Take advantage of the relatively calm mid-morning traffic with a cab ride to Bangkok’s old city (THB100/$2.99 from Sukhumvit or Silom), where you can explore the myriad royal and religious highlights. Kick off your stroll at the astoundingly beautiful Wat Suthat Thepwararam, home of Thailand’s biggest wi-hahn (main chapel), and the Giant Swing, a towering landmark formerly used for Brahman ceremonies. From there, it is an easy walk (or short tuk-tuk journey) to other big-hitting sights, including Wat Saket (Golden Mount), the Grand Palace and temple complex Wat Pho – famous for its giant reclining Buddha.
Karim Roti Mataba
Missing an opportunity to eat in Bangkok is woeful – so it’s time for lunch. Hip, upscale options near the royal sights include Nusara, an intimate Thai dining room presided over by Michelin-starred chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn. Alternatively, Phra Athit Road is a brisk walk (or THB50/$1.50 cab ride) away – where old-school dining can be found at Karim Roti Mataba, a Thai Muslim restaurant that has been dishing out crispy roti with curry for about seven decades. Undoubtedly, the star dish is the mataba, with spicy fillings stuffed into a roti before being pan-fried, but the mutton curry and oxtail soup are dishes to look out for. Choose to dine in the shabby but atmospheric restaurant, or order takeout and devour the flaky, spicy goodness by the banks of the Chao Phraya River. roti-mataba.net
From Karim Roti Mataba, walk to Pra Athit Pier and catch the Chao Phraya Express Boat downriver to Si Phraya Pier (THB15/$0.45). The journey along Bangkok’s so-called “River of Kings” is a memorable excursion. Take a prime vantage point at the side of the boat and observe the passing cargo barges, riverside communities and landmarks. These include Wat Arun, one of Bangkok’s most striking temples, the legendary pile of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, and the Old Customs House dating back to 1888 – one of the many European-style buildings commissioned by King Chulalongkorn. Designed by Italian architect Joachim Grassi, its dilapidated Palladian grandeur has made it a favorite setting for photo and movie shoots.
Back on dry land, it’s a short walk from the pier to Warehouse 30, a hub for Bangkok’s creative community, designed by leading Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag. Transforming a cluster of Second World War-era warehouses, Bunnag and his collaborators have established a creative hub teeming with galleries, dining venues, boutiques and pop-up shops. The revolving cast of vendors at the complex changes regularly. Recent highlights include Aurum Gallery, vintage retailer Horse Unit, and the DAG, a hip communal dining venue. Across the road, be sure to stop by P Tendercool for a browse. Reclaimed colonial-era hardwood, Burmese teak and gleaming brass add a distinctive flair to the distinctive bespoke tables handcrafted by this design company. warehouse30.com
Even its biggest fans would agree that Bangkok’s heat and traffic can drain a visitor’s energy. Thankfully there’s plenty of scope for liquid replenishment at the end of a busy afternoon. The distinctive gold dome at Sky Bar in Lebua at State Tower – a ten-minute walk along Charoen Krung Road from Warehouse 30 – acts as a beacon for thirsty wanderers. As one of the highest rooftop bars in the world (and famous for its starring role in The Hangover: Part II ), the venue is reliably packed. But the views over the Chao Phraya are worth sharpening up your elbows for. It’s a gilded way to end an action-packed itinerary in Thailand’s charismatic capital. lebua.com