Bangkok is a big, messy, crazy city that one either loves or hates. The tangle of streets and elevated train makes it seem futuristic in a 1970’s way – if that makes any sense at all. Think New York on speed.
24 HOURS IN BANGKOK
Now matter how it looks from the outside, the people are welcoming, the food great and the shopping spectacular. The Cypriot and I have been there a few times and always return for all those exact reasons.
Usually we are only 24 hours in Bangkok, before or after a journey elsewhere in Asia, so it seemed logical to write a post on exactly that subject. Actually it’s always a bit more than 24 hours. We give ourselves two dinners and one full day shopping. If we have more time, then we pop to the Jim Thompson House or the Palace or anything else cultural. Still, in my opinion, Bangkok = food + shopping. It’s as if you’re on a game show and you have to grab everything you can before the buzzer goes off and you’re whisked away home.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
We always stay in the same location – the shopping district! Our favorite hotel in town is the InterContinental. It’s exactly where you want to be if shopping is your m.o.!
Make sure to spend that little extra for the Club Level, especially when you’re only in the city for 24 hours. The view is fabulous and you could never go hungry – breakfast, afternoon tea, snacks. They make everything easy for you, check in, check out, leaving bags to pick up later, making dinner reservations. The rooms are comfy, down pillows and lush towels, a must as you all know, but it’s all about the service – which is impeccable.
LET THE SHOPPING BEGIN
Siam Center – Third Floor
Bangkok is made up of huge shopping centers, which can seem overwhelming at first. Hopefully I can break it down for you, so you don’t waste time. Beginning at the Siam Centre is a must. You could be here all day, so you want to allow yourself as much time as possible.
Although we like to walk around the whole shopping center, our first stop is the third floor. Most of the shops are by Thai designers alone, such as Flynow III, Baking Soda, and Shaka, but there are so many more for both men and women.
One of my favorite housewares brands is on the same floor – Karmakamet, selling delicious smelling candles and things you never knew you needed. On the second floor is Thaniya, where you can find these gorgeous ceramic bowls fitted with candles inside. The scents are yummy – lemongrass, cherry blossom, lavender, rose and more.
Connecting right through from the fourth floor of the Siam Center without even going outside, you’ll find yourself in Siam Discovery, another of the mega malls. Although there are international brands, as well as Thai, if you hunt around, you’ll find some great brands only made in Thailand, like Doi Tung.
Those two shopping centers should keep you busy for most of the day. You can pop into Siam Paragon, another mall next to Siam Center, which specializes in international brands, but, if you live in a big city, you can find Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel at home.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Issue is one of my fav Thai brands, but it keeps moving house. Right now, its Facebook Page says that it’s located in Siam Square across the street from the Siam Paragon. Have your concierge call +66 2 279 5797 and then head over wherever it is – divine clothes with colors that could knock you out of the park. Think Thai Pucci!
SHOPPING MAKES ME HUNGRY
By this time, you are either shopped out completely and/or hungry. If you’ve had it with stuff, then head to the Jim Thompson House. Home of James H.W. Thompson, who, in his lifetime, revived the failing silk indsutry in Thailand. Made up of six Lanna Style Houses, which were set to be destroyed, his home is a homage to this visionary who disappeared in 1967.
If you’re hungry, pop into one of the food markets in either the Siam Center and/or the bottom floor of the Siam Paragon to grab a snack. I usually save myself for dinner that night.
We were lucky to find this wonderful market at the MBK Center, next to the Siam Discovery, serving all the tourist favs from Pad Thai to Green Papaya Salad. Make sure you check out the MBK Center’s ground floor to see if there is a market on – the food was wonderful. Other than that, forget about MBK as they only sell knock-offs.
Some people can be fearful of spice in Thai food, but I’ve never had a problem, although not a huge fan of spicy food. The flavors can be miraculous, especially when cooked well. So for dinner, I don’t waste time, I book ahead and go to one or two of these places.
TO EAT PERCHANCE TO DREAM
Soul Food Mahanakorn
If I want a casual vibe, Soul Food Mahanakorn is the place. Pull up a bar stool and get chomping on the wings. No, you’re not in Buffalo, as these couldn’t be more Thai – trust me on that.
Expat Jarrett Wrisley opened Soul Food years ago and it was an instant hit. The vibe may be laid back, but the cooking is not! Farm-to-table is a cri-de-guerre and dishes are based on recipes from the North of Thailand – the foodie capital of the country. If you have two nights in Bangkok, make it one of them!
A TOUGH DECISION
If you have 24 hours in Bangkok, you don’t have to make one night casual, but enjoy a more refined experience.
Did you ever have a dish that you will never forget! Bo.lan’s fermented rice dish was one of the best things I have ever eaten in the world. Chefs Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones who started Bo.lan permanently changed my mind about Thai cooking being only Green and Red Curries. One of their former chefs came to London and opened Som Saa – so now I have a bit of Bo.Lan in my hometown to keep me warm!
Issaya Siamese Club
Enter the gardens of Issaya Siamese Club and you would never know you were in Bangkok. Even my cab driver got flummoxed trying to find it. Transported back to colonial days, but with the most modern of menus, we dined on everything two people could possibly eat. Their signature dishes – Mussamun Gae (Lamb Shank simmered in Mussamun Curry) and Choo-Choo Salmon Rom Kwan (Slow cooked Salmon with Jerusalem Artichoke from Chokchai Farm) took our breath away.
Not being a huge fan of mango or coconut, Thai desserts are not really my thing, usually! Here the Jasmine Flower Panna Cotta had neither a coconut nor a mango in sight, so happy was I.
Of course, there are hundreds of things to do and places to eat during your own 24 hours in Bangkok. Still, if I didn’t hit the places I love, it just wouldn’t be the same.