Amelia Stewart

Re-touring Thailand: Part 1

Amelia Stewart
Re-touring Thailand: Part 1

I used to live in Bangkok and thought I had pretty much 'seen it all.' But how wrong I was!

I usually shy away from tours as I prefer to explore on my own, but last night I went on one of Taste of Thailand’s unique food tours titled ‘Tuk Tuk Urban Odyssey’ – and let’s just say I’m fully converted.  

Guided by the warm and well-informed Sa Sa, we were given a thrilling (and delicious!) taste of the real Bangkok. Taste of Thailand’s food tours are devoid of tourist traps - not only are they extremely intimate (last night were 7 people in in total), but they give farang a genuine experience of Thai food and culture, as well as empower local independent businesses.

We began our foodie adventure at a Joke Sam Yan – a hidden gem that specialises in congee (rice porridge). A true Bangkok institution, the place has been whipping up this fragrant dish for over 70 years! It was fascinating to watch the rhythmic production process – meatball-making; all ingredients into the congee pot; ladling into for steaming bowls served in or into mini bags to take away.

 Our second stop was another tasty treat (featured in the Michelin Guide in 2018 and 2019, no less!) at Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai – basically the most magical flat wok-fried rice noodles you’ll ever eat in your life! It was something unlike anything I had ever tasted in all my time in Thailand – flat noodles, fried with egg and pork in a kind of pancake, which made it much easier to tackle with a spoon than chopsticks. Another fantastic element of this Tour was meeting the restaurant’s owner and watching her team create this fried masterpiece. Our guide Sa Sa telling us to “watch your face Ka” as we ventured to take photos of the wall of fire engulfing the sizzling woks.

 Then we hopped back into the Tuk Tuk and blazed off to Wat Pho - Bangkok’s largest temple complex. The temple is first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples, associated with King Rama I who rebuilt the complex on an earlier site – it even has some of his ashes enshrined. We also learned that it houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long reclining Buddha! It it was the first major education centre in Thailand, and also houses a school of Thai medicine - known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practised at the temple. Years ago as a back-packing tourist, I went during the day amidst the horrific crowds, but thanks to this wonderful tour, we were able to explore this tranquil spiritual haven with no other tourists in sight. Such a treat!

And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more beautiful, we tuk-tuked over the river and gazed over at the sparkling, mesmerizing Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun. This majestic monument was named after the Indian god Aruna and is easily one of the most recognizable and memorable landmarks of Bangkok’s skyline. And we were treated to the most spectacular view, in all its glittering glory, from a gorgeous bar called The Deck – another place I never even knew existed!

Next stop: Bangkok’s 24-hour flower market. Sa Sa explained that this was also the largest flower market in Asia. Marigolds, roses, lotus, Thai jasmine & orchids were the most popular flowers in Thailand (all locally grown) and used in all festivals, celebrations, weddings, religious events etc. It was a joy to drift amongst the stalls inhaling the perfumed air, as we worked our way through masses of the most exquisite floral arrangements.

And of course, no Thai food tour would be complete without an authentic salver of Pad Thai. But in true Taste of Thailand Food Tour-style, this wasn’t just any pad Thai place but THE place. Timpsamai’s offering was on another level! One of the great benefits of exploring Bangkok in this way is that it gives you access to places you’d struggle to explore on your own. So much to our delight, we just waltzed straight to our table, weaving through the enormous line of fans outside – the queue quite literally went round the block.

The evening provided a wonderful window into local Bangkok – with a fun and fresh tone and the perfect balance of the traditional old and progressive new.

I came away with a renewed sense of energy and deep appreciation for Bangkok and all its many treasures; being with our lovely guide and group, and to see Bangkok through their eyes, was truly inspiring.