Over the past three years I've been to Bangkok over a dozen times, for probably a collective 4 months or so. It did take me a few visits to really start to like it, but now Bangkok is one of my favourite cities. It's a busy, traffic filled, fast moving, smelly, wonderful city. It has literally something for everyone, no matter what you are into.
Here are my top picks for Bangkok!
Things to know
- Bangkok has TWO airports. Suvarnabhumi is the International one and Don Mueang is for Domestic flights. Be sure to check which one you are flying to ensure you do not end up at the wrong one. Fun fact: Don Mueang is actually one of the worlds oldest airports, it opened in 1914.
- TukTuk drivers are notoriously difficult. They will take you to numerous places in hopes you buy something where they get a commission from the owner for brining in tourists. Negotiate before you get in the car for your price as well as no stops on the way to your destination.
- Motorbike taxis are safe and the fastest way to get through traffic.
- Uber is super, super cheap, but you will have to sit in traffic so I recommend the BTS or MRT (metros). Stay close to a stop and you will have little problems getting around.
- Avoid talking about the King unless it’s in a super positive manner.
- Inside the temples you have to cover your knees and shoulders so be prepared when you go to do those things. No shorts, no tanks!
- English is widely very spoken, you do not need to know Thai however a few phrases are always welcome. Sawadekaa and kahpunkah are hello and thank you. Gai is chicken and believe me-that one will be helpful to know.
- Get a massage, they are cheap and fantastic.
- If you want to get custom clothes you can get cheap ones that are good quality in Bangkok
- Do not drink the water, just get bottled. It’s cheap and not hard to find. The locals also don’t drink the water so if its coming from a restaurant its going to be bottled. No need to worry. Beer is cheaper than water though, so….
- Beer is the drink of choice here. Chang is the local favourite. If you are a wine drinker be prepared to pay a pretty penny for wine. Its just not super popular in Southeast Asia but because Bangkok is a huge city you will find it just be prepare to pay for it.
Places to Stay
I love the Conrad Bangkok but it is a bit far from most things. We stay here for conferences mainly but it’s still one of my most favorite hotels.
Bangkok has some cool boutique hotels too here’s a list from one of my favorite travel sites:
- Khao San Road— This area is the nightlife/backpacking hub. You can party all night long and stay for dollars a night. Tons of budget houses and mid range hotels. So much to do out on the streets. Food stands, shopping, drinking, massages (omg get the foot massages) etc. We visited here but it’s not really my scene, too busy and crazy all the time to stay here. But it is a not to miss spot in Bangkok.
- The Riverside— this is where a lot of the more expensive hotels are but they do have incredible views. There is no MRT but there is 1 BTS so for these reasons we have never stayed over this way but I can recommend going here for a dinner overlooking the river and the Way Arun temple.
- Sukhumvit— This is more of the cosmopolitan modern vibe. We typically stay in this area. It’s walking distance to hotels, shopping, bars, restaurants and has loads of BTS/MRT stops. You will have to make the trek out to see the traditional tourist attractions but I still think this is my favorite spot to post up.
- Siam is also a modern vibe with cinemas, a huge aquarium, an indoor ice skating rink, massive A/C shopping malls and tons of western food. If you are going for that, this is your spot. Siam Paragon, Central World, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery are some of the coolest in Asia and the world in my opinion.
- Ari is the new up and coming hipster neighbourhood complete with cafes, coffee, co-working. While I have not stayed there yet it is on my list to go visit when I get back in Feb 2018
- Rocket Coffeebar
- Roots Coffee Roaster
- Gallery Drip Coffee
- Casa Lapin — Get your western breakfast fill, complete with great coffee
- Ceresia Coffee Roasters
- Ink and Lion Cafe
One thing to note about traveling in Thailand and Southeast Asia in general is that you can eat, drink, and live like a king, on a modest budget. So I like to try unique things or Michelin star restaurants in Asia. So, that being said I have a mix here of budget quick bites as well as fine dining.
Fine or Event Dining
- Dining in the Dark was one of my most favourite experiences in Southeast Asia . I went to it while in Cambodia but its the same idea in Bangkok and I highly recommend. In the US and other major cities it costs around $80 a person but in Southeast Asia is half that price or less. You eat in the dark, not knowing what you are eating other than choosing veggie, asian or western menus when you arrive. They then take all your light emitting devices and you are taken into a pitch black room by a blind waiter. Typically the $ helps the blind community and also by employing blind people. I loved this dining experience. Dine in the Dark Sheraton Grande. This is more upscale and will be a few hour event.
- Nahm is a Michelin star restaurant that featured as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2014 and again in 2017 (28th). It’s on my to-go to list.
- Gaggan— Indian restaurant in the heart of Bangkok and named Asia’s best restaurant in 2017 and 7th in the world. Pricey at about $150 per person.
- The Gardens of Dinsor Palace— outdoor tree filled restaurant perfect for brunch. Built in the 1930’s it has a colonial vibe and you are surrounded by lush greens. Its huge as well.
- Roast— with some of the best coffee in town and then you add their incredible brunch this place is not to be missed. Bonus you can eat here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Chu Chocolate Bar and Cafe— cute little cafe with order at the till type service. Food, coffee, deserts.
- Crepes and Co— this. brunch. spot. YUM. All day french dining is their tagline and they have more than crepes but... yeah, do the crepes.
Dinner That’s Not So Fine Dining:
- The Rock— new trendy place hidden and a bit tucked away and is on my must visit list
- Lay Lao— Thai food in a modern setting with a spicy kick. Bustling with locals.
Keep in mind my most favourite dining experiences in all of Thailand are from street eats, random bars we came across and did not catch the name or came from recommendations from friends. So use your best judgement there :)
- Sky Bar— This has been rated one of the best rooftop bars in the world and the view is pretty insane. Its on the 63rd floor of the Lebua at State Tower.
- Vertigo and Moon Bar— Another super awesome rooftop bar with 360 degree views. Great place to watch the sunset.
- The Wine Pub— I have not been here but it’s on my list because it has an extensive menu of wine (48 options by the glass) in a city filled with beer.
- Nest —Very cool vibe with grass floor, fairy lights, and wicker day beds to lounge on. Also a rooftop bar and is a great spot for an intimate date or before hitting the clubs.
- The Deck by Arun Residence— This place has a great view of Wat Arun. You can also eat dinner here. Win, win.
- Above Eleven—This place has insane view complete with unique decor and has a very NYC vibe. I judge fancy restaurants by their bathrooms and this one did not disappoint.
- The Hive— Very cool place, although it's not the best location and it’s a little tricky to get to. They do have a spa (!) on the first floor that always sounded tempting. There are a few of these around SEA and I like them because they are 24 hours.
- Hubba— One of the OG co-working spaces in Bangkok and Thailand probably.
I would say the two top most popular and well equipped are Hive and Hubba but there are a few other options:
- Work Loft— They offer free 3 day pass and is open 24 hours
- Draft Board
- Growth Cafe and Co— The good news is it's super close to the BTS and open from 7a-1a and 24 hours on Sat the but the bad news is it does not take credit cards.
- Launchpad is also picking up steam
Bangkok Must Do’s
- A city tour. I love these because they typically hit all the biggies for you and you get a guide that knows the area. I usually start my trips with these and then add the other things I like.
- Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha (typically included in the city tours)
- What Pho and Reclining Buddha (typically included in the city tours)
- Wat Arun
- A bight food tour ( because the best food comes out at night)
- Flower Market (amazing display of the most vibrant flowers ever, for SO cheap) This is typically an add on to the night food tours.
- Do yourself a favour and eat tons of street food.
- If you are exhausted and craving some A/C and entertainment, go see a movie in Bangkok. The cinemas in Bangkok can be quite luxurious and very welcome after multiple days in either scorching heat or 300% humidity. Or both.
- Stay in a 5 star hotel. These are some of the cheapest 5 star hotels in the world. Live like a rockstar.
Eat Thai food
The best Thai dishes:
- Pad Thai (noodles)
- Som Tam (papaya salad)
- Tom Yum (hot and sour soup)
- Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut mil soup)
- Kao Soi (curry noodle dish from the north)
- and Pad See Ew (noodle dish).
Have you been to BKK? What's on your list? Leave a comment below or comment on my Instagram @lizmercer_ I would love to hear your tips!