One of the oldest and most cosmopolitan districts of this cosmopolitan city is Bang Rak, the Village of Love. Although there is another theory that it was originally named after the rak tree (which sounds the same but is spelled differently), Village of Love sounds better, especially on Valentine’s Day when nearly 1000 couples register their marriages at the local district office.
Bang Rak stretches the length of Silom Road from Lumphini Park down to the river. Much of the area away from the river is nowadays flashy hotels and shopping malls, but down in the riverside area the old shophouses still remain.
Within a few hundred metres of Saphan Taksin bridge and skytrain station (where I took the New Years’ fireworks photos) are a Chinese temple, a mosque, a Catholic cathedral, a Hindu temple and at least one Thai Buddhist wat reflecting the original settlers of this area. The kings of Siam apparently did not want the early European traders too close to their palaces ? We will do business with you, but we don’t want you living next door to us ?
A few days ago I went on a walking tour through this old part of Bang Rak with “Taste of Thailand food tours”, which I had originally read about on another blog, written by a British expat girl Bangkok Girl.
Arriving at the Saphan Taksin meeting point early, with an empty stomach, I wandered over to the nearby temple. From it’s slightly garish colours and dragons it had to be a Chinese-Thai wat. It’s currently being renovated, so the murals and other decorations are as new. After grabbing a few photos I went back to meet up with Puu and Jacob from Taste of Thailand, where Jacob told me that everybody else had cancelled. At first I thought he was going to tell me that the tour was cancelled due to lack of numbers, but no, I was to get a private tour.
First stop was just down the road at a curry puff vendor where we (as in I ) had a choice of potato, taro, mung bean, mushroom and a couple of other fillings…I went for taro and mung beans.
Other places we visited were a Chinese grocery which is the original home of the famous “Healthy boy” sauces, a roast duck restaurant, and a dessert shop that has been making traditional Thai desserts for 3 generations. With samples at each stop naturally ! At the Chinese grocer I had drank their Honey and Black Dragon tea, which is supposed to be good for weight loss …I was hoping it was going to work !
But wait, there’s more to come !
Next stop was at Baan Somtum, or House of Somtum. Somtum is a “salad” made from green, unripe papaya, and usually varies from mildly spicy to tongue burning spicy. Most somtum I’ve eaten has been from street stalls, or sitting on a mat with my ex’s family in deepest darkest Issaan. Here at Baan Somtum they serve over 20 varieties, plus other Issaan favourites such as larb and sticky rice, where Bangkok-cool meets rural Issaan in air-conditioned comfort.
The final stop was at the Than Ying restaurant, where they serve “Royal cuisine” in a restaurant run by the son of a princess. Here I had green chicken curry, thankfully only a small serving !
All in all, a very good day out was had. Although in some ways it was good to have a private tour with the undivided attention of Puu and Jacob, if the others had turned up we might have been able to see and sample a wider range of foods ?
For anybody coming to Bangkok I can recommend a walking tour with ” Taste of Thailand“. The cost is $35 or 1200 baht, and well worth it. Just make sure you come with an empty stomach !