Thailand—one of Southeast Asia’s most popular countries—continues to grow and flourish. It has so much to offer, from magnificent temples to ancient ruins to bustling cities to beautiful palm-studded beaches. Once the sun begins to set, the streets come alive with markets and street vendors, selling fun trinkets and doling out inexpensive yet delicious food. Bursting with places to see, things to do, and food to eat, the Land of Smiles is one destination you’ll never be bored in.
As with any tropical destination, Thailand can get extremely hot and humid, so avoid the wet, summer season and instead aim to travel from November through February. And, like most places worth visiting, getting to this exotic locale is quite the journey. There are no direct flights from the United States, so be sure to choose an airline that you are not only comfortable with, but that affords you a layover in a desirable airport. Cathay Pacific is arguably one of the best options: You’ll stop in Hong Kong and you won’t have to go through customs, immigration, or a terminal change. Not to mention, HKG is home to some of the best business- and first-class lounges in the world, with luxurious shower rooms that are exactly what you need after a long-haul flight and scrumptious noodle bars to prep you for your three-hour trip to Bangkok.
Once you get to Thailand, you’ll have plenty to do. Here, a look at how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
Skyscrapers, multilane highways, and bumper-to-bumper traffic—unlike anywhere else in Thailand, the country’s capital is as urban as you get. If you’re coming from a big city, Bangkok will feel familiar. It can be a little gritty, but take it at face value and you’ll appreciate the hustle and bustle a lot more.
While tuk-tuks may be a fun experience, they’re not particularly practical or safe. There are plenty of metered cabs that you can hail (make sure you remind the driver to “meter” when you get in) and Uber is fairly ubiquitous as well. For those who want to avoid heavy traffic during rush hour, a comprehensive metro system running through the main parts of the city is also an option.
Where to Eat
Most days you’ll find a pop-up, tented street food market outside of CentralWorld mall on the plaza hugging Ratchadamri Road. It’s unpretentious and inexpensive, and you’ll find everything from fresh fruit juice to fried seafood to grilled chicken on skewers. Those who are hesitant to try food from one of the outdoor makeshift stalls can head over to Eathai at Central Embassy, where more commercialized versions of hawker fare are served up in the basement level of the mall.
Local haunt P’Aor’s must-order dish, tom yum goong noodles, just might be one of your favorite meals ever. Paired with a variety of seafood, the broth is rich and creamy, packed with flavor from the herbs and spices used to make the soup. For some stellar pad thai, head over to Baan Phadthai, where you have to get the traditional noodle dish with blue crab. Afterward, make a short trip over to Lebua’s rooftop bar Sky Barand grab a cocktail while enjoying stellar views of the city. Lastly, for those who want a fine-dining experience, Como Metropolitan’s highly regarded Nahm restaurant will not disappoint.
What to Do and See
The Grand Palace is undoubtedly the attraction in Bangkok. The grounds also host the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, allowing you to knock off two landmarks from your list quickly. Remember to dress modestly, but in case your shorts are a little too short or your top a smidge too revealing, the tourist office has clothes for you to borrow. Wat Pho is also nearby should you want to pay a visit to the Reclining Buddha.
In the evenings, (except for Mondays), the relatively new Ratchada Train Market offers not only a variety of street food stalls, but is a fun shopping destination as well, with vendors selling everything from touristy knickknacks to vintage clothing. And if you happen to be in Bangkok on the weekend, make sure you make the trip out to Amphawa Floating Market for the quintessential Thai experience. You’ll find everything from exotic fruits like mangosteen and rambutan being sold on the wooden boats floating along the canal, as well as ridiculously large prawns and fresh scallops being grilled onboard. Full disclosure: Unlike Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, you won’t be rowing your way through the canal at Amphawa, but this does fortunately mean it’s a little less tourist-laden than its popular counterpart.
Where to Stay
A respite from the cacophony of the city, the Siam Hotel, with its sleek Art Deco black and white façade, is just far enough away from all of the excitement that it’s a welcomed retreat after a busy day of traipsing around Bangkok. With 39 spacious accommodations, a stunning infinity pool with views of the Chao Phraya River, a spa outfitted with a hammam-inspired room, and even a private boat shuttle to and from the BTS Saphan Taksin pier every 90 minutes, the Siam is the definition of luxury. Before you head out for the day, start your morning off at the hotel’s restaurant with an alfresco breakfast looking over the river, sipping on fresh watermelon juice and enjoying a plate of guay tiew talay (wok-fried flat rice noodles with prawns and squid), included in your room rate.Book a Tour Book a Taxi
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