Lara Dunston

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About me

A perpetual globetrotter and travel writer specializing in local travel, slow/sustainable travel, and experiential travel, I’ve experienced some 70 countries, many of them myriad times. I write mainly on the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and my birthplace Australia, and blog about my travels on Grantourismo

I’m currently writing a first edition Hedonist’s Guide to Bangkok with travel writer/photographer husband Terence Carter, with whom I’ve authored, contributed to, and updated over 50 guidebooks for Footprints, Dorling Kindersley, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, AA Guides, Fodors, and Thomas Cook, and written hundreds of articles for magazines, newspapers and websites, including National Geographic Traveler, Wanderlust, Get Lost, Lifestyle+Travel, The Independent, The Telegraph, USA Today, Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age, Sunday Telegraph, One+, Connect, Hemispheres, Voyageur, Open Skies, Gulf Life, J Mag, Fah Thai, Eight, Ritz-Carlton magazine, Four Seasons magazine, i-escape, Mr & Mrs Smith, NineMSN Travel, Viator, World Travel Guide, Sherman's Travel, Triporati, and more.

I’ve lived out of my suitcase since January 2006, when my husband and I took to the road to take on a year’s worth of assignments. Before that, the UAE, specifically Dubai and Abu Dhabi, had been our home since we left Sydney in 1998, and is still the closest thing we have to a base. Bangkok, a city we’ve been frequenting and writing on for the last nine years, is the closest thing we have to a second home.

Most Arabian Gulf expats choose a cooler climate as their escape, but somehow we selected one that’s just as steamy, though a whole lot more sultry. Like Dubai, Bangkok is a city of contrasts and extremes, as glam as it is gritty, ostentatious as it is austere, as spiritual as it is sensual, and as demure as it is daring.

My Bangkok

Where I always grab a drink Bangkok boasts some brilliant bars. I like The Iron Fairies and Happy Monday for the idiosyncratic music; for retro atmosphere I head for Tuba or Shades of Retro; if it’s good wines I’m after, then it’s Italian resto-bar Opus; for a cold beer, Cheap Charlie’s can be fun.

My favourite dining spots Sukhumvit Soi 38 for street food (pork satay sticks, pad thai, and mango and sticky rice); Nahm, for authentic, refined Thai food by Chef David Thompson; Soul Food for street food with a twist and terrific Asian-inspired cocktails in a funky casual eatery; Sra Bua, for playful molecular gastronomic Thai (think frozen red curry with a lobster ‘salad’ foam!); La Table de Tee for super-affordable French food made from Thai ingredients; and the Japanese izakayas in Thonglor.

Best places for people watching Siam Centre to see what the city’s hipsters are wearing; the K Village restaurants and Wine Connection bar to see who they’re flirting with; and Gaggan (another favourite restaurant) to watch Bangkok’s high society drool over Chef Gaggan’s contemporary Indian cuisine.

Where to be seen The bars in Thonglor, Ekkamai and Ari, the city’s coolest suburbs, and whatever restaurant is hip at the time of you visit – the locals are fickle and this changes all the time, but Chef Ian Kittichai’s Hyde and Seek, Bangkok’s first gastro pub is currently a hot spot.

Most breathtaking views The dramatic bird’s eye vistas from one of Bangkok’s famous rooftop bars, such as the Moon Bar at Vertigo at the Banyan Tree Hotel and the Sky Bar at The Dome at the Lebua State Tower. I also like the views over river to Wat Arun from Amoroso bar above The Deck. Although these are all tourist-central they’re still very special.

My favourite stroll With a dearth of footpaths, Bangkok is not a city for flaneurs, but my favourite neighbourhood for wandering is Thonglor, which probably has the most tranquil backstreets in Bangkok. Largely home to affluent young Thais and Japanese expats, there are some lovely retro weatherboard houses from the 1950s through to the 1970s in the leafy backstreets.

The best spot for peace and quiet Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s version of Hyde Park or Central Park. Although there is always something going on – mass aerobics classes, mahjong games, ballroom dancing, and Tai Chi – it’s the most tranquil spot Bangkok has got.

Where I’d go on a date If you’re out to impress, start with cocktails at Sky Bar, dine at Nahm or Sra Bua, then finish with a nightcap at Vertigo.

Best places for live music Skip the backpacker venues of Banglamphu (especially around Khao San) and instead head to local favourites like Café Democ for DJs, jazz and retro Thai, Ad Here the 13th for blues and impro, and Lollipop and Parking Toys for Thai indie bands. A night on RCA is a must-do for dance music and live Thai pop/rock (try Overtone).

Don’t leave without… spending an afternoon shopping and eating at chaotic Chatuchak Market (locally known as JJ Market), which should always be rounded off with drinks at the funky bar-cum-furniture shop near the main market entrance where you can sip a cold Singha or glass of white wine, while the DJ spins some soul music and the informal ‘night market’ takes over the street for an hour or two, or until the police get fed up.

My expert information

Bangkok (Thailand, Asia,

Well everyone does, don’t they? But while Bangkok is one of the most visited capitals in the world, many people just pass through this bustling metropolis on their way to one of Thailand’s beaches for a good lie down. And that’s a shame, because Bangkok is more than just heaving traffic, oppressive humidity and befuddled architecture, it’s one of the most fascinating and complex cities – not just in Asia – but the world. Oh, and it’s fun.