Bangkok is a timeless, utterly exhilarating introduction to Thailand. But while everyone is familiar with the iconic sights and attractions, what about the side that only locals and seasoned expats know about?
Here’s a guide to 10 top hidden gems of “Bangkok off the beaten path” that most visitors miss. We’ve tried to include a variety of parks and recreation, food and drink as well as entertainment to give you as much variety as possible to help you explore Bangkok like a local.
So without further ado, here is a list of things you shouldn’t miss next time when you visit this wonderful city.
Nong Bon Lake
This is easily one of Bangkok’s best kept secrets. Located in Prawet district, about 40 minutes’ drive from central Bangkok, Nong Bon Lake is a man-made reservoir and a recreational area. A scenic bike trail circles the perimeter of the lake, and there is a shop at the entrance where bikes can be rented from. This is also the only pet-friendly public park in Bangkok, and consequently you’ll see a lot of people exercising their dogs and other pets, especially on weekends. At the Nong Bon Watersports Centre you can enjoy various water based activities, such as kayaking, canoeing and sailing, when you sign up for an annual membership, which costs only 40 baht ($1.15).
Benjakitti Forest Park
The newly opened Benjakitti Park extension has turned this central Bangkok public park into an oasis in the middle of the city. The expanded park, with almost twice the area of the original Benjakitti Park, is an opportunity for Bangkok residents and visitors to exercise and enjoy nature in an urban wetland environment. A 1.5 km kilometer long skywalk cuts right through the city and connects Benjakitti to Lumpini park. Benjakitti Park is open from 5am to 9pm, and the main entrance is located on Ratchadaphisek Road, next to Queen Sirikit Convention Center.
SUP Station Thailand
Stand up paddling (SUP) has taken the world by storm, and luckily you don’t have to travel far from Bangkok to enjoy the world’s fastest growing water-sport. Located in Pathum Thani, about 1.5 hours drive from Bangkok, SUP station Thailand offers paddleboard rental, paddleboard tours and lessons for everyone regardless of your paddling experience. The paddling takes place right on the Chao Phraya river and is certainly a very good workout, not to mention a unique way to see Bangkok from a different point of view. SUP station Thailand is also pet friendly, so if you’re travelling with your pooch, feel free to take them along.
For a drinking hole, look no further than Jack’s Bar, quite possibly Bangkok’s cheapest riverside bar. Hidden behind the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel, this no-frills restaurant and bar offers an extensive and affordable menu of Thai food, coffee, cold beer and cocktails combined with excellent views of Bangkok. Arrive on any day to find groups of expats and visitors enjoying the riverside views in an unpretentious ambiance. To avoid disappointment, make a reservation or arrive early, especially on weekends, since the place is very popular amongst those who know about it (and quite small).
Bangkok has a lot of nice cinemas, but Emprive Cineclub is in a class of its own. The cinema offers five screens equipped with the latest technology, such as Dolby Atmos 64-speaker sound system, and super comfortable reclining seats with pillows and blankets. Tickets start at 280 baht ($8 dollars) for Executive seats. Splash out on a first class ticket (1100 baht or $31) to get access to the Director’s Lounge where you can enjoy complimentary canapes and soft drinks before the movie. You’ll also have your choice of popcorn and drink brought to your seat. This is as luxurious a movie experience as they come.
Bangkok Tree House
Another urban escape on our list, Bangkok Tree House offers eco-friendly accommodation surrounded by palm trees. Located in Bang Krachao district, also known as “Bangkok’s Green Lung”, the resort consists of comfortable three-floor units that open up directly into the surrounding greenery. What makes the location so unique is that Bang Krachao has been spared from the sprawling urban development that has turned Bangkok into a metropolis with skyscrapers, countless shopping malls and traffic jams. There’s none of that here. This well preserved jungle oasis is like a slice of heaven seemingly cut off from the whirlwind of city life. Quick tip: you can explore the green lung in a fun way by joining one of our e-scooter tours.
Located only a stone’s throw away from the lively backpacker favourite Khao San Road, this charming lane, while getting its fair share of visitors, still manages to fly under the radar of many Bangkok tourists. Take a stroll under the shade of the banyan trees and enjoy the surprisingly peaceful and bohemian atmosphere. With excellent budget accommodation options, great street food and charming restaurants, Soi Rambuttri is like the extroverted Khao San Road’s quieter cousin. Even if you’re not a backpacker, Soi Rambuttri deserves a visit as a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
Lalai Sap Market
Bangkok’s business district Silom gets overlooked by most visitors in favour of Khao San Road and Sukhumvit, but it’s actually a fun place to explore in its own right. This is why we’ve included a few different Silom attractions in this article, starting from Lalai Sap Market on Silom Soi 5. This is a vibrant local market where you can shop for clothes, shoes, bags, accessories and street food. Interesting fact: ‘lalai sap’ literally means ‘melted money’. Colloquially, this is also the equivalent of ‘spending spree’ in English. The market is popular with local office workers and gets very busy during lunch hour, so it’s not hard to see where the name comes from.
Heaven Rooftop Bar & Lounge
Another spot in Silom that deserves a mention on our list. While not overly high, Heaven Rooftop Bar, located on the 8th floor of the Spa on Silom Road, is a great little hangout with nice views over the city. Food and drinks are very reasonably priced here for a Bangkok rooftop bar, and there’s usually live music on weekdays, with DJs providing the entertainment during weekends. The clientele is mostly young Thais and expats, so if you’re looking for a real hidden Bangkok gem away from the tourist trail, Heaven Rooftop Bar is the place to go.
The Commons Saladaeng
From Silom, make your way to the neighbouring Sathorn, an upmarket residential area with classy hotels and excellent fine dining restaurants. Here you’ll also find The Commons Saladaeng, a three-floor community mall with an outdoor seating area and an indoor food court, very much akin to the original Commons located in trendy Thonglor. The pavilion style architecture with its red hues pays homage to the word ‘saladaeng’ which means ‘red pavilion’ in Thai. Besides the striking design, ‘come for the food, stay for the fun’ is very much the ethos here. Whether you fancy all-day breakfast, burgers, pizza, a poke bowl or Taiwanese hotpot, the dizzying array of options is unlikely to disappoint. There’s often live music and DJs in the evening, craft beer on tap and even a sake bar.
Any other hidden Bangkok gems we may have missed? Please let us know!