bangkok feature

So much more than just a layover city, Bangkok is as busy as it is hot, a sensory overload of tooting tuk tuks and fragrant street food, with plenty of touristy haunts (Khao San Road, we're looking at you) if you don't know where to go. Thailand's capital also boasts a spellbinding mix of modern and traditional; massive malls next to Buddhist temples, and everything in between. It's crazy, cultural and hard not to love, especially with VIVA's insider itinerary of must-see places for one epic day and night in the city.

3pm: Chic Stay

First off, it's time to check in. Venture a 10-minute walk from Saladaeng BTS Skytrain or Lumpni MTR underground, and you'll find hotel heaven. COMO Metropolitan Bangkok is a design hotel that's not only right by the buzzing nightlife of Silom, but is also as swanky as they come. With an East-meets-West concept, ton of luxurious rooms, award-winning Thai restaurant and killer pool, you won't leave disappointed. Oh, and the spa is full of Asian-inspired massage therapies and soothing classes (Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, and more). Jet-lag, what jet-lag? 

3.30pm: Street Snacks

Street food is massive in Bangkok, so it's time to energize by diving straight in to one of the best dishes: pad thai, a stir-fried noodle dish that manages to be simultaneously refreshing and super comforting. The best stall for this, hands down, can be found at Tha Chang Pier's bustling market. Go straight to Pad Thai Tha Chang, and indulge in the tastiest meal you might ever have. This isn't hyperbole – for five decades the recipe has been kept within the family-run stall, and when you taste it you'll know why it's such a closely-guarded secret. 

4.30pm: River Lazing

So, the Chao Praya river and its canals really are the lifeblood of Bangkok; you need to hang out there next. Insider tip: instead of a gross touristy and overpriced tour, just grab a water taxi. For less than $1 you can explore the "Venice of the East" in both total privacy and total comfort. Ride up and down the river and you'll see everything from fancy condos and hotels to wooden shacks and kids playing in the water. Now that's authentic, good-value sightseeing. 

6pm: Market Madness

Rot Fai Market opens at 6pm, and it's a must. The open-air bazaar is massive, manic, colorful, and brimming with vintage collectibles, antiques, hippy clothes and just general 'stuff'. It's located just behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall so is pretty central, and, dare we say it, is one of Bangkok's best markets, especially thanks to the dozens of bars and eateries it's home to. Save your appetite, though: next stop is dinner.

8pm: Food, Finally

Namsaah Bottling Trust is a bright pink house in skyscraper-filled Silom that boasts a super Instagrammable exterior, quirky interior, and tasty food and drink options (def try their Thai rose apple martinis). But line your stomach before contemplating them: the 20th century villa boasts a ton of Asian sharing plates, though you should totally go for the sumptuous red curry beef or sweet and sour pork.

9.30pm: Swanky Rooftops

Now, time for a tipple. Bangkok is certainly not alone in its enthusiasm for rooftop bars and restos, but it really does takes its enthusiasm for them to new heights (literally). For those in the know, an unexpectedly fantastic view can be found at Asian Fusion lounge, Zense. We say unexpected, because the chic rooftop is on the 17th floor of Central World shopping complex, instead of your usual big-name hotel. So, not only can you shop before visiting, but the global mix of cuisines on offer are truly delectable. Enjoy the river views, chill out on the bean bags and survey the city with a smile. Alternatively, if you're looking for somewhere more upscale, check out Sky Bar (it's the world's highest open-air bar) for live jazz and killer cocktails.

11pm: Underground Clubs

Quite frankly, there is no cooler nightclub in Bangkok than Beam, so head there after a cocktail (or three). It's also not overrun with expats and visitors, so you can join the locals in lapping up the minimalist space (yeah, it's overrun by Thailand's chicest techno junkies). To find it, head to super trendy mall, 72 Courtyard, and just listen for the deep tech-house. Open from Wednesday to Saturday, it's the only way to end your night.

9am: Fresh Eats

If you're feeling a little gross thanks to last night's excesses, you're going to want to drag yourself from your gorgeous hotel for a fresh bite to eat. Simple Natural Kitchen is a 25 minute cab (read: Uber) away, but we promise you the fresh smoothies, vegetarian frittata and kraprao quinoa are more than worth it. All the ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced, so will get you healthily hyped for the morning's activities.  

11am: Palace Grandeur

You don't go to Bangkok and not see the Grand Palace. With prized status as the city's most famous landmark, it's only open till 3:30pm, so best to do it now you're all energized from breakfast. Built in 1782, the palace served as a significant royal residence until 1925, and is now just for ceremonial purposes...and snap-happy travelers. The architecture and level of detail really is dazzling, but be sure to watch your clothing in addition to your Insta feed: you won't be let in unless you're dressed modestly.

1pm: Coffee + Art

You'll need a caffeine fix round about now, because 1) the hangover will be kicking in, 2) it takes a while to reach your next and final spot. There's nowhere better for this than Ink & Lion, an art gallery and a café that's as quirky as it is chilled out. The venue is home to artwork from both local and international artists, and the coffee is seriously good quality (as is the vintage vinyl spun by the couple who own it). You can also buy a pack for home brewing, in case you wanna take some home to your pals. 

2pm: Floating Lunch

Last but not least, you HAVE to eat at a floating market, so for a late lunch go to Khlong Lat Mayom, which is pretty insane (btw, just grab a taxi there from Wongwian Yai BTS station). One of three floating markets close to the city, it attracts none of the tourist hordes that the others do, and is home to the most charming khlongs (canals).

But, back to the food. Grab yourself a wooden stall and dig in; there's everything from noodle soup to Hoi Tod (oyster omelet) to exotic fruits of all shapes and sizes. However despite its name, the market's main section is on solid ground. So, we recommend taking a short but sweet boat ride around the neighboring waters for a small fee. What a way to finish up 24 hours in one of Asia's coolest cities. Phew.