Set in Bangkok’s old town, and a short stroll from infamous attractions and destinations like Khaosan Road and the Grand Palace, Phraeng Phutton is an under-the-radar town-square-like street that still has a local-feeling, village-like atmosphere, even despite its proximity to the hordes of tourists who take to Bangkok every year.
One of three so-called ‘phraeng’ crossroads that run parallel to each other and adjacent to Tanao Road, Phraeng Phutton is packed with top-notch but little-heard-of eateries – many of which have been trading in the same spots continuously for the best part of a century. Recent years have also seen new intimate, heritage-themed hotels spring up and, away from the square itself, the area is a short stroll from a number of worthwhile attractions that don’t figure on every visitor’s itinerary.
Here’s what to see, what to do, and – most importantly of all – what to eat in and around Bangkok’s Phraeng Phutton.
Phraeng Phutton is one of Bangkok’s hidden holy grails when it comes to excellent eating – the square and its surrounds are packed with family-run shophouse restaurants and food stalls that have been churning out classic dishes for almost 100 years, in the process earning themselves a well-deserved stellar reputation among Bangkok’s foodies in the know.
This simple and unassuming shophouse, open for almost a century, might not be the obvious destination for some of Bangkok’s finest ice cream – but that’s exactly what it serves.
Pull up a simple wooden chair outside Nuttaporn and tuck into scoops of delicious homemade ice cream in flavours like coconut, mango, chocolate, Thai tea, and our absolute favourite, durian. The durian ice cream only makes a short appearance each year, while the fruit is in season and at its best, but it’s worth hunting out for the meaty chunks that make the final product so delicious.
Nuttaporn sells its ice cream at crazy cheap prices compared to chain ice cream parlours in shopping centres – a bowl will set you back anything from 20 to 40 baht, plus an extra 5 baht to jazz up your dessert with equally out-there toppings like sweetcorn, sticky rice, peanuts, and condensed milk.
Daily, 8am-4pm; 94 Phraeng Phutton; 092-889-6768
If you’re looking to win in the daring-to-eat-freaky-food stakes, then pig’s brain soup might just be the dish that seals the deal. Two long-running shophouses on Phraeng Phutton sell this out-there dish, a rarity in Bangkok these days and one that this local-feeling square is well known for.
Two different shophouses serve up different variants of this hearty Thai-Chinese pig’s brain soup, loaded with the likes of offal, fish and pork balls, and deep-fried fish skin, as well as the brain itself, of course. Samong Moo Thai Tham serves a fairly classic rendition of pig’s brain soup, while across the street Tom Yum Samong Moo gives it a hot-and-sour tom-yum-style makeover.
Both versions of this Thai-Chinese dish are intended as breakfast fare, meaning the shops open early and sell out fairly quickly.
Tom Yum Samong Moo, Monday-Saturday, 9am-4pm; 11 Phraeng Phutton
Samong Moo Thai Tham, Monday-Saturday, 7am-2pm; 28/1 Phraeng Phutton
Mango sticky rice is a rich and indulgent dessert favourite of both visitors and locals for good reason – the creamy, coconut-milk-laden sticky rice and fresh, juicy ripe mango come together in a way that’s simply irresistible.
From a spot on busy Tanao Road just off Phraeng Phutton itself, Kor Panich is a famous mango sticky rice vendor that also serves the not-particularly-health-conscious-but-nevertheless-must-try sweet sticky rice with the likes of sangkaya egg custard and even durian.
Daily, 7.30am-7.30pm; 431-433 Tanao Road; 02-221-3554
This small, humble and old-fashioned restaurant gets rave reviews, and has something of a cult following for its extensive repertoire of traditional, time-honoured and increasingly hard-to-find dishes, which are executed here with an admirable level of authenticity.
That’s not to say that everything is fantastic – eating here can be something of a hit-and-miss affair – but dishes like the famous mee grob stir-fried crispy egg noodles are worth visiting for.
Monday to Saturday, 12-9pm; 146 Praeng Phutton; 02-221-4082
Khao moo daeng – red barbecued pork over rice – is a classic Thai-Chinese street food staple that’s served all over Bangkok as well as elsewhere in Thailand. It’s pulled together with particular perfection at Udom Pochana, a hole-in-the-wall eatery that’s been operating for decades in historic Phraeng Phutton square.
It’s a famly-run restaurant of the kind that does well by serving just a small selection of dishes, including the likes of fresh spring rolls alongside the signature khao moo daeng drizzled with the irresistible brown gravy-like sauce and served with garnishes such as fresh spring onions.
Monday to Saturday, 7am-3.30pm; 78 Phraeng Phutton; 02-221-3042
A new raft of heritage-themed hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts are making the most of the history-rich surroundings, and staying at one of these intimate, secluded properties is a sure-fire way to turn your stay in Bangkok into something truly special.
The conversion of this stunning three-room bed-and-breakfast-style hotel was a clear labour of love for the architect couple behind it, and they rescued as many of the original fittings as they could in the process, including relocating them elsewhere around the property to add extra charm.
There’s a supremely intimate feel to the Bhuthorn, and service is charmingly discreet – plus, the fabulous location (right next door to Nuttaporn ice cream) puts you at the heart of Phraeng Phutton, making it a gorgeous spot from which to look over the square by night.
Rates include a romantic breakfast in a titchy private courtyard space, including the best of that morning’s finds from the local market presented in a pintoh Thai-style tiffin box.
This new arrival on Phraeng Phutton’s bourgeoning hotel scene is another restored period affair: two century-old shophouses have been converted into an intimate, stylish and exclusive-feeling bed and breakfast that places you perfectly to discover this historic neighbourhood.
The 1905 Heritage Corner guest house is run by the same people behind the Heritage Craft and Café shop just around the corner, which features a wide selection of fairly traded craft products from villages across Thailand, many of which are also used in the hotel’s own decor.
1905 Heritage Corner; 66-68 Phraeng Phutton; 02-041-0102; www.1905heritagecorner.com
Heritage Craft and Café; Monday to Friday, 11am-6pm; 35 Bamrung Muang Road; 02-221-1330; www.heritagecraft.org
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Phraeng Phutton is a fabulous area to simply walk around and soak up the vibe of the beautifully maintained, colonial-style buildings, and the square is even home to a collection of vintage cars owned by a local collector and parked right on the street – but there’s plenty more besides to see here and nearby. Popular attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Khaosan Road are also within walking distance.
One of our favourite Buddhist temples in Bangkok, Wat Ratchabophit is a quiet, off-the-tourist-radar spot where it’s possible to find the kind of tranquillity that’s increasingly rare in modern-day Bangkok.
The temple hails from the reign of King Chulalongkorn, and features a number of European design influences that are characteristic of architecture and city planning from this period of Thai history. Long a prestigious temple for Thai Buddhists, Wat Ratchabophit has become even more prominent in public knowledge since the temple’s abbot was appointed in 2017 as the new Supreme Patriarch, the most senior of Buddhist monks in Thailand.
In addition, the royal cemetery at Wat Ratchabophit is among the places where the ashes of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej have been interred.
Daily, 9am-6pm; free entry; Ratchabophit Road (Tha Tien river boat pier); 02-222-3930
The small-ish Wat Ratchapradit temple is another that is largely off the itineraries of tourists visiting Bangkok. Wat Ratchapradit dates back to the reign of King Rama IV, when it was transformed from a coffee plantation and became a centre of meditation and prayer for the Dhammayutika Nikaya Buddhist order.
The temple is one of three that tradition dictates must be located within the Thai capital, while the interiors depict the range of Thai royal ceremonies that take place throughout the year.
Daily, 8am-6pm; free entry; Mahachai Road; 02-222-0855; www.rajapradit.org
Yet another example of this neighbourhood being one of Bangkok’s most overlooked attractions among tourists, every December the entire Sam Phraeng area – not just Phraeng Phutton itself, but also the neighbouring Phraeng Nara and Phraeng Sappasat squares – comes alive for a real village-fair-like festival with a fantastic, infectious atmosphere.
The already gorgeous squares and their side streets get an extra facelift for the occasion, and there are even more street food stalls than usual, as well as live shows, outdoor film screenings, creative arts and crafts activities for the whole family, and even the first authentic candy floss that we’ve come across in Thailand.
At Expique, we’re experts at showing you the unique parts of Bangkok that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably won’t discover on your own. Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in Bangkok and ensure you leave with a memorable experience.
Are you visiting Bangkok during Songkran? Take a look at our expert recommendations for:
Have you explored the Phraeng Phutton neighbourhood? Let us know your tips in the comments!
All photos by Chris Wotton.