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The Best of Bangkok

 Surgical spirit at Siriraj Medical Museum

While trying to find free things to do on our first visit to Bangkok we came across this museum on the same site as the Siriraj hospital in Wang Leng. This museum is not for the faint-hearted. It tells a gruesome tale of Thailand’s medical history, with lots of specimens, some of which are weird and gross. There is an interesting section about the 2004 tsunami, with some accounts from doctors and nurses who flew out to help.

Stunning skyline views

For the best view of the city, take the lift to the Vertigo and Moon bar on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. You don’t need to be a resident, or even buy a drink, to enjoy this stunning overview of the city. There aren’t many places you can get such an experience for free, and it’s even better at night.

Books, tea and a toastie

After hours walking around in the heat, feeling hot and sticky, I stumbled across Passport bookshop on Phra Sumen road. It’s tiny, quiet and cool with a few small tables to sit at with a cup of tea. There were even cheese toasties! A great spot to step out of the madness for an hour or two.

Canal plus – explore Bangkok’s khlongs

Many tourist itineraries feature a cruise along the Chao Phraya river, but for a more authentic view of local life, venture into the city’s network of khlongs(canals). Hire a colourful longtail boat, or hop on and off one of the ubiquitous water taxis, and get ready to be transported into another world. Pass under ornate Italian bridges and drift past ramshackle wooden stilt houses and walkways hanging precariously over the “fragrant” water. Stop off at silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson’s house, or shop till you drop at the contrasting Bobae wholesale clothes market and ultra-modern Siam Square.

Gem of a riverside guesthouse

The New Siam guesthouse in the old city is well situated for tourists – it’s close to a riverboat stop and the market – and cheap (doubles from £10). Friends recommended this B&B years ago and we have always come back to stay here. I think it’s a real gem.

Makes tracks to the train market

Eight times a day, seven days a week, this train passes – quite literally – through the Maeklong market. Vendors have to quickly remove their stalls from the tracks then resume as if nothing has happened. It’s rather spectacular. The easiest way to get there is to book a half-day tour, which includes the infamous Damnoen Saduak floating market.