48 HOURS IN BANGKOK

Full of golden palaces, teeming markets and fabulous food, the Thai capital is a popular destination for budget travellers. But Bangkok can also boast some stunning five-star hotels. David Leck explores

WHY GO NOW? Between now and April, Bangkok enjoys its most pleasant weather. The oppressive humidity and monsoon rains have passed, giving way to clear skies and pleasantly hot days in this exotic yet accessible city. TOUCH DOWN Thai Airways (0870 606 0911; www.thaiairways.com), British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba. com), Eva Air (020-7380 8300; www.evaair.com) and Qantas (0845 774 7767; www.qantas.com) all fly non-stop from Heathrow to Bangkok; Phuket Air (0870 774 5450; www.phuketairlines.com) flies from Gatwick. Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) flies from a number of UK cities, with a change of plane in Dubai. From Bangkok's Don Muang airport, 20km north of the city centre, the easiest way into town is by metered taxi. Including road tolls, you will pay around 350 baht (pounds 5).

GET YOUR BEARINGS Bangkok is a chaotic, sprawling city of seven million souls, and is confusing for the first-time visitor. It straddles the Chao Phraya river and is divided into five districts: Thonburi, Old City, Chinatown, Downtown and Dusit. Two of the city's must-see attractions - the superb temple, Wat Pho (1) and the breathtaking Grand Palace (2) - are in the Old City while Dusit is home to Bangkok's largest green space, the city zoo and the golden teak structure of Vimanmek Mansion (3). Downtown features Silom Road (Bangkok's commercial heart), Patpong (its biggest night market), the Oriental Hotel (4) and Jim Thompson's House (5). Wat Arun (6) is across the river in Thonburi. The best ways to get around are on the impressively efficient Skytrain public transport network and the city's brand new Subway system. Fares start at around 15 baht (20p).

CHECK IN Bangkok accommodation ranges from the cheap backpacker haunts of the Khao San Road to some of the world's finest five-star residences. The best in the latter category is the Oriental Hotel (4), beside the river at 48 Oriental Avenue (00 66 2659 9000; www.mandarinoriental.com). Superior river wing rooms cost $330 (pounds 184); to push the boat out, stay in the authors' suite (frequented by Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward and the like) for $950 (pounds 529). An excellent alternative at the other end of the scale is the Bel-Aire Princess (7) at 16 Sukhumvit Soi 5 (00 66 2253 4300; www.royalprincess.com) which has superior rooms at 2,707 baht (pounds 41) with breakfast. TAKE A RIDE The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat (00 66 2623 6001; www.chaophrayaboat.com) is one of the easiest ways of visiting many of Bangkok's sights. A one- day pass with unlimited stops costs 75 baht (pounds 1). Take the tourist boat from Sathorn pier (8) (Saphan Taksin Skytrain stop). Get off at Pier 9, Tha Tien (9), and take a second boat (20 baht/30p) to Wat Arun (6). Named after the Indian god of the dawn, this temple is a unique example of Khmer architecture in Thailand.

WINDOW SHOPPING For high-end browsing head for Emporium Shopping Centre (10) on Sukhumvit Road (Phrom Pong Skytrain) or Gaysorn (11), on Ploenchit and Rajadamri roads (Chit Lom Skytrain). Housed in an impressive white stone building on Charoen Krung Road (Saphan Taksin Skytrain), OP Place (12) is the place for antiques, jewellery, art, tailors and Thai silk.

LUNCH ON THE RUN Mobile stalls cooking and selling a whole range of food seem to line almost every street. Because dishes are cooked in front of you and served piping hot they are safe to eat. The city's signature dishes include kai yang (charcoal-grilled chicken), pop pia (deep-fried spring rolls) and khanom beuang (filled, sweet pancakes). CULTURAL AFTERNOON A couple of hours at the Grand Palace (2) is an essential part of any visit to Bangkok (00 66 2263 5500; www.palaces.thai.net). This vast walled complex was the official residence of Thai kings from 1782 to 1946, and contains breathtaking royal temples, gold-laden palaces and lavish throne rooms, plus narrow alleys and manicured gardens. The palace, on Na Phra Lan road, opens 8.30am-3.30pm daily, admission 250 baht (pounds 4), which also includes admission to Vimanmek Mansion. Shorts and bare shoulders are forbidden. A WALK IN THE PARK Set in attractive and peaceful landscaped gardens, Vimanmek Mansion (3) on Ratchawithi Road (00 66 2628 6300; www.palaces.thai.net) is the largest golden teak building in the world. It was built by King Rama V in 1900, and its series of opulent rooms are a showcase of Victorian-influenced Siam. It opens 9.30am- 4pm daily, admission free with a Grand Palace ticket. AN APERITIF For a high-level al fresco drink, go to the Moon Bar - part of the Banyan Tree Bangkok (13) at 21/100 South Sathon Road (00 66 2679 1200; www.banyantree.com). From 62 floors up, you will get stunning views across the city. The adjacent Vertigo Grill is a popular dinner venue. For something different drop into the Bed Supper Club (14) at 26 Sukumvit Soi 11 (00 66 2651 3537; www.bedsupperclub.com). Housed in a bizarre futuristic white oval pod, it features a bar and lounge area with divan-beds suspended from the walls and low-slung chairs illuminated by a restful blue neon glow. DINING WITH THE LOCALS You will find a good smattering of Thai professionals (and some well- informed tourists) eating at Mango Tree (15) at 37 Soi Tantawan, Surawongse Road (00 66 2236 1681) - a few minutes from the chaos of Silom Road and Patpong. In an intimate courtyard, complete with a small waterfall, you dine on beautifully presented dishes from an extensive menu starting at around 150 baht (pounds 2). SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH Nine out of 10 Thais practise Theravada Buddhism. Bangkok's oldest and largest temple is Wat Pho (1), a labyrinth of 35 buildings on Chetuphon Road (00 66 2225 9595; www.watpho.com). You can get there by boat to Tha Tien pier. Dating from the 16th century it is also a respected centre for traditional medicine and Thai massage education. It opens 9am-5pm daily (admission 20 baht/30p), but Sunday morning is the ideal time to soak up the relaxing atmosphere and catch its key attractions - notably the 46m long reclining Buddha that signifies his passing into Nirvana.

OUT TO BRUNCH Cook your own. The Landmark Hotel (16) at 138 Sukhumvit Road (00 66 2254 0404; www.landmarkbangkok.com) offers a two-hour Thai cookery course for 1,950 baht (pounds 30), taught by chefs from its respected Nipa Thai restaurant.

WRITE A POSTCARD Perfect your prose at the Authors' Lounge at the Oriental Hotel (4), where Somerset Maugham stayed in the 1920s while recovering from malaria. Huge high teas at 850 baht (pounds 13) are served against a backdrop of neo- classical architecture.

THE ICING ON THE CAKE The American Jim Thompson came to Bangkok in 1945 after serving with the US Army in Europe. Three years later he founded the Thai Silk Company. A decade on, captivated by his adopted home, he set about dismantling six teak houses from other parts of the country and reassembling them in the capital. Thompson disappeared while on a visit to Malaysia's Cameron Highlands in 1967, but his home remains as one of the most intriguing destinations in town. Jim Thompson's House (5) at 6 Soi Kaseman 2, Rama I Road (00 66 2216 7368; www.jimthompsonhouse.com) is an enticing combination of flower-strewn gardens and homes filled with a collection of art and antiques spanning 14 centuries. It opens 9am-4.30pm daily; admission 100 baht (pounds 1.50).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

    Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

    £30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

    WPF .NET Developer

    £300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform