Brilliant things to do in Bangkok

It’s a city like no other, so don’t leave without ticking these sights, tastes and sounds off your list


BY KAY PLUNKETT-HOGE
Kay Plunkett-Hogge writes about food, drink and travel for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Delicious magazine. Her memoir about growing up in Thailand is Adventures of A Terribly Greedy Girl.

 

 

Few places in the world shock and delight the senses like Bangkok: the juxtaposition of street food and fine dining within a city block; of modern art and ancient murals and high-rises butting noses with sacred temples. And Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s riverside location makes it the perfect base from which to explore the city’s diverse charms. Small wonder then, that writers from Joseph Conrad to Gore Vidal have based themselves here as they’ve tried to unlock Bangkok’s secrets, before wetting their whistles at its legendary Bamboo Bar.

See the bigger picture

With scores of striking temples and shrines throughout the city, it’s hard to know where to start. Don’t miss the rather underrated Wat Saket. More commonly known as the Golden Mount, it boasts one of the finest views of the city. Around 300 steps wind snake-like around a manmade hill, bringing you to the golden chedi (dome) at the top. Visit at dusk to avoid the heat and to take in an extraordinary sunset.

Eat the best

Since opening in 1958, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s, crowning glory, Le Normandie  is the sine qua non of French food in the whole of Thailand. Here diners can enjoy classical French cooking enhanced by Chef Arnaud Dunand-Sauthier’s contemporary sensibilities. It’s a menu fully deserving of the two Michelin stars it garnered from the Guide’s first foray into Thailand in 2017. Reserve a table by the window and dine with a view of the bustling Chao Phraya River below.

Quench your thirst

Head out early to secure a table at the tiny Tep Bar, nestled in an old shophouse in what has become one of Bangkok’s coolest neighbourhoods, Charoenkrung. Walls are artfully distressed, and an old-school vibe abounds. Prepare to be blown away by expertly crafted cocktails and eclectic music, played on classical Thai instruments by up-and-coming talent from the nearby music school. What makes this place even more special is that it serves its own house-made ya dong, a traditional infused whisky that is increasingly hard to find.

Be a puppet master

Puppet Theatre has been a part of Thai history and culture for around 300 years. It’s an increasingly unusual yet spectacular art. Each puppet is about a metre tall, requiring three puppeteers to manipulate. They do so with grace and dexterity, and tell traditional stories from the Ramakien, the Thai version of the epic Sanskrit poem the Ramayana. The Joe Louis Theatre and The Artist’s House (on Baan Silapin), both on the riverside, regularly stage shows.

Smell the flowers

Pak Klong Talad is the city’s biggest flower market, and a sensory experience you won’t forget. A short walk from the Memorial Bridge river stop, meander your way through stalls bursting with bright blooms including orchids, lilies and roses.

Open from 4am, it’s at its busiest before dawn, and most flowers are snapped up before 9am. At night, in the cooler air, it’s still a lovely place to walk off your dinner and experience an enchanting slice of city life.

Go green

Lumpini Park, at the top of the Silom Road, is Bangkok’s most visible green space. But others abound in a city once famous for its greenery. For a peaceful, quiet spot, try Suan Somdet Ya, also known as the Princess Mother Memorial Park. Dedicated to the mother of the late, revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, this small garden and museum can be found on the Thonburi side of the river. Take a book, buy an iced coffee, kick back and while the afternoon away.

Leather up

People often talk about the excellent tailors in Bangkok. Fewer mention the astonishing leather work. At Container, which has outlets at Siam Centre, Central World and The Emporium, as well as at Suvarnabhumi Airport, they use exquisite leather from Italy to create beautiful, high-quality bags, clutches and wallets.

Book your Bangkok stay

For more than 140 years, travellers have followed the Chao Phraya River to stay at the legendary Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Timeless yet contemporary, classic yet cutting-edge… it’s the ultimate Bangkok address.