Thailand is one of those destinations that seems to appeal to all. From the highlands of Chiang Mai to the islands of Koh Samui and Phuket in the south, and the temples of Thailand's ancient city Ayutthaya to its modern capital of Bangkok, there truly is something for everyone to discover in this fascinating country.
On a recent trip to Bangkok, it struck me that too many travellers use this fabulous city as merely a transit point, which is a shame. In my opinion at least, Bangkok should be on any Thailand traveller's itinerary. If somebody were to ask me for the perfect Thai holiday, I would say: Fly into Bangkok, spend two to three nights there before boarding a plane and visiting Chiang Mai for three or four nights, then finish up in one of the glorious islands of the south.
So, here is my 48 Hours in Bangkok to help you with your ultimate getaway to Thailand!
Check into Hotel Muse, situated in one of Bangkok's loveliest neighbourhoods, Langsuan, about 400 metres from the Chit Lom BTS station. I loved the 1920s feel of the hotel, from the staffs' outfits to the swirling wrought-iron decorations and the claw-foot bathtubs.
You won't need to go far tonight, with Hotel Muse boasting one of the city's funkiest rooftop bars – The Speakeasy. Very popular with Thai trendsetters, The Speakeasy takes you back to a time of illicit liquor and mobsters. Expect top-shelf spirits, daring cocktails, and a large selection of wine and sparkling wine. Local and international DJs ensure the vibe is as funky as the view is inspiring.
Many of Thailand's famous cultural sites are located in Bangkok, so it is a good idea to include at least a couple of them (yes, we know, the shopping and the spas are calling!). Get to the temples early, before the crowds and the heat of the day become overwhelming. Perhaps the most visited temple in Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaew or 'The Temple of the Emerald Buddha' is in the precinct of the Grand Palace and a must-see. We hired a guide (Tour with Tong firstname.lastname@example.org) to take us on a tour of a few of Bangkok's highlights, and recommend doing this if only to understand the broader story and history behind these incredible sites.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (the actual Emerald Buddha was nowhere near as big as we expected!) is one of Thailand's most sacred sites, boasting some of the finest examples of Buddhist sculpture, painting and architecture. It was the former residence of the Thai monarch and is made up of more than 100 buildings – parts of it are like walking through a fairytale with the golden turrets and ornate paintings.
Next stop is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, not far from the Grand Palace. The enormous Buddha – 15 metres high and 43 metres long! – is originally from Ayutthaya (Thailand's ancient capital). It is a must-see while in Bangkok.
If you are a bit of a culture-vulture, there are plenty more sites for you to discover in Bangkok, including the National Museum. Or, get your tour guide to take you out of the city to the Floating Markets (you actually would want to do this first thing in the morning and the temples later, if you choose to spend your whole Saturday discovering the city's cultural side). Here, you will get a fascinating look into the life in old Thailand when much of the day-to-day trading and living centred around the major river which starts in Northern Thailand and goes through Bangkok before dispersing into the Gulf of Thailand.
Be daring and grab some street food – just be sure there are plenty of locals eating there (always a good sign) and that the food is cooked freshly for you.
We told you shopping was on the menu. You have no shortage of malls to choose from. Start with the Siam area for a range of shopping malls where prices are spread from one end of the scale to the other. If you are after budget shopping, MBK is a favourite with tourists, locals and expats alike and is home to more than 2000 stores. You can then check out Siam Centre – one of the city's first malls, or head to Siam Paragon, the piece-de-resistance of the Siam area (which is dubbed the 'battleground of shopping malls').
You saw Hangover Part 2 and want to party it up like the boys? Even those of us not looking to go crazy in Bangkok will absolutely love an evening at the now (in)famous Sky Bar, the world's highest open-air bar. But don't just go for a drink – Lebua Bangkok offers an incredible dining experience at the stunning Mezzaluna restaurant. Start at Distil – part smoking lounge with its outdoor cigar terrace, part DJ spin and part restaurant with its own oyster bar – for a pre-dinner drink. Then head on to Mezzaluna for a romantic degustation menu you will never forget, and finish with a post-dinner drink at Sky Bar and enjoy the best views of Bangkok. Or, just come to be seen and mingle with Bangkok's chic set at one of the city's coolest hang-outs.
Head to the 19th floor of your hotel to enjoy Hotel Muse's generous breakfast before heading 150 metres down the road to one of Bangkok's best yoga studios for a session of Yoga Rhythms (a blend of yoga postures, sports and fitness science) at Kri Yoga. In the same building you will find Jasmine Spa where you can indulge in a fabulous Thai massage for around $12 Australian, a Pilates centre, and macrobiotic cafe where you can grab a healthy bite to eat and organic juice for lunch before heading to the Weekend Markets for a look around.
The Chatuchak Weekend Markets are a must-see, even for non-shoppers, due to the atmosphere and 'local' prices (you will find something you never knew you needed!). The sheer scale is mind-boggling – 35 acres, more than 200,000 visitors a day and a range of products that includes everything from animals to funky clothes and jewellery. Easy to reach via the Skytrain.
Head back to your gorgeous hotel and enjoy the luxurious surrounds and respite it offers after a crazy afternoon at the markets (grab a massage down the road if you didn't have time this morning!). Be sure to make a dinner booking at Hotel Muse's Medici Kitchen, the hotels' highly regarded, multi-award winning Italian restaurant.
Get a reasonably early night because tomorrow your Thailand adventure continues. Where will you be flying to? Chiang Mai for zip-lining and some highland culture? Phuket with its luxury resorts and gob-smackingly beautiful beaches? Romantic Samui to check into a five-star resort and enjoy the chilled out island vibe? Or perhaps Krabi or Koh Lanta, for an even quieter pace?
Book Hotel Muse at hotelmusebangkok.com.
For more information on planning your romantic holiday or honeymoon in Thailand, visit Tourism Authority of Thailand.