Everything went as planned, except for improvements made on the itinerary. I was originally going to give Krua Apsorn a miss, but after reading various rave reviews by foodie bloggers, and since I didn’t think I would be in Bangkok so often, I decided I had to go this round. Also, i dropped Platinum Mall out of the itinerary as Central World alone satisfied all our shopping needs.
Summary of food/drink places visited over 4 days:
Chatuchak weekend market
Or Tor Kor market
Sao Ching Cha eateries – Roast pork rice, traditional coffee, grilled chicken and sticky rice with mango
Yaowarat street stalls
Eiah Sae coffee shop
Hilton Millennium 360 rooftop bar
Chu chocolate bar and cafe
Coffee Beans by Dao
Boat noodles at Victory Monument
BREW @ Asiatique
Pad Thai at Sala Daeng
Of these places, I highly recommend going to Krua Apsorn (a must!), Taling Pling, T&K seafood, Mae Varee and After You.
I would advice against going to Somboon. We were told by our friends who live in Bangkok that Somboon uses a lot of MSG in their food, and true enough, the use of MSG was obvious even in a simple fried rice dish. The worst thing about the food at Somboon was that they were pre-cooked and reheated before being served. This resulted in the dishes being served lukewarm. The pork ribs were overcooked (tends to happen if you pre-cook your dishes). Once is more than enough.
Day 1 Sunday
Chatuchak Weekend Market is actually a place you don’t want to stay for too long due to the heat. I was here for just two things – grilled pork and coconut ice cream. I was able to locate these stalls quite easily. The grilled pork stall is near the northern end of Soi 4.
After having coffee we headed straight to JJ Mall. Forget about walking around in Chatuchak weekend market, you’ll love being in the air-conditioned and very clean environment of JJ Mall. The variety of goods sold there is similar to what you find in Chatuchak anyway. I bought a 250g packet of premium coffee beans from Java Boulevard at the basement level near the entrance for 165 Baht (S$6.50), a bargain price compared to coffee beans sold in Singapore.
At close to 6pm we headed to Or Tor Kor. Unfortunately, the hawker stalls were all closed (apparently they only open in the morning), except for those selling dishes in large trays. Locals take these home to reheat before consuming. We tried some dishes and they were not so good since they were cold. I guess Or Tor Kor is only good for buying fruits (durians especially, which, by the way, are nowhere near the quality of Malaysian durian) so don’t make the mistake of coming here for dinner like I did.
Day 2 Monday
We went to Sao Ching Cha to sample the food from the oldest parts of Bangkok. We had our very first ride in a Tuk Tuk to get here. The Tuk Tuk was waiting at the MRT exit for tourists, and though we paid “tourist” price for the ride, it was fun, and fast too.
Roast pork rice from Niyom Pochana. I can’t say this was very nice, but despite the pork being cold and the sauce having minced peanuts (of which I am not a fan), I would say it was tasty enough to be worth the calories.
Traditional coffee and bread with kaya and condensed milk. The coffee was pretty good, and I think this gives you an idea of what Thai coffee is like. I prefer Malaysian kopi still though. For a very low price you get a huge plate of soft bread (good for 3 people) and LOTS of kaya with condensed milk. Surprisingly the bread was served warm. It was warmed up by being heated in a pot, something that is probably done exclusively in Thailand. Anyway, the lady will ask if you in English if you want your coffee hot or iced, probably due to the many tourists who visit her, and, by the way, there was not the slightest hint of arrogance in this lady despite the popularity of her stall.
This traditional grilled chicken is really tasty. Crispy on the outside and tender inside, perfectly seasoned. Highly recommended.
As we were already quite full, we could only order a tom yum soup in addition to the half chicken. Every dish in the menu looked good, and needless to say, the soup was very good too. I think it is worth making a special trip to this restaurant for a full meal the next time i’m in Bangkok.
The final stop of our Sao Ching Cha food expedition was at Kao Neeo Korpanich which sells sticky rice with mango. The sticky rice served here was fantastic, possibly better than that of Mae Varee. The rice had a very nice contrast of being hard outside and soft inside, while at other places the texture of the rice is usually more uniform (with the inside being just slightly softer). Also, the rice here also tasted slightly more saltish than the rest I have sampled, which I think made me want to have more of it. Unfortunately, the mango served alongside the rice was quite bland, mostly due to mangoes being out of the main production season. Anyway, you get to dine Thai style here on a large, low table while seated on stools, which adds a rustic charm to the whole experience.
Based on TripAdvisor reviews, we went to Shewa Spa at the Khao San road area for Thai massage. The environment was very cozy, and the massage was very professional. At 250 Baht (S$10) for an hour-long massage, well, you’ll want to have the massage everyday.
After the massage, we hopped on a taxi and headed to Yaowarat Road. By chance, we were dropped at a location near the streetside food stalls (near Chinatown hotel). The stalls were already in operation at 2+pm and would continue till night time. It was a good thing I hadn’t planned for lunch (since I knew we would be quite full from eating around Sao Ching Cha in the morning). It was simply irresistible to sample the food from the stalls. The popiah is really good and I highly recommend it.
Twisted fritters (you-tiao) with Kaya sauce. This stall actually had the Shell Shuan Shim logo.
One of my objectives in coming to the Chinatown area was to try the traditional coffee from Eiah Sae, located on Phat Sai road. I always enjoy taking in the sight of rustic old buildings. Phat Sai road itself, which is very quiet compared to the neighbouring Yaowarat road, felt very atmospheric.
My next intended stop after Eiah Sae was T&K Seafood, which is mere steps away on Yaowarat road. As you can imagine, i can’t possibly have dinner at 4pm, and right after ingesting so much food. We proceeded to walk along Yaowarat road to find a shopping mall in which we can rest for a while. Google told me the nearest one was Old Siam Plaza, which was some distance away, but we proceeded in that direction anyway. Thankfully, we came across Grand China Hotel just 100 metres away, where there was a Starbucks in which we were able to hole up for 1.5 hours. If you’re thinking of spending half a day in Chinatown, this is the perfect place to take a break.
To me, old is beautiful, and there was not a dull moment as we strolled along Yaowarat road. The buildings in most of the Chinatown area have been preserved in their original state.
We got to T&K seafood just before 6pm, and since that’s considered early, we were able to dine in the air-conditioned area. They’ve squeezed every inch of space out of the two tiny shop lots to meet the demand of overflowing customers they receive daily, and possibly because we came with young kids, they seated us in a super cozy tatami style dining mezzanine area (part of this space is reserved for the restaurant staff to chill).
Besides the steamed white snapper I mentioned in my previous post, the rest of the dishes were good too. It’s no wonder that T&K is so popular.
After dinner, we walked to River City Shopping Centre to catch the river crossing ferry to get to the other side of the Chao Phraya for our final agenda of the day – the rooftop 360 bar at Hilton Millennium.
Day 3 Tuesday
Started the day with a nice breakfast at Chu Chocolate Cafe and Bar. We were almost the only Asian customers there. Afterwards, we grabbed a box of sticky rice with mango from Mae Varee, which is only 2 BTS stations away. The stall helper kept emphasizing to us that the mango isn’t sweet, but it still tasted better than the bland mango we had the day before.
The agenda for the first half of the day is basically shopping – NaRaYa and Jim Thompson handbags and Wacoal bras. All these are found in the all-encompassing Central World mall. The shopping helped us pass enough time to be ready for lunch at Taling Pling, which was probably the second best meal we had in Bangkok. All dishes were made to order.
I deliberately chose not to have any dessert or drink (other than just a glass of beer, shared) during lunch so that i can try the Cha Yen (Thai Iced Tea) from Cha Tra Mue. The Cha Tra Mue kiosk in Central World is particularly difficult to find, because it is located within a food court at level 7, without any logo to mark its presence. The good thing about being in a mall is that they usually have a playground for kids. This one at Central Mall is one of the best i have seen in any mall, except that the local kids can be quite rough. A security personnel is stationed there to keep watch of what’s going on and also to provide free rental of drivable toy cars.
The napping place for the kids today was to be Coffee Bean by Dao. The cakes here are said to be good and i was curious to check it out.
We couldn’t let the kids nap for long as there were still 3 places on my agenda list for the day. Next up – sampling the Boat Noodles at Victory Monument. The walkway underneath the BTS tracks takes you all the way to the canal where the Boat Noodle restaurants are to be found.
There are just 3 choices for the noodles, and i prefer the beef one. The soup contains so much sediment that i wonder what it’s made of. The worry over the content got the better of me, so i would say i don’t like boat noodles enough to want to have many bowls of it like everyone does. I love the texture of the kway teow (the noodle). The soup, especially the sour one, contains an expected overdose of MSG.
From Victory Monument, we took a taxi, at peak traffic hour, towards Krua Apsorn (Samsen Road branch). The traffic towards that direction wasn’t too bad. Arriving at around 630pm, we were pleasantly surprised that the restaurant wasn’t busy (it is said to be very busy during lunch hours). The interior of the restaurant was brightly lit and very cozy.
Besides taking the taxi, there is another way to get to Krua Apsorn – the Chao Phraya Express. The ferry station is about 10 minutes walk away, and taking the ferry sure beats getting stuck in traffic. My plan was to take the ferry to my next destination after dinner – Asiatique. Unfortunately, when the ferry arrived, i was hesitant to get onto it because under the dim lights, i wasn’t completely sure if it was an Orange flagged ferry. Well, the ferry left, and a monk came over to tell us (in perfect English) that it was the last ferry of the day (730pm)! This mistake cost me almost an hour of additional travelling time – 30 minutes in a taxi to get to the central pier (at Saphan Taksin BTS station), and 20+ minutes of waiting and ride on the Asiatique free shuttle ferry. On hindsight, i should have just gotten onto any ferry as they will all make a stop at the central pier anyway, where i could transfer to the free shuttle.
Anyway, i was glad that i still made it to Asiatique, a place i would visit again. We had some drinks at BREW. The air-conditioned area was completely smoke free, fantastic.
Day 4 Wednesday
One of the last agendas for the trip – Pad Thai at Sala Daeng. It was good, but not exceptional. A little too sweet. I would much prefer Penang Char Kway Teow over this. I’m not a peanut person, so i had to pick out the peanuts. After eating this, i told myself i have to try the Thip Samai Pad Thai next time, which looked good in photos. I gave it a miss because I felt put off by the hassle involved in going to Thip Samai, which is very near Sao Ching Cha, and they are open only from 530pm.
I was surprised to find After You in Silom Complex which i passed by on my way back to Sala Daeng BTS station. I only learned about After You the day before at Central World, where there was a queue to get a table. The branch at Silom Complex was much bigger, and it was completely empty at 11am. The Shibuya toast lived up to the hype. And i like all the little touches the business owner has put into all parts of the cafe – the little wooden tray for the coffee, the nicely printed napkins, the layout etc.
My Bangkok trip concludes with a 250 Baht (S$10) haircut (it wasn’t so good unfortunately), the forgettable lunch at Somboon and desserts at Eathai foodcourt at the basement of Central Embassy.