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The best places to eat, drink and visit when in Bangkok

Like its cuisine, the Thai capital is spicy, sour and sweet, all in one.

Where to stay

A Fashionable Favourite
Banyan Tree Bangkok
Tucked down a driveway in the sassy Sathorn area, the Banyan Tree is something of a Bangkok institution, clocking up more than 20 years in the city.

Guests here love the exclusive Club Lounge on the 19th floor, which serves arguably one of the best breakfast buffets anywhere in the world – think pork in mushroom sauce, salmon in garlic butter, eggs Benedict, curries, and rambutans in syrup – plus an equally impressive afternoon tea, and pre-dinner drinks and canapés. But save some room, because you do not want to miss dining at Vertigo on the 61st floor, or Saffron on the 52nd, among a host of other eateries in this hotel.

In between feasts, laze by the swimming pool, indulge in a rain treatment in the spa, and shop in the hotel gallery before crashing in your gorgeous suite.

Early morning sunrise scene of Bangkok downtown in Sathorn district, Thailand
Early morning sunrise scene of Bangkok downtown in Sathorn district, Thailand

Urban Oasis
137 Pillars Suites and Residences Bangkok
Stretching sky-high, this slender building steals pole position in the sophisticated Sukhumvit area. A sister property of 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai, the tradition of luxury continues in this recently opened property. There are four types of suites and a number of residences, which can be booked from one night up to a year. In the Ayutthaya Suite, the theme is Art Deco-meets-gentleman’s-club, with separate lounge, powder room, maxi-bar area and dining nook.

There’s a plush bedroom with a walk-in robe and separate toilet, and a large balcony with a plump day bed. The bathroom boasts a giant oval bath and separate shower. Suite guests also have their own personal butler and access to the rooftop infinity pool and cabana lounge. All guests can meet the resident golf pro to improve their game on the indoor and outdoor putting greens and golf range, and have access to a second infinity pool and bar on the 27th floor.

Dine at the avant-garde Nimitr restaurant for something special such as tandoori lamb, or at the Bangkok Trading Post Bistro and Deli for comfort cuisine like pizza.

137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok
137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok

Where to eat/drink

Star appeal
Saneh Jaan
Head to this Michelin-starred fine-dining Thai restaurant to enjoy khao chae, a traditional dish served in summer. Meaning ‘rice soaked in cool water’ there’s much more to this beautifully presented dish than the name suggests, for the rice comes with several side dishes.

Sky high
Saffron Sky Garden and Vertigo TOO, Banyan Tree
Billed as Bangkok’s highest and newest sky garden, travellers looking for a reprieve from this city’s concrete jungle will adore the cool breeze, faux grass and relaxed outdoor setting with views of the city on either side. Order from the extensive list of tapas served in the adjacent restaurant, and enjoy the New Zealand craft beer on tap. Or join Bangkok’s beautiful people on the 60th floor for some swish cocktails and chit-chat.


Hidden gems
Nang Loeng Community Market
Hidden in the city’s old quarter, Nang Loeng was Bangkok’s first land market (previously it was all floating boats) and dates back 118 years. It is also the site of the first movie theatre in Thailand, a giant timber building that once played silent flicks. Wander past more than 50 food stalls here, tasting as you go. Drink thick, sweet Thai coffee, meet 89-year-old Grandma Hong, who has been cooking Thai sweets since day dot, and feast at a stall that once made curry for the royal family, and another that supplies dessert
to five-star hotels.

Museum of Floral Culture
Near the bustling Bangkok backpacker area of Khao San Road, relax in the cool, green oasis that is the Museum of Floral Culture. Spot hanging marigolds before being invited in for a cup of floral tea and a traditional Thai high tea. Sated, you can then tour this 100-year-old teak house, which still supplies flowers to the Thai royal family. There’s a gallery of black-and-white photos here that hark back to old Thailand, displays of flower craft, floral pendants, and souvenirs of floral cultures from around Asia. Renowned floral artist Sakul Intakul runs the museum and you are also free to wander through its gorgeous gardens.

In the know

Alexander Sheppard, Hotel Manager, Banyan Tree Bangkok
Top three places for eating and drinking?
As an antipodean (Sheppard is New Zealand born), I have a love for weekend breakfasts. Luka Bangkok is a quirky, semi-antique shop with a modern take on Western food. Try the breakfast cocktails and avocado on toast. There’s also Smalls, a bar run by an American guy, set in an old four-storey house with tiny creaky staircases. None of the furniture matches, nothing really works, but it’s a bit of a tourism industry bar and the place to go on a Sunday or Monday night. Upstairs at Mikkeller serves a small, fine-dining Korean degustation matched with craft beer.

You have to go to the Chao Phraya River. Everyone heads to the Grand Palace but Wat Arun and the Buddhist temple are absolutely amazing.

Daytrip recommendation?
Ayutthaya is only a couple of hours away by car. In the 1700s was the largest city in Asia and now, with its magical temples and palaces, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Secret spot
It may sound macabre but the Siriraj Medical Museum is a valuable educational resource for medical professionals. It’s an interesting mix of skeletons, cadavers of criminals and medical curiosities.

How do you spend your days off?
It’s easy to walk around Bangkok and I love exploring the little side streets, just walking for hours on end and taking in the people.

What do you love about the city?
The people. Like everyone says, it’s the Land of Smiles. Its people love having fun.

Bjorn Richardson, General Manager, 137 Pillars Suites and Residences Bangkok
Top three places for eating and drinking?
The absolute best restaurant in town is Le Normandie Grill at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – the food, the service and the venue are just perfect and if you are there, you have to go to the Bamboo Bar for a drink. The best street food is at lunchtime. And the longer the queue, the better the food. Head to Rung Ruang at Soi 26 for a beautiful tom yum noodle soup with the works for 80 baht (A$3). JP French Restaurant is a lovely little hole-in-the-wall that serves fantastic steak and frog legs.

Take a long-tail boat to Thonburi on the other side of the river and explore the canals, pass Wat Arun and drink beer you’ve been persuaded to buy from someone’s cousin, before getting off at the Grand Palace.

Daytrip recommendation?
Head to Ayutthaya, but take a guide because there is so much culture and history. Then go to the King’s Summer Palace and take a dinner cruise back to Bangkok.

Secret spot
I like to run in the Queen’s Park circuit. It’s amazingly quiet there. It also has a big pond and a bike track.

How do you spend your days off?
I’ve become a football dad and get to see parts of the region that I’ve never been to. I like to take my daughter to Peel the Limelight, a community theatre.

What do you love about the city?
The energy, and that the old and the new co-exist in harmony. There is food from all over the world. You feel safe.

Where to shop

Layers of luxe
Central Embassy
The journey at one of South-East Asia’s most luxurious shopping malls begins with gentlemen clad in hats and white gloves who greet cars on arrival. Opened one year ago, the Embassy’s six floors host Hermès, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and the like. On the ground floor, you’ll find Eathai, a sprawling upmarket food hall, serving dishes from different parts of the country.

With an appealing infinity design, shoppers are encouraged to follow the flow of the floors, past the attractions of Givenchy, Versace, Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin and Rolex. The mall even offers a personal shopper service for those seeking style advice. You can then choose to dine at the Siwilai City Club, see a movie at the Embassy Cinema, or catch up on work at the co-working space Open House.

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