Heading to Bangkok for a quick getaway? Here's how we bossed a three-day trip packed with cafe-hopping, markets and cultural attractions...
Now that we’re back at work and officially in the swing of things, it comes to no surprise that weekend escapes to our favourite South-east Asian holiday destinations are already on our mind. Think Bali for beaches, cool cafes and island living, or Bangkok for shopping, street food and thriving nightlife.
The latter is one of our top SEA spots for a girl’s getaway – last year, I went twice in a span of four months, with two separate groups of girlfriends. With every foray into the Thai city, I fall just a little bit harder for its perfect balance of culture and city chaos, and of course, its ability to match our #firstworldpriorities for Instagrammable cafes and markets. Here’s how to boss three days in Bangkok, with tips on where to eat, stay, drink and relax.
Day 1: Heritage hunting… or dive straight into shopping
The first stop on any Bangkok shopping weekend should be Platinum Mall in Pratunam. The six-storey shopping complex offers a dizzying retail experience for even the most seasoned shopaholics. Skip the top two floors and stick to the first to third storeys as these are treasure troves of affordable womenswear, menswear, bags and accessories. Prepare to bargain and bargain hard. You’ll likely need a foot massage after – it’s what Bangkok’s also known for – so either wander down or cross the street to find a spa.
But if it’s a historical experience you seek, visit the Grand Palace, and Wat Phra Kaew (the Emerald Buddha). These are Bangkok’s most famous landmarks; the former was once home of the Kings of Siam, while the latter is entirely carved of jade. Once you’ve visited the two, take a short walk to Wat Pho: the oldest temple in Bangkok and home to the giant reclining Buddha. Be sure to dress appropriately, or rent clothes outside the temples for a fee.
Once you’re done for the afternoon, hop into a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) and head to Prachak, which is a well-known institution for Chinese-style crispy roasted duck. These guys have been open since 1909, so expect the dishes to be bang-on delicious. Have yours with egg noodles or rice – both are delicious either way.
Before the sun sets, make your way to Karmakamet Diner. Inspired by a medicine warehouse in Hainan, the restaurant pays homage to all things Thai and Asian – you’ll see it in the little knick-knacks used to decorate the space, as well as the menu which features European dishes with Asian features. Don’t leave without picking up one of its aromatic essential oil blends.
To end the night, head to the rooftop Vertigo and Moon Bar located at the top of Banyan Hotel in the Sathron/Silom area for cocktails over stunning panoramic views of the city. If low-key shindigs are more your thing, head to 12×12, a hidden bar in ThongLor with cosy couches and a tiny dancefloor or Jam, a laid-back bar which houses a gallery, a cinema and a live music space.
Day 2: Hit the cafes and markets
Pop into an Insta-famous café
Instagram-worthy breakfasts are plenty in Bangkok. Our choice for Saturday brekkie was Rocket Coffeebar in Thong Lor. Everything in this cafe is photo-worthy, from the gorgeous interiors with rose gold piping, greenery and elegant marble-top counters to the photogenic food: we loved the egg dishes and open-faced sandwiches. Of course, the handsome baristas don’t hurt either.
If you’ve got time on your hands, visit ROAST at The Commons (335 Thonglor Soi 17) for hearty brunch fare, or wander around Market on the first floor to explore the artisan cafes and markets a la Pasarbella and pick up a coffee from Roots: one of the city’s most well-known coffee roasters. Head up to the second floor to visit the quaint Plant House to pick up small decor products, or Treasures for vintage jewellery. The long drive and battle with Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams are totally worth it.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
There’s a reason why Chatuchak Weekend Market is on the Bangkok bucket list– this sprawling weekend market has over 15,000 stalls, with everything from fashion and accessories, to food, home decor and even goodies for pets. If you’re pressed for time, head straight for Zone 2. It’s home to more upmarket, and alternative stalls with handmade bags, accessories (we found the cutest tassel earrings and basket bags here!) and unique fashion finds. On the street food front, don’t leave without cooling off with coconut ice cream, or an authentic Thai dessert of mango sticky rice or red ruby. We’d also recommend lunching here as well as it’s home to popular Thai food stalls like Jad Jan eatery and Noodle Soup with Chicken. Remember to check online for a map beforehand to plan your route.
Sneak in a spa session
By now, you’ve probably realised that shopping is a hard job, and you deserve all the rest you can get. Reward yourself with a massage – your options in Bangkok are endless, and range from streetside foot reflexology spas to luxury spas in swanky hotels. Head to Let’s Relax for fuss-free, affordable massages from 300 baht (approximately SGD12.28), or Health Land Spa, a chain of spas housed in colonial-style mansions. If you’re splashing out, head to The Opium Spa at The Siam for a decadent, relaxing rubdown or the urban themed SO SPA, which has gorgeous views of Lumpini Park.
Shop after dark
Next stop is an after-dark market. For antiques, vintage memorabilia and quirky knick knacks, head to Talad Rot Fai Market, a massive open-air bazaar which has classic cars, furnishings and everything you could think of sourced from all over the world.
For a more centrally located market, head to Rot Fai Market in Ratchada, good for wholesale clothes, second-hand items, as well as live music bars. Take you dinner here for a wholesome Thai feast – order up a big feast with salt baked fish, papaya salad and bowls of sizzling Tom Yum.
Dance the night away
Bangkok’s nightlife is legendary, so there’s no way you can leave without making an appearance at one of the many clubs open. Strap on those dancing shoes and party the night away at major clubs like Route 66, Onyx (a big-room mega club for serious punters), or Ce La Vi.
Day 3: Devote it to shopping and eating
One last meal
Our suggestion for a last meal in Bangkok may come as a surprise, but we chose IHOP as it’s the famous American diner’s only locale in Asia. The IHOP at Siam Square is more of a refined space with sleek tables and decor, but with the same menu. We devoured everything, including the pancakes and melt-in-your-mouth-omelettes.
Squeeze in that last bit of shopping: Independent boutiques
Still got luggage space? Make a quick trip to Siam to explore some of Bangkok’s best independent boutiques. Head to Wonder Anatomie at Siam Center if your style is slightly eccentric, pick up the famous pleated dress from Innit Bangkok, or check out SOS Sense of Style at Siam Square 2: a popular Thai boutique which offers a wealth of styles and designs. Beauty junkies would also love Eveandboy, a massive makeup and skincare store chock-full of Thai indie beauty brands. Got a thing for vintage? Head to Ekkamai Shopping Mall at Sukhumvit Road 42, which stands across stores hawking vintage wares.
Take note of where you’re flying into, as Bangkok has two airports (Suvarnabuhmi and Don Mueang). If you’re flying into the latter on a Friday, it’s best to fly in as early as possible. We’ve heard multiple horror stories of hours-long immigration queues. If Suvarnabhumi is where you’re landing, we’d recommend taking the Airport Rail Link if you’ve packed light. It’s a 15 minute, non-stop express service which will conveniently and speedily take you to the city terminal.
Where to stay
You’ll definitely be spoilt for choice when choosing your base for the weekend. Take your pick from towering luxury hotels, to the unique boutiques. If shopping’s your priority, go for the glitzy W Bangkok or InterContinental Bangkok as these are situated in the heart of the city. Have palatial preferences? Check into the opulent The Siam situated on The Chao Praya River.
But if you’re a repeat Bangkok visitor, switch up your routine by staying at Thong Lor: the city’s hippest district for hidden cafes, swanky bars and restaurants. Here, you’ll find IR-ON Hotel, which sports an Industrial Bohemian style of gritty furnishings and large plants galore. Tip: Down the street is a restaurant which serves feisty bowls of creamy Tom Yum with coconut milk.