Ever since our trip, hearing the word “Bangkok” triggers an involuntary response in my salivary glands. It’s ridiculous. How come I had never traveled to the Food Capital of the World during the first 1/3 of my life? It might be cue to reevaluate my decision-making skills.
From Point A to Point B
Let’s start with a rant first. Bangkok was not the easiest city to get around in, with sub-mediocre public transit, horrible traffic, inconsistent sidewalks, and armies of tourist scammers. With good eats being all over, and me having to eat 5+ meals per day, a substantial amount of our vacation was spent going from food place to food place.
We often took cabs. This one did NOT collide into those motorcycles somehow
Sometimes we took trains
There was always a walking component, which could sometimes be challenging without a GPS
Sometimes we took the express boat on the Chao Phraya River
Note: not to be confused with the long-tail tourist boats that rip you off
That one time we didn’t mind looking like dumb tourists, we also took a tuk tuk
(which was more expensive, and by all logical measures inferior to a taxi)
But whoaaaaa it was fun!
Yaowarat to Bangkok is like Le Marais to Paris. Some time in the past, Chinese (Jews) lived in the central part of the city, until the Rattanakosin Kingdom (Parisians) decided that they preferred to build there and kicked the minority outside the city limits. Yaowarat (Le Marais) then became the permanently segregated neighborhood for Chinese (Jews), and gradually evolved into a unique attraction.
Today, Yaowarat was a major destination in Bangkok where tourists went to shop and eat. Like a few other markets such as Khao San Road, this neighborhood was heavily featured in all travel guides. Foreigners including ourselves had a predominant presence here.
We skipped Khao San Road because reviews described how white-washed the place had become to cater to backpackers. We contemplated skipping Yaowarat, too, because “Chinatown” sounded so much like what you could find everywhere else in the world. We were pleasantly surprised… even though the food here looked like what we ate all the time, the flavors were a brand-new experience. And they were damn good! We’ve now officially recognized Thai Chinese as one of our favorite Chinese cuisines.
Every Chinatown in the world is always crowded
Wok masters cooked comprehensive meals on the side of the streets
This guy set off explosions every several minutes
One restaurant’s outdoor seating for its dinner service. Some tables were on the sidewalk, others were in the street
I didn’t mind being 1′ from the moving traffic, but that Porsche blasting hot exhaust sideways was just a douche
Wang Lang & Khlong San Markets
Wang Lang and Khlong San, both on the Thonburi side of the river, were traditional markets that formed naturally around ferry piers, where lots of Bangkok residents commuted through. Vendors sold everything from children’s shoes to underwear to massage service. Because shoppers eventually get hungry, these markets also served plenty of food options. We learned about them from the YouTube channel Migrationology, whose owner Mark Wiens is a Bangkok local.
Unlike Yaowarat (and presumably Khao San Road, etc) which depended so heavily on tourist business, Wang Lang and Khlong San had nearly zero. Aside from the two of us, we only saw 2-3 other foreigners here. Vendors and their signage knew no English, so getting our point across (e.g. “I’d like a bowl of those noodles”) was noticeably difficult. It was strange because these two “local” markets were more convenient to get to than most of the tourist markets: Wang Lang was a $0.1 ferry ride across from the Grand Palace, and Khlong San was at the foot of a giant Hilton hotel. It was surreal that you could dodge in these markets, and the armada of American, European, and Chinese faces that surrounded you would suddenly disappear.
Tha Chang pier (at the Grand Palace) for ferry to Wang Lang
This ferry experience was reminiscent of Venice for me
We had no clue what they were selling at Wang Lang half of the time, but it was relaxing to walk through a traditional market
Khlong San was similar
Stewed pork lady
Traveling is about finding the right balance between being adventurous and being cautious. At these local markets where everything was new to us, we had to guess what tasted good while avoiding what might make us sick. We picked a restaurant and randomly ordered something (there were 5-6 things on the menu, and I said “can I have one” while pointing to a bowl). We guessed and later confirmed that this was kuay teow ruea, the boat noodles. We learned about this dish before the trip, but didn’t pay much attention as neither of us was too interested. Little did we know that this would have become the favorite thing that we ate in Thailand. (sorry Gaggan)
With at least 50 bowls of broth lining up waiting to be served, we figured that this must be a popular lunch spot
Customers included grocery-shopping aunties, students in uniform, hospital worker groups, etc
That’s the look of the truly yummy stuff. You can’t say the same about restaurants full of suits or souvenir t-shirts
We shared a bowl with a bag of chicharon (or whatever fried pork skin is called in Thai). Then we asked for two more bowls and shared another bag of chicharon
In Khlong San we found boat noodles in a far smaller operation
It was a bit uncomfortable to squeeze ourselves into the back corner, but we did that twice anyway
Nang Loeng Market
Nang Loeng was a food & groceries market for breakfast and lunch, under the roof of an abandoned factory. The center of it had plenty of food court seating, and around it was a maze of several dozen food vendors. It was relaxing to find a seat, then walk around to order whatever looked good. We had some snack items, a rice plate, some iced tea drinks, and of course a bowl of boat noodles.
Nang Loeng Market was such a low-key local place that neither our hotel nor the taxi driver knew about it. Needless to say, during our visit we were absolutely the only people who didn’t speak Thai. Thanks again to Mark Wiens for telling us about this hidden gem.
From the main road (where I had to GPS-direct the taxi driver to find), we turned into this side alley which led to the market
Here began the factory of pleasant food scents
Pig face stall
Uh oh! Tourist cops!
We were on our best behavior 🙂
Mini Family Reunion
It was really nice that we had an overlap in Bangkok with Ariel and Chee Seng. We hung out over meals… one after another. From immediately after they checked into the hotel to just before us heading out to the airport, the four of us walked around looking for food.
A tom yum goong noodles restaurant near Phrayathai BTS station.
A Thai Chinese roast duck restaurant
Back in Yaowarat, drinking a shell-less coconut
Chee Seng helped me pick out some durian! So glad that I got to try some good Thai durian
A khao man gai (chicken rice) restaurant that a taxi driver supposedly recommended to A+CS last year
Four hungry tourists!
When we were done running around for street food, we chilled at Park Hyatt Bangkok’s rooftop bar
Our fancy drinks!
There was a small Muslim population in Bangkok. Hong and I took a tuk tuk to this halal restaurant with a rather straightforward name. The menu was similar to Singapore Zam Zam’s and the food was just a bit different.
On the walls hung photos of Mecca and recent Thai kings
Southeast Asia 2018 Index
- Peninsula City Hopping
- Pig Out 1/3
- Pig Out 2/3
- Pig Out 3/3
- Hong Kong Déjà Vu
- Unfinished Business in Singapore
- Exploring Kuala Lumpur
- Week-Long Birthday in Thailand
- Wats in Bangkok
- Bangkok Food Scenes
- Ayutthaya Road Trip on a Full Stomach
- Vacation Within Vacation on Koh Samui
- Farewell Thailand