The bleisure guide to Bangkok: what to do and where to eat
Heading to Bangkok for a business trip? Here are the top restaurants, bars and cultural hotspots to check out after (or even between) all those client meetings and conference calls.
- March 2020
There is so much to see and do in Thailand’s buzzing capital and it would be a shame if all you did was shuttle between your hotel and meetings without making time to experience the city. Here is an itinerary for getting the most out of Bangkok — whether you have an entire weekend or just two hours to spare.
What to do
If you have two hours
The sprawling top floor of Central Embassy mall in Phloen Chit has been converted to Open House, an artfully designed space that is split into seven zones of dining and shopping options. The varied food offerings include Broccoli Revolution, which serves vegan renditions of Thai dishes; The Raw Bar, where you can enjoy oysters and mussels; and elegant French patisserie Paris Mikki. Be sure to check out the stunning Open House Bookshop by Hardcover, where you can browse speciality books that span art, design and photography alongside rare and out-of-print tomes.
You would be remiss if you left Bangkok without a trip to the spa. For a luxurious treat, take a short walk to Panpuri Wellness. The 30-minute Back De-stressing Massage offers sweet relief from long hours at the desk but if you have a full hour to spare, splurge on the restorative Beauty Sleep Meditation Massage.
If you want to be close to the action, book a stay at lyf Sukhumvit 8, a new coliving concept that is a stone’s throw from Phloen Chit. Nestled in a hip neighbourhood with an eclectic mix of dining, nightlife and shopping options, it is the perfect base for plugging into Bangkok.
If you have half a day
If you are on the lookout for a quieter part of town to explore, head to Ari in the north-central part of the city. The residential neighbourhood has gotten more hip over the years, with its fair share of cool coffee spots. Tucked away in an alley far from the buzz of the city is Bar Storia del Caffe — a charming joint with free Wi-Fi and excellent piccolo lattes. If you want to get a workout in, take a five-minute stroll to AriFit. The gym welcomes drop-ins and offers three evening CrossFit classes on weekdays.
READ MORE: More cool cafés to check out in Ari
When the sun goes down, head to Paper Butter nearby for some of the most decadent burgers in town in a laid-back backyard setting. End the night at the outdoor deck of pioneering craft cocktail bar Frank Mansion or with a spirit-forward concoction at the 1920s-style speakeasy The Key Room No. 72. For a more relaxed vibe, head to Dok Kaew House Bar. Located in a hard-to-find (and rumoured to be haunted) 80-year-old home, the dive bar serves only craft beers.
READ MORE: The foodie’s guide to eating in Bangkok
If you have a full day
There is bound to be something interesting happening at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). A short walk from National Stadium BTS, the contemporary art space hosts rotating exhibitions by local and international artists on the upper floors. The lower floors are occupied by small galleries, cafés and craft shops like Shannta, where you can try your hand at fashioning pendants and rings from silver.
From the BACC, head to Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown. You once had to brave Bangkok’s traffic to get there but not anymore, thanks to the extension of the MRT blue line that opened in September 2019.
The best way to take it all in is through a four-hour Bangkok Chinatown Sights and Bites tour with Urban Adventures. After the group gathers at the Hua Lamphong Railway Station, you will be taken through chaotic markets and family-run businesses — with ample chances to sample local fare and check out historic sites like Wat Traimit, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha.
If you have an entire weekend
Bang Krachao, nicknamed Bangkok’s green lung, is worth a visit for those with more time on their hands. Being on two wheels — either on a bicycle or motorbike — is the best way to explore the man-made island in the Chao Phraya river. Make a stop at the leafy Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park. At 110,000m2, it is one of the largest parks in the city and a fantastic birdwatching spot.
The next day, wake up bright and early for a day trip to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Siamese kingdom. Though it was destroyed by the Burmese army during the 18th century, the archaeological ruins give a fascinating glimpse into the Thailand of old. The most convenient way to do this is through the Magical Ayutthaya Day Trip with Withlocals. Pick-up can be arranged from anywhere in Bangkok, and the private tour can be customised to your interests, whether that is food, history or photography.
Where to eat and drink in Bangkok
For business dinners: Front Room
After a decade of experience working in Michelin-starred kitchens in Scandinavia and Europe, chef Rungthiwa “Fae” Chummongkhon marries her familiarity of Thai ingredients with her knowledge of Nordic culinary techniques — including pickling, curing, fermenting and smoking — at Front Room. This has resulted in creative dishes like beef tartare with pickled papaya.
For drinks with clients: Lennon’s
From the massive library of 6,000 vinyl records to the stylish Art Deco-inspired interior that has a spiral staircase leading to a cigar lounge, everything about Lennon’s is designed to impress.
For a dinner on your own: Tep Bar
The lively vibe and friendly service at Tep Bar will take the edge off dining alone, while the wide selection of tapas-sized dishes means you get to enjoy variety. The moo yang (grilled pork) is tender and well-marinated, while the yum nham koh goi (deep-fried Thai sour sausage with spicy Thai salad) will sate those with adventurous taste buds. For a nightcap, try one of the signature cocktails made with ya dong (Thai herbal liquor).
For morning coffee: Roots
Forget rainbow drinks and other gimmicks. Roots, which has outlets in Sathorn and Thonglor, focuses its efforts solely on serving up a darn good cup of joe with beans mainly sourced from northern Thailand.
Where to stay in Bangkok: lyf Sukhumvit 8
lyf Sukhumvit 8 is a perfect fit for business travellers and digital nomads who want to live, work and play with like-minded individuals. It is more than just an apartment to stay in Bangkok — apart from the living spaces, the property includes a variety of social areas where you are bound to meet someone on the same wavelength. And unlike most serviced apartments, you can enjoy any length of stay, making it ideal for both business travellers on short-term assignments and expats based in the city.