When it comes to travel must-do lists, Bangkok checks more boxes than most cities. Cultural wonders? Tick. Delicious local flavours? A resounding yes. Great shopping? Uh huh. Relaxing spas? Yep. Pumping nightlife? Do we even need to answer that?
These are some of the reasons 21.5-million travellers visited Bangkok in 2016, making it the world’s most visited city – according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index.
Food, glorious food
Bangkok’s culinary scene is one of the world’s most tempting. Delicious scents waft from award-winning restaurants – think chef David Thompson’s Nahm at Como Metropolitan Bangkok – and the city’s myriad street-food vendors. But grabbing a spicy tom yum goong (prawn soup), or mango sticky rice by the roadside may soon be a thing of the past. In April, local newspaper The Nation reported that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration plans to clear the city’s popular food stalls by the end of 2017.
Shrines of gold (and emerald)
With more than 40,000 temples, travellers seeking culture are well served in Thailand. The best place to start is Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew (below). Considered the country’s most important Buddhist temple, it is home to the Emerald Buddha, which dates back to the 15th century. Meanwhile, those who believe the mantra “bigger is better” should head to Wat Pho, where Bangkok’s largest reclining Buddha can be found, along with the biggest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.
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Ready, set, shop!
Give your credit cards a workout at one of the city’s air-conditioned megamalls, like the eight-storey MBK Center (below) or the upmarket Siam Paragon. For a more authentic shopping experience, bring lots of Thai baht and make your way to the market. See local life in full colour at the Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa floating markets. And don’t miss Bangkok’s famed Chatuchak, one of the largest markets in the world. Vegetables, plants and flowers are sold during the week but Chatuchak is in full effect on the weekend, when stalls offer everything from vintage clothing and furniture to coconut ice cream and more.
Bright lights and the big city
Bangkok’s nightlife is so legendary it had a starring role in The Hangover Part II. Fans of the film may want to down a cocktail at the rooftop bar that appeared in the movie: Sky Bar, which also offers panoramic views of the city. If you’d rather hit the dance floor, take your pick from nightclubs like Ce La Vi and Onyx. And the speakeasy-style, hidden bar scene has also hit Bangkok. Sip rum at Havana Social, down a small street opposite Fraser Suites on Sukhumvit Soi 11. Or join the cool crowd at Q&A, along a green marble wall, down a small alley off Asoke Road.
Thai massage is more than just a way to unwind; it is a wellness practice that dates back thousands of years. That being said, if you’re after some pampering, you’ve come to the right city. The opulent Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental (below) is considered one of the world’s best – its Jetlag massage is famous for banishing dehydration and fatigue from many a weary traveller. For a more traditional Thai massage, book in at one of the Health Land chain outlets, or Coran, a low-key spa housed in a Thai villa.
– TEXT BY RACHEL LEES
PHOTOS: NAHM FACEBOOK, LEBUA HOTELS & RESORTS FACEBOOK, MANDARIN ORIENTAL BANGKOK, 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.