Each time I’ve visited Bangkok, I’ve failed to truly connect with the city. I guess I’ve felt like it’s a destination better suited to backpackers rather than 30-year-old married couples! The crowded streets of Khao San Road, cheap beers and even cheaper street food have set the tone for my last few visits. In reality, I haven’t really connected with Thailand until I’ve gotten away from the busy streets of Bangkok and to the beaches of spots like Krabi. But, shockingly, my most recent trip changed all that completely! We truly got into the community, connected with locals, stayed at amazing places and had awesome food experiences combined with authentic Bangkok moments too. Not only did my visit change my opinion of Bangkok entirely, but it also made me appreciate the city and want to visit again. It’s proof of the importance of a great itinerary built specifically around your interests and, apparently, life stage! So, to help others plan their very own age-appropriate adventure, here are 12 of the best, ‘grown-up’ things to do in Bangkok.
But first, watch this…
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1. Dinner at R-Haan
Enjoy a fine dining experience at one of Bangkok’s Michelin Star restaurants, R-Haan. The menu boasts authentic Thai cuisine taken to the next level! We enjoyed Samrub, a family-style dining experience that reminded me of a degustation in some ways. We started with an amuse-bouche followed by an appetiser and a wide selection of main dishes. The meal ended with a plate of stunning desserts followed by tea, coffee, fruit and petit fours. The service was fantastic and the food was spectacular too! Each dish was so delicious, giving us the chance to either try something new or experience our Thai favourites in a way we never have before. I love street food as much as the next person but an experience like this is something you don’t forget and gives you the chance to try local food in a different way. We loved it! Find R-Haan here.
2. Siam Hop
One thing I’ve always struggled with in Bangkok is the heat! I come from a hot climate and love the tropics but the intense humidity in Bangkok has always made it hard for me to see and do as much as I want to when I visit. This time, we used Siam Hop to do some of our sightseeing and it made a HUGE difference. The hop-on-hop-off bus service is probably the best I’ve ever experienced, it’s just been really well planned for travellers. Firstly, the buses are icy cold with air conditioning so you get a much-needed chance to cool-down in-between stops. But, what really makes Siam Hop so good, is there are four different bus routes depending on what you want to see and do, rather than the usual one big loop. The routes are Heritage, CBD, Shopping and Entertainment.
Also, there’s an app! So you can see where the bus is in real-time, how long until the next bus comes and, amazingly, how bad the traffic is in-between stops. It’s just so well done! Don’t get me wrong, Tuk Tuk’s are a great experience and a really fun way to get around Bangkok but I get sick of bartering each time I need to catch one. With Siam Hop, you buy a one, two or three-day ticket online and use that to your heart’s content. It’s just easy! Like I said, we really found it made a big difference to our visit and the audio guide just adds an extra dimension of information. We spent more time sightseeing and less time getting hot, sweaty and frustrated on the streets to find our way around. Find Siam Hop here.
3. Bang Lamphu Community Walk
As part of our Siam Hop experience, we jumped off at Phra Athit and did a community tour through Bang Lamphu with the Kesorn Lamphu Volunteer Club and youth group. This entire experience is one of the key moments that really helped us dig deeper into Bangkok, connect with the locals and gain a deeper appreciation for the city. We got into the backstreets of Bang Lamphu, getting a proper chance to see how the locals live. We visited a beautiful woman who hand-sews costumes for Traditional Thai Masked Dance performances and has done so for over 50 years. We visited a local mosque and listened to a community leader talk about harmony, respect and the history of the area. It was fantastic to experience something other than busy streets and the usual markets of Bangkok. Instead, we saw a group of young, passionate locals working hard to preserve the heart and soul of their community by sharing it with visitors.
This experience is still under-the-radar and quite new so the Kesorn Facebook page is in Thai. For overseas visitors, the team recommend contacting them directly via email or direct message (head to the Facebook page and click ‘send email’ or ‘send message’). They can give you information on tour times and dates, helping you organise your visit! Currently, tours run on donations so you won’t be asked to pay a booking fee up front, just to donate what you can at the end of the tour. Find Bang Lamphu Community Walks by Kesorn Lamphu Volunteer Club here.
4. Street food at Sook Siam
I love trying street food when I travel but have struggled a little in Bangkok in the past. I guess the heat, again, has made it hard for me to spend as much time as I’d like perusing vendors, ordering and then eating freshly prepared hot dishes. Not only that, but the hustle and bustle of the streets has made me feel a bit rushed and overwhelmed in the past. Well, all those issues (and more) disappear when you visit SookSiam, an amazing food court on the bottom floor of ICON Siam.
While the above floors are packed with shops, the bottom floor is a mecca of great food! Rather than being just another sterile food court, SookSiam has been set up to resemble authentic Thai street food experiences. You’ll see replica teahouses, shopfronts and boats with locals cooking fresh local dishes and a HUGE array of stalls selling everything and anything you can think of! Honestly, it’s awesome! You don’t have to deal with the heat, sun and crowds but still get to explore and try a wide array of authentic foods from all over Thailand. It’s fantastic. Find SookSiam here.
5. Massages at Dii
Instead of being tempted by suspiciously cheap massages on the streets of Bangkok that can leave you worse than you started, go for a good-quality massage at a reputable spot run by trained professionals. On our most recent trip, we visited Dii Wellness Med Spa located in the heart of Bangkok at the swanky Central Embassy shopping mall. Our therapists were skilful and professional, listening carefully to our concerns and using great pressure to help relieve aches and pains. Both Matt and I floated out of there feeling incredible, covered in the scent of quality essential oils. Find Dii here.
6. Lunch at The Never-Ending Summer
An industrial warehouse converted into a chic restaurant, Never Ending Summer is the perfect spot to grab a bite in Bangkok. We visited for lunch and had a fantastic experience. The restaurant is filled with natural light and hanging plants, giving it a trendy but comfortable feel. Overlooking the Chao Praya River, it’s a great spot to dine while still feeling like you’re making the most of the city. The menu showcases Thai cooking, providing diners with the opportunity to sample truly delicious local food. All your Thai favourites like curries and noodles are up for grabs but there are some lovely seasonal dishes too, like battered flowers made into salads and other gorgeous, artistic food creations. We could easily have spent a few hours here relaxing by the water, watching the boats go by and enjoying cool drinks and yummy food. Be sure to visit the art gallery, book store and homewares stores located behind the restaurant after you’re done eating. Find The Never-Ending Summer here.
7. Sunset River Cruise
We had an amazing time doing a sunset cruise along the Chao Phraya River, an experience which showed us Bangkok from a different angle. We had previously done boat rides along the river in the middle of the day but never in the evening and, it turns out, they’re very different experiences! You’ll climb aboard in the late afternoon and glide gently along the water passing small, historic buildings as well as towering skyscrapers, temples, iconic Bangkok sites and so much more. As the sun begins to set, the sky comes alive with vibrant shades of orange and pink, throwing all kinds of beautiful light across Bangkok. Our cruise was with The Grand Chaophraya Cruise but there are many other cruise companies to choose from depending on your budget and other factors. The dining situation onboard The Chaophraya Cruise is buffet style so don’t go into it expecting food as special as spots like R-Haan and Never-Ending Summer, though other boats may offer different dining options. We loved the live music, cold beers, gorgeous views and fun atmosphere on board. It was a really good experience and a great way to see Bangkok! Book The Grand Chaophraya Cruise here.
8. Lunch at Spirit Jim Thompson
For an unforgettable lunch, head directly to Spirit Jim Thompson. Located in the heart of Bangkok, the restaurant is a lush, jungle oasis offering peace and respite from the world outside. Beautifully designed, the restaurant captures the essence of Jim Thompson’s distinct eye for elegance and style. Now, let’s get down to food! The lunch I had here was probably my favourite meal I’ve ever had in Bangkok. Serving classic Thai flavours in a fine dining setting, everything was beautifully plated and presented, making it a feast for every sense. All the ingredients were fresh and beautifully handled, creating distinct, bold flavours with every bite. It was amazing to bite into something that looked so simple yet tasted so complex! The service staff were fantastic, the setting was gorgeous and the food was delicious – it really created a whole experience for me that I just loved. If you only do one thing off this list while you’re in Bangkok, make it lunch or dinner at Spirit. Find Spirit Jim Thompson here.
9. Cocktails at a Rooftop Bar
After the sun sets and the bright lights of Bangkok bring the city to sparkling life, make your way to a rooftop bar. There are many to choose from dotted all over Bangkok but we ended up at ThreeSixty atop the stunning Millennium Hilton. There are a few different spots to sit, including the jazz lounge, but we chose to sit outdoors, enjoying the lovely warm evening air. From our seats, we could see the Chao Phraya River, golden temples, busy streets and so much more. It’s a great vantage point and a really good way to gain a deeper appreciation for just how big Bangkok really is. We sipped cocktails, listened to music and talked about all we’d seen and done that day, the perfect way to end a busy day in Bangkok! (Note: the accompanying photo is a stock photo and was not take from ThreeSixty, it’s used only to give you a sense of what to expect from a rooftop bar in Bangkok) Find ThreeSixty here.
10. Afternoon Tea at Gingerbread House
For a delightful afternoon tea with a difference, you’ll definitely want to visit The Gingerbread House. A century-old house boasting Victorian-era architecture, perfectly placed beneath the shade of an 80-year-old mango tree, it’s the ideal spot to sit and relax for a while. The menu here is wonderful, offering refreshing sodas and a range of coffee favourites sure to delight. But the real hero is the range of Thai desserts! Beautifully presented in crystal dishes atop antique serving trays, each local dish looked perfect and tasted even better. It was a wonderful opportunity to try things we have never had the opportunity or courage to try before! There’s also a cake cabinet fully stocked with mouth-watering creations sure to satisfy every sweet tooth. This place is a real hidden gem and a must-visit spot for foodies. Find The Gingerbread House here.
11. Explore Chinatown
Bangkok’s Chinatown is actually one of the largest in the world, which means there’s a lot to see and do. We spent a morning wandering through the back alleys of the area and fell in love with it! Explore bustling markets stocking a range of fresh produce and ready-to-eat treats, many of which you may never have seen before. Don’t be afraid to wander down tiny laneways and hidden spots past local vendors selling lanterns, incense and offerings for ancestors. Many of the shopfronts in these hidden spots are incredibly old, historic buildings and some of them are open to visitors to explore as they’ve been converted into mini-museums. Be sure to stop in at any temples you may come across along the way and experience a little piece of Thailand’s Chinese Buddhist community traditions. Find more information about Chinatown Bangkok here.
12. Historic Ice Cream shop
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the historic Nuttaporn Ice Cream store in Banglamphu. The unassuming corner shop has been churning out delicious ice cream for over 60 years and three generations. The family-owned business is renowned for its ice cream and, amazingly, all the flavours on offer are made from coconut milk so they’re suitable for those who don’t consume dairy. Choose the classic Thai favourite, coconut, or go with options like mango, chocolate, coffee or even Thai Tea or durian! From there, you can add toppings like corn, shredded coconut, pumpkin, lotus seeds, peanuts and many more. It’s a no-frills spot with a distinct under-the-radar the feel. We really enjoyed feeling like we’d found a piece of Bangkok that was historic and family-owned, away from the rest of the world. Find Nuttaporn Ice Cream here.
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