What’s New In… Bangkok

by Our Editors

Craft cocktails, hip vintage shops, authentic Neapolitan pizza, futuristic shopping centers, fourth-wave coffee, efficient sky rail and subway lines, and talented drag queens; we’re not talking about Los Angeles, Seattle, or London here: this is Bangkok!

by Lawrence Ferber

Winner of 2015’s gender-bending competition reality show T Battle and semi-finalist on the country’s So You Think You Can Dance equivalent, Pangina (www.facebook.com/panginaheals). packs serious dancing chops and is funny as hell. In fact, be sure to check Pangina’s Facebook for upcoming engagements.

Gay party promoters G-Spot Entertainment, meanwhile, have been very busy in 2016 with monthly events at several venues: first Saturdays at Banyan Tree Hotel’s 60th floor Vertigo TOO (21/100 South Sathon Rd., Tel: 02-679-1200. www.banyantree.com/en/ap-thailand-bangkok), and third Saturdays at Mango Tree On The River (240 Yodpiman River Walk Build. D5, Jakphet Rd., Tel: 02-110-0820. www.mangotreerestaurants.com). The latter, a Westernized Thai restaurant, boasts unbeatable views of the Chao Phraya and Wat Arun, plus a two-hour free flow of booze.

The riverside is receiving upgrades as well. Celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2016, with special events taking place through-out the year, the iconic Mandarin Oriental (48 Oriental Ave., Tel: 02-659-9000. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok) unveiled a multi-million dollar renovation of its historic original structure, the Authors’ Wing, now home to a jaw- dropping six-bedroom Grand Royal Suite, 12 Garden Suites, and a stunning afternoon tea lounge. In 2018 we will see the opening of an opulent new The Residences at Mandarin Oriental just across the River.

Lek, Owner of Le Isaan

Lek, Owner of Le Isaan

W Hotel, in trendy and way gay Sathorn opened The House on Sathorn (106 North Sathorn Rd., Tel: 02-344-4000. www.thehouseonsathorn.com) in July 2015. Formerly part of the Russian Embassy, the 127-year-old, historically designated colonial mansion was painstakingly restored by the W and updated with luxe contemporary fixtures and serves as a bar and restaurant. Chef Faith Tatuk’s modern fare, inspired by international travels, is wonderful, as is their afternoon tea. The House is towered over by the 77-floor MahaNakhon, Thailand’s tallest building, with a striking modern façade. In late 2016 or 2017, two new additions to the neighborhood will include the Ritz-Carlton Residences and 159-room Bangkok EDITION Hotel.

New hotels continue to proliferate throughout Bangkok. Opened in 2015, the 192-room Hotel Indigo (81 Wireless Rd.,Tel: 02-207-4999. www.ihg.com/hotelindigo), a luxury design boutique spin-off from Inter-Continental, pays homage to Bangkok’s past with retro photos and the lobby’s vintage Samlor motor taxi, while comforts and amenities like a 24th-floor infinity pool are thoroughly 21st century. The beloved 354-room Four Seasons switched hands in 2015, becoming Anantara Siam (155 Rajadamri Rd., Tel: 02-126-8866. www.siam-bangkok.anantara.com), while 2018 will see the opening of an all-new Four Seasons riverside property.

A couple of notable restaurants to crop up along the riverside lately include Err (394/35 Maharaj Rd., Tel: 02-622-2291), a casual rustic Thai tapas concept from acclaimed, organic Thai fine dining eatery Bo.Lan. Never Ending Summer (41/5 Charoen Nakorn Rd., Tel: 02-861-0953. www.facebook.com/theneverendingsummer), meanwhile, serves refined, beautiful and admittedly mild Thai dishes in a cavernous, bright converted warehouse.

Gay restaurateur Lek Awirutthaphanit lets the chili burn bright at Le Isaan (Soi 8 Suan Plu, Tel: 89-213-0169. www.facebook.com/leIsaan), located near the legendary Babylon gay sauna. Spicy dishes from the Northeast, including papaya and pork salads, and staples like green curry and Pad Thai are fantastically present- ed. Arrive early and enjoy his amazing craft cocktails on the outdoor terrace.

Another gay restaurateur, Thanaruek Laoraowirodge, aka Eh, of NYC’s Michelin-starred-venue Somtum Der (the original is in Bangkok, close to Silom and super-LGBT friendly), spotlights some of his grandmother’s recipes at Supanniga Eating Room (28 Sathorn Soi 10, Tel: 02-635-0349. www.supannigaeatingroom.com). This slick and colorful space opened in Sathorn during December 2015 (there’s an older sibling in Thonglor). The salad with crispy pork and tamarind dressing, jumbo prawns with sweet and sour dressing, and moo cha muang, an intensely flavorful stewed pork dish, are but a few of the musts.

Hotpot and shabu shabu get a distinctly Thai twist at Pot Ministry (8th Floor, EmQuartier, 693 Sukhumvit, Tel: 02-003-6282. www.facebook.com/pot-ministry-1400224553617273). Four choices of boiling broth are offered (each representing a region of Thailand) in which to dip meat and vegetables, while inventive side dishes like a cheesy larb taco, are also on offer. Cool iPad menus, too!

Pork at Never Ending Su

Pork at Never Ending Su

Pot Ministry is part of EmQuartier (651 Sukhumvit Rd., Tel: 02-269-1188. www.theemdistrict.com) an ultra-gorgeous, hi-so shopping center that opened in spring 2015. Dazzlingly designed, incorporating greenery and nature, it boasts a 40-meter-high outdoor waterfall and elevated garden, a courtyard for events and markets, a spiraling, Guggenheim-esque restaurant section, fantastic shops both local and international, a Virgin fitness center, IMAX theater, and more prime selfie opportunities than you can count (in fact, there’s always some temporary attraction out front expressly for this reason, like a towering metal dragon during Chinese New Year).

Retail therapy saw another boon in May 2016 with the unveiling of Japanese design studio Nendo’s jaw-dropping, futuristic 2-year reinvention of shopping center Siam Discovery (Rama I Rd., www.siamdiscovery.co.th), now a unique “lifestyle lab” spotlighting both international and local designers and brands.

Even night markets are getting a reinvention. Rot Fai Train Night Market Ratchada (Ratcadaphisek Road), located just off the MRT National Cultural Centre stop, is chock-a-block with food trucks, a bar made out of a school bus, hipster barber and tattoo shops, vintage goods (one, inexplicably, sold a Confederate flag), and items like “Pink More” nipple cream. Yes, apparently making your nipples pink is a thing. Nope, those brownish nipples just won’t do. Open from 6 P.M.-midnight Thursday-Sundays.

For the latest what’s ons, English-language BK Magazine is an indispensible guide to the city’s latest everything, from restaurants, and bar openings and festivals to fashion shows. Download its smartphone app, BK Now, for a feed of to the minute stuff. Other apps that will come in handy include Transit TH, to help navigate the BTS/MRT rail systems; Uber, whose drivers are likely to speak English, and, unlike old guard taxis that take inefficient, traffic-clogged routes out of habit, understand how to use GPS for a speedier, economical trip (Uber prices are ridiculously affordable). In March, Uber even added a motorcycle taxi category for single riders in an ultra-rush, while app Grab Taxi is another good option with tech-savvy drivers. Wear a helmet!

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