Just one day to spend in alluring Bangkok? No problem. We run down the must-see, -do and -stay of this stunning city for an utterly unforgettable 24 hours.
For travelers en route to far flung and distant destinations, the stopover can be a necessary and often tiresome part of the bargain. But in Southeast Asia, the behemoth that is Suvarnabhumi airport represents not only an aviation hub but the gateway to Bangkok, and for those in the know, time to kill in the glittering “City of Angels” can elevate the humble or irksome stopover into an adventure in its own right. Whether you’re on your way to visit the hill tribes of Myanmar or to explore the jaw-dropping national park setting of Avatar in China, chances are you’ll pass through Thailand’s cosmopolitan capital, so why not make the most of it? Here’s our guide to your 24 hours of fun and discovery in the city that has it all.
Of the myriad of available accommodation options, we have a few choice favorites, but if you’ve only got one night in Bangkok, check in to the Peninsula. This elegant beauty soars up from the banks of the Chao Phraya, designed so that every room enjoys sweeping views of the “River of Kings” and the city’s twinkling skyline. In addition to her statuesque profile, this queen among hotels boasts some of the best dining and leisure amenities in Bangkok and lures guests to return time and time again.
Take your breakfast at The River Cafe and Terrace and enjoy your morning coffee with exquisite pastries or something a little heartier while becoming acclimated to your new surroundings. Set across the river from the city, the Peninsula Bangkok is a tranquil haven, yet with its own private pier, you can hop aboard the hotel’s shuttle boat or hail a traditional longtail boat and be among the action in no time.
Once you’ve breakfasted, head upstream to the sparkling jewel in Bangkok’s royal crown, Wat Phra Keaw, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and The Grand Palace, all fitting names for this breathtaking destination. Explore the finely-wrought buildings that make up this labyrinthine complex, every detail of which is crafted with untold attention to detail, from the frescoes that sprawl across the walls in the shady inner sanctum to the tiny glass mosaic tiles covering the roofs, creating eye-popping, dancing golden sparkles.
A morning of cultural splendour and history will work up an appetite; luckily you find yourself close to Chinatown, a center of bustle and flavor offering some of the city’s best and most authentic street food. Check out Pad Thai Thip Samai on Maha Chai road, world famous for the ubiquitous dish which you can order wrapped up in an egg with chicken or fat juicy prawns.
Suitably satisfied, head across town to visit the Jim Thompson House, the beautiful traditional Thai teak house and gardens formerly home to the legendary American entrepreneur who was instrumental in developing the old Oriental hotel into what is now the Mandarin Oriental. Thompson is also known for almost single-handedly reviving the ancient Thai art of silk weaving, kick-starting the industry by showcasing the products of old Siam on the world’s stage. A tour around the house reveals fascinating insights into the man, his life and Thailand’s history and culture.
If you feel the inclination to purchase a few souvenirs, you’re in the right place. Pick up a silk scarf or tie from the Jim Thompson House, then meander through the Siam neighborhood, home to the city’s finest shops, from the bustling marketplace of MBK to the high-end designer goods in the shiny stores of Siam Paragon. Alternatively, if shopping isn’t your – ahem – bag, head back to your luxurious digs to rejuvenate in the acclaimed hotel spa where a list of indulgent treatments includes modern techniques and traditional therapies, all of which you can enjoy in sumptuous pampering rooms overlooking the river.
Once refreshed, it’s just a short hop down Sathorn Road to The Banyan Tree for sundowners on their aptly-named rooftop bar, Vertigo, where an unparalleled panorama reveals the city as it comes alive with lights. Then it’s on to The Metropolitan by Como for dinner at world-renowned Nahm. It was at the London flagship branch of the restaurant that chef David Thompson received the first Michelin star ever awarded for Thai food, and his unerring focus on striking the perfect balance of traditional Thai flavors has won him a spot in the top ten of Asia’s Best Restaurants. But really, you just have to taste his sensational menu to make your own mind up; choose from warming, flavorsome curries and succulent grills and be sure to save room for the toothsome desserts.
Afterward, there’s just enough time for a night cap in Bamboo Bar, the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s iconic jazz bar, even more elegant these days thanks to a recent facelift. Recline in a rattan chair with an expertly-mixed classic cocktail and allow yourself to be seduced by elegance and history. Finally, after an action-packed day, hop on the shuttle boat and cruise across the river back home to your luxurious suite for a good night’s sleep before your onward journey, peaceful in the knowledge you made good use of every moment on your Bangkok stopover.