After a late night at the Sky Bar we enjoyed a nice lie in until 9a.m before making the most of our included breakfast. I never usually take hotel breakfasts as they are usually Western style and terrible value but since the one in Bangkok offered a local dish as well as extras it worked pretty well for us. This morning our plan was to take a boat tour around the traditional canal areas of the city. Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East and rightfully so given the extensive waterway system, there are water taxi’s to get around given the terrible traffic in the city. When we mentioned this plan to the lady on reception she seemed very shocked that we wanted to do this activity commenting it was ‘smelly’. Not to be perturbed we continued with the plan and took the hotel provided tuk tuk ride out to the main Sukhumvit road to do some tour bargaining.
Almost all of the horror stories about being scammed in Bangkok revolve around tuk tuk drivers offering city tours for crazy prices and trying to sell you exorbitant extras en-route so we were wary. However, we came across a friendly tuk tuk driver just along from our hotel opening that offered to take us to the pier for canal boat whom I managed to bargain down to 150 bhat which seemed pretty reasonable. It was all going well on the way there and he even offered to bring us back for 200 which seemed like a great deal. All became clear when we arrived and were quoted 2000 bhat for the canal boat tour. We were flabbergasted at this price and immediately realised we were part of a scam and so made our way back to the tuk tuk. The poor guy obviously realised he was about to lose his payment for the day and so a 50% reduction was soon offered. Despite it clearly being a tourist scam we had come all the way to the pier and we did want to see the canals (or khlongs as they are known locally) so we bit the bullet and paid up. Our ‘private’ boat tour was more of a shared boat with 2 other groups and the guide was a silent driver who at one point pointed out fish jumping up at the surface of the water. Despite this though I really enjoyed seeing this part of the city as we cruised past stilt houses that were wonky due to the water submersion and seeing how the locals lived fishing and being self-reliant from the little village area. As well as the fish we spotted quite a bit of bird life as well as the local rubbish collection tips which were less pretty. As we exited the canal section and made our way back onto the main Chaophraya river we dropped the other members of our group at the Wat Arun temple complex before the boat driver took us back to our awaiting tuk tuk driver at the pier. As we returned he welcomed us with his customary smiley face before informing us we would stop at a shop so he could get free fuel. What an enterprising man! After informing him we 100% didn’t want to buy anything we agreed to go inside just for his deal and literally did a 40 second lap of the shop completely ignoring all of the shopkeepers trying to sell us stuff before hoping back in the tuk tuk and heading back to the hotel.
It was still quite early in the day and so we decided to wander around the local mall looking unsuccessfully for a camera case as mine had broken earlier. Thankfully we were inside the mall when the downpour occurred and 10 minutes later after we left again to get some food it had completely subsided, if only rain in the UK was so convenient. By this point I was hungry and a bit grumpy at all of the unsuccessful wandering around and so we ended up choosing an Italian pizzeria for lunch which offered a Thai menu under the disguise of Somtam Tan Aroy. We opted to play it safe with a chicken pad Thai and a pork spicy glass noodle salad, both of which were clearly made at one of the street stalls since the waiter after taking our initial order which had a cucumber salad instead of pork glass noodle came back to tell us this was in fact not ready (ie. the vendor selling that hadn’t started up for the day yet). Our nicely air-conditioned restaurant with street food did not come at local street food prices though and was actually a small fortune of 750 bhat with an added service charge. Again we were in awe of the audacity of the waiter who was clearly just out to scam tourists but since the food was so good we didn’t mind too much. Feeling nicely full we wandered back to the hotel for a nap before our evening food extravaganza!
For our final night in Bangkok we had decided to go to the opposite end of the scale and do an evening street food tour through Chinatown for dinner with Bangkok Food Tours to contrast with our fancy Michelin meal of the previous night. We met our guide Lucy right outside the metro station for Chinatown which was only about 20 minutes from us and super convenient, so much so we were 45 minutes early and so enjoyed some tea and beers in the Bangkok Centre Hotel (also the stopping place for a lot of tour groups including G Adventures). She was waiting for us10 minutes early and so we set off straight away to the first stop with the other guide Moo who was in training meeting us there. First up was Yen Ta Fo Thai Rung Rueng – a small stall just across from Tri Mit Temple (Golden Buddha) selling a pink fish ball soup. Lucy and Moo explained that the pink coloured soup is a traditional Thai style of soup in comparison to the clear broth style you find in China. It was really tasty and had fish ball, shrimp ball and fish sausage; what this stall in particular is so famous for. We also had the chance to see the owner making the soups up in front of us which was really cool. After the meal we wandered across to see the temple up close where they explained that it is really famous as it houses the largest golden Buddha in the world – Thailand is definitely the place to come for grand, ornate temples.
As we wandered further into Chinatown we arrived at the official Chinatown gateway which is known in Chinese culture as being the head of the dragon. Chinatown snakes through the entire body of the dragon before culminating at the tail. The majority of the food vendors are situated at the belly area. Just after this we came across the Thian Fah foundation which was set up by rich Chinese to give back to those in less fortunate financial circumstances in exchange for good karma. Even today you can still see water and dried foods piled up for people in need to take. After making a donation you get a slip which can then be displayed inside the temple for the gods to see. There was even a free hospital providing completely free health care to those in need, right next door to one of the most expensive private hospitals in the city. The Chinese culture is really focussed on helping thy neighbour and fellow Chinese citizens living in an area and is something we have seen in every city we have visited. Just at the beginning of this area was our next stop – Canton House where we were having dim sum, my favourite! We got 3 things to try, shui mai, fried tofu and ba me yok, the first and last of which were green in colour. This is the Thai influence of the pandan flavouring adding a slightly sweeter taste than you might get with your traditional Chinese varieties. All of them were really tasty and enjoyed by all. The place also seemed to be very popular for lots of dishes as well as dim sum and had bathrooms which was nice.
Our next stop was at Kan Kee Nam Toua Thong for the famous bitter black tea as well as a sweet tea. The black one was absolutely disgusting and a small sip was enough for even the tea connoisseur that I am although the sweeter option was really good and very refreshing. Apparently the black one is used for medicinal purposes and I can definitely equate it to some awful tasting medicines I have had. After our refreshment it was back to the main Yaowarat Street to L&R Seafood for our next stop. There are 2 competing seafood restaurants directly opposite each other, both on the corners of the road. The opposite one is owned by 2 brothers and the one we visited by 2 sisters (obviously women really do make better cooks). It was really busy and took us a while to get seated even though it was just my dad and I with the tour guides. Lucy ordered yellow curry prawns and barbecue scallops and both were out of this world delicious! This was my favourite stop on the tour, the scallops were sublime.
Our final main dish stop was at an even busier stall that sold only one dish – pork soup. Guey Jab Nai Auan is famous for their peppery pork soup which comes with a variety of pork parts including crispy pork along with tongue, stomach, intestine, and kidney. I am not generally a fan of offal and would have usually opted for the plain crispy pork soup but given I was in Chinatown in Bangkok I decided to be brave and opt for a bit of everywhere and I was so glad I did. It might sound disgusting but it actually turned out to be really tasty and each of the meat types tasted just like well cooked pork in the really yummy, spicy pepper soup. I was pleasantly surprised and definitely glad I had been brave and opted to try everything. Our final official stop was just down the street at Tipparot Ice cream where we got a coconut ice-cream and a lychee sorbet. The sorbet was delicious and the perfect after to the soup. It was lovely and refreshing. However, we had a final ‘secret stop’ 3 stalls down which was a sesame paste ball in a sort of sweet ginger soup. It was not so much to my taste, sesame being really nutty in flavour, but my dad enjoyed it and it was nice to sit and just take in the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. One thing to bear in mind is that all of the street vendors close on a Monday for cleaning day in Bangkok so if you are coming to try the fantastic street food options then this might not be the best day to come. Otherwise, dive in and enjoy!
Lucy and Moo kindly called us a taxi to the airport so that we could pick up Gillian who was joining the trip from this point in. They used the app Grab Taxi which turned out to be fantastic and was by far one of the best drivers we had, putting the metre on straight away and never asking for any extra money. I was shattered waiting in the airport and was glad to jump in another taxi back to the hotel for a few hours sleep before our next flight. It had been a fantastic few days in Bangkok with excellent food but I was looking forward to some beach chilling for a few days.