Get more Bangkok for your buck with the Thai capital's best shopping and stylish stays
See and Do
Bangkok was ravaged by floods in 2011 but in true Thai fashion was back on its feet very quickly. The vigorous Australian Dollar right now means that shopping, eating and drinking are ripe for the picking in a city that has no shortage of extraordinary sights and experiences.
At Chatuchak, the largest market in Thailand, you’ll find a labyrinth of laneways that feature everything from vintage dressers and lamps to Chanel bags and pets (yes you can buy a monkey – not that Time Out condones it). Should you find something large enough to take up half of your loungeroom, don’t despair: plenty of shipping offices are located in the markets to make sure your furniture purchase follows you home. Next to Kamphaengphet Station, Bangkok, Thailand.
On any trip to Bangkok a couple of hours’ shopping at Siam Paragon is a must. Here, big-name brands hold court alongside designer boutiques. Downstairs you’ll find Siam Ocean World, featuring a dive-with-the sharks experience. Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand (+66 2 610 8000).
Away from shopping and finned killers, Bangkok’s temples, waterways and districts attract thousands each year. Top visits include the Grand Palace, Wat Prakeaw and Wat Pho (including the giant reclining Buddha) in the old city. Don’t miss the famous floating markets at Damnoen Saduak, southwest of the city. The infamous, carnivalesque red-light district Soi Cowboy, too, has it seedy charms.
Eat and drink
Like Melbourne, Bangkok has firmly embraced the idea of rooftop eating and drinking. If you’ve seen The Hangover Part II you’ll remember the rooftop breakfast scene. That’s up at Sirocco at State Tower, and the restaurant and adjacent Sky Bar have been Time Out favourites since we first visited almost a decade ago. Up here there are two other restaurants in Breeze and Mezzaluna, but you absolutely want to be outside at Sirocco. After dinner, make sure you settle in for a couple of Mojitos at the bar. The Dome at State Tower, Silom Rd, Bangrak, Bangkok. (+66 2624 9555).
The boutique Hotel Muse (see ‘Stay’) has the city’s best Italian fare, at Medici and refined classic cocktails in an elegant French setting at the property’s Le Salon. 55/555 Langsuan Rd, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand (+66 2 630 4000).
For excellent affordable Isaan food try Isaan Rot Det, which has all the classics - a superb duck larb, grilled chicken, garlic-studded sausages, papaya salads - on a menu in English. Thanon Rangnam, Bangkok (+66 2 245 6854).
Bangkok’s hotel industry is growing at a rapid pace and the oversupply of hotel rooms means right now you can get great digs for a fraction of the usual price. One of Time Out’s favourites is the very chic Hotel Muse. A member of Accor’s MGallery collection, it features 174 boutique rooms. The hotel’s lobby bar Le Salon has a fantastic old-world cocktail trolley used by staff to make Martinis at your table. Upstairs at the Lawn is an outdoor lounge that offers great views of the city, a decent champagne and wine list but without the prices you’ll find at some of the city’s other rooftop establishments. 55/555 Langsuan Rd, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand (+66 2 630 4000).
At the affordably hip Aloft Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 11, you’ll be given a mobile Samsung Galaxy smartphone when you check in that acts as your room key and room controls that offers cheap overseas phone rates and internet access. The rooms are top notch in a hotel that’s best described as being between a Novotel and a W Hotel. The hotel’s bar wxyz is also worth checking out. 35 Sukhumvit Soi 11, Klongtoey-nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand (+66 2 207 7000).
Qantas flies from Melbourne to Bangkok via Sydney. Qantas has just introduced Airbus A330s on the Bangkok route that feature Skybeds up the front in Business and seat-back entertainment in economy. Onboard, you’ll find great wine (yes even in economy), the best service between Australia and Thailand, and a very decent Neil Perry-designed menu.