Rishi's very comprehensive guide to Bangkok

Rishi Arora, brunch restaurant owner – Roomorama blog

City Guide: Bangkok

Rishi is of North Indian ethnicity and is a Singaporean by birth. His mother’s side of the family is from Bangkok, while his dad is from Singapore. He moved to Bangkok when he was 13 and studied in an International school for a bit before moving back to Singapore for Polytechnic and Army. Rishi currently owns and runs an all day American brunch restaurant in Bangkok.


What kind of traveller are you?

I am a laid back traveller, I don’t like sight seeing. I try to do ‘local’ things and blend in as much as possible.


What are some of your must-dos when you travel?

I mainly care about 2 things when I travel,

  1. Hotel has to be great
  2. Every meal has to be amazing

Lots of my pre-travel time goes into researching the best areas, hotels and restaurants of a city.


What are your 5 travel essentials?

  1. Music – my iPad mini holds my entire music collection and my Westone UM3X earphones add extra clarity and bass.
  2. A good fiction book – I’m not much of a reader but I like to take a book along, in case I’m in the mood.
  3. At least 2 comfortable pairs of shoes (usually a pair of sneakers or loafers/boat shoes)
  4. My Filson weekend bag which can fit everything I usually need for a week away from home.
  5. Aesop hand sanitiser and lip balm


If there was one celebrity vacation home you would like to live in for a week, whose would it be, and why?

George Clooney not only has a beautiful wife, but he also has a beautiful vacation home in Los Cabos, Mexico. Everything from the landscaping to the interiors is pretty fantastic and it looks like THE place for a relaxing weekend getaway.

George Clooney's vacation home

Pictured above: George Clooney's vacation home (credit: Daily Mail)


Every city has a way in which it is set up. Can you give an overview of Bangkok to help orientated visitors to the city?

Geographically speaking, Bangkok is very big and the popular areas are spread out. For someone who has grown up in Bangkok, I would say the Sukhumvit line is the easiest to figure out. The BTS stations on this line cover most of the main Sukhumvit areas.

There are many other popular areas for visitors such as Chinatown, Chatuchak, Ari, Khaosan. It might take you awhile to get to these places because it's not as easily accessible as Sukhumvit. And of course, Bangkok has notoriously bad traffic.


What are some of your favourite neighbourhoods in Bangkok?

I love certain areas for different reasons.

Thonglor/Ekamai is where all the cool bars and eateries are (like Tribeca!) and it is also where I live. I love how everything is easily accessible in these 2 areas. Hungry at 3am? Walk over to Foodland Thonglor 8 and order a plate of basil chicken, rice and sunny side up.

On the other hand, you have Chinatown/Yaowarat, which is old Bangkok. Here it feels as if time has stood still. There are some businesses that have been running for decades, in tiny shops with the same old signboard and vintage interiors.

In that sense, Bangkok has a lot to offer as most popular areas have their own unique charm and there is something for everyone.

Tribeca – Roomorama blog

Pictured above: Tribeca


Where/what would you recommend to eat, drink or hangout in...

Thonglor / Ekamai

Eat

There are several great brunch spots in the Thonglor 13 area, such as Tribeca and Roast. I also love Rocket S 49 along Sukhumvit 49.

As for dinner, Opposite Mess Hall by star chef Jess Barnes on Sukhumvit 51, is splendid. Enjoy delicious Thai fare in Suppaniga Eating Room, and Bo.lan for high-end Thai. For Japanese cuisine, head to In The Mood for Love, on Ekamai Sol 1.

Drink

There are many bars I recommend: Iron Fairies, J Borowski, Black Amber, Shades of Retro, and Dark Bar.

But if we're talking about coffee, there are plenty of cafés in Ekamai. I usually chill at Roots, Brave Roasters, and Kaizen Coffee. Oh! And not forgetting Casa Lapin x49.

Hangout

My favourite haunts are Seen Space, Perfume, and Wine Republic. On Thonglor 14, HOBS House of Beers and Mellow for beer and bites. Also, between Thonglor 10 and 12, there is Fat Gut'z Saloon.

Pictured above: Opposite Mess Hall, HOBS House of Beers (credit: BK Asia City)


Ploenchit / Chidlom / Langsuan

Eat

If you're craving for French for brunch or lunch, go to Cafe Tartine. There is even Mexican fare at La Monita. I love the Thai noodles at You & Mee.

A nice place for casual fine dining place is Water Library, at Chamchuri Square.

For dinner, Issaya Siamese Club, Osha, and Somboon Seafood are great Thai restaurants. Gaggan serves impeccable Molecular Indian fare (and also ranks among Asia's top 50 restaurants). For Italian cuisine, eat at Biscotti.

Drink

Visit The Speakeasy, a Muse Hotel rooftop bar; Zuma, a Japanese restaurant, bar and lounge; Hyde & Seek, a lively gastro bar; Diplomat Bar at Conrad Hotel; and Fallabella, a Thai style pub.

Hangout

Have a drink at the bar at Zuma in St Regis Hotel, or chill at Aqua Bar in Anantara Siam.

Gaggan

Pictured above: Gaggan (credit: Telegraph)


Silom / Sathorn

Eat

My favourite places in this area include Eat Me, for international fare; 661, an incredible steakhouse; Chef Man for the best dim sum in Bangkok; Scarlett Wine & Bar for French cuisine; delicious Italian food at Opus Wine Bar; and Blue Elephant and Nahm for Thai.

Drink

From craft cocktails at U.N.C.L.E. to sake bars like Hanakaruta, there are plenty of places to drink and chill out. Other bars I like include Maggie Choo’s, Whisgars, Kudeta, Vertigo Rooftop Bar, and Vesper.

Hangout

I would check out the art gallery, library and cafe at Neilson Hays Library, take a walk down Silom Road and absorb the hustle and bustle of a typical day in Bangkok, or hangout at the old and majestic Sukhothai Hotel.

Blue Elephant U.N.C.L.E.

Pictured above: Blue Elephant (credit: Blue Elephant), U.N.C.L.E. (credit: BK Asia City)


Street food is big in Bangkok. What do you think sets Bangkok street food apart from other street food cities like Ho Chi Minh?

I would say it's the diversity. You have everything from beef noodles served with slow cooked 24 hour broth to fried creepy crawlies, to Thai style iced coffee/tea, and even gourmet food trucks serving burgers under 200 baht.


When girls go to Bangkok, they always talk about how great the shopping is. Do you have any favourite shops/markets that cater more to guys? When is the best time to go to these places, (the markets especially!)

I don’t shop much here as the sizes cater to the locals (i.e. very small) but there is an array of local indie brands and vintage stores scattered throughout Bangkok.

There is one really nice vintage shoe shop in Ekamai Soi 10, which I visit once in awhile. For local brands, check out Siam Square. My favorite market is Rot Fai, which is near Chatuchak, and has some cool vintage goods and bars with live bands.

Bangkok now has loads of Farmers Markets, almost one every weekend, where you get great local produce and yummy organic food. It's a great chance to mingle with English speaking, well traveled locals and Expats who live in Bangkok.

Farmers Market in Siam Square

Pictured above: Farmers Market in Siam Square (credit: Tickettail)


In recent years, nightlife in Bangkok has been on the rise. Where are some places good for drinking/partying?

Thonglor is the best place to bar hop as most of the popular drinking holes are around the same area. Have a couple of drinks at the best speakeasy in town - J Borowski Mixology, then drop by Scene Space where many of the good looking and well to do locals hangout (lots of eye candy!). Other options in Thonglor are the popular Iron Fairies or Mellow and Badmotel. Still not satisfied? Head over to Dark Bar, the latest afterparty place in Ekamai where most hipster locals and expats hang out.

If you’re looking to get completely crunked in Bangkok, another one of the best Soi’s to visit is Sukhumvit Soi 11. There are great rooftop bars (Above Eleven, Gramercy Park, Nest) and theres also the famous Levels nightclub. Head to the Soi early to enjoy cheap pre-party drinks at Cheap Charlie's before it shuts at 11pm.

Cheap Charlie's

Pictured above: Cheap Charlie's (credit: HellonEarth2006, via Flickr)


Can you suggest a 3 day itinerary for someone who has never been to Bangkok, and is looking to experience the best of the city?

Day 1

Kick off your holiday in Bangkok with a bowl of amazing noodles at You & Mee, located in the basement of Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. The famous Erawan Shrine is outside the hotel and is worth a visit.

Walk over or take the BTS to Siam and check out Siam Square where most of the local indie brands are. If nothing fancies you, head to the malls connected to the BTS such as Siam Paragon, Siam Center, MBK.

All that walking might get your appetite running again so head over to Som Tum Nua for some amazing fried chicken and 'somtum' (papaya salad). Wash it down with a 'Thai bubble tea' or fruit smoothie from one of the many drink vendors around Siam.

Once shopping is complete, you may need a massage. Head to the nearest Healthland or Asia Herb Association (slightly pricier option) for a foot rub or a full Thai massage. There are many other massage places all over Siam which are pretty decent so if you’re lazy to travel to Healthland or Asia Herb, just pop into one of those. For a stronger massage, tell your masseuse ‘Laeng’ which means strong or ‘bao bao’ which means go easy on me and stop trying to murder my foot or body.

Have a fancy Thai dinner at Issaya Siamese Club in Sathorn Soi 1, where the 'lamb leg mussaman' is to die for. If you’d like something non-Thai, try Eat Me in Convent Road. Both places offer decent cocktails as well.


Day 2

Most visitors head to Chatuchak (JJ market) early on Sat/Sun. If sleep is precious to you and you just can’t be arsed to sweat your morning away in a crowded, touristy market then sleep on and go to the vintage market Rot Fai in the evening instead.

Head to Thonglor for some all day American breakfast and brunch at Tribeca. Start celebrating your holiday early with the 'boozy brunch', which is available over weekends and includes unlimited prosecco, bellini, mimosa and kir royale for 699 baht ++ only. Enjoy classic American brunch staples such as 'buttermilk fried chicken' and 'waffles served with homemade maple butter' or the signature 'pancake benedict', served with maple glazed pork belly.

While away your afternoon with some great coffee at Roast or Kaizen Coffee in Ekamai. Thonglor also has a couple of vintage stores such as Wooden Submarine.

Check out the Farmers Market schedule to see if there’s anything interesting happening that day. If that’s not your cup of tea, head to Chinatown/Yaowarat to soak in the sights and sounds of old Bangkok. Hop onto a tuk tuk and ride around the many junctions in Yaowarat, where there are many wholesale markets selling local goodies, fabrics, accessories, etc.

If you stay till evening, theres an amazing 'phad thai' vendor outside Kikuya dept store. An old couple has been making and selling it for decades and one plate is never enough! They usually open at 7pm and close by 11pm.

If you’re in the mood to party cheap, head to Khaosan where all backpackers hangout for cheap drinks. For something more mid-range, Soi 11 has plenty of options. For a more chill night, head to Thonglor and bar hop your night away.

Day 3

If you’re into sightseeing, some of the main attractions are the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Asiatique, and Floating Markets (Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Thailand). If you’d rather do more important things like trying more amazing food, head to Isao to have some of the famous sushi rolls like 'sushi sandwich' and 'Jackie', which is presented in the shape of a caterpillar and served with their famous tangy sesame sauce. If you’d rather go local, try the crunchy 'soi polo fried chicken', which is very famous.

There are 2 things you can never get enough of in Bangkok: food & massages, so spoil yourself silly by getting another massage or a relaxing spa session at either Urban retreat or Asia Herb association in Thonglor.

If you’re anywhere near Thonglor, remember to buy a pack of 'mango sticky rice' from Mae Varee, which is located at the front of Thonglor.

Don’t leave Bangkok without having some Thai seafood. Try the chunky king prawns with the spicy but amazing seafood sauce at either Somboon or Sornthong seafood restaurants as well as the ‘poo pad phong kari’, which is a famous Thai crab curry.


Stylish stays in Bangkok


This elegant studio apartment is located in Sathorn, within walking distance to the bustling Silom shopping and entertainment area. The underground MRT and BTS skytrain are also nearby – perfect for exploring the rest of Bangkok!

Vacation rental apartment in Bangkok – Roomorama blog Weekly rentals in Bangkok – Roomorama blog Short term rentals in Bangkok – Roomorama blog

Going to Bangkok? Check out more places to stay in Bangkok on Roomorama.