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Bangkok City Trip - Silom

Rooftops afford panoramic views and make memorable cocktail bars
Rooftops afford panoramic views and make memorable cocktail bars:
Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar

BANGKOK DAY 3: Riverside and Silom

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Bangkok's ritzy malls might foreshadow the Thailand of tomorrow, but for now much of the country continues to shop in old-style markets. Start today at Tha Thewet for a stroll through the compact, jasmine-scented area. Stretching along a khlong, this photogenic market deals flowers on the south bank and fresh produce on the north, where the so-called "wet market" sells everything from flapping fish and a dozen rice varieties to spicy curries and freshly picked chilies.

Nearby, the tree-lined Si Ayutthaya Road leads to the Royal Plaza and stately, neo-classical Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. The monarch no longer resides at the site, but this plaza is used for the high-pomp military parades to celebrate the king's birthday (December 5) and other royal events. At any time of year you'll likely see flowers, incense and even bottles of cognac (the king rather liked it) left below the mounted Statue of King Chulalongkorn (aka Rama V) standing in the center of the plaza. Chulalongkorn led Thailand into the modern world between 1868 and 1910 and is revered as a tough, but progressive ruler.

A taste of local festival flavor
A taste of local festival flavor

Beyond this throne hall is Dusit Park, which some have described as Bangkok's Versailles. While that comparison might be somewhat generous, the palace grounds make a delightful diversion from the chaos of the city. Scattered throughout are several palace buildings-cum-museums, including Vimanmek Palace, the world's largest golden teak building. At its rear, a lakeside sala (pavilion) hosts free performances of traditional dance and martial arts daily.

Bangkokians have also discovered that one of the advantages of having scores of skyscrapers with relatively relaxed safety codes is that restaurants and cocktail bars are located on open rooftops. There are several options, all of them delightfully romantic, but for us the original remains the best — Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar. Get there soon after 5 p.m. and watch the sun go down with a couple of drinks. We should point out that the breezes that accompany open-air 61st -floor dining can turn the kitchen's hot, international cuisine cold pretty quickly. If you don't want to risk it — or indeed if the whole place closes due to rain — walk next door to Nahm at the Metropolitan Hotel, named one of the 50 best restaurants in the world by Restaurant magazine for the inspired work of its chef, David Thompson.

For more information, visit the Tourism Authority of Thailand at www.tourismthailand.org

MORE BANGKOK INFORMATION

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*The following images are courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand: festival photo, small golden Buddha

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(Updated: 03/19/13 CT)

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