Entrance - Ancient City (Muang Boran), Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright Heinrich Damm

Ancient City (Muang Boran)

Located about thirty-three kilometers (about twenty miles) east of Bangkok, this large outdoor museum was envisioned and built by Lek Viriyaphant, an eccentric Thai millionaire who dreamed of bringing the country’s most significant structures back to life (the old capital of Ayutthaya was practically destroyed in the Burmese invasion of 1767). In this 200-acre park, he oversaw the building of more than 100 structures—some restored old buildings, some new replicas. It has a touch of Disneyland (the grounds, for instance, are roughly the same shape as the old Kingdom of Siam), but the life-size replicas, in particular, are impressive. Few tourists make it out here, so it’s a lovely retreat away from the city’s bustle. You can even rent bicycles to explore the grounds. From central Bangkok, it’s a thirty-minute taxi ride.

Aerial View-Ayutthaya ,Bangkok, Thailand-Copyright Diego Delso


This was the majestic capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1351 until the Burmese invasion of 1767 almost entirely destroyed the city, including three splendid palaces and some 400 temples. For travelers interested in archeology and history, visiting the ruins that remain of this glorious city, in a historical park that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, makes a fascinating day trip.

Read about Elephantstay, a rescue program outside Bangkok in Ayutthaya.

Food At Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant Bangkok,Bangkok, Thailand

Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant Bangkok

While Thailand’s best cooking schools and classes are found up north, in places like Chiang Mai, Bangkok does have a few top places where you can learn about the cooking techniques and ingredients that make Thai cuisine one of the world’s most exciting (and delicious).

Purists head to the Blue Elephant, the school above the renowned restaurant, where classes are offered twice a day. The menu depends on the day of the week (check on the school’s Web site if you have your heart set on one dish in particular). There’s a separate vegetarian program, and private classes can be arranged. Of course, participants enjoy the fruits of their labor over a lengthy lunch or dinner. (Note: If your travel extends beyond Bangkok, the Blue Elephant Cooking School Phuket now offers classes in the beautiful, former Governor’s Mansion in Phuket Town).

Interior View - Chi Spa, Bangkok, Thailand

Chi Spa

A beautifully laid-out oasis of calm, the Chi Spa, in the Shangri-La, is one of Bangkok’s most impressive destination spas. The quiet, candle-lit design, with lots of stone walls and teak sliding doors, resembles a monastery, and indeed there is something spiritual about the ambience here. There are just twelve spacious treatment rooms, each equipped with an herbal steam shower, large changing facilities and a soaking tub. Treatments are based on traditional Chinese philosophies and remedies that enhance the chi. It’s worth investing in one of the longer, signature cures, like the two-and-a-half-hour Enchanted Journey, which includes a rejuvenating Himalayan bath therapy, a body rub and an aroma massage. The Chi Spa, located away from the city’s bustle in the hotel’s Krungthep Wing, is a great spot in which to recharge after a few days of sightseeing. Open 10 a.m.–11 p.m.

Aerial View-Chinatown ,Bangkok, Thailand-Copyright Jacob Siverskog


The Chinese are one of the oldest and largest immigrant communities in Bangkok, and their presence was one of the reasons the city expanded as rapidly as it did in the 19th century. Chinatown, on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, consists of a maddening labyrinth of tiny alleys, most lined with food stalls of all kinds and vendors selling everything from amulets and beaded jewelry to huge statues of the Buddha and bags of chili peppers. (If you purchase one of Nancy Chandler’s handy maps, you’ll find an entire section dedicated to Chinatown.)

It’s a good idea to visit this section of town with a guide, who can point out the highlights and then take the quickest route to the nearby Grand Palace and the temples. Sensitive souls should know that the smells they’ll encounter will be intense, especially in the heat, and that the heaps of animal parts, meat and fish (dried, picked, raw, still alive) are a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. Don’t miss the spectacular flower market, where an armful of orchids costs no more than three dollars, and the soaring halls where masses of spices, fruits and vegetables are sold.

Chinatown, and its subset of markets is best experiences with a local guide. Contact our bookings department for a specialized tour will kick off at the Ea Sae teahouse, which opened in 1929 and is where the old men of the neighborhood still start their mornings with cha-yen (iced tea) and gossip (you’ll find their wives in Lumpini Park, practicing tai chi). If you go alone, take a taxi to Yaowarat Road, then dive into any of the side lanes that lead to the river. Before you know it, you’ll be lost in the maze that is Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Editors' Picks

COMO Shambhala Spa

Operating according to the same holistic principles as its sister COMO Shambhala spas (at Parrot Cay, in the Turks and Caicos, and at Begawan Giri, in Bali), the spa at the Metropolitan hotel has ten treatment rooms and a long menu of therapies, including some locally inspired offerings, but also its signature COMO massages, body cures and facials. The facilities are not as roomy as those at, say, Chi Spa, but the organic restaurant Glow, on the same floor, is a great stop for a healthy lunch before or after a treatment. Open 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

Exterior View - Dusit Park,Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright martinp

Dusit Park

Dusit is northwest of the city center, but if you do make it there, don’t miss the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, a whimsical neoclassical palace whose exteriors are clad in white Carrara marble, from Italy. The Jim Thompson House and M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home have pretty gardens as well.

Elephant - Giving Back: Elephantstay,Bangkok, Thailand

Giving Back: Elephantstay

It is not uncommon to see majestic elephants being paraded down the clogged streets of Bangkok, and often tourists are encouraged to buy treats to feed them. Do not support this trade: these urban elephants are worked to exhaustion and abused. (The elephants’ plight is a major concern in Southeast Asia overall, as the animals are no longer needed for the work they performed for decades and are frequently kept in major cities in unbearable conditions.) Rather, if you want to interact with these regal animals, consider donating time to Elephantstay, an amazing program in Ayutthaya, a one-hour drive from Bangkok.

Exterior View - Grand Palace,Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright Andy Marchand

Grand Palace

Plan to spend several hours exploring the Grand Palace, a sprawling complex that was the official residence of the king of Thailand from the 18th to the mid-20th centuries. As with any palace in Europe, each expansion was the work of another king, but perhaps the most influential touches were added by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), whose father was the inspiration for The King and I. (Even though the story of British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens and the six years she spent at the court teaching English to the king’s wives, concubines and children—including Chulalongkorn—is revered by the Thai people, the Hollywood film starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat is not. In fact, it was banned in Thailand because of major historical inaccuracies.)

King Chulalongkorn was keenly interested in Western politics and administration, and his insight and political savvy is often credited as the reason why Thailand (then Siam) was never colonized. At the Grand Palace, King Chulalongkorn, who traveled widely in Asia and Europe, instigated the building of the Borom Phiman mansion, a whimsical combination of Thai and neoclassical French architecture (today it houses heads of state who travel to Thailand). The big attraction at the Grand Palace, to a large extent, is the spectacular temple of the Emerald Buddha, carved entirely of green jade and clothed in gold. Note that your ticket to see the Grand Palace is also valid for a same-day visit to the Dusit Palace.

Editors' Picks
Aerial View - Indagare Tours: The River,Bangkok, Thailand   - Courtesy Thai Tourism

Indagare Tours: The River

Touring the khlongs (canals) is a must for first-time visitors, and Indagare members can contact our bookings team for help setting up a tour in a slender longboat, which can get into the narrow waterways.

Indagare Tip: Be sure to factor in tides timing and plan a tour to avoid waiting around at the sluice to get in and out of the canals.

Editors' Picks
Exterior View - Indagare Tours: Wat Pho,Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright Adam Jones

Indagare Tours: Wat Pho

This temple complex near the Grand Palace Bangkok contains more than 1,000 images of the Buddha and is most famous for the massive 46-meter-long (151-foot-long) reclining Buddha, who lies stretched out on his side, head in hand, like a movie star. Buddha’s reclining position represents his entering Nirvana- a state of complete release from all human confines and desires signifying the end of reincarnation – one of the most significant passing in Buddhist religion. Don’t miss the bottoms of the Buddha’s feet, which are stunningly decorated with mother-of-pearl images. Before the complex became a temple, Wat Pho was a center for traditional Thai medicine and massage, and throughout the buildings you can find plaques with medical inscriptions in antiquated dialect and small sculptures showcasing yoga positions. The Thai massage school at Wat Pho is highly acclaimed, and many of the therapists you will encounter in the top resorts trained there.

Indagare Tip: The complex is best experienced at night after the crowds have come and gone and the temples stand well lit in the silence of night. Contact Indagare’s Bookings Team for information about the night tour.

Editors' Picks
Exterior View - Joe Louis Theatre,Bangkok, Thailand

Joe Louis Theatre

Taking its moniker from the nickname of renowned Thai puppeteer Sakorn Yan-keawsot, the Joe Louis Theater is a showcase of the Thai puppet tradition. Founded in 2002, the company recently moved to a stunning new venue that provides the perfect backdrop for their traditional, authentic performances. The daily performances are packed with children and adults alike–get there early for a good seat.

Leela Thai Herbal Spa

There are two branches of this no-frills but lovely small spa, where travelers can experience authentic Thai massages as well as a variety of treatments including reflexology and body scrubs. The Sathorn branch, near the M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home and Le Lys restaurant, has a leafy garden café. Open 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

Aerial View - Lumphini Park,Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright Jarcje

Lumphini Park

Bangkok has a surprising number of leafy hideaways; the biggest being Lumphini Park and Dusit Park. If you come to Lumphini, located within walking distance of the Metropolitan and Sukhothai hotels, early in the morning, you can observe the locals engaged in a variety of activities, from aerobics and yoga to tai chi. You can hire a paddleboat to explore the small lake on the grounds as well.

Interior View - M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home,Bangkok, Thailand

M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home

A bit off the beaten path, across the street from Le Lys restaurant, this beautifully restored traditional Thai home consists of five teak houses, the oldest of which is more than 100 years old. The former private home of M.R. Kukrit, the country’s prime minister in the 1970s, the property is a stunning example of time-honored Thai design; it also has a lovely garden. Make sure you do some research on your own or come with a guide: there are very few materials in English at the museum. Opening hours vary; have your concierge call ahead.

Kitchen At Mandarin Oriental Cooking School,Bangkok, Thailand

Mandarin Oriental Cooking School

The acclaimed school at the Mandarin Oriental is located in a separate building across the Chao Phraya River from the main hotel and is accessed by the hotel’s private boat that shuttles back and forth across the river all day. Dishes range from Thai classics (stir-fried noodles, sweet and sour fish soup, yellow beef curry) to more elevated fare, like curried fish mousse or pumpkin custard. Students learn how to prepare the food from the elementary steps of grinding the pastes to adding finishing touches.

Interior View - Mandarin Oriental Spa,Bangkok, Thailand

Mandarin Oriental Spa

The Mandarin Oriental, across the river from the hotel, is situated in an antique Thai house and offers myriad treatments, including packages of up to three days of pampering. There’s an extensive list of Ayurvedic cures as well. The facilities and therapists are top-notch. Open 9 a.m.–10 p.m.

Exterior View - National Museum,Bangkok, Thailand

National Museum

The museum is within walking distance of the Grand Palace (about 15 minutes) and showcases one of the best collections of Southeast Asian art anywhere. It’s a good place to start to get an overview of Thai art and history. There are guided tours on Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m., which are included in the ticket price. Call ahead to confirm the time.

Peninsula Spa

The Peninsula spa is a gorgeous 19,000-square-foot space, with carved teak doors and subdued color scheme, housed in a traditional Thai building (brought to the Peninsula from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya). There are eighteen spacious treatment rooms, the menu features a mix of Eastern and Western wellness principles.

Red-Light Bangkok

Sadly, you don’t have to stray too far from the beaten path in Bangkok to come across the underbelly of the metropolis. Patpong, Nana Plaza on Soi Four and Soi Cowboy (the latter two are in the Sukhumvit area) are notorious nightlife districts where young prostitutes line the streets. On a recent trip, several people told me that Patpong, infamous during Vietnam as the place where American soldiers went when they were on leave, has morphed into a more tourist-friendly market area; however, I still found the sight of girls in four-inch heels who looked no older than teenagers hanging out beside stands of cheap Rolex knock-offs and Thai “crafts” depressing. Skip Patpong altogether and head to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, in Lumpini, a much more fun experience.

Statue At - Royal Barge Museum, Bangkok, Thailand  - Copyright Mark Fischer

Royal Barge Museum

In a side canal off the west bank of the Chao Praya is the newly re-opened Royal Barge Museum, where the exquisite artisanship of the royal barges are on display. Though spectacular pageants and procession continue to take place on the river to this day for special national occasions, seeing the master of craft and intricate detail involved in the restoration of these royal long tail boats really brings Thai history to life.  Make a brief stop during a canal, or khlung, tour to learn about the history of the barges and their renewed production at the national museum.

Interior Ocean - Siam Ocean World,Bangkok, Thailand

Siam Ocean World

Ocean World, on the basement level of Bangkok’s massive Siam Paragon department store, is billed as Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium, and indeed, the large tanks, containing more than 400 species of sea creature, are impressive. Too bad the rest of Ocean World has a Disneyland-meets–Coney Island feel. Around every other corner, visitors come across vendors hawking popcorn or such gimmicky activities as a “journey” in a glass-bottomed boat (the aquarium is large, but not large enough for a boat tour). Skip the extras, including the “Ocean Walk,” and let kids explore the large aquariums and smaller displays of rare species. Come early, and try to avoid the weekends, as Ocean World is extremely popular (there are yearly passes). Afterward, head to the food court of the department store for lunch.

Aerial View - Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand - Copyright Diego Delso

Wat Arun

You can climb the central Khmer-style prang (typical temple structures’ spires) of the so-called Temple of the Dawn, which is on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River and is reachable by riverboat. Steep steps lead up to several tiers, all covered in mosaics that were artfully made from countless pieces of broken Chinese porcelain. Morning light turns these surfaces iridescent, which is how this Buddhist temple, which no longer has any practicing monks affiliated with it, got its name. Those without time for a tour of every temple may opt to skip Wat Arun and instead, enjoy the tremendous temple lit at night from across the river on the terrace at Sala Rattanakosin.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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