Bangkok, Thailand has always been on my travel bucket list. The city’s reputation for food, fun and friendly people has always loomed large as a destination I needed to visit. I finally took the plunge a few weeks ago and spent a luxurious week exploring the Thai capital.
What To Do
Bangkok is filled with museums, historic sites and temples. We visited Wat Pho, one of the city’s main temples, as well as the Royal Palace. Both were very beautiful. I recommend a late-day visit to avoid the heat and the crowds. My visit to Bangkok happened during Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration. April 13th is New Year’s Day, but the whole country celebrates (mainly with water fights) from April 12-16.
Where To Stay
I stayed at the Conrad Bangkok, a very nice luxury hotel in one of the city’s main business districts (filled with a lot of embassies, including the American), near a giant luxury mall called Central Embassy. It’s also close to the large, green Lumphini Park.
I also visited the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, which sits right next to the Chao Phraya River. There are two large buildings, both with incredible river and city views, along with the luxury hotel brand’s usual range of amenities.
What to Eat
Thailand has excellent and relatively safe street food. There was a little food market with vendors right next to the Conrad and everything I ate was excellent. This was a market mainly used by locals and that’s an important tip, try to eat where the locals eat. It’s probably best to avoid street food in tourist-filled areas like Khao San Road.
I had a chance to experience some of the city’s foodie scene with a great lunch at Karmakamet Diner and an amazing dinner at Osha. Karmakamet Diner is a beautifully designed, restaurant and winebar / gastropub in the heart of the city. The menu was varied and eclectic and it was so cool, if you could lift the place up, move it to Silverlake or SoHo and it would work there. With walls covered in Moet champagne bottles, Osha is one of Bangkok’s most exclusive, upscale fine dining restaurants. The food is excellent, as is the service. It’s modern Thai cuisine, done in a very contemporary style with a touch of molecular gastronomy.
Since I had to try what is considered Bangkok’s best Pad Thai, I went to Thipsamai. Aside from delicious Pad Thai, they had amazing fresh-squeezed orange juice. We had an early dinner and when we left, there were huge lines of people waiting to get in. Go for the “Superb” version with shrimp oil, fresh prawns, crabmeat, squid and mango.
The traffic is beyond crazy and that’s coming from someone who lives in Los Angeles. I found the scooter taxi the best way to go. There’s a whole fleet of scooters and small motorcycles with orange vest-wearing drivers. You hop on the back and hold on for dear life as the driver zips between cars, between lanes, on the road shoulder and other places to get you where you need to go. There’s a good camaraderie of drivers and riders on bikes and scooters and everyone goes with the flow. One tip, some of the drivers carry a spare helmet, wait for one that does and wear it.
Although there are some direct options from Los Angeles, I chose to fly the very nice Business Class service from China Eastern Airlines via Shanghai. They serve almost 200 destinations around the world, including Bangkok from their hub in Shanghai and have twice-daily flights from LAX, NYC, Chicago and Honolulu (to Shanghai).