Pornsurang ‘A’ Siriwandee is Backyard Travel’s resident expert of Bangkok and in this edition of our ‘My City’ series, Khun ‘A’ shares her intimate secrets of ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ in the City of Angels.
When is the best time to visit and why?
October to February is probably the best time to explore Bangkok, as the monsoon season ends around September. Also during this period we have many festivals in Bangkok and the city seems to come alive! The abundance of exciting festivals and events includes Buddhist lent, Navaratri goddess festival, Loy Krathong, Songkran (Thai New Year), and Chinese New Year, to name a few.
Where are the best places to stay?
For a mid-range hotel, opt for Ariyasom Villa, the boutique hotel located in the middle of the vibrant area of downtown Bangkok, built around charming authentic 1940´s Thai houses. For a five-star option, you can go for The Sukhothai, a luxury boutique hotel with the ambiance of the ancient kingdoms of Central Thailand. If you want river views, you should try the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, one of the most highly-regarded hotels in Thailand with a stunning location along the Chao Phraya River.
Where is a great place for dinner?
If you prefer something local, head to Shukhumvit Soi 38 near Thong Lor Skytrain station. This gem offers a mouth-watering selection of Thai food. My favorite dishes are; Mango and Sticky Rice, Satay Skewers, Rad Na Noodles, and the unexpected combination of Coconut Ice Cream with Raw Egg Yolk. Alternatively, go for BBQ seafood on the street in Chinatown. There’s plenty of choice but the popular places are usually around Soi Texas in Yaowarat. For something towards the more decadent end of Thai cuisine, hidden in the back streets of suburban Bangkok is the Issaya. Authentic, modern and tasty, the restaurant is set in the grounds of an old Thai house.
Most romantic spot:
I’d say the magnificent scene of Wat Arun (temple of dawn) is especially beautiful. Pay a visit to the Deck by the River at Arun residence; it offers great views of the Chao Phraya and Wat Arun, which is visually stunning especially as the sun sets behind it.
Must-try Thai dishes:
Trying the Massamun Chicken Curry at Krua Aroy on Silom Soi 19, opposite the Indian temple is a must. If you want a nice Tom Yum Kung, go to Madam Krok on Soi Lang Suan (best to visit is during lunch time). House Kitchen at the end of Lang Suan Road (near Chid Lom Skytrain station) is nice too.
Best place to hang out with locals:
Visit Lumpini Park for people watching, especially just a little after 6.00pm when there’s a large aerobic dance class held daily – it’s a fun scene to watch! There are also vendors walking around the park selling mats and various food items. Buy a mat, stock up on Som Tam salad and grilled chicken, then sit, snack away, and watch the world go by.
Additional insider’s tip:
Everyone flocks to lebua and Banyan Tree for a spectacular rooftop view, but I actually prefer the roof bar at Muse in Thong Lor which is very chilled out yet busy with hip locals, while Red Sky provides amazing views of the city’s skyline after sundown. For those who want a more ‘local’ experience, Phranakorn Bar near Hua Lamphong MRT station is a great place to grab some tasty cocktails and fresh air – and be sure to try the Deep-fried Larb there!
Survival tip for tourists:
Always haggle when you shop at the local markets as well as before you hop in a tuk tuk! Also, remember to smile. Thais are very polite and smiles are a useful tool!
What to bring home:
A pair of Thai Boxing shorts is a quirky item that can be given as a gift. But, if you’re looking for something more serious, there are also hand-made silks and textile products produced by one of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s projects called Phufa. This scheme helps villagers in the Sakon Nakorn, Tak, Chiang Mai, and Cha Choeng Sao Provinces of Thailand support themselves by utilizing their specialist fabric production skills.