If you like your local Thai restaurant back home — and Thai cuisine is represented in so many places now — you'll love the many choices in Bangkok, from simple noodle stands to sophisticated, upmarket joints. Prices are reasonable, and you'll be hard-pressed to spend more than 1,640B ($40) for two at some of the town's finest restaurants. The city also offers a spectacular array of excellent European, Chinese and other Asian cuisine that is expensive by local standards but a bargain compared to back home. Bangkok hotels are famous for hosting world-renowned chefs, so grab a local paper or one of the many city magazines like Metro (at bookstores and newsstands) to find out about any fun foodie events. You will not go hungry in the Big Mango and the adventurous will wander off the beaten track to smaller street-side eateries and the best authentic Thai.
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Banglampu — Near Khao San Road — Khao San Road is Bangkok's busy backpacker ghetto and where you'll find every manner of food, from Israeli and halal cuisine to Italian as well as tasty Thai food served at street-side (and McDonald's). Avoid the budget guesthouses serving bland versions of Western food, but do have a seat somewhere along the busy road, order up a fruit shake, and watch the nightly parade of young travelers.
The Business District — Silom road is where you'll find Patpong, the busy red-light district, and tourist night market. It's also a good place for familiar fare, from McDonalds to small coffee shops, as well as good street-side dining and some good, upscale, and atmospheric eateries.
Tips on dining: Bangkok street eats
Ask any Bangkokian to take you to their favorite restaurant and you'll most likely be eating at street-side or in a small, open-air joint. There are some world-class restaurants in the Big Mango, especially in the big hotels, and the town's many Thai-Western fusion restaurants are all the rage, but for good, authentic Thai in Bangkok, as in most areas of the country, the many night bazaars and hawker stalls are where you'll find the best eats. Eating at street-side will challenge your senses with the pungent aromas of garlic, chili, and barbecued meats as well as the cacophony of music, lights, and voices at Thai open-air eateries. For the best open-air dining, try the few below:
Tong Lo — The Eurpean luxury cars that roll up late at night to pickup take-out orders tells you something about this place. Adjacent to the Tong Lo BTS stop (on the right side as you get off when traveling east from Siam) you wander around the many open-air stalls, choosing what you want (anything from fried oyster pancakes to a great seafood salad) and then pick a table and sit down. The shop owners miraculously figure out a bill for you (and are always bang-on). The best street eats in town.
Suan Lum Night Bazaar — Just next to Lumpini Park, this sprawling shopping compound also features a grand, open-air food court. Buy coupons for food (about 100B/$2.45 will do it) and choose from the many stalls. Beer hostesses sling the suds, and there is a large central stage with Thai rock bands playing Western cover tunes nightly.
Soi Rang Nam — Here's a find. A short ride on the skytrain from Siam brings you to Victory Monument. Exit the right side of the station and walk back toward Siam. Rang Nar is the first left and the street is lined with open-air carts and small, storefront restaurants serving authentic Isan (northeastern) fare of sticky rice accompanied by barbecued meat dishes and spicy papaya salad. Try Tee Sud Isan Inter (4/11-12 Soi Rang Nam; tel. 02245-3665) among the many.
Khao San Road Area — Just 15B (35¢) earns you a pad-thai served on Styrofoam and eaten with thin chopsticks. Also grilled satay and fried rice (not to mention the good halal sweet pancakes) make up the diet of many budget travelers, and busy Khao San Road is a good place for good eats at nighttime after a bit of pub crawling.
Silom Road — Just on the edge of the busy night market in Patpong, you'll find lots of noodle stalls and in places like Convent Road (just across Silom from Patpong) you'll find Kao Man Gai, a delicious boiled chicken on rice and seasoned to taste (and just 20B/50¢).
Note: Many are put-off by seeming unhygienic conditions of street stalls, and for good reason. Even if you are an adventurous eater, take some precautions: Check all ingredients for freshness and be sure that anything you eat is prepared fresh, not just sitting out.
Foodcourts are another great way to sample authentic Thai food for very little. Every shopping mall has one, usually on the top floor. You buy coupons redeemable at small outlets lining a cafeteria dining area. Expect to pay as little as 50B ($1.25) for a main-course of something you've never seen before, a drink, and a tasty Thai dessert like bananas on sticky rice in coconut nectar. Try the upscale Emporium or Siam Square department stores to get you started.
Cricket anyone? — Look for the snack stands along Sukhumvit Road (also Khao San Rd.) that sell all sorts of fried insects. Grasshoppers, beetles that look like cockroaches, scorpions, ants and grubs are a favorite snack for folks from Isan, in the northeast, where bugs are in fact cultivated for the dining table and are an important source of protein in the region. How does it taste? Crickets are a bit like popcorn, and the beetles are something like a crispy (hate to say it) chicken. A great photo op.
Dinner & lunch cruises on the Chao Phraya
While there are a number of tour operators who offer dinner cruises along the Chao Phraya, if you want to eat the finest food, I only have one solid recommendation. The Manohra, a reconverted antique rice barge, cruises the river nightly serving a six-course Thai dinner that's delicious (and not overly spicy). The quality of the food is excellent, especially considering most other dinner cruises serve lukewarm indescribable food. The set menu is 1,200B ($27) per person, and Manohra sets sail at 7:30pm (but you can pick it up at the Oriental pier, where it stops at about 7:40pm). Be sure to book in advance to make sure the boat isn't rented out for a private party. Call the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa (tel. 02476-0021).
The Horizon II makes daily trips to Ayuthaya and back as well as evening cruises in town for a romantic candlelit meal. Cruises start at just 1,400B ($34) and leave daily at 8am for all-day trips or 7:30pm for dinner cruises. Contact the Shangri La Hotel (tel. 02236-7777).
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit its online dining index.
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