Can you really get a feeling for a city like Bangkok in 24 hours? Of course not, but you can get a taste, a tease, until you have more time in the future. The Thai capital is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities, historic and contemporary with so much to do. Our family had only one full day on a recent trip to Asia, but we were determined to see as much as we could. Arriving in the middle of the night, we slept for a few hours and headed out early in a jet-lagged fog. It was a dizzying 24 hours of colorful street life, food stalls and markets and glistening Buddha’s—not bad for a quick layover.
I want to return on a Saturday to experience the Chatuchak Weekend Market with hundreds of stalls selling everything from live reptiles to clothes and crafts.
Bangkok is a city of grand hotels…looking for something smaller or more intimate…a good friend just stayed at Seven and loved it. She raved about the lovely owners and the convenient location in the hip Sukhumvit neighborhood. However, the next time I go, I think I will try the Siam. I have been reading about this boutique hotel and their combination of design and architecture is right up my alley.
Arrive and depart by boat at Asiatique--an outdoor shopping mall with boutiques and restaurants—right on the river. Or for a large dose of shopping head to the Siam Center, one of Bangkok’s first malls, completely redone with over 200 stores.
Make your own pad thai or curries back at home after taking a cooking class at the Mandarin’s cooking school, housed in a separate building across the river. Or The Blue Elephant has classes twice daily above their well-known popular restaurant.
Note: I’ve found when time is short: be organized, have lunch on the go, and concentrate on a few choice sights.
Wake Up: There are many great places to stay, but I choose the Mandarin Oriental, one of the world’s legendary hotels dating back to 1879. We wanted to be on the water and you can’t beat the location, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River within close proximity to all of Bangkok’s sights. Literary romantics’ can sleep in the author’s wing, the remaining structure of the original 19th century hotel. The suites are named after three of the literary legends that stayed here: Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and James Michener. For a more modern feel, stay in the River Wing where all rooms feature floor to ceiling windows with magnificent views. The scenic pool is a plus after a hectic, hot day of sightseeing.
Eat: I’m obsessed with an Asian breakfast! Try the Congee, a soupy rice porridge; you can have pancakes and waffles at home! Congee is incredibly restorative, perfect for our lingering jet lag.
Early Morning: We met our prearranged guide, and headed to Samyan Market. (You could choose to travel around by yourself, but as we only had one day we wanted to make the most of our time.) There is nothing quite like the food markets in Asia and Samyan delivered with all the sights and most definitely the smells of a true Thai market experience. Early morning is the best time to arrive, the locals themselves are out shopping, and you can marvel at all the incredible Thai ingredients and sample some of the tropical fruits. Everything is so fresh, I am always truly envious of the bunches of mint, thai basil and cilantro that rarely look that good back home. Next we headed to nearby Nanglerng one of the oldest and most historical food markets in Bangkok. We all loved the wooden style shops and the old thai style architecture.
Ride: Heading to the next stop by tuk-tuk, may have been one of the kid’s highlights. There’s so much traffic, it may just be the most fun way to get around town.
Cruise: Board a long tail boat for a ride along the bustling Chao Phraya River and the quieter klongs (canals). You’ll pass Wat Arun, the 19th century Temple of the Dawn and the Royal Barge Museum. Disembark at Tha Chang pier, to spend the afternoon at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Wat Pho is known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, housing the most enormous Buddha in Thailand at 160 ft. It is also home to the original Thai massage school, and a working monastery. There are numerous chedis containing the ashes of the royal family. The Buddha is covered in gold leaf supported by a base made of glass mosaic, his feet are inlaid with mother of pearl—just beautiful. We stayed a long time admiring him. Even the detail on the ceiling and walls were fascinating. I could’ve stayed all day, really.
Unwind: What a treat to have a relaxing foot or shoulder massage after walking around the temple. If you've never tried a traditional Thai massage, Wat Pho is a good place to experience one. It’s invigorating rather than relaxing, incorporating yoga style stretches to relieve stress and improve blood circulation. This is a very popular activity at Wat Pho temple, so reserve in advance! All four of us in one room, getting massages at the same time: priceless!
One More: The kids may have had their fill of temples at this point, but we couldn’t leave without seeing the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Place, once the private home of the Thai monarchy. At the royal complex the statue is housed in an equally impressive hall with richly decorated walls. Worth seeing, even the kids agreed.
Aperitif: Have a sunset drink on the banks of the river at the hotel or head to the Arun residence, a 4-story hotel and restaurant, also abutting the Chao Phraya with an open lobby with views of Wat Arun, beautiful at night.
Dinner: I’m still dreaming about our meal at Nahm, considered one of the best restaurants in Asia, located in the Metropolitan Hotel. Thai cooking this good from an Australian chef—yes, please! David Thompson’s restaurant is not to be missed.
After Hours: Bangkok is beautiful from up high, and is well known for its rooftop bars. The Long Table is an ultra chic restaurant and bar, located on the 25th floor of the Column apartments. The restaurant is named after it’s 70-seater table, believed to be the longest in the world. Sitting outside on the patio with stunning views of Bangkok below was a fitting end to a hustling, bustling day in this chaotic, exotic city.
- A Daytripper itinerary 1.3.15