Bangkok sets a high bar

Bangkok's rooftop establishments sport spectacular views but are teeming with expats, so it's worth the extra effort to track down some of the city's culinary secrets.

Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, discovers Bangkok's new night market, enjoys some high rise views and chases omelettes in Chinatown.

As the weather in extremely cold or hot countries becomes the subject of talk by locals wearied by its extreme nature, we find ourselves obsessed with traffic during our time in Bangkok. It is not to be underestimated and any previous gripes I had about Sydney’s traffic quickly dissipate when I realise the magnitude of it here in Bangkok.

What should be just over one kilometre takes about 30 minutes’ drive – short bursts of the taxi surging forward, only to then stand still. It doesn’t help that we’re headed towards one of the newest places in Bangkok that everyone else also seems destined for: the Asiatique night market, across the Chao Phraya River with its visual landmark being the giant illuminated ferris wheel.

Open from 5:00pm, the market is accessible via a free ferry that leaves from Sathorn Pier. There are two queues, one for the free ferry or another for the paid ferry. The free ferry is much more frequent, although it does require joining a long queue, but three free ferries leave over the time that it takes us to get one of the paid ferries (our only advantage was being able to sit down to wait for it).

At first approach, our impression of the Asiatique market is that it looks like Disneyland: clean, new and a little artificial. The food options are plentiful and there’s a lot of Western fare. But for the shopping enthusiast, there are ten warehouses, each broken down into segments (fashion, homewares etc.), and it’s easily laid out and not too insurmountably sprawling.

It’s warm so I get a deliciously soothing sticky rice and mango ice cream while I walk through some of the warehouses. Any initial wariness about the place soon subsides as there is plenty to buy and I only wish that we had more time. But of course we don’t because we are expected elsewhere – after all, there’s plenty you can do at night in a city like Bangkok!

Graph for Bangkok sets a high bar

The colourful offerings at Bangkok's new Asiatique night market

Our next stop is at a bar. We have a false start, tipped off about a new rooftop bar only to find it isn’t even open yet. So into another taxi we go to make our way to Sirocco, not exactly new and not exactly a well-kept secret.

We arrive on the 64th floor of the State Tower building and overhear some Australian girls talking about their upcoming surgery (Thailand is of course popular for less expensive surgery and dentistry) and they guide us to Distil, a sort of lie-down bar where people lounge back on wide, cushion-backed lounges. The vibe is Gen Y/hipster, with people lying back taking selfies and giving off that ‘too cool for school’ vibe.

It turns out that Sirocco is the more popular bar on an adjacent side of the rooftop. The view is stunning but any heart-stopping joy is quickly quashed when we are told that strictly no photographs are permitted at the top of the stairs (and this is strictly policed). The crowd is mixed – there are mostly expats and tourists, mixed in with a few locals, and we overhear people ordering beer and breezers.

You certainly pay for the view – although there’s no cover charge, a glass of champagne is worth about $A60, but it’s a good way to orient yourself with the sprawling city below and check on easing traffic conditions. We watch as the car lights thin out and decide that it’s time to go exploring.

A little closer to where we’re staying is the Moon Bar, on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel next to the Metropolitan. The crowd is also mixed although there do seem to be the obligatory amount of expats. Unlike Sirocco however there are plenty of places to sit down at and it feels a bit more chilled – although if you’re wearing heels be prepared to make like a billy goat and wobble up and down plenty of sets of stairs in order to reach your destination.

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Moon Bar, one of many spectacular night spots in Thailand's capital

By now stomachs are rumbling so it’s time to go out to find some sustenance. We hit one of the best places to eat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, to try some of what are purportedly Bangkok’s best local dishes. The added serendipitous advantage is that we get to try three food must-trys in Bangkok all within a few metres of each other.

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