You won’t find towering office buildings and condos in Bangkok’s European Quarter. Rather, this is a neighborhood to contemplate the old days of Siam. It’s more relaxing and not as hectic as some of the areas in the central parts of Bangkok. Vimanmek Teak Palace is an outstanding example of Thai meets Western architecture. It’s a Victorian structure built for King Rama V and his family and exemplifies the first wave of the modernization of the Kingdom. There is an interesting white elephant exhibition on the manicured grounds.
Dusit Zoo is also on Ratchvithi Road. It was once the royal private garden. Today it’s a good place for families. North of Dusit Zoo is Ratchawat, a famous produce market with a lot of good places to eat. It’s very reasonably priced and a must stop for foodies. Sawasdee is well known for their pad thai and hoy tord, a crispy fried oyster pancake. They also make outstanding gui chai, steamed and panfried chive dumplings. This place has been around for generations. On the same side of the street you can find a shop with good kaao na bpet, or duck rice. If you like street food, there are so many sellers here.
About a twenty-minute walk toward the river on this street, officially called Nakhon Chaisri, is another market called Sriyan. Pannettone is here, in an old teak house with antiques and faded photos of the neighborhood from the early 20th century. The owners are very friendly and welcoming. They serve a lot of Thai classic dishes and are vegetarian friendly; just ask for advice. At night in Sriyan there are multiple food stalls, and many of them are good.
Budget travelers can stay on this market street at the Bluefin Guesthouse in Bangkok’s European Quarter. The rooms are all in teak houses on a back soi, or alley, and there is an outdoor sitting area where people hang out and talk about their travels. Turn right on Samsen Road and you will reach Samsen Soi 28. Head down this small street and look for a sign for the Museum of Floral Culture. This is an outstanding cultural experience founded by Sakul Intakul, an artist who is preserving and promoting traditional Thai flower arranging. He has written books on the topic which are beautiful objects in their own right. The museum serve tea and Southeast Asian sweets on their veranda.
For a unique cultural experience in Bangkok’s European Quarter, visit the Chinese Opera under the Krungthon Bridge. Located outside an elaborately decorated Chinese temple, the performance is stunning and the make up, costumes, facial expressions, and loud operatic voices will keep you entertained for hours.
A ten or fifteen minute taxi ride from here will take you to Samsen Train Station. The road that runs across the street has a lot of good restaurants. For an immersion in Thai cuisine, go to Rotsabieng. For Thai Western fusion with delicious pasta dishes by a Cordon Bleu trained chef, go to Platform 1. Definitely save room for dessert and go to La montée Seoul for a tart. It’s so good you’ll be back in the morning for espresso and croissant!
–With Kiki Anderson