Global Cultures

In a day: Bangkok

January 2016

Bangkok's glittering temples, saffron clad monks and colourful three wheel tuk tuks adorn thousands of postcards – but visitors zipping around the elevated railways or subways of this city of 8 million can often miss out on the Bangkok that locals call home.

Start your day with a walk along the 2.5 kilometre path circling Lumpinee Park, the city's oldest park, where Chinese Thai practise their morning Tai Chi with varying levels of grace, and school children laugh at the many different lizards splashing around in the lake.

From there, cross Rama Road to catch the bus with the locals, journeying across the city to Wat Saket, or Temple of the Golden Mount, once Bangkok's highest point. The original temple was built in the 1400's during the Ayatthaya era and today hosts a traditional week-long temple fair following the festival of Loy Krathong, held during Novermber's full moon.

The ride takes you past the prestigious university of Chulalongkorn, where students wearing the traditional white blouse and black trousers or dress head to the multitude of restaurants in the area for breakfast, past the 2,000 shops ensconced in MBK, Bangkok's eight-storey shopping mecca, and beyond the narrow lanes of Chinatown.

From there, you'll disembark at the base of a hill. Climb the 300 steps to see the historic temple and take you up the hill from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the immediate area amid the prayer flags waving in the gentle breeze.

The hill overlooks Khlong Saen Saep - the canal that will be your next port of call. These waterways were built by King Rama III in the 1700's to transport soldiers and weapons when Siam and Vietnam battled for control of Cambodia.

Today, they are a fast and inexpensive way for around 60,000 commuters a day to get around congested Bangkok. Join one of the few remaining regular boat services at the Golden Mount stop on the canal, heading east, where you change at Pratunam, continuing on to Thonglor. Helmet-clad ticket conductors balance precariously, ducking the very low bridges across the canal as they scamper along the edges of the boat collecting fares, as plastic sheeting attempts to keep the murky waters of the canal away.

Leave the boat at Thonglor and head south, into Bangkok's prime foodie area. Choose from the changing variety of trendy dining options, visit one of the many theme bars or try local street food from roadside vendors.

Favourites include Noodle soup (Guay Teow) - with meat balls or fish balls, served with a selection of condiments. Or try chicken, beef or pork Phat Kaphao, with a tasty base of basil, chili and garlic - fried egg on top is a delicious optional extra.

There's no better way to end a hot and sweaty day in Bangkok than eating and drinking just like the locals do.

Saffron clad monks
Saffron clad monks descending the steps of Wat Saket