The 100 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, cafes, craft breweries, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok • Bang Rak • $$$$
Sublime and iconic, the first luxury hotel in the entire country is majestically positioned along the river. Spectacular rooms steeped in history, mind-boggling variety of facilities, legendary service, and numerous activities and events. Exceptionally charming and extremely convenient. • +66 (0)2 659 9000
2. Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel • Lumpini • $$$$
Classic blend of Thai and contemporary design, with garden courtyards of koi ponds, as well as classy boutiques, squash courts, world-class spa, wonderful outdoor pool, and much more. Sumptuous rooms and suites, and so handy to top-class malls and the BTS Skytrain. • +66 (0)2 126 8866
3. Banyan Tree Bangkok • Silom • $$$$
Very high, so views from the particularly spacious rooms are jaw-dropping. They feature modern and Thai elements, while some suites include a private massage room and unlimited treatments. Also, a children’s playroom, rooftop pool, and Bangkok’s largest hotel spa. Convenient to the vibrant areas of Bang Rak and Sukhumvit Road. • +66 (0)2 679 1200
4. Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok • Lumpini • $$$$
Fantastic business hotel with resort-style facilities, such as an outdoor pool enclosed by gardens. Luxurious rooms feature a Thai décor and sweeping views. Excellent location in a shopping, business, and diplomatic area, and along 2 BTS Skytrain routes. • +66 (0)2 254 1234
5. AriyasomVilla • near Sukhumvit Road • $$$
Stunning family-run boutique hotel based in an 80-year-old home. Inviting, open-plan rooms and suites with plenty of Thai-style warmth, color, and art. Secluded, lush setting (with pool) alongside a canal, but still within walking distance of inner-city attractions and amenities. • +66 (0)2 254 8880
6. Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok • Bang Rak • $$$$
Sprawling riverside resort with twin towers enclosed by flourishing tropical gardens. Rooms and suites are decorated in a contemporary Thai style. Two large pools and one of Bangkok’s biggest fitness centers. • +66 (0)2 236 7777
7. Chakrabongse Villas & Residences • Old Town • $$$
Intimate boutique hotel within a beautifully converted 100-year-old royal retreat. Delightful rooms, mostly decorated in Chinese, Thai, and contemporary styles, and luxurious suites with stunning river views. Pool in tropical gardens. Short stroll to major attractions in the old town. • +66 (0)2 222 1290
8. Riva Arun Bangkok • Old Town • $$$
Distinctively designed boutique hotel alongside the river, offering sublime views of 3 of Bangkok’s star attractions: the Wat Arun and Wat Pho temples, and the Grand Palace. Choose from elegant rooms wrapped by balconies or suites with outdoor jacuzzis. The cafés on the waterfront and rooftop add further to the immense appeal. • +66 (0)2 221 1188
9. Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort • Thon Buri • $$$$
With an elegant Thai décor and flourishing gardens (with pool), the choice ranges from cozy deluxe rooms to spacious 2-bedroom riverfront suites. Extra activities include cultural shows and overnight cruises in their restored rice barges. The ASIATIQUE food and entertainment center (see #37) is just across the river by hotel shuttle-boat. • +66 (0)2 476 0022
10. Hansar Bangkok • Lumpini • $$$
Chic and eco-friendly boutique hotel in an upmarket area with fabulous open-plan rooms cannily designed to feel even more spacious. Plenty of places to shop, eat, and drink all around, and not far from attractions such as Erawan Shrine (see #69). Breakfast included. • +66 (0)2 209 1234
11. Shanghai Mansion Bangkok • Chinatown • $$
The design and décor of this romantic hotel in the center of Chinatown reflects the glamour of 1930’s Shanghai. Clustered around a large indoor courtyard, rooms exude an old-world charm, e.g. a 4-poster bed and patterned textiles. Very convenient to the MRT metro and inner-city attractions. • +66 (0)2 221 2121
12. Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan – MGallery • Lumpini • $$$
Step back in time and experience a 1920’s-style Euro-Asian hotel. Beautifully blends modern-day amenities (e.g. outdoor pool) with sophisticated old-style touches, such as classy dark wooden tones and claw-foot bathtubs. Several malls and other attractions nearby. • +66 (0)2 630 4000
13. The Sukothai Bangkok • Silom • $$$
With Buddhist statues among manicured lawns, this is a serene oasis within the city center. Rooms are tastefully decorated, some with a balcony overlooking an attractive courtyard and lotus pond. Also within the vast grounds is an Olympic-sized pool. Walkable to the fabulous Lumpini Park (see #90), 2 MRT metro routes, and abundant nightlife. • +66 (0)2 344 8888
14. The Siam • Dusit • $$$
Fashionable boutique hotel in expansive gardens beside the river. With lofty ceilings, dangling lamps, and antique furniture, the suites ooze an exotic charm; also a few superb pool villas. Pleasing freebies include cruises on a private boat, butler service, and breakfast. Also courses in Thai cooking and boxing. • +66 (0)2 206 6998
15. Pullman Bangkok Hotel G • Silom • $$$
New, modern, and stylish lifestyle hotel in the city center. Trendy rooms and suites feature a contemporary design and the latest mod-cons. In-vogue bar and restaurant on the 37th floor and award-winning round-the-clock international burger joint are highlights. Walkable to the skytrain station and several shops, restaurants, and bars. • +66 (0)2 352 4000
(Also refer to #58 Dinner Cruises below.)
16. Le Normandie • Bang Rak • $$$$
Michelin-rated menu of haute cuisine and imported wines renowned across Bangkok for 40+ years. Magnificent views, first-class service. and sumptuous décor. Book ahead and check the dress code. Top floor of the top-notch Mandarin Oriental hotel (see #1). • +66 (0)2 659 9000
17. Issaya Siamese Club • Thung Maha Mek (1km southeast of Lumpini) • $$$
Highly-regarded and always features in ‘good food guides’. Run by an award-winning Thai-born chef returned from acclaimed residencies in Europe. Gorgeous setting in 100-year-old mansion with lush garden, and not as expensive as imagined. Handy to MRT metro station. • +66 (0)62 787 8768
18. Nahm • Silom • $$$$
Very fashionable and secluded bistro run by an Australian chef who revives dishes lost in time that impress the fussiest of locals. Outlet first opened in Europe was Michelin-rated. At the upmarket COMO Metropolitan Hotel. Bookings essential. • +66 (0)2 625 3388
19. Blue Elephant Bangkok • Sathon • $$$
Self-labelled ‘Royal Thai Cuisine’ fit for a king in a refined old-world dining room in an enchanting mansion with cocktail bar. Popular cooking classes also available. • +66 (0)2 673 9353
20. Eat Me Restaurant • Silom • $$$
Perennially popular for its arty décor, cozy terrace, and mouth-watering fusion cuisine at surprisingly reasonable prices. Extended menu of wines, cocktails, and desserts are further reasons to come. Memorable experience; more than just somewhere to eat. • +66 (0)2 238 0931
21. Sky View 360 • Chinatown • $$$$
Difficult to chew while admiring the jaw-dropping views from Bangkok’s only revolving restaurant. At the Grand China Hotel, it’s mostly Japanese and Vietnamese dishes, along with some western favorites, too. Live music nightly and often buffets. Very romantic. • +66 (0)2 224 9977
22. Supatra River House • Bangkok Noi • $$$
Worth a quick trip by ferry across the river from the Grand Palace. Excellent seafood and perfect riverside setting facing the city’s major attraction. In a traditional twin-level former home. Book ahead and come early to avoid the tour groups. • +66 (0)2 411 0305
23. Joe Louis Thai Puppet Theatre & The Art of Thai Cuisine • Bang Kho Laem (3km southwest of Bang Rak) • $$
Unique combination: hearty portions of Thai food and flamboyant performances of traditional dance and puppets. In the ASIATIQUE shopping and entertainment center (see #37) • +66 (0)2 688 3322
24. Methavalai Sorndaeng • Old Town • $$
Created in 1957, and still delightfully old-fashioned, it’s famous for serving traditional food that has long since disappeared, including to Thai royalty. Ornate décor, friendly staff, live music weekends, and terrific position close to the pubs around Khao San Road. • +66 (0)2 224 3088
25. Samsara Café & Meal • Chinatown • $$$
Focusing more on Japanese and Thai food than Chinese, it’s always popular for the likeable wooden décor, casual riverside terrace, and pleasing prices. Extended menu of beers and spirits, as well as local-style tapas. • +66 (0)2 639 6853
26. Mexicano Restaurante Autentico • Sukhumvit • $$$
Arguably Bangkok’s best Mexican restaurant, located in Hotel Rembrandt. Renowned among locals for its mouth-watering range of tacos and enchiladas. Otherwise, come for the great-value Sunday brunch. • +66 (0)2 261 7060
27. Food Legends by MBK • Siam Square • $
Massive food court in air-conditioned comfort. Ideal for safe and tasty versions of Thai street food, as well as other Asian staples and familiar fast-food outlets. In the MBK Center mall (see #35) • +66 (0)2 620 9814
28. Sukhumvit Soi 38 Night Food Market • Sukhumvit Road • $
Compact area of open-air stalls and simple eateries along a narrow soi (lane). Renowned among locals and savvy expats as the place for authentic and affordable Thai food. Open from 4 pm until the wee hours, so ideal after pub-crawling along Sukhumvit Road.
Best Thai Food
29. Pad Thai
Meaning ‘Thai fry’, this is always popular, especially among those unsure about local alternatives. Plenty of noodles and fresh vegetables, topped with bean sprouts and crushed peanuts, and served with beef, chicken, or seafood – or just as a tasty, filling, and cheap vegetarian dish.
30. Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
Hugely popular across Thailand, this is an accompaniment or full meal. The contrasting flavours are an acquired taste, but certainly zesty: chopped unripe papaya (or mango) spiced with garlic, lime, and chili, and served with tomatoes and sticky rice. Great for vegetarians, or with seafood.
The overused and indistinguishable term ‘curry’ includes imported versions, such as massaman (thick, with peanuts, potatoes, and, usually, chicken and roti bread); and penang (creamier and spicier, with rice and, more likely, meat). More authentic Thai curries are labeled according to colour: red (hottest, with chilies), yellow (with turmeric), and green (mildest, with coriander and basil).
32. Khao Niao Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)
Addictively sweet concoction of mango and rice topped with palm sugar and coconut milk/cream. An ideal dessert – especially refreshing to offset spicy or sour meals – or just as a tasty snack.
33. Central World • Siam Square
Thailand’s largest mall features countless brand-name boutiques and fashionable bistros, as well as multi-level department stores and even the top-class Centara Grand hotel. Plenty for kids, too: multi-screen cinema, ice-skating rink, playground, learning center, library, and internet center. Regular events and weekend markets held outside. • +66 (0)2 640 7000
34. Siam Paragon • Siam Square
Barely 300m from the country’s largest mall, Central World (see above), the Paragon also offers seemingly unlimited places to shop and eat. Across 9 floors are a bowling alley, Kidzania games arcade, IMAX theater, excellent supermarkets, well-known fast-food outlets, and a world-class aquarium (see #77). • +66 (0)2 683 1888
35. The Platinum Fashion Mall • Siam Square
Hundreds of boutiques and stalls, many clustered in narrow lanes selling everything from evening dresses and traditional costumes to outrageous wigs and designer handbags. Bargaining is more common than at other malls. Only 500m north of Central World (see #32). • +66 (0)2 121 8000
36. MBK (Mahboonkrong) Center • Siam Square
Generally more affordable and Thai-y than Central World and Siam Paragon (see above), all sorts of fashion and furniture are spread across the 8 floors. Especially popular for electronic bargains, as well as the games arcade and fab food court (see #26). • +66 (0)2 853 9000
37. Emporium and EmQuartier • Sukhumvit Road
Two for the price of one. Connected by a bridge over the road, Emporium is about affordable clothes and food; the other, focuses more on boutique brands and trendy eateries. And check out the remarkable tropical garden on the rooftop of EmQuartier.
38. ASIATIQUE The Riverfront • Bang Kho Laem (3km southwest of Bang Rak)
Upmarket combination of open-air mall, entertainment complex, and night-market with food stalls. Pricier than more traditional markets, but far better organized. Open daily (4-12 pm) for authentic souvenirs, abundant eateries, and Bangkok’s highest Ferris wheel, which is especially appealing during sunsets.
39. Kwan-Riam Floating Market • Min Buri (37km east of the Grand Palace by taxi, train and/or bus)
Open weekends and public holidays, it’s best from 7 am when locals along the canal hand out alms to monks floating by on boats. Also appealing are the wooden boats that double as restaurants and the exotic Alpacas and Shetland ponies at petting zoos.
40. Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market • Din Daeng (11km east of the Grand Palace)
Extensive maze of lanes teeming with shops selling fashion and food, as well as bars with live music. Far less touristy than others because of the distance, but easily accessible by MRT metro. Open daily from 5 pm, but very busy on weekends. (Also known as Rod Fai Night Market 2.)
41. Chatuchak Weekend Market • Chatuchak (6km northeast of Dusit)
Home to around 15,000 stalls, it’s the largest in Thailand – yet well laid out. Incredible array of junk, but also exquisite antiques, colorful art, and authentic handicrafts at budget and, mostly, negotiable prices. Saturday and Sundays only. Start by 10am to beat the heat and crowds.
42. Pratunam Market • Ratchathewi (2km northeast of Siam Square)
Open 5 am to 9 pm, Bangkok’s largest clothes market is also great for souvenirs, including genuine arts and crafts. Bargains galore and prices negotiable, but no hard-sells because tourists are so rare. Within walking distance of several mega-malls (see above).
43. Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market • Old Town
Largest and most atmospheric of its kind. Offers an inconceivable variety of flowers and associated products (e.g. pots, garlands, and decorations), as well as fruit and vegetables – all at rock-bottom prices. Open 24 hours, but most authentic and frenetic at 4 am. Also, particularly photogenic after dark.
44. Khlong Toei Market • Khlong Toei (3km southeast of Lumpini)
Sprawling but convenient produce market that assaults the senses with a diversity of sights, sounds, and smells at every turn. All sorts of fruits and vegetables, many unknown to tourists. Utterly chaotic and unquestionably photogenic, it’s virtually open 24/7.
45. Moon Bar • Sathon
One of Bangkok’s first rooftop bars is still arguably the most remarkable. On the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel (see #3), the 360-degree city views are totally unobstructed. The amazing design gives visitors the impression of being on a ‘floating ship’. Grab a corner table before sunset. • +66 (0)2 679 1200
46. Amorosa Bar • Old Town
On top of the Arun Residence hotel for unspoiled views of the Grand Palace (see #60) and across the river to Bangkok’s most iconic sight: the Wat Arun temple (see #61). More about watching the sunsets, boats, and activities at the temple than anything else. The equally-popular Deck restaurant shares the same striking outlook. • +66 (0)2 221 9158
47. The Speakeasy Rooftop Bar • Lumpini
One of the city’s finest is on the 24th and 25th floors of the boutique Hotel Muse (see #12). Always busy because of its priceless views, flamboyant cocktail ‘mixologists’, and 1920’s-style décor. Bistro attached with menu of contemporary Asian cuisine. • +66 (0)2 630 4000
48. Sky Bar • Bang Rak
On the 63rd floor of the Lebua hotel, it’s one of the highest bars on the planet. Most guests are, however, more intent on socializing over a signature cocktail than relishing the views. Come early for the sunset, when it’s not so shoulder-to-shoulder. • +66 (0)2 624 9555
49. Khao San Road
This road forms the backbone of a backpacker hub (see #97). Touristy, but still likably laidback and inexpensive. Great for pub crawls and people-watching, and oodles of cheap eateries. Best for live music, friendly staff, and decent prices are: Hippie De Bar, Brick Bar, and Superflow City Beach Club Bangkok.
50. The [email protected] • Bang Rak
With hip DJs and dazzling lighting, this where the city’s trendsetters hang out – and not necessarily for the views from the 39th floor. Check out the special deals, e.g. Ladies’ Nights that include free drinks. Restaurant attached with a menu of Japanese fusion. • +66 (0)2 108 2005
51. Brown Sugar: The Jazz Boutique • near Khao San Road
Fashionable yet down-to-earth club doubling as a café during the day. Toe-tapping jazz and more sedate acoustic music. • +66 (0)2 282 0396
52. Ladyboy Cabaret Shows
A must-see is a performance of extravagantly dressed and exceedingly beautiful ‘ladyboys’ dancing and lip-syncing to popular songs. Most shows are classy – not risqué or in bad taste; even suitable for families. Recommended are: Calypso Cabaret at ASIATIQUE (see #37) and Mambo Cabaret. To avoid being part of the show, avoid the front few rows.
53. Sing Sing Theater • Sukhumvit Road
Award-winning bar-cum-nightclub designed like a theater, where balconies overlook a central stage that doubles as a dance floor. With European bands and trendy DJs. Also come to socialize over a signature cocktail or just enjoy the quirky Chinese décor. • +66 (0)63 225 1331
54. Patpong Night Market • Silom
Bustling night market also (in)famous for its numerous ‘go-go bars’ and strip clubs. Certainly an experience, but be wary of overpriced drinks, hidden charges, and petty crime – and please avoid places where naked women ‘entertain’ patrons with ping pong balls and other unnatural insertions.
Bangkok Tours, Classes & Sports
55. Thai Cooking Classes (also see Food Tours below)
Great chance to learn about and prepare delicious Thai food. Classes usually start with an early-morning trip to the market and conclude with gulping down the creations. Particularly good are: May Kaidee Cooking School (which also caters for vegetarians), My Thai Cooking, and House of Taste Thai Cooking School. Heaps of fun for the family and conducted in English.
56. Food Tours
Accompany experienced guides on tours of markets, street stalls, and authentic eateries not in any guidebook. Recommended are: Bangkok Food Tours (wide variety of tours by tuk tuk and motorbike; also cooking classes) and Taste of Thailand Food Tours (popular, with a focus on Chinatown).
57. Cycling Tours
Despite the traffic, heat, and pollution, there is a lot of appeal in exploring the less touristy areas on two wheels. Safe, comfortable tours are operated by: ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist (the first and still among the best), Recreational Bangkok Biking (less-visited city sights and regional must-sees, e.g. Ayutthaya), and Bangkok Urban Adventures (also tours by foot and tuk tuk).
58. Dinner Cruises
Putter down the river while devouring delicious Thai food and admiring the Grand Palace and magnificently illuminated temples. Often on converted rice barges, some companies provide candle-lit tables and traditional dances; others live bands and noisy DJs. Great options are: Manohra Cruises (classy), Grand Pearl Cruise (romantic), and WAN FAH Restaurant & Cruise (traditional).
Many Thais are fanatical about golf, even if they could never afford to play. Not surprisingly, major courses – e.g. Bangpoo Golf & Sports and Bangkok Golf Club – are outside the city center. More convenient (but rather exclusive) is The Royal Bangkok Sports Club. For all courses, book ahead and reduce hefty fees by playing weekdays from sunrise.
60. Muay Thai Boxing
Combing elements of martial arts and conventional boxing, this is a genuine experience, even if a little touristy in some places. Events are regularly held at the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadiums, or ask locals about cheaper and more authentic bouts elsewhere. Also, sometimes at the MBK Center shopping mall (see #35).
Things to See in Bangkok
(Also refer to Family Fun and Parks & Gardens later.)
61. Grand Palace • Old Town
Bangkok’s prime attraction is an extraordinary complex of halls, buildings, and pavilions set amidst vast courtyards and gardens. Allow plenty of time to admire all the murals, statues, temples, and galleries. A useful brochure and map are included with the ticket, and guides are also available. Dress code is strict, but long pants, full-length skirts, and closed shoes can be borrowed at a booth. Start before 9 am and avoid weekends.
62. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) • Bangkok Yai (across the river from Old Town)
One of Bangkok’s oldest temples, it is also its most iconic landmark. A steep climb up the famous spire that dominates the skyline is rewarded by mind-blowing views of the river, Wat Pho temple (see below), and the Grand Palace (see above). Can also be admired from restaurants and bars across the river – especially amazing after dark.
63. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) • Old Town
Alongside the Grand Palace (see #60), the city’s oldest, largest, and most famous temple is home to a majestic Buddha statue within a massive complex dotted with pavilions, shrines, halls, and pagodas. Also, a monastery, school, and massage areas. (Traditional Thai massage originated there.)
64. Wat Saket (Golden Mount) • Ban Bat (2km east of the Grand Palace)
Features a shining golden chedi (stupa) with an ancient Buddhist relic. Perched on top of a man-made hill and accessible along a winding staircase that’s reasonably easy to climb. Spiritual and peaceful vibe all over.
Allow at least a half-day to appreciate this unique mix of Thai and Chinese culture, lifestyle, and architecture. Admire Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan temple (where monks keep pet crocodiles); haggle for curios at Woeng Nakhon Kasem (‘Thieves Market’); or browse at the narrow Sampeng Market. Also, of course, countless places to eat.
66. Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) • Old Town
Part of the unique, multi-tiered Wat Ratchanatdaram temple, the 37 iron spires symbolize all the virtues on the path to enlightenment. Wandering through its many narrow corridors filled with historical exhibits is fascinating. A spiral staircase leads to an enshrined relic at the top. Don’t miss the colorful amulet market at the back. Serene, and off the usual tourist trail.
67. Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) • Siam Square
Magnificent collection of contemporary works by Thai and international artists; also home to regular films, plays, and musical performances. Allow enough time to enjoy the artsy cafés, craft shops, and library. • +66 (0)2 214 6630
68. National Museum Bangkok (Phra Nakorn National Museum) • Old Town
Easily the best place to really understand Thailand’s history, art, and culture. With an impressive layout and labels in English, it’s packed with art and artifacts, and should be visited before exploring the temples and Grand Palace. • +66 (0)2 224 1370
69. Wat Traimit (Wat Traimitr Witayaram Worawihan) • Talat Noi (1km southeast of Chinatown)
This temple is home to the world’s largest (5½ ton) solid-gold Buddha, which is known, unsurprisingly, as The Golden Buddha. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s a little underwhelming but certainly worth a stopover on the way to/from Chinatown.
70. Erawan Shrine • Lumpini
Bangkok’s holiest and most popular shrine, Thais flock here to pray and offer candles, flowers, and fruits to Buddha. Walkable from the hedonistic contrasts at Central World (see #32) or one of the other mega-malls nearby.
Bangkok Massages & Spas
71. Divana Scentuara Spa • Lumpini
Outlet of a countrywide company offering an impressive range of luxurious and traditional treatments using their own organic products. Not too pricey, and the highly-trained staff are used to fussy farangs (foreigners). • +66 (0)63 474 6566
72. Perception Blind Massage • Silom
Massages of up to 2 hours by blind or visually impaired masseurs within a serene setting. Book in advance to avoid long waits. • +66 (0)99 115 6669
73. Health Land Spa & Massage Asoke • near Sukhumvit Road
Convenient outlet of a citywide chain that’s a firm favorite among locals and tourists – so make an appointment. Extra-long range of massages, body scrubs, and facials in a sumptuous multi-storey building. Packages especially designed for couples. • +66 (0)2 261 1110
74. Yunomori Onsen & Spa • Khlong Toei (3km southeast of Lumpini)
Soak in the sort of hot and cold thermal pools of therapeutic minerals and jet-equipped baths inspired by ancient Japan. With massage rooms, a beauty clinic, and café, many stay far longer than intended – also because there’s no time limit. • +66 (0)2 259 5778
Family Fun in Bangkok
75. Boat Trips
Chao Phraya River, the main artery of Bangkok, is always teeming with river taxis, cargo barges, public ferries, and tourist boats for dinner cruises (see #57). Cheap, useful, and regular services for sightseeing are: Chao Phraya Express Boat, especially the Orange Flag Boat; Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which offers an inexpensive hop on/off day-pass; and Khlong Saen Saep Boat Service, which traverses the canals, predominantly for locals. Also, more expensive long-tail boats provide customized trips from outside riverside attractions.
76. Siam Niramit Bangkok • Huai Khwang (12km east of the Grand Palace)
Wonderfully portraying the history, spirituality, and culture of Thailand, about 100 performers dressed in traditional costumes dance on extravagant stages. Arrive early to catch traditional performances outside the hall, feed the elephants (for a fee), and take photos with costumed dancers. Worth paying extra for tickets up front and with dinner included. • +66 (02) 649 9222
77. Muang Boran (Ancient City) • 40km south of the Grand Palace
Regarded as the world’s largest outdoor museum. Spread over 300+ shady acres collectively shaped like Thailand are abundant replicas of the country’s most famous monuments, temples, and other sights, including a ‘floating market’. Allow a full day to explore the ‘whole country’, starting early and, if possible, avoiding weekends. Trams and bicycles are free; otherwise, hire a golf cart to get around. • +66 (02) 323 4094
78. SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World • Siam Square
Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium is conveniently in the Siam Paragon mall (see #33). As much fun for the adults, it’s superbly laid out and offers a walk-through ‘ocean tunnel’, shark tank, glass-bottom boats, 4D cinema, and so much more. • +66 (02) 687 2000
79. Museum Siam • Old Town
Housed in a stately 19th-century building, this is the museum most likely to impress the young ones and the most jaded of travelers. Exhibits exploring the history, traditions, and cultures of the city and country are interactive, stimulating, and labeled in English. • +66 (02) 225 2777
To escape the heat, rain, noise, and pollution – but not the crowds – head to one of the city’s numerous mega-malls. Most also offer games arcades and cinemas with English-language films. Within walking distance of each other around Siam Square and Sukhumvit Road are several malls, including Central World (see #32), with an ice-skating rink and playground, and Siam Paragon (see #33), with a bowling alley and aquarium (see #77).
Festivals & Events in Bangkok
81. Chinese (Lunar) New Year’s Day • changeable, January/February
Week-long celebration where Chinatown fills with lanterns, firecrackers, and dances featuring ‘lions’ and ‘dragons’, while even more food stalls are set up. Vibrant time to visit, but busier (and potentially more expensive) than normal, and some major businesses may close.
82. Makha Bucha Day (Magha Puja) • changeable, February/March
Important Buddhist festival (and public holiday) observed throughout the country. Thais join candlelit processions around temples to celebrate the day Buddha gave a sermon to enlightened devotees. Tourists are welcome to observe all activities (which start from dawn). Best at Wat Benchamabophit temple (Dusit) and the Golden Mount (see #64).
83. Songkran • usually 12th to 16th April
The Thai New Year is celebrated all over the country with several public holidays. Water is poured, dumped, and spouted over everyone (so dress appropriately); otherwise, visit a temple to observe the induction of novice monks. Most markets, government offices, and family-run businesses close, but malls usually remain open. Avoid traveling at this time as half of Bangkok seems to travel to the countryside.
84. Visakha Bucha/Puja Day • changeable, May
Known as Vesak in other countries (and a public holiday throughout Thailand), the devout visit temples to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. A solemn occasion, so some bars and clubs close for the day, while others may reduce music levels and discretely serve alcohol in tea cups.
85. Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music • September and October
Features top acts from across the world, as well as Thailand’s very best – mostly conservative ballet, dance, opera, and classical recitals. Held over several weeks at the Thailand Cultural Centre in Huai Khwang (about 7km northeast of Lumpini).
86. Loy (Loi) Krathong Festival • changeable, usually November
During the city’s most photogenic festival, Thais buy or make a krathong (tiny boat of banana leaves, flowers, and candles). These are released on lakes, rivers, and canals to pay respects to the Goddess of Water. Particularly spectacular around the ASIATIQUE complex (see #37).
Short Trips from Bangkok
87. Ko(h) Kret • one hour by ferry north
This island on the main river is home to an amazing weekend market, renowned for its street food and handicrafts (especially pottery) made by local tribal groups. With no cars on the island, it’s such fun exploring the unspoilt environment and mango orchards any time by rented bicycle or on foot.
88. Ayutthaya • 85km north
Once as grand as any European city, the ancient Siam capital is an easy daytrip (90 minutes one-way) by bus, train, or guided tour; otherwise, a more relaxing boat will take twice as long. The startling ruins of temples, monuments, and palaces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but too large for walking, so hire a bicycle or tuk tuk.
89. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market • 80km southwest by bus
Firmly on the tourist trail, this photogenic market is where hundreds of locals buy and sell fruits, vegetables, flowers, and just about anything while on sampan boats. Guided tours include quick detours to fruit orchards; or stay overnight nearby to allow an early morning visit.
90. Kanchanaburi • 125km west
Lush landscape famous for its WWII history immortalized by the movie, Bridge Over The River Kwai. With nearby temples, waterfalls, caves, national parks, and war memorials/cemeteries, and plenty of accommodation in the town, this is a worthy detour for several days. About 2½ hours one-way by bus or train.
Parks & Gardens in Bangkok
91. Lumpini Park • Lumpini
Bangkok’s largest and oldest – and most popular and convenient – park is a welcome oasis. As well as a place to just relax, there are fitness equipment, a playground, giant swan-shaped paddle boats for trips across the lake, 2.5km path popular for walking/jogging, and plenty of huge (but harmless) lizards. Often free concerts on weekends.
92. Bang Krachao • 22km southeast of the Grand Palace
With verdant forests, eerie mangroves, and fruit farms dotted with temples and stilt-houses, this island is a perfect escape – yet only about 30 minutes by taxi and/or boat. Best explored by rented bicycle along meandering paths, but start early to avoid the heat. On weekends is the Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market.
93. Lumpini and Sukhumvit Road
Lumpini is packed with luxury hotels, top-class restaurants, lively nightclubs, and upmarket residences – and is also home to a fantastic park (see #90). More fabulous facilities are lined along trendy Sukhumvit Road, just east of the park. Nearby sois (lanes) are crammed with European bistros, Australian pubs, and American diners, as well as red-light districts teeming with ‘go-go bars’. The BTS Skytrain runs parallel to Sukhumvit Road, while the MRT metro connects sights in the Old Town.
Best Stuff: Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel • Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok hotel • AriyasomVilla hotel • Hansar Hotel Bangkok • Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan – MGallery • Issaya Siamese Club restaurant • Sukhumvit Soi 38 Night Market • Cabbages & Condoms (quirky, casual fund-raising café) • Emporium mall • EmQuartier mall • The Speakeasy Rooftop Bar • Above Eleven Rooftop Bar & Restaurant (Peruvian-Japanese food and extra-long drinks menu) • Erawan Shrine • Sing Sing Theater • Divana Scentuara Spa • Health Land Spa & Massage Asoke • Lumpini Park
Just southwest of Lumpini Park, Bang Rak is chock-full of amenities and attractions along leafy and quieter-than-normal streets. Alongside Bang Rak, the area generally known as Silom is a business district during the day and a thriving center of inviting bars, sidewalk cafés, and food stalls after dark. Distant enough from downtown Bang Rak and Silom is the distinct Patpong red-light district of sleazy nightclubs and ‘go-go bars’ (see #53). All these areas are well connected by the BTS Skytrain and/or MRT metro.
Best Stuff: Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok hotel • Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel • Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok • Pullman Bangkok Hotel G • The Sukothai Bangkok hotel • COMO Metropolitan Hotel (refined, popular, and good value) • Le Normandie restaurant • Nahm bistro • Blue Elephant Bangkok café • Eat Me Restaurant • Moon Bar • Sky Bar • The [email protected] • Patpong Night Market • House of Taste Thai Cooking School • Perception Blind Massage
95. Old Town
Also known as Rattanakosin, this majestic and historical area alongside the river is based around the magnificent Grand Palace. So much fun wandering along the narrow lanes dotted with boutique hotels and street-side stalls. Also, plenty of temples, monuments, and museums to explore, and connected to Lumpini and Bang Rak by MRT metro.
Best Stuff: Chakrabongse Villas & Residences • Riva Arun Bangkok hotel • Arun Residence hotel (swish, riverside, and fab facilities) • Methavalai Sorndaeng restaurant • Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market • Amorosa Bar • Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) • Wat Ratchanatdaram temple • Grand Palace • Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) • National Museum Bangkok (Phra Nakorn National Museum) • Museum Siam
96. Siam Square
Just west of Lumpini and Sukhumvit Road, this compact area is bursting with multi-level malls containing department stores, boutiques, and family-friendly amenities – and some are even connected by bridges over main roads. Nearby sois (lanes) are packed with record stores, bookshops, cafés, and bars frequented by young locals. A safe area, and connected by 2 BTS Skyrain routes.
Best Stuff: Hua Chang Heritage Hotel (historic, charming, and elegant) • Mercure Bangkok Siam (functional and great value) • Food Legends by MBK food court • Hard Rock Café (burgers, bands, and memorabilia) • Burn Whale Seafood Bar & Grill (hearty and inexpensive buffets) • Central World mall • Siam Paragon mall • The Platinum Fashion Mall • MBK (Mahboonkrong) Center mall • Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) • SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World
97. Khao San Road (in Banglamphu district)
Likable area of budget-priced accommodation and other amenities often hard to find elsewhere, e.g. travel agencies and moneychangers. Bit sleazy in parts, and often rowdy at night, there are, however, quieter lanes to the west across the main road. Mostly for backpackers, but more boutique hotels being built. Not on any metro or Skytrain routes, but convenient for ferries along the river and walkable to the Old Town.
Best Stuff: Villa De Khaosan Hotel (old French design and chic vibe, with rooftop pool) • ibis Styles Bangkok Khaosan Viengtai hotel (functional, good-value, and stylish) • Baan Chart hotel (convenient and quiet, with pool) • May Kaidee Tanao restaurant (unique, delicious Thai menu, and cooking school attached) • Tomyumkung bistro (beautiful setting, fab food, and live music) • Hippie De Bar • Brick Bar • Superflow City Beach Club Bangkok • Brown Sugar: The Jazz Boutique
One of the largest, oldest, and most remarkable of its kind anywhere (see #64). The streets are absolutely frenetic, so even walking on the footpath can be challenging, but there’s always plenty to see and do. Also, countless places to eat, of course, but negligible nightlife. Connected by the MRT metro to Bang Rak and Lumpini and walking distance to the delightful Old Town.
Best Stuff: Shanghai Mansion Bangkok hotel • Grand China Hotel Bangkok (central, inexpensive, with revolving restaurant) • Hotel Royal Bangkok @ Chinatown (spacious rooms, hearty breakfasts, and outdoor pool) • Sky View 360 restaurant • Samsara Café & Meal • Food Tours • Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan temple • Sampeng Market
This district north of Khao San Road is criss-crossed with wide, shady boulevards, but there are few amenities for tourists, and poor public transport. All this may change, however, in the future as the area becomes more developed.
Best Stuff: The Siam Hotel • The Raweekanlaya Bangkok hotel (serene ‘old Siam’ elegance, with pool) • Phranakorn-Nornlen Boutique Hotel (quiet, family-friendly, and budget-priced) • Chon Thai Restaurant (built of teak, uncrowded, and garden views) • Kitchen Apsorn (award-winning, family-run, and home-style Thai food) • Sky Train Jazz Bar (rooftop, with retro décor and live music) • BaanBangkok Local Craft Beer Bar (beer-lovers’ dream) • Wat Benchamabophit temple
100. Across the River: Thon Buri, Bangkok Yai, and Bangkok Noi
Not many tourists visit – and even fewer stay – across the river from the Old Town, Chinatown, and Bang Rak, yet this vast area is only a quick trip by ferry from all the action, amenities, and attractions, such as the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. With far less traffic, noise and pollution, it offers a gentler slice of city life, especially along the many canals. Limited tourist amenities, however, and few hotels are within walking distance of the MRT metro and BTS Skytrain.
Best Stuff: Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort • Baan Wanglang Riverside hotel (so elegant and fabulous views) • Theatre Residence hotel (stylish and serene, with pool) • Supatra River House restaurant • Ton Makok bistro (splendid riverside position and inexpensive seafood) • Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) • Dinner cruises • Boat tours
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