City Guide: Bangkok, Thailand
Shawn Heng is an ex-consultant who left the corporate life to the start The Merry Men Collective, a portfolio of several casual and unpretentious dining and drinking establishments around Singapore. He takes us around his favourite city, Bangkok.
I’ve traveled to many parts of Europe, Asia and the US, but for me, Bangkok still remains one of the most interesting cities! It is a melting pot of both modern and traditional Thai culture, all in one place, and is one of the most vibrant cities in South East Asia. That is why I chose to work there for 3 years and still visit at least once a year.
Can you tell us where to eat, drink, party there?
Obviously eating is one of the biggest reasons why I love Bangkok. It not only presents us with the remarkable flavors of classic Thai food but also has an amazing selection of international cuisine. Here are a list of my favorites:
Bella Napoli: Hidden in Sukhumvit Soi 31 this is a simple place well known for its pizzas. However what keeps me going back is their spaghetti Bolognese! This is where I go for comfort food in Bangkok.
Zanotti: If I had to pick a more high-end Italian joint this would be it! Tucked away in Saladaeng Colonnade Condominium on Saladaeng Road off Silom Road. I have never been disappointed eating here, and always ask for the fried mushrooms (which aren’t on the menu!) as a nibble with drinks whilst waiting for the food to be served. Zanotti, photo credit: A la Carte Maps
Café Chilli: Northern Thai restaurant which is located conveniently on the Ground Floor of Siam Paragon, so you can hit the shops right after. My favorites are the pork neck, grilled squid and if you’re lucky they might have Thai Curry Noodles (Kao Soy) available which you have to ask for.
Je Ngor’s Kitchen: An excellent local Thai seafood restaurant chain with really tasty Thai Curry Crab - Which comes de-shelled! This brand is lesser known to tourists and prices a significantly more reasonable than some of the more popular tourist traps like Somboon. My favorite outlet is the one hidden on the 11th floor of Bangkok Insurance Building along Sathorn Road. It’s usually empty during the evenings as it mainly caters to the office workers during the day.
Hai Somtum: Located at 2/4-5 Soi Convent off Silom Road (near BTS Saladaeng). This is one of my all-time favorite places to eat! Classic Isaan Thai cuisine that draws the locals every day, so the price is very reasonable. My must eats are the Roast Chicken (Kai Yang), Grilled Pork Neck (Kor Moo Yang) and the Maggi Noodle Salad (Yam Ma Ma).
Majority of the Thai Chinese people are actually Teochew, and Bangkok has a lot of offer in the way of Teochew cuisine, you just need to know where to look.
Just next door to Hai Somtum is a Teochew Braised Goose hole-in-the-wall I also love – I don’t know the name of it, but if you decide to visit Hai Somtum you have to check out this hidden treasure too.
Rex Hotel Cafeteria – Located at the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 32. The hotel’s cafeteria serves Teochew porridge late into the night and is the perfect post-clubbing supper joint. Order the Chinese Sausage, Clams, Chai Po Neng, which has more Chai Po (pickled turnip) than egg in it!
Lao Tang – Located in Chinatown 467/1 Yaowarat Road. Another Teochew style braised goose place, only this time they also do Thai duck noodle soup! Just stop the cab at the start of Chinatown (Yaowarat Rd) and walk down on the right side of the traffic, it’s on the earlier part of Yaowarat Road. It’s not far from the start, so you should see it eventually.
Grand Sanyod – Located at 88 Charatweing Road (Bangrak). Cantonese restaurant all the way at end of Silom Road with the most amazing beef hor fun I have ever tasted, it tastes as though the wok hasn’t been cleaned in decades (and it probably hasn’t!).
BBQ Carnival – Located on the 3rd Floor of All Seasons Place behind Conrad Hotel, which is on Wireless Road (Whitthayu Road). This is another all-time favorite, and though they also have a sushi counter, I only ever eat at their Jap BBQ section. The BBQ will not disappoint!
Pictured above: BBQ Carnival (photo credit: Deadly Bunny and Chubby Penguin)
In Bangkok, a bar called The Iron Fairies definitely had some influence on my input into The Mad Men Attic Bar concept. It is designed like an ironsmith’s workshop with iron spiral staircases, exposed pipes, and a lot of brick/timber, it’s almost magical when you step in. It also has a live jazz band that plays every evening. The end effect it gives you is of being ‘unexpected’ and a ‘pleasant surprise’ once you step through their doors. A very similar effect we were aiming for when we thought up The Mad Men Attic Bar.
Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar – Perfect place for a chilled drink during the week though it can get quite crowded.
Nest – Great chill-out bar on the roof of Fenix Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 11. This is where I go for some live acoustic music on weekdays.
Maggie Choo’s – Located in the basement of Novotel Fenix Silom. You don’t have to enter the hotel itself, just spot the bouncers off to the right of the hotel entrance. It was supposedly the underground vault of the East India Company Bank back in the 1940s the bar is surrounded by massive vault doors hiding rooms where guests can sit in private for a drink.
Funky Villa - Right the end of a massive carpark behind a club called Muse on Thong Lor Soi 10.
Pictured above: Funky Villa (photo credit: Siam2nite)
Everyone who goes to Bangkok wants a good massage (we're talking the non happy-ending type) or some kind of spa treatment. Where are your favourite spots?
Nail Palette – Located on Sukhumit Soi 24, but they also have other outlets. This is where I send my friends when they ask to get a manicure or pedicure. I’m told the therapists are very attentive, whatever that means!
Pictured above: Nail Palette (photo credit: Nail Palette)
Stylish places to stay in Bangkok
This modern Bangkok apartment is a lively respite from the city's hustle and bustle.
This serviced apartment in Sathon is a great hotel alternative for those who want to experience Bangkok like locals.
This luxury apartment in Chidlom is a chic pied-a-terre.
Going to Bangkok? Check out more places to stay in Bangkok on Roomorama.