For decades, this was a city that imported everything, to which strings of glitzy megamalls attests. But somewhere along the way, Thailand began to foster its own considerable creative pool. Travellers looking to tap into the zeitgeist should venture past the backpacker cocoon of Khao San Road and make their way towards nearby Phra Athit Road, a boho hangout with live music venues and restaurants near the Chao Phraya river, then make a beeline for Chinatown.
On Soi Nana, off Charoen Krung Road, minutes from Cantonese holes-in-the-wall and stores selling traditional herbal remedies, shophouses are being refurbished into galleries and unpretentious bars.
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Booming, chaotic, at times overwhelming, but never, ever boring, Bangkok is more culturally diverse, complex and compelling than ever. Artha Gallery keeps the emphasis on regional talent from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Over in Sathorn, head to Sathorn 11 Art Space , which features exhibitions on the ground floor and four resident artist studios above, and H Gallery , with edgy works by Asian artists in a converted mansion. Closer to the riverside, be sure to visit Bridge and The Jam Factory , housed in a sprawling multipurpose complex designed by starchitect Duangrit Bunnag.
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An industrial space with eclectic collections, Speedy Grandma fills up with creative types at weekends. Treading the line between gallery and bar, Cho Why is one of several revamped shophouses injecting new energy into Chinatown. Events range from a street-art fest to a rooftop paella party. Go early or late, when the tropical temperatures are more forgiving, as navigating the 27 sections can prove a dizzying experience. Plan for a post-shopping sundowner at Viva 8 , a ramshackle bar with excellent mojitos where DJs spin house.
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After visiting the requisite temples — Wat Saket for the view, Wat Phra Kaew for the glittering, gilded everything, and Wat Pho for a massage — and seeing all manner of standing, sitting and reclining Buddhas — head to the Thonburi side of the river for this lesser-known cultural gem: a teak house decorated with quirky sculptures.
Shadow puppet performances, a traditional art that is becoming increasingly scarce, are worth seeing, but be sure to call ahead, as showtimes are irregular. If the concrete jungle becomes a bit wearing, consider a cycling trip over to Phra Pradaeng, a mangrove-covered peninsula on the western side of the Chao Phraya. Keep your eyes peeled for rib-sticking jook rice porridge with pork crackling and raw egg , comforting khao mun gai chicken and rice or its rarer, biryani-inspired cousin khao mok gai , crispy hoi tod eggy mussel or oyster pancakes , fatty khao kha moo meltingly tender braised pork leg with gravy , Isaan-style jim jum hot pot , and the ubiquitous trio of gai yaang , som tom and khao niew grilled chicken with spicy papaya salad and sticky rice.
For sugar fiends, khao niew mamuang mango sticky rice is a dependable go-to, but consider branching out to khanom krok custardy coconut confections and the dangerously craveable kluay kaek deep-fried bananas in a coconut batter. Victory Monument and the surrounding area has an abundance, as do Silom and the historic areas of the city. Chinatown , especially Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads, is packed with stalls that have been serving the same dishes for generations. It might have started out as an artisanal pickle cannery in a hostel, but this eatery is currently whipping up some of the most interesting fare in town.
Chef Napol Jantraget delights in genre-bending plates like charcoal-grilled squid with fingeroot glaze, black garlic paste, popped rice berries, roasted peanuts and local sour greens that are rooted in Thai traditions, but also draw on his time at a brasserie in Toronto. The lack of a cover charge and the rollicking house party vibe help explain why the crowds keep coming, even when the tiny joint is past capacity.
Now it sits there abandoned, far too big for anyone to do anything with, unless you fancy a climb? At the bottom of the tower are some security guards and you will need to pay them but once that is complete you are free to tackle the tower. The views from the top are breath taking and will make the long hard climb up the unfinished tower worth it.
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The name of the park originated from the Lord Buddha who was born in Nepal. It is not unusual when you walk through the park to see the older Thai generation practicing their Thai Chi or a romantic couple relaxing by the side of the lake. At the weekends the park is full of people taking part in all sorts of activities so a great time to go is early morning or just before sunset.
Every major city has its own Chinatown and Bangkok is no exception to this, you know you have arrived when you walk through the ceremonial Chinese gates and into Chinatown itself. Packed full of street stalls and restaurants the choice of places to eat will be endless, nowhere else in Bangkok will you get to try as many different kinds of Chinese food as you can here, especially at such good prices. If it is gold you are on the lookout for it is said that this is also the best place in Bangkok to look.
There are various places in Bangkok where you can go for a drink at the end of the day but none will have the view of Bangkok that the Vertigo and Moon bar has. Sitting on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel you can look out and see the beautiful skyline of Bangkok in all of its glory. As soon as you reach the top you are straight outside so this is not the place to be if you are afraid of heights, the designers have made the rooftop in such a way that you get a complete degree view of the city with no obstructions.
With Thai people choosing to eat almost every meal out instead of cooking at home the popularity of street food has never been stronger. Every busy road will have street food vendors selling their products to the locals and tourists alike, the prices are low because this is where the Thais choose to eat their meals as well. You have probably heard of Pad Thai but there is so much more to street food that this one dish. You will get stalls selling all sorts of foods from Som Tam papaya salad to Squid, all cooked in front of you ready for consumption straight away.
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There are also some amazing food tours available. With the roads of Bangkok being as congested as they are, getting from one place to another can often seem like a daunting task. For most places you can get a sky train but for those that you cannot it is a good option to take a motorcycle taxi, unlike a traditional taxi or a tuk-tuk these guys will take you on the back of their motorcycle to anywhere you want to go. There is no measuring how far the journey is so once you have paid your fair the driver will want to be there in a rush. Sit back and relax as your driver weaves through the traffic to get you to your location.
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The whole of Thailand is full of kickboxing stadiums but the biggest fights happen in Bangkok, normally at either the Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen stadiums. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and it is talked about everywhere. The viewing figures on TV are some of the highest for any show that is aired. An evening spent at the stadium is sure to be action packed as the locals get so immersed in the fights that the atmosphere reaches fever pitch. There is usually somebody walking around taking bets as well if that is of interest to you. Dusit Zoo is the oldest zoo in Thailand and has been open for over 60 years.
There is a large range of animals inside the zoo approximately including monkeys, alligators, lions, tigers, penguins and kangaroos. The zoo is very much a working zoo and has an animal hospital which looks after all of the inhabitants of the zoo as well as an education center, museum and train. Celebrated each year between the 13th and 15th of April Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year festival and nobody is safe from getting wet. In the Buddhist religion it is believed that by sprinkling water your sins and bad luck will be washed away.
Today the sprinkling of water has turned into a full on water fight that the whole country gets involved in. Want to party with like-minded travelers? Then check out this bar crawl tour. An absolute must for all tourists to Bangkok, in most puppet shows the puppeteers are hidden from view but not in this show. The puppeteers are part of the show and it takes three people to control each puppet. The puppets tell out a classic folk tale whilst a live orchestra plays music to add to the atmosphere.
The set design and craftsmanship that goes into making the props is magnificent as is the technique of the artists as well. Thai silk is famous the world over and nowhere will you find a better place to learn about the history behind this craft. As you walk around the house you will not only learn the history of The Thai Silk Company but also the fascinating history of Jim Thompson himself.
The house itself is more of a complex with six traditional teak structures forming the complete dwelling. There are more than 31, Buddhist temples spread out across Thailand and this one is one that you really want to see. The temple is named after Aruna, the God of Dawn. Situated on the bank of the Chao Phraya River is this beautiful temple that stands at 79 metres tall. The tower is covered in ceramic tiles and coloured porcelain making for an incredible sight when you catch it in the right light.
The temple itself is guarded by a pair of mythical giants that keep watch over the temple grounds.
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