This is a city that welcomes visitors but is complex in both history and layout. There’s a reason that people come back time and time again: this is not a place you can fully comprehend with just one trip. The Thai capital is both socially tolerant and deeply conservative; its businesses are often friendly but difficult to find. It’s a city where both an old monarchy and a young creative class find common ground.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Say hello: You may want to take Thailand’s traditional wai gesture back home with you. The pressed palms and slight bow that will greet you when meeting people is both charming and efficient.
  2. Finding your way: Bangkok’s system of streets and addresses doesn’t conform to anything found elsewhere in the world. Thankfully, GPS works pretty well here.
  3. Tread carefully: Pavements (where they exist) have a tendency to disappear, motorcyclists often ride against the direction of the traffic and vehicles of all kinds are unlikely to give you right of way.
  4. Keen and serene: Thai people are famous for their hospitality and smiles. Confrontation is not something that the people of Bangkok are comfortable with; raising your voice is unlikely to get you anything but ignored.
  5. Ride on time: There’s no way around it: traffic in Bangkok can be unbearable. Make sure your schedule allows for some flexibility.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. Cabochon, Wattana

    Shanghai-style bolthole

    If you want to be within walking distance of the buzzing bars and restaurants around Sukhumvit Road but also need somewhere peaceful to retreat to, the vintage-flavoured Cabochon is ideally located.

  2. The Peninsula Bangkok, Khlongsan

    Five-star treatment

    Masseurs from around the world are trained in the Peninsula Spa, located next to the main hotel. There is no better place to revive.

  3. Villa Chakrabongse, Tatien

    Regal surroundings

    Guests have access to a beautiful pool area and dining pavilion with lovely views over the river and various landmark temples. The majority of rooms have private terraces or balconies.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Farang: Westerner
  2. Khob khun kaa: Thank you (if you’re a woman)
  3. Khob khun kup: Thank you (if you’re a man)
  4. Leow Kwaa: Turn right
  5. Leow Saai: Turn left
  6. Pood Thai mai dai: I don’t speak Thai

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Soulfood Mahanakorn, Thonglor

    Vital visit

    Step into Soulfood Mahanakorn for a menu that draws together dishes from all over Thailand; the yam makrua yao salad of smoky and sour aubergine, soft-cooked duck eggs, coriander and mint is a typical Bangkok dish.

  2. BoLan, Thonglor

    Thai twists

    This intimate restaurant takes traditional Thai food up a notch. Located over a series of rooms across the ground floor of a beautifully converted house, BoLan is best appreciated at dinner when you can choose from one of two set menus.

  3. Bamee Gua, Pathumwan

    Tucked-away treasure

    Bamee Gua is everything most street-food spots are not: bright and clean, with dishes made almost completely from scratch. The egg noodles and deep-fried wontons come with a sweet plum sauce based on the family patriarch’s recipe.

  4. Eathai, Central Embassy, Pathumwan

    Pick and choose

    This comfortable and well-designed space is found on the basement floor of Central Embassy and serves food from nearly every region of the country.

  5. WTF Café & Gallery, Thonglor

    Swear by it

    WTF is a destination for Bangkok’s creative community. The casual bar sits below a gallery curated by Somrak Sila, who runs the place with photographer Christopher Wise.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. Woodensubmarine, Wattana

    Born in the USA

    Founder Sikkawat Jirawith is a pioneer of the city’s American-vintage trend and his shop is one of Southeast Asia’s best spots for vintage menswear. Hawaiian shirts from the 1940s to 1960s sit alongside loafers and brogues.

  2. Beams, Wattana

    Tokyo casual

    Japanese brand Beams has transported its tasteful take on everyday clothes for men and women south to the EmQuartier complex in Bangkok, its first outpost in Southeast Asia. Shop here for the label’s casual clothing, accessories and footwear.

  3. Anyroom, Khlongsan

    Select line-up

    Here you’ll be drawn to wooden desks, tables and chairs built for durability, while easy-to-pack pieces such as ceramics, clocks and candles are perfect for gifts.

  4. MoWaan, Phranakhon

    Medicinal purposes

    Herbal cosmetics and remedies are presented in glass bottles; the staff help to heal everything from hangovers to more long-term ailments.

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