Bangkok: An insider’s view of hidden gems
It’s always a challenge, when you have out-of-towners come to visit, as to where to go and what to visit? You try to give visitors a unique and authentic view of ‘daily life’ in and around the metropolis, so new ideas are always welcome.
I touched base recently with long-time Bangkok resident David Barrett, CEO of Premier Incoming Group Services DMC, and asked him what’s on his list of favorites?
He replied: “This coming weekend I have friends of friends visiting Bangkok, for the first time. I’ve made some recommendations on what to see, suggesting a few of my gems, my secret hidden treasures! These are my top things to do for virgin visitors to the capital,” he said with his trademark cheeky grin.
Was it going to be fun or hard work I started to wonder…?
Here’s David’s list of top things to do in Bangkok with his own comments:
1. Visit the Grand Palace – this is very touristy but a must. In recent years, with the flood of Chinese group tours descending on tourist sites, at peak times, visitors have to jostle through the palace grounds and it can get pretty hot. No shorts or open shoes
2. Reclining Buddha – if you’re going to visit a Thai temple, this is THE one to see for that selfie by the giant golden reclining Buddha statue.
3. A canal cruise is a must, as Bangkok was the Venice of the East, and whilst most of the canals are not visible today, on the Thonburi side, the city remains less developed; you step into a time warp and experience the local Thai way of riverside life.
- Drinks on a rooftop – Sirocco’s rooftop bar atop Le Bua Hotel is THE place to have a drink around sunset (6.30pm). It’s also VERY pricey. VERTIGO at the Banyan Tree is still pricey but not stratospherically expensive like Sirocco and delivers a similar experience. I still think it’s worth investing in a drink or two and hitting the heights of Sirocco’s Sky Bar.
5. Local temple and local community – there are some wonderful hidden treasures where you can still see the essence of Thai village life and serene temple at the center of the community, tucked away down side streets of Bangkok. A walk to experience the authentic side of the city, and off the tourist route.
6. If you like seafood and you’re up for a culinary caper, the spicy and fragrant Tom Yum shrimp or mixed seafood soup, an iconic Thai dish, is a must to savor and some of the best are served up by street-side vendors.
7. Market, market and markets! Thais love shopping as do most tourists and there’s countless options for shopping. The brand new riverside modern ICONSIAM mall and night-time Asiatique are both riverside and offer good retail therapy. My two favorites are still Chatuchak Weekend Market with its endless stalls and sauna-like covered side alleys. Go local and visit the Siam Rot Fai night market. Filled with mostly Thais and Asian visitors strolling past stalls selling trinkets and T-shirts.
8. Try a Thai massage, on your first day, to sooth any jetlag, either by the blind masseuse at Wat Po, or in more modern surrounds of Healthland. For a few extra Baht, it’s well worth a visit to Oasia Spa on Sukhumvit Road. For me the ultimate spa in Bangkok is Mandarin Oriental’s spa which comes with a higher price tag, but a totally luxuriating experience.
9. Few visitors do this, but a visit to the Scala cinema, to catch the latest movie, makes for an authentic modern-Thai experience. Soak up the Seventies, as you climb the sweeping staircase.
10. Jump aboard the train packed with locals for the Wong Wian Yai station to Mahachai market.
11. If you’re up for a pretty busy day, you could pack in the following; canal cruise, Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha Temple (Wat Po), Golden Mount, a massage, back to the hotel to freshen up and then sunset drinks at Sky Bar, Sirocco, then head to bustling Chinatown for a bowl of Tom Yum soup. You’d certainly capture the best sites in one day, feel like you walked a mini marathon and burnt up some serious calories. I’d suggest hiring a tour guide to whisk you around the best of Bangkok in a day, as I think it unwise for a first-time visitor to try D-I-Y if you want to see it all. ”
About the Author
Born in Yorkshire, England, Andrew was educated at Batley Grammar School and Napier University, Edinburgh. He started his career in London. His first posting overseas was with Hilton International, in Paris, and he later arrived in Asia in 1991 with his appointment as Director of Marketing at the Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok and has remained in Thailand ever since. Andrew has also worked with the Royal Garden Resort Group (Vice President) and the Landmark Group (Vice President of Sales and Marketing). Latterly he has been the General Manager at the Royal Cliff Group of Hotels in Pattaya and the Chaophya Park Hotel Bangkok & Resorts. Andrew is currently President of Skål International Bangkok and Vice President Skål Int’l Asia (Southeast) and continues to travel and write.