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How to spend a day in Bangkok, from flower markets to food stalls

From breakfast through to rooftop cocktails, here's our guide to making the most of 14 hours in Thailand’s buzzing capital.

Published 8 Mar 2021, 08:00 GMT, Updated 23 Apr 2021, 12:06 BST
At Pak Khlong Talat, close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple, vendors peddle blooms by ...

At Pak Khlong Talat, close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple, vendors peddle blooms by the bucketload.

Photograph by Ulf Svane

8am: Visit the flower market

Wake up and literally smell the roses at one of Bangkok’s oldest and largest markets — Pak Khlong Talat. The market is located close to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple, and vendors peddle blooms by the bucketload, such as lotuses, lilies, chrysanthemums, gerberas, roses and rare Thai tulips. Also on sale are beautiful Buddhist offerings called wai phra, set on gold-leaf plinths with a candle and three incense sticks at their centre. Jakkrapet Road, Bangkok 10200

9am: Breakfast & more blooms 

Stick with the floral theme for breakfast, in the fairytale surroundings of the Floral Cafe at Napasorn, hidden deep inside the flower market. Set above a florist’s shop, this cafe looks like a Thai version of Wonderland, with every inch of wall space covered with exotic blooms, hanging ferns, crystal chandeliers, etched mirrors, porcelain vases, and art works (nearly all of which is for sale). The coffee is strong, and the baked goods are home-made (try the rose chocolate cake). 67 Chakkraphet Road

11am: Take a long-tail boat tour

There’s no better way to get a sense of old Bangkok than on a long-tail boat tour of the Thonburi klongs (canals), site of the original Siamese capital before 18th-century King Rama I moved it to the other side of the Chao Phraya River. As you glide through winding waterways, look out for fields of edible water spinach, monitor lizards swimming between stilted houses, weathered grandmas hanging laundry and the gold tops of temples peeking above banyan trees. Many hotels can arrange tours, or select a boat and haggle the fare.

1pm: Lunch at the never ending summer

Ask your boat captain to drop you off on the western Khlong San side of the river at the end of your tour, so you can have lunch at The Never Ending Summer. Set inside a former warehouse, it’s got chic art gallery vibes, and a prime waterfront location adjacent to the oh-so-hip Jam Factory lifestyle complex. The Thai menu features such lesser-known delights as watermelon with fish flakes, and grilled river prawns with neem plant. 41/5 Charoen Nakhon Road

3pm: Five-star massage

You’re now just a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride away from arguably the best massage in Thailand. Wat Pho and Chetawan Traditional Medicine and Massage School is where all those five-star hotel therapists are trained and offers the gold standard in medicinal Thai-style massage. Massages are performed on the floor in a communal room while wearing loose pyjama-like top and trousers (supplied), and cost just £8 for one hour.  

5pm: Rooftop refresher

Head back to the river for a public ferry ride to Asiatique market, where you can pick up free passage on the guest boat to the Avani+ Riverside hotel for sunset. Up on the 27th floor, SEEN is a rooftop bar set over two storeys with sky gardens, shimmering pools and panoramic views of south Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. Order a Mr Mule, a cocktail made with lemongrass vodka, kaffir lime, caramalised galangal and ginger beer.

7pm: Dinner at Charmgang

This is one of Charoen Krung’s — and Bangkok’s — hottest new restaurants, from a team of friends who worked in David Thompson’s multi-award-winning Nahm. Small in size but big on style, interiors clash ruby red walls with a gold-leaf ceiling, neon signs and wooden benches. Dishes include the likes of Narathiwat beef curry with banana or grilled tiger prawns with tangerine relish. 14 Soi Nakhon Kasem 5

10pm: Rummage around Rod Fai Market

This out-of-town night market in the Ratchada district is where the city’s fashionable set shop. With a focus on all things retro, it’s got hundreds of brightly lit stalls touting everything from second-hand trainers to tie-dye kaftans, Vietnam War-era military wear to Jackie O sunglasses. Wander to the far end of the market and you’ll also find shops selling grandfather clocks, motorbikes and cars. Srinakarin Soi 51, behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall

Read more: How Bangkok is blossoming into a magnet for young creatives

Published in the March 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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