Okay, so I actually spent a week in Bangkok but 72 hours were spent at the most epic resort wedding ever and two of the days were cut short from travelling. With really only 48 hours for my boyfriend and I to explore, I’ve put together a short guide on what to do and all of the essentials you need to have the best albeit busy experience in one of the most incredible cities in the world! In part 1, I also share what to do in the first day, from breakfast to after dinner drinks, and all the sights in between.
Grab taxi app
If I hadn’t downloaded this app, I would’ve been so stressed from trying to figure out the transport system in Bangkok. The sky train doesn’t cover all of the areas I wanted to visit and I am really wary of getting targetted with tourist prices. Using this ride-sharing service was so convenient because the estimated prices are more ‘fixed’ than Uber’s rates and also much cheaper. At around an average of 150 baht average per ride, which converts to just under £4, it made getting around affordable. Compared to other cities where I’ve used Grab, the drivers in Bangkok are super responsive and the app actually translates their messages for you so that it’s easy to communicate. Just a note of caution – this is a city infamous for terrible congestion so always plan ahead and be wary that the estimated time to get from A to B could double if you’re thinking of taking a car.
Starling bank card
Earlier last year, I took part in a campaign with this fintech startup and I am still using their product months later. It’s the only current account I access while abroad because it shows me how much I’ve been charged on the spot, there are no transaction or withdrawal fees and if there are any problems, I can speak to a human representative 24/7. Because it’s so useful when travelling, it’s also my default card for the Grab taxi app. However, Bangkok is quite a cash reliant city, so from experience it’s good to take money out ‘just in case’.
Not kidding, if you go to any street food stall or find yourself in a random shopping mall and need the loo, you’ll be met with the stark realisation that there is no toilet paper. My grandma always says, “ladies should always have tissues” but in especially in Bangkok, everyone should.
And that leads me on to the anti-bacterial gel. I don’t know what I would’ve done without it. I use it to sanitise my phone every night, which aids in protecting against breakouts but even if you’re not too concerned about that (why not though?) there’s also a lack of soap in the above places. You’ll thank me later for this, I promise.
Breakfast at Organika House, 10:00-11:30pm
Get to the Organika House cafe as early as possible, I’d recommend around 11am-midday as any later and you’ll be competing for space with crowds of well-dressed ladies, ready for their Instagram shot. While service is on the slow side, the food is surprisingly good for such a hyped location (contrary to London’s Instagram hotspots) and the lighting is perfect with the reflective marble and 180 view windows. I went for the shashuka which was laden with chillies and made for a very fiery brunch. The boyfriend opted for the salmon and asparagus crepe and even though he hates these types of cafes, you know, the ones where we take ages taking photos and barely eat a bite, he highly rated the meal.
Little Zoo Cafe, Siam Square, 12:00-1pm
Ever wanted to interact with a prairie dog? What about a pack of corgis? Little Zoo Cafe in Siam Square has all of these, plus a meerkat and a giant bunny. Most friendly of all are the chihuahuas that will sniff you out to decide which lap to nap on.
Some people express concern over animal cafes and rightly so. While it’s wrong to exploit the comfort of vulnerable creatures for commercial gain, it’s also important to see how individual cafes operate. At Little Zoo, the animals were given lots of ‘rest’ time where guests weren’t allowed into their private space and all of them were well socialised and relaxed. I do however, worry about the meerkat which was the only one by itself and not in its usual set up (friends, burrows and hills). Also, if you’re planning to visit, you can’t expect the dogs to be playful or ‘excited’ to see you. They’re only hyped to see their usual carers and it just isn’t fair on them for guests to expect the same greeting.
It’s reasonably priced at 750 baht per person (£17), which includes a dessert and a drink, as well as a fresh pair of socks to make sure you’re not dragging in dirt from outdoors when entering the animals’ enclosures. One of the most sweetest sights was a hairless dog that loves to cuddle up to the sleeping fennec fox, basking in the sunlight. You definitely won’t see that everyday.
Jay Fai, 1:30-3pm
Word of caution: you’ll only be able to fit this into your itinerary if you’re able to book a table in advance. Alternatively, you’ll have to be willing to camp outside the street food stall for a solid three hours. In exchange, what you’re guaranteed is that the 73 year-old Michelin star chef herself will prepare every dish for you and you’ll have full view of her open air kitchen. Although the dishes are delectable and full of wonderful flavours and textures, they’re not necessarily worth the hot and uncomfortable hours of anticipation, which includes the time it takes from when you’ve placed an order to when you actually see it on your table. Also, when I frequented, half of the menu was unavailable.
Jay Fai is most famous for her burrito-like omelettes, packed to bursting point with fresh chunks of crab meat. Then there’s her tom yum soup, a huge bowl swimming with giant, juicy prawns and mushrooms that have soaked up all of that powerful lemongrass flavour. Very spicy and very salty, it’s a starter that really kicks your brain into overdrive after a sleepy, languid wait for a table. The noodles, especially the char kway teow, deserve applause for its silky, refined texture. From experience, a lot of street food or hawker noodles tend to be starchy and clumpy, packed with msg, but these don’t have that typical ‘cheap’ taste. And you shouldn’t expect anything less with the price tag of 500 baht a plate. For a table of four, we paid 4000 baht +.
Wat Pho, 3:45-4:45pm
Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are within an easy walking distance from each other. We ended up skipping the latter because of the overwhelming swarms of tourists, just imagine rush hour crowds x10. Entry for the temple is 100 baht and it’s home to the famous Reclining Buddha. Expect to take your shoes off in respect if you intend to get a closer look. Wat Pho occupies a much larger area than the next temple and the structures are shorter and dispersed, which makes for a visually compelling landscape.
Wat Arun, 5-6pm
All the way across town and over a river is the most beautiful temple in Bangkok. Known as the Temple of Dawn, it’s as at it’s best amidst sunrise or sunset, when the white stonework is soaked in a golden light. I’d recommend to go in the afternoon, it’s not as busy and despite it’s small size, there are plenty of empty spots to take in the view and take a few sneaky pics. Entry is only 50 baht and as you’ll find with all of the religious sites, conservative dress where shoulders and knees are covered is required. There are a few stalls selling coverups but it’s best to come prepared, otherwise you’ll end up looking like a gap year student.
Dinner at The Water Library, Chamchuri Square, 7:30-9:30pm
Thailand boasts many wonderful cuisines besides it’s own. Did you know that Asia’s best restaurant is actually an Indian fusion setup?
On day one, after experiencing the chaos and heat of Jay Fai, treat yourself to a meal at another Michelin starred restaurant, The Water Library. The French fine dining establishment gets its name from its extensive display of expensive bottles of H2O but despite its quirky USP, it isn’t intimidating at all. Mostly because it’s located in a shopping mall.
The tasting menu is one to sample (£80/3500 baht for eight courses), with particular highlights being the ebi and botan shrimp. A sweet, subtly creamy mix of flavours, complemented by the lightness of the tomato jelly at the bottom and the foam on top. However, the greatest achievement of the menu has to be the reinvention of classical, and dare I say often boring, signature French plates. The foie gras in this instance was a marvel – a smooth pate with mango sorbet and basil oil, to be eaten alongside a crunchy, chewy fruit bread. Then there was the lobster in Bourbon sauce, with large slithers of truffle. The meat’s delicate yet distinct flavour was enhanced by the aromatic foam and juicy morsels of mushroom.
Although wine pairings are available at 1900 baht per person, we opted for the bottle of pinot grigio at 1250 baht, to go with the multiple fish-based courses.
While the cooking isn’t turning heads (the restaurant was completely empty on a Monday evening) it’s a great meal that won’t make you roll your eyes with boredom and wonder where your money went.
Drinks at Maggie Choo’s, 9:30pm onwards
End the long day of sightseeing and feasting at the popular 1930’s Shanghai-themed bar. From the outside, it looks like a typical sleazy watering hole. But once inside, ladies dressed in cheongsams and chic bobbed hairstyles lounge above the bar or chatter with each other while perched on tasseled swings. There’s live music playing classics and oldies, and here the cocktails are strong and taken very seriously. Designed by Ashley Sutton, the mastermind behind one of my favourite Hong Kong bars, Iron Fairies, an hour or so at Maggie Choo’s is a ride into an enigmatic period, far far away from tuk tuks and jetlag.
Part 2 of the 48 Hour Bangkok Guide coming to you soon!