The best of Bangkok in a day

The Grand Palace is the number 1 place to start

The Grand Palace is the number 1 place to start

By Stephen Finch

Thailand’s capital can seem daunting at first and it’s certainly not difficult to find yourself spending a day going round in circles and sat in endless traffic if you don’t know the city. If you know where to go and what to do however, a whirlwind day in Southeast Asia’s most extrovert capital is hard to beat.

Kicking off the day, the first thing to think about is beating the rush hour traffic. Either eat close to your guesthouse or hotel, or eat nearby to where you plan to spend the morning. Avoid travelling between 07:30 and 08:30, if possible.

Heading to Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace makes for a great way to spend a morning and there is a very good authentic Thai restaurant overlooking this splendid, vast complex of Buddhist temples. Na Phra Lan on the road of the same name opens at 10:00, which is perfect if you want to enjoy a lie-in (after all, it will be a late night) and it offers the usual Thai favourites such as fried rice, curries and fried noodles.

After breakfast, head over to the Grand Palace and explore the many gold-gilded stupas and Buddhist images that adorn this 225-year old national treasure. Make sure you’re covering your shoulders and are dressed respectively and get ready to pay the 200 baht entry fee, which includes admission to the whole site.

If you’re still keen on more temples before lunch, it’s just a short walk south to Thaiwang road to see the elegant reclining Buddha at Wat Po or an equally brief stroll north of Wat Phra Kaew onto Na Phra That road for the National Museum.

Culture addicts can supplement their intake of Bangkok’s landmarks further by continuing north to Phra Pin Klao road and heading west across the bridge that spans the Chao Phraya River before taking the first major left onto Arun Amarin road to see the Royal Barge Museum.

The Royal Barges are a graceful attraction

The Royal Barges are a graceful attraction

By this time, it’ll be time to eat again and like most areas of Bangkok there are plenty of choices. If you’re looking for a treat, have lunch right on the river by heading to Supatra River House just off the same road as the Royal Barge Museum on soi Wat Rakhang. The views of the river here are excellent and extend across to the Grand Palace, so you’ll see a different side again of Bangkok’s most popular attraction. Bangkok sightseeing guide.

Recommended dishes on the menu here include the excellent salmon satay with peanut sauce and cucumber or indeed any of the coconut curries; all the dishes here are very tasty. Lunch for two with drinks will cost around 1,000 baht, so if you fancy something cheaper or indeed non-Thai then get your next taxi journey out the way first. Next stop, lots of shops with plenty of alternative eating options.

Tell the taxi driver to take you to either Siam square or Siam Paragon, the latest edition to Bangkok’s mega-mall circuit. In the words of one American expatriate resident in the Thai capital: “Paragon is beautiful, sleek and ultra-modern; make sure to bring your savings though as things aren’t cheap.”

Whether you’re window-shopping or splashing the cash, Paragon is a museum of everything Armani, Prada and Gucci that has fast become a must inclusion on a Bangkok shopping tour. The Rama I road mall strip also includes Siam Discovery Center and the Siam Center on the eastern side of the road, while there are smaller ground-level boutiques on the opposite side to explore. Shoppers looking for something a little cheaper also have the option of making the short walk north to the Mah Boon Krong (MBK) mall right next to the National Stadium BTS Skytrain station. Complete guide to shopping in Bangkok.

After all that shopping, it’s surely time to take a breather and grab a quick coffee break in any one of the malls before heading back to base to shower up ready for a Bangkok night out.

Bangkok is famous by night

Bangkok is famous by night

Start with a good meal, which throws up any number of options. After a day of Thai food, it makes sense to try something different. Why not head to Sukhumvit soi 3 for some excellent Middle Eastern food. In a number of places here, you’ll instantly feel like you’ve been transported to Egypt or Lebanon, so atmospheric are some of the dining venues here.

Most of the venues here are almost exclusively frequented by the local Middle Eastern population and serve excellent kebabs, salads with yoghurt dressing, falafel and biryani. Alcohol is usually off the menu so order a refreshing lassi drink and finish the meal with shisha, a traditional Middle Eastern pipe in which different flavoured and very smooth tobacco is smoked.

After dinner its time for a short walk along Sukhumvit road a couple of blocks to soi 11 to the ever-present watering hole Cheap Charlie’s, a Bangkok institution. This tiny, peculiar-looking hole-in-the-wall type bar requires you to pull up a stool in the road while ordering is done at the bar, with just about any drink on offer.

Keep heading along the same street for the latest edition to Bangkok’s ever-expanding night scene, Bed Supper Club. This space-age dance venue has a strict dress code of no sandals and expects smartly dressed clientele. If you pass this test, it’s a steep 300 baht entry fee which includes one or two free drinks depending on the night. With two rooms available, each featuring DJs and a bar, Bed often recruits internationally-renowned DJs for special nights a couple of times a month and specialises in various forms of house music until about 01:30. Bangkok nightlife guide.

If you still want to carry on after that, the options are limited given Thailand’s strict crackdown on late night venues in the past 5 years but there always something going on so ask a taxi driver for his thoughts. From there on, it’s just pot luck.

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