I don’t care what you do with your day – you could elbow your way through Bangkok’s crowded street markets, wander through the pulsing Chinatown, or treat yourself to a foot massage. But save your evening for the Seafood Market and Restaurant. If you take a taxi, don’t get off until you get to the Seafood Restaurant with the giant neon sign proclaiming “If it swims, we have it.” The cab driver might try to drop you off at a lesser restaurant of the same name on the same street (they tend to engage in some sort of commission-based scam with the wrong Seafood Restaurant) but you must insist on getting to the neon sign. Once you do, don’t be put off by the theme park look of the place and the giant plastic fish hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is divided into two parts: a fish and veg market, and a sit-down restaurant. Go to the market, get a cart, and fill it with whatever looks good.
Get fresh fish that’s still jumping, or ask someone to pull one out of a fish tank. Pick up some fresh greens and get back to your table. Then tell them how to cook it. Ask for recommendations and err on the side of Thai style with chili and lime. Or get grilled, buttery snow fish with fried garlic. Wash it down with Thai beer or white wine, and you can’t miss.
You need to do a little bit of leg work on your second day, but it’s more than worth it. Find a place to reserve a car and driver to transport you to Nonthaburi, a Bangkok suburb. With Bangkok traffic, it might take you an hour and a half to get there, so try to leave by 6pm. Your destination is the lovely Thai restaurant known by the Thai name Ban Rabian Nam and by the English name Riverside Treehouse Cafe. Your car will drop you off at a dark parking lot (don’t be afraid, but also don’t forget to tell your driver to wait), and a little, portly boy will probably come running out with a flashlight. He’ll lead you to a cycle rickshaw – you’ll climb onto the rickety contraption and be driven down a dark, narrow lane until you get to the restaurant. At this point, you’ll start to feel safer, probably because you’re being welcomed into a fairyland garden. All the seating is outdoors – apparently the owner took his family home and turned it into the kitchen – directly next to the river (yes, the water is murky and probably filthy, but it’s pleasant enough). Trees sprout out of the ground between the tables, and little lamps give the place a warm glow. And the food is well, terrific. Try the tart coconut milk soup with deep-fried fish and young tamarind leaves (it arrives bubbling atop a tiny flame), the deeply satisfying deep-friend morning glory (greens fried in batter) with dipping sauce, the savory whole fish with green curry, the refreshing pomelo (Thai grapefruit) salad, and the delicious spinach wontons. A taste of any of these dishes, and you will not regret the long commute. Oh, and before you leave, they ring a gong for you. I don’t know what it means, but it makes you feel regal. You know you deserve it.
Reserve your last day for grazing on the street. Chicken noodle soup for breakfast? The rich and healing broth is a great start to the day. You can’t beat barbecued pork with pickled greens for lunch. Be sure to go to one of Bangkok’s many night markets for dinner. You can try a variety of treats ranging from grilled, skewered meats to spicy fried noodles to mango with sticky rice. Most importantly, walk around surveying the goodies and don’t be afraid to eat whatever looks good to you. That’s what Bangkok is for.
[Photos: Samya Sattar]