The Best of Bangkok: Insider Tips from an Expat

Sawadee ka and greetings from Bangkok, Thailand! 🇹🇭 🥥

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drinking from a coconut at the Green Lung

Two months ago I landed in Bangkok and literally hit the ground running. I found a condo, got situated in a new teaching role, and explored many parts of this incredible city.

jjThat being said, this city is absolutely massive, with a population of 12 million spread across 400 acres of land originally built on swampland, and interwoven with numerous canals and waterways.

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map of Bangkok courtesy of Google images

As such, this past month I’ve kept exploring this mega city, and learned quite a few valuable tips that I thought would be helpful to both expats and travelers alike.

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near Bang Wa BTS in Bangkok

One of my first tips would be about some highly recommended spots for FOOD! Bangkok is blessed as an international foodie haven. It’s quite easy to find whatever kind of cuisine you’re craving, at any time of day. For example, if you’re craving some Irish fare, you can head to Roast for a salty corned beef hash with poached eggs and a nice specialty coffee. Other eclectic menu items include a crab cake benedict, jerk chicken, and huevos rancheros.

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corned beef hash at Roast; the post Emporium mall

Now, for an epic street eating adventure, I’d recommend heading to Chinatown. 🐉🥡

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glutinous rice filled with veggies wrapped in banana leaf, veggie protein stir fry, and sweet sticky rice served in bamboo

This traditional neighborhood near the Chao Phraya river, especially condensed around Yaowarat Road, is a network of lane ways filled with street food vendors selling all types of delectable Asian cuisine.

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fried donuts with pandan sauce (a green coconut custard)

One of the most controversial being shark fin soup, as well as, bird’s nest soup and apparently barking deer meat. 😂

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barking deer meat?

Nearby Chinatown I even found this hidden gem next to the Pak Khlong 24-hour flower market. It’s a Thai-style diner serving American breakfast foods with an Asian twist. I absolutely loved the homey atmosphere and the heart-shaped eggs! 🍳🧡

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the menu has many different egg and sausage dishes for around 30-50 baht (1-2 USD)

While in Chinatown, I also recommend heading to a cafe near the river for a beautiful view of Wat Arun. Sala Rattanakosin has an incredible rooftop terrace and a youthful vibe, with 20-somethings drinking cocktails in posh lounge chairs listening to techno. 🎵

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For something much more laid-back, I’d recommend River View Residence. It’s quite hidden down a small soi and inside an unassumingly modest guesthouse, but its rooftop bar overlooking the river is absolutely spectacular, plus their drink prices were quite sensible and almost nobody was there! 🍺

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Nearby Chinatown is also an uber trendy new area called Soi Nana. They have a handful of charming bars and restaurants serving small-plate menu items and specialty cocktails.

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Each bar is oozing with character and often has entertainment in the evenings. Wallflowers Cafe, for example, has a lovely rooftop garden with live music and vintage decor.

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Another top spot is Tep Bar, which has a romantic ambiance, traditional Thai music, comfy cushions, and fancy cocktails with floating flowers. I just loved the accidental selfie I took when trying to check my teeth for bits of flower, so I thought I’d share with all of you for a good laugh! 💮😂

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Another food mecca in Bangkok is centered around Pratunam Market on Phetchaburi Road. It’s a total tourist hot spot and quite overpriced due to the location. 📸

autmNearby though, tucked away on Ratchaprarop Road, you’ll find a condensed selection of North and South Indian cuisine, Nepalese, and Bengali restaurants. There I enjoyed an all-you-can-eat vegetarian Thali for only 120 Baht, which included a fire roasted eggplant mash, lentil soup, creamy tomato tofu, split-pea curry, rice, and naan. The menu rotates on a daily basis as well. 🍛

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As well, near Pratunam Market, and located along the scenic canal, you’ll find a local Thai restaurant serving up flavorful dishes, as well as, a poorly translated menu, invoking a few laughs.

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hawks and horses? papaya warlord put pork, yo? omelette machine deliverer? cut back on shrimp? Thanks for the advice! 🤣

Of course, while visiting, you can’t help but peruse the shopping stalls for some clothes. Prices are ALWAYS negotiable. It is easy to find pants or dresses for 100-150 Baht per piece.

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100 Baht dress and pants; 200 Baht leather bag at The Market

Now, for some delicious Japanese cuisine, my personal recommendation is a lively izakaya restaurant called Teppen, which serves a high-quality small plates menu. 🎎

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waygu beef, salmon, and spicy fried chicken plus a typical Japanese bathroom full of every item you could possibly need…shavers, mouth wash, deodorant, etc

The chefs greet you from their open kitchen and you watch them cook your food while sitting barefoot on authentic tatami mats. They even use a specialty cooking method called warayaki, which sears the meat over burning straw. They also offer free appetizers, like edamame, and discounted beers if you download their mobile application. 🍣

This whole area near Thong Lo BTS actually has a very Japanese vibe and is also near one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Southeast Asia, Pridi Banomyong.

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Here you can find second-hand shops, specialty cafes, vintage boutiques, and loads of Japanese restaurants.

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Japanese vending machines and second-hand shops; billiard biker bar

Masaru Japan Store was my favorite spot for finding unique Asian oddities and trinkets.

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Just be cautious about all the “karaoke bars” around the area. Apparently they are just a facade for other scantily clad affairs. 😲

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Aphrodite karaoke…land of love 💜

It’s also near to the W District, which is an open food market serving international cuisine in an ambiance of street art and hip hop music. 🎨

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Vietnamese sandwich (tofu, carrots, onions, and cucumber) and pad Thai in an omelet
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street art near W District
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funny street art in the W District

Nearby is also a farmer’s market held on the weekend with fresh bakery, organic vegetables, eco-friendly products, and unique fare, like quiche, falafel, and pickled veg. 🥐

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metal straws, bamboo silverware, pickled veggies, and fresh bakery

For tasty Korean food I’d suggest wandering through Korea Town. They have a wide selection of restaurants, including Banjoo BBQ. This place cooks their meat, like this pork belly, table side, served with an unlimited selection of cold side dishes, like roasted corn, kimchi, egg, salad with sesame dressing, tofu, and marinated mushrooms. Aside from BBQ, they also prepare other classic Korean dishes, like bibimbap, which has beef, egg, veggies, rice, and BBQ sauce. 🇰🇷

BBWFor Middle Eastern cuisine, I’d highly recommend Nadimos, which has two locations and a delicious selection of Lebanese food and sheesha, which can be enjoyed in a garden terrace covered with twinkling lights. 🇱🇧

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lamb wrap with tahini and french fries; falafel balls with tahini, hummus, and chickpeas

Since I have German heritage and this past month was Oktoberfest, I also had to check out the Old German Beerhouse for their annual celebration, which included music, polka dancing, and typical German fare. I even got dragged up on stage to do the Hammerschlagen. 🥨

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Pints, pretzels and polka! Prost!

As well, since I’m a Wisconsin native, I get super excited when I see anything from back home. Heck, I even got excited seeing an imported bathroom cleaner! 🤣

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As you can imagine then, I was absolutely ecstatic to learn that there is restaurant in Bangkok run by a Wisconsin chef! Not so surprisingly, it’s called Fatty’s Diner. They serve authentic Midwestern dishes, like cheese curds with ranch, and pulled pork burger sliders. 🍔

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I didn’t visit the actual diner, but rather their pop-up location at a cool bar in Sathorn called Smalls, where they had live Jazz music. If you’re in that area, I’d also suggest bar-hopping across the street to Junker and Bar for some nice drinks and bar games.🃏

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Just be cautious when you use the bathroom! 🤣

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no toilet peper…and no peeing in the urinal

Speaking of Wisconsin, if you’re from the Midwest and missing the cold from back home, I’d suggest heading over to Titanium Club and Ice Bar. You can remember what it’s like to freeze your butt off in the winter, and listen to some great live music ta boot!❄️🤣

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Now for a less formal dining option, I’d suggest checking out one of the many food courts in Bangkok.

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glass noodles with chicken; vegetarian protein with zucchini and rice; sweet liver with rice and onions; dried fish ball noodle soup with pork

They offer a wide variety of street foods with the added enjoyment of air conditioning. My favorite mall food courts include Terminal 21, MBK and Amarin Food Court.

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oyster omelet with bamboo shoots; pork filled tofu noodle soup, fried fish and fried zucchini flowers with a spicy tomato marinara; BBQ pork wonton soup

Terminal 21 is an airport-themed mall, which features a different country on each floor. Here’s their Tokyo floor with Japanese themed shops and bathrooms.

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noodle soup with heart shaped fish balls in Terminal 21; Japanese-themed floor in the mall with ridiculously complicated toilets and cute accessories, like shiba inu Kleenex and socks for your chairs

MBK is a shopping mecca and its sky walk has some of the most spectacular sunset views.

germ2Nearby is also one of my favorite shops for buying cute and glittery accessories called Pink Pvssy.

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the store is similar to a Claire’s and I even found this cute sloth coffee mug there!

Fashion trends here tend to be colorful, sparkly, and over-the-top, so I’d suggest having fun and embracing this anything-goes style!

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advertisements for 3D glitter nails and ice cream scoop slipper sandals

Lastly, in terms of food recommendations, I have been continuing to try different snacks at 7-Eleven. The vegetarian bun has been the highlight for sure! 😋

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pork fried rice and crispy pork with omelet and rice
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sausage, ham and cheese, and tuna chicken shredded buns
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vegetarian Chinese buns filled with mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots
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Mexican sausage burger, cocoa koala cookies, shredded pork sandwich, garlic bread, and spicy peanuts

I’ve even branched out to Tops Market, which serves up ready-made meals, like Kua Kling, a spicy southern Thai dried pork.

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kua kling with omelet and rice; crab pizza; salted egg and ham sandwich; salmon jok, or porridge

One of my favorite hidden gems for cheap and delicious snacks though is this Chinese Bakery near Siam BTS called UFM Bakery House. They also offer cooking courses. I’m not a sweets person, but their mini chicken sandwiches with coleslaw are some of the best I’ve ever tasted…for only 35 baht too!

china bakeryOverall, I just feel like I need two stomachs to live here. There are just too many things to try! 😋

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chicken cheesy lava rice at McDonald’s, Korean chicken pretzel at Auntie Annie’s and cranberry ice cream, peach pie, and sweet potato kit kats

Now, aside from eating in Bangkok, one of my next tips would be about how to MEET PEOPLE! 😊

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urban Meetup walk in Thonburi

Despite being surrounded (albeit sometimes smothered) by people everyday on the street or on public transit, you may wonder how to meet people in a new city. 🤣

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crammed on the train during rush hour

One of my favorite websites to use for this has been Meetup.com. It’s a free website connecting locals and travelers through common interests. One of the groups I joined goes on monthly urban photo walks. On this particular day, we explored the Thonburi area near Bang Wa BTS.

DSC_5677DSC_5680DSC_5683DSC_5684DSC_5690 (2)DSC_5692DSC_5695DSC_5693 (2)DSC_5697DSC_5707 (2)DSC_5710 (3)DSC_5712DSC_5714DSC_5718 (2)DSC_5724DSC_5727On the way back, before crossing over the beautiful Chao Phraya River, I even stopped at the newest mall in Bangkok, Icon Siam.

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Essentially, this mall is an air-conditioned indoor floating market.

DSC_5737 It’s the perfect option for tourists who don’t like the idea of floating down a river in the 90-degree-heat and eating local street food prepared in questionable sanitary conditions. 🤣

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tourist floating market inside a mall; veggie rice wraps; thai pudding; quail eggs; indoor temple with an elephant

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Meetup also has a group which showcases different documentaries hosted at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. I went to one that was free of charge and featured a interesting film called Blue about the necessity of marine conservation.

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Now Meetup is also a great option for language learning. That being said, my Thai is still SUPER basic and I can’t even recognize the difference between the letters of the alphabet…and honestly I think they look like a bowl of noodles fell onto a piece of paper. 🤣 As such, I’ve decided to start with this free app called Nemo, which teaches you how to pronounce essential Thai phrases.

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Aside from Meetup.com, I also like the Couch surfing application as a fun way to meet people. Bangkok’s couch surfing community meets once every week to share some drinks at Coco Walk, a fun and lively collection of bars with live music. They also host a weekly free yoga class at Yim Yam Hostel across from my condo. 🧘

yogaNow, take my word for it…one of the only places I DON’T suggest meeting people in Bangkok is on Tinder. 🤣🤣🤣

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Anyway, since I recently moved into my place last month, I have also been continuing to decorate my modern condo. My favorite shops for home decor include Home Pro, Robinson’s, Big C, and Tesco Lotus.

SDFJIt seems to be a worthwhile investment though, as I love hanging out in my place. It has one of my favorite views of the city! ❤️

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Now one of the most surprising things about living in Thailand is that alcohol here is NOT cheap. Paying 10 USD for a cocktail and 30 USD for a bottle of wine seems to be the norm! 😲

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fancy rooftop beer garden at the Marriott

As such, I’ve definitely scoped out a few ladies’ nights where girls drink for free. 💃

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Ladies’ night at Galleria 10 Bangkok Hotel

My favorite spots for free drinks so far is Sing Sing Theater and Hemingway’s on Thursdays. Above Eleven also has discounted drinks and salsa dancing on Wednesdays, and Levels has free sugary cocktails with lively cover music on Sundays. 🍸

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free drinks at Levels and Sing Sing

Now if you’ve drained your wallet from eating, shopping and drinking, you can check out the cool art scene in Bangkok. The BACC is one of my favorite venues, and most of their exhibitions are free.

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Another new green space to check out is called Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park, which is surrounded by plenty of interesting street art.🏞️

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If all else fails, for free entertainment, I’d just suggest walking down the street. Each day I honestly never know what I’ll see when I step out my door. 😲

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guy with his chicken playing the guitar; man working on power lines with just a ladder wearing socks and sandals; lazy soi dog
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art installations near Central Embassy and Siam Paragon

At the end of all this you may be sick of the city or craving some fresh air.

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advertisement for New Zealand fresh air in a can

Well, a lush island escape from Bangkok is much closer than you’d imagine! 🌴

greenIn less than an hour, you can take the BTS to Bang Na and hop on the ferry to the Green Lung, a small island in the south of the city. Here, you can rent bikes for 50 Baht and submerse yourself in the natural surroundings.

green2The island has narrow elevated walkways surrounded by coconut plantations, an expansive botanical garden, and a lively market.

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It also has this hidden gem called the Bangkok Tree House, which is a green eco hotel and restaurant. Even if you’re not staying there, you can enjoy coffees, desserts, or cold beers in their air conditioned dining room.

green23Such a serene escape!🌅

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Now this month is also Halloween, which is celebrated in many countries around the world, and Thailand is also starting to catch on to the trend. In the classroom this month, I planned a few lessons on skeletons, spiders, bats, and mummies. We created skeletons with q-tips, sarcophagus pencil cases, and animated spiders. 🎃

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I also planned an epic Halloween party with relay races, fruit carvings, pumpkin crafts, pin the spider on the web, spooky stories, and ghoulish math games.

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I love being as fun and creative as possible with these students. We’ve also done a newspaper fashion competition, finger paintings, and loads of student-centered games.

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And of course, the school has been helping me to expand my understanding of Thai cuisine as well, with tea eggs, green curry with Thai eggplant, glass noodles with wood ear mushrooms, and pork with egg noodles.

schoolThis usually prompts a casual post-walk lunch down my soi.

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the soi or street near my school…temples are outside many houses and people give offerings, like fruit to them each day

Anyway, that wraps up my second month of exploring Bangkok. Next month Thailand will be celebrating the beautiful light festival, Loy Krathong followed by a long end-of-term vacation I’ll be taking around Southeast Asia. Stay tuned to hear all about it! 💮

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Loy Krathong Starbucks mugs

Until then enjoy this small video clip I made featuring different sites, foods, and classroom moments from this past month! 😊

Loy Krathong mugs at Starbucks

6 thoughts on “The Best of Bangkok: Insider Tips from an Expat

  1. Wow, your photos are amazing and so is Bangkok – it sounds like you had a great time explore it and I can only imagine an array of sounds and smells that come with this beautiful city! I haven’t visited yet, but my very first introduction to it was through the pages of The Beach, my all-time favourite book written by Alex Garland. Would love to visit one day

    Liked by 1 person

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