A visit to a traditional Thai floating market in or around Bangkok is high up on the list of ‘must-dos’ for most tourists. But while the image still prevails of straw-hatted old women trading from longtail boats on a stretch of picturesque canal, in reality there are countless floating markets in Bangkok, each with a distinctly different flavour. Whilst some are more of a weekend market beside a canal they all have their own charm. Here are eight of our favourites close to Bangkok.
The floating market to go to if you want to see the one in all the pictures: Damnoen Saduak
A word of warning – don’t go to Damnoen Saduak floating market expecting peace, calm or a local atmosphere. This is easily Thailand’s most touristy and most famous floating market, and over the years that has taken its toll. Much of the market is on land and full of tacky souvenirs, while the traffic jam of longtail boats on the canal is made up of just as many tourists out for a paddle as it is actual vendors. Located around an hour south-west of Bangkok in Ratchaburi province, Damnoen Saduak still offers that much-hyped photo opportunity of what a floating market should look like, but don’t anticipate anything too authentic. Bus-loads of day-tripping tourists arrive from Bangkok and elsewhere by 9am, so to see the market as close to its yesteryear atmosphere as you’re likely to, either arrive at the crack of dawn or stay nearby overnight and come out to take your photos early.
The floating market to go to spend a weekend out of Bangkok: Amphawa
Not far down the road from Damnoen Saduak but with an entirely different feel, Amphawa floating market is located in neighbouring Samut Songkhram province and has much of a vintage, almost retro vibe about it. Popular with Thais looking to escape Bangkok, but also growing on the radar of foreign tourists, Amphawa is packed not only with some great eats – typical boat noodles and fresh local seafood are the stand-outs – but plenty of arty stallholders touting their unique creative wares. The market itself runs Friday to Sunday and gets going properly in the afternoons, while mornings are a way to see a quieter, more traditional side to things as monks trawl the canal by longtail seeking alms offerings and vendors sell locals breakfast from the water. The best way to combine both is to stay at one of the growing number of homestays and guest houses alongside the canal itself, and make a weekend of it. Don’t forget to take a boat ride to see the fireflies.
The floating market to go to if you want something quaint: Tha Kha
Among the most local of the local floating markets, Tha Kha is another of Samut Songkhram’s gems, just a few kms from Amphawa. The market has been in existence for over sixty years and takes its name from the long water grass native to the canal. Originally taking place only around the time of the full moon, it has more recently expanded to operate at weekends too, and word seems to be slowly getting out. But it still maintains a traditional atmosphere and is one of few floating markets where locals genuinely come to shop and trade – on a very small scale you may even witness the old fabled floating market scene, long since gone at markets like Damnoen Saduak, of boating traders buying from one another rather than just to visitors.
The floating market near Bangkok for the ultimate eating experience: Khlong Lat Mayom
One of Bangkok’s most local floating markets and yet easily reached from downtown, Khlong Lat Mayom – located in the backwaters of Thonburi – is a sprawling mass of souvenirs, homewares, clothing and food split into two sections and dissected by the main road. But it’s the food that deserves the real mention – you’ll find great tasting and well-priced examples of dishes from Thailand’s four regional cuisines. Think boat noodles and curries from the central plains, khao soi curried noodles from the north, southern khao mok gai chicken biryani and fiery northeastern somtum papaya salad and everything that goes with it. The sheer variety and number of stalls will make it difficult to choose where to eat – come hungry! Find out more about Lat Mayom market here
The floating market near Bangkok to go to if you plan to cook but also want to eat: Don Wai
One of few floating markets to operate all week long, in truth Don Wai isn’t really a floating market – most of the action takes place on land. But if you’re serious about food then this market in Nakhon Pathom province, to the west of Bangkok, is well worth a look. In existence for over a century but only more recently gaining traction as a destination for day-tripping Bangkokians, the focus at Don Wai is as much on fresh market produce – quality meat, vegetables, fruits and the like – as it is on prepared meals to eat there and then or take away, as are popular at floating markets across Thailand. That said, Don Wai also has a long-standing reputation for its boiled and roasted ducks, which are worth a try.
The floating market in Bangkok to go to if you also fancy a bike ride: Bang Nampheung
Less than twenty minutes from the Skytrain, Bang Nampheung floating market is set on the Chao Phraya river’s artificial island of Bang Krachao, marginally outside of the capital in Samut Prakan province. Not only does the market – like many, not actually floating but perhaps better described as ‘canal-side’ – boast everything from fresh and prepared foods to clothing, CDs, souvenirs and even a massage hut, it is perfectly located to be combined with a leisurely cycle around the uncongested roads and elevated concrete walkways surrounded by mangrove trees. Bang Krachao is known as ‘Bangkok’s green lung’ for a reason – within spitting distance of the capital’s densely populated and heavily polluted centre, here you could be a million miles away in the countryside. The market only runs at weekends but the island, including the popular and expansive Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park, is good for cycling every day.
The floating market to go to if you want a bit of everything: Kwan Riam
Kwan Riam is a floating market with a modern edge – think disabled-friendly lifts to cross the canal, purpose built housing for the stalls that aren’t on boats, and local-style air conditioning by way of misting fans. But this new-ish market, set on the San Saeb canal in outer Bangkok’s Minburi district, still delivers in the food category, serving up floating market favourites of satay skewers, haw mok seafood curry soufflés, boat noodles and of course lots of seafood and papaya salad. Unlike other similar markets, where the food is prepared on the water but tables are on a jetty or actually on land itself, Kwan Riam even offers boats that diners can climb into and eat right alongside the cook. The market is popular with Ramkamhaeng University students, while dirt-cheap guided canal boat tours are offered by their younger peers from a nearby school. Find out more about Kwan Riam market here
The floating market in Bangkok for a quick spot of lunch: Taling Chan
Increasingly on the radar of foreign tourists because of its close proximity to and ease of access from central Bangkok, Taling Chan Floating Market still has a relatively local feel thanks to the heavy focus on plants and gardening goods as you enter – hardly the sort of thing your average backpacker is looking to pick up. Once you’re inside the focus is firmly on food, with a large barge-like jetty full of low seating and surrounded by vendors on longtail boats docked up while they prepare huge grilled prawns, steamed mussels, noodle soups, papaya salad, fluffy omelettes and more. With boat tours available to explore the local canals, massage on hand and plenty of fish to feed right here off the jetty, it’s the perfect spot for a quick bite to eat and a couple of hours of fresh air.
BONUS FLOATING MARKET – the one to go to if you want to take a risk it may be closed (or just very sleepy): Luang Peng
When we visited Luang Peng it had closed early. This super local market, located not far from the airport, has real local charm even if it appeared closed. We will save a full report of this market for another day once we have been back when it is open!
The Floating Market if all fails: IconSiam
Don’t take this one too seriously. IconSiam is the newest and biggest shopping mall in Bangkok and on the ground floor they have a replica floating market. It can not compare to any of the others above but there is some decent food being sold in the market area!
Damnoen Saduak photo by Thailand Forum; Don Wai photo by Hdamm via Wikimedia Commons; Kwan Riam photo by former Expique intern Ning; Taling Chan photo by Alpha; all other photos by Chris Wotton.
Explore Bangkok with Expique
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We do this through a range of experiences including: Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences
Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s most vibrant, authentic and unchanged neighborhoods, although with the arrival of the MRT train line extension, things are changing, It is often referred to locally as Yaowarat – which is the name of the main street. Just a short hop from both the downtown business districts and the old-town Rattanakosin area, Chinatown is alive with opportunities to explore and discover a unique side to day-to-day life in Bangkok. With the sheer number of Thais of Chinese ancestry – the result of large-scale migration at various points over a period spanning hundreds of years – it’s no wonder that Bangkok’s Chinatown is widely regarded as the largest in the world.
Chinatown at night is renowned worldwide for its incredible selection of street food vendors that line Yaowarat Road after dark. However, it is also interesting during the day and is packed with fascinating temples and mesmerising street life, galleries, bars, restaurants and plenty more. For extra excitement, every year it comes truly alive for occasions like Chinese New Year and Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival.
It’s one part of Bangkok that you’ll definitely want to traverse on foot in order to fully soak up its heady vibe. Here’s our pick of what to see and do in and around Chinatown while you’re in Bangkok.
What to see in Chinatown Bangkok
Discovering Chinatown in Bangkok is as much about getting out on foot and soaking up the area’s atmosphere as much as it is about ticking off a list of attractions. Centred around bustling, traffic-choked Yaowarat Road (but skip the quieter side streets and you’ll only have seen half of what’s on offer), this is a neighbourhood that’s much unlike most of the rest of the Thai capital.
Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)
Conventional tourist attractions worth hunting out in the Chinatown area include Wat Traimit (daily, 9am-5pm; Traimit Road; entrance fee 40 baht for non-Thai nationals), home to the world’s largest golden statue of a sitting Buddha. The Buddha image was discovered – or rather, it was discovered that it is made of a whopping five and a half tonnes of 18-karat gold – when it was being moved some six decades ago, and it was accidentally dropped to reveal a plaster case concealing its true golden interior.
Wat Mangkon (Dragon Lotus Temple)
This lively temple (daily, 9am-6pm; Mangkon Road; free admission), one of the most prestigious Chinese temples in Thailand, is at the heart of Chinatown’s action – both geographically and figuratively, since it plays host to ceremonies including those at Chinese New Year – and it’s within easy walking distance of some of the area’s best street food spots. It’s a temple that feels like it always has an endless stream of locals coming and going to leave religious offerings, and the site itself features statues depicting religious gardens with symbolic Buddhist objects including a parasol, a pagoda, a snake’s head, and a mandolin.
Following the trend across cities in Southeast Asia and beyond, Bangkok’s Chinatown district has in recent years seen the emergence of a vibrant street art scene. It came to particular prominence in and around Yaowarat with 2016’s Bukruk festival, and there are now thematic and charismatic etchings and illustrations adoring many of the gorgeously crumbling old shophouses in the area. Spots worth checking out include the smaller side alleys off Sampeng Lane and Songwat Road plus, further away from Chinatown itself, Charoenkrung sois 28 and 30.
Hualamphong Railway Station
While many will simply use it to hop on a train to Chiang Mai, it’s worth taking the time to fully appreciate Hualamphongrailway station(ticket offices open 5am-11pm; Rama 4 Road), the capital’s terminal station and officially known as Bangkok Railway Station. In the coming years, Hualamphong will be transformed into a railway museum, as Bangkok’s central train station moves out to Bang Sue in the suburbs – but for now you can still take in the vibe of the station as a living and breathing example of Thai history. Hualamphong has been in use since as far back as 1916, and was designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno in renaissance style.
Where to eat and drink in Chinatown
Chinatown’s street food prowess is well known – this is an area of Bangkok that is regarded as having some of the best street food in the city, if not in Thailand or even the world. While we would argue that there is great street food to be had in just about every part of Bangkok, there’s little arguing that you’ll find it hard to go hungry wandering the streets of Yaowarat.
Easily accessible street food can be grazed on in and around Chinatown at all hours of the day, but the street food scenes for which Yaowarat is famous really come alive at night. Large crowds of hungry foodies trawl the streets, as stalls set up along the pavements churning out both the usual Thai street food staples and other dishes with more Thai-Chinese influence.
Street food prices in Yaowarat tend to be slightly higher than elsewhere in Bangkok, but that’s reflected in the quality of ingredients used as well as the skill of the cooks at some of these long-running stalls. Of course, you can also spend a pretty penny at one of the myriad of more expensive sit-down restaurants that line Yaowarat Road – but the street food experience may be more memorable
Among the favourites is daytime rice-and-curry stall Khao Gaeng Jake Puey (daily, 3-9pm; Mangkon Road). This spot is about as photogenic as street food stalls come, with its backdrop a mishmash of decaying advertising plastered across the front of a shophouse. This is a bustling side street where, come mid-afternoon, a cart with various types of curries and stir-fries arrives to feed loyal regulars. Khao Gaeng Jake Puey is unlike most stalls of its kind in that it has no tables, only a couple of rows of plastic stools for you to perch on, with your lunch on your lap – but it’s worth the effort for the likes of green curry, penang curry, and stir-fried crab. Just get there early – things get going mid-afternoon and often sell out pretty soon after!
Also worth checking out for its famous, gourmet-style but nevertheless dirt-cheap khao moo daeng barbecued pork on rice is Si Morakot (daily, 10.30am-6.30pm; Soi Sukorn 1), a shophouse restaurant with a stellar reputation. Just along from it, Chongki (daily, 9.30am-7.30pm; Soi Sukorn 1) serves what’s regarded as some of Bangkok’s best pork satay skewers, alongside the obligatory peanut sauce, ajaat vinegar relish of cucumbers, shallots, and chillies and, if you fancy it, some toasted bread to soak up all the juices.
Hidden away down Soi Plaeng Nam (just off Yaowarat’s main stretch), there are keenly priced, delectably grilled giant river prawns – of the kind Ayutthaya is famous for – waiting to be enjoyed with the ubiquitous chilli-heavy Thai seafood dipping sauce. You’ll be able to recognise Kung Pao Patutong (daily, 6pm-midnight; Soi Plaeng Nam) from the charmingly kitsch retro decor inside – and of course the huge shrimps on the grill out front.
You’ll also find numerous large seafood restaurants set up in the afternoon and evening along Yaowarat Road itself and the streets around it. These include the two competing and equally popular restaurants on the corner of Soi Texas, Lek & Rut (daily, 5.30pm-2am) and T&K (daily, 4.30pm-2am). In addition, slightly further inside Soi Texas sits renowned boiled blood cockle stall Hoy Kraeng Pa Jeen (Tuesday to Sunday, 5.30pm-1am; Soi Texas), where you can perch at a counter stool and tuck into some of Bangkok’s finest freshly boiled blood cockles and mussels, accompanied by made-to-order dipping sauces.
Another Expique pick for Chinatown feasting is Guay Deow Kua Gai Suanmali (Soi Thewi Worayat, Luang Road), a stir-fried chicken noodle vendor recognised in the 2017 Michelin Awards with a Bib Gourmand mark. This delicate dish takes wide flat rice noodles and stir-fries them with chicken and plenty of pepper – the noodles are frequently served on a bed of lettuce leaves and with a liberal dousing of Sriracha chilli sauce.
Also awarded a Bib Gourmand is another favourite of ours, Guay Jub Ouan Pochana (daily, 6pm-3am; Yaowarat Road) which serves Chinese-style guay jub rolled rice noodles in a hot, peppery broth with pork belly. The evening-only stall sets up right outside the dilapidated Chinatown Cinema, where there’s a bathroom if you need a toilet break . And if you’re craving dessert afterwards, head to Jae Aun Bua Loy Nam King (Tuesday to Sunday, 7-11pm; Yaowarat Road) for the namesake sweet dish of black sesame-seed filled rice-flour dumplings in an aromatic ginger broth.
Chinatown borders the Little India district of Pahurat, where you’ll find plenty of options for delicious Indian food, including at cheap-as-chips streetside Toney Restaurant (daily, 11am-10pm; Chakphet Road).
Meanwhile, Chinatown and its fringes are dotted with a number of authentically vintage coffee and tea houses, filled with chain-smoking old Thai-Chinese men reading the newspaper and catching up on the neighbourhood gossip. These are great places for both soaking up the old world atmosphere, while drinking strong coffee with heaps of condensed milk, and eating no-frills dishes like Thai-style American breakfasts and toast topped with coconut egg custard that’s not unlike Singapore’s and Malaysia’s own kaya spread. The three big-time old-style coffee shops worth checking out are On Lok Yun (daily, 5.30am-4pm; Charoenkrung Road), Kope Kya Kai Te (daily, 6am-3pm; Prachathipatai Road), and Eiah Sae (Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm; Phat Sai Road).
When it comes to drinking, you’ll find both standalone bars and those in hotels and guest houses right across the Chinatown area but, to check out one of the most happening spots on Bangkok’s cocktail scene, it’s worth heading to Soi Nana (on the edge of Chinatown). Here you’ll find bars that have made huge names for themselves in just the last two years or so, including the high-end likes of Teens of Thailand (daily, 7pm-midnight, until 1am Fridays and Saturdays; Soi Nana), Tep (daily, 5pm-midnight, until 1am Fridays and Saturdays; Soi Nana) and Asia Today (Tuesday to Sunday, 7.15pm-1.15am; Soi Nana), as well as cheaper, more rough-and-ready spots like Bar 23 (Tuesday to Sunday, 8pm-midnight). While you’re on Soi Nana, make time to look into Oneday wallflowers (daily, 10am-8pm), a beautifully impressive hidden-away florist set in a gorgeous maze-like building. It also houses the very popular NANA Coffee Roasters coffee shop (Thursday to Tuesday, 11am-7pm), – and by night, the Wallflowers Upstairs bar (Thursday to Sunday, 5pm-midnight).
Also worth investigating is the newly trendy bar and restaurant scene centred around Charoenkrung Soi 28 and 30, again on the edges of Chinatown and towards Saphan Taksin – head here for cocktail joints like Tropic City (Tuesday to Sunday, 7pm-1am; Charoenkrung Soi 28), craft beer spots such as Let The Girl Kill (Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm-midnight; Charoenkrung Road), and restaurants 80/20 (Wednesday to Monday, 6-11.45pm; Charoenkrung Road) and Jua (Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm-midnight; Charoenkrung Road), plus art galleries including Soy Sauce Factory (Monday to Saturday, 11am-11pm; Charoenkrung Soi 24) and Speedy Grandma (Wednesday to Sunday, 1-6pm; Charoenkrung Road).
Markets in and around Bangkok’s Chinatown
Markets are at the heart of what makes Bangkok’s Chinatown so special, and it’s the side to Yaowarat that we love perhaps the most. This is heaven for shoppers – whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the sights and smells of a typical Thai fresh market with a Chinese-influenced twist, or you want to pick up cheap fashion items or ceramics, you’re in the right place. A number of markets around the Yaowarat area all compete for your attention and your cash as you elbow up with savvy locals and indulge in some retail therapy. Besides the markets listed below, long-running unique markets like the Thieves’ Market and Khlong Thom Market are also worth checking out.
Among the most well-known of Chinatown’s markets is Sampeng Lane (Soi Wanit 1), famed for its huge variety of cheap goods spanning from mass-produced fashion accessories to fabrics and electronics. The focus is on wholesale, meaning that if you buy big you can expect hefty discounts, and this is one of those spots where traders from other Bangkok markets come to stock up before selling on to tourists and locals at a healthy mark-up elsewhere in the capital – but retail customers looking to buy just one or two units are welcome, too. Sampeng market comes most alive in the wee hours, from around 2am, when the main wholesale business kicks off – if you can drag yourself out of bed early enough (or simply stay up late the night before), this when you’ll get an appreciation of the Sampeng vibe like no other.
Perfect for keen photographers looking to capture a slice of Bangkok’s Chinatown, photogenic Talat Kao (meaning ‘old market’) on Yaowarat Soi 6 has existed for centuries. It packs in all that you’ll find in most Thai wet markets along with the added intrigue of hundreds of years of trading history and character (plus a few items, like sea cucumbers and whole roasted pigs, that are harder to spot elsewhere around Bangkok). For the best choice of fresh and ready-to-eat foods, come in the morning – later in the day, the focus at Talat Kao switches as vendors hawk more generic goods that you’ll find in other markets across Bangkok.
This short and narrow alley, which makes up Charoenkrung Soi 16, is divided by the main road from the Talat Mai ‘new market’ over on Charoenkrung Soi 21. Trok Issaranuphap is a haven for street food lovers looking to sample the best of Thai cuisine, with all of the area’s Chinese influences, right at the heart of Chinatown’s bustling trading action, and with all the sights, sounds, and smells that come alongside.
Talat Mai (New Market)
Despite trading for over 100 years, this walking street of vendors still goes by the name ‘new market’. It is a brilliant spot to get a feel for a heaving, non-stop Thai fresh market while also giving you the opportunity to pick up Chinese-influenced produce like spices, teas, and flowers that can be much harder to find in Bangkok markets outside of Chinatown. Talat Mai is set on Charoenkrung Soi 21, just across the road from the Trok Issaranuphap market on Charoenkrung Soi 16.
As you wander through Talat Mai and the other markets around Yaowarat, you’ll also come across sets of cut-out paper versions of everyday objects like mobile phones, for the Thai-Chinese to burn as traditional offerings to their ancestors, which also make for interesting souvenirs!
A short walk from the main hubbub of Chinatown, Talat Noi (Charoenkrung sois 20 to 22) – meaning ‘little market’ – is a historic neighbourhood of early Chinese settlers that has escaped the large-scale tourist interest and development of Yaowarat proper. Aside from the market itself, Talat Noi is worth a visit simply for a wander and the chance to soak up its truly heritage vibe.
On the border of Bangkok’s Chinatown, the appropriately named Little India (it really is much smaller in comparison), known locally as Pahurat, is a great place to stock up on beautiful fabrics and heady dried spices at dirt-cheap prices – plus much more. Centred roughly in the area hemmed in by Pahurat, Chakphet and Tripet Roads, the Little India market area is made up of both streetside stalls and bricks-and-mortar shops. It’s also dotted with a mix of a basic and fancier Indian restaurants serving good food – and for irresistible 10-baht samosas, head to a stall right outside the India Emporium shopping centre on Chakphet Road (itself also a good place to head for fabrics in particular).
Old Siam Plaza
Although not an outdoor market like the others we have mentioned here, the Old Siam Plaza (daily, 10am-9.30pm; from 10am on weekends) is a dated but charming vintage indoor shopping arcade located on Burapha Road. This three-storey mall is particularly well regarded for both its Thai silk and clothes tailoring on the upper floors and its extensive range of traditional Thai sweets and desserts – plus other Thai food dishes – on the entrance level.
Getting to Chinatown has just got even easier with the opening of the new MRT station at Wat Mangkon temple. Prior to this the easiest way to get there is to walk from Hualamphong MRT subway station – it’s around a 15-minute journey on foot.
Alternatively, take the Chaophraya Express river boat (from Phra Athit pier if you’re staying in the Banglamphu/Khaosan area, or by connecting from the BTS Skytrain at Saphan Taksin if you’re staying downtown) to Ratchawong pier. From Ratchawong, it’s only around an eight-minute walk to the heart of Yaowarat.
Where to stay in Chinatown Bangkok
While Chinatown is easy enough to reach from wherever you’re staying in Bangkok, if you want to find a place to rest your head right in the midst of the chaotic trading action then there’s no shortage of accommodation options in Yaowarat itself. The following is a short collection of hotels, guest houses and Airbnb outfits that we think are worth a look. There are of course many hostels as well.
Shanghai Mansion – smack bang on Yaowarat Road, with lovely retro-Chinese-style rooms, impressively opulent interiors, and a pleasant terrace bar that opens right onto the busy street-front.
Loy La Long – a 10-minute walk from the heart of Chinatown, Loy La Long is an intimate and homely riverside option with stylish, breezy rooms that open right onto the water for incredible views.
El Chiringuito – Soi Nana’s charming tapas and sangria bar rents out two spacious and sympathetically restored vintage shophouse rooms on its upper floors through Airbnb.
Ba Hao – another Soi Nana option available through Airbnb, the two design-led rooms on the upper floors of this craft beer joint have been meticulously furnished, with stunning rooftop views and shared access to a gorgeous living room.
103 Beds & Brews – one of Soi Nana’s newest openings, this coffee shop cum taphouse has similarly restored colonial-style digs, some with impressive and space-saving duplex setups.
Asa Hostel – fairly basic but immaculate and new-feeling private and dorm rooms only a minute or two’s walk from the very heart of Chinatown.
Oldtown Hostel – on the fringes of Chinatown towards Saphan Taksin, this big, sprawling hostel has dorms and private rooms perfectly placed for bar-hopping at recent openings like Tropic City.
River View Guest House – a long-standing operation with a rooftop restaurant and bar offering, as the name suggests, some of Bangkok’s most renowned views over the Chaophraya river.
What are your favourite things to do and see in Bangkok’s Chinatown? Let us know in the comments!
Wat Traimit photo by Dubaniowska; Hualamphong railway station photo by shankar s.; Sampeng Lane market photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg; all other photos by Chris Wotton.
Explore Bangkok with Expique
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We do this through a range of experiences including: Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences
Let’s face it – if you’re not eating your own weight in delicious Thai food in Bangkok, you’re not doing it right. But while you’ll likely have no problem sampling all of the Thai capital’s deliciousness by speaking English at chain restaurants, high-end fine-dining restaurants, food courts, and even street food stalls in heavily touristed parts of Bangkok, if you really want to get off the beaten track and try some of the city’s genuinely most awesome Thai street food, you’re going to need at least a little bit of Thai language behind you.
Fortunate, then, that we’ve put together this handy list of
the 22 most essential food- and eating-related Thai phrases to arm yourself
with before you embark on a trip to Bangkok, so that when you arrive in
Thailand’s capital you can hit the ground running and be eating delicious Thai
food right away. Don’t forget to add the correct politeness particle – ‘ka’ if
you’re a woman, or ‘krub’ if you’re a man – to the end of each phrase or
sentence; this usually replaces the need for the word ‘please’.
What is this?
Nee keu arai ka/krub
What do you have [to eat]?
Mii arai bang ka/krub
How much is it?
Tao rai ka/krub
Is it spicy?
Man pet mai ka/krub
I’ll take [X], please.
Ao [X] ka/krub
Can I have [X], please.
Kor [X] ka/krub
To eat here, please.
To take away, please.
Lub ghubp ka/krub
Spicy/not spicy, please.
Pet/mai pet ka/krub
Is it vegetarian/vegan?
มังสวิรัติ/เจ ไหม ค่ะ/ครับ
Man bpen mang-sao-wi-rat/jay mai ka/krub
Do you have anything vegetarian/vegan?
มังสวิรัติ/เจ ไหม ค่ะ/ครับ
Mii arai mang-sao-wi-rat/jay mai ka/krub
Can I have it vegetarian/vegan, please?
มังสวิรัติ/เจ ได้ไหม ค่ะ/ครับ
Kor bpen mang-sao-wi-rat/jay dai mai ka/krub
It doesn’t taste good.
Mai aroy ka/krub
It’s too spicy.
Man pet gern bai ka/krub
Can I have a spoon and fork, please?
Kor chorn leh sohm noi ka/krub
Can I have chopsticks, please?
Kor dtah-kiub noi ka/krub
What drinks do you have?
Mii kreung-deum arai bang ka/krub
Do you have tissues?
Mii grah-daat titch-oo mai ka/krub
Do you have a toilet?
Mii hawng-naam mii ka/krub
Can I get the bill, please?
Ghebp-dtaang noi ka/krub
And here are 15 more essential Thai words that you’ll find useful when eating your way around Bangkok:
sweet หวาน waan
sour เปรี้ยว bprieow
salty เค็ม khem
hot (as in temperature) ร้อน rawn
cold เย็น yen
rice ข้าว khao
noodles เส้น sen
egg ไข่ kai
chicken ไก่ gai
pork หมู moo
beef เนื้อ neu-ah
duck เป็ด bped
fish ปลา bplaa
prawns กุ้ง goohng
squid ปลาหมึก blaa-meuhk
Explore Bangkok with Expique
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We do this through a range of experiences including: Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences
There’s more to Thai than ‘sabai dee mai?’ – although it’s true that this question, meaning ‘are you well?’, is one of the first visitors to Thailand learn. One of the other most commonly picked up phrases is ‘sawasdee’, the Thai word for ‘hello’. Most tourists also come away with the word ‘aroy’ – or ‘delicious’ – to describe the vast array of incredible Thai food they have sampled their way through during their time in Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand. The vast majority of overseas visitors get along perfectly fine with just those three words – or, in plenty of cases, even fewer – but, just as anywhere else in the world, making the effort to learn even a handful more can make a world of difference both to your own experience in Thailand and to the locals you meet and interact with along the way.
Do you need to learn Thai
before you visit Bangkok?
These days, lots of guide books
will have you believe that – at least in Bangkok – most people speak a degree
of English, enough for you to be able to get by as a short-term visitor without
putting too much effort into learning Thai. While that’s not entirely inaccurate,
and English language skills are gradually becoming more widespread in younger
generations, it’s still perhaps something of an overly generous assessment.
It’s true that most affluent
middle- and upper-class, many of whom have been privately educated either in
Thailand or overseas, speak a good amount of English. Indeed, you’ll also
probably come across plenty of Thais who speak perfect English, to the point
that they might even sometimes sound better at it than some native speakers!
Thai people working in the tourism industry, or in big international firms and other companies dealing with overseas clients, are also likely to speak some English – although how much can vary dramatically. However, it’s not unfair to say that most Bangkokians still speak little or no English. And that’s perhaps understandable since, despite the impression you might get downtown of Bangkok being a glitzy and outward-looking 21st-century global metropolis (and it is), the majority of ordinary Thais have no interaction with English-speaking foreigners in their day-to-day life and work.
While there are certainly some who
are exceptions, unexpectedly pulling out a whole reel of conversation-starters
and impressively advanced language, you are best off assuming that the English
skills of your average street vendor or taxi driver might well extend to just a
few words that allow them to earn a living by selling to tourists. As you head
further out of tourist-geared central Bangkok and into the city’s more local
and residential suburbs, you can expect those skills to dry up further still.
Just as in the capital’s tourist
hotspots, outside of Bangkok English is well spoken in the most widely visited
other provinces and destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and
Pattaya, and at the most prominent attractions in other locations where
tourists are likely to show up. Meanwhile, if you’re planning on travelling to
more offbeat, rural upcountry towns and villages (and even big cities that are
well and truly absent from the tourist radar), you would do well to start from
the assumption that zero English will be spoken (although that’s not to say
that people won’t still be keen to help in any way they can).
If your Thai skills are lacking,
then this is where lots of hand gestures and smiles will come in handy. You’ll
certainly survive this way, but life in Bangkok will be easier and more
enjoyable if you come armed with even a handful of words and phrases that you
can pull out when you need them most.
You’ll find yourself able to ask
the lone grandma street food vendor hunched over a grill on the street corner
how much she’s charging for the delicious-looking morsels you don’t know the
name of but are sure you want to try. You’ll be able to acknowledge and return
the pleasantries paid to you by friendly Thais as you wander narrow alleyways
in more out-of-the-way locales around Bangkok. And you’ll be able to tell a
motorbike taxi driver where you want to go, meaning you’re charged the real
More reasons to learn some Thai
Once upon a time, foreign speakers
of the local language were such a rarity that a non-Thai being able to converse
would leave unsuspecting locals stunned such a show-stopping spectacle. These
days, foreigners fluent in Thai (or close enough) are still something of a
novelty, but there are now enough of us – in everyday local communities, on
social media, and in smaller numbers on mainstream TV – that it’s a bit less of
a big deal.
Thais are now especially used to
meeting tourists who have brushed up on some of the basic lingo in advance of
their holiday, but it’s nevertheless still something that’s widely admired and
appreciated. You can expect to get plenty of surprised smiles and exclamations
of how ‘clever’ you are to be able to speak some Thai – especially from
friendly non-English-speaking folks glad that it means they can now have
something of an exchange with you in a way that might not have been possible if
you hadn’t made the effort.
Speaking a little Thai will win
you the hearts of the kind of generous vendors who are likely to give you a
discount on your meal, or perhaps a little extra treat, after your efforts to
speak Thai warm you to them in a way most tourists aren’t. And if you’re lucky,
it might even afford you a little protection against that other kind of
vendors, the unfortunately more jaded, opportunistic ones out to fleece
tourists by attempting to overcharge. Even uttering a word or two of Thai can
give them the impression (true or not) that you live here or otherwise just
know your stuff, and you’re perhaps someone they are better off not trying
their luck with.
Essential Thai phrases
These are 21 of the most essential
Thai phrases you are likely to want to use during a short stay in Bangkok.
Remember to use the correct politeness particle at the end of each phrase
(which tends to replace the need for the word ‘please’) – ‘ka’ if you are a
woman, or ‘krub’ if you are a man. To get a better idea of pronunciation, you
can also copy and paste the Thai script for each phrase below into Google
Translate and click the speaker icon to hear the phrase spoken out loud in
Sawasdee ka/krub, sabai dee mai ka/krub
สวัสดี ค่ะ/ครับ สบายดีไหม ค่ะ/ครับ
how are you?
If you’re asked this question
yourself, your answer can be ‘sabai dee ka/krub’ to mean you’re well, or ‘mai
sabai ka/krub’ to mean you’re not well.
Cheu arai ka/krub
If you’re asked this question yourself, your answer is
simply ‘cheu’ followed by your name and ‘ka’ or ‘krub.
Ah-yoo tao rai ka/krub
old are you?
To answer this yourself you’ll need to know enough Thai
numbers, but your answer is simply ‘ah-yoo’ followed by the number for your age
and ‘ka’ or ‘krub’.
Bpen khun prathet arai ka/krub
country are you from?
To answer this yourself you’ll need to know the Thai word
for your country of nationality, but your answer is simply ‘bpen khun’ followed
by the name of your country and ‘ka’ or ‘krub’.
Nee tao rai ka/krub
How much is this?
Lot raka noi dai mai ka/krub
Can you discount the price,
Ao ah-nee ka/krub
I’ll take this one, please.
Man paang/took ka/krub
Mai sai toong/lord ka/krub
No bag/straw, please.
Mai dtong torn ka/krub
Keep the change.
Mii bang yoi mai ka/krub
Do you have (small) change?
[Hawng-naam/tanakarn/satanee rot fai] yoo nai ka/krub
[ห้องน้ำ/ธนาคาร/สถานีรถไฟ] อยู่ไหน ค่ะ/ครับ
Where is the [toilet/bank/train
Bpai [dtalat] ka/krub
ไป [ตลาด] ค่ะ/ครับ
I’m going to [the market].
You can use the same phrase when speaking to a taxi driver
etc to mean ‘take me to [the market], please’.
Bpert meedter hai noi ka/krub
Turn the [taxi] meter on, please.
Mai bpen rai ka/krub
No worries/no problem.
Mai kao jai ka/krub
I don’t understand.
Poot thai mai dai ka/krub
I can’t speak Thai.
Poot thai die kair nidt noi ka/krub
I can only speak a little Thai.
Poot pasa [ang-grit] dai mai ka/krub
Can you speak [English]?
You’re not going to be fluent before you leave, but making an effort is all that’s needed – and, with a little practice, you’ll be surprised at how much you pick up in a short time!
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We do this through a range of experiences including: Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences
Thailand is famous for its food, so it’s no surprise that most tourists visiting Thailand want to explore the country’s cuisine, and it’s a great way to understand the Thai culture. The best way to do so is by taking either a food tour or a thai cooking class. At Expique, we are slowly becoming food experience experts – following the launch of The Market Experience: Our Cooking School in Bangkok’s Flower Market, we now offer both! Nevertheless, here’s a wider look at your options for the most unique and the best cooking classes in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.
Both Bangkok and Chiang Mai have an abundance of Thai cooking schools, but the reality is that it’s possible to find someone offering classes just about anywhere in Thailand. Most classes are similar, with a standard offering of teaching a soup, a curry, and a stir-fry. Some classes aim to woo customers by offering to teach lots of dishes (as many as 15 in four hours!) at a bargain price. Other schools change the menu every day, and others allow you to learn whatever you want to.
In Bangkok, the huge diversity of cooking classes means prices can run anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 baht per person. In Chiang Mai, cooking classes are so commonplace that they have become almost a commodity – plenty of schools offer classes for 1,000 baht or less, but there are also some more unique offerings based on the city’s outskirts.
Most schools offer just a half-day class but, it you want to go back home an expert in Thai cooking, there are a few out there that offer longer sessions!
Take a look at our breakdown of some of the more unique cooking schools in Bangkok.
Cooking Classes in a Market – The Market Experience
Most schools offer a trip to a local market as part of the class. The Market Experience is actually based in a market – and not just any market, but one of Bangkok’s most famous markets, the Flower Market at Pak Khlong Talat.
As such, The Market Experience focuses on dishes that use ingredients found in the market – sometimes including flowers! The small classes – including the signature Thai Cooking with a Twist – run with no more than eight people.
The Thai Cooking Class With a Heart: Courageous Kitchen
The not-for-profit Courageous Kitchen was born out of the In Search of Sanuk charitable initiative providing emergency food and housing for poverty-stricken families and children in Bangkok. This included small cooking classes for the children, for which the project quickly became known.
Nowadays, Courageous Kitchen runs regular cooking classes and ‘Street Food 101’ tours and classes that provide revenue to help feed and train those in need in Bangkok. Cooking classes include the usual fresh market tour and guided cooking session, with up to three dishes from a menu that includes the likes of pad thai, tom kha soup, and pad krapao stir-fried basil. Alternatively, the small-group Thai Street Food 101 custom tour helps to decode the innumerable dishes that make up Bangkok’s vibrant street food culture, including plenty of tasting.
Cooking Class For The Serious Student: Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy
The Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy is a relatively new arrival on the Bangkok cooking school scene, and it’s conveniently located beside Bang Chak BTS Skytrain station. This modern, air-conditioned cooking school runs not only regular Thai cookery classes, but also training for professional chefs – which gives you an idea of the high standards you’re working to here.
The regular half-day classes teach a total of six dishes (including a curry paste) – more than many schools – from an extensive but generally pretty standard selection; expect the usual stalwarts like green and red curry, tom yum, pad thai, satay, and fish cakes to make an appearance, alongside a few dishes that are seen in cooking schools ever so slightly less often.
In a nice touch, students can pick the dishes they want to learn to cook so that each class is unique, and there’s also the opportunity to tour a local market as well as take an in-depth look at how to make Thai staples like sticky rice, curry pastes, and coconut milk from scratch.
The Number One Thai Cooking School on TripAdvisor: Chef Leez
This immensely popular Bangkok cooking school has apparently offered TripAdvisor’s number-one classes since 2011. The Chef Leez school certainly prides itself on its review rating, as well as the value for money it offers by squeezing as many as 12 dishes into a single class, all while focussing on small class sizes with an average of eight students or less.
The story of Chef Lee herself is also impressive – as well as speaking four languages, she apparently started cooking at the age of five in her grandmother’s restaurant. She has been teaching Thai cooking for more than 10 years, and today still leads the classes at her school. After being taught to make a number of dishes from a pretty standard roster of Thai staples, students also get access to an online library of recipes and refresher videos. Just note that the somewhat remote location on the northern outskirts of Bangkok is a bit of a drawback.
Sathorn’s Blue Elephant is the grand dame of Bangkok cooking schools, with a distinct focus on high-end royal Thai cuisine that sets it apart from many of the other options in the city – though it’s not cheap. The school is housed in the historic old, Fine-Arts-Department-recognised Thai Chine building that was once home to the luxurious Bombay Department Store (conveniently located by Surasak BTS Skytrain station), and follows in the footsteps of Blue Elephant restaurants in Brussels, London, Copenhagen, and Paris. The Blue Elephant brand is also behind a range of popular Thai ingredients sold in supermarkets around the world.
Like at other cooking schools, regular Blue Elephant half-day morning cooking classes incorporate a visit to a local market followed by a session learning to make a selection of Thai dishes. At Blue Elephant, however, the focus is on ‘lost’ popular dishes from the past that have long since disappeared from today’s repertoire of famous Thai recipes. These include the likes of lon taojiew puu, a dip of soy paste and crab, and a particularly prizes beef massuman curry.
This Bangkok cooking school’s name is always one to raise a laugh – especially when you see their guides’ t-shirts proclaiming ‘I cooked with POO and I liked it’ – but in fact it’s inspired by the founder’s nickname Poo, short for Chompoo, or ‘rose apple’.
Since turning her hand to cookery classes after struggling to make ends meet as a street-food vendor, Poo has led her cooking school to be a remarkable achievement amongst the hardship of the Khlong Toey slum area she has long since called home. In the process, the company has trained up many of Poo’s neighbours in culinary and English skills, and taken them onboard to run classes, too.
For more ideas for Cooking Schools across Asia and beyond: Cookly
If you are looking for a cooking school in Bangkok or even the rest of the world then check out Cookly to search for the perfect school for your needs. Great platform for your cooking school needs.
For more eating and less cooking – take a food tour!
If you’re looking to explore Bangkok’s unbeatable food scene but you would prefer to have someone to cook for you, our Food Tour: Evening Food and Tuk Tuk Adventure is just the ticket! Take a look at the details here.
Where is your favourite cooking school in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
All photos by relevant cooking schools.
Explore Bangkok Through Food with Expique
At Expique our mission is to help people discover the real Bangkok and the local cultures. We have a passion for Thai food and we show it through a range of experiences including: Food Tours, Walking Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Cooking Classes, and Market Experiences
Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis that attracts tens of millions of visitors from overseas every year – and that’s a number that just keeps on growing. Thailand’s capital is packed with attractions that keep on pulling in the masses and so, whatever your interest, you’re sure to find something here to keep you entertained during your stay. From headline sights such as glistening Buddhist temples including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun, to skyscraper shopping centres and a dizzying array of authentic, easily accessible local Thai street food, the one thing you won’t be in Bangkok is bored. But in a city of Bangkok’s size, and one without a specifically defined centre, it can be hard to know where to lay your head. The area of Bangkok you choose to call home will depend on what you’re looking for most – our guide to the best areas to stay in Bangkok will guide you in the right direction.
This long, sprawling road is Thailand’s longest, running all the way to the border with neighbouring Cambodia – not that all of that is located within Bangkok, of course. The stretch of Sukhumvit Road that does run through the capital is long enough in itself, though, and is home to about as many foreign expats as it is shopping centres, hotels, restaurants, and bars. The eponymous BTS Skytrain line snakes through much of it, and the road itself can be broadly divided into three segments: lower Sukhumvit, from its beginning in embassy-rich Phloen Chit through to busy, shopping-heavy Asok; mid-Sukhumvit, covering the trendy and affluent, shopping- and nightlife-focussed Phrom Phong, Thonglor and Ekkamai; and upper Sukhumvit, which runs from Phra Khanong through the expat-heavy On Nut, fast-growing Punnawithi and Udomsuk (now a lot busier than just a few years ago when they were still up-and-coming), and into Bangkok’s eastern suburbs.
Why to stay in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok:
For great shopping (Central Embassy, Terminal 21, EmQuartier, Emporium), countless restaurants and bars, a wide selection of hotels, and easy access to the Skytrain (as well as the MRT subway at Asok).
Business district by day, nightlife haven by night: while much of Bangkok can be said to never stop, Silom in particular is always on the go. The Silom area is easy to get into and out of, with numerous stations on both the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway; it’s also home to some of Bangkok’s best restaurants and bars, accommodation ranges from budget options to swanky five-star stays, and it borders the enormous Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s answer to Central Park. Silom is where you’ll find Patpong, one of Bangkok’s multiple red-light districts but also home to a popular night market that’s perfect for picking up cheap souvenirs. Just across the road is the Thai capital’s primary gay nightlife scene, in and around Silom soi 2 and soi 4.
Why to stay in the Silom area of Bangkok:
For some of Bangkok’s finest dining and drinking (check out perennially award-winning Eat Me and Vesper on Soi Convent and, for something more down to earth, the moo ping grilled pork street food vendor who sets up nightly for the clubbing crowd on the corner of Soi Convent and Silom Road), the best of the city’s notoriously raucous nightlife, and good access to both the Skytrain and subway.
Just along from Silom, the affluent neighbourhood of Sathorn is home to well-heeled Thais and expats, as well as a refined dining and bar scene. During the week, business is the order of the day around here, with headquarters of some of the world’s leading financial institutions in the area, but by dusk it’s Sathorn’s wide, leafy and relaxed back streets that take centre stage. Sip an aperitif at European-style Le Café des Stagiaires on Sathorn soi 12 before heading for dinner at heavyweights like Nahm, Supanniga Eating Room and Kai, then end the night dancing at legendary Maggie Choo’s, Latino-themed Revolucion or industry institution Smalls. Sathorn also boasts curious attractions like the abandoned Sathorn Unique tower – a magnet for urban explorers – and it has easy access to both the Skytrain and subway lines, as well as serving as a gateway to the Chaophraya River at Saphan Taksin. Accommodation here is first class, too: stay in style at the W Bangkok, or with views of Lumpini Park at the SO Sofitel.
Why to stay in the Sathorn area of Bangkok:
For unbeatably classy international drinking and dining, some of Bangkok’s best five-star hotels, and great public transport access for seeing the rest of the city.
If it’s your first time in Bangkok and you want to be as close as possible to some of the Thai capital’s primary tourist attractions, Banglamphu is the place to be. This old-town part of Bangkok, which sits on Rattanakosin island and is administratively part of Phra Nakhon district, holds plenty of Thai charm for return visitors, too – not to mention that it’s immensely popular among backpackers for its Khaosan Road area. Public transport can be a challenge compared to other parts of Bangkok (although the Chaophraya Express boat is always a good option), but it’s an affordable and accessible neighbourhood, there’s plenty of authentic Thai street food away from Khaosan Road itself, and charismatic local accommodation is easy to find.
Why to stay in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok:
For real traveller vibes, as well as unbeatably easy access (usually within walking distance) to attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn).
There’s still a trendy, studenty vibe to much of Siam, but much of the reason for staying here lays in its bounty of shopping opportunities. Some of Bangkok’s most famous shopping centres are located here in the Siam area, right at the crossroads of the BTS Skytrain’s Sukhumvit and Silom lines – which incidentally makes Siam a convenient and central place to stay when it comes to seeing the rest of the city, too. Shop at Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Square One, and Central World, among others – you’re also only a short hop from the malls of the legendary Pratunam area, and from Central Chidlom and Central Embassy in Chitlom and Phloen Chit.
Why to stay in the Siam area of Bangkok:
Shopping, shopping, shopping, as well as easy access to the rest of Bangkok by public transport
Bangkok’s Chinatown, known locally as Yaowarat, is one of the world’s largest, and one of the most charming and charismatic parts of the city. There’s something here to please most types of traveller: explorers and photographers keen to discover its photogenic back alleys, foodies ready to chow down on the almighty variety of Thai street food on offer, and thrifty shoppers excited by the prospect of haggling with grandma vendors at bustling Sampeng Lane market. There’s a great cocktail scene on the likes of Soi Nana, too, and – as well as access to the MRT subway at Hualamphong (with more stations on the way), it makes a convenient base for a night before heading upcountry by mainline train at the same station.
Why to stay in the Chinatown area of Bangkok:
For photo opportunities galore, some of Bangkok’s most renowned street food, and the infectious hustle and bustle of this fabulously frenetic neighbourhood.
Chill out in pure luxury and enjoy unbeatable riverside vistas alongside Bangkok’s mighty Chaophraya. Snaking through various neighbourhoods on its journey through Thailand’s capital, the riverside is known for being home to some of Bangkok’s most prestigious, luxurious and awe-inspiring five-star hotels. Having said that, there are also lower-key and equally charming boutique spots like Loy La Long to rest your head – where you’ll literally be able to feel the water swishing beneath you – and local-feeling riverside bars like Jack’s that offer a different take on Bangkok. Head across the water to the Thonburi side and you can even partake in a spot of retail therapy at ICONSIAM, one of Bangkok’s newest and most prestigious shopping malls.
Why to stay in the riverside area of Bangkok:
For unbeatable views over the Chaophraya, world-class accommodation and dining possibilities, and easy access to river transport to get you to old-town Bangkok’s primary tourist attractions.
Photos by Vladimir E; Mike Benhken; Nonth!!!; David McKelvey; Hajime NAKANO; Marco Nürnberger; Bernard Spragg. NZ
Bangkok and the rest of Thailand are renowned for their
sweltering heat – local residents often refer to Thailand’s seasons as being
‘hot, hot, and hotter’, and a popular meme that regular does the rounds on
social media depicts Bangkok as being detached from the rest of the earth and
situated part-way between Mercury and the sun. Of course, there is variation
between the weather in Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand at different times
of year, even if it might not be as pronounced as the seasons you are used to
back home. The weather can be an important consideration when choosing when to
book your getaway to Bangkok, and with our guide to the seasons in Thailand
you’ll be able to make plans for your first or latest visit with confidence.
Cool Season: November to February
This is arguably the best time of year to be in Thailand –
but, of course, that means it can also be the most expensive time. During
Thailand’s cool season from November through to February, the weather is still
pleasantly hot, but the humidity of the other times of year eases off, there is
little to no rain to worry about, and most days see non-stop beautiful blue
This is the time of year when the country and its visitors head to the beach, and with good reason, but that means you need to expect prices for everything from hotel accommodation to domestic (and even international) flights to increase across the country.
Expect average daily high temperatures of around 32°C (90°F)
to 33°C (91°F), dropping to around a pleasant 22°C (72°F) to 24°C (75°F) at
night, and with not much more of a day or two of (partial) rainfall per month,
especially from December onwards.
Hot Season: March to May
Things get steamy between March and May in Bangkok and
elsewhere around Thailand – it’s not for nothing that local residents are
especially pleased to cool off with a nationwide public water fight when the
Thai new year holiday of Songkran arrives in mid-April!
This is the time of the year when Thailand’s heat can become
most uncomfortable of all for those not used to it, as the mercury soars and
the humidity increases with it. April is easily the hottest month of all. Rainfall
is still few and far between, although it begins to increase towards the end of
this season as we approach the arrival of the monsoon season from June onwards
– by which time you’ll be grateful for it.
If you’re in Bangkok, you’ll likely be ducking into 7/11
convenience stores and shopping centres at every opportunity to refresh
yourself with a blast of air-con. If you’re on the beach then the cool air
coming off the sea will likely go some way to reduce the extremities of the
temperature but, both here and in the cities, having access to a swimming pool
at your hotel can also be a real saviour.
Expect average daily high temperatures of around 34°C (93°F)
to 35°C (95°F) – in recent years this has even got as high as 38° (100°F) in
Bangkok, and higher still upcountry in some of Thailand’s hottest provinces
like Kanchanaburi and those in the northeastern Isaan region. Temperatures only
drop to around 26°C (79°F) to 27°C (81°F) at night, but rainfall is at least
limited to just a few days per month (more in May).
Wet Season: June to October
If you come to Thailand during the monsoon season between
June and October, you should expect some rain – not that that should put you
off at all.
It goes without saying that the rain here is different from
what you might be used to at home – the rain here is warm, not cold – and, in
any case, it is unlikely that you’ll often have a full day of rain to wash out
your plans completely. The more likely scenario is a short but heavy downpour
in the morning or afternoon, lasting perhaps an hour or two at most, and then
good, dry weather for much of the rest of the day.
While grey, overcast days are a more common sight during the
wet season from June to October than they are for the rest of the year, plenty
of clear blue skies still make it through. Plenty of visitors to Thailand enjoy
the rainy season, since it not only brings the country’s verdant greenery to
life but it also shows you a different side to the country – great for
open-minded photographers looking to capture something other than the typical
clear-skied beach scenes that everyone else gets. Our tuk tuk and walking tours
also go ahead come rain or shine – we come equipped with colourful raincoats
for everyone and, if anything, we think a little rain adds to the fun!
One other definite advantage to the wet season is that prices
on accommodation, transport and more can fall quite substantially in an effort
to lure in visitors during what is typically a quieter period for Thailand’s
tourist industry (a blessing in itself, since it means you won’t have to deal
with quite the same hordes of people as you might in the peak of high season).
Having said that, it’s worth keeping in mind that short-term
localised flooding is not uncommon at this time of year, both in Bangkok and
elsewhere around the country as local infrastructure struggles to cope with the
sudden deluge of water forced down from the sky. In Bangkok in particular, a
sudden downpour can also wreak havoc on the city’s already temper-testing
traffic situation, so if you’re visiting at this time of year you will want to
build plenty of flexibility into the time you allow yourself to get around by
taxi or public transport. And pack an umbrella or raincoat!
Expect average daily high temperatures of around 33°C (91°F)
to 34°C (93°F), dropping to around 25°C (77°F) to 26°C (79°F) at night. You
might experience as many as 14 to 18 days of rainfall per month but, again,
these are likely to be partial rather than full rainy days in most cases.
What’s the weather like elsewhere around Thailand?
Away from Bangkok, the weather can vary quite dramatically
from these standard Thai seasons. Northern Thailand sees less benefit from the
cooler temperatures of November to February, although things do still ease off
slightly from the intense heat of the rest of the year – on the other hand, the
north gets a full-on assault of rain come the wet season.
Things are rather more complicated down in the south, where weather systems can differ even between the southeastern and southwestern coasts. The variation in temperature doesn’t really happen down here to the same extent that it does elsewhere in the country, with the focus more on the level of rainfall – generally on the southwestern coast (including Krabi and Phuket) you can expect things to be wetter between April and October, while on the southeastern coast (including the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan) the rain comes between September and December, somewhat in contrast with the rest of the country and to the surprise of some visitors (although this does make Koh Samui a good escape from June to August’s summertime rain elsewhere).
Photos by Alessandro Caproni; Jacob Montrasio; Dennis Wong
It’s not often that a day, a week or a month goes by without
Thai food making it into the news somehow, such is the fierce reputation of
this rich and diverse cuisine and so numerous and spread out are its legions of
fans around the world. People come to Thailand in their droves – literally in
the tens of millions every year, and arriving from all four corners of the
globe – and a good share of them visit for the famously inimitable Thai food
they will find here as much as they do for the glorious white-sand beaches, the
vibrant, raucous nightlife, or anything else for that matter.
The struggle for
Yet for those visiting, the Thai food scene in the vast
metropolis that is the capital city of Bangkok looks unbelievably different
today compared to even just a few short years ago. It often seems like
Thailand’s authorities work on a constant cycle for setting out to sanitise the
street food scene for which the Thai capital is known and loved worldwide, and
life under the military regime in power since 2014’s coup has seen more than
its usual share of attempts to supposedly ‘return the pavements to the people’
and clear out those elements evidently seen as undesirable.
So it was that the latest round of dramatic headlines
announced that street food would apparently be cleared from the streets of
Bangkok, ricocheting across the globe as media outlets and individual foodies
worldwide worried that they might have already had their last fix of delicious,
authentic Thai street food – something which anyone who has ever tried it knows
you simply can’t ever get enough of. Well, in spite of what certain
self-appointed experts may claim online, let’s place this on the record right
from the pavements of Bangkok: the street food is still here. You can rest easy,
for now at least.
The argument for –
and against – street food
It’s true that in certain parts of the capital, street food
stalls operating on public footpaths have been pushed back away from the main
roads and onto quieter side alleys. That’s bad news for both the vendors who
rely on the greater footfall of main roads in order to earn a decent living,
and for those of who find that one of the best things about Thai street food in
Bangkok is its sheer ubiquitousness, the fact that it really is (or at least
historically has been) on hand at every street corner.
On the other hand, that’s balanced against the very real and
loud calls for Bangkok’s pavements to become more pedestrian-friendly –
something that at the moment, across the vast majority of the capital, they are
anything but. Critics (and I am one of them) still downplay the inconvenience
that is genuinely caused by the majority of street food vendors across Bangkok.
(There are certainly more extreme instances of pedestrian access being blocked
just about altogether, but there are far more cases where stalls pose much less
of a hindrance, and actually co-exist with foot traffic quite well.)
Such critics insist both that any inconvenience is a small
price to pay for the rich, vibrant culture of Bangkok street food, and that
street vendors are far from the worst offenders when it comes to making the
pavements a no-go zone (motorbikes riding on the pavements, and phone
boxes/steps up to footbridges bafflingly placed right in the middle of the
footpath, we’re looking at you both). Nevertheless, it’s difficult to dispute
that street food vendors do play their part in the difficulties, and that
something almost certainly has to change if everyday outdoor Bangkok is ever to
improve its shockingly and embarrassingly low level of accessibility to, say,
Street food is an
essential, not a luxury
That’s all without mentioning the fact that street food is,
far beyond its deservingly beloved status among both overseas visitors and
affluent Thai and foreign residents, first and foremost a livelihood for the
vendors and pretty much a life-or-death matter for the millions of
working-class local residents who rely on street stalls to provide access to
low-cost, filling dishes that they can afford on minimum wage or thereabouts.
Many of the instances of street food being pushed off main streets have occurred in typically busy and congested downtown areas, which so happen to be areas popular with and most often frequented by foreign tourists as well as residents living in expatriate-heavy neighbourhoods. This goes some way to explain the on-balance-misplaced alarm expressed by some such tourists and residents online, insisting that ‘there’s no street food left in Bangkok’ and displaying distrust of those of us who claim otherwise. Take a wander around a local Bangkok neighbourhood that’s even ever so slightly more in the sticks, though, and you’ll find that the street food game there is still pretty much business as normal. (If you want to do this, countless such areas are still within easy reach of the Skytrain and subway, and in any case they were always among some of the best places to head for truly great street food.)
The changing face of
We would also have our heads in the sand if we didn’t
acknowledge that there has indeed long since been a campaign to ‘cleanse’
Bangkok of its street food culture, disliked and looked down upon by some elite
sections of society, and instead move towards the kind of arrangements
instituted in nearby Singapore, where stalls have long since been moved off the
streets themselves and into rented spaces in communal food courts or ‘hawker
centres’ dotted around the city. Indeed fans of Bangkok’s historic street food
culture frequently bemoan city and national authorities’ efforts to reorganise
and restrict the activities of street food vendors as part of a move towards a
supposedly ‘sanitised’ Singapore-style model in the city.
That is arguably echoed in the huge rise in the number of
shopping centres and condominiums that have been thrown up across Bangkok in
recent years, in many cases with street food stalls, local restaurants and
other such venues, and other markers of local community life being stripped out
to make way for the new developments. The result, street food lovers (including
this one) and critics of the Thai capital’s movement in that direction will
tell you, is far more soulless neighbourhoods devoid of street food options –
where your only real options for eating are inside mammoth-sized shopping
centres owned by equally enormous corporations – that leave significant parts
of the population priced out of their own areas. That is indeed already the
case to some extent in some of the most downtown neighbourhoods of Bangkok,
where many argue the traditional street life culture so beloved among both
locals and visitors has already been lost.
We’re not out of the
Such developments have far from reached their natural
conclusion, too – indeed, they still continue with unrelenting force. So the
earlier message that ‘the street food is still here’ comes with one enormous
caveat: it is still under threat, and it may not be here forever.
In the aftermath of the global rash of bad PR for the Thai
tourist industry following authorities’ reported pronouncement of their
intention to ‘ban’ street food from the streets of Bangkok altogether, their
apparent backtracking subsequently generated headlines worldwide as people
breathed a sigh of relief at their beloved street food being granted a
Much less well publicised was the fine print to that
supposed reprieve, namely that the Thai authorities would indeed continue their
fight to ‘reorganise’ street food stalls in specific areas, most notably the
forever bustling and street-food-heavy Chinatown neighbourhood of Yaowarat, and
backpacker enclave of Khaosan Road. That has already played out to some extent,
and will doubtless continue further. Those of us who dearly love Thai street
food in Bangkok – and even more so those residents who genuinely depend on it –
should be under no illusion that the spectre of that threat of ‘reorganisation’
will remain, and it will in all likelihood extend its reach to other areas (and
more of them) that have so far been spared the worst of its wrath.
For now, almost all of Bangkok’s renowned street food is
still safe, but the message is clear: it’s still under constant and immense
threat. If you value it, feast on it while you still can.
All views expressed are the author’s. All photos by Chris Wotton.
With a population of at least eight million (perhaps closer to double that if you include neighbouring cities and provinces that form greater Bangkok) that far and away dwarfs even the next biggest Thai cities, Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a primate city of the first order. That means there’s lots going on for first-time visitors to get their heads around, and for some it can all be a little overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know in order to help you find your bearings when you first arrive in Bangkok.
Bangkok is one of 77 provinces in Thailand (technically
there are 76 provinces, or changwat, and
Bangkok is a separate special administrative area). Within Bangkok there are 50
districts known as khet, each of
which is then further divided in sub-districts known as khwaeng (in all of the provinces outside of Bangkok, these
divisions are known as amphoe and tambon). Most short-term visitors to
Bangkok, though, will only spend time in a handful of these districts at most,
and on a day-to-day basis names of roads or less formal names for
neighbourhoods tend to be used less often than these official district names.
Where to stay
For visitors, much of the nightlife, shopping and tourist attractions are to be found in the Sukhumvit, Silom and Rattanakosin Island neighbourhoods, also making these good areas for those on a brief visit to stay. Siam is also a popular area, in particular for shopping. Bangkok has all types of accommodation available, from five-star international chain hotels to smart boutique properties, budget hotels, intimate guest houses, and an increasing number of hostels offering both dorms and private rooms.
Sukhumvit Road is Thailand’s longest road, so even the small portion of it that runs through downtown Bangkok offers a diverse array of neighbourhoods in which to put your head down, but all are convenient for the Skytrain (as well as the subway at Asok) and the majority are close to Bangkok’s famous shopping malls as well as a vast selection of eating and drinking opportunities from street food stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants and hidden speakeasy-style bars. This is a fast developing area, with condos hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping malls popping up all over the place.
Silom and neighbouring Sathorn are 2 main roads that run between Lumpini Park and the river. This is the original commercial area in Bangkok and are likewise magnets for nightlife lovers, as well as offering plenty of shopping opportunities, a huge selection of restaurants, and easy access to to the Skytrain, subway and river.
The old-town neighbourhood of Rattanakosin Island – which falls within Phra Nakhon district and includes the Banglamphu neighbourhood – puts you close to popular Buddhist temples and other tourist attractions, as well as the backpacker vibe of the Khaosan Road area and its surrounds. It is however, somewhat cut off from the main public transport (BTS / MRT) and shopping area of Bangkok.
Along the river is also a great place to stay and where you will find many of the top hotels in Bangkok. It is easy to get to many of the top tourists locations by boat and many hotels have their own shuttles that drop people at the Skytrain station. The riverbanks is also increasingly becoming the home of many new shopping and dinning areas including the glamorous IconSiam shopping mall which opened in 2018
Increasingly people are staying in other areas and this is partly the impact of Airbnb where people are renting apartments all over the city. However, remember Bangkok is a huge city and with bad traffic, so you want to avoid having to travel too far.
What to see and do
The majority of Bangkok’s most popular attractions are found
in the Sukhumvit, Silom and Rattanakosin neighbourhoods, as well as one or two
located further afield, such as Chatuchak weekend market in northern Bangkok.
Temples like the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) and the Golden Mount (Wat Saket) are all located in the Rattanakosin area, as is Khaosan Road and its surrounds.
Bangkok’s famously mammoth-sized shopping malls are dotted
all over the city, but some of the most well-known are Siam Paragon and Central
World in the Siam and Chitlom areas, Central Embassy in nearby Phloen Chit
(between Siam and Sukhumvit, and also home to numerous foreign embassies),
Terminal 21 and EmQuartier in Sukhumvit’s Asok and Phrom Phong neighbourhoods,
and ICONSIAM in the riverside Khlong San neighbourhood that’s otherwise a bit
off most tourists’ radar (but still easily reached by BTS Skytrain and boat or
Of a weekend, Chatuchak Market is located in the north of
the capital, but is easily reached by either BTS Skytrain (to Mo Chit) or MRT
subway (to Chatuchak Park) from just about anywhere else on the tourist map –
just expect crowds. Lumpini Park is located in the Silom neighbourhood, as is
some of Bangkok’s most raucous nightlife and also most of its gay scene. Bangkok’s
enormous Chinatown is set between the Silom and Rattanakosin Island
neighbourhoods (for now the closest public transport stop is MRT subway station
Night markets are also located all over, but these days one of the most famous is Talat Rot Fai (the Train Market), with locations on Srinakarin Road in the east (take the BTS Skytrain to Udom Suk and then take a taxi) and Ratchada in a more downtown location (take the MRT subway to Thailand Cultural Centre). Floating markets are generally located on the outskirts of the city or even in neighbouring provinces, but most are easily visited as part of a day trip.
A wide variety of public transport exists in Bangkok, but
the types most likely to be used by tourists include the BTS Skytrain, MRT
subway, taxis, and tuk-tuks.
Both the BTS and MRT run from the early morning until close
to midnight each day (although MRT stations close at 11.30pm). On both systems,
tickets can be purchased from machines prior to travel. Note that food and
drink are not permitted within the BTS or MRT.
The BTS Skytrain has two lines, the Sukhumvit line running
from Mo Chit in the north to Kheha in the east and the Silom line running from
National Stadium in the west to Bang Wa in the south – both lines intersect at
Siam station. The MRT subway, meanwhile, also has two lines; the blue line
currently runs from Hualamphong in the south (for mainline trains around the
country) to Tao Poon in the north (but an extension is in progress from Hualamphong
on to Lak Song and eventually Phuttamonthon, which will ultimately see the blue
line form a circular loop). The purple line, meanwhile, runs from Tao Poon to
Khlong Bang Phai, but this line is arguably of less interest to tourists than
it is to commuters.
Taxis are plentiful and easy to flag down anywhere in the
city – but drivers are notoriously fickle, and scams commonplace, so getting
them to actually go to your destination may prove a different matter
altogether. Always insist on the meter fare, which is inexpensive, and get out
and flag down another vehicle if the driver refuses.
Tuk-tuks are mostly found in touristy areas such as around temples and other attractions in the Rattanakosin Island neighbourhood, but also around the most popular parts of Sukhumvit and Silom – again, they are renowned for overcharging foreign tourists unaccustomed to local prices, so come forearmed with a little knowledge about what to pay and then agree a fare before getting in.
At present, public transport to the Rattanakosin area most
popular with tourists remains limited, since neither the BTS Skytrain nor the
MRT subway reaches this far (the MRT extension will change this). Numerous bus
routes make the trip – indeed you can get just about anywhere in Bangkok by bus
– but route numbers and timetables can be difficult for newbies to fathom, and
travel is slow (albeit cheap). Taxis and tuk-tuks aside, the cheapest, quickest
and most comfortable (and local-feeling) way to get from downtown Bangkok to
Rattanakosin can be on the river, taking the Chaophraya River Express Boat (opt
for the one with the orange flag at the back of the boat) from Sathorn pier
adjoining Saphan Taksin BTS station (on the Silom line) and alighting at Phra
Taxis and a number of buses to popular locales are available
from both Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Muang (DMK) airports. From Suvarnabhumi
it’s also possible to catch the Airport Rail Link from within the terminal all
the way to Phaya Thai, where you can connect with the BTS Skytrain, while Don
Muang has a mainline railway station just across the road, where it’s possible
to take the train to Hualamphong station; these services are very inexpensive
but are less frequent than other means of transport, they are slow, and they
can be heavily delayed.
Main roads in Bangkok are known as thanon, as in Thanon Sukhumvit for Sukhumvit Road. Off of those
main roads are numbered alleys (often themselves quite large) called soi, as in the nightlife-heavy Sukhumvit
Soi 11. Many sois have names as well as numbers, but generally these are only
commonly used for more major sois. The smallest of all are trok, which are tiny lanes or alleyways, but most tourists are
unlikely to come up against too many of these.
Keeping your cool goes a long way in Thailand, since losing
your temper in troublesome situations will likely only make things worse. Be
wary of overly helpful strangers approaching you in the street, and be aware of
local customs and laws like carrying photographic ID at all times, standing for
the national anthem (in public transport stations, cinemas, and elsewhere), and
avoiding critical discussion of the monarchy. Be aware, too, that vaping is
among a number of illegal activities, and that dropping litter (including
cigarette butts) may land you in trouble with district officials downtown who
are all too keen to impose fines on unsuspecting foreign tourists.
Take out comprehensive travel insurance, wear a helmet if
you ride a motorbike taxi, take care crossing the road, keep an eye on your
drink in bars, and avoid recreational drugs at all costs – if caught (and sting
operations aren’t unheard of), the penalties can be severe. If necessary, call
the emergency services on 191 or the tourist police on 1155. Look up the
location of your home country’s embassy in Bangkok – many are located in the
Phloen Chit and Sathorn neighbourhoods, easily reached by BTS Skytrain.
Bangkok is a dream destination for serious foodies, and plenty of food lovers head to the Thai capital every year to experience its heavenly mix of everything from delicious Thai street food to impressively refined cuisine at Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants. The hungry, fussy-about-good-food nature of the Thai people
coupled with the enormous size of Bangkok as a global metropolis and primate city mean that it is home to some of the very best Thai food to be found anywhere in Thailand, and it is easily the most recommendable destination for those keen on eating well to discover on their travels.
But it’s not just eating that happens here – Bangkok is also famous among gastronomes as a hub for Thai cooking classes, and Expique’s little sibling The Market Experience runs unrivalled Thai cooking classes in a dreamy, unparalleled location right inside Pak Khlong Talat 24-hour wholesale flower market. There are heaps of reasons to consider taking a Thai cooking class when you’re in Bangkok – if you’re visiting Thailand soon, here’s why we think a Thai cooking class in Bangkok is an essential part of your itinerary.
Learn to recreate
your favourites at home
Thai food is known and loved the world over and, even if you’ve never visited Thailand before, chances are you already have a few favourite dishes. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that Thai cuisine gets a pretty poor showing in restaurants overseas, compared to in its birthplace, in terms of the variety of authentic dishes that are on offer – when you make it to Bangkok, you realise there’s a whole world of Thai meals you didn’t even know existed, and that many of them are better than the spring rolls you’ve been eating at restaurants in your home country.
Having said that, it’s true that we all have a special place in our heart for those dishes we tried when we sampled Thai food for the first time, even if they are truthfully not always the kind of thing Thais are actually chomping down on each day in Bangkok. So when you take a cooking class in Bangkok, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick up the skills and recipes (themselves usually better than frequently heavily adapted and often fairly questionable recipes you’ll find abroad) to make those comforting Thai favourites for yourself – whether it’s pad thai, green curry, or papaya salad – once you make it back home again.
Discover a wealth of
less familiar Thai dishes
What’s your favourite thing to order at your local Thai
restaurant? Ask most people that question, and the answers are deathly
predictable: pad thai, sweet-and-sour stir-fry, chicken and cashew nut
stir-fry, green curry, massuman curry. And that’s not the diners’ fault: it’s
the result of the fact that so many (yet by no means all) Thai restaurant menus
overseas are hugely dumbed down and overly adapted to ‘foreign tastes’ that not
much else makes it through.
Yet when you land in Thailand you find that, just as in so many other places around the world, the local cuisine – the stuff that real, ordinary, everyday people like you and we eat every day – is so unbelievably more varied than what you’re used to that it’s a revelation. Taking a cooking class in Bangkok (a good one like The Market Experience’s, at least, since they’re not created at all equally, and many suffer from exactly the same problem as those restaurant menus do overseas) is your chance to experience the enormous width and breadth of Thai cuisine, through all its regional and seasonal and other variations, and all the amazingly diverse dishes and flavours and aromas and textures and colours that come with it. Not just experience and taste it, either, but learn how to cook it like a pro so you can return home and replicate it any time you want.
Get insider tips from
real Thai cooks
Is it better to add the curry paste or the coconut milk to
the pan first when making a Thai curry? How should you slice your meat to get
the best flavour and texture from a namtok salad? These are the kind of
questions you might want to ask someone with the knowledge of and experience in
Thai cooking to be able to give you a reliable answer. Or they might be some of
the tips you’re given by an expert Thai cook during your cooking class, without
having previously even realised that they were things you needed to know.
Because while the ambience of being in Bangkok certainly
plays a part in making all that delicious Thai food you eat here taste
undeniably better than it does when you’re back home in the cold and wet,
what’s also undeniable is the fact that these kind of little tweaks to your
cooking technique also make a world of difference. See your Thai cooking class
in Bangkok not just as a chance to make yourself a nice lunch and come away
with a few recipes, but to really pick away at and tap into the knowledge of
your Thai cooking instructor, who has built up that experience and expertise
over decades and is as keen to share it with you as you are to benefit from it.
Find out about new
ingredients and how to use them
Even the briefest of wanders through a local Thai market in
Bangkok will expose you to all manner of ingredients that you’ve never seen or
even heard of before. And even when it comes to those ingredients that you’re
familiar with and have perhaps already cooked with at home, taking part in a
Thai cooking lesson in Bangkok gives you the chance to hear from the horse’s
mouth how best to select, store, prepare and use them in order to achieve
inimitable results in your Thai cooking. It’s
not uncommon to find you’ve spent years preparing a specific ingredient not
quite correctly – either because you’ve simply been making it up as you go
along, or because you’ve picked up a faux technique from an overseas TV or
celebrity chef who isn’t actually quite the expert they would have you think
they are. And if you’ve been avoiding certain particularly intimidating
ingredients in the aisles or chiller cabinets of your local Asian supermarket
because you didn’t have the foggiest clue what to do with them, a Thai cooking
class in Bangkok is your chance to change all that and elevate your Thai
cooking prowess to the next level.
For more details on our cooking classes in Bangkok click here
Bangkok is famous for its night market scene, but it’s one that is rapidly changing and becoming more sophisticated as night markets begin to offer much more than just the simple trading spaces of the past. Chang Chui is one of the newest offerings to take the traditional Thai night market concept to a whole new level.
Even if the enormous decommissioned aeroplane at its centre has already given Chang Chui the informal English-language moniker of ‘the plane night market’ (what with the various branches of Talat Rot Fai ‘train night market’, Bangkok’s night market scene seems to have something about modes of transport!), officially it’s referred to as a ‘creative park’ or ‘creative hub’.
And in fairness that’s probably more of an accurate
description, since what’s on offer here is a far more extensive array of
activities than the selection normally associated with conventional Thai night
markets in Bangkok or elsewhere around the country.
identity is also reflected in the name. The term Chang Chui roughly translates as
‘slovenly artisan’; the Thai word ‘chang’ is used to refer to everyone from a
handyman/woman to a hairdresser to a specialist craftsperson, and it’s
different to the alternatively toned word ‘chang’ you might have heard meaning
‘elephant’ (which is also used as the name of the famous beer brand).
though, pop the original Thai script for ‘Chang Chui’ into Google Translate and
it just throws back ‘snob’. That’s not entirely off the mark: Chang Chui as a
venue is a much higher-end, finely polished interpretation and reincarnation of
Bangkok’s conventional markets. Don’t come here expecting something rough and
ready like Talat Rot Fai was way back in the days when it first kicked off over
in Saphan Khwai.
What to do at Chang
Chui Creative Park
In fact, there’s some truth in suggesting that it’s easier to describe what Chang Chui isn’t than what it actually is. The enormous site that makes up Chang Chui Creative Park is in fact comprised of various segments that operate independently of one another. These different sections of the operation open in a staggered fashion throughout the day – which matches the nature of what they offer and the time at which you’re likely to want it – before they ultimately become part of the one bigger venue of Chang Chui as a whole.
With the arty focus that dominates Chang Chui Creative Park,
you can expect activities in the shopping genre and beyond that include
boutiques selling everything from bookings and stationery to plants and
clothes. There’s also an art gallery, a cinema, and a theatre for live cultural
performances. Of course, this wouldn’t be even a modern, well-heeled
interpretation of a Bangkok night market if there weren’t ample places to eat
and drink ourselves silly – that’s just about as integral to Thai culture as anything
else! You can be sure of everything from coffee shops, restaurants – including a
fine dining venue situated right inside the famous aeroplane, plus a modern
food court and another restaurant dedicated to introducing diners to dishes
featuring edible insects – and a handful of bars. One of the bars most widely
billed in the lead-up to the opening of Chang Chui was Runway, set on the
tarmac right under the wings of that iconic plane.
In fact, Chang Chui is so focussed on providing a full array of activities and amenities that there’s even a barber’s on site! And it goes without saying that, with the primary crowd targeted by Chang Chui being the moneyed Thai set, the whole place is not just a design-lover’s heaven but also one big Insta-worthy photo-shooting spot. You’ll certainly struggle to go home without at least having been tempted by a few like-generating snaps.
to get to Chang Chui Creative Park
Unlike some Bangkok night markets that are more centrally
located, Chang Chui Creative Park is set all the way over on Sirindhorn Road in
the far reaches of Bangkok’s former-capital Thonburi district on the other side
of the Chaophraya river. In fact, it’s only just on the Bangkok side of the
border with neighbouring Nonthaburi province.
being further out than many other Bangkok attractions and night markets, Chang
Chui is just a 10-minute walk (or two-minute motorbike taxi ride) from Bang
Bamru railway station. This station will be on the SRT’s light-red suburban
line when it eventually opens, with connections to the BTS, MRT, and Airport
though, Bang Bamru is only served by mainline trains on the southern route. For
an atmospheric (but slow) journey, take one of the 14 daily trains from
Bangkok’s main Hualamphong station to Bang Bamru – the ride takes between 35
and 49 minutes, and costs as little as four baht. Alternatively, take bus
number 515 or 539 from Victory Monument to Bang Kruai, and walk or take a
motorbike taxi from there, or simply take a taxi.
At Expique, we’re Bangkok night market
experts, so be sure to let us know if you would like to visit Chang Chui Creative
Park or any other night markets in Bangkok on a custom tour!
is Chang Chui Creative Park open?
Chang Chui Creative Park is Thursday to
Tuesday from 11am to 11pm. However, take note that Chang Chui is divided into
the booze-free ‘green zone’, which is open from 11am to 9pm, and the ‘night
zone’, which operates from 4pm to 11pm. If you just want one or the other then
by all means pick the time you want to visit accordingly, but if you want to
see a bit of everything it means the best time to visit Chang Chui Creative
Park is between 4pm and 9pm.
Expique tours and experiences to make the most of your stay in Bangkok
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.
Have you been to Chang Chui Creative Park? What were your favourite things about Chang Chui, and what sets it apart from other Bangkok night markets? Which is your favourite night market in Bangkok overall? Let us know and share your experiences of Chang Chui Creative Park in the comments!
Buddhist days make up a number of the public holidays on the Thai calendar, and among them is Makha Bucha Day. In 2019, Makha Bucha Day falls on Tuesday 19 February – but what is the story behind Makha Bucha Day, and how can you see it observed if you’re visiting Bangkok or other parts of Thailand? Here’s all you need to know about this significant occasion in the varied and colourful Thai Buddhist calendar.
Where does the name for the Makha Bucha Day holiday come from? Well, the Buddhist calendar traditionally used in Thailand is a lunar one, and the third lunar month is known in Thai as ‘makha’.
The term ‘makha’ in turn comes from the word ‘Magha’ in Pali, the sacred language of the religious texts of the Theravada strand of Buddhism most widely practised in Thailand. Meanwhile, ‘bucha’ is a Thai word – once again deriving from the Pali language, this time from the word Puja – which means ‘to venerate’ or ‘to honour’.
Therefore, the term Makha Bucha is taken to refer to a day intended for honouring the third lunar month and, in particular, the Buddha and the teachings that he delivered on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month. Note that in a leap year, Makha Bucha Day may instead be held on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month.
What is the history of Makha Bucha Day in Thailand?
As well as Thailand, Makha Bucha Day is celebrated in other countries including Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. It first came to be celebrated in modern-day Thailand during the reign of King Rama IV, first observed only in the ground of the royal palace and later becoming more widely recognised nationally and finally introduced as a Thai public holiday.
But the origins of Makha Bucha Day itself lay much further back, 45 years before the beginning of the Buddhist era and nine months after the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. Then, on the full moon day of the third lunar month (now known as Makha Bucha Day), Buddhist beliefs hold that a meeting between the Buddha and his disciplines became a momentous and historic occasion.
Including the fact that it already fell on the auspicious occasion of a full moon, the meeting is said to have taken on four remarkable characteristics that are still recounted in Buddhist teaching today. These four elements to the gathering have also given Makha Bucha Day its nickname of the Fourfold Assembly Day.
The Fourfold Assembly Day
A total of 1,250 Buddhist Sangha followers unexpectedly visited the bamboo grove known as Veluvana in Kajangala, northern India, where the Buddha was known to have stayed. Each of the 1,250 was an Arahant, enlightened disciplines who had been ordained by the Buddha himself and who were said to have gained insight into the true nature of existence and have achieved nirvana.
To his unsummoned audience, the Buddha is believed to have given an important teaching serving as a summary of the core principles of Buddhism. The teaching is known as the Ovadhapatimokha, and is focussed on the idea of refraining from evil, doing what is good, and cleansing the mind.
Buddhists believe that the Buddha continued to teach the Ovadhapatimokha for two decades, and that it was then taken up by the Buddhist Sangha by way of the 227 rules that make up the monastic discipline code observed by fully ordained monks. As such, Makha Bucha Day is also seen as an opportunity to celebrate the formation of these ideals that continue to guide modern Theravada Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere.
The history doesn’t end there, though. 44 years after the Fourfold Assembly on the original Makha Bucha Day, the Buddha is said to have announced that within three months he would die and achieve nirvana. That would happen on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month, now known as Visakha Bucha Day and a Thai public holiday in its own right.
How is Makha Bucha Day in Thailand celebrated today?
Although Thailand has no official state religion, Theravada Buddhism is by far the majority faith observed by the Thai population, and so significant Buddhist occasions like Makha Bucha Day loom heavy in the Thai consciousness and figure prominently on the country’s calendar. Makha Bucha Day is a public holiday across Thailand, and the occasion is observed in a number of way by lay Buddhists in local communities.
As is common on all manner of Buddhist holidays in Thailand, it is common for Thai Buddhists to visit their local temple to make merit on Makha Bucha Day. While at the temple, they might also listen to Buddhist teachings, give alms to monks, recite Buddhist scriptures, and participate in the evening candlelight processions around the ordination hall that are held by many temples.
Other ways in which practising Thai Buddhists mark Makha Bucha Day in Thailand include strictly observing the five Buddhist precepts for the day. These are not harming living things, not taking what is not given, refraining from sexual misconduct, avoiding telling lies or participating in gossip, and abstaining from alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs.
This is why you might well find that bars in Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand are closed on Makha Bucha Day; the Thai government restricts the sale of alcohol, albeit inconsistently, on various religious holidays.
In line with the precept to avoid harming living things, strict practising Buddhists also refrain from eating meat on regular Buddhist holy ‘sabbath’ days, but even those who practise their own looser, more relaxed form of Buddhism might abstain from animal-derived food products on Makha Bucha Day and other similar Buddhist holidays. Indeed, the most deeply religious lay Buddhists might even take the opportunity of Makha Bucha Day to observe the fuller set of eight precepts, which includes the practice of meditation and mental discipline, abstinence from all sexual activity, and perhaps an extended stay at their local temple.
How can you observe Makha Bucha Day in Thailand?
If you want to get your own insight into local celebrations of Makha Bucha Day in Thailand, simply stop by the local temple closest to wherever you are staying in Bangkok or elsewhere. Most will be happy to welcome inquisitive souls and to let you observe – or even participate in – processions and other activities to mark the holiday.
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