On the evening of Thursday, July 3rd, Rebecca and I flew 6.5 hours to Bangkok, the City of Angels, for a weekend getaway. We arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport at 7:00 am and caught a taxi to the Sala Arun boutique hotel in the Rattanakosin district. Our 7 room hotel was right on the Chao Phraya River with views of the Wat Arun temple across the water. After a nice Thai breakfast at the hotel, we set out from the hotel on foot. The Rattanakosin area is “Old Bangkok” and is home to many of the city’s best known sights. We had both previously been to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, so we were looking for something new. We wandered by Tha Tien Pier and decided to go on a 1 hour canal tour. We were the only 2 onboard besides the friendly captain. He took us across the river where we entered the canal system. We saw many homes built on stilts, expensive homes, homes in ruins, ladies selling items out of canoe-like boats, birds, fish, and a couple of huge water monitors. Our boat rejoined the river near Vichaiprasit Fort and ended back at Tha Tien Pier.
Back on land, we walked through a food market, an amulet market, and along the Sanam Luang, a wide open royal field. We decided to go into the National Museum and it was interesting to learn a little about the history of the country and its people. From there, we walked towards Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacking headquarters. On our way there, we turned up a random alley and Rebecca instantly recognized the Erawan House where she and Jami stayed back in 2006. We had lunch at the restaurant across the road where Jami and Rebecca had many Pad Thai together. We ordered pork satay with peanut sauce and larb, a minced meat salad flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek (fermented fish paste), roasted ground rice, chili paste and fresh herbs. We also had our first Singha and Chang beers. After our bite of lunch, we strolled up Khao San Road checking out the cafés, bars, street vendors, and overall craziness of it as we passed. Feeling a little tired, we caught a tuk-tuk back to our hotel where we relaxed on the rooftop terrace and watched the sun go down. After sunset, we walked over to the sister hotel, Arun Residence, just 2 short blocks away. To start, we had spring rolls and Tom Yum Koong, one of my favorite soups. Its broth is usually made of fish or prawn stock and includes fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal (similar to ginger root), lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers. For our mains, Rebecca had the King River Prawns in red curry sauce and I went for a soft shelled crab dish. We had a traditional Thai dessert called Lod Chong which is green noodles made from flour and pandan leaves served with coconut milk.
After a Pad Thai breakfast the next day, we walked to Tha Tien Pier where we caught the Chao Phraya Express Boat which is essentially a local water taxi. We arrived at the Sathorn Taksin Pier and made our way to Exit 3 of the Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station. This was the rendezvous point of our full day tour called Siam Aharn Boran or Bites & Bike. We met our tour guide, Olive, and the others in our Bangkok Food Tours group who were from Vietnam, Myanmar, the UK, and the US. We set out on foot through the Silom district and were taken to 5 restaurants as well as some street vendors. Our first stop was a fruit vendor and we picked up some salak or snake fruit, rambutans, and mangosteen then proceeded to the first official restaurant on our tour, Charoen Wieng Pochana Restaurant. Our first course was roasted duck, then crispy pork which was followed by the fruit we had just picked up. After leaving the restaurant, we stopped at a street vendor who whipped us up a batch of deep fried, battered bananas. From there, we stopped at a Muslim restaurant and had curry noodles and a very interesting beef brain dish. We had to cross the river by ferry in order to get to the third restaurant. The Yum Tod Sab Restaurant specializes in Isan food from Northeast Thailand and was our clear favorite. The Waterfall Pork, papaya salad, and lemongrass chicken had all of the flavors I think of when Thai cuisine comes to mind. The fourth stop of our tour was Pan Lee Bakery and Café where we tried a sweet bun with a pandan-flavored custard filling and a drink of cold Thai milk tea. Our final stop was the Kalpapruek Restaurant where we had a delicious green curry chicken and Thai style roti which is deep fried instead of baked. All of the restaurants we stopped at have been around for decades, passed down through the family’s generations, and we were told that we tried many traditional recipes that are no longer found anywhere else in Bangkok.
With the food tour over and our stomachs very full, Olive took myself, Rebecca, and 2 others from the tour to the Follow Me Bike Tours clubhouse. We met our guide and bike mates then quickly set out around 1:30 pm. The tour took us past the old Fire Hall, the East Asiatic Company, and several nice hotels like the Mandarin Oriental. We biked through Chinatown, a crazy market street, and into Bangkok’s largest flower market. From there, we crossed the river by ferry to Wat Arun and spent some time exploring the temple. The main structure is about 88m high and it is surrounded by four smaller prangs. It is one of Thailand’s most picturesque temples, and is engraved on the inner part of all ten-baht coins. It is so recognizable that it even became the logo of the Tourist Authority of Thailand. We headed back downstream alongside the river and eventually returned to the clubhouse around 6:30 pm. We were treated to some fresh fruit and were encouraged to dip our sore feet into the tank full of Garra rufa (or Doctor Fish). These little guys tickle the heck out of you as they nibble away at the dead skin on your feet. Rebecca and I thought the bike tour was one of the best things we have done in our recent travels. Riding through small alleys alongside tuk-tuks and throngs of people into places that you would never see on your own was complete sensory overload.
We made it back to our hotel where we were able to shower and change before enjoying our last Thai dinner overlooking the river. Then we were off to the Refresh Spa in the Suhkumvit district where we had a traditional Thai massage before heading to the airport for our 02:55 am flight. Technically we had only one night in Bangkok but enjoyed every single moment of our short weekend getaway!