The Many Charms of Kuala Lumpur: a 4-day Itinerary

One of my favourite sounds is that of the immigration stamp clanking on the passport. After a long break from international travel, hearing that sound again was profoundly gratifying and signalled a world returning to normalcy.   

When I began contemplating a foreign trip after what seemed like ages, Malaysia with its mix of big-city life and natural bounty, diverse culture & lip-smacking food immediately sprang to mind. Easy connectivity with Bengaluru and a convenient Visa process sealed the deal. The Visa process turned out to be not-so-convenient after all, but more on that later.    

We were a family of 5 – my wife, our 6-year-old daughter, mother and mother-in-law, along with yours truly. This post covers the four days we spent in KL and is a travelogue cum family holiday itinerary suggestion. We also covered Langkawi and Melaka, and they deserve separate posts of their own. 

One can breeze through the key attractions of KL like Petronas Towers, Menara KL and the glitzy malls in a couple of days. A deeper immersion into the history and culture of the city at an unhurried pace will take 4-5 days and is worth the reward. 

Day 1

Evening in Heli Lounge

I have a thing for rooftop bars. In a city like KL with an iconic skyline, I could think of no better way to kick off the trip. 

Heli Lounge sits atop the 35th floor of Menara KH. It is a functioning helipad by day and turns into a cool lounge bar in the evening. 

Heli Lounge

My wife and I went in at 6 pm, right around the time it opens. The place has a relaxed vibe and draws travellers of many nationalities, all out to have a memorable evening. It offers a great vantage point to watch the sun go down and the skyscrapers light up. We felt grateful for the small things – stumbling upon this place on a nondescript blog, scoring THE table directly overlooking the twin towers and the pleasant weather that evening. I would like to believe that the alcohol had nothing to do with this sentimentality. We hung around till around 8 pm. By then the skyline was lit up and looked mesmerizing. 

The cover charges are RM 100 (~$22) per person and include two rounds of drinks. Steep, but the views make it worth every penny. 

Heli Lounge is among the best places to hang out in KL

Dinner at Jalan Alor

For dinner, we headed to Jalan Alor – the famed food street of KL. I had read a lot about the place where it was touted as a great spot for delicious and inexpensive street food.  By the time we got there around 9 pm, many shops had started winding down. We sampled some fare at a couple of outlets but were let down by the quality and frankly quite shocked by the prices. KL has cheaply available, delicious food at every corner.  It felt like Jalan Alor just doesn’t match up and had morphed into a tourist trap. 

We slept at a lovely Airbnb, very conveniently located in The Robertson Suites. The rooftop pool with a view seals the deal.

Rooftop Pool at Robertson Suites

Day 2: 

Dataran Merdeka 

We started the day in Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square). This is where the Malaysian flag was first hoisted upon independence in 1957. Taking a stroll on the manicured greens with the magnificent Sultan Abdul Samad building in front, I could picture the scenes of celebration that must have played out on that day. It was a happy coincidence that we were here on 15th August, India’s 75th Independence day. 

The Sultan Abdul Samad building initially housed the British colonial administration of Malaysia.  Some government departments of independent Malaysia continue to operate from here today. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style, a style developed in colonial India from the fusion of contemporary European architecture with Mughal decorative motifs. 

Menara KL and the Petronas twin towers peak out in the backdrop, presenting a study of the shifting definitions of architectural grandeur. Call me old school but I think for all their shiny steel reaching for the skies, the modern skyscrapers don’t hold a candle to the intricate craftsmanship of that era. Here’s a picture, what do you think? 

Sultan Abdul Samad Building with Petronas Towers and Menara KL in the background

Jamek Mosque

A short walk from Merdeka Square is the Jamek Mosque. It was built in 1909 and was the first major mosque of KL. It is open to non-muslim visitors during non-prayer times and a free guided tour is available. A very knowledgeable volunteer took us through the mosque, explaining various facets of the history and architecture of the mosque as well as the practices of Islam. 

River of Life 

Kuala Lumpur literally means “muddy confluence”. And right next to the mosque is the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers which gives Kuala Lumpur its name. It was here that Chinese tin miners started settling in the mid-19th century and set in motion the chain of events that led to KL eventually becoming a thriving global metropolis.   

The confluence of the Klang & Gombak rivers – River of Life project

The River of Life restoration project is a beautifully paved walkway along the riverside and makes for an enjoyable stroll around the spot where life began for KL. 

Islamic Arts Museum 

The equisite interiors of the Islamic Arts Museum

For me, one of the highlights of Kuala Lumpur was admiring the breathtaking collection at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. The artefacts on display span carpets, tiles, weaponry, ceramicware, and objects of art. The rich collection, immaculate curation and aesthetic and informative display make it one of the best museums I have visited.

The collection of ceramic tiles at Islamic Arts Museum

Many weapons on display had exquisite ornamental carvings. I found the juxtaposition of art on objects of mortal combat paradoxical and mildly amusing. What must have been the feelings of the craftsman embellishing the swords that he knew would slaughter men on the battlefield? Did soldiers take pride in how intricately carved their daggers were? We’ll never know.  

The on-site restaurant, Moza, has fantastic food and stunning decor. The restaurant itself can be reason enough to visit the museum. The museum even has a children’s library on site. We dropped our daughter there and she merrily spent a couple of hours reading while we explored the museum. 

Moza : fab decor, fab food and fab service

Menara KL 

What’s better than a view of the Kuala Lumpur Skyline from the Petronas Towers? A view of the KL Skyline with the Petronas Towers. 

As the evening approached, we made our way to Menara KL to get just that view. 

There are two levels of viewing galleries – the Observation Deck is at a lower level and is a glass-enclosed space (RM 49/ ~$11). The Sky Deck is an open-air gallery on the top floor and has a glass bottom box overhanging from the ledge called Sky Box (RM 99/ ~$22). On a day with clear weather, it is worth splurging a little extra to get to the Sky Deck. 

We got here early in the evening, which was ideal. We first caught the gorgeous sunset over the cityscape and then stayed on till the lights turned on and KL came alive.  

Day 3: 


Chinatowns the world over are known for their food and KL’s Chinatown is no exception. Packed with legendary eateries of yore as well as hip new cafes, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is a must-visit. Today is the day to let loose the glutton within!  

Old China Cafe is a charming joint that has, true to its name, retained its old-world charm. We tried the Chicken Rendang which was bursting with the aroma and flavours of lemongrass and coconut milk. The mildly flavoured pea flower rice was the perfect accompaniment for it.

Old China Cafe – Chicken Rendang & Pea Flower Rice

The Central Market is the heart of Chinatown and a great place to shop for quality stuff at reasonable prices. Alongside handicrafts, garments and utilities, there’s a section with art shops with paintings by local artists that make for very nice souvenirs. 

Its massive food court has many stalls, many specialising in variations of a single dish – Nasi Ayum, Yang Tau Foo, and Nasi Lemak among others. The food here is reasonably priced and generally excellent. I devoured a large bowl of Yang Tau Foo and instantly fell in love with the dish and the concept behind it. It’s the Chinese food version of Subway where you chose your broth, type of noodle, sauces, veggies and assorted fish cakes and possibly meatballs that go into your bowl. It’s mostly steamed, rich in protein and vitamins from the veggies and packed with umami. I have been craving it ever since I have come back. 

Yang Tau Foo – The Subway of Chinese Food

Yang Tau Foo – equal parts health and taste

The colourful and impressive Mahamariamman Hindu temple that serves the local Tamil community is worth a visit. After Malays and ethnic Chinese, Tamils make up the third biggest chunk of Malaysia’s population. Descended from migrant workers who moved here under the British Raj to work on rubber plantations, they staunchly maintain their religious and linguistic identity as Hindus and Tamils and are proud Malaysians. It made me ponder on the many strands that make up our identity as humans and how some of those strands are more fluid and flexible than others. 

Mahamariamman Temple

While heading back, the splinters flying from underneath clay pots on a coal oven caught my eye. The man working the ovens at the roadside stall looked strangely familiar. And it came flashing back. The stall had been featured on Nat Geo Traveller India in a piece on Malaysian food that I had read before coming!

Clay Pot Chicken Rice in the making

Though the Rendang and Yang Tau Foo were still jostling for space in my tummy, seeing this and not eating it would be criminal. The clay pot rice is cooked by throwing in rice, soy sauce, chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken pieces into the pot and letting it simmer. Once done, it is served hot in the clay pot. The result is a delectable pot of earthy goodness. 

Chicken Clay Pot Rice

KLCC Suriya & The Petronas Tower

We had seen the Petronas Towers from the vantage point of Minara KL and the rooftop Heli Lounge. Now it was time to admire it from up close. 

The KLCC Gardens, adjacent to the upscale KLCC Suria mall, is the best spot in town to gawk at the twin towers in all their lit-up glory. Standing beneath this elegant engineering marvel that’s the icon of a resurgent Malaysia is awe-inspiring.  

Light and Sound shows take place every half an hour in the gardens and add to the ambience.  

Petronas Twin Towers in all their lit-up glory

For our last night in KL, we shifted to another Airbnb at Tropicana Residences, this one right next to the twin towers, with views of the towers from every room. Not too many people in KL had a better view that night.  

Day 4

Waking up to this view from the room !

Aquaria KLCC

The last day of any trip inevitably makes one feel that a lot more remained to be seen and done! 

But with just half a day left, we spent it at the Aquaria KLCC. After all, our daughter had been a patient companion on the museum and mosque tours that could not have been much fun for her. We owed her this much. 

But I say this without exaggeration – once inside, I was no less excited than her. It is a vast and intriguing collection of marine life forms housed in a very thoughtfully designed space. The residents range from the tiniest sea creatures to some of the largest freshwater fish on the planet, from cute sea horses to some fish that look genuinely loathsome. 

There’s a glass tunnel to walk through where sharks, sting rays and marine turtles will glide right past you. It is almost like scuba diving without having to get wet. The highlight of the visit was the feeding session where the aquarium staff dived into the tank and assorted creatures including sharks and rays fed from their hands. 

Aquaria KLCC

Budget for half a day and RM 75 (~$16) in entry fee per person in your Malaysia itinerary for this unmissable experience. 

And on that note, it was a wrap on Malaysia and time to head home with a bagful of memories and a desire to come back someday to experience so much more the country has to offer.   

Practical Information


Malaysia provides e-Visa to Indians. Apply on the official website and expect to receive the visa between 2-5 working days. The official TAT is 48 working hours but it generally takes longer. Once you apply, they may ask for additional documents or even request an in-person interview. In my wife’s case, they requested an in-person interview in Chennai. But when we pleaded over e-mail, they waived it off and issued the visa basis some additional documents. Keeping 2 full weeks in hand for the visa process is advisable to avoid any last-minute anxieties. 

SIM Cards

Tourist SIMs are easily available near the airport exit. I got a Maxis/Hotlink SIM which served me well. They have an RM 20 plan for 7 days and an RM 40 plan for 15 days. Both come with enough data for average users. 

Currency Exchange

There are a few currency exchange places near the airport exit but they are all ridiculously expensive, with mark-ups in the range of 10% or higher. Pretty much any place in the city will offer much better rates. The best rate I found was in Jalan Alor @~1.5% commission which is very decent. 

Getting into the city

KL’s 2 airport terminals are connected to the city by Metro, Bus and cabs. The Metro is the fastest but also expensive. The metro to KL Sentral will take 40 mins and cost RM 55 per person. The bus is significantly cheaper starting at RM 12 and it takes about 90 mins to reach. A cab will take you directly to your destination in central KL for ~RM 100 in an hour and for groups of 2 or more, a cab is the recommended option. And cab in Malaysia is synonymous with Grab, which works like a dream. They are fast, efficient and affordable. I could write a whole post eulogising Grab but that’s for another day.

The Hanoi Travelogue

Sometimes, in your travels, you get lucky. Like when you visit a mountain view-point on a clear day and soak in the first rays of sun over mesmerizing snow-capped peaks. Or like my friend who booked a bed in a four bedded mixed dorm in Negombo, Sri Lanka and ended up staying with three free-spirited French girls. For me, it was landing up in Hanoi on the day when the underdog U-23 soccer team of Vietnam won the semi-finals of the U-23 AFC championship after inflicting a shock defeat on Qatar. The city erupted in frenzy and I got a taste of what it means to be a Vietnamese.

On our trip to Vietnam in January this year, we spent 3 days in the capital Hanoi.  We saw very few of the touristy sites in Hanoi except those around the Hoan Kiem lake. We gave the venerable Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum a miss. Neither could we make time for Hanoi Citadel or the One Pillar Pagoda. No doubt these places must have been well worthy of visits. They don’t feature on every tourist itinerary for no reason. But I have no regrets. We invested our time in experiencing the racing pulse of the city and its people as it got engulfed in football mania. After all, the museums and pagodas would always be around. Something of this magnitude doesn’t happen every day in a country’s sporting history. But more on that later.

We split our four-night stay between the Old Quarter and the Hoan Kiem lake area. The lake is the epicentre of all activity in Hanoi. To the north of it lies the Old Quarter dating back to the imperial times with its famed 36 Streets. To the lake’s east is the French Quarter with grand buildings and broad boulevards that are remnants of Vietnam’s French colonial past. The lake itself is abuzz with locals and tourists alike spending some quiet time amidst serenity.

Things to see in Hanoi

Some essential Hanoi experiences that we did manage to fit in included the Ngoc Son temple in the middle of the Hoan Kiem lake, the Thang Long Water Puppet show and the Bach Ma temple. We also made time for some leisurely strolls around the narrow alleys of Old Quarter and the wide boulevards of the French Quarter. It is difficult to believe that these two very distinct zones, separated by no more than a couple of kilometres, are part of the same city. Here’s the lowdown.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre 

Experience a uniquely Vietnamese Performing Art

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Legend of the Restored Sword depicted through Water Puppets

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the best place in Vietnam to enjoy the Vietnamese folk art of water puppetry. Water puppetry was born of the river delta farmer’s need for entertaining himself when his paddy fields were flooded in the rainy season. Over time it has been developed into a fine art. It will appear like simple, childlike entertainment until you try to visualise what the puppeteers standing waist deep in the water behind the curtains must be doing to accomplish the coordination on the stage (read water puddle).

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Intricate Water Puppetry

The show depicts life in the agrarian countryside and folktales of Northern Vietnam including the legend of the Sword Lake. There are water spewing and fire-breathing dragons and friendly neighbourhood mythical birds thrown in for good measure. The tickets are priced at VND 100,000 or ~$4.5. Show timings can be found on their website The website also has interesting details about the origin and evolution of the art over the last ten centuries. I strongly recommend making this a part of your Hanoi plans.

Schedule this towards the end of your visit in Hanoi. Book tickets for the show from the counter as soon as you arrive. Tickets often sell out a couple of days in advance, especially for the weekend shows. If you have the choice, try to get seats in the front for a better experience.

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Feel the Pulse of Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi Vietnam
Fun and games near Hoan Kiem Lake (Pic Courtesy: Moulika Mukherjee)

Hoan Kiem Lake is unmistakeably the heart of Hanoi. It’s an oval-shaped lake having a perimeter of just about 2km with a paved walkway all around. In the mornings, droves of people can be seen doing Tai Chi or taking morning walks. Throughout the day you will see locals and tourists alike flock to the lake. It is a fantastic place to just laze and people watch.

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi Vietnam
This guy was playing Jianzi (foot shuttlecock) with the grace of a ballerina


During the weekend evenings, the street around is closed to traffic and the entire area dons the look of a carnival. There are parents strolling with kids in tow, youngsters playing Jianzi or foot shuttlecock, beat-boxing and ball dancing competitions being held and delicious street food being peddled. A lovely market in the evenings on weekends livens up the area bordering the French Quarter.  There are stalls selling pop-up arts, ceramics, fridge and myriad other souvenirs. The beautifully lit up traditional bridge connecting the shore to the Ngoc Son temple adds character to the place. Spend an evening here and you will not stop feeling that this is how life is meant to be.

Hoan Kiem Hanoi Vietnam
The lit up Huc Bridge connecting the Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple stands in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake, connected to the shore by the small but pretty bridge. It is dedicated to a General who defeated the Mongols in the 13th Century and also to Confucian and Taoist philosophers.

Bia Hoi Junction

A taste of Hanoi’s Nightlife

The Bia Hoi Junction is essentially a cluster of bars with outdoor seating located in the old quarter close to the lake. Go there if you want a glimpse of Hanoi’s nightlife. In case you are in two minds, here’s the argument that will resolve it for you. Bia Hoi is light draught beer unique to Vietnam that sells for as little as VND 5000 ($0.25) a glass! Bia Hoi junction is where the locals come to get their fix of this quintessentially Vietnamese brew.

I visited this place on the evening of Vietnam’s semi-final triumph in the U-23 AFC soccer tournament. Everyone in Hanoi and their aunties were there. It is surprising the watering holes didn’t run out of stock. Many party zones around South East Asia like Lang Kwai Fong in Hong Kong or Khao San Road in Bangkok rely on tourists and expats to lend the vide to the place. That’s not true for Bia Hoi Junction which is thriving with locals.

Old Quarter

From the pages of history

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a mesh of streets each of which was populated by traders of a particular kind of article back in colonial times when the place was established. To date, some of the stores still deal in the same trade but many have now switched to catering to needs of a more modern society. The streets bear names such as Hang Ma, Hang Tre and Hang Dong, where ‘Hang’ means a traded article and the following word names the article like Paper, Bamboo or Copper.

Old Quarter Hanoi
Paper artefacts are being sold in Hang Ma for centuries now

If there is just one place you must see in Hanoi, it is the Old Quarter. The diversity of goods on display is so vast, the quality so good and the prices so affordable that I dare you to spend an evening there without shopping. The Old Quarter is also home to many of Hanoi’s tourist attractions like the Bach Ma Temple and One Pillar Pagoda as well as some of Hanoi’s most popular eateries.

French Quarter

A fix for your Paris throwback

Walking along the French Quarter brought back memories of Paris from our trip to France last year.  The Hanoi Opera is modelled on the Opera Garnier in Paris. It is in truth only a shadow of the Paris Opera. The Sofitel Legend Metropole is the granddaddy of Hanoi hotels and dates back to 1901. It is majestic and regal. We made an exception to our budget meals regimen in Hanoi to have breakfast here one morning. The food is superb and the service impeccable. The white tablecloths, fine cutlery and the interior design all loudly invoke the Belle Epoque.

Sofitel Legend Metropole French Quarter
A dose of opulence at the Sofitel Legend Metropole

The fine French buildings make lovely backdrops for some portrait shots. The broad tree-lined streets are a stark contrast to the Old Quarter and are ideal for a leisurely walk.

French Quarter Hanoi Vietnam
French Quarter

A few places that I would have liked to add to our Hanoi itinerary with more time on hand would have been the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (fondly called Hanoi Hilton by the US PoWs during the Vietnam War). The thing that kept me away from these was partly bad weather and partly the frenzy around Vietnam’s soccer team’s showdown in the AFC U-23 final. And that’s how I spent my last day in Vietnam. I spent less time watching the game and more of it watching the people watching the game!

A Photo-essay of Vietnam’s Football Frenzy

The day we arrived in Hanoi was the day the underdog Vietnamese soccer team inflicted a shock defeat on the much better ranked Qataris in the semi-finals of the AFC U-23 Cup. Within moments, the entire city was on the streets celebrating the victory. The scenes around Hoan Kiem Lake had to be seen to be believed. I felt blessed to be a witness to this grand spectacle. I doubt whether freedom from the French was celebrated with as much fanfare!

Hours before the final, fans started gathering around giant screens installed in various public places for communal viewing of the match. The atmosphere was electric.


Football in Vietnam
A mad scramble for the best seats (sic)

Football in Vietnam
Vietnam Scored!

Football in Vietnam
Anxious moments


Football in Vietnam
Men and women, boys and girls – all out in support

Football in Vietnam
Hanoi is full of colourful people ( Photo Courtesy : Moulika Mukherjee)

Football in Vietnam
Caption this!

It was refreshing to see people cutting across gender, age and social strata assembling together to root for the thing that unites them all – their Vietnamese identity. The Vietnamese team made a valiant effort but ended up on the losing side courtesy a last minute goal by Uzbekistan. But the loss brought to the fore how gracious they were in defeat. What followed that evening was a celebration of Vietnam’s achievement at having made it this far rather than a mourning of the day’s defeat.

Food in Hanoi

Vietnamese cuisine is making waves globally. Before our trip, I had shortlisted some iconic places to sample the most celebrated specimens of Vietnamese cuisine. Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su for Pho, Bun Cha Huong Lien for Bun Cha, Giang Café for Egg Coffee and so on.

Egg Coffee
Dense and delicious Egg Coffee – I like!

On our first evening out in Hanoi, we were famished and we stepped into the first decrepit Pho joint in sight after stepping out of our Airbnb. After the first slurp, I knew there was no need to go hunting for good food in Hanoi. A bowl of Pho costs just about 20,000 -25,000 Dongs (less than $1) and is a riot of flavours. Delicious food is ubiquitous in Hanoi. Just see where the locals are eating and barge in. I am sure the hallowed establishment which are favourably reviewed by critics are excellent. But to sample great Vietnamese there is no need to go hunting for these joints.

Pho Vietnamese Food
Pho – Vietnam’s national dish (Photo Courtesy: Inspired Taste)

Another thing one mustn’t fail to try is Vietnamese Coffee. The local Vietnamese coffee is predominantly Robusta which has more caffeine and is bitter. It is often made with condensed milk which beautifully balances the bitterness and lends a unique taste. Remember, Vietnamese coffee is served cold by default. Be sure to check before you order.

A word of caution for vegetarians – vegetarian Vietnamese food is tough to find. In Hanoi, our saviour was Minh Chay Vegan Restaurant where we kept going to for takeaways for my mother. The menu is extensive, the food is delicious, the prices are reasonable and the locations are central.

My lasting memories of Hanoi will not be of places seen but of people met. Hanoians are a vibrant, colourful and expressive lot who can turn the most touristy of visitors to street photographers. The locals are, the odd freak apart, very friendly and helpful people. It was with a heavy heart that I boarded the flight back. But make no mistake Vietnam, we are not done yet.



5 Essential Bangkok Experiences

Bangkok things to do Grand Palace

Bangkok means many things to many people. It can be a spiritual haven, a racy playground, a foodie’s dream or a shopper’s Mecca. It can be pretty much anything you want it to be and more. At the cost of sounding clichéd, Bangkok is truly a city that offers something to everybody. I went there with my wife and mother so I’ll let you guess what I was looking for from the trip.

There is no dearth of literature on “Things to do in Bangkok”. Most articles are full of recommendations on the temples to visit – of both the spiritual and carnal kind. Of course, the major temples – Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located inside the Grand Palace) and Wat Arun are all fabulous and worth your time. Bangkok also offers the entire spectrum of shopping experiences – from high-end malls like Siam Paragon to street shopping in the Chatuchak market.  But in this short piece, I am going to call out the five things that defined Bangkok for me and made it different from any city I have ever visited.

#1 of Things to do in Bangkok- Chao Phraya Cruise

things to do in Bangkok Chao Phraya Cruise
Chao Phraya Cruise

We started our Bangkok trip with a ferry ride on the Chao Phraya river on the evening of our arrival in the city. There’s nothing like the ferry ride to get your bearings in the city and for the first glimpse of some of the popular attractions.

There are several options for a ride on Chao Phraya – from luxury dinner cruises to hopping on board the ferries that locals use for their daily commute. The local ferry ride costs between 10-30 Baht. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but we went for the local ferry and found it to be amazing value for money. After all, Wat Arun looks the same from onboard a luxury cruise and a local boat! It was also the Thai Queen’s birthday and the sky was peppered with fireworks. It made the experience doubly special.

#2 of Things to do in Bangkok- Rooftop Bars

things to do in Bangkok Rooftop Bar Octave Bar
Rooftop view from Octave Bar

Bangkok is full of these. If you are a fan of cityscapes and dazzling city lights, you should definitely put one of these on your itinerary. The highest of them is simply called The Rooftop Bar at Baiyoke Sky Hotel. The Sky Bar at lebua at State Tower, where the hit Hollywood flick Hangover 2 was shot, is arguably the most popular one. It’s a very difficult job selecting between more than 20 available options. I found this site very useful in picking the right one for us.  It has almost the entire list and could make your job easier (or tougher!)

We chose Octave Bar located on the 45th Floor of Marriot Hotel in the Sukhumvit area. The bar is spread over three levels and each floor has a very different vibe to it. Head to the top floor for 360-degree views of the Bangkok skyline, something that not many rooftop bars offer. We loved the food and mocktails and absolutely adored the views. From the plethora of options available, I recommend choosing one that fits your budget and is close to a location that you would be visiting anyway.

#3 of Things to do in Bangkok- Khao San Road

things to do in Bangkok Khao San Road
Assorted Insects – For your eyes only? Maybe not!

Khao San Road is backpacker central. It is full of budget guesthouses and hotels drawing foreign travellers by the droves. The evening spent in Khao San Road was an undoubted highlight of our Bangkok trip. The street is lined with pubs on both sides and the pavements are choc a block with street food vendors, beer sellers, massage parlours, souvenir shops and the like.  Whatever you are buying, be sure to bargain. It is not frowned upon. In fact, it is expected.

The place has a vibe that’s hard to match. The best time to hit Khao San Road is after 11 in the night when the place is full of partygoers.

Khao San Road also has carts selling fried insects as delectable snacks to go with your beer. If you are sane (like my wife), then you can simply photograph the wares by paying 10 Baht. If you are more of a daredevil (like me) then you could try a fried scorpion or two and get the photo for free.

things to do in Bangkok Khao San Road
Yours truly conquering fears and biting into a Scorpion!

#4 of Things to do in Bangkok- Thai Massage at Wat Pho

The term “Thai Massage” has been much maligned. The original Thai massage, as practised at the Wat Pho Traditional Message Centre is a unique experience. Expect no frills. Don’t go in expecting to be pampered. The massage happens in a communal environment where you are simply made to lie down in your own clothes or in a loose-fitting robe.

The well-trained masseuses will apply very strong pressure and stretch many of your muscles you didn’t know you had. The massage is painful but the rejuvenation it provides as you walk out is divine. We did this on our last day in Bangkok, after having walked the streets for three days. We walked in with aching bodies and walked out feeling as fresh as we ever had.

The traditional Thai massage for an hour costs 420 Baht as of November 2017. Other options include facial massage, foot massage or massage with oils. Refer to their website for the latest details. The place gets a lot of clients so be prepared to wait.

#5 of Things to do in Bangkok – Street Food  

things to do in Bangkok Street Food Mango and Sticky Rice
Mango and Sticky Rice

Thai street food is ubiquitous and it’s very good. Chinatown and Sukhumvit 38 are among the most popular areas among the most areas among tourists. But you will find great street food almost anywhere in Bangkok. Your options could range from the mellow ‘Mango and sticky rice’ to shrimp noodles and the sweet Roti Gluay to scorpions and assorted insects. Sausages, grilled squid and noodles are other common street snacks. My personal favourite was Mango and Sticky rice, which is rice mixed with coconut milk served with slices of mango.

If you are particularly interested in cuisine, it might be worthwhile to go on one of the many guided food tours. They can help explore hidden gems and give context to dishes like origin and

I was shocked to read this recent report that Street Food is being banned in Bangkok. I am not sure where things stand right now but sincerely hope that future visitors to the street food Mecca and indeed the millions of locals are not robbed of the treasures.

Bonus Pro Tips 

Pro tip 1# – Beware of the Tourist Scam

While in the tourist areas, it is very common to be approached by a perfectly regular looking local who will chat you up first on random topics and proceed to reveal that the Grand Palace and the Wat Pho temple are closed today. They will suggest an alternate itinerary comprising some other temples and proclaimed tourist attractions. They can be very persuasive and may well give the impression that they have absolutely no self-interest and are just being good Samaritans.   DO NOT FALL FOR IT. Check the opening hours of the major attractions on official websites beforehand and politely disengage from such conversations.

There are several other common scams designed for tourists. I found this website very helpful in dodging some.

Pro Tip 2# – Know your Airports

Bangkok is serviced by two airports – The Suvarnabhumi airport which handles international flights and the Don Mueang airport which handles domestic traffic as well as some international traffic, primarily of low-cost carriers. The two airports are almost 40km apart. In peak traffic, it can take close to 2 hours to get from one to another. Note the airports you are booked to arrive at or depart from. There is a free shuttle bus service that operates between the two and carries passengers with onward connections. The service operates from 5am till midnight with buses every 12 mins in peak hours and every 30 mins in off-peak hours. You can find more details here.

Pro Tip 3# – Avoid the Tuktuks

Travel folklore and publicity has made Tuk tuks into an essential part of the Bangkok experience. They are not. The more benign ones may simply overcharge by taking a circuitous route or by simply quoting an inflated price. The more pernicious ones may quote a low rate upfront and then ruin your day by coaxing you to visit tourist scam jewellery shops and tailors.

Well, I really do not want to end the post on this note. So I am back to cheery things. Apart from being a fantastic destination in itself, Bangkok is also the springboard for beachside wonders like Phuket and Krabi and Koh Samui. If you chose to head to Krabi like we did, you may stay at Ao Nang or better still at Railey. Krabi town itself is nice and quaint but far from the beach. The day trip to Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay is a compulsory inclusion if you visit Krabi (or Phuket). Maya Bay is among the prettiest spots on earth that I have set foot on.

things to do in Bangkok Krabi
Longtail boats

Final word- Bangkok will easily make it worth your time and money with the attractions that it is packed with. Let it overwhelm you with its frenetic pace and breathtaking sights, its scrumptious food and charming people. Go now!