As many of you know, Bangkok has become one of my very favorite cities in the world. And I am not alone in my desire to visit it frequently: according to the new Global Destination Index it is now the most visited city on the globe, even more than spots like New York and London. I have been four times in the last 20 months and the more I get to know it the more I fall in love with its mix of high design and low-brow kitsch, the incredible, and surprising, range of restaurants, and the great variety of hotels that pretty much suit every taste.
It is at that perfect moment where the city doesn’t feel too gentrified and still has plenty of corners to get away from tourists, but there is a real entrepreneurial spirit blooming in the new generation of hoteliers and chefs. Here was a piece I wrote about the inventive food scene for the New York Times.
I love eating in Bangkok. The choices span from the most delicious and cheap street food to unpretentious but tasty home cooking at small family-owned places, to upscale Thai and fusion restaurants.
On this trip one of my favorite meals was at the new Opposite Mess Hall. Owned by the same owners as WTF (a cocktail bar and performance space across the street) this new restaurant completely embodies the kind of spot I like, small plates, great cocktails, unfussy, but fresh and seasonal. Among the highlights there was the steamed Chinese Bun filled with fried tempeh, smoked cheese, srircha mayonnaise and kimchi, a seeming odd combination but a dish so good it stayed on my mind for months. Oh and their Pompelo margherita…We also tried Nahm in the Metropolitan hotel, a restaurant that won the number one spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for Asia this year. It was New Year’s Day and the service was incredibly slow, but the food was mind blowing, especially plates like the smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings, and a fresh water fish curry that was perfectly spiced. We also had to make a return trip to Gaggan (number three on that same Asia list), the incredible Indian-fushion place that has become one of my favorites, not only for Gaggan’s inventive take on Indian classics, but because the atmosphere is fun and the landmark mansion where the restaurant is housed, just lovely.
One of the pleasures of spending more time in the Thai capital is discovering parts of the city away from the more touristy Sukhumvit. We now love older parts of Bangkok like Dusit with its beautiful old palaces. Dusit is also home to the Siam hotel www.thesiamhotel.com which opened last year, a beautiful and intimate new property filled with antiques like a terracotta Tang dynasty horse statue, a Jim Thompson-designed house which is home to the wonderful restaurant onsite, and Art Deco gems from both Bangkok and Burma. The owner, Krissada Sukosol Clapp, is a former Thai pop turned movie star, and funnily enough his wife Melanie and my husband once worked for SonyBMG’s International Marketing Department together (now they are hoteliers, who would have thought?). Nearby Krua Apsorn on Samsen Road, is one of the old town’s best local restaurants with a light and fluffy crab omelette, crispy fried chicken wings and ‘pad dok krajorn’ with flower buds fried with minced pork.
Kriss and Melanie invited us to their home in Pranakhon near Chinatown on the first night we arrived. The restored hundred-year-old Thai gem has huge open spaces and great original details plus a treasure trove of Kriss’s antiques and market finds. Talk about real estate envy! This whole area of town is a revelation full of chophouses slowly being transformed into private homes and businesses. Once the new extension of the MRT subway is finished it will also be easier to get there from the city center.
For the Kids
You might not initially think that this would be a good destination for kids but Jacopo has fallen in love with the city and over time we have found some really fun things to do with him. He loves taking boat trips on the Chao Phraya river, and Lumpini park has a number of good playgrounds as well as pedal boats to tool around on. And on rainier days, Funarium was a must: the huge inside playground comes with climbing walls, slides, a cycling rink (with bikes, trikes and helmets), a toddler play area, as well cooking classes and crafts. Grown-ups get wifi and a massage station! And don’t miss a tuk tuk ride; Jacopo now says he wants to get one for Pienza although we may have to settle for an ape.