A Weekend Guide to Bangkok
I’m beginning to think that weekend trips to Bangkok could become a bit of a habit. The city has everything that you could want – insane street food, cool contemporary restaurants, history and culture, amazing shopping, vibrant and creative communities – and is cheaper than many other Asian cities too. We were in Bangkok to meet up with friends from the UK who were doing a trip to Thailand. We literally hadn’t planned anything apart from our Saturday dinner at Gaa, so the rest of the time we ran around, stumbling down alleyways and hopping off boats on the Chao Phraya River, using word of mouth tips we gathered along the way. Here’s our exact blow by blow of the weekend…
Our flight arrived into BKK at 10.55am
Nahm is probably one of Bangkok’s most famous restaurants, winning award after award and I’d heard glowing reviews from people who’d previously been there. We didn’t book in advance but called up in the taxi from BKK airport and they luckily had space for lunch (TIP: always get a tourist sim card when you arrive at the airport so you can make local calls and use the internet!). While the food was great, I did feel that they had muted the spices a bit to cater to western tastes, and Thai food doesn’t really taste the same when it’s not spicy. Other than that, it was delicious and a good meal to start the weekend.
After Nahm, we took a taxi to the river, thinking that we would go and check out what was going on by the riverside. We then stumbled across Warehouse 30, which, as the name suggests is an old warehouse, that has now been converted into a mixed-use space. There were local designers that had set up shop, a small floral studio, cafe and event spaces. Also while you are here, have a look at the furniture design showroom opposite called P Tendercool which had the most insane wooden ping pong tables! The friendly guy at P Tendercool told us that we must go to Lhong 1919, especially if we wanted to see a great example of a beautifully restored old heritage building.
Lhong 1919 is a fascinating space – it has an almost village-like feel with buildings all facing one internal courtyard, right on the river. It has a distinctly Chinese feel to it – due to the fact that this was originally a trading hub run by a family who had migrated from China to Thailand. There’s a functioning Chinese shrine that dates back to the 19th Century, which was being used by worshippers when we visited. The warehouses have been thoughtfully restored, and are now home to lovely local lifestyle stores such as Karma Kamet which sells the best-scented candles. There are also restaurants and bars, and when we were there, a sort of food festival event run by Singha beer. There’s a pier so you can casually take a boat to and from Llong 1919.
Teens of Thailand
We then headed to Chinatown for drinks. Teens of Thailand is an awesome, hole-in-the-wall gin bar down an unassuming street. It’s a small bar in a shophouse – basically in the living room of a really small house, so be prepared to get a bit cosy. They use British gin along with lovely floral flavours. This was probably our favourite bar we went to over the weekend. Right outside Teens of Thailand was a street food stall selling Pad See Ew. Get a plate of it!
We then walked through the back alleys of Chinatown where we stumbled across a Chinese Opera performance, attended by the local community. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen this on my stories! This was purely by chance of course – the road, or alleyway where we saw it is called Makham, and I’ve marked the exact spot on the map below. It was probably around 9pm ish that the performance was going on, on a Friday night.
Streetfood in Chinatown
Bangkok is famous for its street food, with the area around Yaowarat Road in Chinatown being one of the best spots. We started our spontaneous food tour on Phadung Dao Road, just off Yaowarat Road.
There are so many amazing food stalls on the roads around Yaowarat Road, so we decided to stop and try as many as we could. There was a yummy seafood place at the end of the road here too.
I thought Pad Thai couldn’t get any better until I tried this one on Phadung Dao Road, opposite the cockle place. The guy above in blue is an absolute Pad Thai genius and does a twist on the dish where he wraps the Pad Thai in an ‘egg basket‘ as my boyfriend liked to describe it. It was insane and I’m still dreaming about it.
Krua Porn Lamai:
The meeting of Thai and Chinese food is a winner, we decided that evening. Krua Porn Lamai is a fine example of this. The stall is on Plaeng Nam Road (parallel the the Pad Thai place) and is run by an energetic Chinese-Thai guy – serving the most delicious gravy noodles on a sizzling hot plate.
Another cool bar to check out in this area is Tep Bar. Also a small set up in a shophouse like Teens of Thailand, this quirky place serves Thai infused everything, from whiskeys to liquors and they also have a talented music group playing traditional Thai music.
Chatuchak market is pretty well known, and an absolute must visit for everything from fabric to vintage clothing, homewares to handbags. Try and pick up a map when you arrive which shows you all the areas, or it can feel overwhelming (sometimes people are passing them out or you can find them in some stalls). My favourite stall is the guy selling hundred-year-old newspapers and maps. I picked up a couple of old Parisian newspapers with lovely illustrations of Cambodia and Thailand on the front. I actually took this idea from the Cabochon Hotel, who decorate their walls using newspapers from here. The stall is called Naisoi 4 in section 26 – in the antiques section. I also like the stalls outside selling the bamboo fishing nets that can be used as lampshades. There are also some great food stalls at the market too – to keep you fueled up for the hours you will inevitably end up here.
OK, so I’m guessing you’ve already heard about Gaggan (which we visited last year) – which has now become even more famous after the introduction of the emoji menu, and there’s also the news that the restaurant will close down by 2020 so that Gaggan can pursue projects in Japan – creating even more of an emergency to get a table there! Anyway, one of his new projects is Gaa, which is located in a bright yellow townhouse opposite the main restaurant and is run by his former sous chef Garima Arora. You can have a 10 or 14 course tasting menu (we went for the 10 – it’s enough!) and the food is locally sourced, using inspiration from Asian and European cuisine. The food was fantastic. I loved the chilled mango and pumpkin soup (pictured above) and the pork rib was amazing too (as was everything else to be honest). We asked them if the chef would mind introducing herself, which she kindly did at the end of the night. Garima is such a passionate and creative woman – such an inspiration! If you come to Bangkok, you need to book a table at Gaa 100%.
Chata Speciality Coffee
This coffee shop in Chinatown was such a pleasant surprise. Chata Speciality Coffee is located in the garden of the boutique hotel Baan 2459 and is located a cosy conservatory (it has aircon, don’t worry!). We started our day with iced coffees and soaked up the atmosphere of this little oasis.
I suppose you’ve got to see at least one temple when you come to Thailand! We headed to the Grand Palace and started off looking at the small temples next door to it, which had no one in them. We then headed to the Grand Palace which was heaving with visitors (lots also holding umbrellas at eye level which was irritating). There’s no denying that the temples here are stunning. I especially enjoyed looking at the murals painted on the cloister walls. Next time I’d go much earlier, say 8am, so as to avoid the crowds and the blazing sun.
Khua Kling Pad Sod
On the recommendation of Garima Arora, the head chef at Gaa, we had lunch at Khua Kling Pad Sod. There are three branches of this restaurant – we ended up going to the Rajchakru branch, which is in the Ari neighbourhood (because it was the closest to where we were at the time). The restaurant was filled with Thais only – clearly affluent people from this smart neighbourhood. This family-run restaurant specialises is southern Thai cuisine from Chumpon in the Tah Sae district. The idea of the restaurant is that it serves home cooked food, using recipes passed down from their grandmother. I loved the Gaeng Pu Bai Cha Plu which is the crab curry pictured above, and the Sataw Pad Goong, stir fried prawns with stink beans, also pictured. I’d definitely recommend Khua Kling Pad Sod if you’re looking for an authentic Thai restaurant, which isn’t street food, and is in a nice airconditioned environment, with zero tourists.
Jim Thompson House
We nearly didn’t end up going to Jim Thompson’s House, as we were flying a few hours later, and I thought I’d go to one of those foot massage parlours for our last hour instead. It was our friend’s idea to go (although I’d heard of it, for some reason I thought it wouldn’t be that great), and I’m SO pleased we came here. It was literally everything I love all in one place – heritage buildings, antiques, artefacts and an awesome shop selling Thai silk. Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur who visited and fell in love with Thailand, and then came to live and develop the Thai silk industry – (He then later disappeared mysteriously in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, what a mystery!). They run really insightful 35-minute tours around the house – which is amazing – he had purchased six old houses from around Thailand and had put them all together, adding some European touches such as a staircase inside the house while retaining the character and charm of the original buildings. The art and antiques are incredible. The writer Somerset Maugham wrote to him and said: “You have not only beautiful things, but what is rare you have arranged them with faultless taste.” The sculptures of the Buddhas date from 7th or 8th Century AD – Thompson felt that he had a duty to try and preserve these. As well as the museum, there’s a great shop where you can pick up things like silk cushion covers (might have bought some of these) and other great gifts.
- Travel on boats on the river as much as you can – it’s the quickest way to get around, it’s cheap, fun and you can see so much from here.
- Traffic is bad, but the public transport is good and clean. Their underground and train system, MRT or BTS, is easy to use (the machines are in English).
- Taxi apps like grab and uber weren’t great – they often cancelled our trips or were too far away. If you do get taxis, make sure to agree on a price before you start your trip.
Where to stay
Baan 2459 is a lovely boutique hotel with a rich historical past, located in a quiet space set back from the busy street near Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. The decoration is gorgeous, and the rooms are so light and airy, with big four-poster wooden beds. It’s in a great location near good food places and not far from the temples.
Nearest Station: Hua Lamphong MRT
Price: from $170 USD per night – Check availability
Cabochon Hotel is another lovely example of a preserved heritage building now being used as a hotel. The rooms are huge, with their own sitting room, and there’s a lovely pool on the roof for you to cool off after a busy day in the city. Cabochon also has a great restaurant serving yummy traditional Thai food.
Nearest Station: Phrom Phong BTS
Price: From $160 USD per night – Check availability
- Street food on Phadung Dao Road
- Krua Porn Lamai
- Khua Kling Pak Sod
- CHATA Specialty Coffee
- Teens of Thailand
- TEP Bar
- Llong 1919
- Warehouse 30
- Chatuchak Market
- Chinese Opera
- Grand Palace
- Jim Thompson House
- Cabochon Hotel