Two Nights of Bars, Bargains, and Books in Bangkok
Ah, Bangkok. The land of pad thai and night markets, of lovely temples and ladyboys, of bargain shopping and backpacker dives. If you’ve only got one weekend to spend in this bustling, exciting, incredibly intoxicating Asian metropolis, that’s a veritable shame, but fret not: We’re here to help you make the most of a measly two days.
From boozing and eating on a Friday night to destination-hopping and eating on a packed Saturday to chilling and—you guessed it—eating before your flight out on a Sunday, we’ve got your Bangkok weekend itinerary covered.
6:00 p.m. Line up for the original pad thai
When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in Thailand, stuff yourself silly with Thip Samai’s pad thai. Located on Maha Chai Road in one of Bangkok’s older districts, this family-run, Michelin-awarded operation has been around since the 1950s, its claim to fame being its “original” version of Thailand’s most popular stir-fried noodle dish. Be prepared to wait in line for at least thirty minutes—it’s that iconic.
8:00 p.m. Hang Out with Hipsters
From Thip Samai, head to Soi Nana, an old neighborhood that has become home to hipster-friendly haunts. Hop around among spots such as Tep Bar, where you can enjoy live performances of authentic Thai music while savoring local whisky-powered drinks; Teens of Thailand, one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2018 that boasts topnotch gin-based concoctions; and 23 bar & gallery, where artsy types convene for frenzied dancing to Britpop hits.
10:00 p.m. Go where the young and beautiful go
Take a cab or Grab it over to Thonglor, Bangkok’s trendy strip that comes alive at night with stylish restaurants and neon-lit bars. In case you’ve got the munchies, located on Soi 17 off Thonglor is The Commons, a classy community mall with a curated selection of restaurants and stalls catering to a variety of tastes. After grabbing a quick bite, make your way out to the main road and onto the pulsating cluster of bars that is 72 Courtyard. Stroll down the street to check out other bars such as Iron Fairies, one of Thailand’s more popular bars that’s famed for its pirate ship-recalling interiors. Be warned, though: Iron Fairies gets full real quick, so if you don’t get a table, onto the next—the night is young.
12:30 a.m. Get your late-night groove on
It’s a Friday night, and you’re in Bangkok—of course you’ve got some fight left in you. Take a short ride to Studio Lam in Sukhumvit 51, where eclectic DJ sets will get you grooving to Thai folk, soul, jazz, or dancehall. Once you’re ready to tap out, just walk over to the more sedate WTF Bar & Gallery for a chat and a nightcap.
Feeling like your old bones are failing you? You can pass on Thonglor and Studio Lam altogether and, from Soi Nana, make a beeline for Smalls in Soi Suan Phlu—another Bangkok bar that made it to Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2018. After admiring the interiors of this moody, broody, French bohemian-inspired jazz bar, climb up to the rooftop terrace to breathe in the night air while nursing your poison.
9:30 a.m. Partake in a floating feast
Copious amounts of alcohol in your system notwithstanding, drag yourself out of bed to catch a four-hour floating market boat tour and glimpse a different side to Bangkok beyond the CBD’s flashy storefronts and high-rise buildings. While Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market, it takes about 90 minutes to get to and would require you to wake at, like, 5:00 a.m.—which, after last night’s bender, you are in no condition for. For a nearer and more authentic (read: less tourist-infested) experience, sign up for a Khlong Lat Mayom tour, which will commence with a tour guide picking you up at the Bang Wa BTS station on the Silom line and taking you to the outskirts of Bangkok where you will board a long-tail boat. After observing the riverside way of life on your canal journey, have lunch at the floating market, where you can gorge on boat noodles, oyster omelettes, and more pad thai on the cheap.
2:00 p.m. Glimpse the famed structures
Once your tour guide drops you off at the Bang Wa BTS station, take the skytrain to the Saphan Taksin station and walk over to Sathorn Pier. From there, buy a ticket to board the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which will let you explore historic must-sees along the Chao Phraya River like the Grand Palace and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), complete with a recorded commentary to guide you on your way. The 180 THB one-day pass lets you hop on and off at any of the tour’s eight piers, but since you’re pressed for time, opt for the 50 THB single-journey ticket, which lets you sit tight on the boat and hop off when you reach one destination you really want to explore. Once you’re done exploring, just buy another single-journey ticket to take you back to Sathorn Pier.
4:00 p.m. Shop ‘til your eyes cross
Once back at Sathorn Pier, take the BTS from Saphan Taksin station to Siam station; from there, hop over to the Sukhumvit line and head to Mo Chit. Follow the crowd headed to Chatuchak Weekend Market, which by this time is no longer as punishingly hot as it would’ve been had you ventured there at noon. Hoard bargain buys in this sprawling (and frankly, overwhelming) honeycomb of shops, making sure to refresh with coconut ice cream and Thai milk tea at the food carts along the way.
6:00 p.m. Prowl the night markets
Once Chatuchak Weekend Market closes at 6:00 p.m., make a beeline for the more bohemian JJ Green Night Market up the road, which offers everything from fuss-free food steaming from hawker stalls to pre-loved finds spread out on mats on the ground. Don’t get too greedy here, because you’ve still got another night market to conquer: Train Night Market Ratchada at Ratchadaphisek Road, which also offers a dizzying selection of clothing, accessories, kitsch finds, and even more food. Grab dirt-cheap dinner at a food stall and savor the flavors, smells, noises, and yes, even the humidity of nighttime street food dining.
9:00 p.m. Kick back al fresco
Once you’re done exploring the web that is Train Night Market Ratchada, head to any of the open-air bars in its periphery. Choose from quirky spots that serve drinks from VW Kombis to two-storey structures that offer prime views of the market’s multicolored tents. Lay all those shopping bags at your feet and knock back a Singha or three to congratulate yourself on all the spots you hit today.
11:00 p.m. Get ready for dreamland
If you’re lucky, there’s a massage shop near your accommodation that will give you the happy ending—no, not that happy ending—you deserve. Take a shower to strip yourself of the day’s sweat and grime, head on down to the shop, and go all out with an hour-long full-body massage. When you return to your room, you’ll be dozing off in no time.
9:00 a.m. Power up for the day ahead
Perk up with breakfast and coffee while nestled in the dark industrial interiors of Casa Lapin x 26. Casa Lapin is a homegrown café brand that has branches all over Bangkok, but we suggest heading to their biggest branch at Sukhumvit 26 which is just a stone’s throw away from the next stop on your Sunday itinerary.
10:30 a.m. Discover secondhand treasures
Turn the corner from Sukhumvit 26 to Sukhumvit Road and you’ll spot Dasa Book Café, a little shop with walls bursting with secondhand books and CDs. Long been looking for that novel by Don DeLillo? Hunting for a Neil Young CD to add to your collection? You just might be in luck.
12:00 p.m. Forget the street food
It’s your last day in Bangkok, so pass on the roadside eats and treat yourself to a proper meal. Cab or Grab it over to Issaya Siamese Club, a modern Thai restaurant that’s one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2018. A quaint heritage house standing in a lush garden that’s hidden in a small street in Khlong Toei, it’s not the easiest place to spot, but it will be worth the effort.
2:00 p.m. Marvel at local art
Go walk off that food baby, you glutton. Grab a car and head to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, a nine-storey contemporary arts space where you can weave through various exhibits, galleries, events spaces, boutiques, and cafés.
3:00 p.m. Stroll through the malls
Got any last-minute shopping requests from friends and family back home? Stroll over to nearby Siam Paragon or Siam Discovery, or MBK Center if you’re seeking touristy picks. And for a sweet, local-flavored finale to such a heady weekend, head to After You Dessert Café, a wildly popular local dessert concept with branches at Siam Paragon and Siam Square One, and try their kakigori in Thai milk tea or mango sticky rice variants. Don’t even bother asking us what kakigori is; just thank us later.