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Bangkok is a city alive. Sputtering motorbikes, bright neon lights, sizzling woks, and the scent of garlic can all intermingle on a singular street. Local designer Apirak (Kuk) Leenharattanarak of Atelier Apirak describes his home city as “beautiful chaos,” and we couldn’t agree more. This cosmopolitan capital has it all, from swanky jazz cocktail bars and luxury hotel suites you’ll never want to leave to street food on sticks and trinket-filled markets.
We’ve tapped the city’s best interior designers to dish about their favorite places to eat, drink and shop on the streets of Thailand’s capital city.
Where to Stay
Brand new and beautiful, Capella Bangkok has something no other riverside hotel has—private plunge pools. This unique feature draws guests in from the city’s heat to a handful of its rooms and seven super spacious villas. But all 101 rooms have superb craftsmanship with loads of natural light, neutral colors and pops of purple in the pillows and rugs. Its super-sleek minimalist design, clean lines and calming tone are reminiscent of Japanese hospitality, but its antique art and warm service are all Thai. “They have a wonderful art collection,” says Bensley. “The peacock-adorned bar is also very memorable.”
A peaceful reprieve on the banks of the Chao Phraya, The Siam inhabits the temple-dotted district of Dusit. The combination of 38 artsy yet elegant suites, villas, and rooms with eclectic touches and antique art makes it one of Bangkok’s most special stays. “It takes guests back to Bangkok’s grandest period, that of Rama V, and is part hotel, part museum, part resort, with an Art Deco accent. We filled it with more than 25,000 antiques,” says the hotel’s architect and designer, Bill Bensley, Creative Director and Founder of BENSLEY. Bensley particularly loves the riverside restaurant Chon, made of three, century-old Thai teakwood houses that he and the Siam’s owner rescued and restored themselves.
bangkok/chao-phraya-river/luxury-hotel” data-ylk=”slk:Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok” class=”link “>Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
The Grand Dame of Bangkok, this was a hotel before Thailand was called Thailand. Opening nearly 150 years ago, it has welcomed royalty, dignitaries and movie stars to its riverside suites. In 2019, it underwent a massive renovation of its 331 rooms, giving it the feeling of old-school elegance mixed with contemporary design and the highest-end finishes. “It evolved with modern-day life but did not delude its own identity,” says Leenharattanarak. The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok is also home to the country’s first French restaurant, Le Normandie, one of the best bars in Asia, The Bamboo Bar, and truly legendary levels of service.
Where to Eat and Drink
Ranked #7 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Sühring creates playful yet impeccable plates of German delicacies worthy of their two Michelin star status. Set in a Scandinavian-style residential home, twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring create five or seven-course tasting menus for just 15 tables. From the duck liver and waffle (a savory play on a German childhood favorite) wrapped in custom-made packing to the Andy Warhol-esque banana dessert, each dish is as Instagrammable as it is delicious.
A favorite among well-to-do locals and expats for nearly 25 years, Eat Me serves wagyu steaks, lobster pasta, and various vegan dishes. “I love Eat Me in Silom. We go often and rarely leave without the sticky date pudding,” says Bensley. Its understated concrete exterior and matching minimalist interior with leafy palms, wood accents and moody lighting make it the perfect Friday night reservation. The restaurant’s Thai-inspired cocktails, particularly the Laab-Moo with prosciutto and Som-Tum Poo Pla-Ra, are a must.
A restaurant offshoot from the Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel, it’s a landscaped oasis in the middle of Bangkok’s frenetic CBD. Baan Dusit Thani has three different restaurants specializing in Thai, Vietnamese and classic cafe items, complete with a poolside bar. Ploy Theerachai, cofounder of THINKK Studio, asserts, “It’s so charming, with the vibe of an old house.” If you’re wavering between the three, she recommends Benjarong, its Thai restaurant.
In honor of his grandmother’s passing, famed local chef Ton Tassanakajohn opened Nusara (named after her) in 2020. In 2022, it became the #10 best restaurant on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Serving a 12-course traditional Thai menu with his grandmother’s recipes mixed in, it’s one of the most intimate dining experiences in Bangkok. Catering to a maximum of 16 guests per night, Nusara is up the stairs in the back of a centuries-old shophouse. Its interiors are understated, but the flavors and spices on the plate pack one hell of a punch.
Where to Shop
Just outside of Bangkok, this shop has mouth-blown glassware of every color, shape, and size, from orange ornamental vases to handmade water pitchers. “They have unique products, and the shop is set inside an old factory,” says Leenharattanarak. It also houses a chic cafe, so you can sip while you browse.
A perennial stop for tourists looking for souvenirs, Bensley swears by its antique section. Across the street, inside the red building marked Dindayal City Mall, there are scads of quirky finds. “I have a t-shirt that says ‘Buy First Think Later’—one of my mottos, which often comes to life in the antiques section of Chatuchak Weekend Market,” says Bensley.
One of the best places for high-quality handcrafted wood furniture in Bangkok. “It’s a furniture store combined with a cafe,” says Theerachai. “You can have comfort food in a warm cozy cafe, and after that, you are ready to look for many beautiful products and furniture in the shop upstairs.”
Separate from the popular Jim Thompson House Museum, this was the first store set up by the legendary silk entrepreneur of the 1950s. “So many ideas happen in this shop,” says Leenharattanarak. “The famous fabric and wallpaper never go out of style.”
Where to Explore
There are tens of thousands of temples spread around Thailand, and Bangkok is home to many. “The temples of Bangkok are mind-numbingly beautiful,” says Bensley. “I especially love Wat Prayoon as it has a charming garden and wonderful symmetry. Wat Ratchanatdaram is also very special—but without a doubt, Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, is my favorite piece of design in the city. The main ‘prang’ and four smaller ones around it are decorated with thousands of colorful faience, seashells and bits of porcelain, which were actually ballasts for boats traveling to Bangkok from China.”
Chao Phraya River
Bangkok’s main artery is lined with luxury hotels, shopping centers, and temples. The best way to experience the pulse of the city is via boat. “You must do a boat trip to see the lifestyle along the river, to get to know a glimpse of the past,” says Theerachai. There are dozens of nightly dinner cruises to choose from but Manohra Cruises, departing from Anantara Riverside Resort, is a top pick.
The newly opened extension of Benjakitti Park has city-dwellers flocking to this gorgeous green space. “Bangkok’s newest park is built over what was once land for the Tobacco Authority of Thailand, and for many years had been more or less abandoned,” says Bensley. “Bangkok is not known for its green spaces, so it’s great to see a new one which also connects to Lumpini Park. My favorite feature is its almost two kilometers of skywalks over lotus-covered water bodies and wetlands, peppered with little islets. Worth a trip!”
Thailand is full of young creatives making and showcasing their incredible art throughout the city’s museums and galleries. “There is a Natee Utarit, Thai artist, exhibition happening now at Art Center Silpakorn University. This is an unmissable art exhibition of the year,” says Leenharattanarak. “Immerse yourself in MOCA, the BACC or River City,” says Bensley. “Thailand has so much talent.”
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