wax figures very lifelike and thought it was great that the exhibits were very interactive. This means you were able to stand with and even touch many of the wax figures while having your picture taken.
The full price at the opening was 700 baht, the same for Thai and foreigner. I remember thinking at the time that this was a little high for an attraction inside a shopping mall. However, they do have special promotions at times which gives you better value for your money. For example, last month they had a buy one get one free offer. Today I just spotted on the Amazing Thailand Facebook page that they have a coupon which gives you a 25% discount. All you need to do is print out this coupon and take it with you when you visit Madame Tussauds. At the moment I am not sure when this offer closes. Now I am not sure if the offer is for foreigners. Keep reading….
The original title for this blog was going to be “25% Coupon for Madame Tussauds Bangkok”. However, while researching this article I spotted that the prices of Madame Tussauds Bangkok have already increased after only one month. As already noted, they were originally 700/500 Baht. The price has now gone up to 800/600 Baht, though you apparently get a “free” guidebook and photo. However, what is a shame is that they are now operating a two price system. According to the Thai version of their website, admission prices for Madame Tussauds Bangkok is only 350 Baht for adults and 250 Baht for children. It doesn’t actually say that this price is only for Thai people but they use Thai numerals so that foreigners cannot see the conflicting prices. I called their Bangkok office and they confirm that 350/250 Baht is only for Thai people. In addition, Thai people get a further 25% discount if they pay with their Bangkok Bank credit card.
My policy on dual pricing has always been that tourist attractions are welcome to have two prices as long as they give us the right to choose. This means clearly stating the admission prices in Arabic numbers. You only see Thai numerals when they are ashamed to show that they have two prices. Everywhere else uses the more common Arabic system. What is even more of a shame here is that Paul Williams, the General Manager for Madame Tussauds Bangkok clearly said in an interview with AsiaTraveltips.com that there wouldn’t be two prices: “We won’t be operating a dual pricing policy”, he said. “We found that was rather strange and decided not to go down that road.” I bet he is regretting saying that now. Anyway, now that I have revealed the two sets of prices, it is up to you whether you think that the admission price is worth it.
One of the least visited areas of Thailand is the North-East, or Isaan as it is referred to by the Thai people. This is a shame as it has a lot to offer such as its art and culture, ancient traditions, local cuisine, indigenous crafts, folk music, song and dance, and traditional festivals. In order to address this problem, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have decided to shift their focus to Isaan this year.
To kick off the year long promotion, the TAT are holding the “Amazing I-San Fair 2011” from 27th-30th January 2011, at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok. There will be cultural presentations, folk performances and demonstrations of art and craft such as silk weaving and pottery making. In addition, in the exhibition zone, there will be a full range of products and services which include package tours, discounted accommodation and airline flights.
The Fair is divided into 4 main zones — an exhibition zone, seven Amazing I-san zones, a live demonstration zone, and a dedicated area for cultural performances. Each of the seven Amazing I-san zones will highlight a different theme namely- 1) Charm of the Mekong River 2) Destination of Natural Ozone 3) The Guiding Light of Buddhism 4) South I-san Civilization 5) Magnificent World Heritage and Ancient Civilizations 6) Impressive Dinosaur Skeletons and Footprints 7) I-san Boutique (trendy and chill out).
The fair is open from this Thursday until Sunday. It is free to enter between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Queen Sirikit National Convention Center is conveniently located next to the MRT subway station of the same name. Free parking is available but is not always convenient on busy days. I will be going early on Sunday morning when it will be easier to find somewhere to park. Even if you are not planning on going somewhere in Isaan this year, it is worth going to take a look at the cultural shows.
Darkest Isan (where decent thais fear to tread), Part Eight
This sleepy little provincial town was once part of the Lan Xang Kingdom of Lao and later a picturesque retreat for French colonists. A mix of the old and new, or perhaps I should say old and new money as the affluent architecture of the past is joined by affluent architecture of the present.
The immaculate modern foreshore gives uninterrupted kilometre after kilometre of the most stunning views of the Mekong I’ve seen on either side of the river. The city of mountains is actually quite mountainless, sue the TAT not me, but has stunning views of the great limestone mountain range in Lao.
Nakhon Phanom retains much it’s French/Lao/Old Thai/Vietnamese culture today and barely feels like you are in Thailand, let alone Isan. A foreign tourist in this town is about as rare as cheap accommodation, the locals are both friendly and often tongued tied when they meet you. They may also be made of sterner stuff than other Thai as every second restaurant in town seems to be a steak house, no wussy vegetables or rice for them, just red meat.
There is surprisingly much to do in this town which doesn’t seem to have yet grasped the notion of entrance fees. When you have finally prised yourself away from the Mekong view and the stunning panorama of Lao mountains, there’s the former governor’s teak mansion, completely deserted and open to anyone who wanders in. The prison museum and park on the former site now has been turned into a waxworks warning all naughty Thais to reform. The TAT office is worth a visit, just to get to go inside the huge French colonial mansion that houses it, they were completely stunned to have a tourist and they don’t have a word of English but can still give you a great map of the town and province.
The centre of major fighting during the Vietnam War fortunately the stunning French colonial and traditional Thai architecture has survived and the highlight of any trip must be cycling north and losing yourself in the maze of side streets off the Mekong bank road where you are in a different world and era of French mansions, traditional Thai wooden buildings, modern villas all blending seamlessly. The town has quite miraculously avoided the Thai generic ugly concrete bloc syndrome, only around the major roads in the south does it succumb to this. My favourite place on my whole trip to Isan.
The annual National Children’s Day for Thailand takes place on the second Saturday of January every year. Children are considered as the most valuable resource of the country. There is a Thai saying that goes, “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.” To help stimulate children to be aware of their significant role in the country, the National Children’s Day was held for the first time on the first Monday of October 1955 and continued like this until 1963. Then it was changed to the second Saturday of January.
This year, Children’s Day is on Saturday 8th January 2011. Many organizations around the country and popular tourist attractions for children, like zoos, put on special activities for children. Most of these allow children to go in for free or at a reduced price. Dusit Zoo is free for children less than 100 centimeters until the end of the month. Dream World has a cover chrage of 60 baht for children. Some public transport is also free for children on this day. For example, both the BTS skytrain and MRT underground are free for children under 140 centimetres if they are accompanied by an adult.
The camps of the Armed Forces are popular destinations for young kids on Children’s Day. Here in Samut Prakan, the Royal Thai Navy have activities at Fort Chulachomklao, Royal Thai Naval Academy and the Navy Museum. That is where I wil be going to take pictures. The Royal Thai Army has activities at their old headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. The Royal Thai Air Force are holding their event at the main cargo terminal in the Don Muang airport compound. Children will be able to clamber aboard helicopters and tanks and also have their pictures taken with soldiers.
Government buildings are also open for children. For example, Government House in Bangkok have arranged activities. The children can visit the prime ministers office to have their picture taken there. The Education Ministry have events at the National Stadium while the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will hold their activities at the SRT Public Park. The newly opened Madame Tussaud’s, on the 6th floor of Siam Discovery Center, will allow children under 12 to go in for free.The National Science Museum is also organising games and exhibitions for children.
Shopping malls will also have activities: Siam Paragon will host “The Flying Fantasy” fair, featuring games such as Rodeo Bull, Euro Bungee, Water Balloon, Rock Mountain, Wave Slide, Space Ball and a labyrinth of magnificent marine life. Paradise Park on Srinakarin Road is hosting classic games, popular comics, outdoor film screenings and performances. Branches of The Mall will host themed activities. The Ngarm Wong Wan branch will run various workshops for children to learn how to make traditional Thai desserts, pottery items and other handicrafts, the Bang Khae branch will focus on mass transit, and the Bang Kapi branch will reconstruct the atmosphere from the Pirates of the Caribbean films
It has taken more than four years, but Suvarnabhumi Airport now has a fully functional Airport Rail Link. People arriving in Thailand can now take an express train from the airport to downtown Bangkok in just only 15 minutes. Also this week saw the official opening of the check-in service at Makkasan Station. This now allows people to check-in their luggage before boarding the train in Bangkok and they then don’t need to worry about it until they arrive at their destination country. Sounds great, but this service is not going to be ideal or even convenient for everyone.
The Bangkok Post reported that on the first day that only 11 passengers and four bags were actually processed here. Not surprising as the check-in is only available for passengers of THAI International and Bangkok Airways. So, no good if you are going to fly THAI to say Chiang Mai. However, there are plans to increase more airlines at a later date. A secondary problem is that there is no easy access to Makkasan Station. There is an MRT underground station nearby but you have to drag your bags along uneven sidewalks to get there. Again there is a plan for a skybridge but it won’t be completed until mid-2011.
Up to now they have been doing trial runs. I went for a ride back in June and you can see my report over at MyThailandBlog.com. There are basically two lines; the City Line which is for local commuters and takes 30 minutes and the Express Line that takes only 15 minutes. And that is fast! The prices have also gone up now that the trial period is over. The City Line is from 15-45 baht and the Express Line is 150 baht. You can join the City Line at Phaya Thai Station [see MAP] and I am told that the skybridge there from the sky train has now been completed.
The problem with Bangkok is that there isn’t really a downtown area or even a city center. So, if you take the Airport Rail link to either Makkasan or Phaya Thai, you will probably have to change to other transport like BTS Skytrain, MRT Underground or even a taxi. The same for going to the airport. Most people will have to take a taxi to Makkasan as the BTS and MRT are not really that convenient for suitcases. But, if there are two or more of you, then you might as well go all the way to the airport in the taxi as the fare will be less than 300 baht. What do you think? Will you use the Airport Link?
(Top photo: Bangkok Post)