What is Downtown known for?
Centara Watergate & Tips for Downtown Bangkok
My first time in Bangkok was a disaster. After three weeks in Southeast Asia, sleeping somewhere else every other night in order to see as much of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand as possible, I was tired of traveling. When I arrived in Bangkok, the last stop before my return flight, my desire to explore the city tended towards zero. But I was there, so I thought I had to see the city too. The spark did not jump over. But I sensed that Bangkok deserved a second chance.
I took this second chance in April. And because everything was actually much, much better this time, I would like to share my tips with you today. So that you can get to know Bangkok from its good side. So here are my tips for Bangkok, more precisely: For Downtown Bangkok. Including hotel and restaurant tips, shopping and excursion options.
Downtown Bangkok: The district
Which part of town should it be? Everyone who comes to Bangkok for the first time asks himself this question. Problem: There isn't one area that is the best starting point for exploring the city. The number of options is roughly as high as the number of unofficial taxi drivers.
Bangkok does not have an official city center. But the Pathumwan district - especially the northern part around Chidlom and Siam, better known as Downtown Bangkok - probably comes closest to this.
You will never go wrong with Downtown Bangkok because it is actually very central. There is not quite as much hustle and bustle here as in the old town, around Khaosan Road or in Chinatown. But you can get anywhere very quickly from Pathumwan - also thanks to the Skytrain and connection to the Airport Link in Ratchathewi. Bangkok's main train station, Hua Lamphong, is also not far from the city center in the Pathumwan district. From there you can reach all destinations within Thailand.
There is also a connection to the Saen Saep ferry (NIDA line) and the Lumphini Park, popular with tourists and locals, is just around the corner. The dining options range from delicious street grills to star cuisine. There are numerous nightlife options and you will find some of the most beautiful and tallest rooftop bars in the city here.
Why you need a good hotel in Bangkok
A great hotel is actually half the battle in Bangkok. One with a view of this crazy city is even better. Bangkok is much more beautiful from above than from below. If this is, for example, a bar or an open-air pool, there is sometimes even a breeze blowing there - and that can be a very welcome change from the air below. But a nice room is also a nice thing. You can sit back and relax and watch the lights of the city or the hectic hustle and bustle on the street.
My hotel tip for downtown Bangkok: The Centara Watergate
The Centara Watergate is one of the smaller high-rise hotels in Bangkok with only 20 floors. But it is relatively free, so that only a few other buildings obscure the view of the skyline. In addition, the hotel has a rooftop bar and restaurant called Chili Hip, from where you have a beautiful view, especially at night. To my all-round happiness, the only thing missing was a pool. Because there is none. On the ninth floor there is a beautiful terrace with a fountain, in which overheated legs and feet can be cooled and smoking heads can be rested on shady daybeds.
The reception, lobby, breakfast restaurant and fitness studio are also located there. I have to admit, I haven't been to a hotel in the gym anywhere in the world, but it looked pretty good from the outside.
Speaking of the breakfast restaurant: The breakfast buffet is one of the best I've ever seen anywhere. Without crap. I know it's always a matter of taste. But a breakfast buffet in Southeast Asia, which has cold cuts and really good cheese, gets a handful of pluses from me. There is also something for everyone else - from wontons to poached eggs, fried eggs, soft-boiled eggs and pancakes, English muffins, crumble cakes, pho, cornflakes, muesli, waffles with maple syrup to croissants and rye bread - almost everything you can think of is included eats like this for breakfast worldwide. I'm running a bit of water right now, honestly ...
Location of the hotel: The Centara Watergate is located almost exactly on the border between the districts of Pathumwan and Ratchathewi - in the middle of downtown Bangkok - and therefore optimally connected. From the hotel, the Skytrain (Chit Lom station), the Saen Saep ferry (Pratunam Pier) and the airport link with connections to Suvarnabhumi Airport can be reached in a few minutes on foot.
Another hotel tip for downtown Bangkok
Also very nice is the Sivatel, where I stayed the night on my first visit to Bangkok. It has neither a roof bar nor a roof pool, but it also has a cool view and one of the most beautiful infinity pools in town on the 8th floor. And also very nice rooms and suites. Breakfast is good too, although not as good as at Centara Watergate.
Shopping in downtown Bangkok
Downtown Bangkok is mainly known for its numerous shopping opportunities for all budgets. Here you will find, among other things, Thailand's largest shopping center, Central World, the MBK Center, popular with tourists and locals, where you can find everything that is offered on the markets of Southeast Asia, and several night markets.
Central World - Thailand's largest shopping center
Central World is one of the ten largest shopping centers in the world and is worth at least a short visit in itself. Even if you don't want to shop. The sheer size of this shopping complex is kind of breathtaking. You can get to the mall either directly through the entrance from the Skytrain pedestrian path between the Siam and Chit Lom stations or through one of the few entrances from the street. The large square in front of Central World, where markets and concerts take place regularly, is fenced off and can only be entered through a few entrances. There are security checks at all entrances.
Bargains and design treasures: MBK & Siam Paragon
The MBK shopping center has almost legendary status. Legendary because it is said that here you can buy anything that is sold in street markets across Southeast Asia and beyond. Accordingly, the MBK also has more of the flair of a market - albeit behind walls and roofed over. There is no end of cheap clothing, electronics and watches - most of them are the same, of course.
Those looking for real design treasures are guaranteed to find them in Siam Paragon. In this mall there are almost exclusively boutiques from smaller labels from all over the world. There are clothes, shoes, bags, furnishings and stationery and lots of unusual gift ideas. You can eat very well and cheaply in the food court.
BTS Skytrain Bangkok: You can get anywhere with it.
The Skytrain is Bangkok's fastest and most comfortable means of transport. The only disadvantage: it does not go directly to the old town. If you want to go there, you have to change to a taxi, boat or bus. On the other hand, you can take the Skytrain directly, for example, on an excursion to the Chao Phraya. It's also a short walk to Chinatown from Saphan Taksin Station.
A ride on the Skytrain costs between 15 and 42 baht, depending on how far you are going. A day pass is available for 140 baht. Single trips are available for small change from machines in the stations. There you can also find out how much it costs to get to the other train stations. You can buy daily and monthly passes and change money at the counters.
A little hint: Take a scarf with you when planning a trip on the Skytrain. The trains are often extremely cooled down.
My restaurant tip for downtown Bangkok: Uno Mas
The dining options in downtown Bangkok range from delicious street grills to star cuisine. Street food is unbeatably cheap. But because Bangkok is a very multicultural city, there is of course not only traditional Thai food, but also Japanese, Italian or Spanish restaurants that offer upscale cuisine.
One of them is Uno Mas, possibly the best Spanish restaurant outside of Spain I have ever eaten at. The restaurant is located on the 54th floor of the Centara Grand in the Central World Shopping Center. There is an air-conditioned interior and an outdoor terrace and the view over the skyline of Bangkok is gigantic. Just like the food.
My recommendations: Green asparagus in black tempura batter and fried chorizo sausage. By the way, you can already eat your fill at the starters at Uno Mas. It's still not as cheap as a Thai curry somewhere on the street or in a food court, but it is affordable. And the view is priceless anyway.
Conclusion: Not for budget travelers, but a culinary experience - the chef can do something. There is also good wine. It is rarely found in Southeast Asia.
Cocktails over the rooftops of downtown
Drinks are also much cheaper on the street than in Bangkok's rooftop bars, where, by Asian standards, the cost of a cocktail is almost absurd. On the other hand, the drinks are pretty good, including splendid views and a pleasant climate thanks to fresh air.
One of the highest rooftop bars in the city is located directly above the Uno Mas: The Red Sky on the 55th floor of the Central World hotel shopping complex offers a 360-degree all-round view of the open air, comfortable lounge furniture and very tasty cocktails about 500 baht (12 euros).
Stroll around the night market
If you still feel like strolling or shopping after drinking a cocktail, you are guaranteed to find a bargain or two at the Watergate night market on Ratchadamri Road between Soi Ratchaprarop and Rajprasong Road. There are leather goods, clothes, food and drinks, but also watches and jewelry. In contrast to many other markets, I didn't find the sellers here to be particularly intrusive.
Extra tip for Bangkok: get on your bike!
Bangkok is great for cycling. Really. You can find an experience report including tour tips in this article: The real Bangkok. Chinatown and Yai by bike.
This article contains affiliate links. If you book a hotel via one of these links, I will receive a small commission, 100 percent of which goes back to the blog. This does not change the price for you. Many thanks to the Centara Hotel Group, who invited me to Centara Watergate and to dinner at Uno Mas.
about the author
Anna | Anemina Travels
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