From the people to the food, there are many reasons to fall in love in this city
by Sarah Chang-Chalermkittichai
Ican distinctly remember the first time I set foot in Bangkok in the mid-nineties. I was at university in the United States and came to visit classmates from Bangkok. It was blisteringly hot and humid, fast-paced yet relaxed at the same time, and full of contrasts. I fell so in love with Bangkok that when I had a choice of places in Southeast Asia to do a research grant in economics, Bangkok was my first choice.
Ten years later I was living and working in New York City in the financial sector when I met my husband, who at that time had just opened his first restaurant in NYC. After several years in New York, in 2008 we started our own food and beverage consulting firm and never looked back. We found ourselves increasingly often in his hometown, and have based our consulting business in Bangkok while expanding our own restaurant brands worldwide.
So, why Bangkok? Why is it the place one falls in love with and always comes back to? For me, there are many reasons, including the people, the contrasts between old and new, the lack of snow and freezing cold, and the FOOD!
Bangkok is truly one of the food capitals of the world—rarely do a few days go by when there is another new restaurant opening or I get a message from a chef or hospitality professional coming through the city looking for the best places to eat. The sheer number of restaurants—not including the street food offerings—dwarfs the restaurant offerings on the mighty island of Manhattan.
Obviously the Thai food here in Bangkok is tops, but we are also blessed with an abundance of non-Thai cuisine restaurants that are some of best found in any city. Living here one can easily have a breakfast of eggs Benedict; a northeastern Thai feast of laarb moo, sticky rice and gai yang for lunch; then a delicate and delicious 12-course tasting menu featuring ingredients such as foie gras, sea urchin, and oysters.
My advice for those coming to Bangkok is to really explore all the different foods the city has to offer:
For Thai cuisine, start from some of the wet markets, such as Klong Toey market, Aor Tok Kor market, and Wong Wen Yai market.
For street food, Chinatown and Sukhumvit Soi 38 at night are both great places.
During lunch, wander around the sois of Silom (such as soi 7 or soi 5, or ITF market next to ITF tower) for some lunchtime food markets—just follow the masses of office workers making beelines for these areas.
For indoor dining with ambience, air conditioning, wine lists and cocktails, there are a growing number of options to choose from that are not the typical tourist traps or stiff hotel dining, such as Nahm, Issaya Siamese Club, Soul Food Mahanakorn, and Supanniga Eating Room.
For those who want to see a variety of Thai food and products in the cool comfort of air conditioning, the sparkly new Central Embassy features a Thai food and product bazaar aptly named EatThai that is worth a visit.
Not to be overlooked are the plethora of non-Thai cuisines on offer in the city, for example: Aoi, Maru, Bankara Ramen and Ramen Tei (Japanese); La Bottega di Luca, La Scala and Appia (Italian); Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar, Smith, Quince, and The Library by Water Library (New American/British/Australian); Hong Bao, Ah Yat and Chef Man (Chinese), among others which are far too numerous to list here.
After stuffing oneself silly with all the culinary and beverage temptations the city has to offer, I would recommend sleeping it off at the Mandarin Oriental or The Siam for beautiful river views; the St. Regis or Intercontinental Hotel to be close to shopping areas and direct access to the skytrain; Silq, La Cabochon or Salil Hotel on Thonglor for the more budget minded.
Bangkok is truly a delicious melting pot of cuisines and hospitality unlike any other, which is why it is one of my favorite places not only in Thailand, but in the world.