Secrets are always fun to explore, and in Bangkok they are plentiful! Some are spoken of only in whispers, others take years to discover, a few are outrageously underrated. But one thing unites those picked for our Top 10: all will enhance your enjoyment of this exciting city. Most are door-openers – i.e. places you should visit – but we’ve thrown in a few eye-openers – i.e. curious facts – for good measure. Seize these before the masses do.
Photo by Daylinews.co.th
(1) Fresh Flower Market
If you’re blooming mad about flowers, don’t miss Pak Khlong Talad. The city’s biggest flower market offers an exotic sensory treat, especially between 02:00 and sunrise, when lorries brimming with freshly cut flora, fruit and vegetables rattle in from neighboring provinces, and this unassuming roadside bursts into a symphony of fragrant smells and vibrant colours. Roses, daises, chrysanthemums, indigenous orchids – they’re all here in droves, and at miniscule prices.
(2) Soi Ari
Want to see how Bangkok rolls for its young, creative and hip? Then head for Soi Ari, an adorable neighborhood of low-rise 70s architecture on the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit line (BTS Ari). At the vanguard of what’s considered cool in the capital, it’s a curious blend of the ‘indy’ and the everyday. Bohemian cafes, clothing boutiques and creatives (artists, photographers, graphic designers) live happily alongside well-to-do family townhouses, tummy pleasing street food, and some seriously scrumptious mom and pop restaurants.
Once upon a time, Bangkok was famous for longtail boats, tree-lined canals and floating wooden houses – the ‘Venice of the East’. But then cars arrived, bringing with them rowdy roads and torturous traffic. The once mighty khlongs had been usurped. For many tourists today they warrant little more than a guidebook footnote. Our little secret: they’re wrong. While dirty and smelly, many still overflow with glorious life. Thonburi’s offer glimpses of bygone Bangkok, while Khlong Saen Saeb’s boats are part-extreme sports, part-public transport. Don’t miss.
(4) Klong Thom Market
Forget Chatuchak Weekend Market. For second-hand junk and, more importantly, the unrefined buzz of a Bangkok flea market that runs all night long, hit Klong Thom. It’s not really a place for splurging money (not unless you’re after spare car parts, or a used stereo) but will certainly hit the spot for those after a raw, exhilarating market that’s not even remotely touristy. It runs from 17:00 on Saturdays, and runs non-stop into Sunday.
(5) The hottest town on earth
The sweaty brow and sauna-like temperatures are a giveaway. Well now its official: Bangkok is the hottest town on earth. Yes, Mexico City may have more sunshine, and, true, Abu Dhabi does have higher peak temperatures. But, according to the World Meteorological Organization, only Bangkok reaches average annual highs of 32.7 degrees Celsius and lows of 24.1 degrees. As anyone who has woken up swimming in their own sweat during the hot season can testify, this is because Bangkok doesn’t cool down that much at night. Welcome to a true melting pot.
(6) Public Parks
To many visitors Bangkok is merely a vast, flat, ill thought-out expanse of steel and concrete interspersed with little shimmering moments of beauty, like temples. “Where are the parks?,” is the common refrain. “Has Mother Nature been chased out of town?” Thankfully, no. There’s Lumpini Park: a big, welcome slice of green slap-bang in the centre of the city. But the real secret, which few discover, is that it’s not the only one. From the dusty splendour of Sanam Luang, to the lush lawns of King Rama IX Park, the city actually does greenery rather well.
(7) Koh Kret
The Mon minority group who’ve lived there for centuries, the rustic way of life, the somnolent pace – we adore Koh Kret. A little manmade island marooned in the city’s Chao Phraya River, it’s a world unto itself. Stroll (or cycle) along river paths littered with palm fronds, temples and rickety shacks. See potters sculpting red clay and terracotta pots – then buy some in the market. Sample delicacies unique to this isle. Its best quality, though, is its lack of cynicism: unlike some destinations, Koh Kret’s inhabitants greet visitors with genuine delight.
(8) Phra Artit Road
Don’t let its location, just around the corner from the brash chaos of Khao San Road, fool you. Phra Arthit Road is cut from different cloth entirely. This sleepy street is all shade-giving trees, hole-in-the-wall restobars and cute shophouse cafes. Dreamy art students and discerning backpackers come for the quality grub, drowsy vibe and absence of a throng. There are some interesting King Rama V-era houses worth seeing, and the small park – with its ancient white fort and views onto the river – is a great place for some rare solitude.
(9) Massage by Blind
Swedish, Thai, oil, foot, hand or naughty. Bangkok has long been a Mecca for massage-heads. But have you tried a blind massage? Nope, this is not some kinky treatment involving a blindfold but rather a 100% non-sleazy encounter with the able hands of a visually impaired local. It’s common knowledge that the blind compensate for their lack of visual acuity with touch and sound. Here they put this to good use, as they squeeze, click and compress you into a state of complete bodily submission. Wonderful and beneficial for all involved.
(10) Longest Name in the world
The Thai capital has no shortage of sobriquets. There’s Bangkok, the Big Mango, the Venice of the East. However, locally none are as popular as Krung Thep, which translates as ‘The City of Angels’. This is the abridged version of the capital’s full ceremonial name – the longest in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. Translated, it reads as one long line of superlatives – a poem almost. Locals take great pride in being able to recite the whole thing.