Best Bangkok Non-Guidebook Sites, Attractions, and Food?
July 10, 2015 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Will be heading to Bangkok with my boyfriend and a bunch of his friends from grad school to Bangkok from the end of July to the beginning of August, with a long weekend trip to Koh Samui. (We're in our late 20s-early 30s.) We have a few Thai friends but they won't be able to play tour guide the whole time.

We will be staying in Suhkumvit for most of the trip and then close to Silom after.

Would love any local recommendations for things to do, see, eat, and shop that might not make it into the guidebooks or are new within the past several years. We eat everything (I'm white and from the midwest, I can't handle too spicy), and are open to everything from museums to shopping to lady boy shows; bonuses for ways to stay cool in the heat! Thanks!
posted by gramcracker to Travel & Transportation around Bangkok, Thailand (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it's not exactly a secret but since you're in the neighborhood you should check out the street food night market on Soi 38. Right near the Thong Lo BTS station so probably really easy to get to from wherever you're staying.

And if you want to get any men's suits made, Raja's Fashions is the real deal - not the cheapest in town by any means but really high quality.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2015

Chatuchak (weekend market, sat and sunday only) is not to be missed assuming your BKK stay includes at least on weekend day. It is the biggest and craziest market you can imagine covering all ranges of things from the same typical touristy crap youll see everywhere to awesome small-scale designer produced clothing and bags (i purchased a new work bag from a stall called the sash store that i love) to pets and furniture. its pretty well impossible to plan or schedule your visit, its best experienced by just wandering around (though there is a row of stalls right by the subway entrance - not the skytrain - that has more unique/designy stuff where my wife bought a bunch of cool clothing). That said a lot of the alleyways between stalls are covered in plastic tarps and it can get uncomfortably hot as the sun comes up overhead - most stalls open at 10 and i've found our most successful trips start right then and were ready to bail by the time its really bad, weather wise. The food options are diverse and some are pretty strong - we had a great isaan/northern thai meal at a place close to that same subway entrance, we were going to eat there anyway but our good feelings about the spot were confirmed when we saw Andy Ricker of Pok-Pok finishing his meal just as we were sitting down (although re-reading your note about not too spicy it may not be your best choice).

I'm a big fan of the MBK mall - its not the glitziest or newest but thats part of the charm. if you want electronics (or just to experience some authentic bangkok hustle) its a great spot. also, the food court is incredible - food courst are big all over bangkok and dont carry with them nearly the stigma they do here in the US. Its right on the skytrain and easily reached just down sukhamvit. Ideally you time it so youre on the river/arriving just as the sun is setting for optimal views.

Asiatique is a new night market (replacing the Suan Lum night bazaar which i preferred). There is a big ferris wheel and lovely location on the river - you can take the sky train to the river and the free ferry from there to the "market" shopping wise its more of the same, with some nicer stuff, but they have a bunch of nice outdoor restaurants and a beirgarten set up which is pretty fun.

We did a cooking class at baiphai cooking school and would highly recommend it. the teaching was good and the classrooms/surroundings were terrific, its inside a traditional thai home with a beautifully landscaped garden.

Finally, if youre even remotely art-inclined id highly recommend the Museum of Contemporary Art which cost about 6 bucks to visit and was almost entirely empty. The collection includes traditional stuff but a lot of contemporary art with traditional themes, an excellent way to soak up the AC and take in some culture. Getting there was a bit dicey (i showed our cabbie the location on my iphone, he didnt get it so he just called the museum from my phone and we were set - getting a cab back was also a bit challenging because its not in a busy location, but on the whole very worthwhile).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2015

If you need a break from the big city and the tourist hordes, I really recommend Ayuthaya, which is known for its Khmer-era ruins. Of course it's in all the guidebooks, but it feels surprisingly low-key from a tourist point of view, definitely compared to BKK and Samui. It has a really good night market. You can get there easily from BKK by bus or train and do it as an overnight or long day trip.
posted by lunasol at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2015

This cooking class was the highlight of my trip.

It involved a lovely boat ride through the canals that ended up on a private doc. We gathered for drinks and snacks on a veranda, got a tour of the kitchen garden, then went to the outdoor kitchen for a demo of the four dishes we would be making.

After the demo we cooked each dish. Then we went back to the veranda to eat everything we cooked.

Don't plan on eating anything else that day.

I also did a 1/2 day bike tour with Grasshopper out into the smaller neighborhoods in Bangkok that was lovely. They do a lot of other 1/2 day and full day tours.
posted by brookeb at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2015

I was in Bangkok for a week this March. Some stuff I liked:

-Talad Rod Fai market
-There's an Australian ex-children's-book-author named Ashley Sutton who has high-end bars all over Bangkok with ridiculously over-the-top themed interior decor. Iron Fairies and A.R Sutton Engineers Siam were both incredible. (warning: cocktails are almost as expensive as in San Francisco!)
-I had an amazing time shopping for clothes at the Platinum Fashion Mall! If you like weird tshirts or androgynously cut button-ups made of interesting fabrics, definitely check it out. It also had a surprisingly good food court.
-Mostly I ate random street food and it was amazing. This is a good blog post about street food destinations.
-I didn't make it here myself, but my friends were blown away by the Sathorn Unique, an abandoned skyscraper

Atlas Obscura may also be a good resource.
posted by introcosm at 6:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I found Travelfish a lot more useful than any of the guidebooks I read.
posted by introcosm at 6:05 PM on July 10, 2015

A few metatips:

Pick up the AMAZING Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok - hand-drawn, incredibly detailed, hugely handy pocket-sized index, and in its 40-somethingth edition. Around 300 THB on their site; you can also have it delivered to your hotel so it's waiting when you arrive! Maybe get a few copies between you? Worth it for the maps of Chatuchak and Chinatown (DO NOT miss Chinatown!) alone; I go to Bangkok multiple times a year and my Thai friends are amazed too! Sadly, Nancy died in June but the map company continues to publish.

Another tip: get your phones unlocked and SIM cards at the airport; True has a 299 THB tourist SIM that includes heaps of data and local calls for a relative pittance with all-English menus/service/setup in the arrivals hall at BKK. It's also available at many, but not all, 7-11s.

The biggest reason to do this is so you can use the excellent Grabtaxi app to get officially metered taxis all over town without relying on tuktuks, which are often slower than taxis and sometimes far more expensive. Removing the transport hassle from the equation makes life so much easier, especially when in areas without good Metro/Skytrain links like Banglamphu and Chinatown where tuk-tuks prey.

Have a great time! I'll be there again at the end of August and can't wait.
posted by mdonley at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2015

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