One of the world’s most vibrant and visited cities, Thailand’s capital has long been established as a heritage site and exotic playground. Bangkok is now also making a name for itself as a chic destination for shopping, dining, clubbing, spas and hip local designs, as showcased by places like the Thailand Creative & Design Centre (TCDC).
There are an enormous amount of things to do in Bangkok, from exploring embellished temples and the lanes of multi-ethnic neighbourhoods to sampling the legendary Bangkok street food and booking a table at Asia’s top-ranked restaurant, Nahm. Bangkok has always woven modernity and tradition into a truly distinctive hybrid, whether it’s in the wacky architecture, the water-logged sacred rites of the Songkran festival or the converted teak house lifestyle pioneered at the Jim Thompson House. Now cosmopolitan taste is re-colonising historic areas, with boutique hotels dotting the old town, cool galleries popping up in Chinatown and new visitor-friendly parks and markets along the river, like the Asiatique attraction in the converted docklands.
Despite Thailand’s recent political protests and coup, tourists have remained safe but foreigners risk serious trouble for commenting on royalty, military or politics, even online. Bangkokians take the strife in their stride and continue to pursue the good life.
Sights and attractions in Bangkok
Whether it’s temples, palaces, shrines, landmarks or village-like communities, Bangkok’s best sightseeing is focused mostly within the canal-ringed old town, the leafy Dusit district, Chinatown’s alleyways and along both banks of the rapidly redeveloping Chao Phraya.
A glimpse of Thailand’s disappearing water culture, Ban Nam Peung Floating Market (held on weekends) is also a focus for plantation cycle tours in Bang Kra Jao, a vast green lung opposite Bangkok’s working port. Among new riverside attractions, Asiatique features restaurants, a Ferris wheel, a night market in historic warehouses, the Calypso Cabaret ladyboy show and the Joe Louis Thai Puppet Theatre – a typically eclectic Bangkok mixture.
The ever-sparkling Grand Palace now hosts the sumptuous Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. Hi-tech interactive displays explain Bangkok’s ethnic diversity at MuseumSiam and the impact of the Sino-Thai culture is revealed at the Chinatown Heritage Centre – which is installed beneath the world’s biggest gold Buddha at Wat Trimit. Bangkok’s greatest draw is arguably shopping, but amid the malls at Ratchaprasong intersection, devotees throng to several auspicious Hindu shrines.
Sights and attractions details
Ban Nam Peung Floating Market Wat Ban Nam Pueng, Thanon Phetchachueng, Bang Kra Jao. +66 2819 6762. 7am-3pm Sat-Sun.
Asiatique 2194 Thanon Charoenkrung. +66 2108 4488.
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles Grand Palace, Thanon Na Phra Lan. +66 2222 8181.
MuseumSiam Thanon Sanam Chai. +66 2357 3999.
Chinatown Heritage Centre Wat Trimit, 661 Thanon Charoen Krung. +66 2225 9775.