EXPAT MARK THOMSON
"I went for a holiday to Bangkok in 2001, and I still haven't returned, 18 years later," says Brisbane-born Mark Thomson, who now heads up public relations and communications for the Minor Hotels group, which has 530 hotels and resorts around the world.
Deep in the basement of Siriraj Hospital, the oldest hospital in Thailand, is the fascinatingly morbid Forensic Science Museum. Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted, expect to see some of the more bizarre aspects of life (and more so, death) of Thailand's history. The most gruesome is the four mummified bodies propped up in glass cupboards – the most famous is Si Quey, who is known to Thai children as the bogeyman.
One of my favourite Sunday pastimes is hiring a long-tail boat and cruising the inland canals (klongs) of the Chao Praya river. If you have a few hours to spare, continue up to Nonthaburi where the cityscape of Bangkok is replaced with beautiful old teak houses, rice paddies and bustling local markets. Finish up with high tea and a cocktail at the Shangri-La Bangkok to watch the creme de la creme of Thailand's high society in their bedazzled best for a spot of some serious ballroom dancing. It's high hair, flowing chiffon, fancy moves and a glimpse into a very different part of Thai society, see shangri-la.com
For great Thai food and a unique story, visit the unusually named Cabbages and Condoms. Established in the early 1980s by former politician Mechai Viravaidya, it was set up to give out cabbage soup along with condoms and educational leaflets to the locals. Khun Mechai is now credited for curbing the spread of HIV in Thailand through his unusual educational approach. Today, it's an oasis that serves some of the best Thai food in the capital. With a motto of, "And remember, our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy", you know you're in for a great evening, see cabbagesandcondoms.net
Not for the faint-hearted, Bangkok's highest glass-floor observation deck opened last year in Thailand's tallest building Mahanakhon, which resembles a game of jenga with a few pieces missing. After standing on the glass deck, you'll need a stiff drink at the new Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar on the 76th and 77th floors, the highest restaurant and bar in Thailand. The outstanding space sprawls over two levels, and its outdoor terrace looks like an urban jungle floating above the city. Otherwise, my favourite cocktail, Sin to be Seen, is a long drink blended with jackfruit infused plantation rum at SEEN rooftop bar, with unrivalled skyline views above the Chao Phraya River, see mahanakhonbangkokskybar.com, seenrooftopbangkok.com
You'll sometimes see elephants paraded in tourist areas in an attempt to get tourists to pay for food for them. Funding the mistreatment of elephants is a recurring problem, so avoid it. If you would like to interact with elephants in a sustainable way, pick a reputable rescue elephant sanctuary such as the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, see helpingelephants.org