Bangkok City Guide

Welcome to my non-comprehensive and subjective city guide for Bangkok; the city of angels.

Getting Orientated

So many people travel to Bangkok either as a stop-off on their way to another destination in SE Asia, en-route to a Thai beach or have visited as part of the back packing trail. It’s a young, fast-paced, global city and has so much more to offer than what you may have seen of it on the film ‘The Hangover’.

Over the past four years I have endeavored to explore the city on foot in spite of  the intense heat and humidity. This post is a summary of the city from my eyes. It is 100% subjective and written from the point of view of  Bangkok suburbanite exploring the city at weekends.

The geography of the city makes it a little difficult to navigate to the uninitiated. Rattanakosin ‘island’ contains most of the major well known cultural sites such as the Grand Palace and temple Wat Pho with its famous reclining Buddha. The ‘island’ is formed by a loop of the Chao Phraya river and a network of canals. It is one of the oldest parts of what is quite a young city by European standards being established in the late 1700’s. There is limited public transport in this area and you have to rely on the ubiquitous tuk tuks, taxis and boats to get around.

In contrast, further east from Rattanakosin is Sukhumvit Road, a major artery running north-west to south-east and is home to a plethora of hip cafes and quirky shops along sparkling new malls. This area and its surrounds is well served by public transport with both an underground and overground transit system.

Most places open on a Sunday and often later into the evening than in Europe. Shops open and close quickly in a state of constant renewal however so that cool new cafe may be gone next time you visit therefore I cannot guarantee that all the listings will be open indefinitely so I recommend that you check the Facebook page and send a quick message before a planned visit.

Another thing to note is that there is no standard translation from Thai to English so spelling of Thai place names can be a little erratic.

Rattanakosin South

Rattanakosin North

Chinatown

Thonburi

Ekkamai, Thong Lor and Phra Khanong

Silom and Sathorn

Asok, Nana and Phrom Phong

Siam

Ari and Mo Chit

Further Afield

Home Turf

RATTANAKOSIN (south)

The Southern part of Rattanakosin Island is where you can find the breath-taking, if very busy, Grand Palace and Beautiful and slightly more serene Wat Pho, home to reclining Buddha. The best way to explore this part of the city is to get the BTS to Saphan Thaksin Station then the tourist boat which is super cheap and fun. No visit is complete without seeing the Chao Phraya, the beating heart of Bangkok.

WAT RATCHABOPHIT

SEE

Wat Ratchabopit. This sis a stunning temple with the Royal Cemetery on its western grounds. It has a circular layout which is unusual and is usually quiet. The ceramic and mirrored detail is beautiful and the surrounding buildings servicing the temple are also very picturesque. In recent years it has been under restoration but don’t let this put you off. You can still go in and wander around.

Phahurat. This is one of the Indian communities in Bangkok. Sometimes referred to as little India it’s not a large geographic area, just a few streets around the India Emporium mall but in the side streets to this mall you’ll feel like you’ve left Thailand to be surrounded by shops selling wares for your shrine, incense, fabrics and clothing. You can also grab freshly made samosas and Indian sweets. In India Emporium itself there is a food court on the top floor that sells very reasonably priced food and excellent chai in an air conditioned space if you need to get out of the heat.

DRINK

Sala Rattanakosin, The Deck by Arun Residence and Ess deck are some of many rooftop bars where you can enjoy a cocktail as the sun disappears behind Wat Arun on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya river. The drinks and food here are pricey and a bit unremarkable though as you pay or the view so maybe have a sundowner and then move back into Chinatown proper to eat.

EAT

Excellent quality Thai fare is to be found everywhere in Bangkok, it is delicious and punchy what I like about Farm to Table is that they really think about the quality and taste of their food they serve the freshest ingredients in simple dishes that showcase the seasonal produce they select which makes them stand out from your regular eatery. Everything they make feels fresh and healthy. They also serve fantastic ice cream and coffees. It also has a sister restaurant called Farm to Table Hideout. Farm to table hideout is hidden behind Pak Khlong market and you will not believe the google location until you’re right on top of it! on my last visit it as completely packed out so you may have a short wait. It’s really worthwhile though and you can slowly saunter back through the flowers after you’ve eaten.

FARM TO TABLE HIDEOUT REALLY IS A HIDDEN GEM

Toney restaurant. Street food is ubiquitous of Bangkok. It is plentiful and tasty. Toney’s is an Indian version of this. At street food prices you can select dishes from a comprehensive one page laminated menu in a very basic but characterful restaurant alongside the canal. Great option for vegetarian food too.

PAK KHLONG FLOWER MARKET

BUY

Pak Khlong Talat Market and Yodpiman Flowers Market This area has been selling flowers since the 1700. Open 24hrs a day some of the street vendors are rumoured to be relocated in the near future but this area will always be home to a concentration of floral vendors. Marvel at the bunches of roses, piles of orchids and delicate jasmine garlands.

MUSEUM OF SIAM WEAVING AT ‘MINDS OF THAI INVENTORS’ TEMPORARY EXHIBITION

Ta Tien. The area around this historic pier has many apothecaries and massage related products as it’s next to Wat Pho, the national centre for massage training. This is a great place to stock up on Tiger Balm and massage oils. It’s a little touristy but just ignore the tuktuk drivers and soak up the old world charm. The nearby Siam Museum is free and has free drinking water if you need to top up your bottle. It has some good exhibits, many specifically for children (or your inner child) and the staff are very friendly.

RATTANAKOSIN (north)

SEE

WAT SAKET (GOLDEN MOUNT)

Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount as it’s known by foreigners, is technically just outside Rattanakosin. This is a popular place to visit but less crowded than the Royal Palace. Go as early or late in the evening when the weather is cooler as there are some 300 steps to climb to the temple atop a man-made hill. The view over the city is made more enjoyable by the sound of the tinkling bells hanging from the roof of the temple building on which the golden chedi sits.

COMMUNITY AT POM MAHAKON

Phra Nakhon Fort is one of two of Bangkok’s historic forts. Visit the community alongside the fort before it’s demolished. The residents are being evicted as the City want to build a park on the site. The community have opened up the area to visitors with interpretations boards throughout and a welcoming community centre. This is a great opportunity to see a disappearing neighbourhood.

Khao San Road is in this area. While many recommend avoiding this area for its tacky tourist trinkets and bars full of tourists in singlets I would suggest a walk around or through its environs in between sights, the northern bank of Bang Lamphu Canal makes for a particularly interesting stroll. If you do want to party its not only backpackers but local university students that frequent Khao San Road so if you try somewhere like Brick Bar you may catch a decent band and be surprised that its not solely a foreigners enclave.

OFFERINGS BEING SOLD AT PHRA SUMEN PARK

THE FORT AT PHRA SUMEN PARK

Phra Sumen. The second of two forts in this area has a delightful riverside park and there are also a whole new host of cafes and eateries in the attractive and newly renovated run of shop houses opposite such as Roti Mataba and Escapade Burgers & Shakes. There is a small, cream coloured gift shop at the end of this row of townhouses that sells some nice hand crafted Thai goods at reasonable prices like scarves and textiles.

KOPE HYA TAI KEE

EAT

Kope Hya Tai Kee. This is my all time favourite authentic Thai/Thai-Chinese breakfast haunt. The restaurant is self-service order at the counter and then you wait to be called to pick up your food. Pan eggs- so good! There are two branches but I go to the one at 526-528 Phra Sumen Rd. Nearby is also Loha Prasat Metal Castle which is one of the more unique looking temples that has been under renovation in recent years but, when reopened, offer good views of fort Mahakan and the Golden Mount. There is also a famous amulet market behind the temple.

Ethos. just off the Khao San road serves good vegetarian food which is not that easy to come by in Bangkok.

Shoshana serves tasty middle eastern food at a good price.

BUY

Sanam Luang is currently the focus of mourning for the late King Rama XI. It is normally however the capital’s kite flying ground. Kite Flying has been part of Thai culture for hundreds of years a handmade traditional kites, or two, from the sellers surrounding the park make great gifts and are part of Thai heritage.

Wan Lang market is just over the river from The Maharaj Shopping Mall so also not technically on Rattanakosin. When you disembark at Wang Lang Pier there’s a kind of covered shopping area. At the rear left hand corner (as you leave the boat and head into the market area) there is a nice shop selling clothes from all over Thailand with fabrics from the North and hand stitched bags and hand crafted silver jewellery which is very nice and not overpriced. The market itself is very Thai few tourists. You may not buy much but it’s certainly an authentic experience. If you’re into vintage/flea markets there’s a huge second hand area about half way down ‘Arun Ammarin 22’ with clothes shoes and bags at silly prices. You can pick up light cotton dresses from about 100THB and believe me if you come in the height of summer you’ll be wanting them!

CANAL TAXI

STAY

I’ve not stayed at these hotels but I have walked past and wished I was!

Old Capital Bike Inn looks like a quirky place with the added appeal of guided cycle tours around the old town

Lamphu Tree House is located on the Bang Lamphu Canal and has a tempting open ground floor where I could easily spend an afternoon with a cold beer and a book. I wouldn’t normally recommend staying so far from public transport but the canal taxi at Phanfa Bridge is less than a 10min walk away and that will take you straight into Siam for a crazy cheap price.

CHINATOWN

SEE

Soi Wanit Also know as Chinatown’s walking street this is a very busy wholesale market for a variety of items from wigs to embroidered patches. You can buy items singly but prices are better if you’re buying in bulk. Squeeze past moped making deliveries and carts selling freshly squeezed fruit juice.

SOI NANA IN CHINATOWN NOT THE DODGY BUT MORE FAMOUS ONE ON SUKHUMVIT

Soi Nana (Chinatown) is in one of my favouirite Bangkok streets. It joins Soi Rama IX and Maitri Chit Road. There is another Soi Nana off Sukhumvit (famous exotic sights of a different kind) but don’t let the taxi driver take you there- the one you want it this tiny street in historic Chinatown flanked by picturesque shophouses. Cho Why is located in one of these shophouses and hosts exhibitions and events. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to hang out on its roof space with a great bird’s eye view of the street. The area really pulls together for quirky events and is one of the hippest places to be in Bangkok.

DOUBLE DOGS TEA ROOM

DRINK

Double Dogs Tea Room Opens at 1pm so don’t go too early. This is a super quirky tea house, not only with a great range of teas but they also serve a good selection of sweet nibbles alongside.

Teens of Thailand is the most fantastic covert gin bar hidden behind an elaborately carved teak door. The Thai Tea gin and tonic is definitely top of the amazing offerings that you should sample.

23 bar & gallery another charming bar on this small street that spills out onto the street at night.

Why is located in one of these shophouses and hosts exhibitions and events. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to hang out on its roof space with a great bird’s eye view of the street.

Tep Bar has a cultural Thai vibe showcasing Thai music and a drinks menu that incorporates Thai flavours in both their food and dirnks. Great place for after dinner drinks or taking guests. It’s mid priced but value for money considering the great atmosphere.

EAT

River View Guest House this guest house has the most fantastic roof restaurant overlooking the river. Roof bars are incredibly popular across Bangkok with some mind blowing swanky locations but this rooftop is very low key it serves very affordable food and drink and is fun to find. You will go through an area of Chinatown stockpiled with different mechanical and engine parts which is a photographers dream.

Samsara Cafe & Meal another riverside secret. This is a small, homey riverside spot. Many friendly cats and lovely, loved and worn wooden building with a deck to sip drinks right on the Chao Phraya.

BUY

I don’t often buy much along at the market on Soi Wanit/Chinatown’s ‘walking street, but enjoy the spectacle. Chinatown is best known for Gold but less expensive purchases include dried goods, teas and a range of street food such as roasted chestnuts and more substantial street eats at night with stalls like T & K Seafood being famous for tasty sea food at crazy prices.

NEARBY

The Ban Rak district of Bangkok borders the eastern end of Chinatown. If you follow Charoen Krung Road south you will come across some great street art. I’ve written more about this in a blog post about Bukruk Arts Festival. The large elephant piece on the side of a building in a car park off Song Wat Road is visible from the river boat.

THONBURI

Thonburi is the name given to the province on the west side of the Chao Phraya River. It can be easily overlooked but it certainly has a charm all of its own. There is a dense cluster of attractions you can visit easily in one day. If you take the local river boat to Saphan Phut (N6 boat pier) and then walk over the bridge you can have a lovely day away from hordes of tourists.

SEE

THE PRINCESS MOTHER MEMORIAL PARK; A TEXTURAL FEAST

VERDANT STREET SCENE NEAR THE PRINCESS MEMORIAL PARK

Princess Mother Memorial Park is a small park celebrating the area that the late princess mother lived in as a young child. The area as she knew it has since been knocked down but the garden is a calm and meditative space incorporating many old structures. The Princess mother was also the founder of the Doi Tung Foundation (of which I am the biggest fan of their products). I love the area around this park. It has a distinctive paving which makes it feel a little European and we received the warmest of welcomes from locals who were happy to offer us unsolicited advice on navigating to our next destination.

BEAUTIFUL ARTWORK ON THE TEMPLE WALLS

Just behind the park is a Chinese temple which I can only find the Thai name for (ศาลเจ้ากวนอู (คลองสาน)). However- have no fear!- you can see it clearly as you cross the river from Saphan Phut and if you take the unmade track from behind the park and head towards the river you’ll be sure to see the entrance. It has a three story pagoda with views over the river and no one appears to be phased by visitors walking around. I really like the artwork on the walls and columns and which I knew more about the stories behind the art.

CAFE AT THE BAAN KUDICHIN MUSEUM

From the Park its a ten minute walk to the Kudijeen/Kudichin area. This is a super dense but low rise culturally interesting area with a Portuguese, Muslim, Chinese heritage. If you start from the Baan Kudichin Museum they have a lot of information on the local landmarks which include  Santa Cruz Church Portuguese Catholic Church built in the 1700s, Kuan Yin Shrine, a mystical Chinese Shrine (no photos) and Bang Luang Mosque, the only mosque built in a Buddhist style; according to the brown tourist interpretation board outside. Over and above the landmarks the community itself seem so friendly and a world away from central Bangkok so any time spent here is a real pleasure.

DRINKS AT KNACK MARKET HOSTED BY JAM FACTORY

A little further south than the Kudichin area at the eastern end of Chinatown is The Jam Factory. Comprised of an architects office complete with scale models displayed int he windows, a gallery, book shop cafe and two restaurants this little compound hosts many art related events. It’s easy to get to. head or the very bizarre River City shopping mall where you will see hordes of tourists embarking on neon-lit river boats and take the small ferry across the river (super cheap!) from the ferry just head right from the pier and it takes you’ll be there in less than five minutes. If you venture out of the Jam factory Klongsan Market which runs alongside is also rather charming.

EKKAMAI, THONG LOR AND PHRA KHANONG

These areas have the largest concentration of Instagram worthy coffee shops as well as restaurants and independent shops. There are far too many cafes and restaurants to list in this article and believe me I’ve tried to go to as many as possible. I would say that the area is mainly off the tourist radar but a favourite with Bangkokians and expats this is where locals brave enough to forego the air conditioned malls go at the weekends to meet friends and be seen.

FEATHERSTONE

VANILLA BAKEHOUSE

EAT AND DRINK

Tuba Design Furniture & Restaurant is famous for its huge and potent goldfish bowl cocktails and furnishings that you can buy.

Just around the corner from Tuba is WWA Chooseless cafe which has a double height warehouse concrete vibe with vintage clothing and accessories being sold on the mezzanine. The menu is imaginative but the clothes a little overpriced. Achingly trendy though- in a good way!

Onion is a cafe and fashion retailer in a rather delightful enclave of Ekkamai. They make excellent coffee and the premises is super cool. It’s located in a private moo baan(village) which has some quirky, futuristic architecture. Just around the corner is Olive a rather sweet Greek restaurant.

Soi 12 Ekkamai has a high concentration of decent cafes in a very small area Featherstone, Vanilla Garden, Vanilla Bakehouse, Coffee Beans by Dao, 24 Owls Cafe & Bistro plus many more I’ve not mentioned. All are exquisitely well designed offer good coffee and a range of food options. The only problem is the capacity of your stomach. This area is one of my favourites for solo Saturday morning dates with myself and a book. There’s also a cute boutique clothing shop called SWiMMY which is a good distraction between lattes.

COMMUNITY MALL ‘THE COMMONS’

Back towards Thong Lor is ‘community mall’ The Commons. Don’t be put off by the word Mall. This is a great piece of design. There is a stepped central atrium allowing for informal gathering and meeting which leads off from a food hall unlike any other. Top restaurants like Peppina, Soul food and Bao and Bun amoungst many others sell their food to be eating in the central dining area meaning that people can order what they like from wherever they want. You can also get a good choice of craft beer here – but at a price.

Also in Thong Lor and thankfully much closer too the BTS station are  a few notable restaurants. Soul Food Mahanakorn is our absolute go to for delicious mid-priced Thai food and yummy cocktails. The price is way over and above that of street food Thai but the portions are generous and the flavours are spot on. We’ve never had a dish here that’s less than 100% delicious. Service is also excellent with great spoken English if that’s something you’re nervous about.

Steps by Theera is a cafe/social initiative whereby people with learning difficulties train in catering in order to transition form school into employment.  Their philosophy is detailed in the menu but the cause is far from being the only reason to visit this restaurant. The premises have a minimal Scandi-vibe and the food is really good. There are lots of ‘clean eating’ (I hate that term), gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options so it’s good for people watching their calories.

From a completely vacuous perspective I also enjoy Shugaa (back in Ekkamai). It’s visually stunning. The theme of crystallised sugar runs through from the facade to the sculptural spiral staircase. Some of my expat friends aren’t keen on the cake offerings; Shugaa styles itself as a dessert bar, but I thought they were pretty good. However I’m happy with anything that tastes of green tea. They also sell some filthy calorie-laden cold drinks. Sugar rush! or should that be Shugaa rush! – sorry.

A firm favourite on the other side of the Sukhumvit road is Toby’s on Sukhunmvit 38. It’s a slightly sweaty walk from Thong Lor or Ekkamai BTS Station but well worth it for their fab breakfast menu and the cozy corner seat which is like the perfect Sunday morning day bed. I’m also a fan or the chartreuse ceramics and concrete floors. Just opposite the cafe is a community garden which is worth peeking over the fence at. It’s like a little pice of rural Thailand in the middle of the city.

W District in Phra Khanong is a good option for meeting friend for light bites and a  drink. It’s configured like a market/food hall so that you can buy food and drink from various vendors and eat and drink together in the central space. The area has been consciously marketed as an arts district but this fells a little disingenuous to me. However it’s still a good option for a lively place to go out easily accessible from the BTS. Goja Gallery Cafe is in this area which serves Asahi on tap and has some good small scale art offerings.

BUY

UNFASHION CAFE

Un fashion Vintage has a great collection of used shoes and handbags but also the most adorable cafe with absolutely the most comfortable seats in Bangkok. You might never leave. Try the Lemon Cheese Cream Cake than go back and order it again.

PAYA SHOP

Paya Shop. This shop is truly a must if you are looking for quality Thai homeware. From beautiful celadon pottery to exquisite textiles this is my favourite example of the very best of Thai handicraft. The mainstay of the shop is custom furnishings but there are lots of ready to buy pieces. The shop continues out the back and upstairs and the products are very carefully curated. Sadly no photography allowed in the shop so you will have to see this for yourself.

STAY

Beat Hotel. I’ve popped in here for a cooling drink while gallery hopping and really liked the vibe. It’s quirky and embraces art in a really fun way. I think it would be a great place to stay with W district so close by. The prices are also really reasonable. Although not located in a traditional sight-seeing area its close to the BTS station at Phra Khanong so easy to get around the city.

SILOM and SATHON

This is Bangkok’s party area. Come Songkran (Thai New Year) this whole area is a hub for the annual water festival that has come to typify the celebration for many.

It’s home to high-rise hotels, sky bars and nightclubs and Bangkok’s largest city-center Park – Lumpini Park where you may spot the odd Monitor Lizard Lounging around the central lake. Known predominantly as a business district it also has some lesser known attractions and is more accessible than the old part of town via the BTS skytrain or underground MRT.

M.R. KUKRIT’S HOUSE

SEE

M.R.Kukrit’s Heritage Home is similar in nature to the more famous Jim Thompsons house but has only a fraction of the visitors. Lovely collection of teak buildings in a beautiful tropical garden. The collection of items within the buildings are somewhat haphazard by western heritage standards but I really feel like this adds to the charm. A super easy walk from Chong Nonsi BTS station

BANGKOKIAN MUSEUM

The Bangkokian Museum is tucked away on the Silom side of Silom Road. Perfect to combine with Bonita Cafe and Social (see below). It’s a small museum made up of several wooden houses. The houses are numbered and there is an English language leaflet available. Entrance is free. I particularly like house number one which beautifully preserves Thailand of the 1950’s. There’s a fab old fridge in the dining room (sounds weird but seriously you’ll know what I mean when you see it), painted shutters, patterned frosted glass, beautifully folded linens in the cabinets and a quirky old fashioned un-plumbed toilet under the stairs.

WAT DON CEMETERY

Wat Don Cemetery Is certainly more unusual place to visit. It’s not only inhabited by the dead but is a lively evening destination with Bangkokians exercising, singing karaoke in the open air or playing chess surrounded by gravestones. Grab a beer at nearby bar Jam frequented by a quirky crowd of Bangkokians and expats.

SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is a vivid and beautiful Tamil Indian, Hindu temple. In the streets surrounding the temple you can find great Indian food which is especially good for vegetarians.

Maybe controversially I don’t much rate Lumpini Park- finding it a bit barren but do highly recommend the free open air orchestral performances in the Thai ‘winter’ Every Sunday evening for a period of about two months. It’s a pleasant time of day to be outside and there’s a lovely laid back atmosphere.

INCREDIBLE FLOOR AT WAT PHO MAN

Wat Poe Man Khunaram is a straightforward 10min taxi ride from Chong Nonsi BTS Station and is the most fabulous Chinese temple. The floor of the courtyard has the most beautiful lotus flower design. Each flower is unique- it’s completely dreamy. Just outside of the temple gate is also a lovely restaurant called Soufflé and me which feels really fancy but has reasonable prices. I had the unappetisingly-named ‘flap’ which was a savoury pancake, my particular ‘flap’ served with potatoes and bacon, and it was delicious.

DRINK

Maggie Choos is an oriental themed prohibition era bar and nightclub. You typically have to place a minimum order of drinks to secure a table which is not cheap by Bangkok standards but they have great live music and mesmerizing hosts literally swinging from the rafters.

Red oven and Hiso bar are in the So Sofitel Hotel located on the corner of Lumpini Park. ‘Brunch’, confusingly served at lunchtime, is right of passage for most expats and involves a lavish all you can eat dining experience with free flow alcohol if you wish. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a top thing to do in Bangkok in lieu of more cultural experiences the service and value for money in comparison to a western equivalent is undeniable. If you happen to be in Bangkok at a weekend and fancy splashing out somewhere around the £60 mark pp for a luxury dining experience my pic of all the brunches would be So Sofitel. It’s a modern hotel, beautifully appointed with fabulous staff, and if you choose to stay you can also enjoy the pool with outstanding views over Lumpini Park and the city beyond. ‘Paul’ the concierge is also worth mentioning. Every stay has been made special by his flamboyant and professional personal touch. He embellishes his own uniforms, which are stunning, and really ensures that your every need is met.

EAT

Kai great restaurant with food from New Zealand. It’s a large restaurant and they easily absorb big groups with no prior booking needed. The breakfast menu is vast and delicious and they serve great coffee. This is a solid choice to fuel up before a day of adventuring. I’ve not eaten an evening meal here but the menu looks very, very tempting.

BREAKFAST DJ AT LADY BRETT’S (BREAKFAST FROM ROCKET NEXT DOOR

Rocket coffeebar this is the original location of local cafe chain Rocket. It bills itself as Bangkok’s leading all day breakfast spot but I go to watch the beautiful people that come and go. I recently visited with friends on a Sunday morning and Rocket was packed out so they were using Lady Brett’s (same owners) next door for overflow and we were treated to a chilled Sunday morning live DJ set to accompany our waffles and pancakes. No Sunday has been the same since.

BONITA CAFE AND SOCIAL CLUB

Bonita Cafe and Social Club is a delightful vegan restaurant run by a friendly Japanese and Thai couple who are running enthusiasts as well as being passionate about veganism. The cafe has such a lovely homey feel and if you are lucky you may get the upstairs dining area all to yourself which is decorated with a selection of hand picked items giving the bright room a feel of having dinner at an elderly aunt’s (meant in the very best way possible!) the food is also delicious. Even my non-vegetarian friends are happy to return for the delicious teriyaki ‘burger’ and I’m a particular fan of the club sandwich.

ASOK, NANA and PHROM PHONG

BENJAKITI PARK

SEE

Benjakitti Park is one of the lesser known parks and is virtually deserted durng the heat of the day however you can walk along its western edge under the shade of the trees and I find it to be an easily accessible balm when the city gets too much. There is also a new park on the land of a Thailand Tobacco Company behind Benjakitti park called Suan Pa Benjakitti (Forest Park) which is even more wonderfully deserted.

BUY

Emporium and Emquartier are two shopping malls straddling the Phrom Phong BTS Station. Emporium is the older mall and I recommend a visit to its top floor where you can find a good selection of quality Thai items. If you want a long lasting, high quality memory of Thailand I think that this is a great place to start, if you want a tuk tuk made out of beer cans go to MBK. Emporium has concessions such as Doi Tung (beautiful home ware crafted by villagers in the Doi Tung Area) and Meeder handmade (contemporary clothing made from the amazingly colour saturated and finely crafted fabric of northern hilltribes). They also sell scented candles and aromatherapy diffusers, Thai ceramics and woven items that showcase the best of what Thailand has to offer. Also on the top floor is the equivalent of a department store food hall, Gourmet food Hall which has gold trolleys that have to be seen to be believed. This is the best source for finding any obscure ‘foreign foods’ if that’s what you’re craving.

Emquartier is the newer mall. The shops are not particularly interesting but it does have a branch of Roast which is a great meeting spot. You can access the mall straight from the BTS so there’s minimum walking, you could probably even wear jeans. I like to sit at the seats along the edge of the cafe overlooking the waterfall that runs down the open air atrium of the shopping mall. You can also people watch shoppers crossing the connecting bridges that span between the different sections. The coffee here is some of the best and the menu is also very good.

Terminal 21 is yes, another mall. Bangkok has so many shopping malls which to a Brit is quite unusual as we tend to shop on a ‘High Street’ and not inside. Thais often joke that the national hobby is shopping but the malls also serve as air-conditioned locations to meet with friends. Terminal 21 has all of the usual things; a multi-screen cinema on the top and a food hall in the basement but what makes it stand out is the sections that contain smaller boutique type shops. The floors are themed as destination countries in way that is fun and not overly tacky. There are some big brands but I like the little windy ‘street’ bits especially on floor 1 which is ‘Tokyo’ themed. You can buy inexpensive clothing, jewellery and accessories that are just a little different from H & M. My absolute favourite though is a vintage shop nauseatingly called ‘Sugar and Cream‘ (bleurgh!), unit 1095. Most of the stock is Japanese and you can pick up similar items at Chatuchack for less but what’s so good is that the owner has done all the legwork for you by selecting only the best pieces and if you’re lucky enough to catch a sale then you can definitely pick up a bargain. The clothes in my wardrobe that get the most compliments have all come from this shop.

Sun Books is a tiny little second hand store on the corner of soi 37 and Sukhumvit Road. It’s essentially a junk shop that I believe once was a book shop. The contents have all come form Japan and its a real hit and miss experience. I love a quick rummage to see if I can find any treasure. It’s close to the BTS and always worth popping in. The umbrellas are the absolute best though. The Japanese style is to have a long metallic point on the end, perfect for warding off soi dogs.

DRINK

Soi 11 (Sukhumvit) can be found in the Nana area of Bangkok.Nana is easily one of the least desirable areas in Bangkok. To me it encapsulates most of the bad things you might have heard about the city. It’s home to the sleazier entertainments that attract large numbers of tourists of a certain demographic. However as a result of this it also has many large big brand hotels and following that some decent restaurants and bars. Soi eleven has a concentration of these. Of all of them there are only two I return to. The first is Nest Rooftop lounge which is on the ninth floor. I like it for it’s chilled atmosphere and comfy seating. It’s ideal for a first place to go when you want to catch up with friends. I don’t like the food or service which is sloppy. The second is Above 11, a rooftop bar on the 32nd floor of the Fraser suites. This place is slick. It’s not cheap but the views are amazing and o top it off the Japanese food is top quality.

EAT

In between Asok BTS station and Sukhumvit MRT station on street level is Pala Pizza Romana. Don’t be put off by appearances and location this is a really fantastic Italian eatery. The food is very good and reasonably priced. They also sell their pizzas, charcuterie, pastries and bread to take away. Not the venue for a long lingering dinner but very convenient for a quick meal and what they do, they do very well.

Saras is my ultimate destination for an Indian vegetarian feast. It’s equidistant between Phrom Phong and Asok so either way there’s a little walk. The menu is huge and maybe confusing if you are not familiar with the dishes. I can assure you its all delicious and the staff will gladly help you choose. We always over order. My tip would be to order half thalis. Its mid priced, it has a weird self service arrangement where you have to order at the til, but the restaurant is large and clean there is a counter with Indian sweets which we usually buy at the end and take home to have with tea. Just round the corner is Bei Otto, a German shop and restaurant. I’ve not eaten in the restaurant but I do like to pick up rye bread and freshly baked pretzels from here.

Cafe Coffee break at li-bra-ry is a delightful coffee shop behind Benjasiri Park at Phrom Phong. I love the mid-century furniture and collection of coffee table books and magazines which I like to pore over drinking a succession of coffees. Great for a solo date.

STAY

Okefura Prestige. I’ve only eaten here for the most exquisite bento lunch at Yamazato which was a huge treat but that one visit definitely left me wanting more. The Okefura prestige has a huge cantilevered pool over the BTS line some twenty five floor above the street below. The hotel is Japanese and has all of the best qualities I would expect of a Japanese establishment. The decor is restrained and tasteful. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. This is understated luxury in the heart of the city.

SIAM

The most central location in Bangkok. The biggest malls are located in this area including the long standing MBK mall with it’s not so genuine handbags alongside the newest and shiniest such as Siam Discovery. In the really hot season they provide a refuge from the oppressive humidity and heat. Around Siam there are smaller shopping streets to be found in the Siam Square area much frequented by nearby Chulalongkhorn University students identifiable by the knee length pleated skirts, smartly pressed blouses and University pin -well the girls anyway. The Siam Square area is a good place to waste an hour or so surrounding yourself with young people and remembering/mourning being that age yourself. It’s worth noting that Siam Square itself is not a square in the European sense more of a city block. Slap bang in the middle is the very strange ‘Siam One’ mall but its the surrounding side streets that are more interesting to wander iced drink in hand.

SIAM; WHERE TWO BTS LINES INTERSECT IS THE MODERN CENTRE OF BANGKOK

SEE

Jim Thompson’s house is one of the classic tourist attractions of Bangkok. It can be crowded but it is very well run and you will tour the collection of houses by the disappearing silk entrepreneur in a tour group which keeps the visit pacy and gives you a slightly different experience each time if you visit more than once. Despite its popularity I still think it is worth seeing. It’s so easy to get to; less than a 5 min walk form National Stadium BTS station or a little further from Siam Station. I think that the garden and planting is exquisite and it is a real showcase for Thai domestic architecture. Give the overpriced restaurant and generally dowdy merchandise a miss though.

FROM CANAL TAXI ON SAEN SEAP CANAL

If you visit Jim Thompson’s house its easily combined with catching the Canal taxi along the Saen Saep Canal to Phanfa Bridge (end of the ‘line’ to the east) to visit Wat Saket/Golden Mount. Whizzing along the canal and seeing the communities that lie just behind the shiny malls is worth experiencing in its own right. You can also take the canal boat in the other direction just for fun as it goes out as far as Bang Kapi. At any time just hop off and alight on the other side to return to where you came from.

Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre, the BACC is the place I refer to as my happy place. It is a far more enjoyable air-conditioned sanctuary than any of the malls surrounding it. The exhibits are changed regularly and always of a high quality. Galleries don’t tend to be a s sombre as I find in the UK and they often let you take photos which is cool. There’s an area where you can pay an artist to sketch you or watch someone else being sketched, various cafes and shops selling art related items such as art supplies, graffiti supplies, copying services, and some quirky gift shops including some that sell only sustainably sourced/recycled products. At street level there’s a cafe called Gallery Drip Coffee which sells, well, drip coffee. They care about coffee big time and its a nice spot for a caffeine top up.

The Scala is Bangkok’s oldest single screen cinema and is a gorgeous piece of architecture. If you’re in the area do pop your head into the foyer. It’s got a great sixties fantasy style to it. Affiliated with the attractive Scala cinema are the Apex Lido cinemas which front Sukhumvit road. Bangkok has an incredible amount of modern cinemas with a baffling range of viewing experiences from personal lounge chairs complete with rugs to all inclusive packages where you will be served free-flow food and drink. However I am most attached to the tatty and unkempt down and dirty screens at Apex Lido. They show some more unusual films and the tickets are a really stupid price. The staff wear little dickie bow ties and the inside of the cinema looks like an old labour club. I love it.

LUSH GROUNDS OF CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY

The grounds of Chulalongkorn University (who incidentally also own the land of Siam Square) are open to the public and are a useful rest-bite from shopping, heckling tuk tuk drivers and hordes of tourists. If you walk to the southern edge of the campus there’s budget strip mall that caters for hungry students. There you’ll find RYCE Gourmet Onigiri and the super cute April store which is a purveyor of very fine coffee, an assortment of goods and a fine atmosphere. It’s a 15min walk from National stadium but quite a nice walk and pleasant when it’s not the hottest season. En route is the ASEAN Studies Center Chulalongkorn University is a lovely new contemporary building which you are sadly not allowed to take pictures of, the Thai studies centre identifiable by the assembly of traditional Thai buildings with pond alongside and the main Chulalongkorn library which often hosts exhibitions on its top floor.

ARI AND MO CHIT

Mo Chit is home to the famous Chatuchak Market. The market spills out onto the streets beyond with a particularly interesting stretch of bric-a-brac and thrift shops leading south towards the Saphan Khwai. The Kampaeng Phet Road also has some interesting shops and is less crowded than the main market area. Further down the BTS line is Ari; an emerging cafe destination. My favourite activity here though is to nose around the residential streets of the area and look through gates. There are some super houses, just beware of the barking dogs.

SHOPPING ON KAMPHAENG PHET ROAD

 

CERAMIC AND GLASS WHOLESALER UNDER SIRAT HIGHWAY IN BANG SUE, 15 MIN WALK FROM CHATUCHAK

SEE

Chatuchack Market also known as JJ Market is the obvious attraction in the area. It’s an absolutely huge market selling everything. The stalls are quite well organised and permanent albeit located very close together but there is a wider avenue creating a loop that helps you get your bearings along with the central clock tower. It is possible to buy a lot of mass produced rubbish from this market and I wouldn’t say it’s a must see. After going many times I’m now able to just pop into the areas of the market I like and then leave without it becoming an overwhelming ordeal. I particularly like the vintage clothing which include shops dedicated to just one item like converse shoes, belts or Hawaiian shirts. You can also pick up very cheap dresses but make sure you feel the fabric. The man-made fabrics will probably be ok for Europe but I favour cotton for traveling around Thailand. In amoungst the ordinary are also some stalls are some creators doing great things like making their own clothing lines or customising old dowdy second hand clothes into remodeled versions (section 5). If you are in a hurry you won’t find them but if you’re happy to stick in your earphones and mooch around then you can have a very enjoyable day. Other good things to buy from here include ceramic sinks, celadon pottery (front of section 7), watercolours (section 7), northern Thai handicrafts like indigo scarves and purses- best shop for this is next to the ‘Paella man’.

OR TOR KOR MARKET; THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCE IS UNREAL

Or Tor Kor Market is easily the most important place to visit in Bangkok. Food is everything in Thailand. Thailand has one of the best cuisines in the word and to a European most of the fruit and vegetables are beguilingly exotic. This is the place to delve into Thai cuisine. The fresh produce is laid out beautifully and of the very highest quality. One section has a food hall area where you can eat and try what you’ve seen. Try everything, be brave. I haven’t mentioned Thai food that much in this city guide because it is fabulous and everywhere and others write more reliably on the subject. In Particular I recommend Mark Wiens who is a true aficionado of Thai cuisine. Please do check out is website and You Tube channel for recommendations.

MUSEUM OF FLORAL CULTURE

NEARBY-ISH

Museum of Floral Culture. This one is a bit of a pain to get to but well worth it in my opinion. It’s about a 15min taxi ride from Ari BTS station (nearest public transport to the museum) but I usually get the boat to Kheaw Khai Ka and from there it’s about a ten minute walk. The museum itself is interesting if you are into your botanicals and is housed in an exquisite wooden building but the real attraction for me is the tea room that occupies a beautiful verandah alongside the museum overlooking the garden. The picture is of a tea and Thai/Asian? dessert set menu which I go for every time. This is a great introduction to Thai desserts and is crazy pretty. A real favourite with guests.

FURTHER AFIELD

There are many great day trips available from the capital but I have tried to limit it to my absolute favourites. Anything more than an hour and a half’s journey I strongly recommend looking into staying the night on account of unpredictable traffic and the heat resulting in attacking a cultural visit with full force will result in it being a less than an enjoyable trip. It’s definitely better to build in lots of food and iced coffee breaks and adopt the ‘sabai, sabai’ attitude.

CHIT BEER CRAFT BEERS ON KOH KRET

No. 1 COFFEE STEAK ON KOH KRET NOT SURE ABOUT HAVING MY BARE FEET THAT CLOSE TO THE CANAL WATER BUT IT LOOKS COOL

KOH KRET

To the north of the city Koh Kret is an Island created by a canal. It’s not too difficult to get to we have previously managed to get a grab taxi to take us to either Wat Klang Kret or Wat Sanam Nuea which both have inexpensive passenger ‘ferries’ to the island. If you go on a market day you’ll be treated to a diverse choice of desserts and snacky food. The market has a narrow access and is in the top right corner of the island running east from

Wat Pora Mai Yi Ka Wat with its distinctive wonky chedi. It can get really busy so if you’d like to see it don’t rent a bike for this bit. However for exploring the rest of the island definitely do rent a bike. The route around the eastern and southern part is easy to navigate, just don’t fall off the elevated concrete walkways and take sunscreen. Along the eastern side you’ll find the famous potteries and even a disused kiln with interpretation boards describing some of the artisanal history of the island. You’ll also find our favourite attraction, Chit Beer. Chit Beer brew their own craft beer which is a a brave endeavor in Thailand and they are frequently fined by the government. The brewery holds craft beer brewing courses which you might witness while you are there sipping your chosen ale on the deck overlooking the river.

You can do this as a day trip but we have also stayed on the island in the cutest, but very simple, airbnb.

BANG KACHAO

CYCLING AROUND BANGKOK’S ‘GREEN LUNG’ BANG KACHAO

DUCK NOODLES AT BANG NAM PHUENG FLOATING MARKET

GENTLEMAN SELLING HIS WARES AT BANG NAM PHUENG FLOATING MARKET

Known as Bangkok’s Green Lung this area of the city is a green oasis. It’s formed by a loop in the Chao Phraya River; similar to Koh Kret but much larger. You can get here across land but I would recommend getting a small long tail boat across the river from Khlong Toei Port pier to the opposite side and hiring bikes at MBike. It costs about 50THB to hire a bike for the day. They give you a map but your map on your phone may be easier to read. My next recommendation would be to ignore both maps and get lost. After your fill of adrenaline filled adventure visit Bang Nam Pheung ‘floating’ market- weekends only. Only a very small part of this market has anything to do with the khlong/canal it sits on but it is a great market nonetheless. Nearby is Bangkok Treehouse Guesthouse which is a fab spot for a drink. I’m in love with the mirrored tables reflecting the trees.

HOME TURF

There are few places that are worth a mention should you ever be in the Bang Na/Bearing area as this is my home turf I can’t finish this article without giving it some props.

Talad Rot Fai (Railway Market) Srinakarin Road is closest to Udom Suk/Phra Khanong as the crow flies but easily accessible by taxi from either of those BTS stops or from the Bang Na area. It’s a large weekend night market with a vintage-ey theme that sells clothes, homeware and accessories. You access it from alongside the Seacon Shopping centre and the entrance is identifiable but rusty metal boat on a post. To avoid the congestion I usually get the taxi to stop at Paradise Park and walk up to the market along the Srinakarin Road. The narrow pedestrian access widens into a marketplace with both permanent and temporary stalls. Towards the rear of the market are some rustic buildings lining avenues of parked cars selling their wares from blankets on the floor. The buildings sell a really quirky mix of items such  second hand furniture, some of it overpriced but at least its not from IKEA. The ‘car-boot’ area is probably my favourite though. There’s a huge food selection at this market so head straight for the best bit at the back and alternate between grazing on food and hunting for treasure. There is a new market by the same name run by the same people in Ratchada but it doesn’t sell the second hand items and is more of a destination for live music and socialising. It’s also slightly more claustrophobic but still very fun and a good option if you’re in town as you can access it via the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station.

Bougain cafe and crafts is a small cafe on Soi Bearing (soi 14) and walkable form the BTS (10-15min). It’s the most fabulous weekend oasis. About 200m down the road you’ll come across the trendiest house with a lush green garden surrounded by water crowned by a froth of lotus flowers. The pastries and cakes are really good, none of that horrible margarine taste you can sometimes come across and the music is always brilliant. After a friendly welcome open your book and linger.

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