After leaving Cambodia, our next stop on our world adventure was Bangkok. Neither of us had ever been before and we weren’t really sure what to expect. Well, our expectations were pretty much true to reality – a wild and crazy city filled with majestic temples, ridiculous amounts of people and a street food scene like none other in the world.
After spending our first day exploring some of Bangkok’s most impressive sights alongside huge crowds of Chinese tour groups, we were excited for a change of pace. While the glistening Grand Palace and impressive Wat Pho temple, with its gigantic reclining Buddha, were awe inspiring, we couldn’t wait to try some of south east Asia’s best street food.
Street food tours have become one of our favorite travel indulgences. We did our first one in Mexico City on our honeymoon and we knew that we wanted to splurge on one in Bangkok as well. After a strong recommendation from our friends, we booked a tour of the Village of Love with the company Taste of Thailand. The Village of Love is one of the oldest areas in Bangkok, where several immigrant cultures settled, and is especially known for its food scene.
Stop #1 – Breakfast! (Moo – Ping)
Our first stop of the day was a traditional Thai street food breakfast. It was 10am and I had an empty stomach knowing that I would be eating for the next few hours. The traditional Thai breakfast consisted of grilled pork on a stick that had been marinated in soy sauce and garlic along with a grilled patty of sticky rice. The pork was so tasty, perfectly cooked yet very simple. It was one of my favorite things I ate all day! The sticky rice complimented it well and I just love anything having to do with sticky rice so I was sold.
Stop #2 – Thai Iced Tea
No meal is complete in Thailand without an ice cold and creamy traditional Thai iced tea. It has become one of our favorite treats over the last few weeks in Thailand. We visited one of the most popular tea trucks in Bangkok and had to wait nearly 20 minutes while the morning rush also satisfied their caffeine kick. We watched the tea expert pour the tea from pot to pot across long distances in order to make the tea smooth with added air. Of course no Thai tea would be complete without some sweetened condensed milk, giving it its iconic orange color. Since then, I have learned how to say “less sugar” in Thai when ordering iced tea, which makes me feel a little better about drinking it nearly every day.
Stop #3 – Curry Paste Shop
What this stop lacked in interest, it made up for in smell. A curry shop not only reeks of strong Thai curries, but also of fermented fish. Many people in Bangkok visit these hole in the wall shops to buy homemade curry powders by the gram to give their signature dishes that special flare. We tasted some of the curry straight from the bowl and quickly regretted the decision to be brave.
Stop #4 – Bangkok Wet Market
We spent some time strolling through the local wet market, which gets its name because of the constant hose water needed to wash away fish guts and left over meat scraps. We learned all about the numerous ingredients that local women buy here to make Thai curries and stir fries. If they want their food to be authentic, they do not shop at supermarkets because they don’t trust the freshness of the produce.
Stop #5 – Dessert
Dessert at 11am? This is my kind of food tour! We popped into a very popular and old dessert shop in the village called Boonsap Desserts to sample some traditional Thai sweets. The first sample was black sticky rice with dried shrimp and coconut on top. The shrimp and coconut mixture might seem odd, but it is perfectly salty and sweet. The second sample was Lucas’ favorite – white sticky rice with Thai custard and condensed milk. We also sampled a gelled banana cake, which was surprisingly delicious and Portuguese style golden drops, which were not my favorite. We didn’t sample mango sticky rice, but it still holds the number one spot in our hearts for Thai desserts.
Stop #6 – Fruit Stand
Visiting a local fruit stand was very interesting considering we have been staring at these mysterious fruits for weeks wondering what they are. We learned that the infamous smelly durian is known as the “king of fruits” in Thailand. Several places we’ve stayed so far ban its guests from eating durian with a hefty fine. Luckily we didn’t have to try durian on this tour.
Instead, we tasted mangosteen, which is known as the “queen of fruits” since it’s sweet, floral and has a small crown on the top. We tried a nutty shelled fruit similar to dates called tamarind. I found tons bugs crawling inside my tamarind when I cracked it open, which explains my slightly disgusted face. Finally, we sampled a rose apple which was a little tart and juicy with the consistency of a candy apple.
Stop #7 – Traditional Chinese Tea Shop
Since we were in the diverse Village of Love, we stopped to learn about the rich Chinese history in the area. The Chinese shops and restaurants line the oldest paved road in Bangkok and have been there for a couple hundred years. We stopped in a traditional tea and herb shop that is over 100 years old to taste their famous medicinal bitter drink, which consists of over 30 herbs! And yes.. it was bitter! You take a quick shot of the bitter drink everyday and it’s supposed to fix most ailing symptoms.
Stop #8 – Chinese Food
To finish off our the Chinese section of the tour, we tasted a few dishes at a 100 year old restaurant that specializes in roasted duck. We learned that the Chinese changed their recipes slightly when they came to Thailand many years ago to minimize the strong smells. Lucas thought the Chinese food was great, I thought it was just okay. We sampled roasted duck with noodles, rice and shrimp dumplings. I was already getting full at this point and I knew we had many more stops ahead of us.
Stop #9 – Fried Bananas (Goreng Pisang)
Between restaurants, our tour guide stopped to buy us her favorite Thai snack on the street. This is some of my favorite street food so far – crispy fried bananas and sweet potatoes. The batter is like nothing I’ve ever tasted and I loved it. It has a peanut and sesame flavor that compliments the sweet banana perfectly. I have been searching for this street treat ever since we tasted it in Bangkok.
Stop #10 – Local Thai Cuisine
One of our longest and most awaited stops of the day was at a local Thai restaurant that serves homemade favorites. The casual joint was packed with the local lunchtime crowd. We sat on tiny plastic chairs and sampled some of the most traditional Thai food of the day. We had a variety of dishes such as a spicy papaya salad, lemon grass salad, minced pork, spicy soup, and sticky rice. Everything was delicious and very spicy! I have learned through trial and error that every kind of Thai salad is spicy.
Stop #11 – Thai Crispy Pancake (Khanom Buang)
On our way to our last stop, we took a quick break at a street food vendor who was making the famous Thai sweet snack that consists of very thin crepe like discs with whipped frosting and a shoestring like topping. It was so mesmerizing watching him make so many so quickly, batch after batch. Dozens of people came up to buy bags of these treats as we stood there watching him make them. Since then, I have seen these unique looking treats sold throughout Thai villages in all flavors and sizes. The red topping is the dried shrimp and coconut and the orange topping is a stringy egg topping that they adopted from the Portuguese.
Stop #12 – Royal Palace Green Curry
Our final stop of the day was at a restaurant that is famous for its Thai green curry. The recipe at this particular restaurant belongs to the Thai royal family so you know it has to be good. At this point (around 1pm), it was painful to even look at more food. But nevertheless, we each received a plate of simmering chicken green curry with homemade steamed noodles on the side. It was the best Thai curry I’ve ever had with a unique flavoring and a strong spicy kick. Lucas toughened up and ate it but definitely struggled with the spice. We finished the meal with homemade coconut ice cream, which was a perfect balance to the spicy curry.
After 3 hours of eating our way through the Village of Love in Bangkok, we felt satisfied, informed and a bit glutinous. We spent the rest of the day sampling the various dog and cat cafes throughout Bangkok. It was the purrfect end to our time in one of the craziest cities we’ve ever been to. Now it’s time for some rest and relaxation on the islands!
Read more on Steph’s blog here and happy #wildbumming!