Travel Tips

Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Bangkok, Thailand

Locations in this article:  Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok temple spiresIf you really want to get to know a destination, one great way is to ask the locals for their top travel picks.

For Peter’s latest radio broadcast from Bangkok, Thailand, we’ve rounded up a selection of local favorites that visitors can enjoy.

So find out what the locals recommend in the Thai capital.

Ernest Lee, owner/director of H Gallery

A must for anyone interested in Thai art is Kathmandu Photo Gallery on Thanon Pan (near the Indian Temple on Silom Road), which showcases some of the best local and international photography in the city. The gallery is owned by two prominent Thai artists—political activist Ing K., whose documentary films have been exhibited worldwide, and Manit Sriwanichpoom, the internationally recognized photographer who made a name for himself with the “Pink Man” art series.

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Eat Me RestaurantNot only is Eat Me Restaurant on Convent Road Lee’s favorite restaurant in Bangkok (and has been for 11 years), but it also showcases artwork from H Gallery. The Aussie owner brought the sophisticated food and wine culture from Down Under to Bangkok, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients sourced both locally and internationally. “The food and service can’t be beat,” says Lee.  The restaurant is generally bustling with visitors, expats and locals alike, dining indoors or in the garden, often to the sounds of live music.

“One of the most interesting things to do (albeit daunting) in Bangkok is to explore Chinatown in the old section of Bangkok,” says Lee. While the main streets are crowed with people and traffic, the small side streets are where you’ll find old shops literally stuck in time—selling products and service from a bygone day. “It’s an ancient part of Bangkok where Thai is spoken as a second language to Chinese,” he explains. “You’ll find great noodle shops, food stalls, and restaurants. It’s a way of life unlike any other in Bangkok.”

The Staff of The Peninsula Bangkok

Bangkok boatLet’s face it, people come to Bangkok to shop. Among the more well-known spots are the Siam Center, one of the oldest shopping malls in Bangkok, and Siam Discovery Center, its newer sister venue that focuses on household items. Swing by just for the people-watching experience, where Thai teenagers congregate daily after school and on weekends in the busy food court, shopping for the trendiest threads or listening to live music.

Within the Center, popular choices include Soda Pop, a famous Thai brand that features funky women’s clothes, and its male counterpart, Guys’ Soda. Another local favorite is Greyhound, one of the original Bangkok designers to hit the international scene. And don’t miss the Good Mixer label from Chaichon Savantrat, one of the forerunners in Thailand’s men’s fashion design.

The Suan Lum Night Bazaar is a somewhat sterilized version of an Asian night market, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Thousands of stalls feature everything from local arts and crafts, antiques, Thai street food, and live performances.

Get ideas on where to stay with our Thailand Hotel Guide: From Luxury to Budget, From Bangkok to Phuket.

Of course you’ll need to get your hands on some fine silk, so check out Almetab on Sukhumvit Soi, which features bolts of traditional Thai hand-woven silk in thousands of varieties—in fact, they can match any color you want.

Another notable name in Thailand’s silk industry is Léa Laarakker Dingjan, a Dutch-born textile artist whose line, Léa Silk, is internationally renowned for its exceptional quality. The silk is actually woven by villagers in Ban Reng Khai, located in northeastern Thailand. It’s produced all naturally, with no chemicals or machines, and a portion of the proceeds goes toward helping the villagers sustain this local business.

Silk with Golden borderTwo of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets aren’t about commercialism, but rather preserving the culture and heritage of high-quality Thai handicrafts: Behind the Grand Palace complex, the Royal Jewelry College displays traditional Thai handmade jewelry and silver homeware designed for the royal family, while the Royal Silk Project inside a 100-year-old house showcases luxurious fabrics.

A true pioneer in conceptual design, Ekarit Praditsuwana helms the E.G.G. line, a collection of furniture sets, ceramics, paintings and gift sets, which maintain a traditional feel with a cutting-edge flair.

Furniture lovers should visit Budji Living on Thong Lor Soi, which features the extraordinary designs of Antonio “Budji” Layug. His work has been showcased in the finest hotels, offices and residences worldwide since 1975, featuring plantation-grown bamboo and other abundant native grasses.

If you’re in need of a tea break in between shopping sprees, there are plenty of options. China Journal T-Room in Gaysorn Plaza has a sitting area with Chinese and Thai teas, as well as Chinese snacks and pastries. The newer Erawan Tea Room in the Erawan shopping center features traditional Thai fare with an impressive selection of teas from around the world. Don’t miss the selection of “Thai street-food classics,” like kanom krok (coconut pudding), which pairs nicely with a cup of crushed lemongrass tea.

And to bring home the flavors of Asia, visit Spice Story on the ground floor of the Siam Paragon Shopping Complex. This Chinese-style décor store sells every kind of spice in the world divided into four sections:  Chinese, Thai, Western, and prepared mixed seasonings for specific dishes. The shop also offers a limited range of culinary utensils as well as Asian cookbooks.

By Sarika Chawla for

For more destination information, check out the Off the Brochure Travel Guide to Bangkok, Thailand.

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