Bangkok Thailand – Foodies Paradise or Just Another Dirty Capital City?

Bangkok Thailand

by Marc Valentine

Bangkok – The Thai capital dubbed ‘The City of Angels’ was the first port of call on the Southeast Asia leg of our Sabbatical… to be honest we had no idea what to expect from the bustling city.

Bangkok sees a massive amount of overseas visitors each year as it’s a hub for travellers venturing out to go backpacking in Southeast Asia. You can fly in, have a look around for a few nights, then jump on a plane (or a bus like we did) & explore another part of Thailand or even one of Thailand’s 4 bordering countries – Burma, Malaysia, Cambodia & Laos.

We’d heard mixed reports about Bangkok, but hey – if you’ve ever sat around and listened to a group of people discussing travel, you’re bound to have heard the usual disagreements as one person swears by a certain country/city/island and invariably someone else disagrees entirely.

The truth is, travel is deeply personal, and a positive travel experience depends not just on your chosen travel destination… but also a lot on you. Your values. Your expectations. And your desire for comfort or adventure.

I’ve travelled to places that came highly recommended, that failed to impress. On the flip side, I’ve also been to places that other people recommended avoiding and I had nothing but great times.

So we wanted to make any pre-conceptions about Bangkok an after-thought – so we could arrive in Bangkok with an open mind and give ourselves the best possible chance of enjoying whatever the city had to throw at us.

Thankfully we had an awesome time… in my opinion Bangkok is a super-cool city.

With a plethora of experiences on offer for travellers, from floating markets, to amazing temples, delicious street food, and crazy ferry rides, you’re guaranteed to find something in Bangkok to satisfy your travel appetite.

Bangkok’s Tourist Epicentre – Khao San Road

Koh San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road Transforms in The Evenings

Khao San Road, in the main tourist area could possibly be the busiest tourist road on the planet.

It’s absolutely jam packed with bars, guest houses, street food vendors and of course tourists from all over the world.

If you’re still struggling to picture Khao San Road; as you wander down the road trying to avoid colliding with other tourists, the street scape looks something like this… Bar, Guest house, Bar, Tattoo Parlour, Bar, Clothing Shop, Another Bar.

When the sun goes down on Khao San, you can buy pretty much anything you can care to imagine.

In the market for a novelty t-shirt that may or may not describe your mother-in-law accurately (using naughty words)?

Like to quench your appetite with some tasty deep fried crickets?

Or even buy a fake id card that fully certifies you as a Scuba Diver or Airline Pilot in 15 mins?

It’s all possible on Khao San Road.


Deep Fried Bugs For Sale on Koh San Road

Fancy Some Deep Fried Creepy Crawlies For Dinner?

Even if you’re the type to avoid busy tourist spots… be adventurous & take a stroll down Khao San Road – just to check out the mayhem.

Personally, we preferred the slower pace of Soi Ram Buttri.

The road that runs parallel to Khao San Road – it’s a little less chaotic and easier to navigate without the constant need to side-step around other tourists… who seem to have abruptly stopping precisely in your path to more closely inspect an item of clothing down to an art form.

Ram Buttri makes for a warm atmosphere with dozens of restaurants and watering holes for you to grab a beer or a bite to eat. It’s still a very busy tourist road… its just not hectic like Khao San.


Soi Ram Buttri - Bangkok

Soi Ram Buttri Bangkok (Near Khao San Road)

Early one evening as we sat enjoying our 35 baht noodles at a open air restaurant on Ram Buttri, we were fortunate enough to enjoy some free entertainment when a group of local break dancers decided the bitumen road was as good a place as any to practice their breakdancing skills.

Watch Video Here

Every time there was a short break between the tourists, scooters & minivans… a space would open up as a pair of legs would spin, kick, and contort until a set of car headlights or horn interrupted the fun & sent the dancer scrambling back to the side of the road until his next opportunity to show the crowd his mad-skills arose.

If you’re looking for a cheap room in the tourist area, there’s a well positioned budget guest house on Soi Ram Buttri with a rooftop swimming pool thats handy for a dip to provide some relief from Bangkok’s searing midday heat – Ram Buttri Village Inn.

 Why You Should Never Eat The Street Food In Bangkok


Street Food in Bangkok

Street Food Stall in Bangkok

By the time our second night in Bangkok came around we got a little adventurous… wilfully took our lives in our hands, and decided it was high time to try the local street food – REALLY BAD IDEA!

That stuff is way too addictive. Seriously its delicious.

Once you try the street food in Bangkok you’ll be forever comparing traditional restaurant food with Bangkok’s tasty street food.

Pfft, you call this Pad Thai? did you guys forgot to put the flavour in? I ain’t paying 120 Baht for this cr@p!

The best part about the street food in Bangkok – it’s very kind on your travel budget, in fact its like travel budget steroids…

35 baht (AU $1.08) will get you a massive plate of Pad Thai Noodles or Fried Rice freshly cooked right there and then on the street in front of you.

Bangkok’s Floating Markets – Fruit. Vegetables. And The Odd Tacky Singlet


Bangkoks Floating Markets

Birdseye View of The Floating Markets From a Foot bridge

When you think of Thailand’s floating markets, most people have seen the images of over-laden small wooden canoes struggling to stay buoyant under the enormous weight of mountains of fruit & vegetables…

All the while the Thai captain, under the shade of her  woven hat – both navigates her small vessel by paddle & tries her best to lure in customers so she, like any small business person – can keep her enterprise running for another day. Put dinner on the kitchen table. And keep a roof over her families head for another night.

Perhaps not an entirely accurate depiction… well, not at the markets near Bangkok anyway.

The floating markets like any other popular tourist attraction are now well and truly optimised for tourism.


Floating Markets Bangkok

Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets Near Bangkok

There are still a few moments along the 30 min boat trip where you might float past an “old timer” still making their living selling coconuts & other fruit… but a great deal of the vendors are now selling the usual singlets, t-shirts & other small keepsakes you’ll find at any market in Thailand.

It’s still a fantastic experience & well worth a visit, just know that if your seeking to deeply immerse yourself in a traditional Thai experience – the floating markets are probably not the traditional experience you might be expecting.

The markets are colourful, & noisy, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the boats jockeying for prime position as they float along the waterways.

Still a great place for the amateur photographer to capture some amazing photos – you’ll need to exercise a bit of patience while waiting for the perfect moment to capture your next screensaver though.

There are a few different floating markets near Bangkok.

Some are closer, some are further away; Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets (the market we visited) are around 80kms Southwest of Bangkok. You can make your own way to most of the markets via long boat or bus from Bangkok – we went for the easy option and did a day tour.

Worth Checking Out While In Bangkok…

The Grand Palace

Grand Palace Bankok Thailand

Grand Palace Bankok Thailand

The Grand Palace is a good place to start your “temple tour” in Thailand.  The buildings are pretty amazing and the atmosphere inside where the Emerald Buddha is housed is best described as profound.

We joined the crowd inside on the floor for probably 10 mins and when we left, people who were there when we arrived were still bowing to pay their respects or just sitting in absolute silence at the feet of the object that commands so much respect inside the most sacred structure in the Palace.

Tip – like most temples in Thailand both the women, and men need to ensure they are fully covered to the elbows and below the knee.  This temple is particularly strict.  You will be able to hire clothing at the temple if necessary, however there tends to be a long line.  You can also ‘rent ‘ clothing just outside of the temple.

Take a Public Ferry Ride

Ferry Ride in Bangkok

Ferry Ride On Chao Phraya River - Bangkok

These ferries scream up to the ferry terminal at an incredible pace, then bring the boat to a complete stop in an instant – before passengers start throwing themselves off & on to the platform.

Then before you know it people are boarding in the same fashion & if you hesitate for a second – the engines are full throttle again and you’ve just missed your ferry.

Worth doing just to see the ferry in action.

Take Thai Cooking Lessons

Thai Cooking Lessons In Bangkok

Thai Food Cooking Lessons In Bangkok, Near Koh San Road

We happened to walk past a Thai cooking school most days in Bangkok, on the way to and from Koh San Road from our Guest House. We were noticed by one of the staff peering through the window one evening and Anna signed up to join the next days cooking class.

The included trip to the local food market was an experience in itself.

Stay in Bangkok?

Rum Buttri Village Inn

If you like the idea of chilling out next to a rooftop pool – this is the place for you. (the service at this hotel is pretty poor, but Im not backpacking in SE Asia for excellent service 🙂

Kaosan Baan Thai

Located a 5 min walk from Koh San Road, with only a few rooms its very cosy, with possibly the friendliest staff in Bangkok – ask for San San.

Sam Sen Sam

Across the road from Kaosan Baan Thai at Sam Sen Sam Guesthouse, they organised us a room here when they couldn’t fit us in themselves for the night. Clean rooms and friendly service. Both guesthouses are located on Samsen Soi 3.

Eat in Bangkok?

Street food.

Street food?

Yep, it’s delicious. It’s fun. It’s cheap

Phad Thai Approx 35 Baht

Beer Approx 35 Baht (Seven Eleven)

Nutella pancake Approx 40 Baht

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