A woman makes a mountainous heap of crispy chicken on the streets of Bangkok.
A woman makes a mountainous heap of crispy chicken on the streets of Bangkok. Contributed

Footpath foodies hit Bangkok beat

I've never been afraid to eat on the street in Bangkok.

Many people do not share my bravery, but once you've pulled up a plastic chair at a tin table and let one of the thousands of footpath vendors prepare you something fresh and spicy on a makeshift stove, you'll be hooked.

It's not just the delicious food cooked from recipes handed down over generations, neither is it the tiny price you'll pay for a big feast.

It's about being with the locals, eating as they do, enjoying the frantic, frenzied street atmosphere.

For the timid, there is reassurance in the form of Chettha (Chet) Khambunditkul.

The concierge at Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa, Chet is the founder of Anantara's Streetwise Guru Tours.

This man - who knows every centimetre of Bangkok like he knows his own living room - will walk you around the bustling streets, sharing his insider knowledge, introducing you to its happy bewilderment.

We began our tour with Chet from the resort, taking a boat across the river.

After a brief temple visit and a blessing by a cheerful monk, we were guided gently into the melee.

Among the intense concentration of stalls, shops, cafes and hawker carts, and with a constantly moving mass of people around us, we watched, we learnt, we ate.

"Don't they have lots of accidents?" we asked Chet as we stood before a wok of boiling oil on the footpath and watched a woman make mountainous heaps of crispy chicken.

Children, housewives, young and old men on scooters and vendors with cages of chickens and sacks of produce milled by, weaving their way expertly around the boiling oil.

"No, it all seems to work," Chet replied and then we bit into the most succulent, moist and delicious chicken to ever pass our lips. For less than a dollar.

Among the chaos, there is obviously (hidden to us) method and muddled order.

Open fires and burning coals on the footpath, gas cylinders flaring up wok burners beneath portable carts in doorways ... there is always something being cooked on Bangkok's streets, 24/7.

The vendors provide unintentional theatre as they go about their cooking with an expertise ingrained from childhood.

Because so much food is prepared and consumed on the streets, its freshness is assured.

Everything runs out and has to be replaced over and over again through the day and night.

In the choked aisles of the Indian bazaar surrounded by colourful clothes, souvenirs and myriad bolts of brightly coloured fabrics, we had space only to shuffle shoulder-to-shoulder.

Yet there was a young man with a cart somehow squished among the wares, selling juice from pomegranates.

On and on it went all morning. The senses tottering from the sights, sounds and smells ... and always food.

The tour includes a visit to the flower market and here the senses stagger at the kaleidoscope of colour and fragrance: roses, chrysanthemums and indigenous orchids were a few I recognised.

Who could resist buying a giant bunch of velvety red roses for about $1.50, even if one had to use the hotel's bathroom bin to put them in?

 

Anantara Streetwise Guru Tour

 

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