Answers from Our Experts (2)
1. Chao Phraya River. For me, the river is an integral part of the Bangkok experience, so the best hotel therefore is Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, which has a wonderful colonial attachment and, of course, a more up-to-date building. It has very good food. The river always has wonderful breezes. And the river is where you really experience Bangkok — you have the long-tail boat and you can go to the khlongs, or canals. I would always advise someone who’s not a business traveler to stay by the river.
2. Temples. There are great temples around the Grand Palace, which is a very distinct architectural landmark. You can’t just plant it anywhere and think it’s local. It’s unique. With it comes a fantastic massage experience because they do these beautiful massages there in temples.
3. Pak Khlong Flower Market. It’s this huge compound along the river. There are thousands of flowers. The Thai have a very distinctive way of doing flowers — they’re not just selling flowers. They have unique flowers and the way that they put them together for their offerings at the temple or for their Buddhas at home. It’s just an unbelievable experience.
4. Shopping centers. Some of the shopping centers are very unique, particularly the food halls. It’s not like Paris or London. When you go to the supermarket here, not only do you have a variety of very unusual Asian things, but it has a huge food court attached where you can sample local food. Food is a very important part of Thai life.
5. Jim Thompson. It’s really something that’s wonderful. Silk is a very Thai thing. Jim Thompson, an American, came here during the American-Korean War and he revitalized the silk trade. The stores have beautiful stuff — from fabric that you can buy for upholstery to placemats to cushions to dresses for ladies to ties for men. The original shop is in Surawong. Shopping in general in Bangkok is great — it’s one of the great jewelry destinations in the world.
Bring your sense of adventure along with you to beguiling Bangkok, where one minute you’ll be strolling through breathtaking Buddhist temples and noshing on authentic Thai street food, and the next be rubbing shoulders with well-heeled fashionistas in a sparkling megamall and dining on world-class international cuisine. There’s so much to experience in this fascinating city, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors feel these are the best things to see and do before leaving Bangkok:
1. Eat, eat, eat. Delicious dishes, both odd and familiar, are everywhere; food is, indeed, a way of life in Bangkok. While you’ll likely be tempted to taste whatever looks appetizing — and, for the most part, you should — when picking snacks from street-food vendors try to stick to those stands that look busy. Be careful, too, about eating fruit stored on ice. Siam Paragon has an excellent food court sprawling across the first floor that’s a great place for trying lots of Thai-style street food in a clean environment.
2. Visit Pak Khlong Flower Market. The rows upon rows of colorful, piled-up flowers at this 24-hour market are an absolute wonder for budding photographers and aspiring florists. We think the best time to go is in the evening, but just about anytime is a good time to take in this floral splendor.
3. Get a massage. Thailand is justifiably famous for its massages, which range from the grabbing and pulling and stretching and twisting of the traditional Thai massage to less-intense oil massages and everything in between. Two recommended spots are Ruen Nuad, located off Thanon Convent in a beautiful Thai-style teak house, and the luxe Thann Sanctuary Spa at Gaysorn mall.
4. Shop till you drop. Bangkok is the shopping capital of Southeast Asia and a fantastic place to stock up on, well, just about anything. Your retail options include street vendors selling everything from knock-off watches to t-shirts emblazoned with ridiculous sayings, maze-like markets winding through many parts of the city, monolithic megamalls and wholesale fashion malls. For outdoor market shopping try winding Sampeng Lane in Chinatown or the weekend Chatuchak Market, while our favorite malls are Siam Paragon and CentralWorld Plaza.
5. Stroll Lumpini Park. It’s blazing hot during the afternoon, but a visit to this lush oasis in the heart of central Bangkok between 5 to 8 p.m. is truly magical on clear nights. You might see massive monitor lizards slithering in the grass, can take a spin in a paddle boat shaped like a swan or, during the winter months, hear a live symphony orchestra on select weekend afternoons. Filled with lush greenery and small ponds, Lumpini is simply one of our favorite spots in the city.