Land of Smiles’ is giving travellers more reason to, well, smile. Writer Cal Wong.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Land of Smiles’ is giving travellers more reason to, well, smile. Writer Cal Wong.

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For many, Bangkok still translates to Golden Buddhist temples and traffic jams. There is no denying that both of these come in ample servings in the Thai capital, but both also serve as testament to its rich culture; and its modern development as one of the region’s most creative and entertaining cities. The hustle and bustle of the Southeast Asian hub can be a bit unbearable for the uninitiated, but escape the tourist traps and you will be welcomed by the genuine friendliness of the local people. With the risk of sounding like a tourist slogan, there is a reason this place is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’.


Ease yourself into the city and grab a late breakfast or early brunch at Taper. Opened by local culinary star and Culinary Institute of America graduate, chef Thitid Tassanakajohn, the breakfast-and-brunch-focused menu has a definite Asian-Western fusion element, going well beyond the standard eggs benedict fare dotted across the city. Located at Soi Akkaphat, the restaurant has a warm homely feel to it, a great place to fuel up for the day ahead.


If there is one touristy thing to do in Bangkok, then you must see the city from the traditional gunnel of a ubiquitous flat-bottomed river boat. At Taksin pier, near the King Taksin Bridge, you can choose from a variety of watercraft, but I recommend you find the most colourful, ornately decorated long-tail boat and negotiate a tour through the Thonburi Klongs. Man-made canals located on the western banks of the Chao Praya River, Thonburi has an illustrious history. The old Bangkok capital was traditionally a separate district to the modern eastern bank, where the bulk of 21st-century development has occurred. Watch as the locals go about their daily chores on the porches of their old teak stilt houses, embraced by water hyacinths and wild kang kong; just make sure you negotiate the price first!


Temperatures at this time of the year can reach around 30 degrees Celsius, though often tempered with showers, it makes for some very sticky weather. Escape the city pollution and stifling heat; a perfect excuse to visit Divana Massage and Spa, a secret garden gem nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Don’t be fooled by its obscure location though, extensive highend spa treatments in a tranquil and serene setting is on offer. They also provide fruit and drinks at the end of your delightful treatment.


There is no escaping the combination of the fragrance of Thai street cuisine infused with the flavours of the city. Make your way to Charoenkrung Road. This place is a street-food lover’s paradise. It is also one of the trendiest places in Bangkok right now. The old and new intermingle here. Between street-side snacks, satisfy your artistic desires at Tang Siang Thai, an old-timey vinyl record store, and the shop house art gallery, Speedy Grandma.


No visit to Thailand would be complete without a photo of a stunning Buddhist temple. There is perhaps none better than the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Get down there just before 6pm for ‘golden hour’, where you can catch it at its most glorious.


There is no shortage of rooftop bars in this city, but Octave, located on the rooftop of the Marriott Sukhumvit is hard to beat. Panoramic views around a central, circular bar along with Asian themed bar snacks, classic cocktails and a decibel-appropriate DJ, ensures all your senses are satisfied. Twenty-four hours is much too short a time to discover a city as vibrant and progressive as Bangkok. But that just means you need to plan your sojourn.

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