One of Bangkok’s most famous and infamous entertainment precincts, this area comes alive at 6pm when the night market opens on Silom and Surawong roads. Most of the stalls sell clothing and accessories, but there are also ones selling DVDs, souvenirs and decorative items. These sit alongside food stalls and the occasional tarot card reader. As far as shopping goes it is not the best in Bangkok and you do have to bargain hard to get a reasonable price, but it is really the experience that you come for. Patpong is also the city’s red-light district, but not all the watering holes here are go-go bars. Muzzik Café (Soi Patpong 1, Silom Road; tel +66 662-2331717) features decent live music and a dance-club atmosphere, and nearby DJ Station (8/6-8 Silom Soi 2; tel 66-2-266-4029) is the most popular gay nightclub in Bangkok. On the same lane are many more relaxed venues, such as The Patio Lounge and Moroccan-style Club Café.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
On Saturday and Sunday, the world seems to converge at this sprawl of some 9,000 booths selling everything from clothing and homeware to music instruments and stuffed toys. Unlike other markets such as Patpong, prices here are rather honest. But you can still negotiate for a modest discount. Many of the vendors here sell the same items and although conventional wisdom has it that you should price shop, reality is once you have left a stall you might never find it again in this labyrinth. It gets really packed here, so be ready to tussle with the crowd. To come here, take the Skytrain and get off at Mochit or at Kamphaenpetch Station if you go by metro. Open 7am-6pm.
This is one of the most important Skytrain stations for high-end shoppers. From here, several of the city’s largest shopping complexes are accessible via elevated walkways. Central Chidlom department store (tel 66 2793 7777, www.central.co.th; open daily 10am-10pm) features a host of international brands including D&G and Vera Wang as well as local ones such as Dapper (www.dapper.com). Central World (tel 66 2 635 1111; www.central.co.th) boasts 500 shops and 100 restaurants while Gaysorn Plaza (tel +66 2 656 1177; http://gaysorn.com) is a luxury shopping mall that provides concierge service to assist you with travel arrangements and VAT refunds – ideal for the business traveller who needs to do last-minute shopping before heading to the airport. Nearby at Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road is the famous Erawan Shrine, house of worship for the four-faced Hindu deity Brahma (Phra Phrom).
The Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew
If you are into historical landmarks, these are the two that you can cover in one stop. When King Rama I moved the nation’s capital to Bangkok, he wanted to build a royal residence that was bigger and grander than those in the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya eras, and what has resulted is this magnificent compound of jewels and gold. It was the official royal residence from 1782 to 1946, with King Chulalongkorn being the last ruler to live in it. The royal family currently resides at Chitralada Palace and the Grand Palace is used for ceremonial purposes. One of the recommended ways to get here is take the Skytrain to Taksin Station and change to Chao Phraya River Express boat, which drops you off at the Tha Chang Wang Luang Pier, a short walk from the palace. Opening daily 8:30am to 3:30pm except during special ceremonies. The admission fee of THB250 (US$8) includes entry to Wat Pra Kaew, the country’s most sacred site and home to the Emerald Buddha. The statue, made from a single piece of jade, is attached to a legend that traces back to 43BC India. Visitors are not to wear shorts or revealing outfits, but sarongs can be rented on site to cover up. Photographing, pointing at and touching the Emerald Buddha are strictly forbidden. Tel +66 2 224 3273; www.palaces.thai.net
The sister restaurant of Nahm at The Halkin hotel in London, which opened in 2001 and later became the first Thai-cuisine restaurant to garner a Michelin star. Its founder, Australian chef and author David Thompson, had his “home coming” last year and opened this location at the Metropolitan Bangkok hotel. Thompson, who has devoted his life to studying, researching and documenting Thai cooking, is a loved and hated figure in the culinary scene. His knowledge and expertise are respected internationally but met with some resistance in Thailand. Regardless, his restaurant in the Thai capital offers a stylish and educational way to enjoy the cuisine, with standout dishes including jungle curry with pla chorn (a fresh water fish). 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, tel +662 625 3388; [email protected]
Vertigo and Moon Bar
Although no longer the highest bar and restaurant in Bangkok, this venue, 61 floors above ground on the rooftop of Banyan Tree Bangkok (21/100 South Sathon Road, tel +66 2 6791200; www.banyantree.com), remains the most impressive. This place was once an underused helipad, but when a valued guest asked the hotel if it was possible to arrange a really special dinner, the food and beverage department set up a table here for him. The very positive feedback gave birth to this permanent restaurant and bar. Being here, you really feel like you are floating in the sky. The elevated bar offers an unobstructed, 360-degree panoramic view of Bangkok. The name may very well be the initial feeling you have when arriving here, but you will quickly grow to love this experience. The specialties here are western-style grilled seafood and premium steaks, and the cocktails are also some of the best in town. Restaurant open daily 6:30-11pm, bar 5:30pm-1am (weather permitting). No torn jeans or flip-flops allowed.
Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, feels like a scene right out of a Hollywood flick – the neon signs, the chaotic traffic and the curious characters – but it is also a great neighbourhood for food. Start with the food stalls that serve everything from fresh fruits to roasted chestnuts and then venture into the maze of side streets lined with places serving dim sum, seafood, and other Chinese dishes. Many Hong Kong Chinese travel here for establishments such as T&K Seafood (49-51 Soi Phadung Dao, tel +66 2 223 4519) and durian specialists.
Peak-hour traffic in Bangkok is pure chaos; take the Skytrain or metro whenever you can, or the motorbike taxis – if you dare.