Traveling Solo in BKK | Drink Like a Local

For a city like Bangkok where nightlife thrives as much as that in the day, visiting local bars is on the travel itinerary.

Before I made my way to Bangkok, a bartender friend in Hong Kong recommended me the charming Vesper Cocktail Bar & Restaurant in Silom area, close to Sala Daeng BTS. What’s good about this visit is that it’s new to myself and Book as well as his local friend, kind of a discovery for all of us.

We sat by the bar, ordered from bartenders Oil and Milk (who were just announced to be Diageo World Class Thailand Top 16 finalists, and Milk, later proceeded onto becoming one of Thailand’s Best Bartenders).

Secret Earl Grey (THB360) is a mix of earl grey-infused Tanqueray and lemon juice, topped with a frothy layer of egg white and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters. It’s presented with the dry ice fog effect that has the subtle scent of berry tea.

It’s lovely when we can involve in the making-of of our eating and drinking experience. Hemingway’s Sazerac (THB450), made of rye whisky, Hennessy VS, bitters and absinthe, is served in this medicine bottle that we poured out of onto the lemon zest air to watch it slowly melt into the drink.

 

Book and his friends brought me to several other places at night. Iron Fairies, though along the main road of Thonglor, can be hard to spot. It is a dark and moody jazz bar with iron machine parts, pipes, chains and cages, and tiny jars of “fairy dusts”.

We had two rounds of drinks, two of which The Iron Fairy (Red) (THB380), a heady drink of La Fée Bohemian absinthe, with hazelnut syrup, gin and hibiscus, and also Erin’s Fire & Sea (THB310) that has this amazing roasted, salted flavours of nori seaweed. What I remember most is that it was Monday, open mic night. I stood on the iron staircase, the centerpiece of the bar, and sang Fly Me To The Moon with the live band in front of like 60 people.

The reward? A shot of vodka that made me wanted to sing more.

 

We also went to —

Blues Bar (aka. Adhere The 13th) near Khao San Road, a small bar with an amazing ambiance thanks to the hippie decor and the different bands that play every night. I’d say half of the customers were young locals and the other half expats — all laid-back and chillaxing along with the beats.

 

BREW Beers & Ciders in Thonglor, offering a broad range of cold, fizzy beverages. It’s where I met Book’s coworkers and friends in the music industry, including the famous ukulele artist and singer Singto Numchok (!).

 

Mulligans Irish Bar on Khao San Road, again with a live band and singers, casual place for friends to gather, have some beer… and flaming Sambuca shots.

– Judith

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Traveling Solo in BKK | Eat Like a Local

“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life. This risky suspension of disbelief is often an experience freighted with anxiety.”

While travel writer Paul Theroux put himself in the hands of a driver at the border of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in 2006 (read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star), I was lucky to have met Book, my “personal foodie guide” who’d spent two days and nights with me exploring the city (and also cared to send me back to the hostel in the middle of the night).

 

Our first meal was a pleasant lunch at his go-to place for a relaxed meal — Khao Jao Bangkok in the hip and trendy Thonglor. As this is a district where most Japanese expats hang out at, not only that the menu is trilingual, but also the simple, home-like interior made use of the natural sunlight and is decorated with furnitures made of reclaimed wood as well as anime toys and figures. “Khao jao” means long grain rice.

 

Thai Papaya Salad, Stir-fried Salted Turnip with Eggs, Stir-fried Minced Pork with Black Olives; Khao Jao, Bangkok Starting with the smaller dishes, Thai Papaya Salad (THB80) was fresh and excitingly hot. Book says the spice generally defines Southern Thai cuisine.

Stir-fried Salted Turnip with Eggs (THB70-80?) was nice but quite ordinary to me in terms of the texture and the taste. I’d say it’s best to have a bowl of rice to with it, to tone down its excess saltiness.

Stir-fried Minced Pork with Black Olives (THB70-80?) too reminded me of a Chinese home-cooked dish that’s essentially the same. Salty and spicy, very flavorful, cooked with seasoned minced pork and chopped water spinach.

 

Green Curry Fried Rice with Fish (THB80) came with this pronounced flavors of fragrant Thai herbs and was slightly spicy, but after a few spoonful I felt that it’s a tad bit drying in the mouth. Rice with green curry on the side might have been a better option.

Pork Spare Ribs Spicy Soup (THB80) was a tasty clear soup, with the sour-spiciness of Tom Yum that whetted my appetite. But I couldn’t have more than one bowl because it’s too hot to bear!

 

On another day, Book brought me to Victory Monument. We walked along the skywalk upon exiting from the MRT, looking at the military monument on our left that stood in the middle of a roundabout.

It didn’t take long until we turned right into a canal bridge with street food stalls lined up on both sides, and saw Best Boat Noodles (orange uniform) and Ruathong Noodles (pink uniform), which I preferred better.

 

They stay true to the tradition of serving in small portions when this could avoid spilling when eating on the wobbly boats, and it actually makes the experience super fun because when your noodles are gone in two slurps, and you order more and can form a stack of bowls next to you in no time!

The splash of pig’s blood broth was savoury in Thai Noodles with Pork Meatballs (THB12) and Thai Noodles with Beef Meatballs (THB12). I thought a pinch of chilli flakes added excitement.

 

The bigger bowls were the delicious Stewed Beef Noodles topped with coriander and deep fried garlic that reminded me of famous ones from Taiwan, and the rich, sweet and creamy Khao Soi (Coconut Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken) with strands of fried egg toppings that gave me an idea of Northern Thai cuisine, a reverse of the piquant food down south.

 

Me finishing everything; Ruathong Noodles, Bangkok With local Thais around me, I knew I was at the right place. And as you can see, I had altogether 4 small ones and 2 big ones that were equivalent to… I guess 6 small ones?! That added up to a shocking 10 for a petite-sized like me. Book was in awe and so was myself.

– JD