Here's what to do when you're between meetings in Bangkok.
Cruise the Khlong Saen Saep
Most tourists take a cruise along the Chao Phraya, Bangkok’s mighty temple-fringed river. But an intriguing aquatic alternative is Khlong Saen Saep, one of many canals in a city some call “the Venice of the East”. Board one of the commuter ferries that regularly buzz along this rustic waterway and you’ll gain an absorbing window into backstreet Bangkok. Tin-roofed wooden abodes, thickets of greenery and walls splashed in graffiti will catch the eye.
Get a traditional massage with herbs
“Massage” is probably the word you’ll hear more than any other in Bangkok. But be careful. Many massage parlours are mediocre; some are downright seedy. The Asia Herb Association is neither. This elegant affair, near Phrom Phong BTS, pampers clients using organic aromatic oils and traditional Thai-style herbal compresses. The 100% Pure Blend Oil Body Massage should seriously de-stress you.
Visit the King's palace
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed treasures of Bangkok’s ancient core dazzle even the most reluctant tourist. The Grand Palace – historic home of the Thai royal family – and nearby Wat Pho, which shelters a 46-metre-long reclining Buddha, are unmissable. To avoid the worst of the crowds and heat, come early (about 8.30am) and dress modestly – no bare legs or arms – or staff will issue you with unfashionable sarongs, shirts or trousers.
Stock up on souvenirs
It’s hard to leave Bangkok without a bag (or three) of souvenirs. If you’re here over a weekend, hit up Chatuchak Weekend Market, where 8000-plus stalls sell everything from T-shirts and cheesy elephant trinkets to ornate antiques and wares by emerging designers. Otherwise, go shopping in Siam’s temples of commerce. CentralWorld is a good upscale option. One standout store is Jim Thompson, which is packed with top-quality Thai silk products, including cushions and bags.
Hang out in a hip neighbourhood
Four stops north of Siam on the BTS, Ari rarely makes travellers’ itineraries but it’s one of Bangkok’s hippest neighbourhoods; a relatively laid-back, low-rise district where middle-class Thais and expats live and mingle. The trendiest hangouts line Phahon Yothin Soi 7, including arty café Porcupine; esteemed Isaan food purveyor Lay Lao; and Salt, a cocktail bar serving sushi, pizza and frogs’ legs.
Top image: The Grand Palace
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