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Thailand - Bangkok and more

Thailand - Bangkok and more
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  • Thailand - Bangkok and more

    Post #1 - June 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    Post #1 - June 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm Post #1 - June 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    We're planning a trip to Thailand, including Bangkok. I can't find any info on our boards.

    So, what would you all suggest in terms of itinerary for a 5 day trip, flying in and out of Bangkok? Hubby and I are in our early 30's, relatively adventurous, and always looking for a good deal.

    We have no idea where to stay in Bangkok. We would like to also go some place resorty outside of Bangkok. I would like to do a Thai cooking class, something more local and uncommercialized. I'm not a big fan of tours, but want to hit the big spots along with some interesting, off the beaten path things. Food recommendations (both dishes and restaurants) are appreciated.
  • Post #2 - June 6th, 2006, 5:09 pm
    Post #2 - June 6th, 2006, 5:09 pm Post #2 - June 6th, 2006, 5:09 pm
    I'd recommend the Spice Market, located inside the Four Seasons (formerly Regent) Hotel. http://four-seasons-hotel-(regent-bangkok).th66.com/ I had the tasting menu, which at $35 was my most expensive meal there.

    If you stay at any of the major hotels, they will have a concierge service who can hook you up with any of the tours going around town, such as the Royal Palace, the floating markets, the ruins at Ayutthaya, etc. The tours will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.

    If you like ruins and old temples, you should really consider going to Angkor Wat while you're over there. It's a short flight into Siem Riep, Cambodia, and there are a lot of all inclusive tours to there from Bangkok.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #3 - June 6th, 2006, 5:17 pm
    Post #3 - June 6th, 2006, 5:17 pm Post #3 - June 6th, 2006, 5:17 pm
    Gosh, I loved and hated Bangkok.

    It's noisy, smelly, smoggy, hot, the traffic is incredible, have I mentioned hot, it's difficult to find your away around, Thai ettiquette can be hard to handle at times (the inability to say no Mr. VI, your bus is not showing up), and it's hot.

    But gosh darn, the food, the scenes, architecture, the food. A lot of fun.

    It's too long ago for me to recommend specific places, but my over-riding memory of Bangkok was of the street food. It's like a non-stop buffet. If we were not just snacking 24 hours, we were eating in the quasi-street restaurants--I mean the difference between tables and no tables but still on the street. After a few days, we never hit any more "real" restaurants, but again, it's been many years.

    It's hot.

    Bangkok is famous for its 5 Star hotels. We stayed at the Shangra Lai, about 5th on the list (still great). It was really, really nice to have this island to return to after wandering around for hours.

    Do report back!

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #4 - June 6th, 2006, 8:16 pm
    Post #4 - June 6th, 2006, 8:16 pm Post #4 - June 6th, 2006, 8:16 pm
    Used to be that the Ambassador Hotel, on Sukhumvit, had a massive food court in their ground floor. I mean, mayb 100 stalls. You bought script and then spent it as fast as you can eat. Now this was years ago, but if it's still there, you've got no reason to eat anyplace else in the city. Guys there with grills, burners, woks, every form of cooking known to humankind, with every type of SE Asian cooking so far discovered.

    There's a small chain of local restaurants called Djit Pochana. Give them a try, they do very good work.

    Outbound a few blocks on Sukhumvit from the Ambassador is a place, on the right side of the road, that looks like a supermarket. You go in, grab a chariot/trolley/basket whatever you call them, and wander in among the veg meat and fish aisles, choosing what you want to have cooked for you. Genuine treat.

    BTW, did anyone yet mention that B'kok is hot, noisy, crowded? And polluted as well? Oh well, there's very good eats available.

    And yet another BTW: the zoo is excellent. Probably quieter than most of the city, too. Take an easy bus trip to get there.

    Man, it's hot. But the eats is good. Just keep this latter in mind.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #5 - June 7th, 2006, 12:27 pm
    Post #5 - June 7th, 2006, 12:27 pm Post #5 - June 7th, 2006, 12:27 pm
    I have been to bankok and thailand well over a dozen times. if you are there for 5 days, I wouldn't leave the city.

    I also wouldnt eat at all in a fancy resteraunt, just on the go.

    the amari hotel chain is very good, locally owned, and reasonably priced. the amari watergate is very nice (5 star quality by european or american standards) , and is in a great part of town for shopping. right across the street is a sea food place the likes of wich you simple will not see outside of asia - a street block of tanks of living sea animals, literally hundreds of tanks, you pick what you want to eat and discuss with the waiter what the best way to cook it wouldbe and then sit inside and they bring it to you. my wife had, on our last trip, a 3 pound lobster, a huge crab, and maybe 4 large prawns for under $25.

    you will find little "malls" called "hakwer centers" or "night markets" - these are food courts with anywhere from 10 to hundreds of stands that make one type of food - noodle soup, fried egg rolls, sate, fried rice, etc. the food is very fresh, and fantastic, in most. keep you eye open for long lines (a good sign) and fast turnover of the food (also a good sign). these places are all over the city, but your hotel can point you at them.

    what to see? see the main temples, on both sides of the river, and the royal palace. go to wat ann for a massage at the massage school. I would take a river taxi for 4 hours and have a tour around the water ways. go to china town.

    have fun
  • Post #6 - June 7th, 2006, 7:05 pm
    Post #6 - June 7th, 2006, 7:05 pm Post #6 - June 7th, 2006, 7:05 pm
    I agree with globetrotter, though I'd make one exception to the advice to stay in Bangkok. I'd say take at least one day tour out of Bangkok -- to the River Kwai. Aside from the moving history of the prisoner-of-war camps from this area, and the bridge over the River Kwai, it is also one of the most beautiful areas of Thailand, with mountains and rice fields and abundant greenery. It can be done as a long day trip out of Bangkok, but there are resorts there (including floating ones), if you want to stay overnight.

    I have stayed in the Amari hotels, and they are excellentand reasonably priced, and I'd recommen them too.

    Food is good just about everywhere. Another cheap luxury if Thai massage. Clothes remain on, though loose clothes are necessary (some places give you pajama-type outfits). Thai massage is quite a bit different from Swedish massage, but is great -- and a fraction of what massage costs in the US.

    In Bangkok, you definitely want to take a klong tour. The klongs are the canals, and you can get a closer look at "real life" than you can on the street.

    For one fun night, you can try Baan Thai -- a bit touristy, but an easy way to see traditional Thai dance and theater, with a decent meal served on traditional, low tables, with diners sitting on the floor. Gets you into the mood for your holiday. Otherwise, eat wherever you are when you get hungry. Department stores actually offer a good option when you're out and about for a day -- they usually have food courts where a wide range of specialties are created for the basically all-Thai clientele (observe how things are handled before you try to order, however, as in some places, you have to buy tickets ahead and then give the tickets to the food vendors). This is a cheap, fun way to eat like the locals do.

    Of course, if you can stay longer than five days, go to Chiang Mai.
  • Post #7 - June 7th, 2006, 8:48 pm
    Post #7 - June 7th, 2006, 8:48 pm Post #7 - June 7th, 2006, 8:48 pm
    Thanks for the input so far. The "Cliff Notes" are perfect.
  • Post #8 - June 7th, 2006, 10:56 pm
    Post #8 - June 7th, 2006, 10:56 pm Post #8 - June 7th, 2006, 10:56 pm
    I just spent about a week in Bangkok a couple months ago and can give you lots of recs. I did a large amount of research going in and took extensive notes and photos on my trip. However, I'm in NY (live in Portland) and don't have my maps with me, so I don't know that I can give you correct names.

    To start with, I largely agree with Globetrotter. You need all those days for Bangkok. You could take a cheap flight to the north or NE, but you'd really be limiting your trip and wouldn't probably do either place justice.

    How tolerant are you of the sex industry? I think it's an important question before I can give you recs, as well.
  • Post #9 - June 8th, 2006, 9:21 am
    Post #9 - June 8th, 2006, 9:21 am Post #9 - June 8th, 2006, 9:21 am
    extramsg - My trip isn't for months. I can't say that I have too much interest in the sex industry. I'd like observe it to the point that it's part of the culture there that's difficult to ignore, but it's not a focus of my travels.
  • Post #10 - June 8th, 2006, 3:43 pm
    Post #10 - June 8th, 2006, 3:43 pm Post #10 - June 8th, 2006, 3:43 pm
    yeah, the river kwai could be a good side trip - you may even get a chance to find a tour operator that can fit in an elephant ride with it. I would suggest not trying to make it up north or to an island - you really can fill 4 or 5 days in bankok.
  • Post #11 - June 8th, 2006, 4:29 pm
    Post #11 - June 8th, 2006, 4:29 pm Post #11 - June 8th, 2006, 4:29 pm
    I was mainly asking because if you wanted to avoid it you'd want to stay away from large parts of Sukhumvit and a couple other areas as much as possible for lodging, restaurants, and street food. But, eg, one of the best sections of street food I found in Bangkok was nearish one of the night markets which is in the middle of the sex industry. So if seeing 60 year old balding guys with big bellies walking down the street hand in hand with petite, gorgeous "18" year olds, then...
  • Post #12 - June 8th, 2006, 5:06 pm
    Post #12 - June 8th, 2006, 5:06 pm Post #12 - June 8th, 2006, 5:06 pm
    extramsg - While I can't say I'd like seeing the old man with the kid, if it's just them passing by, that would be okay in order to partake in the better culinary options.
  • Post #13 - June 8th, 2006, 5:17 pm
    Post #13 - June 8th, 2006, 5:17 pm Post #13 - June 8th, 2006, 5:17 pm
    globetrotter wrote:yeah, the river kwai could be a good side trip - you may even get a chance to find a tour operator that can fit in an elephant ride with it. I would suggest not trying to make it up north or to an island - you really can fill 4 or 5 days in bankok.


    Yeah, there's plenty to do in Bangkok -- klong tour, Royal Palace, Jim Thompson's house -- but getting up to Kanchanaburi (the region where the River Kwai flows) gives a glimpse of what the rest of Thailand is like -- rice paddies, greenery, modest homes. Big cities, however fabulous, are never what the majority of Asia is about. The day trip I did out of Bangkok several years ago was arranged by the hotel, and it included a boat trip up the River Kwai, a ride on the Death Railway, a museum stop, a chance to walk across the bridge, a great lunch, and, quite wonderfully, a full day of driving through lush, rural countryside, low mountains rising in the distance, emerald fields of rice spreading outward, farmers planting or harvesting, small towns, roadside stands stacked high with whatever fruit is in season (if you're lucky, it will be pomelo). I've been back since, and toured more of the country, and spent more time in Kanchanaburi, which is still one of my favorite parts of the country -- just gorgeous.
  • Post #14 - June 8th, 2006, 8:05 pm
    Post #14 - June 8th, 2006, 8:05 pm Post #14 - June 8th, 2006, 8:05 pm
    We took a half-day tour out into the countryside, which included a national park that featured a faithfully [so far as we knew] reconstructed old-style village in a marsh, buildings, game preserve, etc. It was extremely valuable, since it formed a significant part of my/our experience of the country. Via this short tour we came to understood that Thailand is, in large part, a beautiful, pastoral, country. Which we would NOT have had an inkling of, had we spent the entire time in the city.

    It doesn't actually take much time outside the city to realize how the relationship works. Bangkok is all of Thailand just the same way that Chicago is all of Illinois.¶

    Geo

    Discerning readers might well note a touch of the facetious here... : ^)
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #15 - June 9th, 2006, 7:49 am
    Post #15 - June 9th, 2006, 7:49 am Post #15 - June 9th, 2006, 7:49 am
    true, but 5 days is just so little time, it would be a shame to spend too much of that in transit. you could easily spend 10 days in Bankok.

    another thing - eat the fruit on the street. Thailand is probrably the cleanest country in Asia (not counting Japan and Korea, perhaps) and the street food, inlcuding fruit, is safe. try the various dips that they offer, as well - salty, sweet and spicy, to got with fruit.

    you can also find steamed rice with fruit/beans sold on the street.
  • Post #16 - June 12th, 2006, 12:51 am
    Post #16 - June 12th, 2006, 12:51 am Post #16 - June 12th, 2006, 12:51 am
    I'm a woman in my mid-30s and traveled alone to Thailand and Cambodia in February for 3 weeks. I had just gotten laid off from my job so had alot of time but not alot of money. I was more a backpacker than tourist so I stayed in guest houses, not in hotels (with the exception of 2 nights). Bangkok is dizzying -- it's what I envision when I think of the word chaos. I hated it at first, but it really grows on you -- by the time I flew back from 4 days in Cambodia, it almost felt like home! It's hot, crowded, snarled with traffic, stinky but absolutely glorious. I can't wait to get back!

    Bangkok can be tough to get around, so do some research ahead of time and know what sites you want to visit and neighborhoods you want to get to. Khao San Road is well-known as the backpacker ghetto. Though I was VERY annoyed with the Spring Fling atmostphere and noise levels, you can't beat it for convenience because it is known by every tuk-tuk and taxi driver and everything is open almost 24 hours. My flight landed at 1am (ORD-NRT-BKK) with no lodging reservations, but there were plenty of options for cheap lodging and street food when I got there around 2am. If you aren't tolerant of the noise and obnoxious eternal Spring Break atmosphere, don't stay there. I only stayed there because I was looking for rock bottom prices, and I was looking to meet solo travelers like myself.

    If I could do my time in Bangkok over again, I would stay either near the river or near the Sky Train to facilitate moving around the city. Khao San Road is a bit of a walk from the river, and not at all near the Sky Train. Tuk-Tuks drove me nuts and taxi drivers rarely speak enough English to go explore all but the most touristy spots. They don't do well with maps labeled in English (or Thai, for that matter) either, so it was difficult communicating. The river taxis are very fast, cheap and offer a much less stressful way to get around. The river is like the Grand Canal in Venice -- it was the main artery for transport before cars and tuk-tuks changed transportation in the city. Most of the temples and the Grand Palace is easily accessible via the river, so I would stay in a economy hotel/guest house near a river express stop when I go back. You can figure out what lodging options are close to river express stops on a map in Lonely Planet Thailand, which every English-speaking traveler seemed to have. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the gorgeous temples and the Rama VIII bridge on one ride back to the guest house.

    My major culinary splurge in Bangkok was the afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental, which is right next to the Mandarin Oriental river express stop. The award-winning hotel has the historic Author's Lounge where many literary figures spent time writing, a perfect backdrop for a luxurious snack (it was a late brunch for me). For $22, I was able to enjoy a beautiful, historical and serene surroundings (with air conditioning!!!) and have a truly delicious meal sitting down. I highly recommend this, preferably in the middle of your stay. I chose the Oriental menu instead of the traditional English menu, because it was the only opportunity I had to experience Thai-western fusion food. I have to say that my afternoon tea and my 6 hour Thai cooking course (which I did in Chiang Mai) were in the top 3 highlights of my trip (the other being my 4 day liveaboard scuba diving trip, but that's not food related). I only dined at sit-down restaurants two other times in Bangkok -- it was all street food otherwise, whenver and whatever I wanted to eat. The cooking course at the Mandarin Oriental is the most extensive and expensive. For your 5 day trip, I wouldn't recommend it. My foodie friend took a class at Thai House Cooking School, northeast of Bangkok. An online review by a third party:
    http://thegreatoutdoors.com.au/display.php?ID=12071

    The Sky Train is the cleanest, most modern public transit system I have ever been on. And that's saying alot because I have been all over Japan on the bullet trains, JR and subways. Many of the luxury and business hotels are in the Sukhumvit and Silom neighborhoods, and are conveniently located near Sky Train stations. This may be a great area to stay in if you are more interested in shopping and nightlife. If you should have a yearning for non-Thai food (I never did), you will find lots of international dining options here. I went salsa dancing in these neighborhoods, at a very posh Brazilian churrascaria in the Hotel Intercontinental as well as at a Latin bar called La Rueda.

    As I write this, I am so yearning to go back. I so miss my typical day in Bangkok:
      1. Walk out of guest house and stop by the coffee lady's cart for some iced Thai coffee (she puts it in a plastic bag filled with ice and sticks a straw into it).
      2. Select a new fruit to try from the fruit cart guy who will slice it for you in front of your face with a machete-looking knife.
      3. Walk down the street to look for a different street food to try. (Most people start with banana pancakes, but curry and noodles can be breakfast, even deep fried whole snapper. It's weird, but you have a limited number of days in this culinary country.)
      4. Study Lonely Planet's map (probably the best map you can find) to figure out how to get to destination.
      5. Enjoy destination.
      6. Go to internet cafe to post daily blog and sit in air conditioning.
      7. Eat while researching next destination options.
      8. Do more sight-seeing.
      9. Get massage (Wat Pho has the best school in the city, and I loved all my massages there).
      10. Eat.
      11. Go to nightlife destination.
      12. Go home and sleep.
    I think I ate about 6 times a day in Bangkok. Fabulous!

    I'd be happy to share my blog and my photo albums on Shutterfly with you if you're interested. My friends enjoyed my food talk on the blog, and I have lots of pictures of food!

    asami
  • Post #17 - June 12th, 2006, 7:18 am
    Post #17 - June 12th, 2006, 7:18 am Post #17 - June 12th, 2006, 7:18 am
    asami, thanks for all the info. I'd love to see your blog and pics. If you wouldn't mind sharing them publicly, just post here. Otherwise, please send me a PM.

    I just watched a Globetrekker video on this area of the world. While I love that show, the info that you all have provided seems much more helpful!

    Thanks again, you all!
  • Post #18 - June 12th, 2006, 7:09 pm
    Post #18 - June 12th, 2006, 7:09 pm Post #18 - June 12th, 2006, 7:09 pm
    The purpose of my blog was to keep my family and friends updated on a very unstructured itinerary. It wasn't necessarily supposed to be about food, but alot of it turned out to be that way. It displays from most recent first, so you'll have to go back in time to Day 1 read in chronological order.

    http://gogoasami.blogspot.com/

    I will only bore you with photos from my Bangkok and Chiang Mai albums. I took HUNDREDS of photos of ruins in Sukhotai and Siem Reap, more than even I want to look at!

    Bangkok photos:
    http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welc ... WblkzcN2IR

    Chiang Mai photos (cooking class included!):
    http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welc ... WblkzcN2IA
  • Post #19 - June 20th, 2006, 3:34 pm
    Post #19 - June 20th, 2006, 3:34 pm Post #19 - June 20th, 2006, 3:34 pm
    Okay, I have a little time to answer now. First of all, while I didn't make my daily logs public, a friend I travelled with had his own. You might want to check them out. They start at the bottom of the page and get newer as you go up, then you have to go back to the bottom to go to newer entries:

    http://www.geekroar.com/leopoldo/catego ... ls/page/3/

    There are some errors here and there, but for the most part it should be interesting.

    Okay here are my suggestions:

    STREET FOOD

    I think Thailand is a very clean third world country. I found it much safer and more hygenic than Mexico, eg. While I wasn't always willing to eat a stew/curry that had been sitting around unheated all day, I did eat my share and never even got a twinge of being sick in two weeks. Of course, I only drank bottled water and I was obsessive about using those little disinfectant towellettes before eating. Take a lot of those. They will serve you well. Often it's not the food that gets you, it's that you're eating the food with your hands after spending all day touching stuff. Although, there really aren't that many true finger foods.

    My favorite spots in Bangkok for street foods were:

    * Soi Convent just south and at the corner of Thanon Silom. (Thanons are big roads whereas sois are little roads.) Also in either direction on this side of the road up and down Silom there are some good stands. eg, we got some great kanom jeen at a stand just under the Sala Daeng skytrain stop. There was fantastic (Thai, of course) fried chicken just on the corner of Convent and Silom. There was a good kanom jeen seller, too, not far. And across from the kanom jeen vendor one night was a lady making haw mok that were really wonderful. If you go down Convent a little, there was a smoothie maker, although they weren't as good as the store under the Sala Daeng on the north side (forget the name right now, but it's trendy looking), but were cheaper. Rotee Boy is also under Sala Daeng, just to the east, I think. Really interesting rotee. They're the Krispy Kreme of Southeast Asia. This is all near where one of the night markets is. On either side of the night market are "ping pong shows" and other places that will try to lure you in for something sexually related. The night market actually is pretty decent for getting all the crap that people get in Thailand. There are various corners in every direction here, too, that will have street foods, mostly soups. But Convent has the highest proportion.

    * Talaat Salanamron, especially along Soi Prannock to the north. This was a total lark. We just went to the water taxi stop N10 and were going to take a taxi down to Wat Arun. But this little market serving almost entirely Thais had fantastic food along the road to the north. There was this terrific curry vendor with probably half a dozen or more different curries in big metal bowls. They had a great variety of vegetables and wonderful flavors. They also had several other dishes, such as stuffed prawns, for purchase. There were many other good vendors, too, such as a place serving the best grilled bananas I had on the trip, both the mashed plantains and the bananas grilled in their skins. We got some really good chicken soup, too.

    * Near Suan Amporn and the National Assembly, at the corner of Ayuthaya and Rajadamnoen Nok. I don't know if we were just lucky, but while we were in Thailand there was always something going on here. Looked mostly like graduations. Tons of vendors with a huge variety of dishes. Lots of fried chicken, various satay, and snack foods. Also on Ayuthaya farther west (I walked a lot and the guest house we were staying at was near the river on this road) in front of a bank on the south side of the street were a couple really good vendors every day. Don't know the cross street, though. I'd say about Ratchasima. It was in the middle of a block, though. One of the vendors was selling satay and another was making the little round dumplings, I forget the name, maybe Erik or somebody can help, that are made in the half-circle muffin like pans and then turned over to form balls. The best ones had these little mollusks in them, perhaps a mussel or clam. Very creamy and flavorful.

    * Samsen (turns into Chakrabong around the Khao San area) and Ayuthaya or Phitsanulok. Each of these last two roads run east/west more or less and end at Samsen. The busses use them to go in each direction and turn around I think. There's a bit of a market between the two I think and on either side along the road there are some very good food stalls during the day. Along Ayuthaya at this corner was one of the only places in Bangkok I saw rotee (that's how they usually spell it) like you see all over in the north.

    * Khao san is hell, imo. I'd rather hang out with the whores and mongers than the eurotrash, whites-with-dreads, unwashed, pseudo-hippies looking for "enlightenment" through a bong. But the place is still alive late night and there are lots of vendors near it and up it. However, most are definitely choosing their foods based on the tourist palate. Hence, there are maybe half a dozen or more pad thai street vendors at any time, something I hardly ever saw anywhere else. Admittedly, though, you can get a great pad thai for about a buck even at 1am.

    * Chinatown. The place is nutso, crazy, insane. But it has A LOT of interesting things to look at and A LOT of street foods. It's like a noisy, smoggy maze, but worth a trip. Get there earlyish. The side streets have all the stuff.

    * Aw Taw Kaw Market: This is southwest of Chatuchak and open during the day. If you follow the main road just south of Chatuchak, you'll eventually see a big market across the street. On the west side of the building (which is covered with open sides) there are many hot foods vendors. But check out all the produce, etc. There's also a candy/snack shop just southwest of this market that was very cool. Got some tasty things there.

    INSIDE EATS

    I didn't eat at many restaurants at all. I mostly stuck to street food. It's cheaper and I can see what I'm getting before I order and just point. But I did have one great meal in a restaurant, plus some other good dishes.

    * MBK Food Court: We tried a couple of the food courts in shopping malls. They're so much better than what you're used to in the US. Most of the stuff is made fresh and from scratch and the shoppers all know they can go down on the street and get something cheaper if they want. Each stall specializes in a few dishes. Of the various food courts, I thought the one at MBK was by far the best. They had the best variety and the best quality. I loved the papaya salad and mango salad vendor at the far corner of the place. But there was plenty to try and eat. There's even some Indian food vendors and smoothie vendors. Note: You do have to purchase tickets prior. None of the vendors take money, they just take tickets, each of which as a value.

    * Chote Chitr. I got this place from RW Apple's article in the NYT. Tough to find. Very tough. My suggestion is to get close and then start asking people or find a cab driver familiar with it. Not easy to find at all, but worth it for sure. The dishes he recommends were the best dishes we had. Ask for recs, too. They do speak a little English and have an English menu, I think. Definitely don't skip the banana blossom salad.

    * btw, if you want a bit more upscale places, I picked up this book and brought it back. Pretty cool. If you like cookbooks, I'd suggest a trip to Asia Books. They're all over. Plenty in English and I picked up some items you can't really find in the US.

    EXTRA SUGGESTIONS

    * Learn as much basic Thai as you can, especially how to pronounce transliterations. It's probably too late now, but I really wish I could at least pronounce actual Thai script. Definitely learn your numbers. They're very easy. I think Thai, except the pronunciation, is a very easy language. I picked it up so much faster than Japanese. Any bit of Thai from a farang is greatly appreciated, too, even if it's just a korp kuhn krap. Numbers, though. They're a must if you want to get off the beaten path.

    * Pick up Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok as soon as you can. It's way cheaper in Thailand, though you can find it online and at good bookstores. It's not especially useful for getting around, but once you are somewhere it has lots of markets and other points of interest, plus a map of Chatuchak market. You may want a second map, though, although the Lonely Planet map in the book is quite good. The big problem with getting around is that taxi drivers generally don't know where anything is either.

    * Plan out your destinations ahead of time, use the Skytrain as much as possible, and take taxis instead of tuk tuks. The tuk tuks are fun, sure, but they're generally a worse price and less comfortable unless you're under 5 ft tall. Personally, I liked walking around because you always see stuff along the way, but that's going to result in heavy sweating.

    * Oh, speaking of sweating... In Bangkok, it's unusual to see shorts. I wore them anyway, but know that it's unusual. Sandals, however, are the norm, even when wearing nice clothes. I however, bucked the trend again and wore comfortable sneakers because I hate getting my feet all gross and dirty. But I would have been cooler in sandals.

    * In double-checking a few things here, I noticed this Chowhound post that looks very useful. It even overlaps with some of my suggestions. Wish it was available before my trip.

    * We stayed at a guest house just north of Thewes Market called Shanti. I really liked the area -- away from all the touristy stuff with interesting things within walking distance, plus close to good bus routes. (My theory on busses is that you don't need to know their routes, you just take them until they turn or you reach the place you need to go.) It was also very close to a water taxi stop making it perfect for getting to all the Wats, Chinatown, etc.
  • Post #20 - October 27th, 2010, 8:23 pm
    Post #20 - October 27th, 2010, 8:23 pm Post #20 - October 27th, 2010, 8:23 pm
    Bumping this thread as I will be traveling to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket (Karon Beach), spending several days in each location. Any newer recommendations?

    There doesn't appear to be anything on here concerning Chiang Mai and Phuket so I would also like suggestions for those locales, including side trip suggestions for all locations, places off the beaten path, and any other suggestions to make for a perfect trip (which must include lots of great food). Thanks in advance for your help.
  • Post #21 - October 27th, 2010, 11:07 pm
    Post #21 - October 27th, 2010, 11:07 pm Post #21 - October 27th, 2010, 11:07 pm
    BR wrote:Bumping this thread as I will be traveling to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket (Karon Beach), spending several days in each location. Any newer recommendations?

    There doesn't appear to be anything on here concerning Chiang Mai and Phuket so I would also like suggestions for those locales, including side trip suggestions for all locations, places off the beaten path, and any other suggestions to make for a perfect trip (which must include lots of great food). Thanks in advance for your help.


    I can second the recommendation above for Chote Chitr in Bangkok, particularly the Spicy Salad with Banana Blossoms.

    I'll add Red Curry Crab at Somboon Seafood to the must try list...there's no polite way to eat it, but there's a reason this restaurant is 6 stories tall, nearly always jam packed with people and every table has at least one large order of this dish.

    We went to Phuket, but didn't leave the resort (the Anantara, which is absolutely freaking gorgeous) except for a touristy elephant trek, sorry I can't be of any help there.
  • Post #22 - January 26th, 2011, 8:49 pm
    Post #22 - January 26th, 2011, 8:49 pm Post #22 - January 26th, 2011, 8:49 pm
    First stop in Thailand was Chiang Mai, and there was no shortage of great food, both on the street and in restaurants. Strolling around the city to get a lay of the land, you quickly realize that sausages are the food of choice here: many filled with rice, some spicy, some sour (my personal favorite), mostly made from pork but also some from fish:

    Image
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    listed on menu as sai ua - spicy pork sausage, Chiang Mai-style


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    listed on menu as Jin Som Mok, but perhaps Naem Moo? - pickled pork grilled in banana leaf

    The sausage described as sai ua seemed very similar to the pork and rice sausage known as sai krawk isaan at Spoon Thai, and were served with the same accompaniments, but I'm not sure that I was familiar with the pickled sausage prior to this trip. I tried it a number of times and really loved it.

    We also ate quite a bit of the Northern (Burmese influenced) style pork curry - Kang Hang-Le (interestingly Kang and not Kaeng, according to Thai food historian Kanit Muntabhorn). There's no coconut milk, and I loved the great curry flavor and the sweet and sour notes mixed in with the rich pork flavor. Here is a picture of one of the versions we enjoyed:

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    Kang Hang-Le from Krua Phech Doi Ngam - the best version of this dish

    In fact, Krua Phech Doi Ngam was the best restaurant we tried in Chiang Mai. A concierge at our hotel told us it's his favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai, but warned us that they would not likely speak English. He was right, but luckily they had an English menu:

    Image

    All of the food was great, including these beautiful smoked and fried chicken wings:

    Image

    Some of the best food could be found at the markets, and the best of those is the Sunday Night Market, which seems to stretch for miles and offers an endless array of wonderful food, so don't eat before you arrive, and expect to see massive crowds:

    Image


    Strangely, perhaps my favorite item purchased was the simplest:

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    banana in spring roll wrapper, deep fried, and drizzled with condensed milk

    But I'm a sucker for Thai desserts, and since they were almost always under $1 (usually less than $.50), I found myself trying quite a few. These banana custards with coconut were particularly good:

    Image


    As far as restaurants go, our favorites were Krua Phech Doi Ngam (also the least expensive), Huen Phen and Hong Tauw Inn. Arun Rai came so highly recommended but we thought it was just okay - maybe just an off day or maybe we were served westernized food, but the som tam lacked zip and the curry was a bit blander than others we tried.

    Being in the north of Thailand, sticky rice was the norm, perfect for dipping. We also enjoyed plenty of deep fried pork ribs, excellent khao soi (although the only picture I have is one from Bangkok), nam phrik ong (red chili paste, apparently the Northern Thai Bolognese) and nam phrik noom (a green chili version of the aforementioned dish).

    The people of Chiang Mai were fantastic - very friendly, never pushy. Many spoke very good English. Overall, a very good time, and I was sad to leave, although excited to move on to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I'll add my thoughts and pictures on Bangkok soon, as well as Siem Reap in a separate thread.
    Last edited by BR on August 4th, 2013, 10:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #23 - January 27th, 2011, 1:22 pm
    Post #23 - January 27th, 2011, 1:22 pm Post #23 - January 27th, 2011, 1:22 pm
    Gorgeous pics, BR. Glad you had a great trip. I'm looking forward to hearing about Bangkok and beyon.
  • Post #24 - January 27th, 2011, 1:25 pm
    Post #24 - January 27th, 2011, 1:25 pm Post #24 - January 27th, 2011, 1:25 pm
    Gorgeous pictures indeed. Can someone tell me what the locals do with the whole cloves of raw garlic and the raw hot peppers served with the sausage in picture number 4?
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #25 - January 27th, 2011, 1:36 pm
    Post #25 - January 27th, 2011, 1:36 pm Post #25 - January 27th, 2011, 1:36 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Gorgeous pictures indeed. Can someone tell me what the locals do with the whole cloves of raw garlic and the raw hot peppers served with the sausage in picture number 4?

    I assumed that they eat them with the sausage . . . but I didn't ask. I'd be shocked if they put it to waste and I didn't want to either. But to not totally throw off the flavor of the sausage, I would eat the sausage with merely bits of garlic, a pepper (or 1/2 of one), some peanuts and ginger (apparently not shown in picture but served with the sausage). The peppers were blazing hot, as you can imagine.

    It's funny that I don't recall eating sausage at any of the Thai places in Chicago as sour as the pickled sausages I preferred in Chiang Mai, but I'm really going to be on the lookout for them as I just loved them, even more than the Isaan, Northern and Chiang Mai-style sausages I have typically ordered in Chicago.

    And thanks thaiobsessed and KennyZ for the compliments . . . plenty more pictures coming, including more from Chiang Mai as I put the trip back together in my mind.
  • Post #26 - January 27th, 2011, 1:40 pm
    Post #26 - January 27th, 2011, 1:40 pm Post #26 - January 27th, 2011, 1:40 pm
    BR wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:Gorgeous pictures indeed. Can someone tell me what the locals do with the whole cloves of raw garlic and the raw hot peppers served with the sausage in picture number 4?

    I assumed that they eat them with the sausage . . . but I didn't ask. I'd be shocked if they put it to waste and I didn't want to either. But to not totally throw off the flavor of the sausage, I would eat the sausage with merely bits of garlic, a pepper (or 1/2 of one), some peanuts and ginger (apparently not shown in picture but served with the sausage). The peppers were blazing hot, as you can imagine.

    It's funny that I don't recall eating sausage at any of the Thai places in Chicago as sour as the pickled sausages I preferred in Chiang Mai, but I'm really going to be on the lookout for them as I just loved them, even more than the Isaan, Northern and Chiang Mai-style sausages I have typically ordered in Chicago.

    And thanks thaiobsessed and KennyZ for the compliments . . . plenty more pictures coming, including more from Chiang Mai as I put the trip back together in my mind.


    I'm with you BR - I wouldn't want to waste them either. That said, I don't think I'd want a whole blistering hot pepper and a big, crunchy clove of raw garlic with each bite, so I was wondering if people tended to eat it as served in that picture, or chopped the stuff up and mixed it in, or some other method.

    I haven't had the sausages you had there, of course, but the Eastern sausage at Aroy is mighty sour.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #27 - January 27th, 2011, 2:45 pm
    Post #27 - January 27th, 2011, 2:45 pm Post #27 - January 27th, 2011, 2:45 pm
    Wow BR! Wonderful stuff. Brings back bittersweet memories of the late, great Thai Grocery. Man I miss that place.

    I'm definitely more fan than expert when it comes to Thai food, but the free-form sausage served with chiles and peanuts sure looks like naem, the pigskin-laden, sour fermented sausage also common at Vietnamese markets. Ba Le used to make a good version. They often, but don't always, include remarkable chunks of raw garlic and Thai chile inside the sausage (which is raw cured). It's a robust drinking food. I'm a huge naem fan and usually have some in the fridge. The other cooked/sliced sausage looks like what I've seen in LA as Chang Mai style.

    Here's a helpful page about the various Northern Thai "appetizers":

    http://www.thai-eyes.com/thaifood/thai- ... vre-muang/

    For anyone who, like me, is going nuts over these pictures and wishing they could get to Chiang Mai, most (maybe all) of the dishes are available here -- at Sticky Rice, for example. The curry is transliterated on SR's menu as Gang Hung Lay, while the "dips" are on there as Nam Prik Ong and Nam Prik Nhum. http://stickyricethai.com/StickyRiceTakeOut.pdf

    Of course, the fact that we have (limited) access to the dishes doesn't mean we have access to the proper ingredients or terroir. Eating Nam Prik Ong in Chiang Mai is like eating ragu' Bolognese in Bologna, better I'd bet.

    Looking forward to the rest!
  • Post #28 - January 27th, 2011, 2:52 pm
    Post #28 - January 27th, 2011, 2:52 pm Post #28 - January 27th, 2011, 2:52 pm
    Don't know what to say other than 'great stuff,' BR. I really want to to visit Thailand and seeing your pics is making the urge even stronger. Thanks, for taking the time. I look forward to your future posts and learning more about the time you spent in the region.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #29 - January 27th, 2011, 4:18 pm
    Post #29 - January 27th, 2011, 4:18 pm Post #29 - January 27th, 2011, 4:18 pm
    JeffB wrote:I'm definitely more fan than expert when it comes to Thai food, but the free-form sausage served with chiles and peanuts sure looks like naem, the pigskin-laden, sour fermented sausage also common at Vietnamese markets. Ba Le used to make a good version. They often, but don't always, include remarkable chunks of raw garlic and Thai chile inside the sausage (which is raw cured). It's a robust drinking food. I'm a huge naem fan and usually have some in the fridge. The other cooked/sliced sausage looks like what I've seen in LA as Chang Mai style.

    Actually, the cooked and sliced sausage was the sour naem, and the free form was the non-or less fermented Chiang Mai-style sausage. But I also saw the Chiang Mai-style sausage served encased and sliced too. It's amazing just how many varieties, flavors there were . . . the above pictures are only a small sampling of what I saw/tasted in Chiang Mai.
  • Post #30 - January 27th, 2011, 4:37 pm
    Post #30 - January 27th, 2011, 4:37 pm Post #30 - January 27th, 2011, 4:37 pm
    Deliciously confusing -- the linked Thai appetizer guide has the stuff set out as I recognize it from here and LA Thai town. So, the Thai sausage names must link with the ingredients/recipes and not depend on the use of casing or how they are cooked (or not)? I guess that's generally true with many western sausages too. Italian sausage, for one. Again, looking forward to more.

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