I remember booking flights to Bangkok last month, and having a bit of an “uh oh” moment.
The temples were majestic, but I had visited most of them during my first trip there. I had virtually no interest in the city’s colossal shopping malls, given that I live in Dubai. I’m not exactly what you’d call a “party girl”, so its famous (read: sketchy) nightlife held no appeal. I was already well-versed on floating markets having spent a month volunteering in Vietnam, and wasn’t on the lookout for cheap T-shirts and kitschy souvenirs – which meant that night markets were off the agenda, too.
That’s when the panic set in. I was potentially looking at five days in Bangkok with nothing to do, until I sifted past the obvious and dug deeper into what the city has to offer. Here’s what I found. And loved.
The Mustang Nero
Because You'll Need Somewhere (Cool) to Stay
A hotel kitted with taxidermy, five (living) cats, one “very kind” dog, vintage furniture, found objects, industrial knick-knacks, and tropical botanicals aplenty always makes for an interesting experience. Each of the ten rooms at The Mustang Nero hotel has a unique theme of its own, so no two stays at this property will be alike.
I ended up in a room called ‘Octopus’s Garden’, sleeping alongside a miniature garden, magnets depicting the solar system, life-size artwork, an old-timey metal locker, a revolver resting on a coffee table book, and the horns of an unidentifiable animal – because why not?
Book your room here.
Raan Jay Fai
Because Michelin-Starred Street Food Is a Win-Win
Tourists always end up at Thipsamai for its famous pad thai, but it truly pales in comparison to what’s next door: Raan Jay Fai and its legendary wok-cooked dishes. The goggled, 70-something chef here was awarded a Michelin star in 2017, one that she’s eager to revoke because of how much (unwanted) attention it has brought her.
Every menu item at this humble, street-side eatery is absolutely delicious, but ordering the crab omelet and pad khi mao is obligatory. I arrived without a reservation, so it was five hours and 18 minutes before I was served, but trust me, it was worth the wait.
Not as patient? Send an e-mail to email@example.com to book ahead.
Because Vacation Calories Don't Count
You’ll need to cool your palate after a plate heaped with pad khi mao, and Ampersand is just the ticket. This is no ordinary gelateria, as virtually no flavor is off limits here. The ever-evolving roster has already featured the likes of Tabasco, squid ink, black truffles, feta cheese and fig, and even smoked salmon. The less adventurous will relish the classics that are done to perfection: pistachio, dark chocolate, strawberry cheesecake, peanut butter, and plenty more.
Find more details here.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Because Bangkok's Culture Scene Will Surprise You
London, Paris, Barcelona, New York, and Istanbul, you’d associate with culture. Bangkok? Not so much. And that’s exactly why the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre will come as a bit of a surprise – in the best way possible.
This beautifully designed multi-storey institute hosts everything from art installations and theater performances to film screenings, cultural talks, educational events, and live music alongside cafés, art galleries, indie bookstores, interesting pop-ups, and more. You’ll easily need a couple of hours for this one.
Keep up-to-date on what’s on here.
Pak Khlong Talat
Because Flowers Make Everything Better
Fruits, vegetables, flowers, flowers, and more flowers – that’s Pak Khlong Talat in a nutshell. This iconic flower market operates around the clock, selling both wholesale and retail, and is a sight to behold for the sheer variety of blooms alone.
Roses, orchids, lilies, jasmine, tulips, carnations, marigolds, and more are sold for incredibly reasonable prices, so impulse-purchasing a bouquet comes without a side of guilt. If you can, swing by the market just before dawn as that’s when it is at its liveliest, with boats and trucks bringing fresh supplies from nearby provinces.
To reach the flower market, hop on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat and hop off at the ‘Pak Klong Taladd’ station – you’ll see a slice of Bangkok’s riverside life this way.
Floral Cafe at Napasorn
Because Your Instagram Account Will Thank You
Take the finest of what the aforementioned Pak Khlong Talat has to offer, throw in a hefty dose of Alice in Wonderland, round it off with a killer cake-and-coffee menu, and there you have it: Floral Cafe at Napasorn.
This achingly charming café located above a florist’s shop in the heart of the flower market is rife with vases, chandeliers, mirrors, memorable quotes, whimsical accents, dried bouquets, and – of course – fresh flowers. And because its décor changes seasonally, there’s always a reason to return.
Find more details here.
Because You Can't Leave Bangkok Without Shopping
Bangkok’s shopping scene is equal parts fun and frenzied, but the smaller Eight Thonglor mall in the trendy Sukhumvit area offers the perfect compromise. Here, local high-street brands and designer boutiques stand alongside plenty of eateries, a concept store targeted at baking and cooking enthusiasts, a salon, a yoga studio, and more. My favorite find? The Vintage Store, where vintage Chanel pumps, Louis Vuitton trunks, Dior ‘Saddle’ bags, and Hermès stud earrings are all up for grabs.
See the mall’s store directory here.
Because Everything Here Is a Must-See
The hidden gem to end all hidden gems in Bangkok is none another than Baan Silapin a.k.a. the Artist’s House or Khlong Bang Luang. But don’t let the multitude of names deter you. From the traditional puppetry show held six days a week to the art gallery, unexpected sculptures, and gorgeous handicrafts for sale, a trip over to Baan Silapin proves highly fascinating – you’ll feel privy to a wonderful secret just by being there.
For one, it’s in a 200-year-old wooden house that hovers over water on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river. You’ll also feel like you’ve travelled way back in time, considering how residents of Bangkok’s old canals still live. Admittedly, finding it isn’t easy, but a combination of Google Maps, asking locals for directions, and using Wat Kuhasawan as the nearest landmark will do the trick. Oh, and have your ride back to the center of the city sorted in advance. Otherwise, you’ll just end up like me: hitching a ride to the nearest BTS station on the back of a complete stranger’s motorcycle. Good times.
Find more details here.
Kathmandu Photo Gallery
Because It's One of a Kind
If its name doesn’t throw you off, its nonchalant layout and eclectic selection will. Kathmandu Photo Gallery’s claim to fame is that it’s the only gallery in Bangkok dedicated strictly to photography. Housed in a renovated pre-war shophouse, this intimate space focuses on Thai society’s urbanization and aims to preserve the works of Thai photography’s forgotten masters, with exhibitions frequently taking place on the second floor.
You’ll also find black and white postcards, prints, photobooks, titles on Hinduism and Shamanism, and even the likes of scarves and prayer beads for sale. Everything is sort of haphazardly displayed, which somehow only adds to its charm – a good rummage awaits at this one.
Find more details here.
Because a Night of Laughs Never Hurt
Brought to Bangkok by way of South Korea is Nanta, a hilarious comedy show that happens to be almost entirely non-verbal, which means language is a non-issue. This award-winning performance – think: Stomp, but with a culinary twist – features a race against the clock, a touch of raunchy humor, martial arts, acrobatics, and enough knife stunts to have you holding your breath for extended periods of time. Most memorable is the fact that traditional samul nori music is performed using improvised instruments, like chopping boards and water canisters.
Buy your ticket here.