Recently, my husband and I travelled to Thailand’s gorgeous capital Bangkok, for a four-night trip. It was a quick visit (as we planned to also cover Phuket and Siem Reap on the same trip), but were lucky enough to get a good glimpse of what the city has to offer. Here’s a short guide on marvellous ways to spend some time in Bangkok; where to stay, where to visit and (importantly) what to eat.
Where to Stay
After catching a 12.5-hour direct flight from London to Bangkok, we reached our hotel in a private transfer pre-arranged by Amari Watergate Bangkok, a 34-storey modern hotel located in the heart of the bustling Pratunam neighbourhood in Petchburi.
Self-described as a gateway to colourful downtown experiences, this is definitely the case. The area is well known for great shopping opportunities, with an abundance of bazaars and lifestyle malls. Amari Watergate is a great option for business travellers or families and couples wanting to be in the absolute midst of Thai shopping haven.
Guests of Amari Watergate are welcomed in a beautifully renovated lobby. Impossible to miss is the stunning lighting installation of Murano glass pendants symbolising the waterfall that used to be nearby and inspired the names of the neighbourhood and the hotel.
As Executive Club Room guests, we were able to check in the comforts of the Executive Lounge on the 32nd floor, a private lounge with free cocktails and breakfast options.
Amari Watergate offers city, garden or pool views, rooms with a contemporary-chic feel to them. Our room was modern and tastefully decorated, with a floor-to-ceiling window over the city and spacious marble bathroom (with both shower and bathtub).
The perfect setting to enjoy a room breakfast on our first morning at Amari Watergate.
The hotel features two restaurants, a spa, fitness centre and outside pool with a bar to match. After dropping our bags in the room, we headed to the Cascade Café Restaurant and were immediately treated with our first casual Thai dining meal.
For our last night in Bangkok, we moved across to the Oriental Residence Bangkok a luxury boutique hotel in a residential neighbourhood right next to the US Embassy. The nearby Phloen Chit train station makes it easy to get around with public transport. Luxury mall Central Embassy is also within close reach.
I loved the casual elegance and luxury of the Oriental Residence Bangkok as much as I loved the outdoor pool on the 4th floor. With a bright living area, kitchenette and marble bathroom full of amenities, my time in a Grand Deluxe King Room was definitely a great stay.
Where to Eat
One of the most enjoyable parts of my trip to Bangkok was experiencing and learning about Thai cuisine at some of the city’s best restaurants. Thailand is a foodie’s dream and Bangkok’s dining scene that is flourishing. There is an abundance of traditional, modern and fusion cooking to be discovered by hungry travellers.
I enjoyed two meals at Amaya Food Gallery, the main restaurant of Amari Watergate. More than just a restaurant, it’s an entire floor of hot and cold food counters and live cooking stations modelling the immersive experience of traditional Thai food market.
We had a tasting of several dishes from the Thai and Indian buffet counters, including papaya salad (our new favourite Thai dish) and the classic pad thai. Dare I say it, this was the best pad thai I ate on the trip!
Having met one of Amaya’s sous chefs and learnt he’s originally from India, we couldn’t resist trying a few more dishes: tandoor chicken, naan bread (cooked on the spot) and dal. All delicious!
Following the recommendation of the restaurant’s manager, we paired our dinner with a nice glass of Shiraz from Château de Loei Plateau De Phurus Reserve 2014: my first ever taste of Thai wine!
In the morning, the counters at Amaya Food Gallery are replaced by an extensive breakfast buffet that catered for every guest’s needs. As much as I liked the food on offer, I prefer having breakfast in the more intimate and quiet setting of the Executive Lounge. The buffet is smaller than in at Amya food gallery, but there’s plenty to choose from and the view from the outdoor terrace alone made the breakfast one to remember. Seating on the terrace with a cup of coffee, I enjoyed a full snapshot of vibrant Bangkok as the sun rised.
On our last day, we had a lovely afternoon tea experience at Café Claire, a gourmet food addition to the Oriental Residence Bangkok, where we also had a nice à la carte breakfast before our flight back to London.
Bangkok is home is a thriving coffee and brunch scene, but our short stay didn’t allow enough time to visit all the best spots (it’s a long list, leave me a comment if you’re in need of recs).
For specialty coffee, I can recommend Red Diamond inside CentralWorld mall (a few minutes’ walk from Amari Watergate hotel).
We went café-hopping at three charmingly cute shops in the old town: Kope Hya Tai Ke, Eden’s and Alex & Beth (where we had brunch). Thank you to Charles and Ari from Onyx for introducing us to these gems.
Thai Massage Experience
In need of some TLC after the flight, I headed to At Ease Massage & Spa 33/1 in the Phrom Phong neighbourhood (a few stops away from Amari on the Skytrain). The practice of Thai massage (nuat phaen thai) is 2500 years old and famously effective for its healing abilities. It’s also painful as the muscles are rubbed with strong hands and elbows and the body is pulled, stretched and compressed. You probably won’t fall asleep during this treatment, but you will feel much better after it! At Ease, a traditional 60′ Thai massage costs just 350 baht (£8.60).
A Food Tour of the City
Bangkok leaves you spoiled for choice with food options and a tour with Bangkok Food Tours will prove just that. We joined an evening guided tour by tuk tuk which took us around the city’s best local eateries as well as the flower night market.
We were able to try out some delicious North-Eastern Thai food such as Yum Pla Duk Fu (a delicious deep-fried catfish dish) and Som Tum (papaya salad). The latter is a zesty, crunchy, spicy salad of shaved green papaya mixed with tomatoes, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime.
Next stop was a street food cart situated in a narrow alley in the Wat Thepsirin district which I would have never found out on my own. We tasted an amazing Guay Tiew Kua Gai (stir fried noodle and Chicken with running egg), worth the tuk tuk ride in the pouring rain.
For the last stop of the tour, our guide Mod took us to Thip Samai for a taste of Bangkok’s best pad thai.
Expect massive queues for the restaurant’s famed Pad Thai with small prawns wrapped with egg.
During the tour, we also visited the iconic Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad). This huge market has beginnings in the 18th century as a floating market, turned fish market.
Now, it’s the largest fresh flower market in Bangkok, with some claiming it’s one of the biggest in the world. The city’s appetite for all things fresh includes flowers, meaning that this market is open for 24 hours everyday.
A Tour of the Sights
On our last day in Bangkok we joined a half-day ‘Amazing Bangkok Tour’ by World Travel Service, a Thai tour operator. The tour covered some great places and really gave you a better feel for the city. We started our journey by crossing the Chao Phraya River by boat with our guide to visit Wat Arun
One thing to note when travelling Thailand is that tourists are expected to dress conservatively when visiting temples. This means wearing clothes that cover the midriff, shoulders and knees. Definitely remove your shoes before entering areas of worship and check for no camera signs.
Next, we visited the Royal Grand Palace. The palace is a must-see landmark when making a trip to Bangkok. Built in 1782, it has served as the home for the Thai Royal court for 150 years.
With intricate Eastern architecture and ornate gold features, the Palace is a clear display of Thai craftsmanship. In the palace complex, which is quite large, there are several buildings including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the most sacred temple of Thailand. As the name gives away, here you can see the famous Emerald Buddha, which is dated all the from the 14th century (no photography allowed).
Aside from the guided tours, we did some exploring of sights on our own. This included a visit to the Golden Mount, Wat Saket and Loha Prasat temples in the old Rattanakosin island area.
To visit the Wat Saket, you need to climb 300 steps to the top. The view over Bangkok from up there is worth the effort, plus it’s breezy up there and a nice change from the heat and humidity you feel at street level.
Thailand as a whole overflows with stunning Buddhist temples, some of which are centuries old. In fact, the country is said to contain around 40,000 temples. Loha Prasat (the ‘Metal Castle) is off the beaten path, in fact we were one of few tourists visiting it at the time. It gave us the time to appreciate the temple’s architecture and intricate design without feeling rushed by hoards of visitors and guides.
Thai temple architecture varies slightly from other Southeast Asian styles, often constructed from both wood and stone. Usually built as multi-building complexes, Thai temples (wats), typically feature a tall, bell-shaped stupa.
After the temple tours, we walked along the canal in the old town. Once nicknamed the ‘ Venice of the East,’ Bangkok is filled with canals and Khlongs. In recent years many have been removed, however the ones that remain are quite picturesque. Old bridges have survived against all odds and quaint, crooked houses line the water’s edge.
Our Bangkok trip’s activities finally came to an end with dinner and night shopping at the Asiatique riverfront bazaar. This is a huge open-air mall. Build upon the former docks of the East Asiatic Company, it faces the Chao Phraya River.
My husband also made a short trip to Khao San Road one night with his cousins who live in Bangkok. This is a well-known tourist spot for young travellers after cheap hostels and late night bars. I remember the area as a fun, exotic and exciting place to be 14 years ago when I backpacked around Thailand. Sadly, my husband found Khao San Road excessively noisy, touristy and not quite worth visiting.
One last thing to note is that Bangkok traffic is famously terrible. Try and avoid taking taxis (or factor in the extra time). The best ways to get around are by canal (if possible): a boat ride on along the Khlong Saen Saeb is a fast way to get around and also great for sightseeing from a different point of view.
We relied on the Sky Train: it is cheap, reliable, convenient and most importantly, air-conditioned!
That was all for my packed three-day visit to Bangkok, Thailand. The city sure has a lot to offer, spilling with culture and colour – it’s hard to imagine being bored! If you are a first time visitor, these recommendations are definitely a great start for your trip.
Prices at Amari Watergate Bangkok start from GBP 74 per night for a Deluxe King room, based on two sharing a room. Price is exclusive of VAT and service charge. Subject to season and availability. To book visit: www.amari.com/watergate
Prices at Oriental Residence Bangkok start from GBP 107 per night for a Grand Deluxe room, based on two sharing a room. Price is exclusive of VAT and service charge. Subject to season and availability. To book visit: www.oriental-residence.com
Both Amari Watergate and Oriental Residence are part of the ONYX Hospitality Group.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of ONYX. All opinions are my own.