We could have easily written a piece entitled “1001 things to Love About Bangkok” but 101 things seemed more fitting (and more manageable)
After speaking with staff, friends, friends of friends, and a few complete strangers, we compiled a list of some unique things that make this manic metropolis both liveable and loveable. The submissions run the gamut from favourite bars and restaurants, to the one-of-a-kind oddities that you’ll find nowhere else but in Thailand’s capital and its environs. We’ve skipped over a few of the more obvious attractions—such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, floating markets, etc.—as they can be found in every what-to-do list. Instead we give shout-outs to the places and things that newcomers love to hear about and long term residents still like experiencing.
Essentially this is a list of things that people immediately thought of when asked “name something you love about Bangkok”. It’s also not a “best of” list in any way, but rather a series of random snapshots showing the diversity of this town. In addition, we’ve included 10 hand-picked choices from award-winning journalist and regular contributor Joe Cummings (called “Joe’s Picks”), as well as some cocktail favourites from drink specialist Craig Sauers. These highlighted items are interspersed throughout the list, which itself is loosely divided into 10 basic categories.
Must-See City Sites
# 1 Wat Arun
This magnificent Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River is listed a must-see attraction in every Bangkok guide book, but viewing it lit up at night, especially from the Deck by the River restaurant at the Arun Residence Hotel (36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong), is an unforgettable sight.
# 2 Lumphini Park
This 360 rai downtown park, which was originally the private land of King Rama VI, became open to the public in 1952. It’s often called Bangkok’s “green lung”, and during the cooler months (December to February), there are free live orchestra concerts on Sundays. However, almost any day of the year you can find visitors here—riding paddle boats on the artificial lake, checking out the few remaining giant water monitor lizards in the canals, or gathering at dusk to jog along the park’s many winding paths. Open daily: 5am-9pm
# 3 The Golden Mount
Phu Khao Thong (the golden mountain) is a steep artificial hill inside the Wat Saket compound—a historic temple built during the reign of King Rama I. The man-made hill, completed during the reign of King Rama V, has a golden chedi at its summit, where sacred Buddha relics are enshrined. Before the city’s love affair with skyscrapers this was the tallest structure in Bangkok, and it remains a great place to enjoy 360-degree panoramic city views. In mid-November, Wat Saket hosts a massive temple fair, which features food, games, entertainment, and some very strange carnival sideshow attractions. Open daily: 7:30am-5:30pm, Admission: B10
# 4 Erawan Shrine
Located right in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok hotel, the Erawan Shrine—which is Brahman, not strictly Buddhist—has been hugely popular since it was erected back in the mid 1950s. Day and night worshippers come to pray to the four-faced, gold-covered statue of Brahma, while many devotees hire the shrine’s dancers to perform and sing a prayer for them while two xylophone players and one drummer provide the exotic soundtrack. And since the infamous Erawan bombing incident of August 2015, in which 16 people were killed, the site has become more revered than ever.
494 Rajdamri Rd, BTS Chit Lom Station
# 5 Sri Mariamman Temple
Built in the 1860s by Tamil immigrants, the Sri Mariamman Temple features a six-meter tower wrapped in intertwined, full-colour Hindu deities, and topped by a gold-plated copper dome. Inside the main shrine are altars to three main deities: Maha Uma Devi (also known as Shakti, Shiva’s consort) at the center; her son Khanthakumara on the right; and her elephant-headed son Ganesha on the left. Unlike at most Hindu temples found in India or elsewhere in Asia, people of any race or religion are welcome here. Thai devotees come to pray along with Indians as the Hindu gods figure just as prominently in their individualistic approach to religion. Interior walls are lined with rows of Shivas, Vishnus and other Hindu deities, as well as a few Buddhas. The Maha Uma Devi image is attended by white-robed Brahmins who accept offerings from the faithful in return for a dollop of red paste applied to worshipers’ foreheads during puja times. My favorite time to visit is during the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, when both the temple and Pan Road explode with the colour of the religious parades.
Pan Rd (at Silom), Tel: 02 238 4007
Where To Eat / What To Eat
# 6 Baked Goods
Bangkok is home to hundreds of superb bakeries and pastry shops. If you don’t know where to start, try the highly recommended French pastries at Paris Mikki—a must-visit for anyone with an unstoppable sweet tooth.
27, Sukhumvit Soi 19, Tel: 088 870 0020
# 7 Sushi-Mania
It may come as a surprise that Thailand’s biggest expat community is the Japanese, however when you count all the sushi restaurants in town it becomes less of a surprise. There are hundreds to choose from but if you’re near the Asok junction drop in on at Sonie Sushi & Bar, a cool and casual spot with a very talented chef.
118/21-24, Sukhumvit Soi 23, Tel: 02 662 2779
# 8 Cosmopolitan Cuisine
When it comes to dining in Bangkok you can always opt for Thai, but the amount of other national cuisines represented here is astonishing—from Spanish, to Indian, to Korean, to Peruvian. You even sample the cuisine of Nepal with a visit to the highly recommended Himalaya Restaurant (the only Nepalese restaurant in town… so far).
235/5 Soi Sawatdi, Sukhumvit Soi 31, Tel: 02 258 4489
# 9 Restaurant Overload
The dining scene in Bangkok could warrant a top 101 list of its own, and it is, without a doubt, one of the main things to LOVE about this city. Restaurants run the gamut from traditional Thai, to haute French cuisine, to authentic Italian pizzerias. So whether you’re willing to be put on the months-long waiting list to get a table at Gaggan, or you just want some down and dirty street food served up fast on a Silom side street, this town is a foodie mecca. Obviously we can’t namecheck every great restaurant in town, so instead just regard the few personal recommendations we’ve included as the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”.
# 10 Sühring
Berlin-born twin brothers Mathias and Thomas Sühring learned their craft in Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, before making their mark in Bangkok as head chefs at Mezzaluna, a high-tone Italian dining room at LeBua State Tower. Now that they have their own restaurant, in a 1970s house filled with period-correct furniture to match, the Sührings work within their own heritage, while at the same time dispelling perceptions of German cuisine as sausages and sauerkraut. Two tasting menus of nine and 12 courses change seasonally. A dish I enjoy immensely was the Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth), consisting of black pudding, crisped onions, mashed potato, and spiced apple puree. The späzle, a soft handmade egg noodle mixed with wood garlic and Allgäuer mountain cheese, is another of their mind-blowing treats.
10, Yen Akat Soi 3, Tel: 02 287 1799
# 11 Café Culture
While half of this town run on Red Bull, the other half gets its kicks from caffeine. Bangkok is home to so many cafés, coffee houses, and roasters that the choice can be overwhelming (we devoted a whole issue to it back in September). D’Ark is as good a place as any to start—it has three Bangkok locations—as they serve up quality joe and great grub as well.
# 12 Supannigga Eating Room
Chef-owner Thanaruek Laoraowirodge focuses on family tradition with a menu of home-cooked recipes coming mostly from his late grandmother from Trat, on Thailand’s eastern seaboard. The simple dining rooms of the quaint three-story Thonglor shophouse fill each evening with devotees enjoying Pla Som Tod (sour and garlicky fish cakes), Gaeng Ki Lek Nue Yang (sliced grilled beef in coconut milk and young ki lek leaves), and a miraculous Ka Lum Tod Nam Pla (plain cabbage stir-fried in high-grade fish sauce from Trat). Cleaving to its coastal province origins, the menu includes plenty of fresh, quality seafood, whether carefully selected crabmeat in Pu Jah (crab and pork sausage steamed inside crab shells) or Yum Tua Puu Goong Sod (crunchy winged bean salad with prawns and boiled egg in a chili paste dressing).
160/11, Sukhumvit Soi 55, Tel: 02 714 7508 (second location at 28, Sathorn 10)
# 13 Gourmet Chefs Galore
There are lots of amazing chefs here in Bangkok—Ian Kittichai (Issaya Siamese Club), David Thompson (Nahm), and Thitid Tassanakajohn (Le Du), just to name a few—but this town is also graced by scores of top-rated visiting chefs from all over the world. From annual events such as The World Gourmet Festival and the SO Amazing Chefs event, to the S.Pellegino and Acqua Panna Fine Dining Lovers Guest Chef events and the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, local foodies have plenty of opportunities to experience haute cuisine of the highest caliber.
# 14 Cooking Classes
Whether you’re here to visit, or you’ve lived here for many years, it’s never a bad idea to spend a fun morning or afternoon learning how to cook some of your favourite Thai dishes. The options are endless when it comes to who’s giving the lessons, but you can’t go far wrong at either the Blue Elephant Cooking School or Osha Café’s Cooking School.
Drink Spots & nightlife
# 15 Bangkok Pride
Every Sunday Maggie Choo’s bar (320 Silom Rd) goes gay, as drag queen Pangina Heals—surrounded by his team—sings, dances, tells bad jokes, and teases a crowd of mostly young upper-class Thais and expats. Meanwhile, over at DJ Station (Silom Soi 2), there’s a cheap and cheerful 30-minute drag-queen show that takes place every night around 10:30pm (only B150 during the week, and B300 on Fridays and Saturdays). Overall Bangkok is a pretty gay-friendly town, so leave your inhibitions at the door.
# 16 AD Here The 13th
On Facebook this small, funky bar promotes itself as “Adhere,” which makes me think of glue, and once I’m in for the evening I’m usually stuck fast to my seat listening to the finest live blues and R&B anywhere in the city. Negotiate your way through the long narrow room, with a tiny stage wedged in against the left wall and rows of well-worn tables and chairs along the right, past several rows of vinyl album covers and street art to reach the bar at the back. Clientele is a mix of Thai artists and musos, international expats, and seasoned backpackers who have escaped nearby Khao San Road. The house band, Banglampoo Blues Band, has recorded a couple of CDs. They usually play Saturday night only, while on other nights local solo and group acts fill the bill.
13 Samsen Rd (at Samsen Soi 1), 089 769 4613
# 17 WTF Bar & Gallery
WTF occupies a three-story shophouse, right between Zudrangma Records and Studio Lam, a heady triumvirate that could qualify narrow Sukhumvit 51 as Bangkok’s hipster headquarters. On the ground floor, decked out with vintage tiles and Thai movie posters, a small but well-stocked bar supplies both old-school cocktails such as Sazerac de Justine, Horse’s Neck, Manhattan, and Rob Roy, as well as original rum-based punches like Jungle Bird and Muay Thai Punch. I usually choose from the collection of imported bourbons and ryes—on the rocks. The eclectic house playlist could have come from a Gilles Peterson BBC Radio 1 show, ranging from R&B, funk, and jazz to Afrobeat, hip-hop, and Latin. The white-walled upper two floors are dedicated to exhibitions of local and international artists, including work by photographer Christopher Wise, who is a co-owner. At the most popular exhibitions, the crowd overflow extends into the alley, creating impromptu street parties.
7, Sukhumvit Soi 51, Tel: 02 662 6246
# 18 Aderholt’s Annex
Most often referred to as JUSMAG, this American-style bar—which is located inside the fortified compound of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG), so you need to relinquish your ID in order to enter—offers exceedingly cheap craft beers and bar shots (since the booze isn’t subject to import duties). Of course, it’s only open till 10pm so it’s more of a “start the evening” hangout.
7 Sathorn Sai Tai, Tel: 02 287 1036
# 19 Jam Sessions
The funky 6th floor open air Sky Train Jazz Bar is a cool hangout on its own, but every Monday evening, for quite a few years now, the joint has been turned over to a rag-tag group of local musicians (farangs and Thais alike) who put on an “anything goes” open-mic style jam session—to call it eclectic would be an understatement! The caliber of the players, most of whom play regularly in other bands, is top-notch, but the mood is always casual, since most people in the audience know most of the people performing.
6 Rang Nam Rd, Tel: 02 640 0303
# 20 Sky Bars
It’s hard not to love all the amazing, vertigo-inducing sky bars that Bangkok has to offer. The most iconic is unquestionably Sirocco at the Lebua State Tower (it made a brief cameo in the film The Hangover 2), but new ones are launching all the time. Just this past year saw the opening of Char (Hotel Indigo), Brewski (Radisson Blu), Sky on 20 (Novotel Sukhumvit 20), and Attitude (Avani Riverside).
# 21 Viva 8
Sunday afternoons at the Viva 8 outdoor bar (Section 8, Chatuchak Weekend Market), are great for people-watching. The cold beer and the hot music are two of the best ways to forget about work on Monday. And if you’re there on one of the days when Spanish chef Fernando is making one of his huge platters of paella, all the better.
# 22 Jazz Clubs
For more than two decades Brown Sugar—formerly on Sarasin Rd, but now on Phrasumen Rd—has been giving lovers of smooth jazz a steady line-up of regular performers as well as international and touring acts on the last Friday and Saturday of the month. Of course, there are many other jazz spots in town, and more opening all the time—including the relaunched Check Inn 99 which now has a home above Zaks restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 11 and hosts a Saturday afternoon blues cabaret and a Sunday afternoon jazz cabaret.
# 23 Jack’s Bar
Want a drink spot on the river that won’t break the bank? This ramshackle wooden bar is located between the Shangri-La Hotel and the Peninsula Pier, just a short walk from the Saphan Taksin bridge. It’s a popular—very casual—after-work spot to grab a cold beer, some great food, and watch the boats go by on the river.
# 24 Smalls
Many of the city’s hardcore expats, especially hospitality pros and creative types, claim this corner shophouse-turned-three-storey-bar as their “local”. The owner is legendary celebrity photographer-turned-nightlife-specialist David Jacobson, who holds court here with his many regulars six nights a week (the bar is closed on Tuesdays). Expect eclectic DJs, the occasional live jazz performance, top-shelf booze, amazing art on the walls, and some of the city’s most fascinating barflys.
Suan Plu Soi 1, Tel: 095 585 1398
# 25 Wong’s
Where does one begin when talking about Wong’s? It’s an institution for anyone who likes their last call around dawn. Within this narrow, noisy, smoke-filled chamber you’ll find a complete cross-section of Bangkok barflys—from down-and-out English teachers, to Thai celebrities and drag queens, and the feeling you might have after an all-night bender is affectionately known as a ‘Wongover’.
23/3 Soi Si Bamphen, Rama IV Rd, Tel: 081 901 0235
# 26 Iron Balls Gin
If you’ve spent any time trolling the city’s hippest night clubs, then you’ll no doubt know the name Ashley Sutton, one of Bangkok’s most successful designers of bars and clubs (including the soon-to-be opened Dreadnaught at the Avani Riverside). Now, after years of designing and managing venues for other people, he’s gone into the gin manufacturing business and although his excellent, locally produced Iron Balls gin is available at many Bangkok venues, a trip to his Iron Balls Distillery is really the place to get the whole experience (open from 6pm till 1am).
18 Park Lane Bldg, Sukhumvit Soi 63, Tel: 02 714 2269
# 27 Cocktail Craze
Bangkok is definitely home to some of the most creative cocktail craftsmen (and women) this side of the Nevada line. It would take too long to name them all, but our Bangkok 101 resident barhopper Craig Sauers has a particular soft spot for these three locales:
Teens of Thailand, on Soi Nana in Chinatown, is for me the best gin joint in Bangkok. It feels like the kind of place that would appear in a Wong Kar-wai film. The team, headed by Niks Anuman-Rajadhon, comes up with a new specials menu before opening each night, and the cocktails always hit the mark—even for those leery of gin.
Vesper, on Soi Convent, will blow you away with their cocktails. Devised by award-winning Pailin ‘Milk’ Sajjanit and inspired by Europe’s spirit-forward classics, they might be the most well-balanced in town (try one of the barrel-aged selections for a real treat).
Backstage Cocktail Bar is home to six ‘Diageo World Class’ bartenders, with delightfully irreverent senses of humour, who operate a burlesque-themed drink spot where “nothing is serious behind the curtain, except for cocktails”. It’s probably the only place in Bangkok that regularly—and successfully—uses ingredients like beetroot-infused tequila, saffron-infused gin, and rhubarb (that sorely misunderstood vegetable) in drinks.
# 28 Live Music
It may seem like there’s music blasting from every corner in Bangkok, but if you want something a little beyond Filipino cover bands doing “Hotel California” for the millionth time, check out this city’s rapidly developing live music scene. At Fatty’s Bar & Diner a steady and devoted following—mostly punk rock loving expats—come for the excellent burgers and imported beers, as well as the live bands that perform (with the band taking up almost as much space as the customers in this tiny, out-of-the-way club). An equally compact spot is Soul Bar, in Chinatown, where the vibe is all about funk and soul. Highly recommended!
# 29 Wine Bars
More and more Thais have begun to embrace wine as fervently as the expat community, which is why more and more wine bars have been opening up. And while most offer amazing selections, About Eatery serves nothing but natural, organic, or bio-dynamic wines. Throw in some tasty Mediterranean-style fare, a cozy interior, and a knowledgeable owner—Guilio Saverino—and we say cheers to that!
GF, Ocean Tower II, Sukhumvit Soi 21, Tel: 081 920 0740
# 30 Thong lor
Officially labelled as Sukhumvit Soi 55, the frentic avenue popularly known as Thong Lor is like a microcosm of all things hipster. From long-standing venues such as Iron Fairies, to the newcomer lifestyle complexes 72 Courtyard and The Commons, this street is “where it’s at” for a vast majority of the city’s young urban elite. At times the pace—and the prices—are a bit out of hand, but you won’t be starved for choices when it comes to wining and dining.
# 31 Soi Nana
If you tell a taxi driver you’re going to “Nana” he might think you’re off to Nana Plaza, one of the city’s notorious red light districts. However, the Soi Nana we recommend is a tiny laneway in Chinatown that has become an artistic hub and hipster hangout. If you haven’t been to 23 Bar & Gallery, Tep Bar, El Chiringuito, or the newly opened BaNana Press art gallery, then you haven’t been hanging with the “cool kids”.
# 32 Khao San Road
While its charms may wear thin quickly for long term residents, a visit to Khao San Road—backpacker ground zero, located in the Old City—is a must on any first-time visitor’s list. Admittedly it’s garish, noisy, and chaotic, but for many that’s the whole allure. If you haven’t been lately, make a Saturday afternoon visit and join the throngs of 20-something tourists while you get a street massage or peruse some tacky souvenirs. After about half an hour you’ll get into the vacation vibe of the place and forget your troubles (for a while). And don’t forget to explore the neighbouring Rambuttri and Phra Athit Roads, which are actually much cooler.
# 33 Kudi Jeen
One of Bangkok’s oldest neighbourhoods was originally settled in 1770 by Portuguese merchants, who established a simple wooden church known in Thai as Kudi Jeen (Arun Amarin Soi 4, off Arun Amarin Rd). The name means “Chinese cloister”, apparently a reference to the fact that many Chinese converts joined the congregation in later years. The adjacent community is one of the last areas in Bangkok where almost all local architecture is of wood. Tall two-story homes house a tight-knit Chinese-Portuguese community, complete with home bakeries where the egg-y pastries hark back to Portuguese recipes. Many of the homes bear entry gates emblazoned with medallions of the Virgin Mary or other Catholic symbols. The church as it stands today dates to 1916, replacing the original wooden version, which had undergone renovation only once, in 1835. Renamed Church of Santa Cruz, it was later rebuilt as today’s considerably larger Romanesque-style church by renowned Italian architects Annibale Rigotti and Mario Tamagno. A spacious courtyard features a tidy garden, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a large crucifix. The church itself—open weekends only—harbours a magnificent wooden sculpture of Jesus dating to the Ayutthaya period, but it is displayed only on Catholic festival days.
# 34 Soi Cowboy
While we’re not condoning all the behaviour that takes place along this naughty thoroughfare, Soi Cowboy is undeniably a Bangkok landmark. The street itself—named after a US Vietnam War vet who always wore a cowboy hat—is just a few blocks long, but it’s home to a dazzling array of neon lights, making it look like a “Vegas of vice”. It’s almost a rite-of-passage to walk down it at least once and be flabbergasted at the zany madness of it all.
# 35 Soi Ari
From a frothy cappuccino at Casa Lapin, to an endless array of dining options, including Fat Bird, Salt, Lay Lao, and Casa Azul, Soi Ari (technically known as Phahon Yothin Soi 7) lies at the heart of one of Bangkok’s quaintest neighbourhoods. This laid-back locale, easily accessible from the Ari BTS station, is also home to many tasty street food vendors, mom and pop shops, and chilled out residents.
# 36 Soi Phrom Chit
According to Google maps, the road that’s home to a who’s who of some of the city’s top names in fine dining—think Peppina, Cocotte, Whale’s Belly, and Seed—is known as Soi Phrom Chit, even though some businesses along this stretch of pavement list their addresses as Sukhumvit Soi 27, 33, 39, etc. Despite the confusion, this crooked thoroughfare is something of a foodie mecca, listing Beirut, Bao and Buns, and Baagadin as some of its other tantalizing tenants.
# 37 W District
Years ago the neigbourhood around Phra Khanong BTS station was pretty sleepy, but it has sprung to life since the opening of the W District community mall (Sukhumvit Soi 69-71). Here you’ll find the Hof Art Gallery, the stylish Beat Hotel, and the popular W Market outdoor beer garden, surrounded by plenty of food stalls and shops, as well as colourful murals and sculptures. Meanwhile, on the streets surrounding this complex are some cool drink spots including Casa Teo, Wishbeer Home Bar, and Ma-Rum-Ba.
# 38 Soi Suan Phlu
You could call Soi Suan Phlu the “home of a hundred haircuts”, as it boasts an inordinate number of barbershops, but it’s also home to an inordinate number of great food and drink spots. From the high-end Japanese fare at Kom Ba Wa, to the boat noodle soup at Shebeen Dive Bar, there are plenty of dining options—and excellent late night street food as well. For chilling there’s Café Neighbour during the day, and at night Junker and Bar and Smalls are the two of the street’s liveliest drink spots.
# 39 Sukhumvit Soi 11
Although by the time you read this there will only be a few months left to enjoy some of Sukhumvit Soi 11’s most iconic restaurants and drink spots—Cheap Charlie’s, The Alchemist, Charley Brown’s and Tapas Café—there’s still an array of bars and restaurants on this strip worth noting. Above Eleven, Havana Social, Wolff’s Jazz Bar, Oskar, and Brew Beers & Ciders are some of the newer and more stylish joints, but for old-school retro charm you can’t beat the pig’s knuckle feast you can get at the Old German Beer House.
Diversions & explorations
# 40 Walking Food Tour
For an intersting walking tour with a lot of eating thrown in, try Chili Paste Tours. Your guide is the extremely knowledgeable Chinnapatt Chongtong, and during her lively culinary trips through Bangkok’s Old Town she introduces visitors to the intricacies of Thai cuisine, as well as the local communities she knows so well. email@example.com
# 41 City Cycling
Make your own tour using the Pun Pun city bike-sharing service. After paying the initial B300 fee you can ride around free, from early morning to late evening. The registration office is at Chulalongkorn University—behind Chamchuri Square.
# 42 Transport Tour
From cutting your way through the city by water taxi, to a private canal trip on a longtail boat, to a zippy tuk-tuk ride, the Bangkok Multi Transport tour offered by Smiling Albino reveals the fascinating inter-connectivity of the capital from the inside out. It’s just one of this tour operator’s many customizable Bangkok day/night trips.
# 43 Charlie’s Canal Tours
Many hire blaring long-tail boats to cruise along the Chao Phraya River and through its maze of captivating khlongs (canals), but there’s an affable Virginia gentleman named Charlie who operates Buakao (White Lotus), a simple, unpretentious river cruiser that can comfortably seat up to 10 persons. Buakao makes for a perfect private river expedition to truly discover why Bangkok was once called the “Venice of the East”. Charlie’s been navigating the backwaters here for years, and can lead you to secret places—from lush orchid farms to secluded temples where feeding the resident fish earns you merit. The charter rate is B1,500 an hour. Tel: 081 837-5501, firstname.lastname@example.org
# 44 Chinatown Bike Tours
In Bangkok’s Chinatown, forgotten temples and exotic markets spill onto the streets, but bike tours like the ones offered by Spice Roads—a specialized niche bicycle tour operator, established in 2000—can help novices navigate. Their gentle 22 km ride, which begins in Chinatown, also takes in lesser-known temple sites, including the Princess Mother Memorial Park (one of the city’s “hidden gems”).
# 45 Hivesters
The ‘Appear Project’, organized by the travel group HiveSters, offers excellent daytrips to local, traditional communities in Bangkok that are in danger of disappearing forever as the city develops around them. There are six tours in all, including the communities of Nang Loeng, Koh Sarn Chao, and Hua Takhe. At each of the six locales you can partake in different interesting activities and learn about the community’s individual heritage.
# 46 Wachirabenchathat Park
Try a self-guided bike tour of Wachirabenchathat Park, which is better known by its nickname Suan Rodfai. It opened in July of 2002 and has been a haven for nature lovers ever since, with multiple cycling and jogging paths. Bike rentals start at B20 per hour, and the rental shops are located near the front entrance and parking lot. The park is located just north of Chatuchak Park (Mo Chit BTS station, or Chatuchak Park MRT station).
# 47 Bang Krachao
There are lots of tours taking cyclists to the leafy jungle terrain known as Bang Krachao, in Samut Prakan (commonly referred to as the “green lungs of Bangkok”), but only PAWA Greentech Ltd. offers Bamboo Bicycle Tours. These eco-friendly bikes are not only strong, but also offer a smooth ride, which is great for a 4.5 hour cycling tour.
# 48 Koh Kret
The man-made island of Koh Kret is not within Bangkok proper, but it’s worth the journey outside the city limits to visit this artisan isle which is known for its skilled pottery craftsmen. Exploring the many shops, restaurants, and landmarks is engaging, but for beer lovers making a weekend pilgrimage to Chit Beer—the city’s only Thai craft beer microbrewery—is the ultimate reward for making such a long trip up river.
Things to Buy
# 49 Or Tor Kor Market
Hop on the MRT (subway) to Kamphaeng Phet station, take exit #3 and you’ll find yourself in a spectacular showcase of all the colours and flavours of Thailand. This spotlessly clean, government-run farmers’ fresh market is just across one boulevard from the ever-crowded Chatuchak Weekend Market, yet is often overlooked. Ogle the array of tropical flowers, sample superb satays, or choose from dozens of pots full of authentic crab and coconut curries.
Kamphaeng Phet Rd, Tel: 02 279 2028
# 50 Bodhi Tree Décor
This one-of-a-kind boutique, located on the 3rd floor of the Golden Pearl Building, creates all manner of interior accents for commercial and residential interiors, from traditional wallpaper to printed roller blinds and upholstery. You can choose from ready-made designs, such as the Arabian Living wallpaper collection, which blends earthy reds and yellows with Arabic geometric patterns, and Mural Mountain, featuring views of actual mountains. Sumptuous Thai mural art wallpaper, suitable for Thai restaurants, spas, and Buddha altar rooms, boasts art motifs from vintage books and temples. My favourite among these is the Chedi collection, which borrows pastel-hued stupa murals from an Ayutthaya-era temple. Custom wallpaper design is also available.
69, Sukhumvit Soi 101/1, Tel: 02 747 9493
# 51 Rot Fai (Train) Market Ratchada
While Bangkok has its fair share of night markets (including the new Talad Neon on Petchaburi Rd) the hugely popular Rot Fai Market Ratchada—located behind the Esplanade shopping mall—is much more than just that. Yes there are hundreds of stalls and dozens of shops to peek into, but there’s also an ever-growing number eating spots, drinking holes, and live music venues such as Seapkerbox to check out. It’s open from 5pm till 1am every night except Monday, and if you think it’s crowded on a Thursday, wait till you visit on a Saturday.
Thailand Cultural Center MRT station, Exit 3
# 52 Sretsis
Katy Perry, Leighton Meester, Rachel Bilson, Zooey Deschanel, Paris Hilton and Beyonce are a few notables who have had their fancies tickled by Sretsis, a label that embodies the collective spirit of its three founding sisters, Pim, Kly and Matina Sukhahuta. Inspired by classic romanticism, the tight-knit sisters at Sretsis (“sisters” spelt backwards) work with silk, chiffon, satin, and large prints to create passion and femininity that works just as well at a private dinner as on the red carpet. I’ve noticed that Sretsis’ flagship Gaysorn Plaza store has become so popular that opening hours are often kept short to prevent stock from selling out. The sisters also maintain distributors in the USA, France, Russia, the UAE, Kuwait, Australia, and most countries in East Asia.
Gaysorn Plaza, 999 Ploenchit Rd (2nd floor),
Tel: 02 656 1125
# 53 Pop Up Markets
A welcome trend in town are the many, well-organized pop-up markets taking over some of the city’s empty plots of land. Whether the theme is food, vintage clothing, designer pieces, home décor, music, handmade crafts, or beauty products, the choices are abundant. And while some are only present for a weekend, others tend to stay for a few months, including the popular Artbox Thailand, with its current location near the Kamphaeng Phet MRT station (somewhat close to Chatuchak Market). This creative fair offers over 200 stalls—all set up in container boxes—and is open from Friday to Sunday until the end of April.
# 54 Union Mall
Located in the north of Bangkok (Phahon Yothin MRT station), this eight-storey, no-frills shopping mall is like a huge market brought indoors—and best of all it’s air-conditioned! With over 1,200 booths, it offers everything from young designer pieces, to exceedingly cheap clothing—especially shoes—plus beauty salons, entertainment venues, and an international food court. It’s a bargain hunter haven, and you really see where local Thai kids are getting all their wacky outfits.
# 55 Thai Craft Fair
In an effort to preserve a slice of Thailand’s cultural heritage, this monthly fair—always held on a Saturday—gathers over 50 artisan groups from all around the kingdom, showcasing their handcrafted products which range from jewellery and clothing, to household items and even musical instruments. The next one is January 28th.
LF, Jasmine City Building, Sukhumvit Soi 23
# 56 Fashion Designers
Want to know where to hunt for the latest creations from Thailand’s deep pool of hot young designers? Siam Centre, residing in the shadow of the glitzy Siam Paragon mega-mall, is a great place to try on the latest in fashion from Thai talents (the food court on the 5th floor is well worth seeking out as well). And directly across the road fashionistas can peruse the more affordable designer boutiques of Siam Square.
979 Rama 1 Rd, Tel: 02-658-1000
# 57 Dasa Book Café
With around 20,000 used titles in English, as well as many in French and German, this is Bangkok’s best secondhand bookshop. Ramble over the creaky wood floors, and up and down the narrow stairways of this three-story house to browse stack upon stack of mostly fiction paperbacks. Bargain hunters will also find plenty of books on history, art, design, Asian culture and cuisine, and travel (there’s an extensive guidebook section).
714/4 Sukhumvit Rd, Tel: 02 661 2993
Art & Artists
# 58 Local Bands
Bangkok’s music scene is constantly evolving, and there are many great local bands worth noting, but it’s hard to find more of a crowd-pleaser than The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, who made their live debut in the Thai capital in 2012. Their exciting take on traditional Isaan music, and their use of Thai instruments—including the phin (Thai lute), and the khaen (bamboo harmonica)—have earned them great acclaim, eventually landing them a spot at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival in the UK. But you can almost always see them live in Bangkok as they perform regularly, especially at Studio Lam (Sukhumvit Soi 51).
# 59 BACC
Since its opening in July of 2008, the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) has presented a steady stream of fascinating exhibits from Thai and international artists alike. But no matter what show is on display, just roaming through the Guggenheim-inspired interior of this nine-storey marvel is an exhilarating experience for any art lover. The building’s cafés, commercial art galleries, bookshops, and craft shops are also worth checking out and, the best part is, entrance is always free.
939 Rama 1 Rd, en.bacc.or.th
# 60 Bangkok National Museum
Located in the former grounds of the 18th century Wang Na Palace, the Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country. The museum was established in 1874 by King Rama V to exhibit relics from the rule of King Rama IV, but today it’s home to exhibits covering Thai history back to Neolithic times.
4 Chao Fa Rd, Tel: 02 215 8173
# 61 Yenakart Villa
Founded in June of 2015 by Frederic Meyer and Jeremy Opritesco, the YenakArt Villa has certainly contributed greatly to Bangkok’s ever-growing art scene when it comes to introducing the public to new and dynamic Thai and international artists. However, the gallery itself is also a thing of beauty—a high-ceilinged, open-concept, modernist villa, with a glass façade and a huge front garden, unassumingly located on a quiet side street.
69 Soi Prasat Suk, Tel: 02 235 9800
# 62 Klong Bang Luang Artist House
This charming, canal-side art community and atmospheric enclave features crafts, good Thai food, fish-feeding, an old wooden house transformed into a gallery, a do-it-yourself art classroom and a courtyard for staging extraordinary performances with traditional Thai puppets. You may need to join a guided tour to get here, or ask if Charlie can take you (see #43).
Tel: 02 868 5279, www.facebook.com/baansilapin
# 63 Scala Cinena
Built in 1967, the historic Scala Cinema is an exquisitely maintained movie theatre—worth a visit not only for the bargain priced seats and popcorn, but also for the whole retro atmosphere. Walking up the grand stone steps and into the marble-floored entrance, complete with a beautiful vaulted ceiling and a five-tiered chandelier, transports moviegoers to another age. The property itself is constantly under threat by developers who want to tear it down, so make a visit while you still can.
Siam Square Soi 2, Tel: 02 251 2861
# 64 Sathorn 11 Art Space
An American father and son duo have transformed a funky old shophouse into an underground gallery with an upstairs artist-in-residence studio. The pair also installed a pizza oven on the premises and launched Gallery Pizza, one of the city’s favourite pizza delivery services (open till 4am).
404, Sathorn Soi 11, Tel: 02 004 1199
# 65 Bangkok Screening Room
Although the 50-seat Bangkok Screening Room has only been around for a few months, they’ve already impressed local film fanatics with their impressive, and eclectic, movie roster that supports independent films and resurrects vintage classics. The high-end 4K digital projector, professional surround sound, and gourmet candy bar are also kinda nice. Note: The venue is currently under renovation but will reopen on January 17th.
8-9, Sala Deang Soi 1, Tel: 090 906 3888
# 66 Kathmandu Photo Gallery
Bangkok’s pre-eminent photo exhibition space occupies a restored two-story shophouse modeled on mid-20th-century photographer’s studios, the sort where one could walk in and sift through portfolios of signed prints for sale. The second floor hosts temporary exhibitions of work by outstanding local and international photographers. Downstairs, the vintage green-painted walls display framed prints of images by owner Manit Sriwanichpoom, best known for his provocative Pink Man series, in which a man dressed in a pink suit pushes a pink shopping cart in politically and spiritually incongruous tableaus to expose the consumerist drift of Thai society. I enjoy browsing the wood-and-glass cabinets in a downstairs corner offering books on art and photography, along with titles on Hinduism, Buddhism, and other spiritual literature.
87 Pan Rd, Tel: 02 234 6700
# 67 Street Art
This town’s less-than-pretty urban landscapes have, over the years, been “enhanced” by many spray-paint Picassos, but one of the city’s most recognizable local graffiti artists is Alex Face (aka: Patcharapol Tangruen), whose comical central character—a disillusioned looking, three-eyed child wearing furry animal costumes—graces many a grey cement wall here in Bangkok. And this month he’s having his very own gallery show.
# 68 Arts Festivals
Bangkok has no shortage of street level music and art festivals, but for 18 years now the annual Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music has brought to the city world-class orchestras, opera companies, ballet troupes, and more to this fair city. Beginning in mid-September and finishing in mid-October, this cultural feast is also a great excuse to check out the Thailand Cultural Centre, a beautiful building in and of itself.
# 69 SF Cinema
Although the usual movie fare at the SF Cinema outlet at CentralWorld (999/9 Rama 1 Rd) is of the Hollywood blockbuster ilk, almost every other month a week or two is given over to some sort of independent film festival, showcasing international releases that are definitely NOT mainstream fodder. This month they will be playing host to the 14th annual World Film Festival of Bangkok, which runs from January 23rd to February 1st.
# 70 Movie Makers
Local cinephiles certainly know about The Friese-Greene Club, a private member’s club dedicated to filmmakers and film enthusiasts with a cozy 9-seat upstairs screening room as well as a downstairs lounge. But some may not know that owner Paul Spurrier (a longtime resident in Thailand) is also an accomplished filmmaker. His most recent release is The Forest, a spooky feature length film (in Thai with English subtitles) that has received major acclaim.
259/6, Sukhumvit Soi 22, Tel: 087 000 0795
# 71 Writers in Residence
Bangkok seems to attract a lot of great writers, many of whom feature the city in their work. Bangkok 101 contributor Jim Algie set many of the tales in his book The Phantom Lover here, while crime writer Christopher G. Moore has a whole series of detective novels set in Bangkok. Other acclaimed authors residing in BKK include Jerry Hopkins (Bangkok Babylon), Lawrence Osborne (Bangkok Days), and John Burdett (Bangkok 8).
# 72 Stand-Up Comedy
Every Friday night the top floor of the Royal Oak Pub (Sukhumvit Soi 33/1) is given over to The Comedy Club Bangkok, the brainchild of local comedian Chris Wegoda. Sometimes it’s open mic night, sometimes it’s improv comedy, and sometimes a visiting international comic graces the stage—but any given Friday there’s always plenty of laughs.
# 73 Black Pig Tattoo
Getting “inked” is a way of life here in Thailand, and Bangkok has no shortage of mind-blowingly talented tattoo artists. Black Pig Tattoo BKK, a private studio located in the Chinatown area, is one of many that come highly recommended (available by appointment only).
672/65, Charoen Krung Soi 28, Tel: 080-595-2999
# 74 Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy
Thai boxing, with its fast movements, exotic music, and rituals, has gone from spectator to participatory sport with men and women—Thai and foreign—embracing it as a fitness regime. At this gym, located in the Jasmine City Building (Sukhumvit Soi 23), local champions act as instructors in a non-threatening, upscale setting. It’s a safe and fun place to try your hand (as well as elbow, knees and feet) at this ancient Thai art. There’s also a 2nd location at Seenspace (Thong Lor13).
Born of royal descent and educated at Oxford University, M.R. Kukrit Pramoj (1911-1995), was a remarkable Renaissance man who penned more than 40 novels, stage plays, short stories, and poems, started a political party in 1945, and served as the nation’s 13th prime minister from 1974 to 1975. Opened to the public following his 1995 passing, the impressive compound where he once resided consists of five century-old teak homes collected in central Thailand over a period of 20 years. I especially enjoy visiting the Kukrit house because few international visitors seem to find their way here. In addition to antiques and personal effects on display, there is a library which includes rare books Kukrit collected during his life. Kukrit was also an accomplished amateur performer of khon, and a raised platform in the center of the compound is designed for performances of this traditional masked Thai classical dance-drama.
19 Soi Prapinit, Tel: 02 286 8185
# 76 Fortune Tellers
Head to Tha-Pra Chan (near Phra Athit) during the daytime to watch the fortune tellers at work. Some use cards, some read palms, but all seem to have a ready line-up of clients. In the evening, a similar sight can be found at the Huay Kwang junction (just outside the Huay Kwang MRT station), which also has an amazing Ganesha shrine.
# 77 Old School Thai
The district known as Ekkamai (aka: Sukhumvit Soi 63) is a swank and trendy locale, but there are still some old school gems sandwiched between all the hipster hangouts. Open daily, from 10am till midnight, Sabai Jai Gai Yang is a large corner restaurant with an air-con dining section, but the open air seating is where all the fun is. Enjoy heaping plates of typical Isaan fare—som tam, larb meat salads, and plenty of grilled pork and chicken—as well as spicy southern Thai dishes. Warning: lots of cold beer may be needed to temper the spice levels.
65, Sukhumvit Soi 63, Tel: 02 714 2622
# 78 Food Forays
Want some suggestions for slightly out-of-the-way, but worth-the-trip Thai food? Suan Karn Vella is a Thai food restaurant which never fails to provide a delicious authentic meal in its fabulous garden by the canal near Chatuchak (just down the road from Or Tor Kor market). For real southern Thai food visit Dao Tai (in Thonburi), which serves a huge array of prepared curries, soups, dips, and stir-fries.
508/26 Th Phran Nok (Thonburi), Tel: 02 412 2385
# 79 Motorcycle Taxis
Motorcycles are a popular means of transport anywhere in the world, but Bangkok just wouldn’t be the same without its army of fluorescent-vested motosai drivers—in fact, it couldn’t operate without them. They provide the only way to make it through our brutal traffic jams, and for that we love them. And whenever you see a girl riding side-saddle while finishing her make-up, or an entire family squeezed onto one two-wheeler—keep in mind that the art of riding a bike has been mastered, in every aspect, by both driver and passenger.
# 80 Flower Market
While the Pak Khlong Talat flower market (116 Chakphet Rd) isn’t quite as sprawling as it used to be, due to the disappearance of most of the street vendors, it’s still the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in the city, and a beautiful place to walk around and soak up the beautiful colours and scents—especially late at night. In addition to decorative roses, orchids, and lilies in all the shades of the rainbow, you’ll also find colourful garlands and arrangements which are used to honour spirits in Thai tradition.
# 81 Yaa Dong
This cheap concoction of lao khao (white liquor) fermented with herbs has been believed to have medicinal benefits, and is widely available in and outside of Bangkok. However, the traditional spirit has recently been taken from the streets and added onto the drink menus and cocktail lists at several city restaurants and bars—including Tep Bar, Studio Lam, Bad Motel and Bo.lan— where high-quality ingredients and a more methodical brewing process has turned it into a high-end spirit.
A charming collection of eight Thai salas and raised wooden houses, as well as an Ayutthaya period lacquer pavilion, all set in a dainty Thai garden. Open daily from 9am till 4pm.
352-354 Sri Ayutthaya Rd, Tel: 02 246 1775
# 83 Wet Markets
Despite the myriad of state-of-the-art shopping centres and community malls in the city, traditional fresh or wet markets are still going strong, and frequented daily. The biggest one among them is the Khlong Toei Market on Rama IV Road (close to the Khlong Toei MRT station), which offers incredibly fresh meat, seafood, fruit, and vegetables, as well as other items, including kitchenware. It’s open every day from 6am to 2am, and the authentic atmosphere definitely makes it a photographer’s dream.
Weird & Wonderful
# 84 7-Eleven
With over 3,500 outlets in Bangkok alone, the ubiquitous chain of convenience stores is literally found on every street corner (sometimes even two facing each other from opposite sides of the road). While their offer is generally limited, they do store everything you need in a pinch—from drinks and beer, to pens, candy, and phone cards. And what would a long night out be without the odd Cabonara toastie on the way home?
# 85 Siriraj Medical Museum
Also dubbed as the Museum of Death, it consists of five smaller museums—Forensic, Pathological, Anatomical, Prehistoric, and Parasitology—all within the grounds of the Siriraj Hospital. It’s definitely not a place for the squeamish as the morbid exhibitions showcase all kinds of preserved body parts and corpses—from bones, fetuses, and organs, to a man suffering from elephantiasis and the mummified corpse of a serial killer. Open from 10am till 5pm.
2 Wanglung Rd, Khwaeng Siriraj, Tel: 02 419 2600
# 86 Dual-Purpose Shops
Just because it’s a restaurant, doesn’t mean it can’t also be a shop or a pharmacy, right? And a hair salon might double as a laundromat, while a travel agency might change your money while getting you inked. Truth is, everything seems possible in this city, which for us, makes it not only fun but also pretty convenient.
# 87 Wat Mahabut
Accessible by long-tail boat, up the big khlong near Prakhanong, Thailand’s most famous ghost, Mae Nak, is enshrined here and thousands of Thais come to pray to her. The temple’s setting on the khlong is quite atmospheric, especially at night.
747, On Nut 7/1 Alley, Tel: 094 098 7789
# 88 Absurd Architecture
The recently completed 77-storey MahaNakohn Tower is currently the tallest skyscraper in Bangkok, but its unique pixelated façade makes it part of the bizarre building trend in this town. The nearby Robot Building (191 South Sathorn Rd), is the United Overseas Bank’s Bangkok headquarters and is shaped like a robot, while the Chang Building on Phahon Yothin Road near Soi 26 is made to look like an elephant. But the winner might be the Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddhist temple, in the Khlong Luang district, which looks like a giant UFO on a landing pad.
# 89 Weird Cafés
When it comes to “cute”, nobody does it better than Thais. So don’t settle for a drab old coffee shop if you’d rather dive into a rainbow-coloured dream world full of unicorns at the Unicorn Café (44/1, Sathorn Soi 8). Or, if relaxing with a latte while petting a friendly cat is more to your liking visit the Cat Up Café (54 Soi Phayakkhaphon). And at the Little Zoo Café (Sukhothai Ave 99, Nonthaburi) you can have coffee with a live fox.
# 90 Old School Marketing
“I still enjoy the gritty old fresh markets like my local enclave in Sri Yan with their gilt shrines, mouldering posters, litters of kitties, and super-affordable selection of fruit and veg. They are also incredibly photogenic. My local vendor has burgundy hair, often gives me a free bag of chili or some other treat, and always gives me a ‘wai’ after I pay, while her husband slumbers through the day in a recliner beside her.”
—Jim Algie (author of Bizarre Thailand)
# 91 Apoteka
“For me, the weekend culminates with smoking a fine cigar and listening to the band that plays Sunday afternoons at Apoteka, on Sukhumvit Soi 11.”
—Davinder Paddem (teacher)
# 92 Baan Dee 123
“Just behind Wat Ratchabophit, in back of Asadang Road, Baan Dee 123 sells traditional-style ice cream in a small Chinese-Thai shophouse filled with old pictures, antiques, and curios. While the speakers play Elton John songs relentlessly, the owner of the shop is talkative, witty, loves to speak English, and her ice creams are delicious—particularly the one flavoured with pineapple and chili. She’s open every day except Sunday.”
—Luc Citrinot (writer)
# 93 Samut Prakhan Crocodile Farm
“I love it for its old-fashioned, tawdry tourist appeal. The thousands of crocodiles, mostly raised for their skins, lurk in large slimy green ponds and the last time I was there you could feed them dead chickens that you dangle at them from creaking, raised walkways.”
—Ralph Kiggell (visual artist)
# 94 Phra Nakorn Bar & Gallery
“Phra Nakorn rooftop bar and gallery (58/2 Ratchadamnoen Rd) was there before anyone else thought to put a bar on top of a hotel. I love its relaxed atmosphere, cheap Thai style drinking, and it has the best crispy tofu and mini wontons I’ve ever had.”
—Gili Black (owner of Chomp restaurant)
# 95 Getting Around
“I love using the Chao Phraya Express Boat Service as a means of public transport each morning. It still fascinates me that I, and thousands of others, take a boat to work each day.”
—Julia Offenberger (writer & digital editor, Bangkok 101)
# 96 River Vibe Restaurant & Bar
“From up here on the 8th floor the view of BKK is incredible! Many professional and amateur photographers come here with their expensive cameras, just before sunset, hoping to take the perfect shot.”
—Osama Rajkhan (Social Affairs Officer, UNESCAP)
# 97 Hi-So Ladies
“I love the sense of danger that arises as a Thai hi-so lady of mature years enters the room at a posh function and everyone is aware that the slightest stumble will send that intricate construction of corsetry, surgery and weapons-grade hairspray crashing to the carpet.”
—Tim Footman (writer)
# 98 Secret Path
“I love walking along the secret path between Lumphini Park and Benjakitti Park after brunch at Café Tartine (65 Wireless Rd). The entrance to the path is at the end of the Soi Ruamrudee and it’s almost like a sky walk as it’s on a higher level than the ground. This walking bridge can also be entered from Lumphini Park as, on one side, it goes above Wireless road. The bridge runs along the canal, passing the tobacco factory, over Ploenchit highway, and it ends at Benjakitti Park.”
—Dalina P (development worker)
# 99 Jim Thompson House
“Well, besides hanging at Smalls on a nightly basis, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Jim Thompson’s house. Most days are too hot to comfortably enjoy many of the tourist sites in Bangkok, but Jim Thompson’s has a reasonable 45-minute tour of his wonderful house. And you can have lunch at their very nice restaurant, often catch an art exhibition, and peruse their gift shops.”
—David Jacobsen (owner of Smalls)
# 100 Wang Lang Market
“I love the whole experience of shopping for vintage at Wang Lang Market—taking the Chao Phraya ferry to get there, pawing through the racks of 20 baht skirts and blouses, and imagining who wore the old-world outfits before me. And when I’m done, mulling over my new (old) items while relaxing at my favorite frozen yogurt stall.”
—Laurel Tuohy (editor, Bangkok Coconuts)
# 101 Som Tam Sundays
“On Sunday afternoons I go with my family to have lunch at Tum-mour (Sukhapiban 2 area, Minburi). The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, is crowded during the weekends, and they play old American country music songs.”
—Parinya ‘Noi’ Krit-Hat (Associate Publisher, Bangkok 101)
Did we forget anything?
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