Steven Pettifour gets chummy with sharks, sips Margaritas from one of the tallest buildings in the Thai capital and goes on a biking weekend
Dive with sharks
If you think battling the sales crowds is akin to swimming with sharks, then think again as you take a break from premium purchasing at Bangkok’s grandest mall Siam Paragon and descend to the basement for a shopping experience like no other. Boasting over 30,000 marine creatures, Siam Ocean World (tel 66 2 687 2000, www.sow.champ.co.th) is the region’s largest aquarium – and what better way to explore the briny depths than taking an hour-long plunge (cost: US$150) with primeval underwater predators like the ragged tooth and leopard sharks?
Escape to Koh Kred
A gentle hour-long river cruise up the mighty Chao Phraya from Bangkok brings you to the sleepy car-free island of Koh Kred. A hideaway for local artists and former city residents seeking a less frenetic pace, the island of rustic stilted homes and temples is famed for its earthenware pottery studios, run by ethnic Mon villagers who migrated here from China centuries ago.
The shops and studios that spruce the narrow lanes from the island’s main pier are lined with shelves of splendid sienna-hued terracotta sculptures. Contact Exotissimo (tel 66 2 636 0360, www.exotissimo.com) which arranges daylong and overnight tours.
A Sunday institution in the Big Mango, many of the city’s best hotels serve up gluttonous gastronomic brunch bounties that are packed with ravenous gangs of well-heeled regulars. Fiercely competitive, starred properties try to outdo one another by offering a smorgasbord of local and global cuisine, with some spicing up the feast with live jazz music. The best deals, like those at the Four Seasons for US$65 (tel 66 2 250 1000) and the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa for US$40 (tel 66 2 476 0022), incorporate free-flow wine and cocktails.
Flush out those toxins
If Bangkok’s culinary and social excesses leave you tired and clogged, then rinse out the build up of toxins at one of Bangkok’s stylish well-being centres. At the recently opened Hydro Health (tel 66 2 250 7800, www.hydrohealth.co.th) on the fourth floor of Erawan Bangkok’s boutique mall, locals use their lunch hour for a quick colon hydrotherapy cleanse (US$75) and nap at this exclusive detox den. Return to the office feeling flushed and revitalised.
Mix wine and tigers
As Bacchus makes merry in Thailand, local vineyards are growing in popularity and quality with the fertile soil and balmy climate around Khao Yai National Park (an hour and a half north of the capital) considered ideal for grape cultivation. Wine connoisseurs take tipple-tastic, cork-popping tours of three vineyard estates (PB Valley Khao Yai: tel 66 2 2562 0858, GranMonte: tel 66 2 2653 1522 and Village Farm & Winery: tel 66 2 4422 8407), stocking up bottles of the latest vintage and enjoying a safari through Thailand’s oldest national park, where tigers and lumbering elephants roam free.
Ask your hotel concierge to contact vineyards for a tour.
Ascend some of Bangkok’s tallest edifices for superb sunset and moonlit panoramas, while quaffing innovative cocktail creations and sampling some top-notch dining. Appropriately named, Vertigo at the Banyan Tree (www.banyantree.com) sits atop the wafer-thin Thai Wah Tower on Sathorn Road, but even loftier and more opulent is The Dome (tel 66 2 624 9555, www.thedomebkk.com) on the 63rd floor of State Tower. Decked out in Greco-Roman grandness, the circular bar at al fresco restaurant Sirocco literally hangs off the edge of the roof!
Cycle the jungle
Few Bangkokians have ever ventured the short cross-river boat ride to the city’s biggest green oasis of Bang Kra Jao. Bordered on three sides by winding waterway and with no connecting bridges, this hidden wilderness is like a journey back in time with narrow traffic-free roads, peaceful canals, lush vegetation, sleepy villages and an authentic floating market. Spice Roads (tel 66 2 712 5305, www.spiceroads.com) operates scenic half-day bike tours for US$25 along winding canal trails, passing lovely old temples and met by a constant chorus of “hellos” from the chirpy locals.
Catch up on trends
Whether you are here to gawk at Vivienne Westwood’s sensational frocks, catch up on cutting-edge tech-gadgets from Japan or peruse the best in home-grown innovation, it’s all on view at the newly opened Thailand Creative & Design Center (tel 66 2 664 8448, www.tcdc.or.th), located on the sixth floor of the trendy Emporium shopping mall.
Bangkok’s style aficionados now have a hip hangout to keep abreast of the latest buzz in the design world. Marvel at the state-of-the-art display galleries, before pawing tomes in the amazing resource library and listening to smooth live jazz sounds (weekends only).