Assistant Chief Concierge Nimit Maneekit, at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, was asked to gather his savviest sight-seeing suggestions—not just his own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. With these tips, you’ll discover a city that combines old and new, from peaceful temples and gardens to skyscrapers and shopping malls.
The glittering Grand Palace, including the Emerald Buddha and neighbouring Wat Pho with its 150-foot (45-metre) gold reclining Buddha, are musts—so hire a car and driver for a half-day tour and beat the crowds in the cooler early morning. On a much more intimate scale is the meticulously preserved Jim Thompson House, which artfully evokes old Bangkok as lived by someone with very good taste in antiques.
Bangkok’s sleek shopping malls (Siam Paragon and Gaysorn, to name two) can be lots of fun, but don’t miss the massive Chatuchak Weekend Market. Take the Skytrain, prepare for crowds, and look for everything from souvenirs to live birds, plus clothing and home accessories from hip young designers.
The National Discovery Museum of Siam is a great place to learn about Thai society. Housed in a historic building, the museum is full of hands-on, interactive displays that literally ask you questions as you explore the origins of Thai history, beliefs and culture.
Dining in Bangkok means savouring the best of Thai cooking, from the rich curries of the south to the spicy stir-fries of the north. Noodle dishes like the famous pad Thai are not to be missed, as are classics like green papaya salad and the hot-and-sour soup called tom yam—likely far better than any versions you’ve had back home. Chicken gai yang is popular as well. For dessert? Sticky rice with mango, of course.
Massage and spa treatments are everywhere in Bangkok. On the grounds of Wat Pho, visit the Reclining Buddha; then get a massage at Bangkok’s oldest massage school—a great place to connect to the roots of this ancient discipline that aims to refresh the spirit as it loosens the muscles and joints. Another highly regarded place for authentic Thai massage—basic, clean and inexpensive—is Ruen-Nuad massage studio, set in a small house. For considerably more pampering, look no further than the Four Seasons Spa by MSpa, where the signature four-hands treatment blends five different massage styles.
On the Water
The Chao Phraya River, crowded with barges and river taxis, is Bangkok’s main waterway, with many major sights near its banks. The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat offers running commentary and a day pass that lets you explore everything from the Royal Barge Museum to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. A perfect complement is a private boat excursion along the few remaining khlongs (canals), which offers glimpses of everyday Thai life.
Just minutes from Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, Lumpini Park is the largest park in the city centre. There’s a lake, lined with food stands and green spaces that are popular with joggers and people practicing tai chi or just relaxing in the shade. Families can also chill out at the Sub-Zero Ice Skate Club at the Esplanade shopping complex.
Four Seasons has a quartet of properties in Thailand, which lend themselves to an ideal touring itinerary. Start in Bangkok, where you can scrub away any jet lag and take in the great temples and palaces. Then fly an hour north to greener and cooler Chiang Mai, the easy-going artistic heart of the country. Next comes the Tented Camp Golden Triangle, a scenic four-hour drive by private car from Chiang Mai, where jungles, rivers, elephants and hill-tribe villages evoke old Thailand. And finally, fly south and relax in quintessential modern Thai style at the palm-studded beach resort of Koh Samui.