How to take a World's Best trip to Bangkok.
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
Atta Gallery Unit 1109, Soi 36, Charoenkrung Rd.; 66-2/238-6422; attagallery.com.
Gedhawa 24 Soi 35, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/662-0501; dinner for two $20.
O.P. Garden Soi 36, Charoenkrung Rd.; 66-2/266-0186; opthailand.com.
Phuket Town 160/8 Soi 55, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/714-9402; dinner for two $25.
Serindia Gallery Units 3101 and 3201, Soi 36, Charoenkrung Rd.; 66-2/238-6410; serindiagallery.com.
Soul Food Mahanakorn 56/10 Soi 55, Sukhumvit Rd.; 66-2/714-7708; soulfoodmahanakorn.com; dinner for two $30.
Thann Sanctuary Spa Gaysorn Plaza, 999 Ploenchit Rd.; 66-2/656-1424; thann.info.
Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers
Colossal riverfront hotel located in the commercial district, a short boat ride from the Grand Palace and adjacent to the city's largest antiques shopping mall.
Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok
Make a reservation for dinner aboard the hotel’s private riverboat, the Horizon Club, and sail past beautifully illuminated temples as you eat. The Shangri-La is both charming and affordable (especially when compared to rates at neighboring properties). Rooms in the Krungthep Wing feature balconies. Make sure to take advantage of the private butler service, riverfront swimming pool, and CHI spa.
The Peninsula Bangkok
370 rooms appointed with teak floors, silk-covered furniture, marble bathrooms, and high-tech control panels, set within a 37-story tower that overlooks the Chao Phraya River. The hotel's spa was revamped in 2007 to an impressive 21,000 square foot space.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
It would be a shame for any visitor to come to Bangkok and miss the splendor of the Mandarin Oriental. For more than 135 years, this Travel + Leisure favorite hotel has been at the center of Bangkok life. The 339 rooms and 35 suites are spacious and elegant and enhanced by lush surroundings and serene riverside locale. The Authors’ Suites pay tribute to the long list of literary greats who have been long-time clients of Bangkok’s Grand Dame.