Bursting at the seams with sounds, smells and sights, Bangkok effortlessly merges the old with the new, the east with the west. In recent years, Thailand’s capital city has rapidly emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis that on one hand can compete with all the modern greats (especially its fellow booming techno-centric Asian cities). Despite this magnificent rebirth, at its heart the city has managed to preserve its integrity. From the old city with its ornate temples and bustling markets all snaking along the banks of the river, to the fashionable new stretched out along Sukhumvit, trendy bars and restaurants frequented by Thais and foreigners mingling the night away. Tuk Tuks, Taxis and the BTS SkyTrain (with the added benefit of being elevated to avoid the traffic creeping along below) mean all sides of this sprawling city are conveniently connected.
With only 48 hours at hand, conquering all the city has to offer is a task not even the most ambitious of tourists are likely to manage. Here are some of my top things to do and places to go, in-between simply walking around and exploring all that Bangkok and its uniquely fascinating mix of people and cultures has to offer!
The Rooftop Bar:
The city’s sights don’t fade as the sun sets and can be enjoyed- expertly mixed tropical cocktail in hand- perched high above the sparkling lights and still bustling streets in one of Bangkok’s many rooftop bars. Whilst high-end favorites like the Sky Bar @ lebua at State Tower and the Vertigo and Moon Bar @ Banyan Tree provide undoubtedly high class service and sights alike, recently new locales have been popping up city wide. Above Eleven @ Fraser Suites is inspired by New York City, mixing feelings of Central Park with a modern and industrial decor, creating a relaxed urban rooftop “jungle”. Enjoyed by Bangkok locals and tourists alike- it was a local Thai friend who first took me to this spot 33 floors above Sukhumvit’s lively nightlife hub, Soi 11- this rooftop bar really encompasses all that the “new” Bangkok has to offer. With the high-end views come higher end prices (generally equivalent to Western averages), so heading to street side bars in popular night life areas like backpapers’ favorite Khaosan road or trendy Soi 11 just off Sukhumvit provide equally as fun, yet more affordable, alternatives.
Skip both the queues and the ticket costs and head to the Golden Mount for a hilltop temple that will leave you in awe. If you don’t have the time (or money) to visit some of the larger and more frequented temples- such as the old home of Thai Royalty The Grand Palace (entrance fee: +/-500 baht), the sacred emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew (admission: +/-400 baht and modest clothing required), or Wat Pho and the larger than life reclining Buddha housed within the temple (entrance fee: +/-100 baht)-Wat Saket is the perfect compromise. Built above atop an artificial mount, Wat Saket provides a different perspective of the “new” Bangkok skyline as well as a serene, spiritual escape from the masses, given that this is a semi hidden gem, just slightly off the beaten tourist path.
It’s safe to say that Thai cuisine delivers both flavor and spice, but after a hot and humid day roaming Bangkok, a personal favorite is Som Tam. This tangy fresh salad made with local green papayas blends fresh fruit, citrus and a good kick of chills… Head to Sukhumvit Soi 5 (right opposite the Siam shopping district) to SOMTAMนัว (SOMTAM Nua), with a menu dedicated to serving up tasty variations of this salad (and other twists on Thai classics). But why do I really love Bangkok (this is just one of many reasons of course)? Because almost every single meal is guaranteed to be enjoyable. I can eat at a local street restaurant for lunch and then pick up a large green tea passion fruit bubble tea (major guilty pleasure) for as little as 45 THB (roughly €1/$1). In the evening I can head up meters above the noise and watch the twinkling skyline at dinner in a (reasonably priced in comparison to much of Europe and America) world class restaurant…
Bangkok really does outdo itself in fulfilling the cliché of offering “the best of both worlds”, and I’m definitely not complaining. You just have to be willing to appreciate how much the city has evolved in recent years (this isn’t to say Thailand doesn’t still have a sinister underbelly that continues to churn) and dive in to everything that makes Bangkok so beautiful! And just remember, Bangkok is huge, so whether you’re here for only 48 hours or 5 days, there will always be so much left to discover and a reason for a return visit!
All content and photographs are original © Flora Straeuli http://www.nextstepto.com 2016