Bangkok is bursting with energy and bubbling with diverse culture. It’s one of those extraordinary and evocative global cities that surprises you at every turn. Within the frenetic comings and goings and amongst the towering infrastructure (think of sky trains rather than undergrounds) and shopping malls, you’ll find charming night markets, tiny Buddhist shrines and an authentic daily life.
We adore spending a few nights in Bangkok. We certainly know our way round the Bangkok luxury hotel scene. But it’s much more than cocooning oneself in luxury either side of and international flight. There is so much to see and do. When you leave your Bangkok luxury hotel, you’ll need to immerse yourself in the vibrant throng, maintain your patience as your driver eases you through the traffic and contain your excitement at the mesmerising temples and palaces. And with the Chao Phraya river running through its heart, there are vivid scenes to be witnessed on the water that that have been a constant for generations.
Bangkok is a constant juxtaposition of the old and the new. The race to globalisation and modernity has created an increasingly affluent middle class who crave fine restaurants, hip rooftop bars and shiny shopping malls. And to be clear, these are all superb and are regular Yonder haunts, along with our favourite Bangkok boutique hotels and Bangkok luxury accommodation. But it is the other side of Bangkok that is truly exhilarating.
Venture only footsteps from the swank, and you’ll discover ancient temples with enormous Buddhas, the glittering Grand Palace of the Kings of Siam, colourful local markets throbbing with traders and humble street food vendors who dish up the most astonishingly tasty dishes. This is the Bangkok that we love. It’s the combination of modernity and tradition that makes it so special. Even for Thailand stalwarts, Bangkok continues to excite. The intensity and vibrancy are like nowhere else.
There is so much to see and do in Bangkok that the difficulty is deciding how much to pack in. Moving around by car is the most comfortable but not always the fastest means of transport. The key sites are all fairly central. The don’t miss places are likely to be crowded but well worth visiting anyway. Getting up with the lark might help avoid the later throngs. See the Grand Palace and Lumpini night market. And don’t miss Jim Thompson’s house (he was the legendary designer and lifestyle guru who single-handedly revived Thailand’s silk trade in the 1960s. A Yonder hero!).
But there are tons of other things to do in Bangkok. If shiny malls and designer shopping is your thing, then the recent explosion in high-end arcades will serve you well.
If you like the bling but not the ting then get down and dirty on the streets and haggle for the not-so-genuine versions.
Bangkok is absolute heaven for foodies. Amazing Thai food is ubiquitous. But push past the predictable green curry, jungle curry and pad thai to discover delicious regional Thai food that the capital has in abundance. And if you crave a change of cuisine, Bangkok has it all. We’ve eaten exquisite Italian and French food, as well superb Japanese. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Chinese food scene is thriving. From dim sum to suckling pig, Bangkok’s Chinese cuisine is out of this world.
The city’s reputation for its late-night bar scene is well established. It’s perhaps best known for its shadier side, however don’t let this one-dimensional thinking colour your judgement. There is a plethora of swanky bars which would happily adorn the social scenes in Kensington or Manhattan.
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