You may know Bangkok as a thriving, modern metropolis, but have you explored the origins of this capital city, which began about 240 years ago on the east bank of the Chaophraya River?
During the early Rattanakosin period, Bangkok’s prosperity began around the Grand Palace. Then, King Rama V commissioned the construction of Ratchadamnoen Avenue, inspired by the boulevards of Europe. This encouraged the city’s development, including shops, hotels, and cinemas, as well as a wide range of groceries, food and produce suppliers, and eateries. Banglumphu became one of the largest Thai food centres, while Tha Tian was the focus for dried fish and seafood traders. Pak Khlong Talad was, and still is, a major trading centre for fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers from across the country.
Although often called an “island city”, Rattanakosin is not a naturally formed island in the middle of the river. It was formed during the reign of King Rama I. To fortify the capital, a series of canals and moats created the inner, middle, and outer sectors of the city. All together, from the Grand Palace to the outer canals, it is Rattanakosin Island.
Today, the Rattanakosin neighbourhood is a destination for locals and visitors alike. It is ideal for anyone who wants to walk through Bangkok’s heritage while discovering tasty dishes around every corner. Get ready to lace up your trainers and explore the old city – here are some scrumptious spots where you can grab a bite as you explore Rattanakosin Island, from Tha Tian to Ratchadamnoen, Tha Phra Athit to Banglumpu, or the Ghost Gate to the Giant Swing.
Jay Fai (One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
You haven’t truly experienced Rattanakosin Island until you’ve visited an iconic street vendor like Jay Fai. The aromas from her traditional charcoal-fired stoves have been enticing foodies to her stall since 1977. And, in charge of every dish, Jay Fai, with her signature goggles and hat protecting her from that heat, became the face of Bangkok’s famous street food scene, serving crab omelettes for 800 to 1,000 THB. This was especially so when, to the surprise of the Thai culinary world, her shop received one MICHELIN Star in the first edition of MICHELIN Guide Thailand. Foreigners and Thais alike queue for hours to sample her wares, and not just the crab omelettes. The menu extends to drunken seafood noodles, tom yam seafood, and dry congee. If you want to have a taste of these MICHELIN-Starred dishes, you’ll have to set aside time to queue up at this shop by the Ghost Gate, because Jay Fai is no longer accepting bookings.
Location: 327 Mahachai Road, Samran Rat, Bangkok.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9 am to 8 pm.
Tel: +66 2223 9384.
K. Panich (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
Mango and sticky rice is a favourite summertime dessert in Thailand. It is a delicious combination, where the seasonal ripe mango is the star, its lightly tart sweetness perfectly complemented by the sweet and salty richness of the sticky rice. And at K. Panich, you can enjoy this wonderful treat all year round, along with other traditional Thai sweets. They also offer sticky rice topped with custard, dried fish, or shrimp, as well as khao tom mud (sticky rice with filling steamed in banana leaf) and even, when it’s in season, durian and sticky rice. K. Panich is a local institution on Tanao Road, serving sweet tooths for 95 years, since 1927. It is also one of the few places that sells mango and sticky rice all year. Even more uniquely, it has been achieving recognition in MICHELIN Guide since 2019. K. Panich’s tastiness starts with “snake fang” glutinous rice from Mae Chan in Chiang Rai and coconuts straight from the seaside regions such as Chumphon for the delectable coconut cream that is the heart of their sticky rice.
Location: 431-433 Tanao Road, Sao Ching Cha, Bangkok.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7 am to 6 pm.
Tel: +66 2221 3554.
Methavalai Sorndaeng (One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide 2022)
A quintessential Thai restaurant in the Rattanakosin area is Methavalai Sorndaeng, located opposite the historic Democracy Monument along the roundabout. The historic feel of the neighbourhood extends into the restaurant, with its classic furnishings, staff in traditional Thai outfits, and live Thai music from the 80s. But it is the authentic Thai food, recognised with one MICHELIN Star four years in a row, that has been attracting diners for some 60 years. Pomelo salad, mi grob, khanom chin nam prik, krathong thong, and crab curry with climbing wattle are a few signature dishes you won’t want to miss.
Location: 78/2 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, Bowon Niwet, Bangkok.
Hours: Daily, 10:30 am to 10 pm.
Tel: +66 2224 3088, +66 2224 3178.
Pad Thai Fai Ta Lu (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
Phad Thai is a popular dish in Rattanakosin, where you can find deliciousness at food carts on Khao San Road or at established eateries by the Ghost Gate. Those looking for a little extra something in their phad thai should head straight for Pad Thai Fai Ta Lu. Chef Andy Yang established the original outlet on Dinso Road, Satriwithaya School Alley. At the front, there is a food cart where you can see the flames shooting up around the pan as the phad thai is being prepared, hence its name (Fai Ta Lu translates loosely to “piercing flame”). Inside, this traditional shophouse is lit up by flashy neon, presenting the phad thai dishes under a new light, literally and figuratively. Phad thai aficionados will discover interesting, and delicious, variations on this classic dish. This includes Pad Thai Fai Ta Lu Khod, which includes grilled Berkshire pork collar. Then there’s the phad thai topped with crispy pork, made in-house for ideal crispiness on one side and tenderness on the other, served with sauces including mustard, dark soy, and chilli. Or you could go with the phad thai with large, succulent prawns that have been marinated in plum sauce. Whatever version you choose, these modern phad thai iterations are served old-school, on banana leaves.
Location: 115/5 Dinso Road, Bowon Niwet, Bangkok.
Hours: Daily, 10 am to 8 pm.
Tel: +66 8 9811 1888.
Chakrabongse Dining (Recommended, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
You can find amazing meals in Rattanakosin, from street food to riverside fine dining. And standing out among the fine dining choices is Chakrabongse Dining, with delicious food and incredible river views of the Temple of Dawn, or Wat Arun. The restaurant is located within the Chakrabongse Palace (or Tha Tian Palace) complex, the residence of His Royal Highness Field Marshal Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanadh, Prince of Phitsanulok, or Prince Chakrabongse. Today, the palace is home to a boutique hotel, Chakrabongse Villas, as well as Chakrabongse Dining. Initially, the restaurant only served hotel guests, but then it expanded to take outside guests by reservation only. Featuring Royal Thai food from Prince Chakrabongse’s era, you can look forward to such dishes as crab meat curry with betel leaves, premium beef massaman curry, winged bean salad with egg, and deep-fried sea bass fillets with Thai herbs. Lunch service is open for groups of 10 or more, while dinner starts for parties of two. Both services have a limit of 20 guests.
Location: 396/1 Maha Rat Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Bangkok.
Hours: Advanced bookings only.
Tel: +66 8 9810 0498, +66 8 6987 0493, +66 8 0045 7778.
Rongros (Recommended, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
This converted garage is now a bastion of Thai flavours, with comfortable seating inside as well as rooftop dining for food with a view. A fantastic river view. And home-style Thai cooking featuring locally sourced ingredients, such as Rongros shrimp fried rice, green curry with roti, dried fish (from Saraburi) over watermelon, spicy fried morning glory salad, and Si Racha pineapple fried rice.
Location: 392/16 Maha Rat Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Bangkok.
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm.
Tel: +66 9 6946 1785
Sae Phun (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2022)
This chicken and rice restaurant, achieving Bib Gourmand status for three consecutive years, has been serving its classic flavours along Mahannop Road for three generations of 95 years. Locally, it is known as Lok Nga Tin’s Chicken Rice, as it was started when Lok Sae Phun emigrated from Guangdong to Chinatown and brought his recipes with him. He would take his food cart and sell his chicken rice from Chinatown to Saladaeng. He finally settled down in a shop, serving his Chicken Rice Lok Nga Tin from Guangdong. You may also want to try the chicken rice with Chinese sausage and fried egg, another popular choice among patrons.
Location: 112 Mahannop Road, Sao Ching Cha, Bangkok.
Hours: Thursday to Tuesday, 8 am to 2 pm.
Tel: +66 6 1994 7171
MICHELIN invites you to explore Rattanakosin Island
The Rattanakosin Island area has plenty to keep your appetite satisfied, day or night. And this includes an appetite for learning about Thai history and heritage. First, there’s the National Museum Phra Nakhon. Fully renovated, it is a must-visit, world-class museum, for such sights as the Rattanakosin exhibit, featuring interactive displays that provide a self-guided journey through the city’s history. Not far from the museum is Wat Ratchanatdaram (home to the one-of-a-kind Loha Prasat, or metal castle), the Giant Swing, Wat Suthat, and Wat Bowon.
You can also visit, of course, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is where you can also find the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, with one of the best collections of Thai textiles and fabrics. Then, you can stop by the Wat Pho and Museum Siam. For a more up-close and personal experience, as well as some local shopping opportunities, you could visit the communities around Tha Tian and Pak Khlong Talad. Needless to say, anyone with a checklist of iconic locations in Thailand will find themselves here at Rattanakosin Island.
Even though travelling seems to be returning to normal, you should still take precautions. During your trips, don’t forget to wear a mask, wash your hands, and protect your health. Also, be on the lookout for the SHA logo. SHA certification verifies the safety, hygiene, and the sanitation quality of the products and services of Thai businesses in order to ensure a safe travel experience for all travellers.
For more information about this project, please visit web.thailandsha.com. Or get more information and updates for your trip with the TAT Call Center on 1672 or on Facebook at @TATContactCenter.