Archive for the Phra Nakhon Category

Bangkok – mid-range eating and drinking in Phra Nakhon

Posted in Bangkok, Central Region, Phra Nakhon, Thailand with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2019 by gannet39

As you’d expect there are heaps of good places to eat in the old town. I’ve put all the places mentioned below and more on this map.

Thipsamai Pad Thai aka Pad Thai Pratu Pi (Intermediate A), 313-315 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, thipsamai.com

Pad Thai Pratu Pi (meaning “Ghost Gate Pad Thai”, named by customers after a nearby intersection) is perhaps the most famous Pad Thai restaurant in Bangkok. Consequently it’s very popular with locals and tourists alike and starts filling up as soon as it opens at 5pm and doesn’t stop till 3am.

Pad Thai has an interesting history. Its status as a national dish originated during a rice shortage in WW2 when the nationalistic prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram (aka Phibun) introduced a campaign to make people eat more noodles. According to some accounts a competition was held to find the best noodle dish and Pad Thai was the winner.

Ultimately of course noodles and stir-frying came from China so prototypes of this dish must have existed before the war. You might notice that chopsticks are used to eat Pad Thai and they are only ever used in Thailand to eat Chinese food (otherwise forks and spoons are preferred, etiquette on their use here). Ironically the use of chopsticks was discouraged during the Phibunsongkhram era as they were considered unpatriotic. This restaurant started during that time and it’s classic version of the dish is used as a standard by many other restaurants around the world.

I arrived a bit later and had to queue for a short while but I didn’t mind as you could watch the chefs working out on the street churning out Pad Thai at lightning speed. One chef fries the soaked dry noodles and adds other ingredients (eg tofu, shrimp, leeks, bean sprouts) according to the recipe and passes it to a second chef who wraps it in a thin skin of egg omelette, twice. Video here.

The whole place is run like a factory production line. These are the side plates of fresh bean sprouts and lime segments waiting to go. Other additions like chili flakes and crushed peanuts are already on the tables.

Once you’re seated you are presented with a tick box menu offering a choice of Pad Thais. You can choose between cheaper dried prawns or more expensive fresh ones, whether to have egg or glass noodles whether egg is to be included and how but there is an ‘other’ section for any special requests relayed to the server.

I began with the classic version wrapped in egg which is called Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot (ผัดไทห่อไข่กุ้งสด).

On the menu it’s the ‘Superb Pad Thai (big prawns)’ option.

I was still feeling hungry so I followed up with Pad Thai Sen Jan Man Goong (ผัดไทเส้นจันมันกุ้ง) where the noodles are fried with the head juices of the big shrimp for extra flavour. Rather than being wrapped in egg, this style included scrambled eggs mixed in with a bit of tofu for good measure. This isn’t on the menu so you’ll have to show them the Thai name above, or show them this picture so they can write it in that ‘other’ section on your bill.

A plate of Pad Thai costs between 60 and 300 THB costs here. Expensive by Bangkok standards but it’s a great experience nonetheless.

There’s another smaller, more recent but also very famous noodle restaurant just on the next corner…

Raan Jay Fai (High Elementary B+) , 327 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon

I make a point of avoiding popular places at peak times so I got a table straight away when I arrived in the late afternoon.

Jay Fai is the nickname of the elderly lady wearing goggles working the wok outside the side door in this corner restaurant. Despite the no-frills appearance of her shop he’s considered one of the best street food cooks in Bangkok and her prices reflect that. However for your money you will get good quantities of quality ingredients stir fried in a style that uses minimum amounts of oil.

I had her most popular dish, Pàt kêe Mow Talay aka “drunken noodles”, or broad ho fun noodles stir-fried with seafood and lots of chillies. The food had a slightly singed taste and appearance which surprised me a bit but it was still very good (B+).

It’s now much harder to get in since she was awarded a Michelin star in 2018, something she’s not too happy about (article here). A friend went in 2019 and waited two hours for a table so you might want to avoid peak times.

This next place is handy for Wat Pho…

Err (Intermediate B+), 394/35 Maha Rat Rd, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Khet Phra Nakhon, www.errbkk.com

This is a modern trendy place aimed at visitors rather than locals and again the prices aren’t as cheap as they can be in Bangkok. However, the Thai and Australian chef couple who own it have a good pedigree via working at London’s Nahm and their own fine dining restaurant Bo.Lan.

I was just here to snack on interesting stuff so I got a few starters as small plates rather than try the mains.

I liked the Sai Ouwa; coconut-smoked northern sausage (B).

By my favourite was the Kor Moo Yang; grilled pork neck with tamarind sauce (B+).

Their craft IPA and Weiss beers from Phuket’s Full Moon Brewery were pretty good too. I can’t remember anything about this spirit though! It’s glorified paint stripper no doubt.

Rarb (Low Intermediate B+), 52 60 Charoen Krung Rd Soi 30, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Khet Bang Rak

A bar that sells decent food and delicious cocktails with ugly names, designed by award-winning bartender Karn Liangsrisuk. I had the Fuck My Farm (rum, American honey, kaffir lime, roselle)…

…Mahon – Nhahor (gin, Vietnamese coriander, lychee)…

… and the Fake Wedding (tequila reposado, pink grapefruit, passionfruit, salted caramel).

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I don’t really remember what any of them were like but the Mahon – Nhahor sticks in my mind as the most interesting for some reason.

In preparation for travelling to Isan and Laos, I tried their Larb Moo (a kind of spicy pork salad) as well which was fine (B). It’s best with the toasted rice apparently but I wasn’t hungry enough for both.

And if you’re in need of a change head to Little India…

Royal India (Intermediate C) 392 1 Chakkraphet Rd, Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, www.royalindiathailand.com

The best of the Indian restaurants in this Indian neighbourhood, according to Lonely Planet at least.

It’s fine (C+) but not worth a detour unless you really have curry withdrawal. I went at lunch time and had the non-veg thali with Mutton Curry, Veg Curry, Raita, Naan, Popadom, Pulao Rice and a sweet (Gulab Jamun) for only 300 baht.

And that’s it for the old town. We’re heading east for a bit of culture next…

Bangkok – Phra Nakhon – the wonders of Wat Pho

Posted in Bangkok, Central Region, Phra Nakhon, Thailand with tags , , on April 13, 2019 by gannet39

Wat Pho is the second most important temple in Thailand, after. It’s thought to be the oldest in Bangkok, predating the city’s status as the capital, but the date and founder are unknown.

The complex was renovated and constructed by King Rama I in 1788 and again by King Rama III in 1832 which is when many of the present structures date from.

The temple is also regarded as Thailand’s first university and is a center for studying traditional Thai massage. I didn’t have time to try it but I told a friend and he said it was the best massage he’d ever had. Must go next time.

Phra Ubosot, a hall with a large golden image of Buddha sitting under an umbrella, is the most sacred building of the complex. You should take your shoes off when entering and sit on the floor, but be careful not to show the soles of your feet to Buddha as it’s considered disrespectful.

I went to see the Reclining Buddha which is one of the biggest Buddha statues in Thailand. It represents his final ascent to Nirvana and liberation from perpetual rebirth. The circles on the soles of his feet each represent a chakra or energy point.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the famous Giants, the figures guarding the entrance to the Phra Mondop library as they were being renovated.

My map is here. Here’s more info if you want it. I’ll let these beautiful images do the rest of the talking. Please click on the photos to get a better view if you’re on a computer.

Time to eat! There’s a nice restaurant called Err around the corner…

Bangkok – a walk in the old town

Posted in Bangkok, Central Region, Pathum Wan, Phra Nakhon, Samphanthawong, Thailand with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2019 by gannet39

Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of an architecture buff, not least because it’s a good excuse for a long walk. Below I describe one that could easily take a whole day, or two if you break it up and include Wat Pho which I’ve given its own post. However I start with a couple of places, Hua Lamphong Station and the Scala Cinema, which could be destinations in their own right, even if just to catch a train or see a film. My map with everything on is here.

Hua Lamphong Station was built in an Italian Neo-Renaissance-style in 1910.

The architect was Turin-born Mario Tamagno who was responsible for a few other major buildings in Bangkok.

The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in Germany was a prototype.

The station is scheduled to be closed in 2021, after which it will become a museum. You can click on these photos to enlarge them.

Another favourite building is the Scala Cinema in a back street off Siam Square in Pathum Wan.

It has a Modernist shell with Art Deco interior decorations.

Back in Siam Square the Skytrain tracks bring you back to brutal modern times.

Also known as the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) the Skytrain was opened in late 1999. I presume that an underground system wasn’t feasible due to the river flooding regularly.

The first road to be built in Bangkok was the Charoen Krung Road in 1861. Ironcially, the English name for the road is New Road. It stretches from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace and continues for 8.5 km to Dao Khanong. The first few kilometers in the old town make for a good walk as there are quite a few historical buildings along its route. After seeing Wat Pho (see next post), a logical starting point would be Saranrom Park.

The park was originally part of a palace built by Rama IV in 1866 but he died before it was completed. The basic layout of the park remains today is as it was designed by Rama IV. A couple of examples of traditional house architecture can seen be inside. The park is now used as a training school for city gardeners.

There’s a bit of neo-classical around the outside of the park.

Fairly soon after starting you’ll cross the first canal ring, Lod Canal or Asadang Canal.

Fairly soon after that you come to the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre www.salachalermkrung.com. The cinema was opened in in 1932 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Bangkok but nowadays it hosts performances of classical Thai dance.

The modernist building isn’t particularly exciting although it does have a few nice features inside.

A show about Hanuman the monkey god was on when I went.

Of more interest to me was the Art Nouveau exterior of the cafe next to the theatre.

I tend to wander of the path a lot, to go and look at architecture that catches my eye. From here I deviated from the route and headed south along Ti Thong towards the Old Siam Shopping Centre which has a few interesting buildings around it. Not sure what style you’d call these. Thai Deco perhaps.

There are a few more easily recognisable Art Deco buildings dotted around.

There’s this lovely piece of Brutalism just over the road from the shopping centre.

From here you could deviate even further south to Little India but I wouldn’t bother as there’s not much to see, unless you fancy a curry for lunch at Royal India (see my Eating in Phra Nakhon post).

After you cross over the second canal ring, Banglamplu-Ong Ang Canal, you are in Samphanthawong, the location of Bangkok’s Chinatown.

I came across this Chinese temple somewhere around here.

Chinatown’s central street Yaowarat Road runs parallel to Charoen Krung Road to the south. The streets seemed a bit narrower and more chaotic here. A bit of dereliction seems to be creeping in as well.

I did brieftly consider staying in Chinatown but was quite glad I didn’t as its a bit full on. I looked at two hotels, Loy La Long www.loylalong.com; a cool little hostel in a choice location on the river, and the more luxurious Shanghai Mansion Bangkok www.shanghaimansion.com on the frenetic Yaowarat Road, both good in their own ways.

I enjoyed checking out all the street vendors along Yaowarat Road.

From here it’s just a short stroll to Hua Lamphong Station which is where this post started.

Back to Wat Pho for the next post though!

Bangkok – staying in Phra Nakhon

Posted in Bangkok, Central Region, Phra Nakhon, Thailand on April 11, 2019 by gannet39

In September 2017 I was very excited to be invited to work in Thailand for a week. I’ve been twice before but that was back in the 90s when I did the full moon party thing as a young teacher. This time I was going to be up in the north and north east of the country, away from the touristy beach zones. As I was finishing in the north east I decided to have a holiday in Laos afterwards but more of that later. These trips were to be bookended by breaks in Bangkok, so that’s where we’ll start.

In the Thai language, Bangkok is known as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep. It’s in the central region of Thailand’s four regions. The central district of Bangkok is called Phra Nakhon, also known as the old town. This is where most tourists will stay, particularly in the Khaosan Road backpackers area, as it’s near major sites like the Royal Palace and Wat Pho (see following post). My personal map is here.

Having stayed in Khaosan on previous visits and wanting a quieter life, I found this traditional guest house just off Dinso Road…

Baan Dinso 1 (Intermediate A), Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Khwaeng Wat Bowon Niwet, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, www.baandinso.com

This is an old wooden villa, dating from the late 19th century. If you book it please be aware there is a Baan Dinso 2 at the beginning of Dinso Road which is very different, so make sure you’re booking/going to the right one. Fortunately I was armed with a local SIM card from the airport so when the airport bus (60 baht) dropped me at the art deco Democracy Monument at the end of Dinso Road, I was able to use Google maps to find the right one.

It’s a lovely building, made of golden teak, the traditional building material, and beautifully restored. Lovely artworks decorate the interior.

There’s a nice terrace at the front with water features.

There are nine spotless rooms, all with a fan, TV, fridge and shared bathroom facilities, which started at around £45 a night in 2017.

My favourite thing was the breakfasts which were beautifully presented. You get a choice of different ones. I think this was the Continental.

And this was the Asian breakfast.

So, a good base for seeing the old town. The Giant Swing is at the other end of Dinso Road.

I’ve written a few other posts about Phra Nakhon and broken them down as follows:

Walking Around
Wat Pho
Eating and Drinking

Other posts about Bangkok are:

Thonglor
High End Restaurants
Museums

Off for a long walk next!

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