Daunting can be an understatement when determining what to see, where to eat and how to get about if you’ve only a day or so to soak up the sights and sounds of this historic, chaotic and charismatic Bangkok neighbourhood. To make sure you don’t miss a must-visit destination during your stay, here’s a quick guide to spending 24 hours in and around Sam Yot and Bangkok’s vibrant Old Town quarter.
Start off the day in style with the signature Samranraj breakfast tower and a bottle of bubbly at the recently-opened Villa de Pranakorn. Featuring a veritable selection of fresh pastries, seasonal fruit,salads and artisanal preserves, as well as western- and Thai-style a la carte dishes, the bright, breezy restaurant is an ideal jumping-off point for an action-packed day exploring the Old Town’s regal and riverside attractions.
Begin a post-breakfast jaunt through neighbouring Rommaninat Park towards Wat Suthat Thepwararam, one of Bangkok’s oldest and largest temples. One of the first religious buildings to be commissioned in the nascent capital back in the late-18th century, highlights at this shimmering complex include an eight-metre Buddha image and murals depicting daily life in the Rattanakosin era. The Giant Swing is also within eyeshot. Plucky young men once took to this Brahmin structure in a daring effort to clutch bags of gold hanging from 50 feet. While the swing — and, unsurprisingly, the ceremony, no longer exists, the frame remains as a symbol of the neighbourhood’s deeply-religious roots.
Before flagging down a tuk-tuk to your next destination, drop by nearby Jae Toi for some of the city’s best gui chai. These paper-thin rice flour dumplings stuffed with Chinese chives are a street-food staple in this part of town, but few places match Jae Toi standards. Order a few of each and save for later (if you can resist). Oh, and whatever you do, don’t forget the dipping sauce. It’s the rich, treacle-like vinegar that elevates this snack from delicious to downright addictive.
As the mercury levels climb, beat the heat and head to the National Museum. Soak up the alfresco vibes during a five-minute tuk-tuk trip and spend about 90 minutes discovering Southeast Asia’s largest collection of local artefacts and art dating back to prehistoric times. Don’t miss King Ramkamhaeng’s inscribed stone pillar, said to be the oldest record of Thai writing, ceremonial chariots and ancient murals.
Ramble through Rattanakosin, the heart of historic Bangkok, via Sanam Luang (Royal Field) and on to the Grand Palace. You’ll spot a veritable array of street food along the way. Thong Hong Lee and Padthai Tachang are popular choices, or alternatively opt for the stall with the longest queue and satiate your hunger before heading inside the Grand Palace.
The city’s top tourist spot, the former royal residence doesn’t fail to impress first-time visitors with its 100-plus buildings, including Wat Pra Kaew — home to the Kingdom’s most revered religious icon, the Emerald Buddha. Dress appropriately and expect to spend the better half of the afternoon exploring the compound. It closes at 3.30pm.
Time to unwind — you’ve earned it. Hit the river for sundowners and vistas of Wat Arun, which are arguably better than bothering to visit, at longstanding favourite The Deck Restaurant.
As the sun slips into the Chao Phraya, shuffle upriver to Supanniga Tha Tian for top-notch contemporary Thai dining with a few traditional twists. Taking a left turn from the usual Thai menus, this Michelin Guide-endorsed excels in introducing patrons to speciality dishes from the country’s north and south — namely the Khon Kaen and Trat regions.
Burn off the coconut curry with lotus stems and mackerel, salak and shrimp chilli dip with deep-fried nue-aon fish with a stroll to the legendary Talad Pak Khlong. Open around the clock, Bangkok’s largest fresh flower market is a technicolour hive of activity. Stock up on fresh bouquets or some IG snaps of the market’s photogenic vendors, stalls, porters, produce, and authentic, non-stop trading action.
End an eventful day at nearby Olá Thai Tapas Bar. This rustic Med-style bar has rapidly garnered a reputation for its quirky cocktails, laid-back live music and refreshingly local vibes. For those seeking a nightcap or three, finish the night in style at either Tai Soon or Uncle Tim (or both) depending on whether you crave a craft beer or another meticulously crafted cocktail containing traditional medicinal Chinese ingredients.