When I suggested spending S$73.00 each to join a midnight food tour by tuk tuk in Bangkok, the family rejected my idea outright. We all know how little it costs for street food in Bangkok, so the thought of spending that much for papaya salad, pad thai and the likes sounded ludicrous. I pressed on anyway, cajoling them till they relented, and boy were they glad I did. It was hands down the best thing we did in Bangkok!
We booked the tour via Klook, using Shopback and coupon codes to get the best price possible. We were told to meet our guide at 1930 hrs in front of Chamchuri Square, which was a 15-min walk from our hotel. As it turned out, it was just our family plus 2 Americans taking part that night.
Each tuk tuk carried 2 persons, so Hubby and I paired up with one daughter each. The tuk tuks were specially fitted with transparent roofs so we could enjoy the city lights.
The first restaurant we were brought to was Jae Orn near Soi Phetchaburi 14. It specialised in Isan cuisine, and clearly catered only to locals, as its signboard and menu were all in Thai and everyone else in the restaurant was Thai. Shortly after sitting down, different dishes were laid out on the table for us. There was Tom Saab (a clear chicken broth), Som Tum (papaya salad), Yum Mamuang (mango salad), Namtokmoo (pork salad), Pladookfoo (deep-fried catfish), and glutinous rice. The restaurant was air-conditioned, clean and everything was tasty. The crispy Pladookfoo stood out, as I'd never eaten anything quite like it before.
Twenty minutes later, we were at "Ann" Guay Tiew Kua Gai at 419 Luang Road. Being listed in the Michelin guide has made this restaurant world famous, and for good reason, as it was unanimously the best thing we ate in Bangkok. Joining the tour had its privileges. Tables were waiting for us, whilst others had to stand in line outside. In addition, we were escorted to the back alley where the food was cooked and the chef showed us how he crisped the rice noodles in pork lard and tossed the ingredients in a fiery flame. The behind the scenes look made the trip extra special. After that, we tucked into our chicken rice noodles with runny egg. Everyone polished off their bowl of noodles with gusto.
We arrived at Pak Khlong Talat flower market 15 mins later. This area is near the Grand Palace, and according to the guide, it used in be a busy fish market in the olden days until the King shut it down because of the smell and converted it into a flower market instead. It was my first time at the 24-hour flower market. At close to 2200 hrs, the market was still vibrant and bustling, with customers making their orders and deliverymen rushing about with their heavy loads. As a Buddhist nation, Thailand has a high domestic demand for flowers, as they are used as offerings at temples and altars. We were there to purchase lotus flowers as offerings because we were on our way to Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Whilst walking to Wat Pho, we passed hawkers selling street food and our guide introduced us to a popular Thai snack made of yam, coconut milk and sugar. They were very fragrant. The guide also offered us some honey sweet mini pineapples, which we ate with some salt and chili.
Wat Pho closes at 1830 hrs each day, but our tour operator had special permission to enter after hours. We arrived at 2215 hrs and the security officer promptly waved us through. Soon, we found ourselves surrounded by the brilliantly illuminated stupas of the temple. The guide demonstrated the correct way of folding the lotus petals and we followed suit. She encouraged us to wander around the temple grounds and lay the flower on the feet of whichever Buddha statue we felt a spiritual connection with and say a prayer. We did not manage to see the Reclining Buddha during the tour as that portion of the temple remained closed after hours.
Just down the road from Wat Pho was our next stop, the Eagle Nest, a tiny rooftop bar by the Chao Phraya River. We were served a beer, cocktail or mocktail each. With our drinks in hand, we enjoyed the view of the brightly illuminated stupa of Wat Arun and the cool river breeze. This quiet oasis must be one of Bangkok's best kept secrets.
Our final stop that night was the famous Pad Thai Thipsamai (Pratupee) at 313 Mahachai Road. In 2018, this restaurant was awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand for its pad thai. Once again, we were ushered past the super long queue outside the restaurant to our waiting tables. Steaming hot plates of pad thai were brought to us shortly. Our guide showed us how to add the condiments on the table to our liking. Honestly, pad thai has never been my thing, as I prefer my noodles savoury, whilst palm sugar is added to pad thai making it sweet. Nevertheless, I was happy that I got try the best of the lot without having to stand in line forever!
Our guide bade us farewell after our supper, and we climbed back into our tuk tuks one final time to head back to our hotel. It was past midnight by then, and the streets were deserted. Our drivers played catch with each other, cheekily racing through the streets and making illegal turns against the flow of traffic. It was insane! With the wind in our hair and the roar of the engine, we let our inhibitions go, screaming and cheering as we went tearing through the city. It was, without a doubt, the best fun we had in Bangkok!
The tour lasted 5 hours. A total of 9 different types of food (2 of which had obtained the nod of Michelin) were served. We got to observe the chefs cook behind the scenes at Ann's, visit a bustling flower market, and say a prayer at Wat Pho, and enjoy a drink and view from a rooftop bar. We had a humourous guide to lead the way, and tuk tuk drivers at our beck and call. Not to mention, the wildest ride through the streets of Bangkok. Was S$73.00 per person too much to pay? On hindsight, everyone felt it was worth every penny and more!