TV & Movies

Bangkok Travel Diary: Do, Shop, Eat, Stay

With its seriously chic malls, sumptuous eats and silk everything, Sarah Treleaven finds authentic style in the knock-off capital

View From The Moon Bar Bankok travel

The view from Moon Bar—breathtaking!

A decade ago, my mother lived in Bangkok, and I would receive care packages from the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you could buy spring rolls, a baby sugar glider—a ridiculously cute palm-sized marsupial—and as many obviously fake designer bags as you could carry. The brightly patterned but poorly tailored dresses she sent made me look both 10 years old and five months pregnant; I don’t think I wore a single one.


Thakoon’s Thai roots are evident in his use of silky fabrics (Photo: Anthea Simms)

Today, Thailand’s style scene is more sophisticated. Asia’s fashion capitals are less established than in the West, with Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and others vying for sartorial supremacy. Accordingly, the Thai government recently revived “Bangkok Fashion City,” a national initiative (originally launched in the aughts) to turn the capital into a fashion hub by investing in the local textile and garment industries.

Siwilai Concept Store

Siwilai, a Yabu Pushelberg–designed concept store at Central Embassy

The country is famous for its silk, but its designers (aside from Thakoon and Phillip Lim, who were both born there but raised in the U.S.) aren’t major names outside Thailand. Disaya does party dresses, including the cream and red polka-​dotted chiffon number worn by Amy Winehouse on the cover of Back to Black. Kai makes couture gowns, and Sretsis is run by three sisters who design girly silk and chiffon pieces—Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry are fans. (“Feminine” is the watchword for most Thai designers.)

Hotel Lobby Bankok

The hotel’s luxe lobby

On a recent stay, my base was the swish Siam Kempinski Hotel. Its restaurant Sra Bua serves cutting-edge Thai cuisine: soy meringues, passion-fruit cocktails and frozen red curry with lobster salad. Oh, and the place is connected to Siam Paragon, a massive mall with high-end retailers like Prada, local silk emporium Jim Thompson and Parisian macaron boutique Ladurée.

Siam Kempinski spa

The posh spa at the Siam Kempinski

Opulent malls are ground zero for luxury shopping in Bangkok. In addition to Siam Paragon, there’s Siam Center, Central Embassy (the hippest, with A.P.C. and Isabel Marant outposts) and Erawan Bangkok.

Central Embassy Mall

Central Embassy (yes, this is a mall)

In the evenings, the shopped-out head to Thonglor, a ’hood packed with high-end dining and plastic-​surgery clinics. The real action is concentrated on one street: Soi 13. Seenspace is an outdoor mall with bars, restaurants and Monlada, a boutique with sexy evening wear by local it-girl Monlada Pongpanit. For pan-Asian comfort food, tuck into Roast’s crab-cake Benedict or the addictively sweet and crunchy KFC (Korean fried chicken) at BonChon.

BonChon Korean Fried Chicken

BonChon’s Korean fried chicken with kimchee slaw

After that, hit Moon Bar, an elegant open-air space on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel and try not to spill your Saffron Sunrise (vodka, Malibu, lime, ginger and red chili) over the edge. Need one final bite? Head to Mont Nomsod, which sells buttered toast topped with rich, mint green–dyed coconut custard. The ambience is more fast-food joint than fabulous, but the shoulder-to-shoulder perma-crowd just might make it the hottest spot in town.


Can Hawaii Heal a Broken Heart?
Berlin Travel Diary: Navigating East and West
Rome Travel Diary: Food and Fashion