This bustling city can often be overlooked as a pit stop before the real holiday starts on one of Thailand’s island paradises. But there are plenty of reasons to linger in Bangkok – not least, the food. From a vibrant street food scene to giant food halls to rooftop bars, there is plenty to get your teeth stuck into.
Bangkok is also a deeply spiritual city and there are hundreds of temples and shrines to visit, as well as relaxing massages to be had and famous Thai hospitality to experience. But for now, here are six reasons foodies should stick around in the capital.
1. The street food scene
Street food heaven, Bangkok is the place to experience the unique experience of sitting on white plastic stools and experiencing a taste explosion like no other. For the uninitiated, the more hygienic and trendy places to start exploring street food delights are at Sukhumvit, Soi 38, 42 and 49, which are favoured by tourists and expats alike. If you fancy a food adventure beyond the well loved Pad Thai and Fried Rice, try Sai Krok Isaan, the fermented North East pork sausages on skewers. Khao Mun Gai, steamed chicken on rice much like the Hainanese Chicken, offers a welcome respite from chillies and strong flavours.
2. Hip neighbourhoods
With Khao Sarn road and Sukhumvit firmly on the tourist trail for backpackers and luxury travellers, there are less well traversed neighbourhoods of Bangkok that beg exploration. Stroll around the Ari neighbourhood for a laid back vibe, Ekkamai for hipster watering holes and every cuisine from Greek to Japanese,Banglamphu in “old Bangkok” for live music and Sukhumvit for its street food.
3. Food courts
Bangkok’s shopping malls are home to sprawling food destinations of their own, quite separate to the restaurants they contain. These food courts feature rows and rows of indoor food stalls selling a vast array of meals from Indian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Japanese to regional Thai specialties in a comfortable setting. The best time to visit is at lunchtime as they often start running out of food by the evenings. Central World has a smallish but perfectly formed food hall, where the food is excellent. Siam Paragon has a vast gourmet hall that’s worth a visit for sheer scale alone, while the one in MBK is compact, popular and a great place to kick start the experience.
4. Roopftop bars
Bangkok’s rooftop bars demand a cocktail or two against the city’s sunset. The newly opened Mövenpick Bangkok’s rooftop bar is an oasis of calm away from the chaos of the main road – try the Tom Yam cocktail. For a more glitzy night out, visit the Sirocco rooftop bar at the Lebua Hotel at the State Tower – the location for Hollywood blockbuster The Hangover – or the Moon Bar at Banyan Tree.
5. Night markets
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise if the large-scale malls dotted along Ratchaprasong and Siam are anything to go by. But the real attractions are the night markets and floating markets. The former come alive after 9pm, when the stalls are all set up and shoppers arrive in earnest. Chatuchak Friday Night Market, Patong and Nana are all well trodden markets, but do check out the newer vintage flea market Siam Gypsy Junction and the new, revamped Rod Fai market in Srinakaran.
6. Floating markets
No trip to Bangkok is complete without an early morning trip to a floating market at the weekend. Kwan Riam is a new-ish floating market that offers a cleaner, more comfortable experience without the tourist stampede at some of the others. The other one to visit is Bang Nam Phueng.
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