The Perfect Weekend in Bangkok
Whether you wander by boat, bike, or tuk tuk (or, highly recommended, a combo of all three), Bangkok spills over with places both new and very old to explore. Along the way, modern-day wonders rub shoulders with traditional Thai culture. Hop from the floating market to a day cruise on the Chao Phraya River to a cocktail at one of the city’s innovative bars. Make meals of tastes from street food vendors and mix in some table service at some of the city’s most renowned restaurants. Overwhelmed by all the options? Stop for a Thai massage. Need souvenirs? The weekend market awaits.
Kamphaeng Phet 3 Rd, Khwaeng Lat Yao, Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10900, Thailand
The mother of unique Bangkok retail experiences is undoubtedly Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand’s largest outdoor bazaar. Known as Jatujak or simply JJ, it has 15,000 stalls spread over 35 acres and sells almost everything under the sun. This is the place to buy a Beatles cushion or shop for a new pet cobra or a hand-carved Buddha icon. With 200,000 people descending on the market every weekend, it’s best to come early, and perseverance can uncover a veritable treasure trove of collectibles ranging from beautiful ceramics and handicrafts to exquisite jewelry.
Na Phra Lan Rd, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
Bangkok’s most iconic site is a massive palace complex that served as the royal residence until 1925. Of its many buildings, the one with the most architectural interest is Chakri Mahaprasat. It was designed in 1882 by British architects, in a style that could be described as traditional Thai meets Italian Renaissance. Nearby is the 1784 Wat Phra Kaeo, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist place of worship. Go inside to see the Emerald Buddha, carved not of emerald but of semiprecious green stone, robed in gold and just 66 centimeters (26 inches) high.
158 Wang Doem Road
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok‘s Yai district. It is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple is one of the best known Thai landmarks. The mosaics which cover the temple create a pearly sheen during sunrise and sunset. Ferries can be caught at the Tha Tien Pier across the river from Wat Arun every couple of minutes. Tha Tien Pier is located near the Grand Palace and Wat Po.
139/4 Witthayu Road
In a city where gold-spired temples are much more ubiquitous than green space, Lumphini Park is a veritable oasis in the heart of Bangkok. Established by King Rama VI in the 1920s and completed after his death, the 142-acre chunk of tropical greenery is a treasured spot. One of the few parks of any size in central Bangkok, Lumphini is well used: In the morning, tai chi practicers arrive, while in the early evening, joggers monopolize the main path that runs around its perimeter. Even so, there’s ample room to get away from the crowds here. More than 30 species of birds flit among the park’s giant trees, and monitor lizards and turtles inhabit its waterways. Other attractions within the park include a public library, a youth sports center, and swan paddleboats in the man-made lake.
3, 2 Khao Rd, Khwaeng Wachira Phayaban, Khet Dusit, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10300, Thailand
There is nowhere else in Bangkok quite like the Siam Hotel. For starters, it’s owned and run by a Thai rock star, Kamala Sukusol, and her son Krissada. The boutique property includes mid-century timber buildings built by the legendary silk baron Jim Thompson, as well as open and modern structures, with a focus on harmony and comfort, designed by one of Asia’s best-known architects, Bill Bensley. But beyond the glamorous background, it’s the design of the Siam that makes it stand out the most. There’s a 1920s jazz theme mixed in with some Asian colonial flair; the result—with lots of open spaces, natural light, antiques, potted plants, and a black-and-white palette—is simply beguiling. The views of the river here lack temples or interesting landmarks, but it’s a lazy spot to watch boats go by, which adds to the relaxing atmosphere. Service is personalized and extremely professional, as you’d expect from a property of this caliber. In all, this is the closest thing one can find to a resort in Bangkok, and it is one of the most stylish accommodation choices to boot.
327 Maha Chai Rd, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
A kitchen dynamo whose energy belies her age of 77, Supinya Junsuta, aka Jay Fai, is chef-owner of one of the Thai capital’s most renowned shophouse restaurants—the eponymous Jay Fai—and one of the city’s most recognizable foodie personalities. In her trademark heat-resistant goggles, essential protection from a searing inferno of hot oil, she cuts a distinctive figure. And her fame and the crowds have only grown since the Michelin Guide judges gave her eatery Thailand’s first and only Michelin star for street food in 2017 (so much so that she has expressed a wish to give the star back). Her lofty reputation is founded on the alchemy she produces from her scalding wok, with stir-fries such as pad kee mao talay (drunken noodles with seafood) and other dishes like fluffy khai jeaw poo (crab omelet) and a complex tom yum goong (hot and sour shrimp soup) more than justifying the (relatively) steep prices.
8 Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
The resurgence of Chinatown as a hip place to imbibe has seen the opening of choice new bars and restaurants. What’s more, the unique architecture of the neighborhood’s traditional shophouses has imbued many of them with a cool, atmospheric vibe that takes major cues from the work of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. One such venue is Ba Hao, which fuses vintage chinoiserie decor with on-point cocktails and some seriously delicious snacks—try the duck wontons served with chili sesame oil and the jianbing, a Chinese crepe stuffed with ground pork, chilies, and hoisin sauce. As you might expect, Chinese influence is prevalent here. Signature drinks include the Opium, a classic Negroni spiked with ginseng and herbal liquor, and Five Rivers, where five-spice powder is combined with rum and Drambuie.
2 N Sathon Road, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Bangkok’s impressive roster of rooftop venues is one of its major selling points when it comes to dining out and cocktail culture. Park Society, at the SO Sofitel Bangkok hotel, is a worthy addition to the sky-high club, benefiting from a prize perch high above Lumpini Park, one of the city’s few sizable patches of verdant greenery. While the views over the park to the chrome-and-glass towers that dominate the skyline are an undoubted highlight, there’s more than just vistas to appreciate. Inside, the restaurant fuses fine dining touches, such as tasting menus, with a pleasantly casual atmosphere and shared dishes that heighten the social feel. Meanwhile, the expansive outdoor Terrace Bar offers fine wines, classic cocktails, and an invigorating breeze.
999 Phloen Chit Road, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Head chef Bee Satongun and co-owner Jason Bailey, a husband-and-wife team, are dedicated to bringing back lost recipes and techniques of heirloom Thai cooking. Paste is one of Bangkok’s most exciting Thai restaurants, and the Michelin judges have duly noted that fact by gracing it with a star. The cuisine is based on century-old family recipes served with innovative twists and an attention to detail that make it as aesthetically pleasing as it is delicious. Signature dishes include black cod poached in duck lard and larb salad with pheasant, hog plum leaves, and edible flowers, but really everything is good.
64 Sukhumvit 31 Yaek 4, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
The unofficial world capital of massage, Bangkok has no shortage of choice venues for kneading, pummeling, and pampering. Nonetheless, some places stand out above others. A case in point is the Oasis Spa, which offers one of the most idyllic spa experiences in the Thai capital. Hidden away down a quiet soi (small street) in the Sukhumvit area, the spa’s cool white buildings have 12 treatment rooms with louvered wooden doors and are surrounded by lush greenery, lotus ponds, and water features. The meditative atmosphere is the perfect setting for a range of treatments that include signature massages, body scrubs, facials, and hydrotherapy.
503 Thanon Samsen, Dusit, Khet Dusit, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10300, Thailand
Krua Apsorn is an award-winning, royally patronized everyday Thai food restaurant. Expect a clientele made up of fussy families and big-haired, middle-aged ladies, and a cuisine revolving around full-flavoured, largely seafood-and vegetable-heavy central Thai dishes. This is one of the most famous restaurants in Thailand and is a must for every visitor to The Siam. At a minimum you must order: Green Curry With Fish Balls, Stir fried Crab Meat with Yellow Chili and String beans, Crabmeat omelet, fried giant river prawns, mushroom larb. I recommend taking the Siam boat (5 minutes) to the Wat Rachathiwat Pier and making the short walk through the beautiful old Bangkok neighborhood. After lunch head back down to the river and walk back to The Siam stopping at the 199 year old Chinese temple just before you walk under the bridge.
27 โรงแรม เมโทรโพลิแทน Sathon Tai Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10210, Thailand
Though he is originally from Australia and then studied French cuisine, chef David Thompson’s passion for Thai cuisine has helped make Nahm one of the world’s most critically acclaimed restaurants. Top dishes include fragrant coconut-and-turmeric curry with blue swimmer crab and banana blossoms; a refreshing kingfish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime; and crab wafers with coconut, coriander and galangal (similar to ginger).