I’ve ventured to Thailand once before. Last year on a very relaxing and luxurious trip to Krabi with Qatar Airways. I loved it. But I have to admit that before actually travelling there, I never had Bangkok on my list of places to visit, as I thought it was a smokey party city filled with stag do’s, travellers and tourists sure to leave you with a sore head as well as a sore wallet.
Oh how wrong I was.
It turns out there’s so much more to Bangkok than ladyboys and The Hangover, including oodles of culture, incredible food, wonderful people and little spots of serenity amongst the bustling streets. So here’s one for you if you fancy exploring Bangkok on a more spiritual level than a spirit-filled one!
Explore Bangkok’s Incredible Street Food Scene
One way to really get a taste for Bangkok is to book on a walking street food tour. The street food in Thailand is absolutely amazing so it’s certainly something you need to try – from simple sweet snacks to full-blown Thai curries along with other delicacies such as Duck Feet (yes, really!) this is certainly one for the foodies amongst us! It’s a great way to see a bit of the city too – just make sure you skip breakfast!
(Banana and Egg Pancake with Condensed Milk and Sugar)
We took part in a Historic Food Tasting and Culture Tour and our tour guide was so knowledgeable. We were able to taste everything along the way and really delve into the different cultures that make up Bangkok’s diverse gastronomic scene today.
If you get a chance to try that sweet banana and egg pancake with condensed milk – oh my goodness, it’s heaven! Everything from traditional green curry (Thai Style..aka HOTTT!) to crispy deep fried ginger, fresh fish, deep fried sweet potatoes, custard buns and more. This was one of my favourite days in the city, a real foodie treat!
Take A Break A One Of Their City Spas
There’s nothing like a trip to the spa after a long morning walking around the city but I didn’t quite expect the tranquillity and escapism that we were treated to at Divana Nurture Spa. Nestled in between the towering skyscrapers and surrounded by bustling roads is a little slice of heaven where you can slip away and enjoy heavenly spa treatments, calming cups of warm tea and creative workshops all designed around wellbeing and taking time out.
We were treated to a mind-blowing two-hour full body massage which left me feeling like I was in a trance. Everything was thought of and we were pampered every step of the way, from choosing the massage oils which matched our moods the most, to the comfortable beds, stunning surroundings and calming aftercare. It was quite frankly the most decadent spa treatment I’ve ever experienced.
After our treatments, we took part in a body scrub workshop learning how to make luxury scrubs that we could use at home. I went for an essential oil mix of chamomile and rose for relaxation and skin soothing properties. It was fascinating to learn the ingredients that went into Divanas scrubs – as you can imagine all natural and pure.
After having such a relaxing session for our bodies, it was great to relax our minds with such a calming task too – something that we continued over the next week and really does make a big difference.
Get Creative And Free Your Mind
There’s something to be said for sitting down, taking a deep breath and putting your mind to one task. No distractions of phones buzzing or televisions on in the background – just you, your hands and creativity. It’s the reason I love sewing and crochet so much, it’s relaxing but it’s also fulfilling. It allows your thoughts to flow whilst you’re keeping your mind focused on creating something which I always think is good for the soul.
Just a short drive from the centre of Bangkok you reach Samut Sakhon, a rural and peaceful part of Thailand. We took a visit to Ban Don Kai Dee in Krathum Ban for a ceramic painting workshop – something I’ve never done before but have always been intrigued by.
Wandering down a pathway of low hanging trees surrounded by nothing but nature, bird songs and the occasional tinkle of a windchime we sat down to paint our very own mugs with beautiful bright colours trying desperately to stay within the lines! Not only did we leave with a little trinket to take home, but it was a wondrous few hours basking in the warm shade and letting our minds flow onto the ceramic.
More relaxation for the mind came with a visit to Amphawa Chaipattana Nurak the royal project created to keep the traditions of and wisdom of the Thai folk and Amphawa ways of life alive. Here we were able to learn about the production of palm sugar, have a go at creating our own healing herbal balm and created a wellness tonic to soothe ailments from the outside in.
It’s impossible to imagine a place like this so close to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok but it’s here and it’s absolutely stunning – well worth a visit.
Delve Into The Many Markets
Something Bangkok and Thailand are well known for are their markets. Stall after stall selling fresh fruit, fish, clothes, spices – you name it, they’ve got it. They’re a must see when visiting Bangkok especially this one, The Maeklong Railway Market.
This famous market sees sellers setting up their stalls on the railway tracks to avoid paying the high price for selling inside the official market. 6 times a day the train passes through and the sellers are forced to quickly remove their products, pull back their awnings and stand still as the train passes inches from their feet.
As soon as the train arrives its gone again and the sellers will re-pack their stalls quicker than lightning and the market continues as normal. It’s a spectacular sight to see and highly recommended from me to explore one morning. Take a leisurely meander up the tracks and through all the stalls, haggle for some spices and get a true taste of Thailand.
Almost as fascinating as the Railway Market are the many floating markets such as Tha Kha. Here sellers set up their stalls on paddle boats and line the waterways swapping produce and stories as the buyers float past. It was a lot calmer than the railway market as it almost felt like a social event for the sellers who were chatting away with one another whilst floating along. We visited on one of the quieter days but at the weekend these markets are meant to be quite the hive of activity.
As there wasn’t much for us as tourists to buy we took to a paddle boat ourselves and enjoyed a serene boat ride through the canals looking at the incredible scenery and enjoying the sound of the lapping water. Biss.
Take Your Tastebuds From Traditional to Haute Cuisine
One of my favourite things about Thailand is the food, and having already experienced the street food scene it was time to try the other end of the gastronomic spectrum – haute cuisine. We may have been eating duck feet for breakfast the other day and walking around with plastic containers full of pancakes, but for this evening we were in for a treat – Paste in Bangkok, one of the cities most highly rated eateries serving fusion fine dining, excellent wine pairings in a painfully cool setting.
The service was slick and the flavours were magnificent. It comes at a price as all fine dining does but it’s well worth a visit if you can get yourself a table.
In between street food and the high-end offering at Paste even your usual lunch offering in Thailand is exciting. Punchy flavours, lots of heat, interesting textures and so much choice you really can find everything in Bangkok to tickle those taste buds. There’s so much more to Thai food than a red or green curry and it’s not until you start exploring that you see just how high the quality is out here for flavour and ingredients.
Another great find in the city is a fairly new restaurant 80/20 on Charoen Krung Rd. Serving modern Thai fusion dishes this little foodie haven with its shabby chic industrial decor, friendly young staff and wallet-friendly pricing is a real find. They do all sorts including a tasting menu which well worth a punt – what a stunning night of food – great quality in a really relaxed setting.
Try Sustainable Living
In Nathon Pathom just an hours drive from Bangkok you’ll find Sampran Riverside, a family run eco-cultural estate spread across a 70 acre plot alongside the Tachine River. Here you can experience their Thai Village with skills and traditions passed down from generation to generation, relax in their spa, stay in a traditional Thai house and even visit their farm where they grow their own organic produce.
During our stay here we had the pleasure of taking part in a Thai cooking class using all the ingredients we had picked from the eco farm that very morning. Learning to cook classic dishes such as papaya salad, chicken satay and pad thai was so much fun and a lot easier than I thought!
And the best part is that you get to eat what you create afterwards! I’d highly recommend taking part in a cooking class during your trip to Bangkok, you learn techniques and recipes you can take home and it enables you to continue the taste of Thailand for years to come.
Sampran Riverside is an excellent choice for families or groups who want to experience the city of Bangkok but also see some tradition too. Checking in here for a week is a fantastic way to do just that – relax by the pool and soak up the warm weather, explore the rice fields, learn Thai boxing or weave traditional flower bracelets. Enjoy fresh top quality food and explore the grounds. It really does have everything.
Relax In Style and Explore The City
From the traditional to the downright fancy. A trip to Bangkok and it’s surrounds really does boast the best of both worlds, and we couldn’t come to this incredible city without touching on the luxury you can find right in the heart.
Surrounded by grand palaces, interesting workshops, street sellers and sky bars you also have an amazing scene of luxury hotels to enjoy. And it doesn’t really get more modern luxury than the COMO Metropolitan. I’ve stayed in some incredible hotels around the world but this one has made my hit list. Heavenly beds, high-quality bathroom products, delicious breakfasts and all the mod cons – this really is the way to relax when stopping over in Bangkok.
Enjoy a top quality Thai massage, dine at one of their famous restaurants, spend a day with waiter service by the pool or relax in your room. You can lock yourself away for a romantic break in the city and explore as much as you like whilst being surrounded by luxury.
This is my kind of city break!
My eyes have well and truly been opened to the wonders of Bangkok – it was nothing like I expected. Yes there are still well known party streets and stunning skybars (ok, we did have a cheeky cocktail up one on our last night!) but it’s also oozing with culture and with a little drive out you’re able to soak in the pizazz of the city but get a taste for real Thailand too.
Every time I visit this part of the world I just want more and more. The people, the food the lifestyle, I adore it all.
Chang Mai, I’m coming for you next.