From old Siam to new Bangkok, the city’s evolution continues into what might just be Southeast Asia’s reigning capital of cool. With one foot in the past, and one firmly in the present, no matter how many times you visit there’s always something new to discover in this ever-changing metropolis. Forget one night in Bangkok, you’ll need a good week to take it all in
THE GRAND PALACE
Thailand’s most sacred site, this beautiful complex of ornate temples and throne halls is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Crowds can swarm here, so arrive before opening time at 8:30 am to see it at its most serene.
In the same area, you’ll find another revered historical attraction: Wat Pho. Home of the famed reclining Buddha, this temple is also a repository of traditional medicine and still actually operates as a massage school, which means you can pair a visit with a side of pampering.
For bargain hunters, the weekend Chatuchak market is the place to go. The largest in the country (and one of the largest in Asia) you can spend days exploring its labyrinth network of stalls. Come ready to haggle!
Being home to a population approaching 10 million, the traffic in Bangkok is infamous. But while regular jams are a reality here, there are plenty of transport options to help speed up your sightseeing.
You can always take a luxury private transfer from the airport, but possibly the fastest way to get from the airport to the city centre is by train. The Airport Rail Link connects to both the city centre’s BTS Skytrain and MRT underground systems. There are two main taxi services in Bangkok: metered taxis and the ride-sharing app, Grab.
SAMPLE STREET EATS
When it comes to getting some serious bang for your Bangkok buck, street food still rules. Considered the birthplace of street food in the country, Chinatown remains the beating heart of the city’s obsession with all things culinary. And the best way to learn some of the area’s best-kept foodie secrets is by joining A Chef’s Tour. Join an enthusiastic local chef guide and wind through the city’s maze of alleys in the evening cool, feasting on street eats you’d probably never find alone, including Michelin-rated dishes. From peanut satay to Bangkok’s creamiest curry from a backstreet stall (made famous by the Netflix series ‘Street Food’), you can sample a range of savoury eats and end on a sugary high on Chinatown’s neon-lit Yaowarat Road.
HIT THE NEWEST HIPSTER HUB
In Chinatown’s Soi Nana, you’ll find a dynamic neighbourhood that’s reinventing the city’s cultural scene with a modern blend of innovative, speakeasy-style bars. Spearheading this new wave of drinking dens is Teens of Thailand — welcome to the first bar in the city to specialise in gin. Across the street, its neon-drenched sister bar, Asia Today, serves up yet more speakeasy vibes.
ART AND CULTURE
From traditional Thai homes preserved in time to sprawling national museums and contemporary galleries, Bangkok has an option for every kind of art lover. The granddaddy of all Thai museums, the National Museum Bangkok, was the first National Museum in Thailand and is now home to the most extensive collection of Thai artefacts and art in the country. Less well known, but just as interesting, is the Bangkokian Museum. Here you can ogle at traditional Siamese artefacts and stroll through lush tropical gardens to get a glimpse of pre-colonial Siam.
There are few experiences in Bangkok better than lazily drifting along its old khlongs (canals). You’ll escape the hordes of tourists and see giant monitor lizards lying in the sun, old wooden houses on stilts and floating markets. Meanwhile at Green Lung (also known as ‘Bang Krachao’) travellers can get their nature fix in a protected haven of forests, palm trees and papaya groves.
WINE AND DINE
Founded by chef-duo Pongcharn “Top” Russell and Michelle Goh, this fine dining restaurant showcases modern European cuisine with Asian influences. The seasonal tasting menu is inspired by the chef’s formal training in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe and Asia, and a meal here will likely be one of the best you’ll have in town. Choose from five or seven courses with vegan and vegetarian menus available, all paired with an excellent wine list. The chic bar downstairs and three distinctive dining rooms upstairs (Color, Floral, and Dark) exude elegance and attract both food enthusiasts and socialites to the space. Prepare to see and be seen.
The former judge of TV series ‘Top Chef Thailand’, Chef Pam, has made a splash in Bangkok’s foodie scene with the opening of her Thai-Chinese restaurant, Potong. Set in a historical Sino-Portuguese building (one was once chef Pam’s family’s Chinese pharmacy), the eatery has already received a coveted mention in the Michelin Guide Thailand. Named after her Hokkien great-great-grandfather, who founded the drugstore 130 years ago, Potong’s signature 20-course menu shows off the celebrity chef’s progressive cooking and comes infused with stories from her childhood. Plus, almost all ingredients are made in-house, including soy sauce, miso, and fermented tea. Pre- or post-meal, be sure to visit the adjacent Opium Bar for a cocktail or two.
Designed by celebrated architect and designer Bill Bensley, The Siam fuses Art Deco, traditional Thai, and classic colonial-style aesthetics, and the result is a luxury-resort-meets-maximalist-museum. The owner’s epic collection of quirky antiques and collectibles — including Chinese pottery from sunken shipwrecks, taxidermy animals, and 16th-century wooden statues of Buddha — makes for a visual feast. Each of the 39 suites and villas features oversized beds and either bathtubs for two or private pools. Guests can easily access the city’s main sights, via the Chao Phraya River, on the property’s very own long-tail boat.
Other wow-worthy amenities include a 23m riverside infinity pool, a cinema complete with vintage cinema chairs, and an opulent Opium Spa with plush day beds, marble columns, and melodic water fountains. For fitness enthusiasts, there’s even a full-size Muay Thai boxing ring with an Olympic trainer on hand to help you learn the martial art.
Cool modern comforts are key at this five-star hotel. Bang in the heart of Silom, 237 urban-designed rooms and suites are each styled for one of four themes — Water, Earth, Wood, and Metal. Guests can indulge in the Club Signature — an executive lounge inspired by world-renowned fashion designer Christian Lacroix — or take a dip in the 25m infinity pool with panoramic views of the Bangkok skyline and Lumpini Park. The 29th-floor rooftop bar is the perfect spot for sundowners and signature cocktails with more killer views to match. Its signature ‘SO Spa’ features suspended tree trunks and wooden slats for a natural vibe. Tip: Try the signature ‘Serenity of Five Elements’ treatment, a relaxing exclusive to SO/ Bangkok. Dining options include a newly opened robatayaki (a Japanese cooking method where ingredients are grilled in front of guests) and sushi bar, SOSHI.
You can’t miss this luxurious 30-storey hotel, thanks to its striking geometric design and top-to-bottom glass windows for awe-inspiring views of the Bangkok skyline. The hotel features 159 stylish rooms, including 23 unique suites and houses. Guests can enjoy the state-of-the-art fitness studio and spa facilities in Sense, which includes an indoor-outdoor lap pool and a saltwater pool with a whirlpool. In the evening, Lennon’s calls — a speakeasy-style bar with a mid-century home recording studio theme. Grab a beer amongst an extensive 6000-vinyl collection that you’re free to play and experience or try a signature cocktail inspired by classic tunes. The Rosewood’s prime location puts several highly revered temples, high-end retail establishments, and Bangkok’s largest green space, Lumpini Park, within easy reach.