It’s the city that defines bustle, but even in Bangkok you can take a breather from all the chaos. The flavors of the street-food scene can be found at a new crop of upscale, regionally driven tables around town. In the Thonglor neighborhood, Soul Food Mahanakorn uses free-range meat in its khao mok gai, a Thai Muslim–style chicken biryani served with a mint-cilantro-ginger sauce. A few blocks away, Phuket Town focuses on the fiery cooking of southern Thailand. A standout: fat rice noodles with yellow crab curry. For a sampling of Chiang Mai’s more subtle, herb-scented cuisine, head to Gedhawa, where rough-hewn wooden tables and silk lanterns set the stage for khao soi (egg noodles with chicken curry) and sai ooua (pork sausage). Bangkok’s malls are ubiquitous—and crowded. For a change of scenery, head to O.P. Garden, a collection of boutiques in colonial-style houses. Serindia Gallery is a tranquil space with Himalayan-inspired art and photography; across the way, designer Atinuj Atty Tantivit sells inventive, internationally sourced jewelry in her Atta Gallery. Recover from all the shopping with a lemongrass aromatherapy massage at the quiet, high-ceilinged Thann Sanctuary Spa.
Bangkok Affordable Tip: The Asadang, an intimate hotel in the historic district, channels Old Bangkok. The nine rooms are set in a restored 19th-century mansion and fitted with antique furnishings and photographs of Siamese nobles. 94 Asadang Rd.; 66-2/622-2239; doubles from $110.
Bangkok: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 1 city overall
No. 1 city in Asia