BANGKOK (Reuters) - Bangkok is a city of contradictions. With its luxury shopping malls, unparalleled spas, gilded temples and racy nightlife, the city remains one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia.
Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of a 48-hour visit.
6 pm - Celebrate the start of your weekend with a drink at Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of lebua at State Tower and be mesmerized by the breathtaking views of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya river that winds its way around the city. Listen to a live band while sipping a cocktail at one of the world's highest open air bars, popular with locals and tourists alike. Opening hours: 6 p.m - 1 a.m (weather permitting)
8 p.m - No visitor to Bangkok should miss out on a dinner by the river. Supatra River House serves up authentic Thai cuisine and is the former home of a Thai noblewoman, offering a private dining area for large groups. Feast on classics like pomelo salad with seafood and massaman beef curry while taking in a Thai-classical dance performance by the famed Patravadi Theater dance school (www.supatrariverhouse.net).
After dinner, take a stroll by the river then cross over to the Grand Palace side, taking in the glittering rooftops and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. For a taste of Bangkok's backpacker trail, finish the night off at Brick Bar in bustling Khao San Road.(www.brickbarkhaosan.com)
8 a.m. - Fuel up on a hearty breakfast at Gastro 1/6, tucked away in the heart of the city. The egg and potato fritta with Spanish ham is a favorite with regular customers at this unpretentious garden cafe, an ideal spot to read your weekend magazines and grab coffee before starting your day (Gastro 1/6, RMA Institute, Soi Sai Namthip 2, Sukhumvit Soi 26)
9:30 a.m - Beat the crowds and take the skytrain to the Chatuchak weekend market, home to over 15,000 market stalls. You can find just about anything here from indoor plants and garden furniture to cowboy boots and silver jewellery. Try your hand at bargaining and pick up a few souvenirs.(www.chatuchak.org)
11 a.m - If all that shopping has left your legs sore, head to the up-and-coming Ari neighborhood for a professional massage at Body Tune and feel your tension melt away with a 60 minute, 90 minute or 120 minute traditional Thai massage. If it's your first time experiencing a Thai massage, ask your therapist to go easy on the stretching! (www.bodytune.co.th)
12 p.m. - Set your tastebuds alight with a traditional meal from the northeast rice-growing region of Thailand, known as Isaan, at Som Tam Bangkok. Order roast chicken, spicy papaya salad and sticky rice and wait for the flavors to kick in. Wash it all down with one of the local Thai beers and picture yourself in a rice field outside of Bangkok (Somtam Bangkok, 9 Ari Soi 3, Bangkok)
4 p.m. - Pop in to one of the many art galleries-cum-coffee shops along Phra Athit road, a stone's throw away from the Grand Palace. This road is popular with students from nearby Thammasart University and is the perfect place for afternoon tea. Take a moment to people-watch at the park next to Phra Sumen Fort where old and young come for evening exercise.
5 p.m. - Visit Wat Pho temple, home to the Reclining Buddha and the Wat Pho Thai Massage school. Pick up some Thai herbal compress balls for a do-it-yourself home solution to sore muscles. For a well-deserved sundowner and a picturesque view of the Temple of Dawn head to Amorosa on the top floor of Arun Residence (www.arunresidence.com).
7 p.m. - For a unique fine-dining experience reserve a table at Bo.lan, which means "ancient" in Thai and is also formed from the name of the restaurant's two owners, who both worked as chefs at the Michelin-starred Nahm Thai restaurant in London. Dinner here is a tribute to fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Don't know what to pick? Try their seasonal tasting menu(www.bolan.co.th)
9 p.m. - Start your night in Sukhumvit Soi 11, home to many of Bangkok's coolest bars and clubs. Sit in your own cocoon seat in the middle of a partially sand-filled bar at Nest in Le Fenix hotel and join locals and expats for a pre-party drink (www.lefenix-sukhumvit.com). Get your dancing shoes on and head to Bed Supperclub with the beautiful people. A club, restaurant and art gallery merged into one futuristic settling, Bed routinely hosts nights featuring international deejays. Leave your flip flops at the hotel, the club operates a strict dress code(www.bedsupperclub.com).
9 a.m. - If you're up this early, you're a champion to have survived a night out in Bangkok! Soak up last night's alcohol with one of the many brunch options on Kuppadeli's menu. Plan the day ahead while tucking in to your eggs benedict or caramelized french toast (www.kuppadeli.com)
11 a.m. - Time for some more retail therapy. Visit the Jim Thompson House, a complex of teak traditional Thai homes turned into a museum of antiques and Southeast Asian art (www.jimthompson.com). Once the home of American silk merchant Jim Thompson, who launched Thai silk to the West before mysteriously disappearing, the compound features a shop and outdoor restaurants.
1 p.m. - Craving a culinary change? Experience brunch at Tables, in the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel, a European restaurant where meals are cooked tableside with great showmanship. The Sunday brunch buffet includes all-time favorites including lobster, oysters on ice and champagne.(www.bangkok.grand.hyatt.com)
3 p.m. - After a leisurely meal, take a very short walk to the busy Erawan Shrine in the heart of Bangkok's shopping district and watch as a steady stream of people pay their respects to the statue of Brama, the Hindu god of Creation. Many locals believe a floral garland or fruit offering to the shrine helps grant wishes.
4 p.m. - Take in a Muay Thai boxing fight at Ratchadamnoen stadium and watch as this martial art is carried out to the sound of traditional wind and string instruments, leaving you energized and ready to take on another night in Bangkok.
Editing by Elaine Lies