[Bangkok, Thailand] Is it possible to explore in just a day?

#1

We are thinking about spending a whole day in Bangkok during our summer getaway this year. I always imagined I could stay some place close to the airport and just walk down any street, eating at cart vendors all day. However, I read that street vendors are now banned, or rather relegated to specific sections of the city. For anyone who has been recently, how feasible is it to fly in one day, spend the following day eating street food, and fly out the day after that? We are two adults and one child. Thanks for any pointers.

(Also, if one airport – BKK vs DMK – is significantly preferred over the other for proximity to food, please let me know.)

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(Peter) #2

If you have limited time - just go to Bangkok’s biggest & most varied foodcourt at IconSiam. It’s got the largest collection of street food vendors, all under one roof.

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#3

Klyeoh, have you been to IconSiam yourself?

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(Peter) #4

Yes, but we only came across it on our last day of my Bangkok visit last January. We spent 4 hours there but didn’t have enough time to explore the entire food section in the basement of the mall, but it was spectacular - virtually dozens upon dozens of Thai hawker/street food stands, some created to look like boats on the faux floating market which meandered all over the mall’s basement food hall.

We tried some Southern Thai-style rice noodles which looked close to Singaporean Mee Siam, which we’d always suspected was a local Singaporean invention but inspired by some Siamese/Thai noodle dish, but which we had never been able to identify previously.

Also had some “khanom” (sweet, steamed rice puddings) - too many varieties of sweetmeats & desserts to try.

I particularly enjoyed this one, which closely approximates Singaporean “kuih talam”, with its pandan-flavoured rice pudding at the bottom and rich, salty coconut creme on top. Red kidney beans, corn kernels and steamed taro complete the dessert.

I spent most of my time ogling at the variety of food available, and how beautifully designed the food hall was. These are the Naga (dragon) escalators bringing one down to the Food Hall from the swanky mall upstairs:

The proper restaurants are in the upper floors of the mall, including branches of Michelin-rated Thai restaurants. We didn’t have a chance to explore the floors in-between as the mall was massive - larger than even Central World Plaza or Siam Paragon in Pratunam, my regular mall hangouts in Bangkok.

We lunched at one of the restaurants on the upper level - Lay Lao from Hua Hin, which was listed as a Bib Gourmand entry in Thailand’s Michelin Guide.

We had some very nice Pad Thai and Khanom Chin (rice noodles) with crab curry.

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(:@)) :@)) ) #5

Quite amazing.

I was in Thailand in 2000 and 2001 in my novice eating and backpacking days. No research, just ate on streets, markets and at simple places only. I think those were the happiest days when things were simpler.

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#6

Are food as good as those days on the streets? They seems to make too much effort in marketing, I don’t know, looks like any other modern Asian mall having a theme food festival or food court, although very impressive with the size. I would have preferred they look more “down to earth” in an indoor market setting maybe like Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong?! Just a thought.

I was in Bangkok in 2013, I’m glad to have lived the street food experience.

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(Peter) #7

Like a food centre or hawker centre in Malaysia/Singapore and HK? Yes, the food do seem more real there, compared to a sanitised, spruced up food hall in a mall or department store.

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(Peter) #8

One can still find places like this around Bangkok, but will need to do some homework to suss them out these days.

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#9

Yeah that’s the word! Thanks!

In Paris, those bobo entrepreneurs create restaurants that resemble the spirt of street food, down to the “look”. Street Bangkok is one of them. It’s exactly what the government of Thailand wants to get rid of that image, to become a cosmopolitan city, what a dilemma!

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(Peter) #10

Definitely DMK - much closer to the city, or anywhere for that matter.

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#11

Thanks @klyeoh! We actually came in through BKK yesterday and will leave through DMK tomorrow. It wasn’t so bad from BKK using public transportation. We got a place in the Ratchathewi area, very close to Phaya Thai.

We went to MBK first and it was extremely disappointing foodwise. Siam Paragon seemed like more of the same so we got out of there quick. Darn! Should have explored it more. Walking around smaller streets, we found some mediocre to good offerings

I have been imagining coming here for so long, perhaps it was impossible to live up to expectations. I even refrained from eating coconut, jackfruit, and durian the whole time I was in China. We came upon a very interesting Bangkok local last night. As a sort of hobby, he has a small farm and supplies durian and jackfruit to local vendors. First, he directed me to a great durian cart that was actually somewhat affordable, too. (I had thrown away expensive, bad durian earlier.) Then he explained that jackfruit and, especially, durian and coconut, are being exported to China and that drives up the local price. He laughed and said you should’ve eaten the ones in China. Argh!

Thailand was actually our intended honeymoon location, but that trip was canceled due to injury, and every time we made plans later, those were canceled, too. So I’ve been following Bangkok’s transformation for quite some time. The charm of the street carts is gone. And the super malls, coupled with the very large percentage of tourists from everywhere (including many Muslim countries), make it feel like Dubai’s alter-ego.

Yesterday we walked to one of the streets (P. Soi 5) from Mark Weins’ video, but couldn’t find all the vendors in that video. Maybe some have closed. But finally we did find great food in that area. Also, I started trusting my instincts, rather than looking at long lines or what other people are doing.

Anyway, when I first showed my family IconSiam a month ago, they scoffed, “What sort of sterile place are you taking us to?” I have trained them too well, haha. (Frankly, I thought the same thing.) Now, we are more open to the idea. We are too full from last night to eat right now, but after visiting a temple ot two, we will try to head over to IconSiam. Thanks for posting the pictures and descriptions.

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(Peter) #12

Now that I have a better idea of your expectations, then maybe Rot Fai market would suit you better. The place has quite a number of talented new street vendors experimenting with new dishes, including the Leng Saap Rot Fai (pork-rib dish) which has gained a cult following.
http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/rot-fai-market-ratchada.htm

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#13

I don’t eat pork, but will definitely head there if we get done early. Finished Wat Pho, on the way to Jim Thompson House.

My family always complains that I am over immersive. Our AirBnB is in a very small street. And I made us trek all our luggage on the trains and then walk. Last night we didn’t pay attention to our neighborhood, but this morning we finally walked around the small alleys and found some gems. There’s very little English spoken in this neighborhood. Last night, I had vendors refuse me service I assume because they could not speak English. This morning, I didn’t give them a chance. Just sat down and pointed. We started familiar and then moved to things we’d never seen before. Some prices were almost half of last night’s vendors on the popular streets. And the food was great!

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(Peter) #14

You’re amazingly resilient. Hope you find more good food along the way. :grin::+1:

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#15

Thanks. We walked to a small mosque today through super small alleys. I mean like claustrophobic alleys. We exited the mosque and out of nowhere, a family of 5 appears with heavy luggage, just huffing and puffing the whole distance to the main street, where they hailed a taxi. I’m going to say they were from a European country, but I couldn’t make out the language. The eldest kid couldn’t have been more than 12 years old. I was so happy to see someone else with a similar mindset.

We ate so much today at stalls along the way, we could barely walk home, let alone go to another area. Wish we could stay another day. I really want to try proper restaurants here.I’m very curious because most of what we had was good. But largely it was due to flavorful ingredients and freshness of preparation. Most of it was not balanced: sour, sweet, salty, spicy. I kind of enjoyed that by the end because, at home, I feel there is a sort of same-ism when all four of those elements are balanced in every dish. I would love to see the ideology of the better restaurants.

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(Peter) #16

Next time you’re here, try Krua Apsorn:

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#17

I have the same feeling with street foods in Thailand. I liked the ambiance of street food, while some food were very good, many were a bit confused with seasonings. It’s always good to try the same food in different types of restaurants to have a better understanding of the cuisine.

I have to admit, I would have never achieved as much as you did even without kids in 1 day there.

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