THE LOWS AND HIGHS OF BANGKOK

From street food to rooftop bars, eat­ing and drink­ing in Thai­land is all about ex­tremes

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION | THAILAND - JANE LAW­SON

Bangkok’s food and drink cul­ture is as fra­grant and funky as an in­ner-city back lane on a swel­ter­ing day. But in a good way. It’s an as­sault to the senses; a squeal­ing riot of colour mud­dled with nose-tin­gling aro­mas, pun­gent flavours and brac­ing vi­brancy. A po­tent cock­tail. This modern foodob­sessed city sprout­ing out of gritty soil strongly sug­gests dash­ing “Pad Thai, hold the spice” di­rec­tives and div­ing face-first into the wel­com­ing car­ni­val of ex­otic street feasts and rooftop ton­ics.

GURU NOSH

Leapfrog through peo­ple traf­fic into hid­den slip­streams where wide-smiled food ven­dors taunt and tan­ta­lise the rav­en­ous. Street­wise Guru Tours is the brain­child of the Anan­tara Bangkok River­side Re­sort and Spa. Op­er­at­ing al­most daily in peak sea­son, the in­tensely en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ences are hosted by laneway-savvy staff who nav­i­gate con­fus­ing city pock­ets on a quest to source siz­zling meats and other spe­cial­ties.

The head concierge for­mally known as Waiyawit, “Di­a­mond Geezer” (a nick­name that stuck for bet­ter or worse), swings through a tan­gled maze of food carts, per­fumed flower mar­kets, or­nate tem­ples and cul­tural sign­posts while wran­gling tuk­tuk trans­ac­tions and un­wrap­ping Bangkok’s juici­est se­crets.

Fig­u­ra­tively sea­soned with in­tox­i­cat­ing folk­lore, loaves of spongy bread are torn and tossed into the Chao Phraya river – an of­fer­ing to finned friends in re­turn for cur­ing ills. Flip a cat­fish to elim­i­nate stress, or if you’re seek­ing long life, you’d best send river snails sail­ing.

At Wat Yan­nawa tem­ple, life lessons shared by a saf­fron-robed monk carry tour mem­bers over into laneways pop­ping with lime-spritzer fish­cakes, aro­matic grilled pork and crisp spring rolls be­fore they pause to in­hale de­lec­ta­ble sticky rice with mango cheeks and co­conut cream at Boon­sap dessert shop.

Im­pa­tient mo­tor­bikes com­pete for space in a cov­ered bazaar that is surg­ing with trashy trea­sure so cheap it sends even bar­gain shop­pers into spasms.

Am­bling for­ward, clutch­ing bags of icy cof­fee laced with enough con­densed milk to keep an ele­phant charg­ing, the group lunges into an al­ley for golden, fried chicken wings and white guava slices dipped in chilli salt. Through Chi­na­town’s nar­row streets, the ban­quet con­tin­ues at a pace that’s guar­an­teed to sa­ti­ate you.

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