A Serious Guide to Bangkok

by Team Serious

Summing up Bangkok in a few words is tricky because of the diverse peculiarities that the city imparts to a tourist. While it’s known and respected for many things—its flavorful spices, temples, and elephants—we went to spots that are off the beaten track. The creative, retail and food industries have been enjoying their resurgence, so it was just the wiser decision to forget the Bangkok tourist bubble (except for the cheap tuk-tuk rides and mango sticky rice, of course) and instead visit stores, art spaces and street-food stalls aplenty that fell into these two categories: (1) Good brands and/or (2) Good times.

We’ll have to be honest: finishing our initially lengthy itinerary was nearly impossible due to occasional traffic jams (and managing more than a dozen people), but here’s a list of some we were lucky enough to experience.

EAT & DRINK

ERR URBAN RUSTIC THAI

Tucked away in a quiet alley amidst busy Bangkok, Err was the perfect welcome to the city we’d always dreamt of. None of their dishes were like any Thai recipe we’ve tasted; each had a spice and a kick to it you can only have in Thailand itself. Thanks to being a big group, we got to try almost a dozen delectable dishes that left us energized and excited for the culinary adventure that was to come.

First impressions last:
We will never forget their Sai Ouwa, a spicy and smokey sausage with sharp flavors that lingered in our mouths long after we finished our Thai iced tea.

 

Their famous chicken skin dish Nang Kai Tort, deceivingly labeled chicken movie, is also the perfect excuse to have something sinful in the name of gastronomic exploration.

THE NEVER ENDING SUMMER

The Never Ending Summer has a name and industrial-chic character that were enough to warrant a second look. Wind down after a long day of shopping, and people-watch by the riverside with their Thai-inflected cocktails and a menu selection of nostalgic and hard-to-find Thai meals inspired by the chef’s childhood recipes.

A tip:
If you’re lucky, catch a DJ and sing your hearts out to Toploader’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” or explore pop-up activities in the rest of The Jam Factory where the restaurant is located. It’s a good spot to poke around being a creative space with a retail shop, a gallery, a bookstore that doubles as a cafe, and an office. It can also get very zen by the pier deck. There’s something for everyone!

We loved:
Red Curry—hands down! THAT AWESOMESAUCE.

SOMBON SEAFOOD

We are always on the lookout for fresh seafood, because let’s be honest, not a lot of restaurants serve seafood that way. So our curiosities were ignited when we heard about Somboon Seafood, an iconic and longstanding seafood institution dating back to 1969. Here at Serious, we value restaurants that honor tradition while at the same time are able to keep the consistency and integrity of their menu.

Served fresh:
Tourists, foodies and locals alike come for their Fried Curry Crab—done to perfection. Note that the lunchtime crowd doesn’t lie so make a reservation.

OR TOR KOR MARKET

We’d never pass up the chance to eat like the locals. Or Tor Kor, a popular market, just a few minutes’ walk from the famed Chatuchak market, fit easily into our busy itinerary. The dozens of food stalls with their fresh, appetizing eats were a most pleasant sight for tired eyes (and feet). With all the Thai dishes that are requisites for a visit to the capital and some, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dish that doesn’t threaten to make your tastebuds burst with excitement.

Our savior:
The corner fruit juice and shake store (Its name has slipped into a distant yet fond memory—we are so sorry). As much as we love our coffee, there’s nothing more refreshing than a fresh fruit shake in the middle of the Bangkok sizzle.

BITTERMAN

What is a trip without trying out what they say is one of the best restaurants in town? Set in a green oasis, Bitterman was the perfect place to conclude our Bangkok journey, sit and chat comfortably together, and share a Western take of the “handcrafted cuisine” Bitterman is well known for. We ordered a lot more than we planned. But just like the company we shared at that moment, we’ll have to justify our (questionable) appetite with: the more, the merrier.

All hits and no misses:
Not exaggerating when we say that everything (we ordered) down to the service were favorites—from the B.T.M. Guacamole (DIY) and prawns to the Bitterman 4.1. Angus short ribs and creme brulee!

SOUL FOOD MAHANAKORN

Soul Food is deceptive in more ways than one. First, because we thought the dim street meant it was closed until we saw its big, bright sign. Second, because we thought comfort food meant simple and predictable. What we got was anything but. We got surprises such as pad thai topped with soft shell crab and grapow mixed with lamb. Together with some really good cocktails, our supposed comfort food meal turned into a warm and hearty feast.

Come prepared:
Best to make a reservation before you go. This must-go can get really full on most days.

ERAWAN TEA ROOM

Erawan Tea Room is a touristy option, yet not one to be overlooked. This local favorite and awarded restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy traditional Thai fare in an elegant yet hospitable setting. Enjoy an afternoon of their famous teas and snacks or indulge in authentic Thai cuisine with their all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner offering.

Our favorites:
You can’t go wrong with their fried rice, fried noodles, and curry dishes—all served in beautiful lotus leaf ceramic plates.

JAY FAI

While Bangkok is home to many street food delights, Jay Fai is one of the few street vendors in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. Expect a long wait at this eatery, as the typical queueing time here is a minimum of two hours. Come for the fluffy crab omelettes, stir-fried noodles, or simply spectate as Jay Fai herself rocks the wok whilst wearing her trademark ski goggles.

ROOTS

The specialty coffee scene in Bangkok is vibrant, with a wide range of options to satisfy both the curious and the snobbish. Roots is the perfect example of a place that caters to both. The boutique craft coffee company sources beans from around the world, and roasts them in-house to produce the perfect cup, while also doing their part to support local coffee farmers. Try their Barista’s choice of cold brew or pair a classic latte with their doughnuts.

SPECIAL MENTIONS:

  • Mikkeller Bangkok
  • Rocket Coffeebar
  • Roast

EXPLORE

THAILAND CREATIVE AND DESIGN CENTRE

Built to foster the creative potential of the city, the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC) located in the former Grand Post Office Building is a five-storey design resource, learning and knowledge facility, as well as an inspirational haven rolled into one. There are enough space and designer chairs to take up alone or to meet with colleagues in the meeting rooms. If you plan to stay in Bangkok for a little while longer than the usual, get their weekly passes and take your time immersing in this very, very, very vast real estate of creativity.

Just a thought:
Why can’t all governments invest in something like this?!

WAREHOUSE 30

  • Right along the riverside, Warehouse 30 is an adaptive reuse project featuring a compound of World War II-era warehouses converted into a small creative destination. It contains a cafe and a few retail options featuring local and independent brands. It’s a good place to people-watch and lazily stroll on a sunny day.

     

THECOMMONS

“Our intention is to build first a community, then a mall.” A cozy, welcoming place exuding charm, theCOMMONS is a loft-like community mall that is Bangkok’s answer for a market with a specific yet adventurous taste when it comes to dining, shopping and creativity. While there are retail spaces and workshop areas, we spent most of our time in The Market which is (as usual and predictable for our team) a collective of food and drinks. Don’t miss Holy Moly for their sinful but worthy tarts!

SHOP

LIDO CONNECT

As most good discoveries occur, we accidentally passed by Lido Connect while getting to a destination in our itinerary. Despite our packed schedule, the vibe emanating from the entrance forced us to give it an hour of our busy day—and it was well-deserved. Inside the unassuming building were a variety of stores—a bright and spunky sneaker shop, a radio station where you could watch live radio, and a coffee spot. When you find a place where even the WC looks music video-worthy (and boy it was), you owe it to the creative in you to make a visit.

Favorite store:
Hidden inside the complex is the cheeky Daddy and the Muscle Academy—a fun, colorful, quirky store filled with accessories and stationery. It’s like being in a candy store for adults that are kids-at-heart.

OPEN HOUSE

Open House is not a bookstore. It is a collective living space designed by Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture. Our first thought when we entered: “Can we live here, please?” Open House has a little bit of everything from extraordinary dining spots and open bars to co-working areas, artwork exhibits, and an Open House Bookshop by Hardcover with 20,000 curated and rare art books (aaahhh)! If you’re like us who can’t get enough of paper and print, this is the first place you should visit. We recommend setting aside some time and getting lost for a while.

Take a sip:
At one end of Open House is the Instagram-famous ATM Tea Bar where you can order cool and colorful concoctions from a pretty pink ATM machine.

PAPERSMITH

A humble shop tucked in a stylish mall, Papersmith is a specialty magazine store that curates glossies on design, fashion, culture, and more. Where they lack in size, they make up for in selection by carrying some hard-to-find titles, along with some coveted hardbound. Be warned though, as stocks are few.

CHATUCHAK

Chatuchak is possibly the most famous market in Bangkok—and for good reason. It has a great selection of goods and foods AT THE BEST PRICES that cater to each of the thousands of people who visit daily. Every store holds its own stories and specialties, you’ll feel silly to leave and not buy anything.

A tip:
Bring large reusable shopping bags and small bills.

SIAM DISCOVERY

True to its name, Siam Discovery is the perfect place for those looking to shop well-known brands while discovering new ones. Browse through cult favorites such as Jacquemus and Maison Kitsune, or find new ones at lifestyle specialty store Loft. Whenever you’re in the mood for a quick retail fix, you can always drop by Siam Discovery to shop brands from all over the world right in the heart of the city.

SIWILAI

Siwilai is a multi-brand retail space located on the top floor of the Central Embassy complex. Described as a crossroads for culture and couture with Thai sensibilities, it comes equipped with its own outdoor terrace and cafe. It even houses a print media and vinyl library, a beauty lab, and a “Thai-Made” section. Its curated lifestyle selection features both streetwear, like Stüssy and Saturdays NYC, and fashion heavyweights such as Maison Kitsune, Common Projects, and Mansur Gavriel among others. The list goes on and on—truly an embodiment of the modern-day marketplace being rich in class, culture, and good taste.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

  • Another Story
  • Room Factory
 

Download, print, and take this map with you as you explore the streets of Bangkok, or view it here on Google Maps.

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