Things to do in Bangkok

A city of many facets, Bangkok initially appears crowded, chaotic and claustrophobic. Before visiting I was warned against spending time in this humid city. I felt bewildered for a few hours when I first arrived, tired from the jet-lag and overwhelmed by the dizzying heat, but soon fell in love with the unique culture, and the exoticism and excitement of the place. Magnificent temples, fragrant fresh food and an addictive friendly lively atmosphere… I could have gone on exploring Bangkok for weeks but here is what I discovered in just a few days in Thailand’s capital city.

To stay

Mandarin Oriental – This hotel is without doubt the most recognised and renowned hotel in Bangkok.  An impressive 138 years old, this institution offers an oasis of Oriental cool and calm and all the luxuries you could ever desire. Interestingly Mandarin Oriental is the only property in Bangkok with facilities both sides of the Chao Phraya River.

Como – this contemporary hotel is luxurious but affordable. The minimalist lobby is instantly cooling, and rooms are spacious and indulgent. The star feature though is David Thompson’s on-site restaurant, Nahm which was recently named the Number 1 restaurant in Asia.

To eat

Bo.lan – Founded and run by two of David Thompson’s disciples, and chef couple, Bo and Dylan promise to serve truly authentic Thai cuisine. The Bo.lan Balance set menu is the best bet, changing seasonally every 2 months, it is a vibrant and exciting experience for the palate. I loved the flavours and passion shown in the cooking here, but be warned the food is fiery.

Thip Samai – this famous Pad Thai outlet lives up to expectations, it is always full for eat in and takeaway. Order the classic, or the egg wrapped speciality, then personalise with the condiments at the table: chilli flakes, sugar, fish sauce, crushed peanuts and lime. Sweet, sour, salty and super tasty, and costing the equivalent of £1 a plate, this pad thai is unmissable. Order a coconut ice or fresh orange juice to wash it down with.

Salt – venture out of the centre of town to the leafy and quiet Ari District where you’ll find this super hip restaurant and bar. With design conscious furnishings and a concrete cool outside yard seating area you feel like you could be in New York or London. Choose from the varied menu which features sushi and sashimi, pizza (cooked in the wood fired oven) and tempting desserts. To drink I recommend the Bangkok Mule cocktail, made with rum, ginger and lemongrass.

Gaggan – I had no idea what to expect from this creative and crazy Indian eatery. Housed in a whitewashed colonial-style wooden house in the heart of downtown Bangkok, Chef Gaggan presents progressive Indian cuisine with traditional twist.

Naie Soi – impossible to find, but worth the struggle. This little indoor canteen offers steaming hot bowls of delicious beef noodle soup with tender meat and flavoursome watery vegetable filled broth.

Sra Bua– experimental and exciting Thai cooking by Danish chef Kiin Kiin, whose restaurant in Copenhagen has a Michelin star. The set menus offer an individual and unique interpretation of familiar Thai recipes. Particularly memorable was the strange but delicious speciality Cold Lobster Red Curry Ice-cream.

To drink

Soul Food Manathorn – despite being run by an American soul food offers authentic and stylish Thai food and strong tasty cocktails. Located on busy Thong Lor road this petite restaurant is cosy and inviting with warm wooden design inside and original artwork on the walls. Sit at the bar, order a spicy, tequila based Bung Bang Fai cocktail.

Rocket – this Sweden owned and run café has a typical Scandi look, which stands out amongst the Bangkok venues. Offering delicious coffee, made from carefully sourced exotic beans, no two cups are the same.

Speakeasy – resist the temptation to waste your money at film-famous Skybar and visit this hidden gem on the rooftop of Hotel muse. Sip a refreshing fruity mojito and enjoy the dizzying heights and cosmopolitan views down below.

Iron Fairies – thousands of little bottles filled with glitter line the walls of this cosy and Thonglor bar. Doubling up as a gallery, restaurant, antique store and, most bizarrely a blacksmith’s workshop, this is certainly not your ordinary evening venue. Follow the winding staircase up to the secret seats at the top of the building, and soak up the magical atmosphere.

Lady Brett– This hip bar is ideal for weekend brunches or late night cocktails. The interiors are sleek and stylish and the menu features innovative and modern recipes. The mixologists here created us some tasty and distinctive cocktails.

To see

Wat Pho temple – This is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok. Known as the temple of the reclining Buddha and the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, the magnificent golden lady housed here is a must see.

Chatuchak market – This weekend only market is North of uptown Bangkok. It is the largest market in Thailand covering over 27 acres with over 15,000 stalls. You can find everything here, I recommend wandering through and browsing the colourful array of goods with a freshly squeezed orange juice in hand. When you are feeling weary, stop for a 30 minute foot massage (150THB – £3).

Wat Arun– This intricate and decorative Buddhist temple is quite a spectacle up close and from a distance. Make sure you are wearing conservative clothes and then you will be allowed to climb the outside of this impressive structure for a small fee.

BACC– Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) is the main contemporary arts centre in Bangkok. Art, music, theatre, film, design and cultural/ educational events take place in its exhibition and performance spaces. The seasonal shows are intriguing and inspiring.

To do

Co van kessel bikes – See the city from another perspective. Take the 3 hour bike tour round the backstreets of Bangkok including Chinatown, the Flower market, a temple and local villages. Brilliantly organised and great fun for the whole family.

Sompong cooking class – this lovely little cooking school takes students to a local food market, explains the vital ingredients for key Thai dishes, and teaches you to make an authentic and delicious food. Those with more cash to splash may wish to try the Mandarin Oriental cooking class which is world renowned.

Chao phaya Express – This Boat is a transportation service in Thailand that operates on the Chao Phraya River. Jump on this choppy boat to avoid the traffic on the roads and see the city from the water. Ideal for getting from temple to temple.

Tuk Tuk – these colourful auto rickshaws are all the rage in Bangkok, a novelty that is always popular with tourists. Bargain the price down a lot and enjoy the bumpy ride through the city.

To shop

Almeta – Most dash to Jim Thompson House for their silk tailoring in Bangkok, however Almeta offers the highest quality luxury handmade silk and has an impressive Silk a la Carte service. Customers can choose from over 1000 iridescent silk colours, yarn types and weights.

It Happened to be a Closet – A mad and eclectic retro bohemian clothing store, that also serves as a tea room and nail salon. You could spend hours rummaging through the pretty floor-to-ceiling piles.

Sretsis – this brand is a collaboration between Pim Sumhahuta and her two sisters, Kly and Matina. The brand name is sisters spelled backwards and represents the strong bond they have. Sretsis creator and lead designer Pim Sukhahuta graduated from the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York and her eclectic East meets West background is realised in her colourful and imaginative designs. The shop was quite simply my dream wardrobe.

To escape

Amphawa– this charming floating market is a 90 minute drive from Bangkok, located on a small tributary of the Mae Khlong River. Thais flock to this traditional market every weekend, we loved observing the food sellers trading from their boats on the water.

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