Daniel runs Smiling Albino, a travel company specialising in tailor-made, creative adventure experiences. From gourmet motorcycle trips to enlightening food walking tours, they host nice people, A-list celebs, rockstars and wholesome families from around the world. As a weekly TV show host on ThaiPBS, Daniel has also taken part in a myriad of traditional Thai pastimes, unique religious ceremonies and all sorts of fascinating cultural experiences.
Best place in Bangkok to go for a drink?
Well, Sukhumvit Soi 11 is always a stand-out for variety, but Ku De Ta clearly has made a statement, and so will you by popping in for a drink. Brew for Beer, and WTF for craft beer and crafty conversation.
Best place in Bangkok to go for a meal?
Besides the street? Nahm and Issaya Siamese Club are my current favourites, plus the Indian-Arab food scene in Nana area. For street food: Thanon Mahachai (Pratu Phi) and Sukhumvit Soi 38 – absolutely everything a local could want.
Best place in Bangkok to shop?
Asiatique, JJ Market and Siam but a mention should go to Talad Rot Fai for a cool Brooklyn-style local market experience.
Best place in Bangkok for art?
Oida Gallery and BACC – always changing and right on the pulse of the contemporary art scene.
Which are your favourite areas? Why?
Dozens! Certainly the old mercantile communities between Wat Suthat and Wat Saket: this is the Bangkok cottage industry still at work making coffins, alms bowls, Buddha images, incense, wooden fixtures, silverware, etc. Period architecture featuring everything from the rare neo-classical curved shopfronts behind the Giant Swing, to Sino-Portuguese shophouses of old herbal medicine shops, to hidden mansions tucked away from yesteryear. On the other side of town, the variety of new dining and drinking venues around Thong Lor 10, 13, and 16 brings a lot more energy to this neighbourhood.
Where would you take a friend from overseas for a definitive Bangkok experience?
For sure Chinatown – it is a mad cluster of shops, food, alleyways, heritage communities and activities where you see 250 years of Bangkok history playing out live.
What makes Bangkok such a distinctive, exciting city?
I call it a “charming monster”, as it is a city with stunning beauty, such as temples, palaces and old canals, mixed with modern development and transport all jumbled into one. Best of all, it is easily the world’s best city to eat.
How has Bangkok changed since you’ve been here?
Certainly a new middle class has brought more art galleries, cafes and a more diverse dining and bar scene. There has been a recent push to encourage things like cycling, or preserving heritage buildings and even promoting green spaces etc. These ideas seemed impossible 15 years ago.
What are Bangkok’s best kept secrets? Any great spots that are less well-known?
The great riverside strip behind Wat Pho has three lovely boutique hotels with a nice food-drink scene, as well as the cosy old shophouses along Phra Athit road near Khao San. I’ve never had a less than stellar meal at Eat Me, or less than enlightening experience at Iron Fairies or Ad Here in Samsen. Paste in Thong Lor is also a new spot doing good Thai food.
What do visitors to Bangkok want? What impresses them?
They want to be wowed by a world-famous city, including diverse restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Obviously shopping appeals but not at the expense of sacrificing culture and heritage. People don’t come here for Hong Kong’s or Singapore’s modernity and fashion, they come – and are impressed by – the mix of
ancient charm and fun, cosmopolitan variety.