Business trip: Bangkok
Vertical gardens, warm wood flooring, silk wall panels and contemporary room design are hallmarks of the glamorous 94-room Hansar Bangkok, tucked into a quiet side street in busy Ratchaprasong. In a nice touch, breakfast and wi-fi are included in the rate.
Make reservations early to nab one of the hottest tables in town at Bo.lan, an upscale Thai restaurant in Sukhumvit run by a Michelin-star husband and wife team. Even though a steady stream of expats and visitors frequents Bo.lan, prepare your palate for the fire and flavours of authentic Thai cuisine. Feeling adventurous? Allow the chef to prepare a balanced meal composed of five essential dishes: Thai salad (yum), chilli relish (kreung jim), stir fry (jan phat), curry (keng) and soup (nahm keng).
Enjoy the relaxed, open-air atmosphere of a 1920s Thai home at the Issaya Siamese Club, where local celebrity chef Ian Kittichai turns out dishes seasoned with herbs grown in the house garden, such as red chilli-glazed seabass (pla aob prik) and jasmine flower flan (kanom dok mali). Outside tables usually go first.
If you tire of Thai fire and spice, tuck into meticulously prepared Italian classics such as veal carpaccio, fillet of baccala (cod), or dry aged steaks from the open kitchen at La Scala, located on the lush, tranquil grounds of the Sukhothai Bangkok hotel on Sathorn Road. Chef Maurizio Menconi frequently shares the kitchen with visiting celebrity chefs from around the world.
At popular Quince, located in a loft-like see-and-be-seen space in Sukhumvit, Australian chef Jess Barnes prepares international dishes with fresh local ingredients such as albondigas (lamb meatballs) with cumin, tomato and pickled chilli, or pan seared mackerel with hummus and lemon paste, paired with an excellent selection of wines.
Off the clock
Bangkok’s latest major attraction, Asiatique the Riverfront, is a cross between the city’s steamy, chaotic night markets and its clean, orderly shopping malls. Join the festival-like atmosphere with a mix of locals and visitors drinking and dining al fresco in restaurants and beer gardens, enjoying live music, people watching, and of course, shopping in an open air market full of carefully curated, locally-made handicrafts and souvenirs.
To get there, take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, and then walk to the Sathorn Pier for a free 10-minute ferry ride. Weekend nights can be especially busy with long queues for the ferries, so consider taking a taxi instead. Asiatique is open daily from 5 pm until midnight.
Like a local
Shopping for inexpensive, quickly made bespoke clothing in Bangkok is a popular pastime for visitors, but since finding a reputable tailor can be difficult, ask for recommendations from your best-dressed Thai colleagues or hotel concierge.
Despite the heat and relaxed atmosphere you will undoubtedly feel in Bangkok, you should know that Thais are very status conscious, so dress up. To properly woo a new partner or close a deal, dress the part with suits or jackets, long-sleeved shirts and ties for men and conservative dresses, skirts and blouses or jackets for women. Thankfully, it is acceptable (and very common) to take your jacket off and carry it.
Don’t do this
When dining at Thai restaurants, do not expect to eat with chopsticks. Thais typically use a spoon and a fork. Hold the fork in your left hand and use it to push food onto the spoon. Then use the spoon in your right hand to bring the food to your mouth. Knives are rarely, if ever, necessary because most Thai dishes come in bite-sized pieces.
Another surprise: due to the year-round hot, muggy climate, do not be surprised if a server pours your beer over ice – a common practice throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia.