I consider myself a mild mannered, reasonable person. But when it comes to food, all bets are off. Shame and modesty take a back seat to gluttony when it comes to stuffing my face with good food.
Thailand is a food mecca and there’s no shortage of restaurants, outside hawker markets, or food courts to satiate any appetite. Furthermore, I don’t know what it is, but Thailand is the only place where I really enjoy MacDonald’s, mainly because they still fry their apple pies.
I was lucky enough to grow up in Southeast Asia, and frequent trips to Thailand to visit relatives honed my street food skills in Bangkok. Sure, some people may only use the airport as a stop off place for exploring the rest of Southeast Asia, but Bangkok really is a gem in the food world, and you can easily spend a year in the city and never eat at the same place twice.
You can spend time perusing the city to find the best of, but my recommendations are for a broader search, and the cheap lunchtime fare that the everyday Thais will eat.
For lunchtime on a weekday in Bangkok: Office Lunch Markets
When I worked in Bangkok, I learned about the open, or underground city markets that pop up on weekdays between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The only reason I know about these places is because I blindly followed my co-workers to the depths of some unknown building and found myself happily in food heaven. The lunchtime weekday markets are for the local office workers, so you’ll be eating at Thai local prices, cheap and good! They might be hard to find as they cater to the lunchtime office crowd, and are seem to be closing up as soon as they set up. Many of these pop up markets are open air (no AC) so be mindful that you’ll sweat. Do you see a crowd of office workers heading down an obscure soi around lunch time? Most likely they are headed to lunch at one of these congregations. With all the construction in Bangkok, these sometimes unsanctioned locations may be there one day, and gone the next. Here are a few I know:
- Basement of the Sindhorn Building – Inside and air conditioned
- Victory Monument – a good article written by Migrationology will take you right there!
- Lang Suan 2 Alley – Lots of construction on Lang Suan so not sure how long this will last!
For cheap meals with a side of shopping and AC: Food Courts
I know, the heat in Bangkok can be oppressive after a day of walking around. If you prefer to dine in an air conditioned setting, and don’t mind paying a little more (about USD$2 instead of USD$1, lol) head to the food courts in the malls. Most every shopping center has a food court where you can enter, buy food tickets, and eat from any of the vendors. Cheap, good, and no threat of sweat. The only malls that won’t have food courts are your Hi-So malls (high society, luxury brand malls). Here’s some malls in central Bangkok with food courts that are pretty close to BTS stations. MBK is my favorite, and the mall is worth a trip (at National Stadium BTS Station). Also anywhere you see a grocery store, you can usually find food stalls in and around the area. Here are some in the central business district, easily accessible by the BTS Skytrain:
- MBK – This mall is so big, it has not one but 2 food courts. If you dare, try both, one on the fifth floor, and one on the sixth
- Chidlom food loft – open until 10:00 pm
- Pier 21 Food Court – located on the fifth floor
For the weekend meals and a shopping workout: Chatuchak
Much has already been written about the legendary Chatuchak and adjacent Or Tor Kor markets. The weekend market would take a day or more to tour completely, especially if you are a shopper. It’s where you can get goods, below or at retail, and they have everything from puppies, to plants, homeware goods, and clothing. Take the Skytrain to Mo-Chit station, or take the Metro (pops up at the Thailand farmer’s market, Or Tor Kor). Get there as early as possible (8-8:30 am) because it’s hot and crowded. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of shops, and if you pass by some place you would like to eat, make sure you stop, or you’ll probably never see it again.