Stay at the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit Hotel
The Sofitel is a brand of luxury hotel that’s part of the Accor group. The rooms are pretty spacious and very elegant, combining traditional Thai and modern touches. The bathrooms are nice too, with toiletries by L’Occitane. The hotel is conveniently located right on the main road of Sukhumvit, less than 5 minutes walk to either the Nana or Asok BTS Skytrain stations. It’s actually closer to Nana, but the Asok station is connected to the Park Plaza Sukhumvit, in case you plan on popping in the mall on your way to or from the hotel. If service is your priority when choosing accomodation, rest assured the hotel staff will take very good care of you during your stay.
Alternatively, stay at the Aloft Hotel Bangkok
Aloft Hotel is in the same area as the Sofitel, but it’s in one of the soi (a smaller street leading up to the main street). To be exact, Aloft is located on Soi 11 of Sukhumvit. It’s a bit of a walk from the Nana BTS Skytrain station, but not to fear, the hotel provides a free tuktuk ride from the hotel to the station (only goes one way, though, unfortunately). Aloft is part of the SPG group of hotels and it’s actually the lowest category hotel of SPG, meaning that a free night at the Aloft Bangkok is a mere 2,000 redemption points on Friday or Saturday night, or 3,000 points any other night. For a category 1 SPG property, the Aloft is not bad at all (except for their lack of a SPG Club Lounge). It’s a very trendy hotel and holds a lot of events in the bar. The rooms are a good size, the beds are spacious (even the singles) and so too are the bathrooms—perfect for solo travellers or couples. Sukhumvit in general is nice for hanging out, but soi 11 in particular has a number of restaurants and hangouts that are busy at nighttime. If you’re not keen on spending extra on a hotel breakfast and street food is a bit much in the mornings, there’s this bagel place I like just down the road from the hotel. It’s tempting to want to try what the locals eat for breakfast and there’s heaps of these street vendors out on soi 11 from early morning, but I say, better a bagel than an upset tummy!
Drink lots of freshly squeezed orange juice
This is arguably my favourite thing to do in Bangkok. Since I spend a lot of time walking around Bangkok in the heat or humidity, it’s nice to have freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice available pretty much everywhere. Quench your thirst with a cold one for a mere 20 Baht. When I took my mum to Bangkok, she was worried that the orange juice wasn’t natural because of how orange the colour was until I had the vendor serve her a fresh bottle. The Mandarin oranges are just that orange in Bangkok!
Browse Siam Square and surrounding areas
Siam is like a big hub; several of the big malls are in Siam, including the Siam Discovery Centre, MBK Centre and Siam Paragon. Across the road from Siam Paragon are all these little boutique clothing shops and an electronics mall located above the True Cafe and connected to the Siam BTS Skytrain station. What I love most about Siam Square is the night markets. All these little clothing vendors come out at night time and occupy the strip opposite the Siam Paragon and stretch all the way to, I think, the Lido Theatre. They have pretty cool and hip stuff available, both women’s and men’s fashion at cheap prices. Even if you don’t intend on buying anything, it’s nice to just have a wander along the strip and sample some street-foods from the hawkers as you walk by.
Shop at the Platinum Mall
My main reason to come to Bangkok is to shop, and Bangkok is known to be dead cheap for shopping. Bangkok is even cheaper than shopping in Indonesia, where I come from. Fact is, most Indonesian clothing boutique owners get their stuff from Bangkok and then resell them at a much higher price back home. Knowing this, I like to cut out the middle man (or lady) and get the shopping done myself, directly from Bangkok. One of the best places to shop in Bangkok is the Platinum Mall. The locals call it the wholesale mall, but you really don’t need to buy in bulk. Wholesale just means the price will be cheaper if you buy more than 1 of the same thing. Quantities of 2 or 3 are fine—you don’t need to buy a dozen of the same thing to shop in this mall. What’s great about Platinum Mall is the variety (clothes, shoes, bags, leather goods, etc) and the convenience and comfort of shopping here: it’s located in the city area, it’s fully air-conditioned, has several coffee shops for you to take a break in, and has a food court with yummy local food.
Shop at Chatuchak Market (weekends only)
Unlike the comfortable, indoor, airconditioned Platinum mall, Chatuchak is the epitome of a flea market. It’s ridiculously big, cramped in most parts, makes you wary of pickpockets and it’s packed with people throughout the day. Sweating is inevitable at this market, and your only redemption is when you’re lucky enough to enter a stall with air-conditioning If you hope to take a break from all the walking around, you won’t find public benches to sit on, so you’ll have to sit in a food stall or at a coffee shop to give your legs a rest under the pretense of ordering something.
For fans of street fashion, go to Sections 2, 3 and 4 where all the cool stalls are, offering clothes, shoes, bags and fashion accessories.
Jakarta is also popular for markets like these, but I find it relatively more comfortable to shop in Chatuchak than in most similar places in Jakarta or Indonesia. You don’t have to haggle as much and I felt like the vendors were more genuine: they don’t try to rip you off as much as back home!
I think the prices here are cheaper than at say, Platinum Mall, or the night market at Siam Square, but there’s not a great deal of difference, really. So if you’re not up for sweating, getting cramped up and having difficulty finding a place to sit down and rest your tired feet, it’s best to shop elsewhere. If you do end up here and find stuff you like at a particular stall and have second thoughts about whether the stall at the next section would be cheaper, my advice is for you to go ahead with the purchase (granted that you think the price is reasonable). Good luck to you trying to find the same stall when you later decide to head back there!
Other stuff I like to get here:
- Durian chips
- Spices and Tom Yum sachets to bring home from my Thailand trip
- All kinds of cheapo souvenirs from ‘I Love Bangkok’ tees to fridge magnets
Ride the Skytrain
The tuktuk is defintiely more fun to use, but they are so overpriced for tourists. Taxis can actually be cheaper than tuktuks for the same distance, but I think the skytrain is the way to go. It services most of the touristy areas and places of interest (at least the ones I’ve mentioned in this post) and it’s a cheap, safe and convenient means of transportation.
Visit a temple or two
Bangkok has a lot of Buddhist temples scattered throughout the city, so it’s nice to visit what you can while you’re in town. If you’re only in Bangkok for a day or two before heading off to some beach resort elsewhere in Thailand, check out the iconic Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) by the Chao Phraya river. I love taking panoramic shots of this temple complex at around sunset; the steps are pretty steep but worth the climb for a better view of the surroundings. Another temple worth visiting is the Wat Pho, which is walking distance from the Grand Palace. It is another temple complex, with the Reclining Buddha being the most popular attraction on site. Also, Wat Pho is considered the birthplace of Thai massages, so you can give that a try if you feel like. I’m happy to just check out the sights there.
Dine at the Asiatique, the Riverfront
I was really impressed with the Asiatique and it reminds me a lot of Covent Garden in London, UK. The Asiatique is by the banks of the Chao Phraya river and is best visited at night time. This open air dining and shopping complex offers some fancy restaurants that are pricey. Even the foodcourt is more expensive in general, but I guess it’s a tourist spot to begin with. Just think of it as paying more for the ambiance.
One way of getting to Asiatique is by taking the skytrain and getting off at the Saphan Thaksin station and then catching a boat from the nearby harbour for 20 Baht one way.
Take a ride on a boat
The city is dubbed the Venice of the East, so you might want to experience that side of Bangkok—be it a river cruise on a long-tailed boat or a simple ride to get you from one point to another.
Chill at a rooftop bar or lounge
My absolute favourite would be the Sofitel So Hotel in Silom. A very nice hotel, a very nice rooftop bar/lounge and an AMAZING view of the city skyline. The Park Society bar and lounge overlooks the Lumpini Park, so you get a view of skyscrapers surrounding a vast land of green. With any rooftop bar, I reckon it’s best to come before sunset so you can experience the change in ambiance. Another favourite is the Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel in Sathorn. Both the Sofitel So and Banyan Tree are top notch, swanky hotels, so it’s no surprise they each have a rooftop bar to match. I figured cocktails would be expensive but they’re actually okay – around THB 350 for Moon Bar’s signature cocktail and that is way cheaper than a cocktail at the Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali!
Another hip rooftop bar and probably the most popular one in Bangkok (thanks to the movie, Hangover II), is the Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower. It’s on the 63rd floor, offering an equally great view of the city skyline at night. Problem is, Sky Bar seems to always be packed, so if you’re looking to chill more and still manage a decent conversation with the people you’re with, best to go to Park Society or some other rooftop bar.