14 AUG 2019: Welcome to the capital of the Kingdom of Thailand where east and west, ancient and modern, exotic and erotic, calm and chaotic, clash and collide in the most delightful ways. When it comes to wish lists, Bangkok ticks most boxes. Cultural attractions and rich history? Tick. Great food? Everywhere. Good shopping? Yep. Fabulous spas. Nothing beats a Thai massage. Vibrant nightlife? A resounding yes.

Here’s how get the most bang for your baht in the Land of Smiles.

Note: all prices approximated in Canadian dollars.

THE “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE” SPLURGE LIST

Sweet Dreams at the Sukothai

As the first capital of Siam, the Sukothai Kingdom (1238 ato1438) was the cradle of Thai civilization – the birthplace of Thai art, architecture and language. At The Sukothai Bangkok hotel, a chic sanctuary in the middle of the city, guests enjoy supreme service, large rooms with traditional teak and silk décor, infinity-edged pool, lily ponds, professional gym, spa and choice of Thai, Italian or International restaurants. The breakfast buffet offers everything from dim sum to smoked salmon to eggs Bennie, plus a fresh juice bar. Guests in Club wing enjoy complimentary afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails. Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and the Back Street Boys have succumbed to the charms of this serene oasis.
www.sukhothai.com

Thai High Tea

To celebrate its 140th anniversary, the Oriental completed a $25 million renovation of its historic Authors’ and Garden Wings.

Consider a Thai High Tea in the Authors’ Lounge where luminaries such as Joseph Conrad, W. Summerset Maugham, Jeffrey Archer and John Le Carré have supped. The lemongrass, chilli, lime and crabmeat sandwiches are exquisite, as are mango scones and tartlets. There’s a tempting list of teas and infusions, specially created for the hotel by the prestigious Parisian teahouse of Mariage Frères. It’s a poetic finale to a blissful day in Bangkok.
www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok

Star Spangled Bangkok

In 2017 the red Michelin Guide published its first Bangkok edition listing a kaleidoscope of dining options—from slurping street food noodles to enjoying a multi-course tasting menu in a five-star hotel or glitzy shopping mall. At the one-starred Paste, chef Bee creates dishes based on ancient recipes that once delighted the royal family. Among the highlights of her delicious repertoire is a Thai crab omelette with 31 flavours.
www.pastebangkok.com

Red Sky at Night

As Bangkok’s skyline soars, rooftop bars abound. Red Sky atop the Centara Grand hotel and shopping mall is a stylish spot with panoramic views from its 55th floor. Imbibe some bubbles at the Cru Champagne Bar along with some caviar and oysters. We’re talking sky food, not street food—with prices to match.
www.champagnecru.com

Silk Road

Jim Thompson, an American who revitalized the silk industry in Thailand, was a US military intelligence officer who went on vacation in Malaysia in 1967 and mysteriously disappeared. But his silk legacy lives on. His shops sell beautiful creations, large and small. You will also dine well at Jim Thompson Bar & Restaurant located in Jim Thompson House Museum.
www.jimthompson.com


THE “CHEAP THRILLS” SAVE LIST

Blind Hope

Perception Blind Massage employs visually impaired therapists and offers a variety of massages. At reception I was given a laminated card introducing me to my therapist, Ben. Her profile informed me she was 43 years old, totally blind due to macular degeneration and that she had a good sense of humour. She also had a great sense of touch as I discovered during our two-hour traditional Thai massage ($35). Perception has two locations in Bangkok.
www.perceptionblindmassage.com


Local Knowledge

Explore the City of Angels with a guide from Smiling Albino via public transportation. The tour starts aboard a longtail boat cutting through the canals of “Little Bangkok. Hop a tuk-tuk to one of the city’s oldest temples, Wat Pho where with luck you’ll get a blessing from a saffron-robed monk. A trip through the flower market, overflowing with marigolds, roses and lotus blossoms, explains where most of the garlands and floral displays that adore the many spirit houses originate. Cost is $125 US per person. Smiling Albino also offers cycling, nightlife and Chinatown tours of Bangkok.
www.smilingalbino.com


Culture and Hedonism

Bangkok has more than 400 temples but if there’s one must-see it’s the Grand Palace, a square mile of gilded royal temples and palaces proving that nothing succeeds like excess. The ornate Wat Phra Keo houses the famous Emerald Buddha (actually it’s made of jade). Take a tuk-tuk to the neighbouring Wat Pho, famous for its enormous Reclining Buddha and it’s ancient school of Thai medicine and massage, so you can combine culture and hedonism in one visit. A one-hour massage costs about $16. You can also enroll in various massage lessons and become immensely popular with your friends back home.
www.watpomassage.com

Trip the Night Fantastic

For those of you who loved hunting for treasures at the night market in Lumpini Park, the bad news is that is no long exists; the good news is that there’s a new even better evenings only attraction called Asiatique The Riverfront open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight. Catch the free 10-minute ferry from Sathorn Pier (Skytrain stop Taksin) across the Chao Phraya River. The refurbished 100-year-old sawmill has more than 1,500 boutiques housed in nine warehouses. Shop for anything from hip new fashions to traditional Thai handicrafts. I got some aromatherapy oils, silk scarves and some funky jewellery for just a few baht. Plan to dine at one of 40 eateries serving a variety of cuisines, including Japanese, Italian and pub fare. There’s also the Joe Louis Thai Puppet Theatre, Calypso cabaret and a huge Ferris wheel from which you’ll have fabulous nighttime views of downtown Bangkok.
www.asiatiquethailand.com

Getting Around

Bangkok is plagued with heavy traffic and lots of jams. Your fastest mode of transportation is the Skytrain, offering a bird’s eye view of the city in clean and blissfully air-conditioned cars. English is spoken at the ticket stations. The underground or MRT is another option. Fares range from .50 to $1.40 for both trains or you can opt for a tourist pass.
www.bangkokmetro.co.th
Tuk-tuks are fun and noisy and make good photo ops. However, a taxi might be cheaper. If you hail a tuk-tuk, agree on a price before getting in and prepare to haggle hard. Beware of a cheap trip to a tailor or gem shop.

The fast and frequent ferries along the Chao Phraya River are a good way to visit the many temples and palaces. From the main Sathorn Pier you can head upriver and stop at numerous piers all the way to Nonthaburi. Buying a tourist ticket) gets you one-day unlimited travel plus a guide to some of the riverside tourist attractions.

Get your Kicks

The normally gentle Thai people are passionate about their national sport, Thai boxing. Join the locals as they cheer for and gamble as the athletes pummel each other using most of their body parts. Bouts take place at Lumphini Stadium on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; at Ratchadamnoen Stadium on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Cost for a ringside seat is about $40.
www.rajadamnern.com

Down by the River

Bangkok River is a collaborative project by business partners to encourage visitors to explore the neighbourhoods and shops along the Chao Phraya waterway. I took an informative stroll with David Robinson who works with the Bangkok River group. We began at River City, a complex housing several shops, restaurants, antiques and photo galleries. Along our walk Robinson pointed out several historic buildings, including the East Asiatic Trading Building and Grand Post Office, now home to the Design and Creative Centre. At P. Tendercool we admired bespoke furniture made from recycled opium den beds. Housed in a building that looks like a temple, Thai Home Industries sells handcrafted cutlery, pottery and cotton shirts. In the Creative District, several warehouses have been turned into design stores and cafés. British graffiti artist Banksy would surely approve of some of the street art. Check out the River Bangkok’s excellent website and take yourself on an informative walk.
www.bangkokriver.com

The Never Ending Summer

In Bangkok’s newly gentrified River City area, The Never Ending Summer, serves updated Thai classics in a funky warehouse setting. I recommend their stir-fried morning glory and Massamun beef shank curry washed down with fresh passion fruit juice.

author

Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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