Bangkok: a stopover guide

Unmissable sights, sounds and tastes for fleeting visits to the Thai capital

Bangkok: a stopover guide
By James Wilkinson

Sights in Bangkok

Bangkok was ravaged by floods in 2011 but in true Thai fashion was back on its feet very quickly. The current favourable sterling to baht exchange rate means that shopping, eating and drinking are ripe for the picking in a city that has no shortage of extraordinary sights and experiences.

At Chatuchak (next to Kamphaengphet Station), the largest market in Thailand, you’ll find a labyrinth of laneways that feature everything from vintage dressers and lamps to Chanel bags and pets (yes you can buy a monkey – not that Time Out condones it). Should you find something large enough to take up half of your living room, don’t despair: plenty of shipping offices are located in the markets to make sure your furniture purchase follows you home.

On any trip to Bangkok a couple of hours’ shopping at Siam Paragon (Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan, +66 2 610 8000) is a must. Here, big-name brands hold court alongside designer boutiques. Downstairs you’ll find Siam Ocean World, featuring a dive-with-the sharks experience.

Away from shopping and finned killers, Bangkok’s temples, waterways and districts attract thousands each year. Top visits include the Grand Palace, Wat Prakeaw and Wat Pho (including the giant reclining Buddha) in the old city. Don’t miss the famous floating markets at Damnoen Saduak, southwest of the city. The infamous, carnivalesque red-light district Soi Cowboy, too, has its seedy charms.

Restaurants and bars in Bangkok

Like most cities of a certain climate, Bangkok has firmly embraced the idea of rooftop dining and drinking. If you’ve seen 'The Hangover Part II' you’ll remember the rooftop breakfast scene. That’s up at Sirocco at State Tower (The Dome at State Tower, Silom Rd, Bangrak, +66 2624 9555), and the restaurant and adjacent Sky Bar have been Time Out favourites since we first visited almost a decade ago. Up here there are two other restaurants in Breeze and Mezzaluna, but you absolutely want to be outside at Sirocco. After dinner, make sure you settle in for a couple of Mojitos at the bar.

The boutique Hotel Muse (55/555 Langsuan Rd, Lumpini, Pathumwan, +66 2 630 4000) has the city’s best Italian fare, at Medici and refined classic cocktails in an elegant French setting at the property’s Le Salon.

For excellent affordable Isaan food try Isaan Rot Det (Thanon Rangnam, +66 2 245 6854), which has all the classics – a superb duck larb, grilled chicken, garlic-studded sausages, papaya salads – on a menu in English.

Hotels in Bangkok

Bangkok’s hotel industry is growing at a rapid pace and the oversupply of hotel rooms means right now you can get great digs for a fraction of the usual price. One of Time Out’s favourites is the exceedingly chic Hotel Muse (55/555 Langsuan Rd, Lumpini, Pathumwan, +66 2 630 4000). A member of Accor’s MGallery collection, it features 174 boutique rooms. The hotel’s lobby bar Le Salon has a fantastic old-world cocktail trolley used by staff to make Martinis at your table. Upstairs at the Lawn is an outdoor lounge that offers great views of the city, a decent champagne and wine list but without the prices you’ll find at some of the city’s other rooftop establishments.

At the affordably hip Aloft Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 (35 Sukhumvit Soi 11, Klongtoey-nua, Wattana, +66 2 207 7000), you’ll be given a mobile Samsung Galaxy smartphone when you check in that acts as your room key and offers cheap overseas phone rates and internet access. The rooms are top notch in a hotel that’s best described as being between a Novotel and a W Hotel. Hotel bar Wxyz is also worth checking out.

Go

KLM flies to Bangkok from London Heathrow via Amsterdam, with return fares starting at £490.

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Comments

By Matt K - Sep 25 2012

Sadly, while Bangkok is an amazing place the restaurant Sirocco mentioned above is not really. Sure it's a great location and view but the food is massively overpriced and not all that amazing. At a guess it is about 3-4 times the price of other restaurants (US$40+ for a main, $15 for a Heineken etc) which are much better quality. The staff are well intended but the turnover is obviously very high so the service level is also relatively patchy.

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