In Bangkok modern, old, rugged, and historic blend into a kaleidoscope of tantalizing surprises.

48 hours in Bangkok.

Bangkok is the swirling backdrop to a two-day ride between new and historic, trendy and rough, in the sweet indulgence of one of Asia’s most exciting cities.
Text: Hannes Thornhammar
Photos: Ping Vajarodaya

Tantalizing surprises.

Bangkok delivers. The chaotically city is an adventurer’s delight, and Thai culture’s dedication to hospitality is pervasive over the various destinations of “must-sees”. And if there’s one thing you get from a conversation with an expat, or farang as they are known here, it’s that you often end up staying longer than expected – sometimes for life.

With this in mind, we got into the car to see the multifarious worlds that make up Bangkok, where modern, old, rugged, and historic blend into a kaleidoscope of tantalizing surprises. If you’re wondering whether the song lyrics are true, one night in Bangkok does indeed “make a hard man humble”.

Old or hyper modern: Bangkok surprises with innovative architecture or historic bricks.

The glory of old times.

We kicked off with history in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental where you can drink, dine, and stay in the literary footsteps of former guests Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham. This classic hotel has preserved much of its original panache in a city where the old most often gives way to the new. The afternoon tea comes recommended, as do sunset drinks by the bank of the Chao Phraya River. Venture to the heart of Bangkok and stroll through the royal residence of the King of Siam in the Grand Palace. Abolished as the formal seat of government in 1925, the massive complex featuring distinct Thai architecture and golden ornamentation is a popular tourist destination, and though the palace is currently not used by King Bhumibol Adulyadei (Rama IX), some formal functions are still held within the palace’s white walls.

The city of contrasts: old accompanies new in Bangkok.

Several of the pavilions serve as tiny museums, so visiting the Grand Palace is an excellent way to learn about the country’s and city’s history.

Rush Hour becomes a big challenge in this megacity.

Above the roofs of Bangkok.

Close to the Grand Palace, try the sleek newly opened Sala restaurant overlooking the Buddhist temple Wat Arun, more famously known as the Temple of Dawn. Lunch, dinner, or rooftop drinks where the central Bangkok view spanswide open in an array of rooster shaped yellow-and-red pointy towers is quite spectacular.

Drive through King Rama 5 and get a glimmer of history at the Royal Plaza with the King Rama V Equestrian Monument and the massive Ananta Samakhorn Throne Hall, where in1932, the Peopleʼs Party successfully, and notably without violence, changed Thailand from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional democratic monarchy.

Coconut juice and roasted scorpions.

Seite 4 Willing to drive that extra mile for some first-class splendor? The urban luxury retreat Siam Hotel is undoubtedly one of the most well designed hotels in the city. Located on the outskirts of the city right next to the river, the exquisite environments, statuesque interior, and pleasurable feel make a visit almost ceremonious. Spend time in the hotel, walk through the corridors, sit comfortably in each room and you will find that several hours will pass by seemingly unnoticed. Enjoy drinks by the river, schedule a traditional Thai cooking course, or simply sample delicious small courses from the stylish wood-and-marble restaurant. If you want the exact opposite experience, Khao San Road is a backpacker’s dream, frequented by tourists as well as local Thais who come for the energy, craziness, and beer- sipping-ambience.

Khao Shan Road is famous for its vibrant energy and attracts people from all over the world.

And if you want to watch live theatre continue walking and you will find what you are looking for: countless stalls with roasted scorpions, fresh coconut juice, and why not good old fashioned fish ‘n’ chips.

You find a lot of traditional architecture in Bangkok.

Deli food and neon lights.

Next stop on the menu: Bangkok’s China Town where you’ll find everything fatty, exotic, indulgent. Go at night and watch see the scenery through the shimmering neon sign pollution, giving the area its distinctive Asian feel. The small alleyways in Thong Lor and Ekamai are home to the international expat crowd and boast many excellent Japanese, American and European restaurants. Here you can mix shopping with the authentic café experience and lounge with the hipster crowd in one of the many sleek bars. Try the pleasantly modern Gallery Drip Coffee, serving some of the best coffee in Bangkok. An insiders’ tip: Chatuchak Market. Here you find everything and nothing. There are over a thousand different stands that sell everything from fresh homemade coconut ice cream, products from local Thai artisans, to some of the rarest pets in the world.

Flashing neon signs turn the streets in a sea of sparkling and dazzling lights at night.

Tumultuous memories.

In Bangkok you want to avoid clichés, but do yourself a favour and finish off your journey – as we did - at Sirocco State Tower. You may have seen the sequel instalment of the movie “Hangover” where the view of the bar serves the best rooftop experience in the city.

A clear night is something quite unforgettable and though the drinks are expensive, in the myriad of flashing city lights the experience will leave you awe-struck and summarize any Bangkok traveller’s quest for serene and tumultuous memories to last many, many days to come.

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