As the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok offers an impressive marriage between the old and the new. Here you can find what is arguably the finest Thai food in the world, available from both high-end restaurants, or from any one of the multitude of street vendors. As Bangkok is also the chief travel and commerce hub of South East Asia, visitors can also benefit from an enviable selection of shopping opportunities.
People come to the Thai capital for all sorts of reasons, and its long-held status as one of the chief travel and commerce hubs of South East Asia makes it a prime bet for shoppers. As you would expect from Bangkok, the buzzword is variety: you’ll find everything from box-fresh malls to open-air markets. Among the highlights, the enormous CentralWorld (74/9 Rama 1 Road) is where to head for labels and lifestyle goods – it’s the world’s sixth largest mall – while the similarly huge Chatuchak Weekend Market (Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road) stocks everything from handmade artefacts to household goods across its 15,000 stalls.
Food & Drink
It’s something of a given that you’ll eat well in Bangkok. The city is synonymous both with lip-smacking street food and high-end Thai restaurants – little wonder when you consider the national cuisine is one of the most hankered-after on the planet. The Chinatown area (also known as Yaowarat) is a superb bet for fresh and affordable food stalls, while for something more formal top recommendations include the recently opened Paste (120/6 Sukhumvit Soi 49) and the multi award-winning Nahm (Metropolitan by COMO Hotel). This being a world city, of course, there’s also a vast range of non-Thai choices.
Chinese New Year
The most important celebration of the year for the Thai-Chinese, involving dragon parades, firecrackers and copious amounts of colour, noise and food. Head to the Chinatown (Yaowarat) area to experience the full revelry and street fanfare.
Among the most significant dates on the Buddhist calendar, Makha Bucha sees Thais congregate at temples at dusk for candlelit processions. It marks a day on which 1,250 devotees once paid homage to Buddha.
This three-day festival is seen by most Thais as their traditional New Year’s celebration. It’s chiefly renowned by visitors for the custom of indiscriminate water-throwing – giant water pistols have these days become a de rigeur part of the fun.
Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music
The city’s biggest yearly arts festival draws together a wide variety of established talent for performances of opera, ballet, jazz, drama and classical music. The festival lasts for several weeks and makes use of some spectacular settings.
World Film Festival of Bangkok
Taking place annually since 2003, this international cinematic gathering focuses on ‘quality, non-mainstream films from all over the world’ – more than 80 are screened each year. It also runs a programme of workshops and talks.
Bangkok is a city of many moods, a rampant metropolis where the traditional meets the trend-driven and calm collides with chaos. Fittingly, its hotel scene is just as multi-flavoured – the likes of the five-star St Regis Bangkok (159 Rajadamri Road) showcases the elegant, business-friendly side of the city, while the funkier W Bangkok (106 North Sahorn Road) is all about colour and flair. The Pas Cher Hotel (28/5 Charoen Wieng Road) is a good mid-range option, while those on a budget should seek out a room at the hospitable Baan Sathorn Guesthouse (45 Soi 3 Charoen-Rat Road).