In Bangkok, venture beyond the Sukhumvit-Silom clusters to find hidden gems

Duncan Forgan

CNA – Like all great cities, Bangkok is the sum of its various parts. Chaotic and confusing, but also utterly magical, the inexhaustible Thai capital is a patchwork of innumerable neighbourhoods – all with their own character and vibe. Some, like Siam, are known throughout the world and are emblematic of their parent city. Other hoods are less high-profile, but reward investigation with tremendous dining and individualist shopping and cultural highlights.

SATHORN

Sathorn has evolved into one of Bangkok’s most multi-faceted areas. Busy Sathorn Road with its swanky condos, international hotels, banks and embassies is only a small part of the story in the area. Just a stone’s throw from the main drag, you’ll find bustling streets full of local and international flavour such as Suan Plu. A little further away, Yennakart Road and its warren of side streets are home to everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to hip contemporary galleries.

WHERE TO EAT

Cagette

Keeping things simple is key to the formula at Caguette. French classics such as beef tartare and cassoulet are hearty and authentic while salads and seafood items such as a “seafood bouquet” including oysters, whelks, cockles and prawns sing with freshness.

Keeping things simple is key to the formula at Caguette. French classics such as beef tartare and cassoulet are hearty and authentic while salads and seafood items such as a “seafood bouquet” including oysters, whelks, cockles and prawns sing with freshness. PHOTO: CAGETTE

WHERE TO BROWSE

Bangkok CityCity Gallery

Anything from video installations to live performances to paintings by graffiti masters might be on display at this slick commercial art space. Works come from all over the globe, though owners Akapol Sudasna and Supamas Phahulo, prefer to spotlight local talent whenever possible. The minimalist design, which incorporates subtle nods to traditional Thai architecture while exuding a futuristic air, serves as a neutral foil for the rotating exhibitions contained within its two connected halls.

ARI

Known for a lively food scene that encompasses a generous clutch of restaurants and a thriving vendor culture, Ari has acquired a hip edge in recent times with numerous cafes, bars and galleries contributing to its street cred. The best way to explore the area is by strolling from the skytrain station to Soi Ari (formally known as Phayonyothin 7) and wandering down the tree-lined side streets or wherever your nose and stomach take you.

WHERE TO EAT

Soei

For outstanding old-school Thai cuisine head to Soei. Tucked away in the Ari backstreets, the restaurant – which is overseen by owner/chef Soei himself – is known for extremely flavourful, spicy creations such as shu shee plaoo tod (fried mackerel in fresh coconut curry) and gung chae nam pla (shrimp in fish sauce).

SIAM AND CHIDLOM

The nominal centre of the modern metropolis is an anarchic hodgepodge entirely in keeping with the upliftingly erratic character of Thailand’s capital. At street level, hordes of fashion-forward youngsters brave the broiling heat to peruse a warren of narrow streets lined with tiny boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. A more comfortable experience can be enjoyed in the area’s air-conditioned malls, many of which are linked by connectors that soar above the melee below.

WHERE TO EAT

Paste

At Paste, traditional Thai food is served with creative twists and an attention to presentation and detail that make its dishes as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious. Signature dishes include Andaman lobster with crispy fish skin and watermelon and ground salmon with betel leaves and shallots, but really, everything is good.