Got 24 hours in Bangkok? A guide to shopping, food and tranquil moments
If you want to do more than shop for ‘real fake’ bags, then it’s best to do a spot of culture early before the heat of the day
Bustling, busy Bangkok is one of the gateway cities to Asia. While it’s like a noisy world away from the quiet isles of beachside paradise that are a short hop away, it shouldn’t be avoided. Instead, embrace the crazy riot of colours, sounds and experiences and dive on in.
If you want to do more than shop for ‘real fake’ bags, then it’s best to do a spot of culture early before the heat of the day, and the swell of tourists hits its peak. But first, coffee. Bridge Art Space (Charoenkrung Soi 51) is a cute art gallery cum coffee shop near the Chao Phraya river. Caffeine imbibed, head to Oriental and pick up the river ferry CPX O which will take you into the main temple district. Get off at Tha Tein (and stop at the Temple of the Dawn if you so wish).
While the Grand Palace is the big hitter, nearby Wat Pho (2 Sanamchai Road) – or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, tends to be less crowded and is just as impressive. You can’t fail to be gawp as you walk the length of the 46 meter Buddha, plus there’s plenty more to look at – this is Bangkok’s oldest temple, and you can lose yourself amongst the glittering gold. Just remember to dress modestly.
For the brave, a dive into Bangkok’s city-like Chatuchak Market (587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road,) is almost a rite of passage on a weekend stopover. It’s a half hour bus ride from Wat Pho – jump on the 44 bus or grab a cab. The market is simply enormous at 35 acres. Whole blocks of streets are given over to different things, such as gold bangles or wooden furniture and half the fun is getting lost amongst the 8,000 stalls. Twenty-seven sections try to make sense of the chaos but the whirlwind of people and colors make it an experience like no other.
After you’ve bought things you never knew existed, it’s time for lunch. Take the weight off and escape the heat of the day with a tasting menu from one of Thailand’s most exciting young chefs. At Le Du (399/3 Soi Silom 5, Silom, Bang Rak), Ton Tassanakajohn shows off his mix of Thai ingredients and international finesse.
From here you’re only 15 minutes by metro to the Jim Thompson House (1 Wang Mai, Pathum Wan), an amazingly quiet sanctuary in this enormous city. A famous and much loved American, Jim Thompson disappeared in the 1960s but his home has been preserved as a museum to Thai architectural style – there are six different Thai houses and a lovely art collection to look at in peaceful surroundings.
Carry on the tranquil feel either at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (939 Rama I Road Wangmai), found a few minutes away or pop into the Kiriya Spa in LIT Hotel (36/1 Soi Kasemsan 1, Rama 1 Road), almost next door which is certain to revive any jetlag or pep up tired feet.
You can’t leave Bangkok without tasting its famous street food. While there’s much debate over which area of this enormous city serves up the best sate, pad Thai and more, the area of Yaowarat (Samphanthawong) – or Bangkok’s Chinatown - won’t fail your taste buds. Neon signs mix with the stark electric bulbs that enable many of the stalls to whip up super fresh meals in minutes, dive into the sea of people enjoying themselves.
T&K Seafood (Yaowarat Road & Phadung Dao Road) is one of the most popular al fresco restaurants, grab one of the ubiquitous red stools and get ordering. Along the street you’ll find everything from fresh pomegranate juice to mango and sticky rice and a raft of lesser known, but no less delicious dishes. And for the perfect chicken sate, call by Jay Eng (105 Charoen Krung Road) and tuck in. You’ve earned it.