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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Bangkok? Reuters Correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay in the Thai capital:

FRIDAY

7 p.m. - Kick off the weekend with drinks at Sirocco, Bangkok’s most spectacular sky-bar, perched on the roof of a 68-storey down-town office block. Affording views across the sprawling metropolis, Sirocco is not recommended for those prone to vertigo. Peer over the bar’s waist-high glass walls, and the only thing between you and the pavement is a thin plastic net.

8.30 p.m. - Dinner at Le Bouchon, a dingy Parisian eatery in the heart of the Patpong red light district, serving up arguably the best lamb shank in southeast Asia. Tough to find, although don’t feel shy about asking for directions - every self-respecting bar hostess knows where it is.

11 p.m. - No trip to Bangkok would be complete without a tour of Patpong, infamous as the sex capital of the sex capital of southeast Asia. A recent government morality drive means the shutters come down at 1 o’clock and there’s less flesh on display than in the 1990s “pingpong” heydays. But Patpong and it’s seemingly endless nightmarket still provides ample material for the avid people watcher - take a streetside table in the Elvis bar, order an ice-cold Singha beer and watch the world go by in all its many shapes and sizes.

SATURDAY

8 a.m. - Purge the excesses of the night before with an early morning walk in Lumpini Park, the city’s answer to New York’s Central Park, where elderly Chinese couples come for Tai Chi and breakfast al fresco. The swan-necked pedalo boats look enticing, but be warned - it’s harder work than it looks, and even in the early morning, you’ll work up quite a sweat.

10.30 am - Take a water taxi along the klongs, or canals, west to “Old Bangkok”, the seat of government and home to Bangkok’s biggest and best temples and palaces. Top of the list for any visitor must be the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Take no notice if somebody tries to tell you its closed - one of the oldest scams in the book. Instead, take the opportunity to wander around the complex’s stunning array of gilded stupas and statues.

2.30 p.m. - A late lunch and well-deserved lemon-soda - or “nam manao” as it’s known locally - in the serenity and calm of the Jim Thompson House, the traditional Thai-style home of the late American businessman and “Father of Thai Silk”. While there, make sure to read up on the unresolved mystery surrounding his disappearance in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967.

7.30 p.m. -- Head down to Lumpini boxing stadium for a few rounds of kick-boxing, the punching, kicking, elbowing martial art that appears to be too brutal to be Thai. Ring-side seats are expensive - as much as 2,000 baht - but worth it to appreciate the speed and power of these super-fit athletes.

SUNDAY

8 a.m. - Warm up for your final day in the City of Angels at one of the many spa and massage parlours catering for those in search of inner and outer beauty. Traditional Thai massage involves no oil, and an hour on the couch will leave you feeling ten years younger.

12 p.m. - Brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel, just opposite Ratchadamri Skytrain station and the horse-racing track of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. It’s expensive by Thai standards at around 2,000 baht a head, but that’s for all you can eat and drink. If you arrive early and leave late, and chart a careful course through the smoked salmon, caviar, sushi, oysters, grilled lobster, roast lamb, chicken, beef and pork, chocolate roulade, sorbet and pancakes, it’s worth every satang. Also, make sure you don’t miss what must be Bangkok’s only roaring “log” fire.

7 p.m. - If you can still move after all the chocolate gateau and mango that rounded off lunch, get down to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, for some last-minute shopping. The high volume Thai rock music in the main food hall may not be to everybody’s taste, but the nearby ferris wheel offers some solitude and stunning night-time views.

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