3 Days* in BANGKOK
Bangkok, dear farang, is like a fizzy sherbet exploding in your mouth. Unexpected, delightful and, at times, overwhelming. Bangkok is majestic, chaotic and dirty.
A city of dichotomies where carnal, culinary and karmic desires converge, where extremes collide and the juxtaposition of Eastern and Western is inescapable. In short: I friggin’ love this city!
Day 1* in Bangkok
Your olfactory sense might be the first to get triggered upon your arrival. Diesel fumes, grilled street food and sewage will hit you in pungent wafts and remind you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Bangkok’s traffic is ghastly so take the Sky Train whenever possible or opt for the “Bangkok Helicopter”, a death defying ride on a motorbike taxi and begin your explorations at Wat Arun, the spectacular Temple of the Dawn.
Located along the Chao Phraya River the ancient Khmer style monastery is adorned with broken china that gleams magically in the early morning sun. A visual feast and only the first of many.
Take the ferry up-river to Payap Terminal to engage your oral sense at the well-weathered Sri Yan Market. My pork noodle soup was simply orgasmic. From here, find your way to the Chatuckak weekend market (Fri-Sun) for a frenetic shopping experience. You’ll find everything from local designer wares to antiques to convincing brand knock offs.
The nearby subway (Mo Chit Station) will drop you back at the city’s center for a pre-dinner rinse. Once evening ready, make your way to the Banyan Tree Hotel for sunset drinks at the rooftop Moon Bar (arrive early, it gets crowded); the sweeping views give the city a twinkling almost peaceful vibe.
Once you’ve had your fill, continue on to Issaya Siamese Club for some Thai haute cuisine. The warm ambiance and cocktails win over the food, which is still worlds better than the chicken sate from your local Thai joint (do not skip the pork belly).
Digest for a moment in the comfy beanbags scattered around the garden before you to tuk-tuk your way to Patpong, the adult entertainment district for some ogling.
Where else in the world can you visit a “pussy peels banana” show, make a religious offering at a shrine, grab a handful of deep-fried cockroaches and browse the endless selection of fake designer purses – all within one block!? Beware, though… some of the most beautiful women may come with a cock around here!
Day 2* in Bangkok
On a Sunday the thing to do in Bangkok is brunch. Most 5-star hotels put out an opulent buffet, but the Sukhothai Hotel leads the pack. Half shells, roasted pork buns, Peking duck, etc. And don’t even get me started on the desert!
The inevitable food coma can be walked off in Lumphini Park. Keep your eyes peeled for little gems like the makeshift outdoor gym that attracts muscle bunnies of all ages. Sadly the charismatic Lumphini Stadium that housed Muay Thai Boxing fights for many years recently relocated to the outskirts of the city. Boo Bankgkok, boo.
After a few tranquil moments in Lumphini park, throw yourself into Bangkok’s noisy main artery Sukhumvit Road, lined with department stores (same as everywhere in the world), small markets and random shops. More interesting are the Sois, the side alleys sprouting off either side of the boulevard like legs of a centipede. Soi 21/23 aka “Soi Cowboy” is a short stretch of go-go bars catering to a never-ending stream of lusty white men in search of ‘love’ (read: booty).
Indulge in a foot massage at Bliss on Soi 33, where little fish suck on your toes to remove your calluses. Soi 51, Bangkok’s answer to Brooklyn, and especially the bohemian WTF café/gallery, is worth a brief stop for a pre-dinner drink and a glimpse at some local art.
Back on Soi 38 (Thong Lor Station), juxtapose the morning’s upscale culinary experience with a slamming street food dinner. Wobbly chairs, stray dogs and cockroaches darting between the carts may cause initial apprehension, but this little market is actually pretty hygienic and the dishes are scrumptious and fresh. “Pad Thai Fire Look’s” noodle dish (~50 baht) is one of the best you will ever have, promise… And save room for mango sticky rice!
Day 3* in Bangkok
Whether jetlag turns you into a nocturnal being or you’re only leaving Patpong’s nightclubs at 5am, hit up Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s Flower Market in the wee hours of the morning. The brilliant wares and energized locals are a great way to start the day. From there, you can head over to be first in line at the Royal Palace - doors open at 8:30am.
Although a major tourist hive, it’s a worthwhile destination, just make sure to follow the dress code. Brilliant colors and the fragrance of lotus flowers will sweeten your walk amongst the countless spires and you can drop in at the Emerald Buddha before continuing on.
Highly popular amongst tourists is the Khao San Road, mother of all backpacker meccas. If you’re so inclined, tuk-tuk the short distance for a browse. The NY Times praised hole-in-the-wall Chote Chitr is certainly worth a foodie break.
If you catch her on a good day, the surly restaurant owner will walk you through the recommendations of the 400+ items menu scrawled on the wall and you’ll end up with an unforgettable culinary experience like my banana flower salad with prawns.
The less urbanized Chinatown deserves a gander, also. Its main appeal has shifted from brothels and opium dens to gold jewelry stores and food stands and the overall atmosphere is more appealing than any specific sights.
Hop on the Sky Train back to Sukhumvit and exit at Nana for yet another noteworthy meal: Doo Rae’s beef bulgogi in Koreatown. Lastly, celebrate this marvelous city with a drink at Lebua’s Sky Bar where the Wolf Pack tried to get Teddy back (hint: Mr. Chow, Phil, Stu and Sid).
- A wrap/sarong to cover legs and/or shoulders for temple visits
- Sunscreen, duh
- Light, breathable clothing that is still respectful and appropriate for the more modest Thai culture