Bangkok is a very large and vibrant city that can be overwhelming at times.
One spot to feel more at ease is in the sois (alleys) near Siam Square. It’s at a safe distance from the Greater Koh San Road Area and from the go-go-bars of Patpong and Nana Plaza.
There’s little traffic and noise, there’s the quiet of a Buddhist temple and the buzzing of the Erewan shrine, there’s people on street level, there’s a mix of foreign tourists and local Thai, there’s easy access to all of Bangkok, and most important: there’s enough to do and see locally. It’s the latter I want to share with you.
I'll concentrate on Kasemsan Soi 1, but Soi 2 and 3 are pretty similar (they have a northern pedestrian-only exit via the walkway along the canal). Kasemsan Soi 1 is in the northeast corner of the junction of Rama 1 rd and Phayathai rd, and connects to both of them.
Above the Rama 1 / Phayathai junction is an elevated walkway, connecting the BTS, the MBK, the Art and Culture Center, Siam Discovery and the southeast corner. It's a great place to watch people and traffic.
The Jim Thompson House in Kasemsan Soi 2 is a beautifully restored wooden Thai house. It hosts the Silk Museum.
Erewan shrine is a small shrine that has become immensely popular. It’s simultaneously devout and peaceful, as well as lively. A gamelan orchestra enhances your prayers. It’s opposite the Central World shopping mall.
More peace and quiet can be found on the grounds of Wat Pathum Wanaram, a Buddhist temple just before the Central World shopping mall
A "river walk" along the north bank of the klang (canal) starting at Hua Chang bridge, going west until the Tesco Lotus (the walk ends at the parking garage entrance), will reveal a very different Bangkok. It feels like village life in the countryside.
Siam Square has some big shopping malls with all the expensive international brands, but much more interesting is MBK. It has countless stalls with things you’ve never seen and didn’t know you wanted. Or you can explore the many small shops in the sois south of Siam Square, where the Thai go.
A 20 minute walk up Petchaburi rd takes you to Pantip Pratunam, the computer gadget mall. Here you find electronics either cheaper than, or not yet available on western markets. It’s like a tangible Ali Baba website.
There are lots and lots of restaurants around of all sorts. To name a few (all of these can make you something vegetarian, even if it isn’t on the menu):
Hidden behind a green wall of potted plants in Kasemsan Soi 1 is Pisces, run by a lovely Thai lady. They do freshly cooked dinners and curries, some with an Indian touch to it. Semi-outdoor seating.
Wang Mai café on the stadium premises does hot and iced coffees. It’s right next to MBK and the BTS. It's a small stall overlooking a soccer court where it gets busy at night.
The MBK food court on the 6th floor does cheap and tasteful dishes. There are a couple of vegetarian stall (B04, C07). C07 is my favorite. Buy coupons first.
Inter and Koko are two diner style restaurants in Siam Square Soi 7 and Soi 3 respectively.
Over Hua Chang bridge, east side of Phayathai road, is Co-Co Walk, a small strip of cafes and restaurants catering for local Thai.
Kasemsan Soi 1 has a wide range of accomodation.
First is the very large Chinese hotel Muangphol Mansion, rather dated but great views and reasonably priced.
The Reno hotel is a more pretentious midrange place, with a pool and a cafe.
In the middle of the soi are the White Lodge and the A-One Inn, sort of budget places, considering the location.
The LiT Bangkok is the most upmarket place on the block, 4 star, swimming pool, the lot.
Wendy House is a very pleasant midrange hotel. The rooms are smallish and a bit dated, but the friendly staff and good atmosphere are the best
BTS stop National Stadium is right in front of Soi 1, but the Siam Square BTS junction stations is also close and brings you to all BTS stations directly.
Prayathai terminal where the airport train to Suvarna Bhumi starts, is just a ten minute walk if you exit Soi 1 on the northwest end and cross the bridge. An easy way to cross the road is to pass under the bridge.
For Don Muang airport you can take an ordinary train from Hua Lamphong, or take the BTS to Mo Chit, use exit 3, and airportbus A1 from there.
Hua Lamphong train station for long distance trains (all except Kanchaneeburi) is two stops on the BTS and then two stops on the Underground (MRT). The junction is Silom. Unfortunately BTS and MRT have separate stations and separate tickets, so this is not convenient. If you travel light you can walk to Hua Lamphong in 30 minutes.
The canal boat stop Hua Chang Pier (jetty) is this side of the bridge (sort of under it), the boats are an adventure in themselves and a good way to get closer to the Grand Palace area (though that is still a 30 minute walk from Phanfa bridge, the last stop).
Victory Monument is two stops on the BTS or half an hour walk. Beware this is no longer the terminal for minivans to towns around Bangkok. The minivans now stop near the respective bus terminals, east, north+northeast, south+west.
*last update 2018*
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