Bangkok, Thailand

Monday, January 1, 2024

Bangkok needs no introduction. The capital of Thailand offers the best of both world's in almost every category – traditional temples and shrines have a place within the modern cosmopolitan hub, and greasy, satisfying street food is served alongside some of the finest culinary delights of Southeast Asia. 

Yet, prior to these recent years, I'd been sleeping on this city. Despite the short 2.5 hour flight, I've only been there once back in 2018 for a case competition, the time I spent barely scratched the surface. Thankfully, I got the opportunity to make things right by travelling to Bangkok for work in 2022 and 2023, and spent collectively a good number of weeks there with colleagues, solo and with JX. 

Considering it's a relatively easy destination to get around, I won't be recapping any of my trips in chronological order but will just be consolidating highlights from both trips, of course leaving out all the boring work bits. 

To Eat 

Let's start off with my absolute favourite thing to do – fill my tummy! Thai food is incredible, but the food scene in Bangkok is so varied that you can find literally all types of cuisines. Here are some of my picks: 

Samlor Restaurant & Bar (Thai) 

I first learnt about this rustic restaurant serving homely Thai food due to its soufflé omelette which had been gaining quite a bit of notoriety on TikTok. It's was only later that I realized it's also on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list. 

Industrial vibe.

The famous Samlor Thai omelette did not disappoint. It featured an explosion of textures: crispy charred egg bits sat atop a fluffy cloud-like soufflé egg cake, and breaking into it revealed golden oozing egg yolk lava. The egg itself didn't taste like much, which wasn't a problem as they provided a bunch of sauces to accompany the dish with. 

Slow cooked beef krapow–hearty and homely. 

Fried soft shell crab–well executed, but nothing to shout about. 

We also had the pork jowl claypot that I didn't photograph, but that was so delicious as well. 

This spot is popular, so make sure you make a reservation in advance. I downloaded the LINE app just to do that, and it was definitely worth it. Also note that the location is slightly out of the way with nothing nearby to occupy your time, so make sure you come only when it's your designated time (we got turned away when we arrived early, and were left to our own devices in a massive downpour). 

Thong Smith Boat Noodles (Thai) 

This bowl of boat noodles is evidence that chain restaurants don't automatically equate to bad quality food. In fact, I loved how easy it was to get a good bowl of comforting, flavourful soup noodles as you can find a Thong Smith branch at most of the popular shopping malls in Bangkok. Also, sugarcane slushies (pictured in the background) are a game changer, I don't know why it hasn't made its way to Singapore yet. 

Soi Polo Fried Chicken (Thai) 

While probably a lot better if eaten fresh at the restaurant, a quintessential Bangkok experience is also ordering food delivery, which I especially love doing when travelling solo. We ordered what was apparently the "best fried chicken" in Thailand, and though I don't have a benchmark for Thai-style fried chicken, this was a delightful post-swim snack. I especially loved the generous serving of crispy garlic bits that added texture to the dish, which was needed considering the chicken isn't the thickly-battered kind. 

LAB Ega Bangkok @ Songwat Road (Thai) 

This was another restaurant that surprised me as it looked like a hipster cafe, making me think it'd be all aesthetics and no substance. The food was yummy and authentic, and great for sharing.  

Perfect medium-rare. 

All you need is a good fried egg over rice. 

Gump's Ari Community Space (Cafes) 

Though I did judge a Thai restaurant for looking like a hipster cafe, Bangkok's cafe scene is so impressive when you do truly want to embrace the Gen Z way of living, and Gump's Ari is the perfect spot for that. It's essentially a cluster of photogenic cafes and shops (there's even a salon!) and reminded me of South Korea. 

We were spoilt for choice there, but decided to go to Fats & Angry, an American style diner that serves burgers and milkshakes. 

The burgers were fab. Made-to-order with fresh ingredients. Also love the option of the smiley face fries! 

BAY Aree (Cafe) 

This was a surprise find, but now tops my list of best cafes in Bangkok, mainly due to the amazing ambience. We stumbled upon this industrial-chic loft space whilst exploring the area surrounding Gump's Ari and were drawn in by the vibey music. 

DJ on set in the late afternoon. 

Wished we hadn't stuffed ourselves silly prior so we could try even more items on the menu (which includes gorgeous desserts and alcoholic drinks!) but if the Thai milk tea and matcha latte we tried were anything to go by, this place clearly does things thoughtfully. The little warabi mochi atop the matcha latte added a nice touch, and I loved the foam-heavy mouthfeel of both drinks. 

Every nook and cranny was photogenic. 

Argo Georgian Greek Bar & Grill (Georgian) 

Perhaps an odd choice of cuisine, but the sheer delight this meal brought us was testament to Bangkok's incredibly diverse food scene. 

It was also pretty fun searching for this restaurant with my colleagues after a much-needed massage, before realizing the hotel I was supposed to move into that night was just right across the street. Made a couple of calls during the meal to have my luggage sent over from the previous hotel, and it was so convenient just walking back to the hotel to rest after. 

Georgian wine to go with the cold appetizers. 

Xiaolongbaos, but make them huge! This was my first time trying khinkalis, and while I loved the flavourful meat fillings I wasn't a fan of the thicker dough. 

No one can ever go wrong with cheese, egg, butter and bread. I obviously enjoyed the adjaruli khachapuri, also known as Georgian cheese bread boat. 

Nahm (Thai) 

Pivoting back to Thai food to close off my list of food spots, this time at a more upscale location with a Michelin star to boot. 

Service here was impeccable, despite most of us turning up more than an hour (some even hitting two hours) late due to the horrifying Bangkok traffic, made worse by the heavy downpour. It was impossible to get a Grab car, and even with one you'd just get stuck in the jam so I opted to walk 30 minutes to get there, and ended up being the second earliest person of a 10-pax group to show up. 

Here's what we had (descriptions copied wholesale from their menu): 

The amuse bouche - a savoury spin on the khanom bueang, or Thai crepes. 

Miang of kam pachi ceviche, white tumeric, and green mango served on betal leaf. 

Minced prawn tonkin jasmine, prawn gravy sauce on rice cracker. 

Mango and dried fish salad with sweet fish sauce dressing. 

Tom yum gung - we had our own individual portions.

Southern yellow curry of blue swimmer crab with betel leaf and calamansi lime. 

Angry pork stir-fried with young coconut shoots, sweet basil and green peppercorns. 

Southern yellow curry of blue swimmer crab with betel leaf and calamansi lime in the foreground, and stir-fried young fiddlehead fern in the background. It was interesting having dishes served on sharing plates in such a setting. 

Dessert was the 'life cycle of coconut'. 

Overall, the food did not disappoint but nothing was mind-blowing. 

Was this worth the price tag? No. But do I regret this meal? Definitely not, because I had one of the most fun nights in Bangkok with a bunch of my colleague-friends filled with so much laughter, which was probably what Nahm had set out to do with their homely, communal style fine-dining concept.  

Speaking of fine-dining concepts, we also had dinner at the famed Gaa restaurant (courtesy of work!). While delightful, it was a bit too experimental for my liking: the main course's hero ingredient was the durian. As someone neutral about the fruit, it was still a bit too much for my liking. Risky move that I don't think paid off. 

To Drink 

And it's no secret that good food should be accompanied by good drinks! The bar scene in Bangkok is thriving, and I daresay one of the best in Southeast Asia, or Asia for that matter. Visited a couple of spots, and these were my top picks:  

BKK Social Club 

Made a reservation the moment BKK Social Club was announced as the Best Bar in Asia for 2023, as part of the World's 50 Best Bars list and I can easily see why. 

Gorgeous, moody interior. 

Welcome drinks and unique complimentary chips. 

Unfortunately I can't remember the exact drinks we got, but trust that they were well-balanced and delightful. 

I completely forgot that I had indicated within our reservation booking, that we were celebrating our anniversary in advance. So I was very surprised when they brought out a platter of all the desserts they served, on the house, just as I was about to order a sweet treat to go with my second drink. 

Sky Beach 

As the highest rooftop bar in Bangkok located in the iconic King Power Mahanakhon building, which was once the tallest building in Thailand (up till 2018), the Sky Beach is an attraction in itself. We were staying in The Standard, also located in the same building and were thus offered complimentary tickets to visit this spot. I'd say it's still worth visiting even with the entry charge though. 

Breathtaking view of city skyline. It was definitely a special feeling soaking up this sight on our last night in Bangkok. 

Super cute photo spots littered all around, and I liked that people were just roaming around the entire area with no fixed seating. 

I don't think the drinks were the real appeal of this bar, especially since the selection was the same as the pool bar within The Standard but they did the job. We also had a one-for-one voucher, so weren't expecting much either.


To Do 

Apart from eating and drinking, Bangkok also has pretty unique activities that you add to your itinerary to spice things up, or simply offer your stomach a bit of breathing space to digest all that fab food. 

Muay Thai match (Rajadamnern Thai Boxing Stadium)

Perhaps less commonly known/ seen on social media is watching a Muay Thai match, with many locals making up majority of the audience. I suspect that some sort of gambling/ betting was going on underground as the crowd got pretty rowdy when one of the matches was declared a draw. As casual observers, it was a real experience especially with our ringside seats. 

Some of the fighters seemed awfully young though, and I can only hope that this was something they enjoyed doing. 

Not pictured here, but we saw a couple of serious injuries (black outs, people having to be carried out in stretchers, blood) too. Not for the faint-hearted, but also hoping it's all staged to add on to the excitement. 

Cabaret performance (Calypso Cabaret)

I'm not sure if ladyboy is a derogatory term, especially when used so widely to describe their prevalence in Thai culture, but the term used by the Calypso Cabaret was 'Thai transgender artists' so I'll be sticking to that. I strongly recommend watching them perform to round out one's Bangkok experience. 

Cabaret style seating with small round tables. 

The performances were mainly lip-syncing, but entertaining all the same. 

Gorgeous ladies, and overall surprisingly family-friendly with lots of funny moments. Of course, go in with an open mind and don't expect world-class singing and dancing. 

Baking class (ABC Cooking Studio)

Attending cooking classes to learn how to whip up your favourite traditional Thai dishes is a fairly common activity available there, and I've attended a couple as part of corporate bonding exercises. Always fun, and I get the mass appeal. 

On my own though, I'd also attended a baking class at the ABC Cooking Studio branch in Bangkok as I get free overseas classes as a member from Singapore. It's a pretty unique way to meet and interact with locals, especially if you're there solo.  

Mini photoshoot of my bakes in the hotel room: 


Need I say more? Shopping in Bangkok is a must, but apart from the various weekend and night markets, don't write off their malls/ shopping complexes! Some of my favourites include Siam Square with its Gen-Z coded shops; and Central Embassy which one may quickly write off as a random luxury mall (it gives off Ion Orchard vibes) till they visit its top floor. 

Museum or shop? This one's called 'Daddy and the Muscle Academy'.  

The top floor of Central Embassy is an amazing bookstore/ co-working space called Open House that also houses a bunch of cafes and eateries. 

Best matcha latte of my life from Paris Mikki: I waited a whole year to go back and get this drink again. 

To Stay 

Due to work, I've gotten to stay at some amazing hotels, including Park Hyatt and The Okura Prestige. Ever so thankful, and these locations are expectedly top-notch in terms of service and comfort. On my own dime though, I've both treated myself and also gone the budget route, and these are places I'd recommend. 

lyf Sukjumvit 8 Bangkok (Wallet-friendly) 

Probably not the fanciest neighbourhood to stay in, but I never once felt unsafe here. This was the view out of my no-frills, still-comfy room. 

Of course, breakfast wasn't served, which works out well as there were plenty of cafes and eateries around such as this one, Sound Pop Coffee, right across the street. 

The Standard (Treat-yoself) 

Straight out of a Wes Anderson film.

Breakfast was lovely, and you could pick from indulgent options or– 

–slightly lighter choices. 

Sippin' on cocktails by the pool. 

Ironically, The Standard is anything but standard. Every corner was quirky but picturesque, and it's the complete opposite of your typical luxury hotels, featuring white fluffy pillows and marble flooring. Instead, colour was everywhere–and still tastefully so.

It sometimes felt like people were staying there to be seen, rather than as a place to get rest. Lots of influencer-type folks, and one night we even came back to pounding music from the club just downstairs, which wasn't quite contained. The location is also not that close to the city center, but keep in mind it's a destination in itself, and I do still love it. 

View from my Park Hyatt room during a work leg of my trips. 

Photo and artistic direction by my manager, onboard a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya river. 

Not sure when's the next time I'd be back in Bangkok, but I'm so thankful for all the positive experiences I've had in this city and all the memories made here with some of my favourite people. 

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