How to go beyond the obvious in Bangkok

How to go beyond the obvious in Bangkok



Because there's more to the Thai capital than temples, night markets, megamalls — and more malls.

Bangkok is one of those cities that boasts a bit of everything, especially for first-timers curious about its majestic temples, crowded megamalls, bargain-driven night markets, and notoriously seedy nightlife. As for those returning to the city and on the lookout for what else the city has to offer? Read on.

The Mustang Nero

A stay with a difference sets the tone for any holiday and, in Bangkok, The Mustang Nero is a no-brainer. This intimately sized hotel is furnished with taxidermy, five (living) cats, vintage furniture, found objects, industrial knick-knacks, and tropical botanicals aplenty. Each of the ten rooms has a unique theme of its own, so no two stays at this property will be alike. In the green-hued Octopus's Garden, for example, you'll sleep alongside a miniature garden, magnets depicting the solar system, life-size artwork, an old-timey metal locker, a revolver resting on a coffee table book, and even the horns of an unidentifiable animal — true story.

Kathmandu Photo Gallery

Named after the Nepalese capital and housed in a Sino-Portuguese shophouse, Kathmandu Photo Gallery is a haven for photography enthusiasts in Bangkok. Incidentally, the owner – Manit Sriwanichpoom – is Thailand's leading photographer, and he wanted the space to resemble the photography shops of yesteryear, where customers could rummage through prints (hence the nonchalant layout and eclectic selection). It aims to preserve the works of forgotten photography masters, so exhibitions frequently take place onsite. You'll also find photobooks, postcards, titles on Hinduism and Shamanism, and even prayer beads. Everything is a little haphazardly displayed, which somehow only adds to its charm.

Ampersand Gelato

Few ice cream spots look – truly look – worldwide for culinary inspiration, but Ampersand delivers on its promise of serving "internationally inspired gelato". And virtually no flavour is off limits. The ever-evolving roster has already featured the likes of Tabasco, squid ink, black truffles, feta cheese and fig, butterfly pea and lime, and even smoked salmon. Consider yourself a traditionalist? Fret not; the less adventurous can relish the classics that are done to perfection: pistachio, dark chocolate, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry yoghurt, peanut butter, and plenty more.

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Look closer at Bangkok's often-overlooked culture scene, and it will surprise you. And that's exactly why no trip to the Thai capital is complete without a visit to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. This beautifully designed multi-storey institute hosts everything from theatre performances and art installations to cultural talks, educational events, film screenings, and live music alongside cafés, art galleries, indie bookstores, interesting pop-ups by homegrown brands, and more. Bonus: all museum labels are bilingual, allowing tourists to get a better understanding of what's on exhibit.

Pak Khlong Talat

While most markets across Bangkok are associated with designer knockoffs and kitschy souvenirs, Pak Khlong Talat essentially envelopes visitors in flowers, flowers, and more flowers. Operating around the clock, this iconic market is a sight to behold for the sheer variety of blooms alone — roses, orchids, lilies, tulips, carnations, marigolds, and more are sold for incredibly reasonable prices. Our tip: head by the market just before dawn to see it is at its liveliest, with boats and trucks bringing fresh supplies from nearby provinces. Alternatively, hop on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat and hop off at the Rajinee Pier station (you'll see a slice of Bangkok's riverside life this way).

Floral Cafe at Napasorn

A mere two-minute walk away from Pak Khlong Talat awaits Floral Cafe at Napasorn, where the finest of the flower market's blooms are paired with decadent desserts and a heavy dose of whimsy (Alice in Wonderland comes to mind). The coffee selection is pretty ingenious, too — espresso is accompanied by a scoop of orange ice cream over summer months, for example. Located above a florist's shop, this charming café is adorned with vases, chandeliers, mirrors, memorable quotes, obscure accents, dried bouquets, and – of course – fresh flowers. And because its décor changes seasonally, there's always a reason to return.

Baan Silapin

Baan Silapin, Khlong Bang Luang, the Artist's House — don't let the multitude of names deter you as this one's the definitive hidden gem in Bangkok. Home to a traditional puppetry show held six days a week, Baan Silapin also houses an art gallery, life-size sculptures, and gorgeous handicrafts for sale, making it a fascinating pitstop. Additionally, Baan Silapin is located in a 200-year-old wooden house that hovers over water on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river, thereby offering a glimpse of how residents of Bangkok's old canals live to this day. 

Admittedly, finding it isn't easy, but a combination of Google Maps, asking locals for directions, and using Wat Kuhasawan temple as the nearest landmark will do the trick. And while simply arriving will feel like an accomplishment, be sure to have your ride back to the city centre figured out in advance — or be prepared to hitchhike!