Couchfish Day 1: Hello Bangkok

On car parts, coffee shops and Chinatown

Welcome to the very first issue of Couchfish—it is great to have you here! I’m still ironing out kinks, so please do let me know what you think—both the good and the bad! Thank you, Stuart.

Arrival at Don Muang makes me feel like I’ve strayed onto a long-forgotten Thunderbirds set. Sixty-day Thai tourist visa in hand, I brush through immigration and customs. Immigration card stapled into my passport, and I’m through.

The bright green and yellow taxi speeds into town. We pass the Elephant Building. A half-dozen amulets hang from the rearview mirror, jangling against one another. I make small talk with the driver.

“Why aren’t you going to Khao San Road?” he asks.

“Because I love Chinatown,” I say.

Escaping the heat midway through a humid Yaowarat Road eating excursion.

Of all the downtown districts, Bangkok’s Chinatown has long been my favourite. The hole-in-the-wall coffee shops, old dudes sitting there smoking and talking shit. Ceramic cups, half-full of syrupy coffee, condensed milk dribbling down the sides.

Back alleys. Loaded with used car part dealerships. An old lady at the table writing out dockets, a photo of the old Thai king on the back wall. Mountains of exhaust pipes.

A food cart pushes by me. This captures the appeal—I could so go a serving of those pa tong go right now!

I’m heading to Loy La Long. It’s a wooden house built over the Chao Phraya. Over 100 years old, each room is different. Stylish, in a kind of Grandma way. At around 3,000 baht a night it isn’t cheap, but I do like the occasional splurge here. The Black Room is on the ground floor. At night I can lay on the bed and hear the river washing beneath.

I settle in on the downstairs deck. It is open to the river—a marker on the wall indicates how deep Loy La Long was submerged in past floods.

The Black Room at Loy La Long.

Caffeinated, it’s time to eat. Famous for its night-time eating along Yaowarat Road, daytime options are none too shabby either. Khao Tom 24, Khao Phra Ram Long Song Mae Akarawan and Khanom Jeeb Wat Yuan are all within easy walk to Loy La Long.

In my humble opinion, there’s nowhere better for walking than Chinatown and neighbouring Pahurat. While many hit Chinatown for the Golden Temple, just wandering is far more rewarding. Travelfish has a good wrap on this.

I walk a lot in this area—partly because it is so interesting, but also to work up an appetite. For more ideas on where to eat, head over to Fantastic Food Search, a food site run by an old friend Austin Bush and his mate Chris. They know their stuff and it never ceases to amaze me that Austin remains thin. Mark Wiens also has a terrific video about eating your way through Chinatown.

Bar hopping through Soi Nana (the Chinatown one!)

Come later in the evening, consider the Soi Nana area—no, not the sleazy one, the Chinatown one. It’s packed with eclectic and trendy bars—though it ain’t cheap!

Tomorrow I’ll cross the River of Kings to Thonburi. There, I’ll take a wander through a historic yet little-known district. And yes, there will be eating.