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To Hanoi and BKK

To Hanoi and BKK

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Trip Plan Tags: 
budget,
food,
shopping
Destinations: 
Asia,
Bangkok,
Hanoi,
Thailand,
Vietnam

No Description Available.

ITEMS

See + Do

Boat Trips, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Whether by public ferry or private water taxi, leisurely cruises down the Chao Phraya River guarantee great views. Better yet, get off the river and explore some of Bangkok's extensive network of khlong, or canals—hence the city's former nickname, the Venice of the East. Long-tailed boats—Thailand's distinctive elongated canoes with giant diesel motors roaring at the stern—depart from Tha Chang Pier by the Grand Palace and from most of the riverside hotels, such as the Mandarin Oriental. There are several boat companies that operate along the river, but the largest is Chao Phraya Express Boat (66-2-623-6143; www.chaophrayaboat.co.th).

Eating

Gallery Café, Thailand

86–100 Soi Captain Bush, Charoen Krung, Soi 30
Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 639 5580

Owned by one of Asia's top antique dealers, this naturally lit, well-located restaurant near the Oriental Hotel is generously decorated with indigenous treasures and hip fashion finds from the boutique at the entrance. Load up on sparkly handbags and silky frocks while waiting for your table. Then settle in for appetizers like crispy shrimp cakes, Thai tuna salad tossed with slivers of powerful chiles, and succulent chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves. Thai curries on this extensive menu range from a mild green chicken curry to the fiery red Malaysian beef variety, all equally delicious and available vegetarian-style as well. Stir-fry chicken with cashew nuts over fragrant rice is a recommended dish for those avoiding Thai spice, though all menu items can be made mild upon request.

Open daily 10:30 am to 10:30 pm.

Eating

Bed Supperclub, Thailand

26 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 11, Klong Toey Nua
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 651 3537
Website: www.bedsupperclub.com

Celebrated chef Paul Hutt inherited a sexy display kitchen better known as an afterthought at Bangkok's perennially hot nightspot Bed Supperclub. The talented New Zealander quickly turned the popular lounging areas—yes, they actually are beds—into the city's most coveted dinner reservations. Ascend the funky pod's staircase then recline to dine on a prix fixe menu of dishes like roasted duck breast with sweet chestnut pies and asparagus in a blood orange reduction, and wok-seared lobster with green mango salad and lime bubbles. The high-decibel house music helps ensure that the crowd skews young and chatty. Across the pod, DJs keep the groove going until Bangkok's strict 2 am curfew.

Open daily 7:30 pm to 2 am.

Eating

Cabbages & Condoms, Thailand

10 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Khlong Toei
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 229 4610
Website: www.pda.or.th/restaurant/default.asp

Don't let the name fool you into thinking that this is a hot spot in the red-light district. Cabbages & Condoms is in fact a quirky, tasty restaurant in the fish market district run by a wholly respectable Thai charity, the Population and Community Development Association, devoted to helping the country's rural poor. In other words, you get to support a worthy cause while you tuck into your marinated chicken satay. Follow the little path under the Cabbages & Condoms sign, duck under a passageway through a modern building, and enter the restaurant's huge courtyard, with shade trees dripping with white holiday lights, and a sheet of water cascading quietly down a longstone wall. The food is traditional Thai with a few unexpected touches. Take a friend and share the massive mieng khum, an ancient Thai appetizer consisting of a dozen tiny nests of ingredients (lemon, dried shrimp, peanuts, ginger, deep-fried coconut, chilis, and shallots), each piled onto an herbal leaf to be wrapped up like a present and dipped into the hot, sweet sauce. For presents to take home, there's a fantastic little gift shop that sells inexpensive crafts from villages across Thailand.

Shop

Thai Khue, Vietnam

1A Hang Manh Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 828 9469
Website: www.thaikhue.com

Don't want to gift your family or friends with tacky Uncle Ho T-shirts? Nothing says "I thought of you" more than a handcrafted nose flute (or sao chim). Esoteric traditional Vietnamese musical instruments are spilling over at this fun Old Quarter shop, from mouth harps and chimes to three-stringed lutes and buffalo-horn bugles. There are also wooden rasps in the shapes of crickets, frogs, and rabbits, and, for those who want to be woodwind heroes, the saxophonelike hu-lu-si, handmade with a gourd chamber and bamboo pipes.

Open daily 7 am to 9 pm.

Shop

Old Propaganda Poster, Vietnam

122 Hang Bac Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 926 2493

Several Old Quarter stores have cashed in on the newfound appreciation of Vietnam War–era propaganda posters and their interplay of light graphics and hectoring messages ("Denounce the American Invaders" seems a recurring leitmotif). This long, narrow shop stocks more than 200 handpainted originals ($80–$100 apiece), like the image of gun-toting Vietnamese women ("The Southern Female Guerrillas Are Truly Full of Guts"), and nearly as many smaller copies ($10). Nearby Dogma is slicker—you can also get T-shirts and postcards—but the posters are all reproductions.

Open daily 8 am to 9 pm.

Shop

Mosaique, Vietnam

22 Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 928 6181

With scores of illuminated lanterns bathing the cozy display room's moss-green walls, the cheery mood inside Alan Duong's tasteful home-decor store is tempting, even if you don't need another hand-embroidered quilt or set of place mats. Of special note are the silk-covered lamps, in an astonishing array of profiles: tulip vase, temple stupa, and banana bud. Best impulse purchase? A string of ten miniature, handcrafted lanterns for $20.

Open daily 9 am to 8:30 pm.

Shop

Mai Gallery, Vietnam

113 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 828 5854
Website: www.maigallery-vietnam.com

A five-minute walk west from Apricot Gallery, this narrow, three-story showroom is the exclusive agent for up-and-coming young Vietnamese artists such as Nguyen Bao Ha, whose urban-themed abstract works have been exhibited in Singapore and Japan, and the moody, photolike portraits of Nguyen Quang Huy. The hushed, thoroughly modern space, with wall-to-wall carpeting, recessed and track lighting, and bleached-white walls, also shows works of more established artists, such as painter Tran Quang Minh, whose landscapes hang at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

Open daily 9:30 am to 8 pm.

Shop

Craft Link, Vietnam

43 Van Mieu Street, Dong Da District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 843 7710
Website: www.craftlink.com.vn

Retail with a cause, this not-for-profit shop overlooking the Temple of Literature helps Vietnamese artisans to market their crafts. The inventory includes handmade paper; lustrous lacquerware; and embroidered, indigo-dyed textiles produced by the Hmong and Dao, two hill tribes from the mountainous north. The store charges fair-trade prices and gives preference to producers who are economically disadvantaged, such as ethnic-minorities, street children, and the disabled.

Open daily 9 am to 6 pm.

Shop

Apricot Gallery, Vietnam

40B Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 828 8965
Website: www.apricot-artvietnam.com

The elongated colonial-era house that houses this respected gallery is a work of art in itself, especially the central atrium originally built for light and ventilation that now holds a fish pond and stand of pole vault–high bamboo. Hanoi's University of Fine Arts, founded in 1925, has produced more than its share of talented painters, and works by many of these artists are displayed, including the bright abstracts of Thanh Chuong and the streetscapes of Le Quan. The gallery can also custom-frame any painting, build a special crate, and ship the picture overseas via DHL or Federal Express.

Open daily 8 am to 8 pm.

Shop

Ipa-Nima, Vietnam

17 Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 928 7616
Website: www.ipa-nima.com

Former Hong Kong attorney Christina Yu traded in her briefcase a decade ago to design an ever-changing collection of whimsical and practical handbags and purses. Her accessories, which have been snapped up by Cate Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh, and Jamie Lee Curtis, combine materials such as silk, leather, or wicker with savvy style, cheery colors, and eccentric touches like mother-of-pearl, buffalo horn, and beads, a local accent. Most of the handmade bags neatly displayed on shelves inside this pocketbook-size Church Street boutique are priced at less than $150. End-of-season sales may net you a $70 twofer—perfect for stuffing with other souvenirs.

Open daily 9 am to 8 pm.

See + Do

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, Vietnam

57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 824 9494
Website: www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org

It might seem a bit hokey in an Xbox age, but this 1,000-year-old art form still manages to enchant. The best place to catch a water-puppet performance is this purpose-built theater on the east side of Hoan Kiem Lake, home to a troupe that's toured Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Hidden behind a screen, a team of ten puppeteers use elaborate articulated marionettes carved from water-resistant fig wood to re-create Vietnamese legends and folktales. A nine-piece orchestra with flutes, percussion, and dan bau—a solemn one-string zither—accompanies the performances. Even if you don't understand Vietnamese, there are enough sight gags and fire- and water-spewing dragon puppets to get the gist of brisk-moving vignettes like "Catching Frogs'' and "Boat Racing.''

There are six 45-minute performances every day, from 2:45 to 9:15 pm.

See + Do

Military History Museum, Vietnam

28A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ba Dinh District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 823 4264
Website: www.btlsqsvn.org.vn

The Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War) may be the most famous but it's certainly not the latest conflict that this resilient nation has endured (that would be a 1979 border clash with China). Four millennia of martial history are recounted at the Military History Museum. Just look for the Russian-built MiG-21 fighter jet across the street from Lenin Park. The bulk of the large collection, which is housed in a series of two-story buildings, concerns the bloody post–World War II struggles against the French, South Vietnamese, and Americans. Artifacts include a 105-millimeter cannon captured during the siege of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, pack bicycles that carried 700 pounds of supplies at a time down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and talismanic tank T-54B No. 843, which crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace during the triumphant 1975 conquest of Saigon by North Vietnamese forces.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays 8 to 11:30 am and 1 to 4:30 pm.

See + Do

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Vietnam

Ba Dinh Square
Hanoi, Vietnam

When he died in 1969, Ho Chi Minh was embalmed, in the tradition of great Communist leaders. His mausoleum was modeled after Lenin's in Moscow (and rumor has it that Ho is sent to Russian embalmers for annual touch-ups). He is now on display to the public, lying in a glass box in a simple khaki uniform, and looking a little yellow around the chops. Visitors are not allowed to carry anything while viewing the body. Arrive early to avoid the long lines as people deposit and retrieve their belongings. Tues.–Thurs. 7:30.–10:30 a.m., Sat. and Sun. 7:30–11 a.m.

See + Do

Hoan Kiem Lake, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

A good way to get your bearings in Hanoi is to take a quick stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, a pleasant 30-minute circuit. The lake is fringed with willows, myrtles, flame trees, and tamarinds. Legend has it that the 15th-century emperor Le Loi received a magic sword from the lake, which he used to expel Chinese occupiers. After his victory, he returned the weapon to a golden tortoise, which vanished with it into the lake's depths (Hoan Kiem means "restored sword"). An islet on the northern end of the lake contains the Chinese-style Ngoc Son Temple and the remains of an enormous seven-foot, 500-pound tortoise found (sword-free) in the murky lake in 1968. Admission to the isle, which is accessible by the fire-engine-red Huc footbridge, one of Hanoi's most photographed landmarks, is 2,000 Vietnamese dong (about 12 cents). It's also well worth rising at dawn to see the lake at its busiest, surrounded by locals practicing tai chi.

See + Do

Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam

1 Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 824 6358

About two thirds of the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" was demolished in the early 1990s for the construction of a high-rise apartment complex, but the penitentiary's remaining cells and dungeons were turned into a small, fascinating museum. The bulk of the exhibits (iron fetters, razor-sharp guillotine) recount the cruelty of French jailers during the colonial era, but a few rooms are devoted to the Vietnam War, when the jail held and tortured American prisoners of war. There are propaganda photographs of Hanoi residents "saving" an American pilot and of POWs preparing a Christmas dinner, as well as the flight suit and crash helmet of John McCain, who survived five long, brutal years after being shot down over Hanoi in 1967.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 8 to 11:30 am and 1:30 to 4:30 pm.

Eating

Wild Lotus, Vietnam

55A Nguyen Du Street, Hai Ba Trung District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 943 9342
Website: www.wildlotus.com.vn

Located just south of Hoan Kiem District, Wild Lotus has an ethereal elegance and even better food. Inside the walled compound, paving stones bridge a reflecting pool that leads to a staircase winding past a grotto holding a large Buddha image. Inside, the intimate rooms of this old French villa feature 13-foot ceilings, hand-painted wall murals, and lotus-theme tiles. But it's the meals that command the most attention, with gourmet Vietnamese dishes like peanut-crusted shrimp on green mango salad and grilled duck with orange sauce. The generous portions are thoughtfully presented, though some diners may prefer spicier interpretations, such as the prix fixe "spice route" meals, which explore a variety of Asian cuisines. Less formal than its upscale sister property, Wild Rice (6 Ngo Thi Nham St.; 84-4-943-8896), this rambling, romantic space appeals to expat couples and hi-so (high society) Vietnamese families and is usually packed by 7:30 pm. The third-floor terrace holds an open-air bar that's ideal for a digestif.

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Eating

Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Vietnam

77 Xuan Dieu Street
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 934 8577 or 84 4 934 8578
Website: www.bobbychinn.com

Owned by the young American chef Bobby Chinn, this hip restaurant is packed with Western ex-pats and visitors seated on the silk-pillowed banquettes. Gauzy drapes and paintings by young Vietnamese artists complete the stylish setting. You won't get the deferential service that's typical in Hanoi. Instead, servers are as casually friendly as actor-waiters in a Manhattan hot spot. Chinn combines organic Vietnamese ingredients in his inventive dishes, such as spicy sea bass in a turmeric vinaigrette or banana blossom fritters in ginger sauce. If you're lucky, the chef will sit at your table and offer an irreverent commentary on local goings-on. Sit by the windows for great views over Hoan Kiem Lake.

Eating

La, Vietnam

25 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 928 8933

This ten-table find has everything a good bistro requires: a neighborhood following, innovative comfort food, terrific ambience, and moderate-enough prices to encourage repeat business. The small menu ranges from hearty German-style pork loin in a mustard sauce with braised sweet onions and mashed herbed potatoes to more Asian-inspired flavors, such as crab cakes with a piquant chile mayonnaise. A few Vietnamese dishes are also available. The wines are adjusted seasonally, as is the menu, since nearly every ingredient is sourced locally. The space, which features the woodblock prints of British artist Simon Redington, draws a steady stream of in-the-know expats and walk-in tourists on time-out from shopping at nearby Church Quarter boutiques such as Ipa-Nima and Mosaique.

Open daily 9:30 am to 11 pm.

Eating

KOTO, Vietnam

59 Van Mieu Street, Dong Da District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 747 0337
Website: www.koto.com.au/koto_hanoi.asp

Just across the street from the 1,000-year-old Temple of Literature, this teaching restaurant offers an educational opportunity for hundreds of Vietnamese—and a delicious, affordable lunch for customers. KOTO (the acronym stands for "Know One, Teach One") is the creation of Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-Korean raised in Australia, who founded the nonprofit restaurant to train disadvantaged youth and former street kids. The menu, which is sprinkled with inspirational quotes by Confucius and Dr. Albert Schweitzer, offers a broad range of Vietnamese dishes, including bun cha and nem tom (rice-paper rolls stuffed with prawns and herbs). KOTO is a popular lunch spot, but the four-story, 120-seat eatery can accommodate the crush. Photos of past KOTO grads hang from the walls of the busy ground floor, which has a mix of table and stool seating. For a more leisurely meal, climb the narrow staircase to the second-floor Temple Bar—which is outfitted with ceiling fans, muted lanterns, and long, low banquettes and cushions—and sip a Temple Tipple (Havana Club rum, lime, honey, and lemongrass) while sending gloating e-mail (Wi-Fi is free), or dine alfresco on the roof's Treetop Terrace.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 7 am to 10 pm, Mondays 7 am to 5 pm.

Eating

Green Tangerine, Vietnam

48 Hang Be Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 825 1286

Customers who retreat from the retail hustle of Hang Be Street must feel they've stepped through some sort of Second Empire looking glass. The lengthy interior of this 1928 colonial house holds trompe l'oeil paintings, a motorcycle sidecar, wrought-iron café tables, and a central open-air atrium dripping with ivy. The French-with-a-twist menu brings an Asian edge to old-world recipes in dishes like salmon fillet in tamarind and red-wine sauce and a waffle with lemongrass and Provençal herbs. Not convinced? Try the green tea cheesecake, with a subtle jasmine perfume that complements the pistachio crust. The largely foreign clientele splits between expats and travelers.

Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.

Eating

Emperor, Vietnam

18B Le Thanh Tong
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 4 826 8801

If you don't get a chance to make it to Hué (some 300 miles away), go instead to this shrine to the imperial city's cuisine. Emperor may just be Hanoi's most beautiful restaurant, set in a villa with a two-story pagoda-style outdoor pavilion strung with twinkling lights. Hué specialties served here include a rice pancake stuffed with toothsome morsels of pork. Other main courses include savory eggplant with garlic served in a clay pot, and a delicious tangle of rice vermicelli with crabmeat, peppers, seaweed, and egg.

Eating

Cha Ca La Vong, Vietnam

14 Cha Ca
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 3929

This bare-bones eatery in the Old City market district has been around for more than a century. The service is monosyllabic and there are no napkins, only plastic-wrapped wipes. There is no menu, either, because the place serves only one dish. But that one dish—fried fish—is absolutely delicious. Each set of two to four diners gets a miniature charcoal brazier with a skillet filled with sizzling pieces of fish, tinted with turmeric. While the fish cooks, diners toss basil, dill, cilantro, and scallions into the pan then anoint the fish with various piquant condiments. The fish comes with sides of rice noodles and crushed peanuts. Beer and soft drinks are available.

Eating

Café Lam, Vietnam

60 Nguyen Huu Huan
Hanoi, Vietnam

One of Hanoi's oldest cafés, this slightly musty one-room establishment is practically a historical monument. Its proprietor, Nguyen Lam, provided coffee and often loans to the city's impoverished artist community during the war, and rumor has it that he is sitting on an art collection now worth a fortune. He serves Vietnamese-style hot and iced coffee (with thick, sweet condensed milk) to a crowd of faithful regulars.

See + Do

The Old Quarter, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is the only city in Vietnam to retain its ancient merchants' quarter, and its narrow streets, packed with fruit and vegetable markets, have housed the city's artisans and tradesmen for five centuries. Each street was named after the craft guild that it formerly housed—Hang Be was the place for rafts, Hang Hong for incense, Losu for coffins—and even today these lanes and alleys tend to specialize in one item, such as silver, silk, or, in the case of Pho Hang Ma ("Counterfeit Street"), the votive papers incinerated by devout Buddhists to bring good luck and prosperity. The heart of the area is Lo Ren and Thuoc Bac streets, where blacksmiths and tinsmiths thrash, knock, cut, and weld metal into everything from mirror frames to cooking pots. Take a few minutes to pop into 87 Ma May Street, a 19th-century "tube house" (so-called for its long, narrow design, which features a pair of atria for ventilation) that was once a private home and has been restored as a small museum.

See + Do

The French Quarter, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Lying to the south and east of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi's French Quarter has grand boulevards and elegant French colonial buildings. These include the stately Opera House, based on the neo-Baroque Paris Opera, complete with gray slate tiles imported from France. One block east of the Opera House is Hanoi's Museum of History, an elaborate blend of Vietnamese palace and French villa, a style that came to be called Neo-Vietnamese. Trang Tien, the main artery of the French Quarter, is still a busy shopping street where you'll find bookshops and art galleries as well as cafés and hotels.

Eating

Mango Tree, Thailand

37 Soi Anumarn Rachthon off Suriwong, Bangrak
Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 236 2820
Website: www.coca.com/mangotree/index.php

When Bangkok locals want to celebrate a big occasion, they book a table at this elegant Thai restaurant—either in the entry courtyard, where live traditional music and (Thursday through Saturday) Thai dance accompanies dinner, or in a fancy, quieter wooden booth inside. Cross the faded Oriental carpet and lower yourself into a booth or pad across a raised dais to recline against cushions around a shin-high table. The classic Thai food is exquisitely presented, well prepared, and doesn't cater to farang (foreign) palates by lowering the chili pepper quotient. The recipes here, like shrimp stir-fried in Choo Chee curry sauce, can be five-alarm hot. You've been warned.

Eating

Kai Thod Jai Kee, Thailand

137 Soi Polo, Wittayu Road, Phatumwan
Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 251 2772

It may just be a basic storefront down a dusty alley off one of Bangkok's main arteries, but the owner of Kai Thod Jai Kee has sold enough finger-licking chicken, shredded papaya salad (available extra spicy upon request), and bamboo baskets of sticky rice to send his many children to overseas universities, build family homes around Thailand, and amass a collection of Benzes. Nearly everyone who takes a seat at the metal dining tables orders the addictively juicy, tender fried chicken topped with deep-fried shaved Thai garlic, and the eye-openingly spicy papaya salad. (In fact, that's all they serve.) Eyes open even wider at the shockingly reasonable prices.

Open daily 7 am to 10 pm.

Shop

Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Thailand

Lumpini Park, Wittayu Road, Phatumwan
Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Website: www.suanlum-nightbazaar.com/EN/index.php

After-hours bargain hunters unearth endless treasures amid the kitsch in the night market's 35 acres of shops. Wide, covered walkways and the occasional air-conditioned boutique create a more dignified, comfortable shopping experience than the famed Chatuchak Weekend Market. Vendors here sell everything from handmade paper to custom leather golf bags, vintage lamps to edgy accessories. Palm reading, Thai massage, and the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre entertain nonshoppers. Look for innovative homeware design in the Lopburi Zone and this season's fashions in the Ayutthaya Zone. After the retail whirlwind, have dinner in the market's sprawling football field of a beer garden while watching a kitsch-tastic procession of cover bands.

Open daily 5 pm to 12 am.

Shop

Siam Square, Thailand

Phayathai Road, Phatumwan
Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 694 1222

This veritable shopping sprawl stretches across central Bangkok from Rama 1 Road to Chulalongkorn University and from Phayathai Road to Henri Dunant Road. Trendy young Thais flock to this maze of tiny boutiques to keep their closets stocked with the latest looks. No surprise, then, that one of the most popular boutiques should be called "It Happened to Be a Closet." Here walls are hung with Indian embroidered dresses and weighty Central Asian skirts displayed like works of art (226 Siam Square, Soi 3; 66-2-658-4696). The youthful groove goes Himalayan at nearby Issue where Mongolian blankets are recut as fitted blazers (266/10 Siam Square, Soi 3; 66-2-658-4416). Sneakerheads and hip-hop kids head to Kinky shop for fresh finds like limited-edition kicks and graphic-prints tees (Under Ground Lido Theatre, Siam Square, Soi 2; 66-2-252-0334). Break for cupcakes at Vanilla Industry (422/1–3 Siam Square, Soi 11; 66-2-658-4720) or for mango and sticky rice at the adorable Mango Tango café (226/1 Siam Square, Soi 2; 66-2-658-3829).

American-size shoppers may initially be shocked by the often childlike size range—a women's medium is an XL here. But it's worth the slight hit to your self-esteem when you see the low prices being charged for these handmade, often one-of-a-kind creations. If you find something you like, just buy it; its difficult to trace your way back through this warren of bargains.

Shop

Narai Phand, Thailand

127 Ratchadamri Road, Pathumwan
Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 252 4670
Website: www.naraiphand.com/aboutus.php

An excellent alternative to the madness of Chatuchak Market, this handicrafts center across the street from the Central World Plaza is backed by the Thai government and provides one-stop souvenir shopping in an air-conditioned, modern department store environment. Over several floors you'll find all variety of neatly organized stations; a few sell the same touristy baubles you'll find in every other bazaar, but with patience and a discerning eye, you'll also find items that are hipper, more sophisticated, and of higher quality. The first floor has textiles, clothing, and home accessories like silk pillowcases. The second floor is a bonanza of lacquerware, celadon, elaborately decorated tea sets, Thai dancing dolls, and figurines of all materials; a small selection of traditional Thai musical instruments and a stock of crystal ship models of Thai dragon boats are worth a look even if you're not in the mood to buy. On the third floor you can invest in an enormous wooden elephant statue or marvel at the stock of furniture made from recycled wood—most of the pieces look like they still belong in the forest from which they came. This is not the type of store where you can bargain, but don't despair—prices are reasonable.

Shop

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Hop the extremely efficient MRT underground rail to Bangkok's famous weekend market but do not get off at Chatuchak Park Station. Exit instead at Kamphaeng Phet Station, which delivers shoppers straight into the market madness of more than 10,000 stalls crammed with crafts, flowers, antiques, clothes, and unrecognizable exoticisms. Tourists and Thais alike bargain hard here, but the most experienced shoppers break for fresh juice and snacks at Viva in Section 26, a series of lanes filled with silver jewelry and hill tribe frocks. Protect yourself from mosquitoes organically with the spray and body lotion available only at Lemongrass House (Shop 502, Section 5, Soi 3). Pick up a copy of Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok with its dedicated Chatuchak map, though casual strollers will be satisfied to roam the outer lanes near the MRT exit, taking note of the return path. Though there are information booths, maps, restrooms, and ATMs at all main entrances, urban myths abound about those who get lost among the live caged animals here.

Open Saturdays and Sundays 8 am to 6 pm.

Eating

The Deck, Thailand

36–38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road, Rattanakosin Island
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Tel: 66 2 221 9158
Website: www.arunresidence.com/dining.htm

Savvy diners who can find the barely marked, shrine-filled alley across from Wat Pho will be gastronomically and visually rewarded at this waterfront café (follow the signs for the Arun Residence across from the main entrance to Wat Pho). Watch the pale-pink sunset against the spires of the Temple of the Dawn while sipping the signature Arun Surprise cocktail (vodka with fresh lychee and citrus juices). The cardiologist owners converted this 80-year-old house into a funky five-room guesthouse, and the restaurant keeps patrons' health in mind with dishes like red snapper grilled with dill sauce. But they also indulge diners with Australian sirloin, spicy Thai curries, and desserts like lavender crème brulée and homemade ice cream.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays through Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.