Let's be honest - you will definitely want more than one night in Bangkok because Bangkok is awesome and not short of great things to do, see and of course, eat!
But if you are short on time and want to make the most out of your visit to Bangkok, here is how I - self-proclaimed Bangkok-addict - would spend my time.
A Bangkok Itinerary
A tour of Nang Loeng with HiveSters
AM : I love a guided tour if it is well done, especially if said tour will feed me. HiveSters hits the brief perfectly because the founders, sisters Achi and Mint, have created something truly unique. Each tour takes you into a local community, introduces sustainable businesses as well as old Thai traditions to visitors. Authenticity is the key to their tours and have I mentioned that they are yummy too?
Nang Loeng is one of the disappearing communities in Bangkok that has been around for over 200 years. HiveSters strives to connect travelers with Thai traditions and those people living here, curating authentic experiences instead of mass tourism and cookie-cutter tours. This project is aptly called APPEAR.
For me, that includes eating everything at the Nang Loeng market - the first non-floating market in the city. Pe' Deng (Pe' = Big sister) the leader of the Nang Loeng community shows us around but anybody can come to the market. You will find an array of local delicacies and snacks, all homemade of course. I definitely recommend to come hungry!
All around the market hall, you will find stalls in little alleys and I strongly recommend following your nose inside, the food you will find here is some of the best I have had in Thailand.
Turns out I am much better at eating than dancing. Even Aunty Kanya, one of the last remaining stars of Thai dance, can't make me look graceful. But I give her credit for trying and for allowing me a glimpse into her life and her past. We meet at her local temple where she not only shows me the grave of her mother who was a dancer like her and once upon a time consort to the king of Cambodia but also Mitr Chaibancha's resting place. He is the Thai Elvis Prestley and comes from her community. I can tell by her giggle and the garlands around his grave that a few girls, regardless of age, must have had or may still have a crush on him.
It is one of those interactions that we as travelers always thrive to have but are so hard to come by. How do you meet people like Aunty Kanya when you arrive in a foreign country, how do you listen to their stories without knowing the language, how do you forge a connection if you don't leave your tour bus and just look at everything from the outside?
I am grateful for my wonderful guide, Yin, who makes it possible for me to get a look at the real Bangkok - the old, the new and an Elvis who still makes old women blush.
Noon: Whenever I come to Bangkok I like to scout new contestants for the title of the best pad thai. Upon arrival, this time around I make the rookie error of heading to Khao San road for a meal, wondering how bad it can be after being deprived of pad thai for so long. It was is bad, I almost cry. Don't make the same mistake! Instead, head to Tip Samai. There you will not find the best pad thai in Bangkok even though many might disagree. But argue all you want, they are not open for lunch and the lines in the evening are rather long so just turn left. Walk a few meters and find a little restaurant with an open kitchen on the street. Here you will find the real best pad thai in Bangkok, probably because it is made with yummy red prawn fat. Go there and thank me later!
Getting pampered at HARNN
PM: Finding a great massage is a must for any Bangkok itinerary and is easy and inexpensive. But as much as I like a 200 baht foot massage on the roadside on Khao San, sometimes it needs to be a bit fancier. If you are in need of being spoiled I recommend heading to HARNN with a pitstop at their adjacent Asian Holistic Acadamy. Here you can learn all about the five elements, balancing body and mind, and make your own fragrances according to your personality and taste. Let's just say it is not as easy as it sounds and I am glad to have master fragrance mixer Arm by my side to guide me through a maze of jasmine, rose, and sandalwood. My own creation in hand I head to the HARNN spa which deserves the title best spa Bangkok with the best view. Honestly, the panorama alone is worth a visit. HARNN is another great example of a truly local experience thanks to the brand's founder Vudhichai Harnphanich who created its signature soaps in 1999. Mind you, I am not here for the soap but for an hour of bliss. Well, actually... I am fast asleep within 15 minutes and so I can only assume that my massage was bliss.
Caturday Cat Cafe
Afternoon Delight: Okay, so I am fully aware how odd this sounds and we are in Bangkok but there is no better way to describe a visit at Caturday. I mean have you ever?!
I knew cat cafes existed but it was almost like meeting Santa. You kinda know that he is real, you hope a whole lot but you are just not a hundred percent sure that such magic can truly exist until you meet him. Or in my case them. 30 of the fluffiest, prettiest (minus the horrible bows they make them wear), loveliest cats. I have not been that happy in a really long time as I am at Caturday and I am glad that I won't end up alone as a cat lady (which by the way I don't consider an insult but rather something to aspire too) - there were quite a few of us.
While some countries have gone a bit crazy and opened cafes with animals that by my definition shouldn't be kept inside and petted (looking at you, baby kangaroo in Korea!) I think cats are alright. At least I hope so. The cats looked healthy, every patron was reminded not to pick them up or bother sleeping cats, and the waitresses/cat-carers seemed to genuinely love their animals. But if you know of any issues with cat cafes and why one shouldn't support them for the welfare of cats, do let me know. I really love cats and I'd rather not go than support anything that would harm them. Thanks!
Checking In: For the perfect 24 hours in Bangkok, you will, of course, need the perfect hotel. The Siam Hotel is one of the best hotels in Bangkok and you will notice why as soon as you walk in. I don't say that lightly because I have been in a few great hotels lately and usually have my firm Bangkok favorites. But I am always happy to add to the list especially if a bed is so comfy to immediately become a contender for a spot on the best beds ever list (which you can find here). While utterly luxurious, I love that the Siam as the name implies is full of Thai history. From artifacts to pictures, this place tells a story. As it is raining for the better part of my stay, I cozy up (ignoring the huge desk), enjoy fast wifi and get some work done in bed while stuffing my face with banana chips. Only later do I venture outside. The highlight of the Siam is its location right on the Chao Phraya River. The pool is conveniently located right next to it - perfect for some exercise after the rain is gone and the sun is going down. The view over the river is not quite picture perfect thanks to its muddy brown color and I will admit that I am grateful to be swimming in clean pool water. But it definitely makes for a unique setting and I am quite tempted to interrupt my workout and go for a boat ride instead.
See the night sky
Night: Not that you have to leave the Siam to get a great cocktail. In fact, you probably shouldn't but I want a view over the city with my cocktail.
There is a huge amount of great rooftop bars and a visit should be part of your Bangkok itinerary but sometimes you just want a quick G&T, see the night sky, snap some pictures and be done with it. And more importantly be allowed inside with old Havaianas if those are the only 'decent' shoes you have. Not a given in Bangkok's rooftop bars...
I head to my favorite neighborhood in the old town of Bangkok to the Printing House on Dinso Road. I don't quite know why but the place is usually empty which is a pity really because the views are stunning, the waiters lovely, and they have a good happy hour - all you need from a rooftop bar in my books.
Afterwards, I like to take a stroll through Trok Slip which must be my favorite road in Bangkok. The locals are friendly, there are interesting things to see on every corner and most importantly, day or night, there are cats everywhere and for dog lovers the fattest, friendliest Labrador!
What would you add to your perfect Bangkok itinerary?
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