Travel Like a Local: Bangkok

Bangkok skyline with words "Bangkok city guide"

Photjanee “Mian” Pinijsakkul, BS’06, who was born and raised in Bangkok, describes the capital of Thailand as full of life and eccentricity.

Mian Pinijsakkul sitting on a barstool
Mian Pinijsakkul graduated with a degree from the Kelley School of Business. She currently serves as the deputy managing director and general manager of The Sense Pinklao—an open-air mall on the west side of Bangkok. Courtesy photo.

“Growing up here has exposed me to a great diversity of people, nationalities, languages, cultures, and food,” she says. “Bangkok has got it all—and it’s truly the city that never sleeps.”

Pinijsakkul—whose family’s business ventures include a restaurant called Copper Buffet—is a self-proclaimed foodie. She can point you in the direction of the city’s best cocktails, live-music venues, and attractions. Keep reading for all her Bangkok recommendations.


Food and Drinks

A meal at Kungthong Seafood isn’t complete without dessert—mango and sticky rice followed by coconut ice cream.

What are a few of your favorite restaurants in Bangkok?
Mian Pinijsakkul:

Kungthong Seafood
This restaurant—which is moderately priced—is well-known for fresh seafood, as well as flavorful curry and Thai dishes. My favorite dish is the fried freshwater prawns with salt in traditional style.

Lon Lon Local Diner
This diner offers affordable Thai-Chinese food. The different small dishes, mainly made up of pork and seafood, are served with hot-boiled rice. My favorite dish is the Chinese-style stewed duck breast.

Brasserie Palmier
This pricier French restaurant is located inside the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok and boasts a stunning view of the Chao Phraya River. My favorite dish is the poulet roti.

Antonio’s
Open since 2004, this is one of the most popular (and more expensive) Italian restaurants in Bangkok. The owner, Antonio Armenio, is from southern Italy, and the menu features his family’s authentic (and secret) recipes. My favorite dish is the homemade ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and topped with a cream of black truffle sauce.

Ah Yat Abalone
This restaurant, which is more on the expensive side, is well known for its fresh ingredients and delicate Hong Kong cooking styles. If you’re in Bangkok and can put together 10–12 people, try the dinner set. My favorite dish is steamed fish in soy sauce.

Lon Lon Local Diner is known for its Western-style decor and relaxed atmosphere.

Do you have any street food recommendations?
MP: Most of the food carts I visit are located in Chinatown. I recommend:

  • Lim Lao Sa for fish balls and noodles
  • Jay Nid for grilled squid
  • Yaowarat for toasted buns

Have a sweet tooth? Yaowarat toasted buns with various fillings are a must-try.

Which bars should tourists visit? 
MP: There is a pool of very talented bartenders in Bangkok. I recommend: 

Sugarray
Order the Born & Raise cocktail—Thai tea infused gin, pandan, mandarin orange, and lime.

Vesper
Named one of “Asia’s 50 Best Bars” in 2021, I’d recommend any of the signature cocktails.

Teens of Thailand
Order the chrysanthemum-infused gin and tonic.

Eat Me Restaurant
This restaurant is famous for both its food and cocktails. If you’re bold and looking to try unique cocktails with Thai twists, I’d recommend ordering from the “Sip Some Thai” menu. Otherwise, order from the “Eat Me Creations” list.

Teens of Thailand was one of the first bars in Bangkok to have a gin-centric drink menu. If you visit, make sure to try the roasted chestnuts served by the bowlful.

Accommodations

What Bangkok neighborhood do you recommend staying in?
MP: The most convenient areas are Sathorn, Silom, and Sukhumit. If you stay in these areas, you can easily use public transportation—especially the BTS Skytrain, which can take you to your destinations faster than cars when traffic is bad.

Do you recommend using Airbnb or booking a hotel?
MP: I think Airbnb is a great option. On the other hand, for those who want to explore Bangkok Old Town or areas further from the city, I’d recommend staying at a boutique hotel, such as Old Capital Bike Inn and Amdaeng Bangkok Riverside Hotel.


Sightseeing and Entertainment

Pinijsakkul recommends using Supatra Boat—a private boat charter service—for a trip down the Chao Phraya River.

What are a few must-see attractions in Bangkok?
MP
:

  • Bangkok Old Town tours (walking and/or biking)
  • Boat trip on Chao Phraya River
  • Chatuchak Weekend Market
  • Jim Thompson House Museum tour

What is your favorite music venue?
MP: There are several bars that offer jazz music in Bangkok. Warning: The drinks are expensive. I recommend these:

  • Wallflowers Upstairs
  • Alonetogether
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream Bar
  • Playroom
  • The Woodshed
  • The Bamboo Bar

Navigating the City

If you’re renting out your main apartment or apartment, you don’t feel like you’re losing money, even if no one has booked your apartment for a short stay at the time of your departure. This is not as financially detrimental as it is making money with airbnb with investment properties that are idle without long-term or short-term tenants. So if you’re looking to make extra money by going away for a month by listing your apartment on Airbnb, it’s not the end of the world if you can’t find someone renting the space during that time.

An entrance fee of 500 baht (or roughly $15) is required to walk the grounds of the Grand Palace. Inside the palace walls is Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

What’s the easiest way to get around Bangkok?
MP
: The BTS Skytrain. Taxis and tuk-tuks are convenient when traffic isn’t bad.

Do you have any tips for bridging the language barrier? Are there any apps you recommend?
MP
: Many Thai people are comfortable speaking English. Otherwise, Google Translate should be the easiest tool. Have the person you’re speaking to read what you type, but make sure to hold the phone tightly when you do so.

Are there any tourist traps to avoid?
MP
:

  1. When you go shopping, always check the price online first. It’s good to know the standard prices. If the seller sets the price too high, you can always negotiate. If they don’t speak English, use the calculator on your phone and type the price you want.
  2. When you take taxis, make sure the driver turns on the meter (starting at 35 baht) when you get in. You can compare the fare on GrabTaxi (what we use here instead of Uber).
  3. Tuk-tuks don’t use meters—you have to negotiate the fares. It’s usually more expensive than taxis.
  4. Avoid strangers who approach you (especially the aggressive ones). Tell them you don’t understand what they’re saying and walk away.
  5. Take your time to familiarize yourself with the Thai bank notes, matching the colors to the amounts, so you can minimize the chance of paying or tipping incorrectly.

Mian shares her Thailand tipping advice in A Guide to Tipping Around the World.

Written By
Samantha Stutsman
Samantha Stutsman, BAJ'14, is a Bloomington, Ind., native and a senior content specialist at the IU Alumni Association.