I mentioned last week that I am going to start a new series highlighting things to do in various cities and vacation destinations. This will not include how to redeem your miles for a free flight or hotel (The Points Guy has a great weekly series for this), but instead things to do once you arrive at your destination. My goal is for this to include activities, restaurants, excursions, tips, etc. and especially those “off the beaten path” recommendations that you might not find in a guide book – a more locals guide.

The first of this series will hit on Bangkok. I mentioned that I got a great email from a blog reader (thank you Megan!) prior to arriving in Bangkok and it provided me with some great local tips. This was amazing advice and I am so glad to share this all with you. Remember, this is by no means an all-inclusive, but instead reader generated recommendations.

Also, if you have any recommendations on any other cities you have visited or lived in, send those along to be included in future trip guide. While my trip reports include everything I have experienced on a vacation, my readers have great recommendations and I am excited to share their wealth of knowledge!

Activities

  • Temples, temples, and more temples:
    • The Grand Palace
    • Wat Pho (the reclining Buddah)
    • Wat Arun
  • Take the river taxi at the south end of the city all the way past the main temples. There are two boats you can take up/down the river. One is the tourist boat and one is a local river taxi. The river taxi gives you that local feel and is half the price (15 baht). The river taxis can also take you to the temples. *I was able to find the local river taxi on the return home, but not on the way to the temples. Definitely take it at least one way to get a local feel!
    • Get off the boat at Phra Arthit which is a lovely riverside neighborhood and has a park beside the old fort.
    • Take the river taxi one more stop until Thewet, which is a quiet neighborhood where people go to the pier to feed the catfish and where monks go seeking alms early in the morning. There is a plant market, fresh market, national library, and a row of guesthouses along Thanon Sri Ayutthaya.
  • Bangkok Arts and Culture Center: Accessible by skywalk from National Stadium Skytrain station (or walkable from Siam station). They have rotating exhibits that are sometimes amazing and sometimes lame, but either way it is free, cool, and quiet. And they have a great ice cream/gelato shop inside! This is a perfect place to catch your breath and get away from the heat and the hustle bustle of the city.
  • SpiceRoads.com does some great bike tours south of the city in the quieter, greener areas of Bangkok.
Eating:
  • Street food! This is by far the best food you’ll have in Bangkok.
    • Soi 38 – “A wonderland of delicious things to eat!” This street is in the Sukhumvit area and you can take the Skytrain to Thong Lo station. Essentially right at the beginning of the street are a bunch of food vendors all selling something different. One food vendor will be pad thai, another mango with sticky rice (so delicious), another will be making smoothies, etc. Highly recommend for dinner one night. Everything is like 50 baht if that (so like $1.5; 30 baht = $1 US). This is not fine dining by any means, but very authentic and exotic. Just sit at a table outside and they’ll get you whatever you want from the specific food vendor. If you like Pad Thai, this place is the best! *I acted on this recommendation and it was amazing (and so cheap)!!
    • Chinatown – On Thanon Yaowarat is also a great neighborhood for good street food.
  • Sukhumvit neighborhood:
    • Indus – A great Indian restaurant (and a friends favorite Indian food in the entire world). Located on Soi 26, but will need to take a cab from Prom Phong skytrain station (about 10 minutes tops)
    • Maha Naga – A nicer restaurant with a great outside courtyard under the lights. This restaurant is more expensive per Thai standards, but a really nice atmosphere. This restaurant is located on Soi 29 and in between two Skytrain stations – Ashok and Phrom Phang (can get off on either and just a few minute walk).
  • Siam neighborhood:
    • Cafe Chilli – Inside the Siam Paragon shopping center and is a great northeast (Issan) restaurant. It is very foreigner friendly and reasonable prices.
  • Thanon Phra Arthit neighboorhood – There is up the river past the temples. This area is very close to Khaosan Road (the backpacker area), but much quieter.
    • Hemlock – Opens at 4pm and highly recommended! *I went here and per the recommendation I got the following two dishes (very delicious!): 1) Miang Kham; 2) Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaves
    • Jazz Happens – Jazz bar few doors down from Hemlock. This place was founded by some professors un the music program at the local university when the students complained that there were no venues to play in. It is a hole-in-the-wall, but very fun to listen to some youthful and powerful musical talent. This place is also only open in the evenings.
  • Dinner cruise on the river: This is very popular and there are many boats for this. Recommended is the Loy Nava rice barge dinner cruise. The boats go up and down the river and is very picturesque, especially with everything lit up at night. The views can be even better than during the day!
  • Ari neighborhood:
    • Pla Dib restaurant – A restaurant for less tradition cuisine. Take the Skytrain to Ari and take a tuk tuk from there. A very hip place with understated decor and a Thai fusion menu that manages to do everything well, from sashimi to pizza. A big favorite amongst Bangkok locals (you’ll see a lot of the well-to-do young Thai generation as well as expats gathering here).
    • Puritan – A cake shop decorated in a jumble of antiques and a truly mouth-watering assortment of desserts. This place along with Pla Dib will give you a good sense of contemporary Bangkok.
  • Cabbages and Condoms – A famous restaurant that funnels all of its profits into a non-profit organization to promote family planning and children’s welfare in poor parts of Thailand. In spit of the condoms everywhere, it manages to be a pretty classy joint, with fairy lights twinkling in the trees above and traditional Thai music many nights of the week. The food is also great and worth a visit!
  • Downtown Bangkok:
    • Erawan Tea Room – Great place to go if you are shopping or exploring downtown and want something a little lighter than a full-on meal. You can get here via the Chit Lom Skytrain station. They have a marvelous selection of teas, a fun Thai set menu for teatime, and a lot of regular dishes in case you’re hungry for something more substantial. Best of all, they combine their classy colonial Southeast Asian decor with a soundtrack of Motown hits. A great place to rest your feet for a little while.
Drinking:
  • Rooftop bars – Great way to spend a night in Bangkok! There is one at the Banyan Tree Hotel, State Tower, and Baiyoke Tower. Plenty of other ones with maybe a slightly less spectacular view but more convenient to where you are staying. Dress code at many of these bars is “Smart Casual” which ultimately means no shorts for men.
  • Hyde & Seek – Near the Phloenchit Skytrain station (or on Soi Ruamrudee by taxi). Relatively new place where they make the most interesting cocktails you will find. You can literally go in and ask the bartender to make you anything or give them an idea and they will concoct something fabulous for you! It gets a little crowded on the weekends, but during the weeknights the outdoor patio is great and a pleasant place to sip a cocktail. There are also swinging love seats!
  • Tawandaeng Brewery – Easiest to get there by taxi (road is Rama 3 or “Pra Rahm Sahm” in Thai. It’s a combination brewery, restaurant, and cabaret show. They serve the best locally brewed beer in Bangkok and have an extensive menu of Thai drinking-food favorites. Tables are arrayed around a stage where the most ridiculous series of acts will unfold. If you come early, you can expect to see everything from traditional Thai orchestral ensembles to ladyboy showtune numbers to dancers flying through the air on cables and lip-synching the theme from Titanic. Later in the night a polka band comes out, all done up in little feathered hats and lederhosen, and they march around with their tubas and accordions.

If you have any other recommendations on Bangkok, feel free to send them along and I will update these reader trip guides. New trip guides will be posted every Tuesday. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

  • NR said,

    Yeah, The food vendors on soi 38 are really good. That is one of my favorite outdoor dining spots. The moo satay is excellent and the the sticky rice w/ mangoe girl is a sweetie too. Don’t forget to get a fruit shake or two while you are there.

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