Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hidden Bangkok - An Insiders Guide to the City


Readers, as you may have seen over on Instagram, I’m just back from Thailand. I first went as a backpacker when I was 22.  We island hopped, wore very printed textiles, carried backpacks and went to Full Moon.  7 years on, we had a much more refined couples affair.  I’m hoping to pop a few posts up from this trip, but I’ll start tonight with Hidden Bangkok.

Bangkok used to get a bit of a bad name as a seedy city, covered with neon lights and dodgy backstreet alleyways. Now, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, there are still some “interesting” streets and sights, but on the whole, it’s a bustling metropolitan city and a fusion of east meets west.  This was my third visit to Bangkok and this time, because I’d seen most of the main tourist sites, felt we could dig into the heart of the city a little further.

Today I’m featuring some great hidden spots in Bangkok that you might not fall over on the tourist trail…

A  Place To Lay Your Head

This time we stayed in Chinatown – it’s a bit off the transport links – nearest metro is about a 10 minute walk at Hua Lamphong and not near the Sky Train, but don’t let that put you off.  The cheapest “superior” room at the Shanghai Mansion is about £50 a night and for that you’ll get a big bed, decent en suite and a clean, Chinese themed hotel with a jazz bar in reception, good cocktails, an on site spa and some huge fish in pond.  It’s also right on the main street of Chinatown – with street food galore (see next point).

Embrace The Street Food

As mentioned above, the heart of Chinatown is the perfect place to try some of Bangkok’s famous street food.  There were endless choices available on Th Yaowarat and a short walk down the street – out of the hotel, go right, cross the road, led us to the best Pad Thai we’d had all holiday.  I can only describe it by the family affair with some plastic chairs, where somebody makes the dumplings and next door the girl and guy are cooking up the pad thai at lightning speed.   If you manage to find it based on those instructions, I’ll be delighted.   I also had the best spring rolls of my life – about 8 fried beauties for 70p.  Now, even harder instructions – the spring roll lady is fairly elderly and her stall is down one of the side streets.  If you come out of Shanghai Mansion, go right, head down the road Th Yaowarat, it’s on that side, in one of the side streets off to the right. Again, if you find it, I’ll be delighted.
chinatown streetfood bangkok

Don’t be scared to embrace street eating – just take a safety first approach.  Look for vendors that are busy and are feeding locals as well as tourists.  If it’s roasting hot and there’s no signs of refrigeration, watch meats and seafood. Perhaps your first attempt at Oysters should be from a restaurant?! We were absolutely fine and ate street food many times during our stay in Thailand – everything from traditional dishes to fried potato with pizza seasoning, then dumplings, gyoza, waffles on a stick with sprinkles, spring rolls and ice cream.  For those on a budget, you’ll get fantastic cheap eats – our favourite pad thai was less than £5 for BOTH OF US and that included a couple of beers and a side portion of dumplings. Bargain.
pad thai streetfood bangkok


Visit a Sky Bar

With all the money you’ve saved on food, you can afford to splurge on one night out that’s a bit special. Bangkok has a number of great sky bars where you can buy a drink and sit out on the terrace admiring the skyscrapers and twinkling lights of the streets below you.  I can’t speak for them all, but we visited the Speakeasy at the Hotel Muse located on the 24th floor.  Uber is dirt cheap in Bangkok, so even if you are a bit away, it’s worth the journey.  Everything is dark wood, 1920s themed indoors – the cocktail bar is out on the terrace – and the music is good.  We went on a Friday night about 8.30pm and managed to get a table outdoors however, it had started to get pretty full as we left to go to dinner.
bangkok skyline
Views from Speakeasy on 24th Floor of Hotel Muse 

Beers by The Chaoporya

The famous river that runs through the city is a hotbed of water traffic – from commuter boats to neon lit dinner cruises.  If you fancy a beer off the beaten track (and some food if you are hungry) look no further than the Samsara bar.  It’s about a 5 minute walk from Th Yaowarat and not that far from the Hua Lamphong MRT Metro Station.  It’s literally a cabin type structure with about 6 tables – some of which are right on the water.  It’s a little difficult to find as it’s a bit of walking down an alleyway, searching for the right door, but this all adds to the fun.  There are a fair few cats living in the place – pets I presume.  The venue has a small handwritten menu and once they are out of something it’s scored off.  We didn’t eat dinner, but we did enjoy a beer by the river and some hot nuts whilst enjoying the view and watching the river cruises sail into the night. 

Wanderlust

A great spot attached to a hostel, Wanderlust is an Aussie style cafe with good coffees and has an epic brunch menu.  We were the only people in when we got there, but the brunch was amazing. It’s on the way to the Golden Budda, so if that’s on the list to visit, keep Wanderlust in mind.  They have craft sodas, free wifi, a bit of a hipster vibe and serve on wood and in skillets (sorry plate lovers) but the food is freshly cooked and is worth the wait.   See photo.
brunch at wanderlust bangkok



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