Getting to know Bangkok


Bangkok is not a city that's off the beaten track. From backpackers to businessmen, this complicated and unconquered capital has attracted travellers for centuries. It's a place of complexity, known as much for its political coups as its dynamic nightlife. It's both liberal and traditional, where outsiders can only gain a true understanding of the capital's intricacies with some seasoned advice.
From the clean streets and quality dining of Sukhumvit to the gritty Khaosan Road, Bangkok seems like a city of two halves. Bangkok's dining and drinking scene is rightly famous. Almost every street corner has a stall selling something delicious and even the city's most commercial of districts is home to great independent bars and restaurants. One of the first restaurants to promote Thai artists and designers by holding exhibitions in the dining room, Eat Me is owned by Australian siblings Darren and Cherie Hausler, who wanted to open a comfortable, intimate space with an artsy vibe. Making use of the expertise of US chef Tim Butler, the restaurant focuses on the sort of international menu that draws on comfort-food classics while adding enough Asian-style flair to remind diners that they are in Bangkok.
The traditions of old Siam have melded with the eclectic tastes of a new cosmopolitan Bangkok to create one of the world's best cities for cultural exploration. Larger institutions provide your starting point for appreciating the city's art scene, with modern and historic works on show at Bangkok's key galleries and museums.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chatuchak Launched in 2011 by Boonchai Bencharongkul, a telecommunications billionaire, the Museum of Contemporary Art is home to a comprehensive modern-art collection. It boasts the largest private art and sculpture collection in Thailand. Catch the best of the country's talent - originating from the northern hills of Chiang Rai right through to the beaches of Phuket - in one spacious setting. The collection includes work by the reclusive jungle-dwelling Thai painter Sompong Adulsaraphan.
From traditional temples to contemporary Thai architecture, Bangkok’s design scene is a fascinating one. This is a nation that was never colonised so the architecture here has a unique and varied history. Today, Thailand excels at supporting its young designers and is better than many of its neighbours at preserving historical sites.
Grand Postal Building, Bangrak. Sitting on the first paved road in Bangkok, this monumental, low and wide building mixes the long clean lines of late art deco architecture with touches of traditional Thai adornment. It was built during the latter half of the 1930s on the site of Thailand’s first post office (which opened in 1883). If you look up above the entrance you’ll see two mythical garuda birds clinging to the corners of the central structure. Today it no longer processes mail but instead was restored to serve as a space for conferences and meetings.