Who knows Thailand better than the people that live there? We're tracking down those who can pass on their best tips and better than any guide book - here's the ultimate insider guide to Bangkok...
Liz Weselby, Executive Director, WordPlay Communications
Lived in Thailand?
6 ½ years
I moved from London to Bangkok in 2003 having no idea what to expect. It took a while to settle in and the mad-cap craziness of Bangkok can still be challenging, but once I got to know the city, it became surprisingly livable.
What makes living in Bangkok special to you?
It may be clichéd, but the weather, food and people. But I also love its grit, energy and the fact that life here is unpredictable. This can be unnerving at times, but it's always interesting!
My Top 3
My Top 3 Insider Eating Tips:
What: Street Food
You'll find some of the most delicious and flavoursome food on the street, and while it might be daunting at first, most stalls are as clean as any restaurant kitchen. My top tip is to avoid anything that looks like it's been sitting out for a while (i.e. curries), certainly avoid anything western like sandwiches and opt for food that you see cooked before you such as noodle soups, fried bananas or grilled chicken or pork.
What: Tapas, Sukhumvit soi 11
This relaxed Spanish eatery serves fantastic, well-priced tapas matched with affordable wine and cava. I love that it attracts a mixed, cosmopolitan crowd and is always lively, but especially so at weekends. It's the perfect start-off point to a night out in Bangkok on soi 11.
Where: Sukhumvit soi 11 www.tapasiarestaurants.com
Vino di Zanotti
There are several excellent Italian restaurants in Bangkok, but Vinos is my favourite insider restaurant. Tucked at the end of a quiet soi, this relaxed wine bar is ideal for an after-work glass of wine and plate of anti pasti.
Where: 41 Soi Yommarat, off Sala Daeng.
My Top 3 must stop shops:
What: Chatuchak Weekend Market
Why: You can buy anything and everything here - fashion, homewares, plants, Thai artifacts, live animals - the list is endless. It is huge so make sure you take a copy of the Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok available locally for approx £5 to keep your bearings. Go early to avoid the crowds, or late afternoon for great people watching.
Tell Tale TipWe provide complimentary Nancy Chandler maps of both Bangkok and Chiang Mai in our colourful customer packs
Where: Chatuchak Park (Mo Chit BTS and Kamphaeng Phet MRT, which brings you out right in the middle of the market.)
What: Siam Center/Siam Discovery Center/ Siam Square
Why: For street style, local boutiques and stalls. Siam is where young Thais hang out at the weekend, and you can often pick up interesting fashion and great bargains. Check out Thai fashion faves It's Happened to be a Closet and Issue on soi 3.
Where: Siam BTS Station, Rama1
Sukhumvit sois 23-31
This network of sois is home to some of the best insider shopping in Bangkok. Start off at Almeta Silk
on soi 23 (think contemporary Jim Thompson). Turn back on yourself, turn left at Italian restaurant Guisto and weave past Nankwadang for handmade, cotton toys and soft furnishings. Further along are sibling stores, Incredible and Eligible, which sell gorgeous interiors pieces and knick knacks and continue around the corner for a custom-made suit at Enlever ses Vetements. Owned by a New York-trained designer, Enlever is pricier than local tailors, but you'll get something completely bespoke. There are plenty of eateries enroute and the nearby Oasis Spa on soi 31 is exactly what it says it is: a lush, tranquil day spa retreat.
My Top 3 people-watching spots:
What: Bed Supper club
Why: It's a good mix of partying Bangkokians, tourists and dance- loving travellers. Bed regularly attracts international DJs and people always dress up.
Where: Sukhumvit soi 11, tel; 0 2651 3537
Why: Because it's where young Thais hang out - you'll get a real feel for the latest fashion, music and lifestyle trends. Well, if you can bear the noise level. Similarly try RCA (Royal City Avenue at night time). Where: Siam BTS, Rama 1. Royal City Avenue.
What: Lumpini Park
Why: A rare green space at the centre of Bangkok, Lumpini is where people of all ages and nationalities come to exercise and relax. Head there early in the morning or at dusk and be entranced by the variety of activities being practiced; from Tai Chi and yoga to mass aerobics, running, karaoke and even ballroom dancing. Open-air concerts are held here on Sunday evenings in the cool season.
Where: Lumpini Park, Lumpini MRT
My Top nights out:
What: Soi 11
Why: Soi 11 is home to some of Bangkok's best nightlife and has something for everyone; from a casual beer at ex-pat hangout Cheap Charlies, to chic cocktails at rooftop bar The Nest and dancing at Bed Supperclub or Q Bar.
Where: Sukhumvit soi 11.
What: Patravadi Studio 9
Why: People often lament the lack of culture in Bangkok, but small pockets do exist. Situated on the river opposite the Grand Palace, Patravadi Theatre was founded by local acting legend Patravadi Mejudhon. The open-sided auditorium regularly stages local and international productions, but it's the riverside Studio 9 that I most enjoy. Go on a Friday or Saturday night for a great meal and free performances of music, dance and acrobatics.
Where: 69/1 Soi Wat Rakang Arun Amarin Road, Bangkok
Bangkok's movie theaters are really rather special. Even the older cinemas have twice the comfort level of those anywhere else (just be sure to take a sweater as the air con can be arctic). For a real treat, go to one of the posh viewing screens, where for about 800-1000 baht you can snuggle under a blanket on a reclining chair and enjoy waiter service as you watch the film.
Where: CentralWorld, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery Center
Tell Tale Tip Don't forget to stand up when the King's anthem is played at the beginning of every screening.
Don't Miss This:
A private boat trip for three hours, you'll really see a beautiful side to Bangkok. The riverside is lined with temples, palaces and people's homes. Exploring the klongs (canals), you'll see fishermen, cargo boats and kids playing in the water.
Tell Tale Tip Some of our trips such as Real Thailand or Gardens of Paradise include this as standard, if you'd like to do it and it's not in the trip you want to take, ask us about customising your itinerary.