Thonburi Food and Canals Adventure
This Bangkok Food Tour was a tour I was looking forward to and it really lived up to my expectations. We met our tour guide Bowie at the Talat Phlu BTS train station at 8.45am and took a local truck called a ‘songtail’ into Talat Phlu in the Thonburi district. Bowie was friendly and a great guide and explained everything. Our first stop once into the back streets was at the Betel Market – the name Betel comes from the nut that is chewed and makes a red colour.
First Stop - Kuichai
We stopped at the street stall of a lady who has been on the road near the entrance to the market area for 14 years. She serves a typical breakfast dish from 6am – 10am each morning. These delightfully light Dim Sum – known as Kuichai are in 4 different flavours. Garlic chive, Taro, Yam and Bamboo shoot. We had a small taste of all 4! My favourite was the garlic chive one!
Next stop - Incredible Beef Soup!
Our next stop was at T. Chan Pen for an incredible beef soup known as Kuaytiew Naeo. This is a 2nd generation restaurant/street café and has been there for 60 years. This beef soup contained everything that you can imagine from the cow! Even some pieces floating in that I wasn't sure about but having tried them all can verify - all very tasty and the broth delicious!
Our beef soup was followed by a trio of traditional Thai desserts - 1. black bean, 2. banana, 3. tapioca, corn, yam and coconut meat all in coconut milk - I love anything in coconut milk and these 3 were all particularly good.
Aroy mak mak!
At this point I must tell you I learnt a very important Thai phrase - 'Aroy mak mak' this means 'very delicious/yummy' but in case you want to use this phrase you need to know that Aroy means delicious and the mak mak comes after but it means very!
I've used it since with a couple of street food sellers and it has made them smile that a *'Farang' spoke a few words in Thai!
*Farang is the word used by Thais for foreigners!
Suriya Coffee Shop
On our walk through the bustling market streets we stopped to buy cassava balls which are deep fried sweet tapioca (in 2 colours but tasted the same) to take to Suriya Coffee shop in the adjoining Talat Phlu fresh market. The Suriya Coffee has been in the fresh market for 90 years through 3 generations and it is an oasis of calm in the corner of the market. We enjoyed traditional Thai tea and coffee both hot and cold. To accompany our coffee we not only enjoyed the cassava balls that we’d picked up on the way, but also freshly made Kanom krok which were delightful little coconut and rice pancakes and Chinese doughnuts.
Cassava Balls - deep fried sweet tapioca being cooked in the Talat Phlu market
Coconut pancakes & Chinese doughnuts
Below Photo: Tasty Chinese doughnuts to dunk in the delicious Thai coffee - Left Photo: Bangkok Food Tour - Our guide Bowie with refreshing pineapple pieces for us to enjoy at Suriya Coffee Shop
A Longtail Boat Ride
Now for one of the highlights for me! We went on a longtail boat ride on the canal deep into the Thonburi district to the Bang Ruang area. Bang means small village and Ruang means Royal Officer – so we arrived in the small village of the Royal Officer! Then we walked the short distance to a small canal-side restaurant where we were served the tastiest and freshest river prawns in a Penang sauce that I have ever eaten!
A ride on a Longtail Boat through the Thonburi Canals
At a canal side restaurant in Bang Ruang we were served Fresh River Prawns in a Panang Sauce
We walked along the ‘boardwalk’ to visit The Artist House. This is a wooden house which is over 100 years old, built of dark wood open and over 2 floors and with a Stupa (Pagoda) that is over 300 years old in the garden. It was so interesting to see and housed a lot of art, antiques and old puppets. Normally there is a puppet show at 2pm every day there.
Continuing along the boardwalk, we fed the ugly looking river fish with some very brightly coloured fish food, which caused a feeding frenzy and then crossed over the canal by a small steep bridge that could accommodate only pedestrians and motorbikes.
walkway to the Artists House
View from one side of the bridge
View from the other side of the bridge
We entered the small canal side restaurant of Mr. Boy a relative newcomer to the canal as he’s only been there 8 years although his mother has been cooking here for 50 years. His speciality was a Chinese Noodle Soup (Guayjub) and I loved it. I could really taste the Chinese 5 spice flavours in this and I loved the large curled noodles. What a fabulous experience to enjoy this soup whilst watching the longtail boats go by on the canal. My favourite Thai dessert followed this soup…the mango sticky rice doused in coconut milk and it was absolutely divine!
Chinese Noodle Soup - Guayjub
What a great place to enjoy Chinese Noodle Soup
Mango Sticky Rice - Khao Neeo Mamuang
Back onto the LongTail boat for the next part of our tour, the canals are quite busy and we got stuck in a ‘longtail boat traffic jam’ entering a lock. For me this was a pleasure as it allowed time to look around and take in the local sights and sounds of the working canal. About 8 longtail boats were ushered into the lock where we waited and were then taken up with the rising water to join the next part of the river.
After the excitement of being in the lock we continued to the Wang Lang area and disembarked at the Bell Temple.
Wang Lang fresh food and clothes market
We walked to the Wang Lang fresh food and clothes market open from 6am – 6pm. Walking through the very local and daytime market featuring food and clothing from all of Thailand until we were deep into the market at SomTum Yupin an Isean restaurant. Here we truly enjoyed a fabulous spread of food. Isean food is from the North of Thailand and is normally a little spicier. We feasted on the classic Papaya salad, a minced pork salad (Moo numtok), grilled chicken (kai yang) fired corn (Khaopod Tod) and an Isean sausage (sai krok)
Hard at work at SomTum Yupin - Photo on the right - An Isaan Feast
Sarim-tubtimkrob - glass noodles made with mung bean flour and coloured pink and green
Final Dessert Stop...
Our final stop on the tour was for another traditional Thai dessert in the market called Sai Mai. This little restaurant has been in Wang Lang for 18 years and they specialise in wonton soup and Thai dessert. The dessert that we tried was called Sarim-tubtimkrob – glass noodles made with mung bean flour and coloured pink and green. The green colour is from Pandang leaves and the pink is from Sala syrup.
The glass noodles float in coconut milk with water chestnuts and are topped with crushed ice.
And then the wonderful tour and eating extravaganza was over so we made our way back to the Tha Chang pier to catch the ferry back over to the Bangkok city side. The tour finished around 2 pm. As we made our way over the river we got some good glimpses of the famous Wat Arun Temple also known as The Temple of Dawn. The temple is on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river in the Thonburi District. It is unique in its design and I think one of the most stunning in Bangkok. The Wat Arun Temple is decorated with colourful china pieces and tiles. It is one of Bangkok’s oldest and most revered temples
I would thoroughly recommend this tour – it really gave a comprehensive overview of the Thonburi District and the canal waterways, a previously unknown area of Bangkok to me. The mixture of foods we tried was just right – although how we ate that much in a few hours I’m not sure! I booked and paid for this tour myself and received no incentive to write this piece. I booked this tour with Bangkok Food Tours
all photos are copyright ©Caro Blackwell