48 Hours in Bangkok

May 29, 2017

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Sala Rattanakosin. Image courtesy of the venue.

Bangkok – the name explodes off the tongue, filling the mind with steamy images of the Thai capital. Even the most jaded traveler will be humbled by the sheer density and volume of this metropolis; the population is somewhere near 10 million – no one knows precisely. But one thing that is certain is that the city never ceases to enthrall.

The heart of the city is a labyrinth that draws together the essence of everything sacred and profane: gilded temple spires, gleaming shopping malls and ornate skyscrapers stand alongside tented noodle stands, blanket-on-the-pavement palm readers and, of course, those infamous bars.

But for all its glitz and hubbub, Bangkok never loses sight of its essential Thai-ness. Outside office buildings, employees stop to offer flowers, incense and prayers to roofed spirit shrines; wheeled carts at curbsides hawk herbal remedies alongside espresso slingers and trendy fashion booths created by guerrilla designers. As varied as it is vast, it’s impossible to be bored in Bangkok.

Day One

Wang Lang Market. Image by Megan Rogers.

9am: Wake up bright and early and hop a tuktuk to Ratchawong Pier. On your way, make a pit stop at Eiah-Sae, the oldest café in the city, for a cup of thick, Hokkien-style coffee and chargrilled toast topped with coconut custard.

10am: From the pier, cross the river on an express boat to Wang Lang Market, the center of up-and-coming, bohemian Thonburi. Look for throwback clothes, pre-loved designer bags, herbal medicines and all manner of street food.

11:30am: Walk a block northeast to tour Siriraj Medical Museum, which was founded in 1886 and expanded over the years to include six departments covering everything from deformed body parts to embalmed mass murderers.

Oneday Wallflowers. Image courtesy of the venue.

1:30pm: Charter a longtail boat from the Wang Lang Pier through Thonburi’s charming canals to Baan Silapin, an artist collective. Lunch on traditional dishes prepared at the on-site eatery, and enjoy a classical marionette performance.

3:30pm: After your return boat ride to Ratchawong Pier, explore Chinatown and visit Soi Nana, a lane of shophouses restored and inhabited by small businesses catering to the indie crowd. Drop by Oneday Wallflowers to peruse the selection of unique floral arrangements.

5pm: Enjoy pre-dinner, rum-based cocktails jazzed up with herbs at Tep Bar while listening to musicians play. Larb tod, fried ground pork balls in Isan Spices, makes a good bar snack.

SoulBar. Image by Megan Rogers.

7pm: It’s a 10-minute walk through Talat Noi to 80/20, a creative, chef-owned restaurant in a 1920s warehouse. Our writer, Joe’s, favorite dish here is a pumpkin extravaganza: it combines roast pumpkin, young green pumpkin, crispy pumpkin leaves and butterfly pea flowers.

9:30pm: Now that you’re fully sated, hail a cab and direct your driver to SoulBar, where you can shake your groove thing to the sounds of the live tunes.

12am: If you’re still out and about, hire a tuktuk to take you to Smalls in Sathorn. Quirky and comfortable, it’s a perfect spot for drinking and chatting up people from around the world while listening to the eclectic house mix of jazz and funk.

Day Two

Mad Bar. Image courtesy of the venue.

9:30am: Treat yourself to a large breakfast of organic, free-range eggs and fresh-roasted java at Pladib in Ari. The outdoor garden terrace is the best spot to lounge away the morning.

10:30am: Flag down a taxi to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which not only houses the world’s largest collection of modern Thai art, but one of the most impressive collections anywhere in Asia.

12:30pm: Time for lunch! Make your way to sceney Mad Bar by cab, and nosh on fusion pasta dishes. If you’re looking for a midday libation, try to refreshing Mad Jamaican Mojito.

2:30pm: After you’ve had your fill, hop on the 67 bus and settle in for a 15-minute ride across town to Bangkokian Museum, where you’ll get a feel for what pre-WWII Bangkok was like.

Dasa Books. Image courtesy of the venue.

4pm: If you’re in the mood for reading, arrange a tuktuk to take you to Dasa Books in Sukhumvit. The huge selection of used English titles includes a healthy section of shelves filled with semi-rare books on Southeast Asia.

5pm: Need a pick-me-up? Stroll to Sukhumvit Soi 6 and treat yourself to a house-roasted, single-origin coffee at Kuppa. Settle into one of the sofas with your new read to take a load off for a bit.

6pm: Take the BTS from Asok to Nana, then saunter into Siam Emporium to survey the neat stacks of fabrics used to build some of the highest quality, and most reasonably priced, bespoke clothing in Bangkok. Talk to Jid, and tell him Joe sent you.

Iron Balls Gin Distillery. Image courtesy of the venue.

7:30pm: Dine at Quince Bar & Eatery, where farm-to-table is the driving philosophy and the global plates come with plenty of twists. Order up a bespoke cocktail and nosh on organic roast chicken with harissa, baby carrots and tzatziki or cod stew with fennel, tomato chili, garlic and potatoes.

10pm: For a nightcap, drop by WTF Café & Gallery to revel in the eclectic vibe while sipping a Sazerac.

12am: Not ready to call it a night? Hail a taxi and head to Iron Balls Gin Distillery, an intimate bar hidden off Soi Ekkamai. The polished, steampunk-meets-Blade Runner vibe is as fantastic as the house gin made from pineapple distillates and flavored with herbs.

About The HUNT Bangkok Writer: Though Joe Cummings was born in New Orleans and raised in California, France and Washington, D.C., an interest in Buddhism drew him to Thailand. He has contributed to several guidebooks on Southeast Asia, writing about subjects ranging from tattoos to dining to Muay Thai. He is currently editor-at-large for Bangkok 101, and also plays guitar and composes music for film and TV.

For more great insider recommendations in Bangkok, pick up the guide on gatehousepublishing.com.


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