Old Bangkok
A Night Owl’s Guide to Old Bangkok

Join us a delicious trek around Rattanakosin Island when night falls

Words: Pinanong Panchuen, Khetsirin Pholthampalit
Rinrin Intravijit, Pinanong Panchuen, Navarat Nunimitr, Rajadej Na=Nagara & Shutterstock  

If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Bangkok flows with a thousand waking dreams from dusk till dawn. As darkness descends on the Chao Phraya River, three centuries of culture light up the historic Rattanakosin Island and Thonburi quarters on either side. Nightbirds can hop aboard a tuk-tuk to the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, take a ferry across to old Tha Tien, stroll through the fragrant Flower Market of Pak Khlong Talat, sample the sizzling street food at Pratu Phi and end the night with a satisfying bowl of khao tom (rice porridge) and side dishes at the legendary after-dark eateries around Wat Bowonniwet.

Wat Arun
The Last Light at Wat Arun

Your first stop should be Bangkok’s most iconic landmark, the corncob-shaped Phra Prang stupa of Wat Arun. This splendid spire gleams with pearly majesty at dawn but only shows its golden side at sundown. The temple is open daily from 8am to 6pm, offering visitors a precious chance to witness the dying sun’s rays glowing from the stupa bejewelled with Chinese porcelain.

To add a historical twist to your night out, stop by one of the nearby costume rental shops for an Ayutthaya makeover. Don traditional attire and step back in time, feeling like royalty as you explore Wat Arun and other Instagram-worthy spots in Bangkok’s old quarters. The popular makeovers start from 150 bath (US$4) including hair and makeup. Professional lensmen are also on hand for visitors who desire postcard-perfect souvenirs.

Tha Tien
Strolling Around Old Tha Tien 

From Wat Arun, climb aboard the 5-baht ferry and embark on a romantic sunset crossing to Tha Tien on the opposite bank. Don’t forget to turn around for more spectacular views of Wat Arun’s spire.

Tha Tien was once Bangkok’s main trading area for rice and sugar but has now transformed into a hip neighbourhood specialising in culinary discoveries.

We recommend starting with the streetside eatery Medium Rare Tha Tien, an eye-catching tuk-tuk-turned-mobile kitchen that serves mouthwatering Isaan-style grilled meats. Prices are modest and the succulent snacks are authentically northeastern. Relocated from its former streetside spot, the tuk-tuk is now part of the shophouse eatery, yet the long queues of customers remain unchanged.

A short walk further down Soi Tha Suphan is Nusara, where Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn oversees a rising star in Bangkok’s culinary landscape. Nusara placed third in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023. The decor of red, green and yellow evokes the joyful character of Chef Ton’s grandmother, whose cooking talent and recipes inspired his culinary journey.

Keep strolling towards Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market to discover more of Soi Tha Suphan’s famous foodie hangouts. Let’s start at Zunely’s House, a vintage shophouse café with elegant arched counter that serves an array of refreshing drinks and energy-boosting fruit juices. Nearby is A Fox Princess Kitchen, whose inviting shopfront glass cabinet showcases toothsome desserts. Then comes Saeng Tha Tien, one of Bangkok’s most sought-after restaurants for foodies, where reservations must be made several months in advance.

Formally an ice factory, this small restaurant is decorated simply with vintage wooden furniture and serves traditional Thai cuisine made with seasonal ingredients. Next door is the famed Vietnamese restaurant Tonkin-Annam, which also requires reservation. As hinted in the name, this homely restaurant serves specialities from the regions of Tonkin and Annam, once home to the owner’s grandmother and grandfather respectively.

Next, swing right into Soi Pratu Nokyung and marvel at the breathtaking nighttime illumination of Wat Arun from the newly refurbished Wat Pho Pier. For dinner with panoramic views over the river, take a seat next door at The Deck by Arun Residence.

Pak Khlong Talat
24-Hour Flower Market

Less than 1 kilometre from Tha Tien Pier is Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s celebrated 24-hour flower market. Colourful stalls line both sides of the road with fresh imported and local flowers including roses, carnations, lilies, hydrangeas, orchids and traditional Thai jasmine garlands. Prices range from 10 baht for single blooms to hundreds of baht for wedding-style bouquets. Customised flower arrangements often come for free, with customers paying only for the flowers, paper and ribbons at very reasonable prices.

When your flower power begins to fade, recharge your batteries in Floral Café at Napasorn’s indoor paradise. Phuwanat Chumsrikarin has turned the second floor of this two-decade-old florist into a garden café with changing seasonal décor. Seeking something sweet? Try the Farm to Table Organic Café for Thai desserts served with homemade ice cream, including the scrumptious Kao Tok Tang – puffed rice served with coconut-butterfly pea gelato.

Jay Fai
A Feast of Flavours in Pratu Phi

Continue your taste trek with a 10-minute taxi or tuk-tuk ride to Pratu Phi, where two legends of Bangkok’s culinary scene await.

Jay Fai is run by celebrity chef Supinya “Jay Fai” Junsuta, famed for being the first Thai street food vendor to receive a Michelin star, while Thipsamai is probably the best-known Pad Thai shop in Bangkok (though locals know it as Pad Thai Pratu Phi).

Next door is NamTaoHuu Pu Pla, a café serving fresh traditional Thai drinks of hot/cold soy milk, hot ginger, and longan syrup with a choice of toppings running from grass jelly, lotus root and ginkgo to barley and many more.

Noodle lovers should follow their nose to Tee Yen Ta Fo, where the soups burst with aroma and flavour.

Nearby, an abandoned drugstore has been injected with new life as the craft beer saloon, Tai Soon Bar, the pills replaced with an impressive range of local and imported amber tonics. A little further up the street is the Chinese-style TaoTao café, where steamed milk comes with a variety of toppings including gingko, red bean, grass jelly, and brown sugar konjac jelly. Also on the menu are milk pudding, roasted milk tea, and fresh cream cheese fruit tea, served in an ambiance infused with old Hong Kong movies.

Jay Fai
Late-Night Street Banquets

Thailand has developed the perfect cure for tired legs and hangovers. A hot-and-sour soup or hot bowl of rice porridge served with delectable side dishes works like magic to restore flagging energy levels.

From Pratu Phi, grab a tuk-tuk or taxi to the Democracy Monument area five minutes away and treat yourself to the air-conditioned Sky High restaurant and its famous hot-and-sour chicken feet soup.

For some of the best rice porridge (khao tom), the neighbourhood Bang Lamphu district offers two late-night legends. Opposite Wat Bowonniwet is Khao Tom Wat Bowon whose authentic Teochew-style Chinese dishes paired with rice porridge have been wowing customers for over six decades. The menu brims with over 100 choices but popular favourites include stir-fried morning glory, vegetable soup, stewed duck in golden brown soup, and stir-fried jute leaves.

Nearby Peng Peng also offers hundreds of choices but don’t miss the fried river prawns with garlic, fried mackerel with fish sauce, and hot-and-sour tom yum goong.

Exploring Bangkok’s old quarters at night reveals a thousand culinary discoveries hidden in the maze of characterful alleys. Just make sure you’re hungry before setting out on the expedition.


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