48 Hours in Bangkok
Ahhh Bangkok, my home from home. 5 years ago I packed up my life in London with a one-way ticket and a new job in Asia, after 2 holidays in Thailand I was excited to make my once a year holiday my life. It will always be a very special place for me, but bias aside, it is one of the most fun and exciting cities I’ve been to, where I came to discover that anything and everything is possible and learnt to enjoy living life to the max.
Most travellers to Bangkok find it too hectic to understand how it’s possible to live there. The key is to get away from the tourist hotspots of the Grand Palace and the infamous Khao San Road. Here are some tips on how to enjoy a more relaxing stay in the city of angels.
Brunch is quite big business in Bangkok, a great way to catch up with friends and with so many new places popping up, you shouldn’t miss out. Roast in Thonglor is always a win, especially with its new location in the lifestyle mall The Commons. It gets busy on the weekends so come early or be prepared to queue.
Fuelled up and ready for the day, there’s no better way to experience Thai culture than to get in the ring for a spot of Muay Thai training. Cheeks in the complex on Ekkamai 10 is a great outdoor space to get sweaty with the trainers pushing you to give everything you've got, and then a little more. Note: you will come away soaked in your own sweat!
Afternoons can be spent on the water with a Khlong boat tour around the temples and canals. This is a great way to take in a little more authentic Bangkok life where you’ll see children playing in the water, families hanging out their washing and worshippers visiting the smaller temples dotted all around the khlongs. Request to take a stop at the Artists House, difficult to find but well worth the search. Over 200 years old, it now has a puppet show, cafe and small shops selling the work of the artists living in the area.
Ask your long tail boat to finish at the pier opposite to Wat Arun temple, where you have a few options for a bar to take you seamlessly from day to night. The rooftop bar at Sala Rattanakosin or the nearby The Deck, both have a perfect view over the river to one of the most beautiful temples in town. And as the sun sets over the temple, with a glass in hand, you’ll be ready for a night in Bangkok.
There are countless food options in Bangkok, (I could write a whole book about just them), it’s a foodie-lovers paradise. Whatever your taste, Bangkok’s got it - by the bucket load! One recent discovery was The House on Sathorn, a colonial mansion curiously perched between giant skyscrapers on Sathorn Road. I sat at the counter being talked through each course by the Head Chef who gave away a few secrets on where the inspiration for each dish came from. Immaculately presented, each dish is ready for Instagram. The bar in itself is well worth a visit for either a pre or post-dinner drink, taking influences from its Thai heritage and Russian Embassy use, it’s a unique standout for Bangkok.
Close to here you can find one of Bangkok’s most popular bars, Maggie Choos. Entering through a noodle shop might confuse you, but stepping through the velvet curtain feels like you’ve entered another world with bank vaults lining the walls, a central bar behind bars and velvet draped all over. Ladies in Chinese outfits perch effortlessly, including on huge swings hanging from the ceiling.
Wherever Bangkok took you last night, this morning you will be ready for a feast. The large hotels all offer weekend brunch, an eat and drink as much as you like buffet that will get you through anything. A stand out is 'W does Brunch' at the W Hotel, held on the first Saturday of each month, it’s worth being strategical in how you order remembering it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.
If you do have any energy left over, Bangkok has a huge offering of studio gyms, with intense HIIT workouts, Yoga, CrossFit, Pilates, to the more adventurous indoor surfing. If you’d rather step outdoors, there are a surprising number of parks, the main one being Lumphini Park which is flooded with runners, walkers and Tai Chi fanatics every morning. The path totals 2.5km and with lakes and ponds, is a great way to wake up.
For the afternoon, head to Wat Pho to discover the statue of the reclining buddha and the largest (and probably oldest) temple in Bangkok. Maybe due to it’s size, wandering around the pagoda’s here feels less busy than at other temples with buddha statue’s popping up all over.
If you are keen to bring back some Thai goodies, the afternoon/evening market at Asiatique is a great spot to head for. It has many of the same products that you will find at other markets, but in a more manageable layout and in the late afternoon you will avoid the harsh Bangkok heat. It’s easy to get to with a free boat shuttle departing Saphan Taksin from 4pm.
If shopping’s not for you, this is a perfect time to enjoy a massage. Sarinya in Thonglor is my favourite of all of the places I’ve tried (I’ve tried a lot!) but it does get busy so it’s good to call ahead. While you might think that being in Thailand warrants a Thai massage, I find these to be better described as a Chinese burn rather than a massage so would recommend opting for the oil massage.
Make sure you’re ready before sundown because the Bangkok sunset is not to be missed. Octave roof bar at the Marriott hotel offers 360 degree views, a great cocktail list and a DJ to provide the to kickstart your evening.
Later into the evening head down the road to Iron Fairies, a magical bar filled with fairies, set inside an ironsmiths workshop. With live jazz music from 9pm, and the most delicious cocktails (Smoke in the Bottle 1 and Smoke in the Bottle 2, I couldn’t decide!) this is a quirky, unique place in Bangkok.
Every time I return to Bangkok there are new and exciting places to explore, but some firm favourites manage to withstand the trends and are happily waiting for me every time I’m there. These are just some of them, but there really is so much more to enjoy in Bangkok away from the hustle and bustle.