Bangkok, Thailand travel tips

Pad thai in Bangkok, Thailand

Thai street food 101: pad thai | Photo by Lauren Girardin

You don’t get to see or do much when you get kicked out of a country. So most of our YEH-MEH-NAHs are for things within a few blocks of our hostels, the immigration office, and Pantip Plaza. That’s right – we didn’t see a single one of Bangkok‘s sites. But we did eat!

The Ratings Explained:

  • YEH – Like taking the first sip of ice cold beer on a hot night. YEHs are as good as you can get, especially for your backpacker buck, although sometimes a YEH is only relative to the other worse options in town.
  • MEH – Like drinking the last warm, diluted inch in your bucket of cocktail. An intense level of indifference best describes a MEH experience. Got time to kill? Baht to burn? Checked your email? Sure, fine, do it. Whatever.
  • NAH – Like suffering through a glass of any Asian-made wine. NAHs are worth avoiding at all costs. Likely to cause aggravation, frustration, or a need for Cipro.

Where we ate and drank:

  • Ranee’s, Trok Mayom Rd. – After a long ride from Cambodia, the pizza and beer were beyond satisfying, as was the two-doors down location from our hostel. The back patio is cozy, with interesting artwork, an ideal place to chillax: YEH
  • Pad Thai Carts, Khao San Rd. – Oh, so many carts making fresh dishes of stir-fried noodles. Insanely cheap and tasty: YEH
  • Fruit Shake Carts, Khao San Rd. – Pick your fruits, decide whether you want yogurt added, and they blend away. Kiwi is an unwise choice. They also have whole young coconuts. Mmm: YEH
  • Orange Juice Carts, Khao San Rd. – Ice cold, sweet orange juice. All you need to do is pick the size you want. Go big, really big: YEH
  • Mr. Yim’s Vegetarian Food, So. Rambutri at Soi Chana Song Khram – By now you’ve noticed that fresh, healthy, cheap food is everywhere in Bangkok’s tourist ghetto. Mr. Yim is the master. Working over a hot streetside wok, he whips up savory veggie dishes (spicy coconut tofu over brown rice, drool). Meat heads can supplement the veggies with grilled chicken from a nearby cart. In the morning Yim and his assistants serve fruit with muesli and homemade yogurt. We kept coming back: YEH!
  • Mmmm...spicy coconut tofu and spicy salad on the street - Bangkok, Thailand
    Thai street food 102: spicy pure veg from Mr. Yim | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Banana Pancake Carts, everywhere – We’re not sure why others rave over banana pancakes. They’re often gummy, margarine-soaked empty calories. Look for a vendor who uses real butter, carefully crisp browns all sides, and cooks with a smile. Say “yes” to the sweetened condensed milk: MEH
  • D Cafe, Khao San Rr. – One of the many open-air bars for people watching on the main drag. The beer is fairly priced, and the music and beer girls are less obnoxious here than elsewhere nearby: MEH
  • Coconut Pudding Ball Vendors, Rambutri Rd. at Tanao Rd. – Make sure you try these classic Thai snacks, called kanom krok. These ones came with corn inside (why not?): YEH
  • Food stall outside Pantip Plaza – There was a tragic food court inside the mall, so we were psyched to find many busy food carts lining the sidewalk. We sat down for a 50¢ US bowl of noodles, fish balls, and greens drowned in a ladle of something heady with shrimp paste, dill, and chili. The separately ordered side fried wheat blobs were okay: YEH
  • Fish ball noodle curry wonder for about 50 cents US - Bangkok, Thailand
    Thai street food 103: mystery balls | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Ethos, on alley parallel to Tanao Rd., behind and north of Burger King – A hippiesque establishment with a mellow vibe, wholesome snacks, and a relaxed space. Free WiFi and many outlets: YEH
  • Felafel Cart, mouth of Khao San Rd. at Chakraphong Rd. – On our way to the airport, Todd grabbed a sandwich. It was nothing special. Lauren’s choice of more Mr. Yim’s was better: MEH
  • UR Station, So. Suanplu across from the immigration office – A little coffee shop where one might discuss visa issues, for example: MEH
  • Four Sons Village, 54/1 Soi Chanasongkhram – They had the beer we needed and some weird pizza toast snacks: NAH
  • Pent Thai Food Shop (aka Penthai), in front of Spicy Affair on Rambuttri Rd. – The layout on this street didn’t make sense. Take a restaurant then line the sidewalk in front of it (and part of the street) with an unrelated food stall. Somehow it works for both the restaurant and the stall, because both were packed. Our bowl of tom kai gai was enormous and our spicy basil squid rice plate was highly devour-able: YEH

Where we stayed:

Bangkok can be a busy place with tourist crowds ebbing and flowing with the cycles of the moon and international university vacations. The better hostels fill up, so book ahead to avoid the mediocrity we experienced.

  • New Joe Guest House, 81 Trok Mayom Rd., website – When we arrived late at night, they had an available room, which was neither expensive or clean. So, of course, we were not surprised when the bus we booked through them was significantly less attractive than the pictures: NAH
  • New Siam Guest House, 21 Soi Chanasongkram Phra-A-Thit Road, website – We settle for a ground floor closet, which miraculously, had natural light. This is a high-volume, low-expectation operation: MEH

What we saw:

  • Pantip Plaza, Th Phetchaburi – Go for the latest in technology crammed into one building. We found those extra gigabytes we needed after filling our ASUS Eee PC‘s memory with photos: YEH
  • Immense computer mall - Bangkok, Thailand
    Pentip Plaza, my brother’s version of heaven | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Commuter boat on Chao Praya River – These boats are an integral part of Bangkok’s public transportation system, but they’re also a pleasant way to tour the city: YEH
  • Bangkok’s Buses – Considering how massively sprawled the city is, Bangkok’s bus system is miraculously thorough, efficient, and cheap. The downsides include that your bus is victim to Bangkok’s hellacious traffic, English maps are practically non-existent, and not all buses are air con (and those that are cost more): YEH