Recap on the first leg of our trip through Asia to Australia
We visited Thailand for the first time 2 years ago and quickly fell in love with the people, the culture and of course-the food.
For Brits, the exchange rate and difference in economy make it a budget friendly destination where you really get the most for your money. When we started looking into a trip to Australia I was keen to break up the flight time a bit and after hearing that Gaggan, one of the restraints we love most had announced its closure for 2020 we were determined to get back there in time.
This year, our stop was a brief one and we intended to tick off a few of the things we hadn’t quite got round to on our previous visit.
It was interesting to see the changes in the city, I had been saddened to read in the press that the Thai government were clamping down on street food sellers and looking to regulate them but we didn’t see any evidence of this. Street food is an uber popular term now but in Thailand it’s a way of life, people wander across the city with plastic bags full of fresh fruit or an array of items on a stick. It was once explained to us that many Thai family’s eat out every day or buy ready-made food to take home as it is not only cheaper but many properties don’t have the necessary cooking facilities for families. With everything so reasonably priced, freshly cooked and easy to transport it makes sense that this is the favoured way to eat for many people.
Whilst a Tuk tuk ride is tempting and should be tried at least once the likelihood is you will be scammed or overcharged no matter how good your bargaining skills are. Even agreeing an amount upfront doesn’t always pan out so if you don’t fancy hauling your bags around on public transport then a taxi is your best option and incredibly cheap.
We stayed in the U Sathorn Hotel which is an easy commute to the airport. Its a big hotel with a pool and a great cocktail list, the breakfast is also very good (better than average hotel fayre) but we managed to miss it everyday whilst we readjusted to the time difference. This is in a much quieter part of town which helps switch off from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Bangkok is busy! But it’s hard not to fall in love with, one side of the street can be food carts, beggars and petrol fumes whilst the other side can easily be grand hotels, ancient temples and high end shops. It’s all mixed in together and that’s one of its charms. People mingle in Bangkok and whilst there is a constant flow of tourists (and the obvious ‘gap year travellers’) it retains its originality.
Our first night saw us arrive at the hotel for a quick freshen up before we went to Bo.Lan a traditionally styled 1 Michelin starred restaurant, a good meal with and a few drinks was the ideal way to spend our first night and try to turn our internal clocks around. Service has a very traditional Thai Feel, they sell locally produced items in the lobby area and the gardens are so full of bullfrogs that when stood outside I was convinced the noise was from a recording!
We followed this up by a visit to Chatuatak Weekend Market, a vast expanse of traders who sell everything from fine art, ceramics and antiques to ice cream, clothing and live animals- the animal section makes me equally uncomfortable yet fascinated and we didn’t visit it this time. Fluffy uber-groomed Pomeranians and cute kittens are clearly well looked after but it’s saddening to see roosters or owls in tiny cages let alone the more exotic animals which may or may not be legal. It’s an experience, but a difficult one. The market itself is a utopia for bargain hunters hence our return! We had been looking for some artwork as the big freight companies all have shipping facilities on site but we couldn’t quite find what we wanted. We did pick up some homewares and holiday clothes and our stop for food was a good choice too.
There are some changes, artisan coffee shops and craft beer stalls had appeared, fashion trends are easily spotted and the desire for branded goods seems to grow.
Our evening was spent at Teens of Thailand-which sounds terrible but is actually an award winning gin bar with a suitably quirky feel to it. The entrance looks like a dodgy club but once inside, there is table service, an array of gins and specialty cocktails plus some chestnuts to nibble on.
Moving on, the highlight of our trip was the visit to the 2 starred Gaggan (review to follow) we had such fond memories of it and very high expectations. We feared we might find ourselves setting the bar too high and being disappointed but we were wrong. The menu and service had a different feel to it completely and if anything, was more memorable than out first visit. It’s such a unique place, serving only an Indian street food style menu (Gaggan Anand originates from India) but with a thoroughly modern twist. It even has it’s own soundtrack 😉 hidden down an unassuming back street in a colonial style building it’s an experience not to be missed.
Our final day started slowly as we caught up on some sleep after a late night at Gaggan and reconsidered our original plan to visit the floating Market, although we had really wanted to do this, it’s an hour outside of the city to the nearest one and reviews are very mixed so we opted against it in favour of a walk around the city and a stop off at a small food court we had been to before. This is one of those places that looks a bit run down and questionable but closer inspection reveals that nearly all the diners are Thai workers which we take to be a good sign. Food here is cheap, very cheap but the quality is excellent. With stalls lining one wall of the building there are easily 20 different vendors to choose from so competition is high.
We picked a couple of dishes, some kale in oyster sauce, a Thai green curry and a chicken dish served in a peanut cream sauce and of course some rice. Pleased with our chosen vendor we then added on some fried shrimp which were excellent. Throw in 4 bottles of water and a beer and we were still under a £7 spend.
Back at the hotel we had some down time before our flight and taking advantage of happy hour we tried some of the excellent cocktails and did something unheard of, we sat in the sun by the pool. In the entire time we have known each other, this is the first time we have ever done this-typically we are out and about doing things which is why beach holidays are removed from all of our travel searches.
Bangkok is changing but the feel remains the same, whilst more western culture seeps in, they hold their history and traditions in high regard which is positive. I hope they will adopt some of the more positive changes we see too by improving animal welfare and reducing the amount of disposable plastic in use. I’ve not read up on their environmental policies but with such beautiful landscape to protect I hope these things are high on their agenda.
We will come back to Bangkok, it’s a handy layover spot and there is certainly a whole lot more in Thailand that we have yet to begin exploring but we will wait a few years so that it feels like a ‘new’ experience again