Confused on where we are? I’m catching up on the black hole of content from May of 2016 to April of 2017 — when I jumped forward to blog the summer of 2017 as it was happening. This post is from December of 2016, when I hopped back to Thailand, and I can’t wait to turn my detailed notes and journals into more blog posts Thailand and Bali next! My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.
After bringing Becca out to the Thai boonies, I knew our next stop might be a bit of a shock to the system: Bangkok, full glitz and glamour style. Most first time travelers to Thailand get their start on the mean streets of backpacker favorite Khao San Road, but we were going straight to the big leagues: high-rise Sukhumvit.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Hotel Indigo brand, so when I heard they opened Hotel Indigo Bangkok in Sukhumvit near Lumpini Park, I bumped it to the top of my list of hotels to check out in Thailand’s always magnetic capitol. And it didn’t disappoint — the lobby was quirky and colorful, the restaurants were sleek and modern, the pool boasted a perfect skyline view, and the rooms were funky and modern.
The standard suites are swoon-worthy, in my opinion, and come with a bonus that’s rare and special in Bangkok — a private balcony! These photos are of Koh Tao Amy’s room, who met up with us halfway through the trip for a little big city getaway.
Much to Becca and I’s surprise, we were upgraded to a suite that would have made the cast of The Hangover 2: Bangkok Edition blush. Between the golden dragon faucets, the endless mirrored surfaces and the TV that appeared out of a bureau with the touch of a button, we felt kind of guilty we didn’t have a whole crew to come over and have a debaucherous, 80’s style penthouse party in it.
It was a Friday night in Bangkok, and Becca generously offered to treat me to a fancy dinner to thank me for the hotel hook up, and showing her around my home away from home. We headed to Charcoal, a hip new tandoor grill restaurant near nightlife center Soi 11. There were some seriously fun touches, like the passport that came with my New Delhi Duty Free cocktail, delivered in a duty free bag, and the open window to the tandoor kitchen. Perhaps it was just super new at the time, but it didn’t have the buzzy vibes of other restaurants in the area like Nest or Above 11 — I’d save this one for a low key night rather than to pump you up for a night out.
After dinner, we did sneak up to Above 11 on the roof for a peek at the view, and over to Havana Social for one drink enjoying the live salsa music, but I was still somewhat in jetlag mode and Becca was still basking in the afterglow of zen from her recent yoga teacher training, so we called it a night pretty quickly.
The next morning, we took advantage of what I think may be Hotel Indigo Bangkok‘s greatest asset — it’s close proximity to Lumpini Park! This grand green space is Bangkok’s answer to Central Park, and I can never get enough of it. Becca and I set off for a power walk before heading to the hotel’s fitness center, but got frequently distracted by water monitors the size of small humans, public art displays, and those local group fitness classes so popular across Southeast Asia grooving out in the park.
That afternoon, after a bit of laptop time, we enjoyed a stormy sunset from the pool.
That evening, we decided to make progress towards not one but two of my very important personal goals: going to every single movie theater at Siam Paragon Cineplex, and eating at every Mexican restaurant in Bangkok. I know, I know, don’t dream too big over here!
We grabbed dinner at Méjico in CentralWorld — one thing that often surprises newcomers about Bangkok is the fact that the best restaurants are rarely freestanding. They tend to be tucked away in the malls and even the hotels! This was my first time trying Méjico and I was very impressed, though sadly it hasn’t stood up to the initial impressions in subsequent trips. Still, it has snazzy interiors, and a menu that goes beyond the taco and burrito basics — so definitely try it out if you’re a guac lover stranded in the Big Mango.
After, we popped next door to Siam Paragon to check out a first for both of us — the True 4DX Theatre at Paragon Cineplex. Another way Bangkok once mystified me — here’s what initially might appear to be one movie theater, but it actually has like six individual theaters inside, each with something unique and some with their own ticketing, waiting lounges, food and beverage services and beyond! Of all Bangkok’s theaters, Paragon Cineplex is definitely the poshest.
Disney’s Moana seemed like the perfect movie to lose our 4D virginity to, as I imagined gentle seat swaying and playful sprays of water during the movie’s extensive sailing scenes. Um, no. Unbeknownst to us, we had paid to be submitted to a two hour assault on the senses, with aggressive chair jerking akin to a nonstop turbulent flight, super soakers of water to the face at regular intervals, and bumps in our seats that it felt like the chairs should have bought us dinner first for. I was like, is there a dimmer somewhere where I can turn this down to like, 15%? Apparently, we are not exactly the target audience for 4D movie theaters.
The next morning, we had a very special delivery arriving… Amy, straight from Koh Tao! Amy’s sister Harri was traveling around Thailand as well, and so it was the perfect timing for all of us to meet up in Bangkok for a few days before heading down the Gulf together. Koh Tao was getting hammered with relentless rain at the time, and so Amy was keen as could be for a little island fever cure.
She landed bright and early on Sunday, and after a shriek-filled reunion in the hotel lobby, we set off for a busy day of playing tourist.
I don’t always succeed, but I do try to make an effort to do one new thing every time I go to Bangkok (at this point, after approximately a thousand visits, it’s hard not to fall back on old favorites.) This particular weekend, I was knocking it out of the park! Amy had justified the trip as she desperately needed to pick up a few things at Chatuchak Market, Bangkok’s world-famous weekend shopping bonanza. I suggested that we stop en route at the MOCA Bangkok, the city’s obscure Museum of Contemporary Art.
I’ve literally never known anyone to visit this museum before, which I’d guess is largely due to the fact that unless you’re going to Chatuchak, it’s wildly out of the way of anything else. Admission is 250B for adults and 100B for anyone with a student ID card (ahem), which is also steep for Thailand.
I have to admit, I think I kind of misrepresent the museum a bit with these photos — ha. I did find some pieces that I seriously loved, which are shared here, but overall, the art was not really to my taste. Most of it was very graphic with a lot of religious iconography, and just didn’t speak to me personally.
I’m super glad I went and finally checked it out, and would absolutely recommend any contemporary art lovers coming to Bangkok do the same on their way to or from Chatuchak, but I don’t think I’ll be back.
And then we were off to Chatuchak! I had such a tragic amount of stuff with me already, I managed to resist buying much, but I did indulge in my usual Chatuchak favorites, like coconut ice cream and a foot massage off the main strip of stalls while watching the world go by.
That evening, we got ready for a night on the town. We kicked things off with a drink at the rooftop bar at Indigo, called Char — not to be confused with Charcoal, Becca and I’s dinner spot from earlier in the weekend! The views were incredible, and we couldn’t stop complimenting each other on how nice we cleaned up… and unlike that hilarious Amy Schumer skit on girls not being able to accept kudos, we were lapping them all up.
Our taco tour of Bangkok continued with a hop over to Thonglor and dinner at the hip new Touché Hombre, which could have come straight out of Las Vegas. Lovers of tacos, tequila, and neon cat signs will be in heaven here, though selfishly I would have loved a few rum based cocktails (tequila and I have never been friends.)
While the menu isn’t my favorite — and I almost called the police over the tragic dryness of the tres leches I ordered here on a subsequent visit — the location and atmosphere here are so great, it really is another must do on the Bangkok taco trail.
Thonglor has been my Thailand crew’s hangout for a while and we’ve definitely gotten into a bit of a routine where we always head to the same bars, so on this particular night we were determined to shake it up a bit. We hopped over to Myst for cocktails, and weren’t let down. Like, literally, mist was involved in several of the drinks!
We hopped around a few more painfully hip Thonglor hotspots, but we had to at some point accept that the heart wants what the heart wants, and what our hearts wanted that particular evening was to dance our little buns off to trash pop, a la Justin Beiber.
And we knew just where to go.
Ah, Levels, you never let us down! Bangkok’s enduring mega-club always never lets you down on the vintage Britney, the girls teetering in impossible heels, and the overpriced drinks fronts. Harri, Amy’s younger sister, took one glance at the place and left the old ladies to elbow other sweaty people off the dance floor.
Upon exiting the club at a shockingly late hour, Becca confessed she still hadn’t ridden in a tuk tuk. She barely finished the sentence when Amy stepped into the street and chased down one that had just barreled past blasting chart music. And so our night ended the way all the best blurry Bangkok ones do, having a dance party in a tuk tuk and paying the driver in cheeseburgers to stop at McDonald’s on the way back to your hotel after party.
The next morning Harri looked on smugly while the three of us bitterly lamented that the best cure for a hangover is being under twenty-five years old (just kidding, Harri is the sweetest girl ever.) We crawled our way back to Thonglor, however, for one last round of all-curing Mexican cuisine: lunch at Barrio Bonito, one of my enduring favorites from The Commons.
Even if you’re not a mall person — normally I’m not, though Bangkok makes an exception out of me — The Commons is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen, and is well worth a stop for its mega hip food court alone.
The one thing you can’t miss at Barrio Bonito? The guacamole cones with pomegranate seeds on top. They literally have revolutionized the way I look at poms. The cool part about the open-air food court down here is you have free range to mix and match your meals from any of the vendors, and that includes drinks! I tend to always grab some sort of obscure cider from The Beer Cap to pair with my Mexican fix.
Alas, our time in the skyscrapers of Sukhumvit was coming to a close.
With a 6AM bus from Khao San Road the next morning, we’d decided to spent our last evening around the corner from the bus station at my old favorite, Rikka Inn (plus, I’d left a ton of stuff there in storage my first night before heading up to Lopburi!)
However, before we even arrived we got the call that our bus was cancelled — severe weather warnings in the South meant all ferries were suspended. I was bummed — I was dying to get back to the little island I’d been away from for so long, come hell or high water. Amy on the other hand, who was still drying out from the previous weeks of soaking, cheered at the prospect of another day in Bangkok.
I actually changed my tune too, when I realized that my dear friend Wes was in town and this meant we’d have the day to overlap! We caught up over a drink at drink at Sheepshank, a hidden away, industrial chic spot on the river a mere few moments walk away from Khao San. While I’d hoped it might be one to add to my very short list of places that have decent eats in the area, it seemed sadly to be more style than substance — essentially none of the menu was available, and I later read reviews that we were lucky that was the case. Still, it’s a gorgeous place to sip a craft cider with river views.
For food that’s healthy and delicious within arm’s reach of Khao San, I finally got to check out the famous Ethos, and see what all the buzz is about. It’s worth the hype, y’all — a great vegetarian option with comfy seats to lose a few hours in.
Though we spent the full day skeptical our bus wouldn’t again be bumped, we eventually did board for the south. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun four days in Bangkok, or a better crew to spent it with. I’ve got dozens of Bangkok weekends in the books but this one still stands out fondly. (And makes me think dang, the next ebook I write has got to be for Bangkok!)
Next stop, Koh Tao!
Heading to Thailand? Don’t miss my Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao, chock full of nine years of research on one of the best islands in Southeast Asia for scuba diving, hiking, beach bumming, dining and nightlife.
I love those infinity style rooftop pools! I stayed in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur that had that as well. I always get really inspired to visit Bangkok again when I read your posts. I really have to make my way back there one day!
Aw I love to hear that Dominique. Much more Bangkok content coming up 🙂
1) You have many friends that you just randomly meet up with in various places
2) Every single time you write a Bangkok post I learn about many many more things to do; that place has so much stuff!
Ha, I do have a million random friends and we love to meet up in random places 🙂 I guess I attract people who love to travel! Ha.
Oh how nice
Thanks Jo-Anne 🙂
You make going to Bangkok look like no big deal. For some reason the media and urban legends have made me terrified of visiting. I may have to reconsider 🙂
It really is no big deal, I swear! Okay, it can be overwhelming for sure, but no more than any other big city. I’ve always felt SUPER safe there.
Loved this post Alex…
Your writing on the big city is always interesting.
Bangkok has definitely wormed its way into my heart!
On my return home a month ago – I went for a night out to the Marriott Hotels -Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar with my sister in law and her daughter.
45 floors up, with a 360 degree view of the city. £40 for 5 drinks between the 3 of us. Expensive, magical and worth every single damn penny! 😉
I loooooove Octave! I always want to go for sunset, but I never seem to manage to get there in time. The sun sets too dang early in Thailand, in my opinion 😉
I agree – the night we went it was an awesome sunset but due to travel and work commitments I couldn’t get there in time unfortunately.
There will be a next time!!!!! 🙂
I have to say I think a guidebook would be great. It honestly is difficult for a visitor who has nobody to show them around. It would be great to have a few itineraries (2 days/3days/5/7) that incorporate various neighborhoods and eateries/bars/clubs/transpo/hotels. Would recommend!
Thank you for the encouragement Kate! It’s something I would LOVE to make happen!