Walking along the river’s edge in the early evening there are a plethora of trendy bars and restaurants to choose from with tourists kicking back, listening to a bit of lounge music and enjoying exotic looking cocktails. Others quietly peruse the shops and stalls for a bargain to take home. You could be mistaken for thinking I am in a European city but I am in fact in the bustling city of Bangkok. This is the new night-markets of the capital of Thailand and if you only know to the old night-markets, you would be surprised at the difference.
This lively South East Asian city has come a long way over the years. Big glossy shopping malls with food halls to rival Harrods; funky hotels and bars, not just frequented by tourists but locals as well; Nightclubs where international DJs are flown in for party nights, all make this city a fun and interesting city to spend some time in. While Khao San Road is still relatively the same, those in the know no longer venture there as it represents little of what Bangkok now is.[callout title=Thai Beauty Guru Pattree Bhakdibutr’s five must-go local places]
1. I love Paragon Shopping Mall and the department store there 2. Thong Lo at Sukhumvit 53 is where a lot of the young Thai’s shop 3. The Speakeasy on the 25th Floor of Hotel Muse 4. Hide and Seek is a great gastro bar near 5. Aqua in the gardens of the Four Seasons Bangkok [/callout]
Having just flown in from the beaches of Koh Samui, I wasn’t ready to give up on the relaxing lifestyle just yet. So after days of visiting sights and bargaining in the markets there is no where better to chill-out than W Hotel Bangkok.
The hotel, which opened at the end of 2012, is the perfect place to relax with a cocktail and some traditional or Asian-fusion food. The roof top pool is a sanctuary away from the traffic, noise and pollution of such a big city and I would often start and end my day swimming laps or just bobbing around, letting my tired legs unwind after a day pounding the streets.
The funky soundtrack and lighting that follow you back to your room remind you you’re in a city where it is all going on. My room has all the mod-cons from lights controlled by the bedside tablet to an open plan bathroom, including the toilet (so you and your other half better be on pretty intimate terms!). I also have some magnificent views across the city.
The restaurant, The Kitchen Table, provides a sumptuous breakfast buffet but it is the al la carte evening cuisine that really excels. The menu offers both western and Thai dishes by Australian Chef Sarah Briegel, who adds stylish panache with a twist to her dishes. The salads were fresh and delicious and the soft shell crab and beef melted in the mouth. Don’t forget the pair it with a quench-thirsting cocktail from Woobar.
What’s more, with visiting DJs and exclusive events, it is also a place to explore the Bangkok social scene.
Bangkok is a very easy city to get around. Metered taxi are probably cheaper than the tuk tuk variety who set a high price for tourists but if you are used to a metro-style rail in big cities like London, Paris or New York then the skytrain or the BTS along with the underground MRT, is simple, cheap and quick.
It is a shopoholic’s dream with everything from genuine designer labels at Paragon to market finds at the Asiatique and Chatuchak Weekend Market. The weekend markets take stamina and determination with 35 acres of market stalls clamouring for your attention. And although Mo Chit station is only a few metres from the entrance, with the throngs of people trying to get to the market, it could take 15 to 20 minutes before you reach the markets. To survive and make the most of your time there, make sure you wear comfortable shoes, light clothing and drink loads of water. And although you won’t want to know this for your bank balance, there are shipping companies that can package your purchases there and then and ship them back to your home address so that you don’t have to worry about your suitcase being overweight!
I used to love going to Suan Lum Night Bazaar when in Bangkok and while it is supposed to have reopened at new location at Ratchadaphisek-Ladprao, it hadn’t when I was there. It the meantime, if the girly shows and generic international fast-food outlets of Patpong put you off, Asiatique is a nice, if a little sterile, alternative.
Apart from the wonderful Thai and fusion foods, one of my favourite finds this time were the mochi ice creams that I discovered in the Gourmet Market at the bottom of Paragon shopping centre. These pastel balls are a delight and the perfect way to cool down after the heat of the streets. A hybrid based on the Japanese Mochi that are filled with bean paste, these come in traditional ice-cream flavours such as chocolate and strawberry as well as exotic South Eastern flavours such as mango, green tea and my personal favourite, lychee.
While in the Gourmet Market, you should stock up on beauty treats that are reasonably priced, natural and surprisingly good. From hair and facial masks to stocking up on coconut oil, when you get home your bathroom will resemble a Thai spa!
Whether Bangkok is a convenient stopover as you travel north to south or head to-and-from an island getaway or a city that you’ve always wanted to explore, there is so much on offer here from magnificent monuments and Wats, funky hotels and bars and cultural markets to spend your time.