You've got an extra day to kill in Thailand's capital city. Here's what you do.
The last couple of years have not been easy on Bangkok, but the city has shown that it always bounces back, remaining a dynamic hub of culture both traditional and modern. While travelers have been coming to the city for decades, the bustling metropolis’ rapid transformation is revealing new facets that are attracting the next generation of visitors. The contemporary art scene, for example, has never been stronger with plenty of galleries plying local creativity, and chic boîtes offering potent cocktails are popping up everywhere. December 5 is the king’s birthday, so Bangkok—along with the rest of Thailand—will be exceptionally celebratory.
Art is booming here. The massive Bangkok Art and Culture Center looks a bit like the Guggenheim in NYC and prepares exhibitions by Thai and international artists. WTF Café & Gallery is the hipster-approved destination for avant-garde and thought-provoking works representing all artistic disciplines, from photography to interactive paintings by illustrator Kathy MacLeod.
Start the day at Lumpini Park, a 143-acre hideaway in the heart of Bangkok, where you can join locals running or working out. Afterward, board a longboat and explore the city’s network of canals, which crisscrosses most of Bangkok. If it’s nature you’re truly after, take a cycle tour with SpiceRoads across the Chao Phraya River to Bang Kra Jao, where lush vegetation, local gardens and small temples await.
SHAKEN & STIRRED
The city is now home to innovative cocktail bars such as J. Boroski Mixology, where bartenders dabble in sous vide beverages, and the W XYZ Bar, which revels in molecular mixology. In the buzzy Silom Sathorn neighborhood, the bistro-style Vesper Cocktail Bar & Restaurant does a fantastic job of turning classic drinks into contemporary sips such as A Thyme to Kill, a herbaceous twist on the Negroni using barrel-aged Tanqueray and thyme-infused Cointreau.
In Bangkok, night markets are as much a part of the shopping scene as malls and designer boutiques. There are many of them, but the weekend-only Talad Nud Rot Fai Ratchada (Train Market) is likely the best because of its size. Mine it for vintage clothes, massive chandeliers and motorcycles. When you get peckish, head to the old vans and trucks that dot the market’s perimeter: Many sell authentic street food and cold beer.