1. The Grand Palace
2. Street food- anywhere and everywhere!
3. The Reclining Buddha
4. Central Mall
5. Boat ride on the canal
Bonus: One of the city sky bars
True Siam hotel
On my first day, I checked into True Siam Hotel, highly recommended both based on location and cost. 40 euros per night got me a spacious room with a private hot shower, huge bed, and very helpful staff. Located near Phaya Thai rail station, it’s off the beaten tourist track but still in the center and very convenient to get to from the airport.
Just down the road is the Reclining Buddha- an absolutely mammoth golden laying Buddha. The size is simply amazing. After my visit I stopped in for lunch down a side street at Home Cafe, for a green tea latte and the most lovely stir fried basil chicken dish, for the equivalent of $3 usd. As you can tell, me being both a bargain hunter and lover of good food, this place is hard to beat.
I continued walking in the bright sunshine through Amulet market and the university campus, eventually hopping on a boat from Chang pier to Maharaj pier, where there is a gentrified shopping area.
That night, after a street food supper, I headed to Baiyoke hotel, the tallest building in Thailand with claims of the best view in Bangkok. The 400 baht entrance fee is steep and gets you one drink on the 83rd floor bar. I can honestly say this was the biggest rip-off- the hotel is run down with peeling paint, stained carpets, and kitschy crap decorations. The staff are unfriendly and the “free drink” is off a very limited menu offering only cheap watered down drinks. Their only saving grace is the view.
The next morning, bright and sunny again, I headed to the Jim Thompson house. This museum is by guided tour only, and the brief but informative 40 minute tour was one of my favorite things in the city. The house is a blissful oasis from the dirt and grime and crowds of the rest of the city. Jim was an American architect you came to Thailand during the war and fell in love with the culture and people, eventually moving here and making it his home. He was responsible for making Thai silks famous, when they appeared in the movie “The King and I” and won the world over with their intricacy and beauty. The house is set directly set on a canal, as at the time a community of Muslim silk weavers which Jim worked with were located across the river.
His house was a combination of Thai and American style- normally Thai houses would have entirely separate rooms with staircases outside, but here everything is connected. The furniture is a beautiful mixture of Thai and Chinese antiques, the dining table being an absolute masterpiece of woodwork. Lamps in the living room are made of overturned Burmese drums. In the entrance hallway the floor is an imported Italian marble- no expenses were spared here. The walls are decorated with beautiful paintings and maps. Entrances to rooms have the traditional Thai raised floor, which l learned is to block evil spirits from travelling through (they can only move in straight lines). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the house.
To this day, it’s not known what happened to Jim Thompson- he disappeared in 1967 without a trace. Interestingly, he was born in 1906, the year of the horse, and his horoscope predicted he must take care at the age of 61- the year of his disappearance.
That evening I went to Above Eleven, another sky bar which was an infinitely better experience than Baiyoke. Columns constructed to look like trees sprout from the floor, which is a three tiered affair with two restaurant levels, live music, and the rooftop bar. Comfy couches and lounges are strewn around and mixed with high top tables. Food is a fusion between Peruvian and Japanese, and I enjoyed calamari sushi and a Manhattan, before going to meet a friend at Havana Social just down the road. Havana social is a loud funky speakeasy- the entrance is through a phone booth down a side street, making it pretty hard to find! But anyone on Sukhumvit Road 11 which is the bar street both bars are located on, can direct you.
On my last day in Bangkok, I visited the Golden Buddha in Chinatown, Central mall, one of the most beautiful malls I’ve ever been in with a very cool Harrods-esque market on the top floor.