If there’s anything you can take home from The Hangover 2, it’s that Bangkok is best experienced with friends. But the capital city of Thailand has long outgrown a reputation as a hard-partying town, and has become a fascinating, family-friendly destination that offers arts and culture, sports, history, shopping, dining – you name it.
Modern Bangkok is cosmopolitan and chic, while managing to carry itself with old-world elegance. No wonder that it now has the top spot on the Global Destination Cities Index, the first time an Asian city has garnered the top spot since the index was launched in 2010.
Ready to go? Here are a few Hangover-free things to do in Bangkok.
1. Navigate Bangkok by public transportation.
While Bangkok’s taxi cabs and tuk-tuks are convenient and inexpensive ways to get around the city, doing as the locals do and seeing Bangkok via its mass transit system – which includes the bus system, MRT, and BTS Skytrain – is surprisingly convenient, and it offers a great way to see everyday Bangkok life.
2. Dine fine.
You’ll be spoiled for choice, with hip restaurants in the city center offering an astounding range of international cuisine. In fact, you can tick off two of the top three in the prestigious list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants are in Bangkok: Gaggan, with its wondrous take on modern Indian cuisine; and Nahm, chef David Thompson’s fine take on Thai cuisine, which took the top spot on the list for 2014.
Gaggan is at 68/1 Soi Langsuan Ploenchit Road in the Lumpini district, and Nahm can be found at the Metropolitan Hotel on 27 South Sathorn Road.
3. Eat on the street.
You can eat at one of Bangkok’s top tables every day of your visit, and you still won’t get through the long list of fine dining establishments in town. If there were also a Food Destination Index, we’re sure Bangkok would also top that list handily, even just on the strength of their everyday fare.
Bangkok legendary street food offers a dizzying variety of food at all hours of the day – and with prices going from 5 to 50 baht, it’s hard to resist the temptation to sample everything you see. Si Lom Soi 20 is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, while the stalls around the Victory Monument (Ansuwari Chai Samoraphum) put the transportation hub at the top of many locals’ lists. Order from a variety of stalls, and have fun as you sample everyone’s favorite finds.
Another fun way to experience Bangkok’s famous nightlife along with its street food is to take a midnight food tour by tuk-tuk, where guides will take you on a four-hour tour of the city’s best local eats.
4. Learn to cook.
You can’t take all that food home with you, but you can take home the skills you need to be able to recreate some of your favorite Thai dishes at home.
There are half-day to whole-day courses at a number of cooking schools around the city—most will offer a guided market tour along with hands-on cooking classes, ending with a shared meal as the yummiest graduation you’ll ever attend. The Blue Elephant Thai Cooking School and Silom Thai Cooking School are two good places to check out.
5. Learn how to be a Muay Thai fighter.
Kickboxing gyms have sprung up all around the world, thanks to the popularity of the sport as a fitness regimen. But if you’re serious about learning the ancient art of Muay Thai, you can hardly do better than to enroll at the Muay Thai Institute, which is recognized by both the World Muay Thai Council and by Thailand’s Ministry of Education.
Closer to the city center, a number of gyms, like the Fighting Spirit Gym (FSG) and Legend Thai Boxing also offer group lessons and private lessons for beginners and professional fighters alike.
6. Go modern.
Break away from the standard temple tours offered at every hotel, and go get a taste of modern Thai and Asian art, as Bangkok has become a creative hub for the region.
You’ll want your friends and family along as you go around the varied galleries around the city, as there will be a lot of involved discussions afterwards. A good bet on any given day would be the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Thai Art Archives; also worth a visit would be Kathmandu Photo Gallery and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand for photographic exhibits.
7. Head for the beach.
Thailand is also famous for its beautiful beaches, and thankfully, a number of them are easily accessible from Bangkok as a long-weekend getaway.
If you’re traveling with family or friends who want a more well-rounded beach destination, head for either Hua Hin or Ko Samet; if you want to party harder and don’t mind a hammering headache in the morning, then you’ll probably head out to Pattaya.