Hidden gems in Bangkok that will make you feel like booking the next flight out

Singaporeans love Bangkok, that's for sure.

What's more, it's only a two-hour flight away from Singapore.

During my recent trip to Bangkok, I discovered some of the hidden gems in the city that has so much more to offer than just its cheap massages and good bargains.

1. On Lok Yun

With a history of more than 80 years, On Lok Yun located in Bangkok's Chinatown was in the early years, mostly patronised by government workers. It has survived three generations and now caters to mostly locals and tourists.

The shop reminds me of a typical cha chaan teng (tea restaurant) in Hong Kong, with its vintage and old-school style setting.

They serve a good traditional breakfast: coffee, toast and eggs. Try the egg custard bread with kaya. Their kaya is not overly sweet, with a hint of coconut. I was told that their kaya recipe has stayed the same for the past 80 years!

Where: 72 Charenkrung Road Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand

2. Midnight food tour on a tuk-tuk

What better way to explore the city of Bangkok than on its iconic three-wheel tuk-tuk?

Organised by Bangkok Food Tours, I explored their best local eateries, visited Bangkok's largest fresh flower market and saw the beauty of Wat Pho temple at night on an epic four-hour adventure.

During the first stop of our food tour, I was introduced to Esan food at Jae Koy, a restaurant specialising in north-eastern Thai food along Phetchaburi Road.

My favourite dish was Crispy catfish paired with green mango salad, which is also known as Yum Pla Duk Foo among the locals.

This dish is prepared by first shredding the catfish and then deep frying it into a fluff of crispy cloudy goodness.

Photo: AsiaOne

Among the many food stops was a stall hidden in a dark alley selling Kuay Teow Kua Gai, a crispy kway teow dish with chicken and egg.

They fry the kuay teow over high heat until it is slightly charred and crispy before throwing in the chicken and egg. You can even ask for your eggs to be runny!

My tour guide told us that locals love to spice up the flavour by adding sugar, chilli flakes, fish sauce and vinegar before mixing them all together and then finally enjoying the dish.

Photo: AsiaOne

I was already getting full by the second food stop, but my tour guide said that we have yet to try Bangkok's best Phad Thai.

She likened it to coming to Singapore without trying hainanese chicken rice.

Thip Samai Phad Thai restaurant has existed for over 50 years and opens only in the evening till late night, targeting the supper crowds.

They offer a variety of Phad Thai on their menu, but I like the Phad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot, which is stir-fried rice noodles wrapped in a thin egg omelette, as it provided a twist to the usual Phad Thai we usually eat.

Photo: AsiaOne

Where:

Esan Food at Jae Koy
362 Phetchaburi 7 Alley, Khwaeng Thanon Phetchaburi, Khet Ratchathewi, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand

Kway Teow Kua Gai
210 Yukol 2 Rd, Khwaeng Wat Thepsirin, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand

ThipSamai Phad Thai
313-315 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand

3. White Flower Factory

Photo: AsiaOne

When you are done shopping in the Siam area or simply just want to take a break, you can check out White Flower Factory located at level 4 of Siam Square One.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the restaurant was it's wide selection of desserts. They have more than 20 types of mouth-watering desserts on display ranging from tarts to crepe cakes.

If you are a fan of thai milk tea, be sure to try their best-selling cakes - the Thai tea fudge cake or Thai tea mille crepe cake.

Photo: AsiaOne

Besides desserts, they are also known for their fusion Thai-style European dishes.

Some of their signature dishes include spicy papaya salad with german pork hocks, salmon tartar with thai herbs and stir-fried crispy catfish served with salted egg.

Where: Siam Square One, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Photo: AsiaOne

4. Outlaw Creative Cuisine

The Charoenkrung neighbourhood is slowly gaining popularity as a hip venue due to the rising number of creative spaces around the area.

Hidden in a small alley connecting Chaoroenkrung Soi 43 and 45 lies a hidden gem owned by French chef-owner Romain Guiot.

Photo: AsiaOne

Chef Romain studied art to become a graphic designer before pursuing the culinary arts. He held a few jobs before finally settling in Bangkok.

In this modest-sized restaurant, diners can watch Chef Romain whip up dishes from cold cuts and pastas to Argentinian tenderloin served with truffle oil mashed potatoes in the open kitchen.

Photo: AsiaOne

The menu is not extensive, but Chef Romain makes up for it by presenting diners an impressive quality.

I later learned that he uses local ingredients combined with high quality imported meats. For such fine western cuisine, prices are considered fair and reasonable.

You can get pork steak served with thyme, rosemary and honey for $18 and cabonara with yellow duck egg topping for $15.

Where: 45 Khwaeng Si Phraya, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand

5. Get custom-made shoes and jeans at Siam

After the feasting, it's time to shop off those calories.

Siam is the heart of Bangkok's shopping district, with many retail shops featuring homegrown designers and labels.

But did you know you can get made-to-order shoes and jeans there, too?

Ladies can head over to Ballet Shoes, where they specialise in custom-made dance shoes and everyday footwear using cow leather in practical styles and vibrant colours.

Prices start from $75 to $100 on average.

Where: 1/F, Siam Square One, Rama 1 Rd., 02-252-2464

Photo: AsiaOne

You can also custom-make your own pair of denim at Selvedgework, where you get to choose your own fit, fabric, buttons, and even the colour of the thread.

It takes two to three weeks for a custom order, and prices start from $280 to $650. But the good news is, they have a website which offers free international delivery for orders over US$200.

Photo: AsiaOne

Where: Siam Square Soi 2, Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, Khet Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500

6. Amaya Food Gallery @ Amari Watergate

Seafood galore at Amaya Food GalleryPhoto: AsiaOne

Shopaholics AND foodies who can't get away from Platinum mall may want to check out Amari Watergate Bangkok.

The hotel is located just opposite the popular shopping mall, and comes complete with its new Amaya Food Gallery buffet featuring an array of international delights, BBQ items and fresh seafood - great for famished souls after a day of non-stop shopping.

Friday seafood nights start from 1,500 baht (S$60).

Where: 847 Petchburi Road, Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400

So there you have it, a list of places you may not have known about, but are well-worth checking out the next time you're in the vibrant city - which may be very soon, I suspect.

peijie@sph.com.sg

The writer's trip was sponsored by Amari Watergate Bangkok. Visit http://www.amari.com/watergate/ for more details.

Jetstar flies daily to Suvarnabhumi airport. From here, the Airport Rail Link reaches the city in just 30 minutes, with a sheltered connection to the Skytrain.

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