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DAY 1: EXPLORE RATTANAKOSIN ISLAND
Grand Palace photo by Panita Thiraphapong
If you’re going to the 1.) Grand Palace (Na Phra Lan Rd., 02-623-5500. Open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. B500), it’s best to get there as early as possible to beat the worst of the heat. While it will inevitably be full of tourists, the great Buddhist architecture of Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) makes it well worth a visit. Plus, other buildings and throne halls within the Palace grounds are actually less crowded and architecturally very beautiful. Save the ticket because you can use it to enter Dusit Palace
within seven days.
Note: no sleeveless tops and only long trousers or skirts, otherwise you’ll need to rent an item of clothing to cover up.
Within a few minutes’ walk of the palace is the latest riverside (and bike-friendly) community mall, 2.) Tha Maharaj
(1/11 Trok Mahathat, Maharaj Rd., 02-866-3163). While stores are still slowly opening, it’s got a chill riverside Starbucks as well as a few other cafes like Creamery Boutique Ice Cream
(094-196-9169) and the new Gram Cafe
(02-866-3163-4) from the same people as the Sukhumvit Soi 49 branch. After Tha Maharaj, make your way down Maharaj Road to check out the food stalls around Tha Phra Chan Pier, which sell stuff like moo tod and sticky rice and grilled squid. It’s also home to the 3.) Amulet Market
, which gets busiest on Sundays. Right by the gate of 4.) Thammasat University
, be sure to grab the decently priced frozen yogurt at the ice cream joint Dairy Mix
—a students’ favorite.
Hop on a boat and cross over to 5.) Wang Lang Pier to check out the vintage and second-hand clothes at very pocket-friendly prices. There are also lots of snack stalls, like the well-known bread loaves of Wang Lang Bakery (113 Soi Wang Lang Plaza, Arun Amarin Rd., 02-866-1649), super cheap sushi at Sushi Wang Lang (Soi Wang Lang, Arun Amarin Rd., 02-866-8828), and all sorts of Thai dishes lined up as you stroll through the tiny alleys.
Buddhaisawan Chapel photo by Chotima Sitthichaiviset
While on Rattanakosin Island, make time to check out some of the city’s oldest museums. You’ve got the 6.) National Museum (Na Phra That Rd., 02-215-8173. Open Wed-Sun 9am-4pm), where you’ll find antiques ranging from jewelry to ancient Siamese weaponry (just be aware that many of the exhibition rooms are under renovation), as well as the 7.) National Theatre, where you can watch traditional performances throughout the year. The next show is the khon dance performance of Ramakien on May 3 at 2pm. Reserve your seat at 02-224-1342. Walk under the Phra Pinklao Bridge if you want to make a stop at the 8.) National Gallery (4 Chao-Fa Road, opposite the National Theatre, 02-282-2639. www.thailandmusuem.com/national_gallery. Open Wed-Sun 9am-4pm), which is currently hosting The Autopsies - Lives in BKK, an exhibition by a group of contemporary artists.
Ministry of Defense by Lily Kittisrikangwan
Next, make merit at 9.) City Pillar Shrine (Mahachai Rd. Open daily 7am-5pm)—a favorite of locals looking to escape Wat Phra Kaew’s crowds. Here, you can do traditional things like merit-making and gold gilding without having to suffer the stress of hundreds of tourists. It’s also right next to the well-preserved, Western-style 10.) Ministry of Defense (Ratchadamnoen Nai Rd., 02-225-0098), constructed in 1882 and featuring a front yard filled with cannons and other artillery. A walk down Rachini Road will take you to the rather Spanish-looking 11.) Saranrom Palace and the pretty 12.) Saranrom Park (Rachini Rd.), where you can stop for a breather under the shade.
Museum Siam photo by Panita Thiraphapong
From Saranrom Park, it’s just a short walk to 13.) Museum Siam
(Maharaj Rd., 02-225-2777. www.ndmi.or.th.
Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm), also known as the National Discovery Museum, which hosts multimedia presentations and interactive panels, as well as a permanent exhibition that takes you through the history of Siamese communities.
Note: A B199 Muse Pass gets you free entry into 20 museums and momuments across Bangkok, including Museum Siam, Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall and Phayathai Palace. Available on Thaiticketmajor and at participating Museums. More info at 02-225-2777 ext. 505.
At the end of the day, loosen up with a massage at the original branch of 14.) Wat Pho Massage School (392/33-34 Soi Maharaj, Maharaj Rd. 02-688-3551, open daily from 6am-5pm). Travelers come from all over the world to experience what’s considered to be the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. It’s B260 for an hour of Thai massage, B280 for a 30-minute foot massage, or B420 for an hour.
There are a few nice choices to dine by the river, like 15.) The Deck
at the quaint Arun Residence hotel (Maharaj Rd., 02-221-9158). Pick an outdoor seat, or ask for seating upstairs for a nice view of the river and a more chilledout vibe. Alternatively, try 16.) Eat Sight Story
(Maharaj Rd., 02-622-2163), which was once used as a commercial dock.
Sala Rattanakosin photo by Nut Onaree
Afterwards, grab a drink on the rooftop of the stylish 17.) Sala Rattanakosin
(39 Maharaj Rd., 02-622-1388), right at the end of Tha Tien Alley. With stunning views of Wat Arun and the calm Chao Phraya River at night, it can feel like you’ve left the city.
What are your favorite local eateries?
Wanladda Nanthaphoonsap, partner of Creamery Boutique Ice Cream, Tha Maharaj Branch
“I really like the street food around here, so usually cross over to Wang Lang to see what they’re selling. My favorite is the yum (Thai spicy salad).”
DAY 2: SLOW LIFE ON RATCHADAMNOEN
Kopi Hya Tai Kee photo by Chotima Sitthichaiviset
Start the day with a classic kai gata set (fried egg in an aluminum pan, Chinese sausages, green peas and ground pork) and a cup of strong kopi (coffee) at the retro coffee house 18.) Kopi Hya Tai Kee
(Wisutkasat Intersection, Phra Sumen Rd., 02-629-0446). Then, take a stroll down Ratchadamnoen Klang Road
, which was built during the reign of King Rama V and modeled after Paris’s Champs Elysees. The buildings on either side of the road are kept to no more than 3-4 stories, and their facades largely preserved from when they were first built.
Wat Phu Kao Thong
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall photo by Chotima Sitthichaiviset
Learn the area’s history at the 19.) Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall (Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd., 02-621-0044. Open Tue-Sun 10am-7pm), an interactive twohour exhibition that brings to life Rattanakosin’s old communities, traditions and palaces. It’s B100 per visit for all visitors (free for Rabbit card holders and buy one get one ticket free for True users), with a new tour starting every 20 minutes. Once you reach the fourth floor of the tour, the True Coffee shop at the top has panoramic views of 20.) Wat Phu Kao Thong (1344 Boriphat Rd., 02-621-2280. Open 8am-5pm), also known as Golden Mount, Prakarn Fort, and the only surviving 21.) Loha Prasart (metal castle) in the world (Mahachai Rd., 02-224-8807. Open daily 9am-5pm).
Note: If you’re willing to brave the heat, you can climb the Golden Mount for a 360-degree view of the Old Town. Otherwise, just wait until both temples light up at night to get amazing pictures of the iconic intersection.
Democracy Monument photo by Panita Thiraphapong
The 22.) Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center
(84 Ratchadamnoen Klang., 02-422-8827), adjacent to the Exhibition Hall, is one of Bangkok’s most interesting modern galleries. Nearby you’ll also find a little record store called 23.) Tonchabab Record Shop
(Boonsiri Rd., 081-486-7528), which is worth a browse even if you don’t collect vinyl.
Giant Swing photo by Panita Thiraphapong
It’s just a short stroll from there down Dinso Road, which leads off 24.) Democracy Monument. As you walk past the small Ban Bat community, you’ll eventually see 25.) City Hall and the red 26.) Giant Swing, right by 27.) Wat Suthat. Don’t miss the milk-toast joint 28.) Mon Nomsod (160/1-3 Dinsor Rd., 02-224-1447) on the other side of the street—it’s always packed out.
Dialogue Coffee and Gallery
In fact, there are lots of cafes down Phra Sumen Road
, where locals love to spend the entire afternoon with a good read and a cup of joe. Popular stops include the bike-friendly 29.) Dialogue Coffee and Gallery
(533 Phra Sumen Rd., 084-754-8799), the quiet travel book hub 30.) Passport Bookshop
(Phra Sumen Rd., 02-629-0694) and the tiny 31.) Bamsha Cafe
(507 Phra Sumen Rd., 093-860-9545).
The Old Town has some of the best restaurants in Bangkok right now. Local gem 32.) Seven Spoons
(22-24 Chakkaphatdi Phong Rd., 02-629-9214) serves up Mediterranean-inspired dishes like crab ravioli and quinoa salad in a softly-lit one-story establishment. If you’re more of a burger-and-beer person, the same people own 33.) Mad Moa
on the other side of the road (22-25 Chakkaphatdi Phong Rd., 085-155-2601).
After dinner, head over to 34.) Brown Sugar
(469 Phra Sumen Rd., 089-499-1378) for some live jazz music. It’s often graced by talented local jazz vocalists from The Voice Thailand like Natt Buntita and The Attention Please Band.
You’re also sorted for a drunken late-night bowl of rice soup at either 35.) Khao Tom Wat Bowon (02-629-1739) or 36.) Khao Tom Fah Mui (552 Phra Sumen Rd.) on Phra Sumen Road. Otherwise, a 10-minute walk down Mahachai Road takes you to 37.) Pad Thai Pratu Phee (313-315 Mahachai Rd., 02-221-6280. Open daily 5pm-2am), although beware: the queue is mega long all the time and it won’t be a budget choice, especially the B140 orange juice.
What are your favorite local spots?
Krissada Sukosol Clapp, hotelier, actor, singer
“Seven Spoons and Brown Sugar are my favorites. At Seven Spoons, I love their tapas appetizers, which are both cheap and delicious. I love collecting old stuff in my spare time so often visit this small curiosities shop called Dang, and on the way there I stop by Dialogue for a coffee. “
DAY 3: BEST OF THE REST
Dusit Palace photo by Panita Thiraphapong
Start the day with a local brunch at 38.) Nang Loeng Market (Trok Nang Loeng 1, Nakhon Sawan Rd. Open daily around 10am-1pm). Not your typical hotel buffet, this place dates back over a hundred years, though has since been renovated into a food-focused hub with a Chinese-Hainanese slant. Across the road is another popular spot for Chinese food, 39.) Jib Gee (355-359, Nakhon Sawan Rd., 0-2281-1283), which is guaranteed to sell out completely by 1pm.
A short drive takes you to 40.) Dusit Palace (U-Thong Nai Rd., 02-281-5454, 02-628-6300-9. Open daily 9:30am-4pm), another of the Western-influenced architectural relics built after King Rama V’s royal visit to France. Highlights include the Thai Contemporary-European influenced Vimanmek Royal Teak Mansion (B100 with an English-speaking tour guide), the moorish Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall and the grand Italian-Renaissance Anantasamakhom Throne Hall, but there are other well-preserved smaller buildings, monuments and gardens within the grounds.
Thewarat Market photo by Panita Thiraphapong
Sample the famous southern yellow curry with lotus stems and shrimp at the simple but popular restaurant 41.) Krua Apsorn (Samsen Rd., 02-668-8788). Their coconut-juice ice cream is also refreshing on a hot day. While in the area, you can also shop for fresh produce at 42.) Thewarat Market, or cross over the canal for a spot of plant shopping. The bustling Thewet intersection is always full of office workers during lunch hours.
Later in the afternoon, we like to cross over the Rama VIII Bridge to the relatively obscure 43.) Suan Luang Rama VIII park and just enjoy the breeze by the river in one of the pavilions, with a view of the Bang Khun Prom Palace on the Phra Nakhon side.
Go veggie for dinner at the innovative and homey 44.) Thamna Hometaurant (175 Samsen Rd., 02-282-4979) or 45.) May Kai Dee (33 Samsen Rd., 089-137-3173), or just stick to a good alfresco Thai dinner with a view of the iconic bridge at 46.) Steve Cuisine by the Pier (68 Sri Ayutthaya Soi 21 (Thewet), 081-868-0744), which now has a second branch downtown in Ari.
After dinner, laze around with a glass of wine on the comfy sofa on the second floor of 47.) Cinema Winehouse
(61 Samsen Rd., 096-465-6526), or head to the old blues institution 48.) Adhere 13th Blues Bar
(13 Samsen Rd., 089-769-4613) for some live music.
Mulligan’s Irish Pub
If you still don’t want to call it a night, the tourist hub 49.) Khao San Road
is a short walk from Adhere. Mulligan’s Irish Pub
(Khao San Rd., 02-629-4477) and Brick Bar
(Khao San Rd., 02-629-4556) always fill up with both locals and traveling backpackers. For others though, ending the night in the relatively less busy Soi Rambutri at the original 50.) Bombay Blues
(Soi Rambutri, 095-520-1515) and munching away on some spicy snacks on the sofa in one of the outdoor tents isn’t half bad either.
What are your favorite local eateries?
Chef Somkiat “Joke” Pairojmahakij, Seven Spoons
I sometimes go to Talad Nang Loeng for some really good noodles at Suwimol Guay Tiew Kae. There’s also really good roasted duck at this traditional Chinese joint called Jib Gee, right across the street on Nakhon Sawan Road. Guay Tiew Nua Nai Soei is also another local favorite, right on Phra Athit Road.
To make the most of your staycation, here are our top hotels in the area.
We love: The budget prices and friendly staff
Nearby: Correction Museum and Ratchadamnoen Klang
196/3-8 Ratchadamnoen Rd., 086-771-6488.
We love: The amazing view of Wat Arun and all the nearby riverside restaurants
Nearby: Wat Pho and the Grand Palace
47-49 Soi Ta-Tien, Maharaj Rd., 02-622-2933
We love: The 1920s Italian-style mansion setting and very fancy royal Thai dining
Nearby: Wat Arun
We love: The quirky but cozy rooms, complimentary organic breakfast, and the rooftop garden
Nearby: Krua Apsorn, Samsen Road
46 Thewet Soi 1, 02-628-8188
The Siam Hotel
We love: The amazing Art Deco rooms and private vintage cinema
Nearby: Dusit Palace, Rama V Monument