Bangkok is one of those huge sprawling cities that can be hard to navigate, even on your second or third visit. During my 4 nights there for a conference I was beginning to think I was in danger of spending more time in traffic jams than anywhere else in the city. Plus, despite traversing the city several times a day, I still could not identify one neighbourhood from the next like I’m able to do in other Asian cities. I wanted to see more than the interior of a taxi before I left and that’s where Expique stepped in to save me. A fellow blogger mentioned they were doing a tuk tuk tour of Bangkok by night, which would take in some of the city’s best sights and include dinner at Bangkok’s most famous Pad Thai restaurant. I jumped at the chance to sign up.
Working with local certified guides, and custom, clear-roofed tuk tuks, Expique focus on providing tours of Bangkok that are unique experiences (in case you hadn’t guessed from the name). As I was on a special tour in association with TBEX the order of sights we saw varied slightly from the usual programme, but everything I mention below is what you will see on the Expique Bangkok Night Lights experience.
Our guide for the evening was the lovely Jib who set the scene for the night with group introductions and a run through of our itinerary. Outside our chariots waited in a row and as we hopped in our ride for the night the driver assured us he’d make sure he found us again at each stop along the way.
The streets were wonderfully calm on this Sunday evening and any traffic we did come across was easily navigated in our mini vehicle. We whizzed along with lights flashing to our first stop for the night at Klong San Market. Jib ordered us some appetizers in the form of Thai sausage, which went down a treat, but I was beginning to wonder why this fairly ordinary local market had been chosen over all others. That answer came hidden in a little room at the end. This rather unique looking statue is a proposed memorial of a well-known monk, which the Bodh Gaya Foundation are raising funds to have built in epic proportions. It certainly wasn’t something I was expecting to find at the market!
Making sure we jumped in the Expique tuk tuks or not another one touting for business, we scootered onto to Wat Prayoon, which glowed bright white in the evening light. From Wat Prayoon we headed over the river to Wat Pho. I’d been to this temple by day to visit the famous Reclining Buddha (open till 7pm) but it was magical to come back at night and see how it sparkled. We had the place practically to ourselves and could study the architecture and statues in detail.
Driving through the old town at night felt truly special, especially as we passed the Grand Palace, which seemed to be even more golden against the dark sky. The tour takes in the Giant Swing, Loha Prasat and Democracy Momument but by this time, I’ll admit, my stomach was rumbling. Luckily our dinner venue for the evening was just around the corner.
In business since 1966, Thipsamai is one of Bangkok’s earliest and most famous Pad Thai restaurants. (Interesting fact: Pad Thai is a relative new addition to Thai cuisine – it only became popular during the Second World War.) At Thipsamai they only serve Pad Thai and if the queue of locals out the door was anything to go by, it’s pretty good.
I opted for the house speciality which is a prawn Pad Thai wrapped in an egg omelette and it tasted lighter than I expected. Condiments are on the table for you add spice, peanuts or bean shoots to taste and once I’d added all three, I have to admit it was pretty delicious.
Our penultimate stop was to a part of Bangkok I’d been longing to see – the city’s famous Flower Market. Despite the name the market actually sells more than just flowers; it’s a wholesale market for fruit, vegetables and flowers, which is open 24 hours. Even at 11pm the market was buzzing with new produce being unloaded and customers bartering deals. The flower section was definitely my favourite, the pavements were filled with exotic blooms at incredibly reasonable prices – I would have filled my house with them if there was a way to get them back to Sydney!
The final stop on the tour is Chinatown. Usually this is where customers are treated to dessert but as our group had been busy photographing and tweeting the tour we were admittedly lagging by the end. (Plus we ate a lot of bread dipped in pandan custard at one of our earlier stops!) I love the signage and street food found in Chinatown though so urge other guests to stay and take a wander before leaving.
Expique kindly got our tuk tuk drivers to take us back to our hotels but usually this is where the tour ends. Your guide is on hand to provide directions or translation if you help securing taxis.
The Bangkok Night Lights Tuk Tuk Tour costs 1850 THB per person and I’d highly recommend it as a fun, fast and foodie-friendly way of seeing some of the best temples, markets and monuments in Bangkok.
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