Equal parts chaos and calm, Thailand’s capital is an ideal spot to both slow down and speed up, a place where skyscrapers abut seventeenth-century temples, bustling markets shroud sophisticated spas, and gemstones glisten not far from the throngs. Beginning in July, short bouts of rainfall help mitigate the heat and ensure extra elbow room for those exploring Wat Pho, home to the country’s largest collection of Buddha images, and the Grand Palace, where Siam’s great kings resided from the 1780s until the beginning of the twentieth century.
Where to Eat
Before its impending closure in 2020, a visit to Gaggan (68/1 Soi Langsuan) is in order. Ranked seventh on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, the progressive Indian establishment is known for its playful tasting menu, which uses emoji in lieu of explanations of courses. A taco, a pepper, and a pig, for example, might translate to akami (tuna) tartare, chili bonbons, and pork vindaloo.
For traditional Thai food with an eco-conscience, head to Bo.lan (24 Sukhumvit 53), which serves homey stir-fries, salads, and coconut curries family-style in a romantic teak house. Fans of the chef’s zero-carbon-footprint cuisine can opt for a hands-on cooking class offered on the first Thursday of every month.
In the kingdom of pad thai, contemporary German fare may seem an unlikely bet, but Sühring (10 Yen Akat Soi 3), with its tranquil gardens, homemade spätzle, and Berlin-born twin chefs, provides respite from Bangkok’s buzzing streets and spicy bites. Don’t miss the Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth), the brothers’ take on a rustic apple, potato, and black pudding classic.
Where to Drink
When rooftop bars are a dime a dozen, it’s hard to decide where to refuel. Perched 800 feet above the ground, the whisky-only Alfresco 64 (1055 Silom Road) offers the city’s best views, in addition to an elegant luxury-yacht design and rare whisky selections.
For local booze and xylophone beats, visit Tep Bar (69-71 Soi Rammaitri), an unassuming watering hole down a Chinatown alley. Its herb-infused liquors are said to have healing powers. Perhaps they cure touring-weary feet?
Where to Shop
With 15,000 stalls stretched across 35 acres, Chatuchak Weekend Market off Kamphaeng Phet Road is not for the claustrophobic – but it’s a souvenir gold mine. Bring your poker face and haggle over celadon ceramics, essential oils, and modern art.
Specializing in bespoke pieces, S.J. International (125/8 Sawankhalok Road) is a trusted source for sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. The family-owned jeweler also carries Kavant & Sharart, an edgier line designed by the owner’s son that’s favored by Hollywood celebrities and European royalty.
Where to Stay
In the financial district, the sleek 229-room St. Regis Bangkok gives travelers easy access to the city, with butler service and signature Siam Marys to boot. On alternating Sundays, catch horse races at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club from the hotel’s terrace or one of its view rooms.
Tucked on the eastern side of the Chao Phraya River, the 39-room Siam Hotel evokes Bangkok’s grandeur under the reign of Rama V with lush indoor courtyards and exquisite antiques. For a slug of cultural immersion, guests can take a muay Thai boxing class or immortalize their trip with a sacred sak yant tattoo.