Bangkok is a wonderful combination of modern megacity and historic colour. Where else can you step out of an ancient Buddhist temple and straight into a silk underwear boutique? Or take a canal-boat from your ultra-swanky designer hotel to a floating farmers' market around the corner?
1. Let the Boy Die (bear with us; it's a Game of Thrones quote) is a rustic laid-back bistro in Chinatown brewing local craft beers. (542 Luang Rd.)
2. If this sounds too Westernised, Tep Bar is a restored shop-house in the buzzy Soi NaNa area with beautifully presented Thai tapas, home-infused ya dong (Thai whisky), and nightly traditional live music. (69 Yi Sip Song Karakadakhom 4 Alley.)
Bangkok's Chao Phraya river is home to a vast network of water taxis and river buses, which locals use to commute. Jump on a public river-taxi to explore or rent a longtail boat. Stop at Rajinee pier for the Pak Khlong Flower Market; Oriental pier for antique shops; Thewet pier for the wet market and Phra Arthit pier for quaint shops and lively restaurants.
Photo by D Ramey Logan
For dramatic Chinoiserie designs and a whiff of a high-end brothel, head to Sing Sing Theater (Sukhumvit 45), one of the hottest bar/clubs in town. Burlesque performances are frequent, and there are hidden speakeasys.
Lumpini Park is where the locals go to escape the city chaos; the only park in Bangkok where you're legally allowed to walk on the grass! The atmosphere is beautifully authentic with wise elders practicing tai chi, and people learning to ballroom dance under a pavillion. Come at the weekend for a great street-food market.
Photo by Caspar
Wat Po is Bangkok’s most quietly impressive temple, with its massive Reclining Buddha and colourful, stupa-filled courts. You can get an excellent, inexpensive massage from the masseuse training school there (but prepare to be contorted!). The Grand Palace is the city’s compulsory tick, with dazzling gold-, silver- and ceramic-bedecked temples and endless frescoes including a cycle of scenes from the Ramayana, Buddhism's answer to the Iliad and Bible rolled into one.
In the streets surrounding the temples, you'll see shops selling cellophane-wrapped plastic buckets, which look like elaborate gift hampers. However, upon closer inspection, you'll find a baffling array of everyday basics such as deodorant, toothpaste and socks - all wrapped up like a little present. They are offering for the monks/nuns in the local temple, and make a creative and authentically Thai alternative to simply donating money when you visit.
Photo by Diego Delso
The undisputed king of markets is Chatuchak (or Jatujak or simply JJ). It is simply vast - around 15,000 shops and stalls spread over 35 acres! Handicrafts, art, fabrics, antiques, books, music, flowers, live animals, you name it, they've got it.