There’s nothing quite like Thai food, an amazing culinary world with variety like no other. Local travel writer Richard Barrow has gone an entire month (twice) eating only Thai street food without ever repeating a dish. Impressive. The food-scape of Thai cuisine is worth exploring as often as you get the chance. What better place to do so than Thailand, and what better way to do it than on a walking tour through the streets of Bangkok?
Just a few weeks ago I hooked up with the folks at Bangkok Food Tours for a delicious stroll around part of the old city. It’s an old part of the city now, with some yesteryear two- and three-story, shuttered buildings amid the newer high-rises that surround it. But Charoen Krung Road is also known as New Road (its nickname from the time when it was the first road in Bangkok!). It was the original Main Street, you might say.
I find my guides at the exit from the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station, an easy meeting point. Once our group has gathered, the lead guide Jan hands out an itinerary of where and what we will be eating. It’s all Thai but the selections are chosen to show the influences of other cuisines as the Thais assimilated them over the centuries, a bit of Muslim, Indian and Chinese is in there. Plus some regional influences, in this case, the Isaan region of Thailand. It looks great.
Everyone receives a radio earpiece. “So everyone can hear me OK.” I like this a lot. I am a sucker for a good photo opp and on tours I can often get left behind or run off ahead with my camera, out of earshot. This way I can hear whatever is being said no matter how loud the guide speaks, which direction, or if I am still around the corner. Smart idea.
The food tour begins just a few blocks away where we meet the owner of a special duck restaurant. The place has been in his family over fifty years. In fact, all stops on this tour have that sort of longevity. If we were just eating one place to the next, the tour would get uncomfortable. My hosts have taken that into consideration, so in between “testing locations” as they call them, we are taken to a couple local sights – such as a temple or an important church – and given the back story of the neighborhoods and elements of Thai culture. Anything we pass on the sidewalk, especially street snacks and food carts, is another mini-lecture opportunity.
Despite the heat, the walking isn’t bad. The restaurants are not overly spread out and the latter testing locations even have air-conditioning. The creators and guides of Bangkok Food Tours are sincere and friendly. Their enthusiasm for their culinary heritage and for the local legend restaurants is readily apparent and contagious.
I’ve spent a number of years in this city and I know that common knowledge of one neighborhood’s longtime hotspots might be headline news to a guy from a few districts over. Of the five places we went, I had only heard of one – and that was because a friend who worked in Silom Road had taken me there for lunch once in an off-the-beaten-path moment.
So go check out Bangkok Food Tours. Your stomach will thank you and you will have a few new favorite places.
NOTE: Bangkok Food Tours has added a new tour that explores the delicious world of Bangkok’s Chinatown! Expect other great tour ideas in the future.