Electric Bangkok

The savvy traveler’s guide to Thailand’s buzzing capital

Knowing when to go, what to do and how to get there – these are the M.O. of a savvy traveler.

Whether it’s a detailed checklist before every trip or discovering ways to make their journeys smoother, savvy travelers know the hacks and tips to make the most out of every destination.

In Bangkok, you’ll hit the ground running. There’s a contagious energy in Thailand’s storied capital that few world cities can match. But it’s hard to put your finger on the reasons for this dynamism.

Is it because Bangkok is the world’s most-visited capital? Or is it because it’s Southeast Asia’s most cosmopolitan megacity? Perhaps it’s the compelling history, eclectic architecture and colorful religious scenes. Or maybe it’s the city’s world-class dining, non-stop shopping and electric nightlife. The truth is that it’s all these elements – and more. The secret to Bangkok’s allure is in its diversity.

Bangkok boggles the mind like no place else. When you fly through the sky on the city’s thundering sky train, it feels like you’ve stepped into the future – until you look down and spot traditional houses that have stood for decades.

Take in the views from a riverside skyscraper and you’ll be on top of the world – but then the neighboring ancient stupa will bring you back to earth. For breakfast you can tuck into mouthwatering street eats, for lunch you’ll snack in boutique bistros and in the evening, you can dine in some of Southeast Asia’s finest restaurants.

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Bangkok’s architectural variety gives the most memorable first impression, and the winding Chao Phraya River is a good place to start. Here you’ll find towering skyscrapers that compete with iconic stupas lining the shoreline. You’ll also see amphibious wooden structures sitting beside century-old European mansions.

Make the most of Bangkok’s central artery with riverside accommodation at historic hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which offers extra special treatment for in-the-know travelers. Remember to ask the hotel about their black-out dates to ensure you enjoy promotional rates. Dine in the clouds at Michelin star restaurants like the illustrious Mezzaluna on the 65th floor. Savvy Traveler tip: Ask about the complimentary champagne as you take in the views.

The palaces, temples, and shrines are the jewels in Bangkok’s architectural crown and a reminder of the city’s long history and cultural importance. When the sun shines bright, tiled rooftops shimmer and sparkle. And when a thunderstorm hits, you can duck inside and explore their treasured interiors.

Here you’ll find gigantic reclining Buddhas with contemplative expressions carved into their wise faces and devout worshippers who will delight in sharing their practice. If you’re lucky, you may even find the best massage of your life, as some temples double as traditional training centers.

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Bangkok’s various neighborhoods make for excellent aimless wandering.

For a sense of old Bangkok, head to Chinatown and burrow through the narrow alleyways between attractive shophouses. For futuristic vibes, discover the Siam station area with its raised walkways and soaring sky train links. For nightlife, check out fancy Thong Lor, funky Ari or buzzing Silom.

If you need to take a break from it all, simply retreat into one of the leafy parks. Bangkok’s green spaces are a city secret that savvy travelers treasure highly. Make the most of Lumpini Park – the city’s largest and loveliest – from a hotel that’s walking distance, such as the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, or stop for a world-class meal at J’AIME by Jean-Michel Lorain.

For a cozy neighborhood green space, make Benchasiri Park your base from Shama Lakeview Asoke Bangkok and enjoy exclusive views over Bangkok’s most picturesque body of water: Benjakitti Park.

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Bangkok also has some of the most appealing shopping on the planet. You’ll find enormous malls like Central Chidlom offering the world’s favorite brands and glistening boutique emporiums dedicated to luxury and exclusivity. Some shopping centers double as art exhibition halls and boast urban rainforests while others offer state-of-the-art entertainment.

But if you’re after a bargain, Bangkok still delivers. Gigantic indoor markets offer everything under the sun, including fashion, electronics and more. Bangkok’s shopping centers are also one of the best places to tuck into some grub, with affordable food courts and superb restaurants. Savvy Traveler tip: The Bangkok shopping is so good (and usually price-friendly) that no visitor will be without a purchase or two. Using credit cards for retail can help you be flexible with your local currency, as well as provide a level of purchase security.

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No introduction to Bangkok is complete without mentioning the hospitality of its residents. There’s a reason that Thailand is called the Land of Smiles, and visitors are sometimes surprised to find that this reputation still rings true in the capital. As the city roars on, the inhabitants are refreshingly laidback.

For a city that receives many millions of visitors each year, the reception is one of welcome rather than indifference. From the joyous smiles of giggling street food sellers to the natural warmth offered by service staff, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to make friends in Bangkok.

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