Tuk Tuk Tours
Explore Bangkok by the iconic tuk tuk
Chris Wotton is a food and travel writer who has been travelling in Thailand since 2008, and who has lived in Bangkok since 2012. He is the writer behind many of the posts you find on the Expique blog, and you can also keep up with him (when he’s not eating!) on his own web site, The World and His Tuk Tuk. In this post Chris gives a insight into what Bangkok means to him.
Bangkok means something different to everyone. As an obsessed foodie, Bangkok is all about the street food – and the eating possibilities are the main reason I continue to live here. I’m absolutely at my happiest when I’m discovering a new street stall or restaurant tucked down a back alley – and I resolutely believe that, no matter how good a ‘proper’ restaurant might be, the street is always where you’ll find the best Thai food (but that’s not to say there aren’t other reasons for eating in restaurants, or that I don’t).
Sure, there are bad street cooks too, but the good ones have spent decades – in some cases even centuries – perfecting recipes for just a handful of dishes that have been passed down the family tree. How could a restaurant chef, even one at the top of their game who has been in the trade for years, hope to match that kind of expertise when they need to master a whole menu of dishes, often from diverse regions and culinary traditions?
Yet eating on the street in Bangkok is so much more than just the food itself. Certainly it’s unlikely that I would be as keen on it if the food didn’t play such an integral part, but it’s just as much about the connections you make with vendors, and the experiences you share with them and with those joining you to eat. Living in Bangkok gives you the kind of opportunity to get to know, and strike up a rapport with, local vendors in a way that short-term visitors are rarely able to. Little pleases me more than wandering home after a day out, and exchanging pleasantries with my street’s various food vendors at their stalls and in their shops – since these people are the very heart of Bangkok’s food culture.
As much as I enjoy getting out into the provinces to eat regional food in its birthplace – I always cite Krabi town as being one of my favourite Thai food destinations, but others include Chiang Mai, Prachuap Kiri Khan and, most recently discovered, Trang – I can never get away from the fact that Bangkok is where the best food is to be had overall. Migration from all parts of Thailand to the big city has brought the country’s best cooks to the capital, and I can’t get enough of their food. If you can find your way out of the tourist hotspots then you’ll discover some of the best and most authentic food from each of Thailand’s regions – everything from as far south as you want to go, all the way north and out to northeastern Isaan, not forgetting the central plains around Bangkok itself.
Slow travel is a way of life for me. It isn’t how I’ve always travelled, and I’m still guilty of making too many journeys by air, but it’s something I endeavour to do as much as I can now. Wherever I’m travelling in Thailand, that means taking slower, local forms of transport that allow me a perspective on the life of people in that area, which I would miss if I zipped there by plane or minivan. I enjoy taking the bus or boat in my adventures around Bangkok – it’s a cliché, but it’s the unique encounters with individuals that make the ride every bit as important as where I’m going.
And whether I am on a jaunt around Bangkok or somewhere further afield elsewhere in Thailand, I have a particular love for travelling by train. I’m no trainspotter, but I love the romanticism of a slower journey that weaves through fields and right up close by people’s homes, and I’m always intrigued by the communities that have sprouted over time around the railway network’s stations and hubs.
Even without leaving the capital, a quick train journey like the one to Hua Takhe quickly leads you out of the metropolis, through rural landscapes and to somewhere with a more agreeable pace of life altogether. With more time on my hands, a day trip by train to the Mae Klong railway market is a favourite – this is precisely the kind of journey where the tracks are so close to people’s homes that you can see what they’re watching on TV, and their kids can wave at you from the living room window. And if I’m really going for it, then one of my most prized journeys of all is down to Prachuap Kiri Khan, around an hour south of Hua Hin and affording just some of the best coastal scenery you could hope for.
What else makes up my Bangkok? It sounds like another cliché, but I spend much of my time exploring parts of the Thai capital that are often off the mainstream tourist map – whether that’s local fresh markets (I’m a keen cook, too, and one of the reasons I love living here is that I can take home all of the produce I was goggle-eyed for before I moved here and had a kitchen of my own), the plethora of vintage and flea markets, temples, mosques and churches, cute hidden and less-well-hidden coffee shops, and even just atmospheric and attractively crumbling old alleys that have stories to tell. You’ll find many of my Bangkok favourites scattered throughout the Expique blog, but a few particularly favoured treasures include Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, Dasa book café, Siam Gypsy Junction and Talat Rot Fai night markets (though it feels like the latter is sadly becoming a bit too mainstream for my liking), old Bangkok’s Phraeng Phutton square with the stunning The Bhuthorn guest house, fantastic Nuttaporn homemade ice cream and only-for-the-intrepid pig’s brain soup (it’s good!),
Among the spots on Expique’s tours that have impressed me the most are the stupendous sight and atmosphere of Wat Pho at night on the Bangkok Night Lights tuk tuk tour – it’s something I now recommend all my visiting friends see – and the glimmering whiteness of Wat Prayoon, along with the back streets of the Kudeejeen area and the adorable coffee shop that our Diversity & Harmony walking tour makes a stop at.
What is your Bangkok? Where are your favourite spots in the city? Let us know in the comments! And if you bump into me at a Bangkok street stall, market or bar, come and say hello!
Chris Wotton is a food and travel writer who has been travelling in Thailand since 2008, and who has lived in Bangkok since 2012. He is the writer behind the majority of the posts you find on the Expique blog, and you can also keep up with him (when he’s not eating!) on his own web site, The World and His Tuk Tuk, and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Say hi!