The Bangkok Beat
By Ron Gluckman / Published by Dwell

For years, Bangkok has served as an eye-opening introduction to the splendors of the Orient. Locals call it Krung Thep, or City of Angels, and that isn’t its only similarity to America’s Los Angeles. Unlike Hong Kong or New York—dense, modern cities with well-defined skylines and central cores—Bangkok is a sprawling, chaotic place that sometimes seems to lack any focus or order. The sense of mayhem is only amplified by the noise, bustle, and teeming traffic, common to cities across Southeast Asia. Yet this metropolis of 10 million is a warm, welcoming gateway to the Land of Smiles. And it’s increasingly more livable. The BTS, an overhead monorail, offers great views over the city, and the under-ground MRT subway makes navigation a cinch. Always ranked among the world’s best shopping cities, with scores of home-design and crafts emporiums, Bangkok has in recent years amped up its nightlife offerings and plays host to a vibrant arts scene.

All of this is well documented in Bangkok 101, the city’s hippest and most up-to-date visitor’s guide. Its publisher, Mason Florence, typifies Bangkok’s increasingly international profile. Articulate and enthusiastic, Florence bristles with energy and ideas. Born in New York, schooled in Boston and Colorado, he has been a writer, a ski instructor, a tour leader, and a rodeo cowboy. But his first love is photography. After living for a dozen years in Japan, where he co-founded and still runs the Chiiori Project, which is dedicated to restoring a historic rural farmhouse, Florence covered Japan and Vietnam for the Lonely Planet guide-book series. He moved to Bangkok in 2003, and a year later, opened Gallery F-Stop, Bangkok’s first photography-only exhibition center. 

The city’s bustling nightscape is captured from a footbridge at the Victory Monument.

Traditional Thai homes can be spotted from the river and are best seen from one of Bangkok’s many canal tours.

A guide strolls across a footbridge outside of one of the buildings at Kukrit House.

A water “taxi” glides languidly down the canal.

There are buddha statues and then there are Buddha Statues, like this 200-foot-tall standing buddha, viewed from the roof of the Phra-Nakron Norn-Len Hotel.

The outdoor environs of a temple and “spirit house” near the Marble Temple (Wat Benchamabophit).

Perhaps the most sweetly named mode of transportation, a group of Tuk Tuks park outside the Grand Palace.

Patrons survey the photography on display at the Playground lifestyle mall.

The Kathmandu photo gallery.

High design is played out in Bangkok’s dining scene: a quiet moment in the lounge area at To Die For, a restaurant at H1.

The exterior of the Bed Supperclub.

Seeking respite from the hot Bangkok weather? The pool at the Eugenia hotel offers a quiet place to relax after a day of touring the city.


Ron Gluckman


Ron Gluckman is a native San Franciscan writer who has lived in Asia for 16 years. For the past two years, he's been based in Bangkok, where he relishes the fantastic food, frantic motion, and fusion of old-new, East-West. A regular visitor since the early 1990s, Gluckman thought he knew the Thai capital, until taken in hand by Mason Florence.

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