48 hours in Bangkok devoted to deliciousness is our idea of a perfect two days in the Thai capital. While two days and two nights aren’t nearly enough time to eat your way through the city, you’ll certainly get a good taste of Bangkok’s gastronomic greatness if you follow our advice.
While you can follow our 48 hours in Bangkok itinerary at any time of the week, if you do it over a weekend, before or after you eat and shop yourself silly at Or Tor Kor market, you can pop across the road to Chatuchak Market, also known as JJ Market, Bangkok’s massively popular weekend market.
Here’s how we think you should spend 48 hours in Bangkok eating your way through the Thai capital…
48 Hours in Bangkok for Food Lovers
Settle into one of our recommended Bangkok hotels for foodies – these are hotels that are either home to a Thai temple of gastronomy, such as the Metropolitan Como, which houses Nahm, or are located in a foodie hot spot, such as Shanghai Mansion, in the heart of Chinatown.
Sip a cocktail created by one of Bangkok’s best bars, Vesper, as you take in the action on the bustling Chao Phraya River from the sleek new Supanniga Cruise, an intimate 40-seat boat fitted out with comfy sofas with cushions covered in Mudmee silk. Bangkok’s most stylish sightseeing boat was recently launched by Supanniga Eating House, one of the city’s best Thai restaurants, which dishes up wonderful food primarily from the north-eastern Isaan region, the east coast around Trat, and beyond, based on the recipes of owner Thanaruek Laoraovirodge’s khun yai (grandmother). Departing at 4.45pm Monday to Friday, the one-hour evening cocktail cruise includes savoury snacks, while on the weekend Taittinger cruise you get to wash down your snacks with a glass of champagne. If you can squeeze in two evening meals, there’s a two hour-long 6.15pm dinner cruise with a 6-course feast of Supanniga classics, including Moo cha muang (a complex pork stew with cha muang leaves), and hor mok poo (steamed crab meat curry). Leaving from River City, the journey takes in the handsome heritage buildings and glittering monuments, such as the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, spectacularly illuminated after dark, so it’s a fantastic introduction to the river and Old Bangkok. See their cruise map.
Your first Bangkok meal should be at David Thompson’s Nahm, the world’s finest Thai restaurant, named one of Thailand’s best restaurants at #5 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant’s list in 2017. Set in an elegant dining room, with brick pillars that tip a hat to the old Thai kingdoms (a picture here), this is the most authentic Thai food you’ll ever taste. The exquisite dishes are inspired by centuries-old heritage recipes which Thompson and head chef Prin Polsuk, who is at the pass, source from Thai memorial books, mementoes distributed at funerals that include the dear departed’s favourite recipes. Thompson once described his cuisine to us as “the kind of food you would have eaten in a Thai house a few generations ago”. Don’t think about ordering anything but the set menu, which kicks off with four canapés followed by a dish from each section of the menu – a salad, soup, relish, curry, and stir fry/steamed/grilled dish. Served family style with rice, these are followed by dessert. You get to choose the main dishes and we highly recommend you do it in conjunction with the waiter and be honest about the level of heat you can handle. We love the Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with calamansi lime and the Panang curry of Wagyu beef with peanuts, shallots and Thai basil. When we had lunch with Rene Redzepi at Nahm, despite the three of us barely being able to finish a generous spread of dishes, Rene ordered a second Wagyu curry. It’s that good. Nahm, Como Metropolitan, 27 South Sathorn Road, Sathorn. 12-2pm Mon-Fri, 7-10.30pm daily.
Have the hotel get a taxi to take you to quirky Smalls bar, not far away, set over three levels in a corner shop-house, with an alfresco rooftop space. Owned by David Jacobson, a founder of legendary (albeit now-defunct) nightspot Q Bar, Smalls is a favourite of Bangkok chefs. It’s not unusual to find some of the city’s finest cooks downing shots after service, especially on Sundays and Mondays, when hospitality industry folks get to two-for-one drinks. Wednesday night, you’re in for some live jazz. If it’s the last Thursday of the month it’s Phuong’s pho nights, so you better walk to work up an appetite for a big hearty bowl of the Vietnamese soup. Smalls, 186/3 Suan Phlu Soi 1. 7.30pm-2am, Wed-Mon.
Get an education in Thai street food dishes on a Bangkok Food Tours walk through Bangrak, the city’s most historic neighbourhood. After meeting at Saphan Taksin BTS terminal the tour kicks off on Bangkok’s oldest street, Charoen Krung Road, established in 1861. Tastings include khao na phed (Thai-Chinese roast duck and rice) at Mr Soong’s 55-year old restaurant; Thai-Indian curries at the 75-year old Muslim Restaurant, ran by the third generation of an Indian Muslim family; yen ta po (red noodle soup) from a half-century old noodle shop; and BBQ pork buns made to their original receipt at Pan Lee Bakery, operated by the fourth generation descendants of the former Oriental Hotel pastry chef who opened the bakery in 1955. The stroll is punctuated by stops at notable monuments, including the pagoda Wat Suan Phlu, dating to 1797, and the Catholic Assumption Cathedral, built in 1821.
Grab a cab or make your way down to Saphan Taksin pier (beside the BTS terminal of the same name) to take a ferry or water taxi to Err, pictured above, for delicious ‘urban rustic Thai’ in a retro-cool eatery owned by chefs Bo and Dylan of Bo.lan, another of Bangkok’s finest Thai restaurants. It was Bo and Dylan who sparked the restaurant revolution in Bangkok with the opening of Bo.lan in 2010. The couple’s love for street food, fermentation and preservation is evident in a menu organised by Preserved, Pickled, Char.Coal.Grilled, Crunchy & Crispy, Wok Wok, Clay Pot, Refreshing, Curry, and Soup. Sausage lovers should order the sai krok Isaan (Isaan style pork sausage), neam (grilled northern style garlic and sticky rice cured pork) and sai ouwa (coconut smoked Chinag Rai curry sausage). Another must is the nang kai tort (“chicken movie with home-made See-ra-cha sauce”), a crunchy, fried, whole chicken skin. Cocktails are based on Thai spirits and rice wine. Try the Flower Market Number Two – ‘manee’ flower rice wine with jasmine vodka, lime, lychee, and elderflower. Err can be tricky to find. Directions here but in brief: from Ta Tien Pier, turn right into Maharaj Road; continue, keeping Wat Pho on your left; turn right into Soi Maharaj, the soi (lane) before Soin Pansuk; walk toward the river and Err is halfway on your left. Err, 394/35 Maharaj Road, Ta Tien; 11am-10pm Tue-Sun.
Walk off all that food with a wander around the historic sights of Rattanakosin Island. Surrounded by a narrow moat and crisscrossed by canals, this was the site of the capital of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, established in 1782 by King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I). If it’s your first time in Bangkok, you’ll want to see the star attractions. Begin at nearby King Rama I’s royal temple Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), dating to 1788. Home to a 46 metre-long reclining gold Buddha, it houses Thailand’s largest collection of Buddha images. Gawk at the giant guardians, glittering spires, gleaming chedis, and golden garudas in the grounds of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The sprawling complex contains pagodas, pavilions and salas, some of which are filled with precious relics from Cambodia and Java, and a mini Angkor Wat. Lastly, take the boat from Ta Tien pier across to climb the mosaic-tiled Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), built during the reign of King Rama II in the early 19th century.
Sip a tom yam martini made with lime juice, lemongrass, chili and kaffir lime at the breezy rooftop bar of chic Sala Rattanakosin hotel as you drink in the views of Wat Arun and the Chao Phraya River – one of the most sublime spots to savour the sunset in Bangkok.
Once the sun sinks, slip into a cab and cruise over to the neon lights of Yaowarat Road, Chinatown, where food stalls set up nightly (except Mondays) on the footpaths and inner traffic lanes. Follow our Chinatown itinerary to get a taste of this slice of foodie paradise, but don’t eat too much – you have a feast ahead of you. Do seek out old Mr Pae Sia’s pushcart outside Wat Yuan for the city’s most delicious khanom jeeb – he’s been making these heavenly steamed pork and shrimp dumplings for 50 years, as did his father and grandfather before him. Note that he heads home by 7pm.
You’ve had your introduction to traditional Thai and street food so to sample the most creative contemporary Thai cuisine in town take a taxi to chef Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn’s Le Du restaurant, which rocketed to #37 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list. When David Thompson named Ton one of the region’s most exciting culinary talents when we interviewed him three years ago for a Conde Nast Traveller China Bangkok story, he described the young chef’s inventive take on local specialties as “crazy Thai food” because of the way he imaginatively deconstructs and reconstructs time-honoured dishes. Thompson credited Ton’s youth, as well as his time working in the kitchens of the likes of New York’s Eleven Madison Park, for his ability to break with convention. There’s a freshness and lightness to Ton’s approach not found elsewhere in Bangkok. ‘Le Du’ means ‘season’ in Thai, so order the tasting menu, which the chef adjusts according to available ingredients, and listen carefully when manager and co-owner Tao describes what you’re eating to fully appreciate this very clever cuisine. You have Chef Ton to thank for the impressive wine list – he’s also a qualified sommelier. Click through to Chef Ton’s guide to eating and drinking in Bangkok. Le Du, 399/3 Silom Soi 7, Silom. Mon-Sat 6-11pm. BTS Chong Nonsi Exit 4.
Mosey around the corner for your first post-meal libation at atmospheric Namsaah Bottling Trust (401 Silom Soi 7) in a big crimson mansion. We love their negronis made from fresh tangerine juice and roasted mandarin. Up for a nightcap? Ask the staff to point you in the direction of Eat Me (Soi Pipat 2, off Convent Road), another of Bangkok’s best restaurants, that is also home to one of the city’s best bars. Cocktails have been created by Bangkok-based Joseph Borowski, one of the world’s best mixologists. Try the Laab Mootini, made from Ketel One vodka, mint, shallot, long coriander, roasted rice syrup, and Serrano ham.
Spend the morning doing a cooking class at state-of-the-art Issaya Cooking Studio, owned by Thailand’s most renowned Thai chef, Ian Kittichai, who owns another of the country’s best Thai restaurants, Issaya Siamese Club. In the Issaya Recipes Class, held every day from 11am to 2pm (THB 2,000), you can learn to cook four dishes from the chef’s award-winning cookbook. Recipes change daily, but hope that the Curried-glazed baby back ribs and Panang gai are on the programme. Participants each get their own dedicated cooking station and instructors ensure every student gets loads of personal attention. Classes are offered in English and Thai, so don’t be surprised if you’re cooking beside a local – a rarity in cooking classes aimed squarely at tourists. You’ll eat the dishes you made, so you won’t need lunch today. Issaya Cooking Studio, Lower Ground Level, Central Embassy mall, 10-10pm daily. BTS Ploenchit.
Alternatively, explore some of Bangkok’s mouth-watering markets. Start with an hour or two at Bangkok’s poshest market, upscale Or Tor Kor Market (Kamphaengphet Road, opposite Chatuchak (JJ) Market; MRT Kamphaeng Phet, Exit 3; 6am-7pm daily). This is where the city’s affluent locals, expats and top chefs like to shop. Located in a large hall with lofty ceilings and spotless white floor tiles, it’s not your average Southeast Asian market – you certainly won’t be getting your feet wet nor will you have to hold your nose. Stall after stall boasts perfectly arranged rows of seemingly polished produce and baskets of fresh and dry ingredients. We recommend stocking up the pantry with freshly made relishes, vacuum-packed chilli pastes, and sauces. Don’t miss the Royal Projects shop selling organic produce. Peckish? Sample an array of delicious street food dishes, from crispy oyster omelettes to spicy som tam (papaya salads) in the pristine food court.
The MRT will take you to Klong Toey Market (MRT Klong Toey; 6am-2am) which we also love, but which couldn’t be more different to Or Tor Kor. Bangkok’s largest wet market, Klong Toey is a typical Southeast Asian Market. It’s dirty and dimly lit, with low ceilings and umbrellas and tarps between stalls to protect vendors and shoppers from the sun or rain. It’s most certainly wet and occasionally muddy in places. While there are rickety wooden tables, grimy plastic tubs and worn baskets, the produce remains beautiful and fresh, and the street food is fantastic here, especially the khanom jeen. We first visited on a walking tour with Poo of Cooking with Poo fame – her cooking school is in the nearby Klong Toey slum.
If you forego the class at Issaya Cooking Studio, then linger over lunch at Chef Ian Kittichai’s exquisite Issaya Siamese Club restaurant, a short taxi ride from Klong Toey market. Located in a handsome 100-year-old Thai villa with lush tropical gardens, including the chef’s own fragrant kitchen garden, it’s a wonderful spot to savour a slow lunch. Chef Ian is a celebrity chef in Thailand, yet this is a man who started from humble roots, waking in the wee hours to shop the market with his mum then selling her curries from a cart after school (read our interview with Ian from 2011, not long after he returned to Thailand from New York where he had the city’s first Thai fine diner). Ian can often be found on the woks at one of his restaurants on any given night, and Issaya, his most personal restaurant, is generally where you’ll find him. Everything on the menu is wonderful but as it’s your final meal in Bangkok, make sure you order the Mussaman curry lamb shank or Panang beef curry if they’re on the menu. Make sure you take a peek at the lovely Siamese Club bar upstairs. Issaya Siamese Club, 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, off Chua Ploeng Road, Sathorn. Issaya 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm; Siamese Club bar closes at 1am.
Have the restaurant call you a cab to sprawling Lumphini Park, one of Bangkok’s most gorgeous green spaces, where you can take a stroll, ride a Swan pedal boat, or join the locals at the open air gym to work up an appetite for your next meal.
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Have you been to Bangkok or do you live in the city? Do feel free to share your most delicious tips for people spending 48 hours in Bangkok.