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GREAT ESCAPE Central Thailand

You don’t have to head far from the capital to get the best out of Thailand: start with a foodie tour of Bangkok’s markets, before retracing WWII heritage in Kanchanaburi, and feeling the peace among the temples of Ayuthaya. Now it’s island-hopping time, so make for the beach heaven of Ko Kut and the jungle interior of Ko Chang.
MAP ILLUSTRATION: KATE SUTTON

Taste two sides of Thai street food in Bangkok

IT’S MIDDAY IN BANGKOK AND EVERYONE is contemplating the most important decision of the day: where to go for lunch. Some people will head to a backstreet noodle stall for pad thai; others might dine in an old-fashioned shophouse on khao soy, a meaty pork broth, or kôw pàt, Thai-style fried rice, sitting on plastic chairs beside the pavement as tuk-tuks and taxis buzz past.

Rot Fai Ratchada Night Market
Chicken skewers sizzle before meeting their satay sauce.

For diners at TheCOMMONS, the choice is more international, as this community space offers a smorgasbord of cuisines within its brushed concrete walls, along with a yoga studio, play centre and a rooftop garden with grass lawn. Founded in 2016 by a Bangkok-born sister and brother, Vicharee and Varatt Vichit-Vadakan, TheCOMMONS is located in Thong Lor, a neighbourhood known for its trendy bars and high-rise apartments.

‘The idea behind TheCOMMONS was to provide space for restaurateurs and producers who would otherwise struggle to pay the city’s rising rents,’ says Witsawawit Chantaweesomboon, or Tam, who works as a barista at Roots Coffee, TheCOMMONS’ in-house espresso bar. ‘It’s like being part of a big family.’

Spicy Thai-style chicken burger at TheCOMMONS.
Tam creates someone’s perfect cup of coffee at Roots in TheCOMMONS

A more traditional version of street food is on offer at Rot Fai Ratchada Night Market, where every evening rickety stalls fill the former train yard and vendors cook up cauldrons of noodle soup, their hissing woks filled with fried rice, green chillies and shrimp, platters stacked with razor clams, mussels, cockles and soft-shell crabs. At one stall, diners sample chicken skewers in a spicy peanut sauce. Next door, the chef stirs a vat of deep-fried fishballs, while his wife fries up house crickets, bamboo worms and giant water bugs to a crunchy crisp, and tosses in salt and spices. It’s loud, chaotic and packed with office workers, teenagers, sightseers, families and locals, all eager to taste the evening’s offerings.

At her curry stall, Kanokwan Teplert cooks recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother – dishes like khua kling, a fragrant dry meat curry, and gaeng phed gaang, a spicy red curry cooked with coconut milk. ‘People travel from all over Bangkok to eat our curries,’ she says. ‘We give them the homecooked taste they remember from their childhood.’

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