Lonely Planet Local Micaela Marini Higgs moved to Bangkok and quickly fell in love with the city’s diverse culinary landscape, vibrant markets and maze of sois (lanes). She spends her days wandering through the city’s neighbourhoods snacking on street food, and her nights sampling Thailand’s new offerings of craft beer.
Wat Pho Temple houses the 'Reclining Buddha' in Bangkok, Thailand © itman__47 / Shutterstock
When I have friends in town... we always skip the crowds at the Grand Palace and visit the Reclining Buddha at my favourite temple, Wat Pho, instead. The large complex is a great introduction to Thai architecture and tradition. The nearby Pak Khlong Talat flower market, with sidewalks literally overflowing with vibrant blooms, also makes for picture-perfect memories.
The best market to shop is… Chatuchak Weekend Market. Popular among both tourists and locals, you can find absolutely everything here, including souvenirs, vintage clothing or the latest fashions, small art galleries and plenty of t-shirts printed with humorously nonsensical English phrases.
Hungry diners line up for a meal from an Ari street vendor in Bangkok © Micaela Marini Higgs / Lonely Planet
For cheap eats… I eat on the street! Visiting areas with lots of office workers or big lunchtime crowds is an easy way to find Thai favourites for less than 100B. Plus, it’s a great method for discovering new dishes. Areas like Phahonyothin 7 in Ari or Convent Road in Silom fill up with loyal regulars during lunch, but if you keep an eye out you’ll find outdoor food courts tucked down alleys all around the city. If nothing looks good or I’m in a hurry, I’ll duck into a 7-Eleven and grab a delicious and filling onigiri rice ball for 27B.
When picking a street stall… I always look at how clean the sauce and condiment containers are. This is a tip I learned from a friend when I first moved to Bangkok, and though there isn’t a fool-proof way to avoid food poisoning, this suggestion has served me well. The theory is that if they’re good about keeping these containers clean, they’re likely also washing their food prep area frequently.
The Bangkok nightlife scene is just as vibrant as the daytime © Micaela Marini Higgs / Lonely Planet
When I want to splash out... I get drinks at Rabbit Hole, a 'secret' bar that’s right on Thong Lor. With no signage or windows and an exterior made out of diagonal wood panelling, the bar can be easy to miss from the street, but its exceptional cocktails aren’t a secret. At around 400B per drink, it’s the kind of place you go to celebrate or treat yourself, and the affluent crowd makes for fun people-watching. In a city where lots of bartenders stick to strict measurements, I also appreciate that the drinks here are boozy enough that you don’t have to order too many rounds.
When I’m up for a big night out… I head to Thong Lor! First, I grab a curry set at Congee & Curry, which fills me up before a night of drinking and is so reasonably priced that I almost don’t feel guilty about the bar tab I’m about to rack up. From there I visit The Beer Cap, located on the ground floor of The Commons, for a few craft beers. After that I head to either 12 x 12 or T-Rex, two nearby dives known for their chilled atmospheres and alternative music selections, which range from tropical groove to 80s pop.
Nong Pak Chi Pond in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand ©Catherine Sutherland / Lonely Planet
When I want to get out of the city… I take a trip to Khao Yai, one of Thailand’s gorgeous national parks only a few hours drive north of Bangkok. You can get a van here from Victory Monument, but make sure to rent a car or scooter for getting around Khao Yai because the attractions are spread out. Though you won’t have any trouble finding the park’s large population of mischievous macaques, it’s worth hiring a guide who can show you the best places to spot elephants and other wildlife. Outside the park, you’ll find fun (and bizarre) recreations of European architecture and landmarks, such as the tower of Pisa, that cater to photo-op loving tourists.
One thing I hate about Bangkok… is the traffic! If you stick with the BTS Skytrain, you can zip around the city quickly, but if you want to venture off the beaten path and find more local offerings it’s easy to get stuck in gridlock. If you want to visit Chinatown or the Old Town, or plan to be on the road anywhere near rush hour, make sure to factor in traffic time.
Bangkok offers travellers diverse and ever-changing things to do and see © joesayhello / Shutterstock
What I love most about Bangkok… is that there is always more to discover. Even if you’re from Bangkok, it’s impossible to stay on top of all of the new openings or to know the best spots in every neighbourhood, so I’m constantly finding new places worth recommending. I also adore the diversity — and quality — of Bangkok’s food offerings. One night I can enjoy phenomenal high-end Indian cuisine at one of my favourite restaurants, Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology, and the next day I can eat delicious Chinese food at another favourite, a no-nonsense hole-in-the-wall place called Sun Moon Restaurant.
Lonely Planet Local Micaela Marini Higgs enjoying a night out in Bangkok's Chinatown © Micaela Marini Higgs / Lonely Planet
One tip I’d give travellers… is to back away from the harem pants, otherwise known as ‘elephant pants’! While they’re super comfortable, they’ve also become a major cliché and draw attention to the fact that you’re new in town, which túk-túk scammers take advantage of. While you’re free to wear what you want, I always tell my visiting friends to save them as a souvenir to wear once they’re home instead.
Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.