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Restaurants & Bars

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Railay Beach Report (Long)

sarahbeths | Feb 21, 201611:54 AM     2

Hi Chows,
These Thailand boards don’t get as much as action as the American and European boards but I did gleam some important research/tips here and would like to return the favor with a report. Warning, I seem to get long-winded when talking about travel and food! Put **** near restaurant names for those skimming.

BANGKOK:
Night 1 BKK Oh Bangkok. We were just starting to get the hang of you! And then it was over too soon. The day we arrived I wasn’t sure how jet lagged so I planned to grab street food near our hotel when I learned Chareon Krung road was close by and had a lot. I had a list of possible places which I took to the concierge desk to get help mapping them. Long story short I didn’t find most of the spots on my list that night. In one particular case we took a tuk tuk to a spot a couple miles north to not find the place, and then later I realized by examine my notes the concierge had marked that place incorrectly, and it really had been next to my hotel the whole time! So that first night I ended up at ***********Jok Prince*********, the congee place that Anthony Bourdain went to on his show, and DH got something from a street vendor with a vegetarian menu (He’s got food allergies, no meat or eggs or peanuts but fish ok) and then he had some fried shrimp from a street vendor and I got a banana pancake with condensed milk. It felt like a fail because I didn’t find most of what I was looking for, and, as expected, I didn’t find the congee dish that exciting. The next day we saw this whole little night food bazaar near our hotel that we hadn’t seen because it was a few streets in other direction and that kinda stung. But some people would have just gotten room service after such a long travel (20 hours plus!!)

Day 2 BKK- Grand Palace and Wat Pho meant that we weren’t done sight seeing and ready to eat lunch until about 2 PM. That area is not great for food but I tried in vain to find the spots in my guide book that would be acceptable, however they apparently were out of business, weren’t there. So we took a tuk tuk to Thip Samai the famed pad thai spot… and it doesn’t open until 5 PM. Another fail. My mistake completely. Ate at a spot next to Thip that was in my guide book and got noodle dishes, I had a pretty good Pad See Ew with Prawn but it was hard to enjoy as I was quite mad at myself for messing up again.

Night 2 BKK- We were going to Krua Apsorn (chow find) that night but when I got to the front desk to get a taxi (I read online Krua is 20 minute cab ride from central BKK) the concierge informed me that with rush hour traffic I was looking at 45 min in a cab and they closed in 30. He basically told me to give up. So we switched up the plans (I had to dig deep not to kick myself again!) and we took the Sky Train to **********LEK Seafood************ (chow find). It wasn’t easy finding it and I think my husband was ready to kill me if we hadn’t, but we finally found it and when we did it felt like BKK was finally clicking with us. We had a fried catfish salad that was not unlike what they serve at Jitlada in Los Angeles. We had a squid dish with chills and lime. (I liked it more than my DH who found it a bit spicy, this was also at the beginning of our trip when we were still acclimating to spice, by the end he was taking a lot more). At the server’s recommendation we had a giant prawns with garlic sauce which was the winning dish. And then some forgettable crab bites. The meal was solid, I probably could have ordered a little better so it’s a place I’d want to go back to before grading.

Day 3 BKK- Bangkok Food Tours’ ******“Offbeat Floating Markets Tour”*******

This is what I agonized over for weeks before the trip and thank you so much to Curt the Soi Hound for so much considerate help!!! I wanted to visit Tha Kha floating market and realized it wasn’t going to happen with public transport. It’s about an hour from BKK by car. One of the foodie tour groups was fully booked for the weekend so I finally settled on Bangkok Food Tours. The tour went to the “Train Market” first which is set up on train tracks. The train isn’t running right now because of construction but it was still a neat visual to literally be walking on train tracks around which all the stalls are set up. The tour guide periodically bought us bites/mini meals (all included) but we didn’t pick any of it ourselves. That was probably for the best, though she could have asked us if there was anything specific we were hoping to try. We tried some pork on a stick at the train market then went to Tha Kha. Tha Kha was awesome, so quiet (not too many people or tourists) so “authentic” at least felt that way, like a real market. In this area some of these people still live along the river and literally use their boats to get to their food at the market. We went to one such home, a palm sugar estate, and we got to take a boat there and duck under trees and saw dogs run up and peer out at us float by and we saw little shrines built into the sides of the canal with food offerings. It was extremely exciting. We saw the sugar making process from coconut palm trees, neat. After our boat ride we ate a meal the tour guide had set up of street food- pad thai, fried mussels in tapioca, a little omlette, jackfruit, and some fishy stuff for my DH. It was all really good. Next we went to Bang Nam which wasn’t so much a floating market as a little wooden pier market. On its own this would have been disappointing to serve as “the floating market” but as part of the collection it was quite cool. It was small and romantic and sweet. We had a really delicious noodle soup dish here, also helped “Make” some little yam/peanut dumplings (they were odd tasting but interesting in between sweet and savory), thai iced tea, purple Butterfly Pea Juice, fried mackerel rice with shrimp paste sauce. We were also treated to Thai locals doing karaoke as we ate. We also got 15 min massages after we ate, included in the tour. The next stop was a “hidden” temple “Wat Bang Kung” which is overgrown with trees and adjacent to a deserted army training camp. It was a neat site and totally different than the hugely touristic ones in the city. At this point in the day though we were getting super hot and a bit tired. We were picked up at I think 6 am. The last stop was Amphawa “Floating Market” which is more like a major market for tourists and Thais wanting a weekend shopping experience. If you actually wanted to buy things, this place had the most to buy. It has about 7000% more to buy than any of the other markets we visited, it was enormous. It wasn’t particularly cute or authentic in the slightest, more like an outdoor day bazaar. There was a body of water running in between the sides of shopping, and we had to take a ferry from where we had driven to access the market, but otherwise the “floating” aspect was nonsense. However I did get some good gifts here, the prices were low on all kinds of trinkety stuff. At this point in the day we would have totally preferred to have returned to BKK, but this was part of the tour and I hadn’t found any Tha Kha tours that didn’t include Amphawa. It wasn’t awful and I’m not regretting the tour at all, but just so you are aware this tour ends with the least cool place. We did eat a seafood feast there that was pretty tasty— mini scallops in garlic butter, a whole sea bass, sautéed calamari, shrimp and papaya salad, and some chicken, and sticky rice. A lot of food! And then ice cream before we left. Overall the tour was a great experience, we have some amazing visuals and pix and saw a side of “Thailand” that we simply wouldn’t have been able to see on our own. The food the tour bought us was pretty solid and it gave us the chance to eat “street food’ without having to decipher ourselves which vendors to hit. We ended up not eating dinner that day when we got back to the hotel, too full and tired! One hotel cocktail and passed out. If we had another night I would like to have done the “midnight tuk tuk street food tour” as the guide described this really well and made it sound like her favorite of the company’s offerings. Next time!

BKK Day 4- We were eating big breakfast buffets at the hotel. We ended up not needing lunch that day. Dinner was ***********Inter********* which was not something I found on Chow but rather a foodie blog. The blogger said it was her favorite unpretentious restaurant in BKK. It was fine, nothing special. Maybe it was what we ordered — stir fried morning glory (good) and I had a pork in a green coconut curry. Nothing wrong with the dish but nothing special either. Had better thai curry dishes in LA. DH the pescetarian basically had the fish version of what I ordered. It was easy to find, near the big mall/central, and quite affordable. Can't say I recommend this place.

BKK BONUS DAY 5- (in between flights on our way back home) I finally got to ***************Krua Apsorn************** which is listed on Guardian's "50 best dishes in the world" and was mentioned here and elsewhere. Ordered crab fried rice, the Crab with Curry Powder and Stir fried crab with Yellow Chili, and mixed mushroom dish. This was very confusing because most of what I read seemed to mash up the names of the two crab dishes and so I wasn’t sure which was THE DISH. (I had read for instance “crab with yellow curry powder” which could be either one) so I had to scan the newspaper clippings on the wall and I decided to be safe we’d order both. They were both delicious, but Powder was the clear winner— what a delicate yet complex flavor. The yellow chili stir fry was much spicier, less distinctive flavors. Both were delicious as was the rice and mushrooms. This is an easy restaurant to come to as a foreigner— easy to find (if you have the address, not easy at all to get to by public transport but our tuk tuk driver was hella impressed with our culinary destination and knew it), menu in English, free wifi, plenty of tables/seats. Don’t miss it! The only thing is they close fairly early (730 pm) and you must allow for rush hour traffic to get there in time. Great last meal in Thailand.

CHIANG MAI- 3 nights
Day 1- The only day we didn’t have lunch included with activities. But boy, this is a proud moment for me because it was not a fail. Took a tuk tuk from the hotel to ***************Khao Soi Samer Jai**************. This was the single best thing I ate on the whole trip!!! Khoa Soi with chicken for me, vegetarian for my DH which he supplemented with beer and sticky rice. It was so delicious (and rather small) that as soon as I finished my bowl I ordered another one. I pulled a Bordain, I’ve seen him do that on his show much to the delight of the locals watching. The flavor of the broth was so deep. Spicy yet complex. I got lost in that broth! The noodles were excellent, I wanted more of them though, hence the 2nd bowl. The little plate of accouterments just made the whole thing that much better. lime, picked veg, shallot. YUM! I only had one other Khao Soi in CM because we weren’t there long and had so many day time activities scheduled that took us out of the lunch game, but I am so glad I chose this one. I can’t imagine it getting better than this tho I’d be happy to try when I come back! The atmosphere is exhilarating and delightful as well, deeply local with a few in-the-know tourists sticking out and happy as clams.

Night 1- Sadly I didn’t see the replies in time from my querry here on CH. So I had myself narrowed the first night market dinner down to either Worrokot or ********Southgate stalls. (Chiang Mai Gate)******** and the concierge at our hotel recommended Southgate because there’s seating. Never made it to Worrokot so can’t say if we made the right choice. The atmosphere at the South Gate was pretty great and what I was hoping for- tons of choices yet manageable, not overwhelming. Hubby found lots of vegetarian options (noodle dishes) and fried shrimp and I had stewed pork leg with rice, spring rolls, and mango with sticky rice. Nothing was revolutionary but it was super fun as was the ride home on one of those red trucks.

Day 2- Lunch included with Elephant Nature Park. It was just okay. DINNER- ***************HUEN PHEN*************** Tried to make a reservation, they wouldn’t take it. So we got there as early as we could, around 6. Already a long line of people on the list. Mostly Chinese tourists it appeared. Waited about 30 minutes or so, used the time to review the menu. Great atmosphere, super cute filled with trinkets, feels like a real place vs a modern restaurant or tourist trap. Had some trouble finding some of the dishes I had read about when only able to read their english menu, as my research used the phonetic western spelling of the thai names. I tried repeating some of them to the waiter who did not get what I meant, so I had to make some last minute changes to what I planned on ordering. I got the jackfruit salad, pork larb, fried ribs, papaya salad with crab, and last minute pork dish of Nham Tak because I couldn’t find the pork dish I was going to order ( and I love Nham Tak at one of my LA thai restaurants.) Pesky DH had shrimp tom yom and a shrimp fried rice dish. So the jackfruit salad (vegetarian) was the absolute star of the show, nothing less than superb and something of a revelation. The flavor and the spicing was indescribable and incomparable to what I’ve had at home. Outstanding. The tom yum soup was the 2nd best thing, the flavors varied and excellent. It had heat as well. The pork ribs were very tasty, though it was simple dish without seasoning, the meat was excellent and fried well. The larb was sadly too spicy for me. I was warned by the waiter that it was quite hot and couldn’t be made less so. I stubbornly ordered it because that is what you’re supposed to eat in this restaurant according to my research. I can handle a little spice, but… not that. And then sadly the Nham Tak was not at all what I was expecting, it seemed to be made more with pork fat than pork meat and I feel like reverting to a dish I like at home was a mistake, as it was clearly not their best offering. Another miss was the papaya salad with crab which had no actual crab meat but instead a bottom-of-the-ocean flavor that was too icky-ishy for even my oyster-loving husband. Quite interesting to know that this flavor is appreciated by some! So overall the Huen Phen experience was very interesting and informative but hit and miss in yumminess.

DAY 3- Lunch included with Eagle Ziplining- Simple but pretty good. Dinner at Kanjana Restaurant . Stumbled upon a very convincing blog post about this restaurant and so I was going either here or to Sorn Chan and somehow Kanjana won out. When we finally found it (more than one Soi 3, we got a little lost) there were no tables free and the wait staff seemed like they wanted us to go away. I was persistent and finally they sat us. So glad. This was the best full meal of the trip. Everything was delicious, best of all was the Panang Curry which is my go to thai dish in the US. This was the best Panang Curry I ever tasted and 2nd real WOW dish after Jai’s khao soi. Such an intense and developed flavor. I also had Khao Soi here at Kanjana because it was my last night in CM and I love it so and the blogger had liked it. I definitely preferred Jai’s which was spicy and complex, Kanjana’s khao soi was sweeter and fewer notes. However, it was quite generous with the noodles and was still very comforting and tasty. We also had a stir fried noodle in a green curry which was studded with all kinds of cool vegetables and mushrooms. And our appetizer of spring roll with calamari (you get to pick your protein for the spring rolls, rolled fresh and fried to order) was extremely satisfying, probably my favorite spring roll ever. I don’t remember the price of this meal but it was very cheap. The kind of place you'd want to return to in the same trip-- highly recommended! And it was packed on a wed night with both locals and tourists despite its tucked away non-main location.

Chiang Mai, we barely scratched your surface but I adored you!!!!! I would love to come back for an entire month and just eat everything in sight and have my own moped and just live this life. It’s funny that people either seem to love or hate CM. A few people told me not to bother going, but it was my favorite part of the Thailand trip.

RAILAY BEACH, KRABI
Disliked the Mangrove restaurant. Loved “Local Organic” next door to it, the East most restaurant on the north side of the walking street. Also had a great bbq seafood meal (you select your seafood then they grill and bring to the table, you supplement with rice and other side dishes) at Last Bar which has a fun atmosphere with live entertainment (music, boxing some nights, flame throwers). The place looked a little touristy but the service was great and the food was solid, so fear not because of the grimy misspelled english menu!

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