Residents of the Thai capital share their inside knowlege, writes Linda Meads.
As any traveller knows, the best way to find out where you should eat, drink and maybe even dance is to ask the locals. Here are a few recommendations from expats who live and breathe the best of Bangkok on where to hit the town — and where to dine beforehand.
The appeal of a rooftop bar is, ahem, elevated in a massive city and Bangkok is home to some of the world's best. For something a little different, head to Above 11, a Peruvian Japanese restaurant and bar on the 33rd and 34th floor of the Fraser Suites Sukhumvit in Soi 11. Downstairs, the deep house, soul or hip-hop music is pumping while upstairs is a little more relaxed; the food is exquisite, the beer icy cold and the decor fresh and interesting. Make sure you check out the views from the loos too, and note there is a dress code, so don't turn up in your hippie pants.
Also recommended: Octave Rooftop and Lounge on the 45th floor of the Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit.
For a taste of Cuba, jump in the lift and head for Havana Social across the street from the Fraser Suites.
This hidden speakeasy is accessed by dialling a secret code from a retro phone booth; to get the code you'll need to call (+66) 061 450 3750 and to find the phone booth, look for the "Telefono" sign.
Inside you'll find a pre-revolution 1940s-themed Cuban bar complete with its own cigar lounge, fantastic rum selection and live music. A dress code applies here too.
Also recommended: The Iron Fairies, a bar and restaurant designed like an ironsmith's workshop and with a magical vibe; and Maggie Choo's, a basement jazz bar and restaurant known for its live jazz and the drag night on Sundays.
Rot Fai Market
Skip the insanity of Chatuchak, Thailand's largest market, and head for the vibrant open-air Rot Fai Market instead. It is where all the local cool kids hang out (6pm to midnight, Thursdays to Sunday); in fact we saw barely any Westerners at all, although this might be an anomaly. Split into three sections (Market Zone, Warehouse Zone and Rod's Antiques), at Roi Fai you'll find everything from the latest fashions to an incredible array of vintage clothing and collectables, antiques, classic cars, cool cocktail stalls and a jaw-dropping selection of food stands. To get there, you either need to taxi to Seacon Square or catch the BTS Skytrain to On Nut Station, then taxi. Slightly easier to access is its little sister, Rot Fai Market Rachada, which you can get to via the MRT (Cultural Centre stop).
Namsaah Bottling Trust
This pretty hot-pink restaurant, housed in a colonial building in North Sathorn, was a soda company's bottling office and bank headquarters in its former life — in fact, the word "namsaah" is Thai for soda water. Described as an Asian gastro bar, Namsaah specialises in exquisite contemporary Thai cuisine and cocktails. The bar area is downstairs, leaving upstairs for serious eating; think twists on green curry short ribs, Vietnamese rice paper rolls and banana roti. Push the boat out and try a Whiskey Sour made with local SangSom rum (known as whiskey by Thai people) and salted caramel, or a negroni with fresh tangerine juice and roasted mandarins after dinner.
Also recommended: Supanniga Eating Room, which specialises in authentic Thai recipes passed through the generations.
flies direct from Auckland to Bangkok, with return Economy Class fares from $1104.