Bangkok, Thailand street food:
Bangkok, Thailand's street food is some of the best tasting food in the world. You will not find more savory food to tantalize your taste buds, and make your mouth water anywhere else on earth. Don’t just take my word for it. Bangkok has had the distinction of being rated #1 for the best street food in the world by CNN for the past two years in a row.
It has been widely reported that certain government agencies in Bangkok want to remove all of the street food vendors from the sidewalks of Bangkok. Their reasoning behind this brilliant logic is because they want to clean up the sidewalks of Bangkok to make them more pedestrian friendly, and easier to walk down.
If you have ever wandered down any of the streets in the heart of Bangkok, than you know first hand how crowded certain areas can get between the heavy foot traffic, the street vendors selling not only food, but Thailand souvenirs, and all kinds of goods as well. Not to mention the numerous motorbikes of all sizes whose riders believe they have the right to share the sidewalk with pedestrians. One would assume that pedestrians have the right of way, but motorbike riders don't always agree.
Bangkok, Thailand has many roads that are not only very congested with heavy traffic, but many of the roads there also have multiple lanes of traffic going in each direction as well. For any person who has a good 20 minute walk, or more down the sidewalk against the flow of traffic to get to their destination, a short ride down the sidewalk on a motorcycle taxi is the most efficient way to travel, and a great option as well.
What is the other option for those in that situation? They can make a feeble attempt to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get to the other side of the roadway, and then find a taxi there to take them farther down the road until they reach their destination. They will then have to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get back to the other side of the road again. Yes there are some pedestrian bridges here and there in Bangkok to assist you to cross the road, but they are not always located near where you need to cross the road.
I am going to have to say that I am guilty of taking a motorcycle taxi down the sidewalk myself. There was one evening that I had about a 15 - 20 minute walk to get to the hotel that I was staying in, but there happened to be storm clouds lurking precariously in the sky that evening. The sky became darker, and darker as the clouds loudly made their presence known to everyone.
The motorcycle taxi was a great idea for me in that moment in time. The motorcycle taxi quoted me a very reasonable price for a ride down the sidewalk near my hotel. I gladly accepted his price, and hopped on his bike. I thought that he was going to drop me off near my hotel, but he took me right to the door of my hotel. This is yet another example of Thai friendliness. Five minutes later the skies opened up with a heavy down pour. I hope he found a safe place to hide out.
It may sound like a hypocritical thing for me to say so given my past use of them, but the numerous motorcycle taxis traveling down the sidewalk is much more disruptive to the foot traffic on the sidewalks in Bangkok, than the food carts set up to feed hungry customers every day will ever be.
***As an update to this article,I was in Bangkok in the summer of 2017, and Bangkok was cracking down on motorcycles using the sidewalk to ride down. I witnessed a police officer on the sidewalk who appeared to be writing a ticket for a motorbike rider who was riding down the sidewalk. I also saw motorbikes being walked down the sidewalk by people who seemed to be trying to get by on a technicality.
There were many signs posted in Thai language about it. I could not read them of course, but they included a picture of a motorcycle with a circle around it, and a diagonal line going through it indicating that they were not allowed on the sidewalk.***
Shortly after the announcement was made by the Thai government about their intentions to remove food sellers from the sidewalks of Bangkok, there was much public backlash from both foreigners, and Thai people who were voicing their dissatisfaction about their decision. Bangkok's inexpensive street food was a common staple for many people, and familes. The removal of many of the street food vendor proved to be an inconvenience for many people who depended on them for providing them with freshly cooked food.
Soon after the public backlash, government agencies declared that they were misquoted by the media, and that their actual intention was only to remove the street food vendors from certain areas, and limit the hours that they would be allowed to sell food to hungry customers. The street food vendors will no longer be able to sell food 24 hours a day.
I can see their point in keeping the street food vendors from occupying valuable real estate during busy times of the day when there are many people walking down the sidewalk, but late nights, and early mornings should be open to street food vendors to sell “The best street food in the world.” Then again I can see the street food vendors point of view, being able to sell fresh cooked food when hungry customers are most abundant.
I clearly remember the first time I arried in Bangkok, Thailand. I had just finished checking into my hotel a little after mid-night. I could see as the taxi approached my hotel that there were many people outside walking around, and many street food vendors were setup with their food carts just a short distance away from my hotel.
I had a quick check in at my hotel, and was eager for a late night / early morning venture outside of my hotel. My total flight time to Bangkok was just over 27 hours, and even though I was slightly jet lagged when I arrived in Bangkok Thailand, curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I decided to go explore the area.
As I stepped out into the midnight atmosphere, I was mesmerized by the streets of Bangkok. It was my first time ever leaving the country that I was born in. I was alone in a crowd of people in a foreign country for the very first time in my life. Most if not all of the people I saw meandering about appeared to be Thai people. I seemed to be the only Caucasian person walking around the area at that time of night.
Thailand is known as, “The land of smiles.” I saw with my own eyes that night just how friendly, and welcoming the Thai people are. It wasn’t just the street food vendors trying to entice me to buy their aromatic food, but also the many other people that I made eye contact with, who gave me back a smile and a warm, “Sawadee krup / ka.” (Thai for Hello.)
There was one street food vendor that I came across as I made my way amoung them who was selling fried insects. She happily offered me a free sample of something that looked very much like a fried grasshopper, no doubt about it, it was a grasshopper. She smiled as she held one towards me with a pair of tongs and said, “Free for you…”
I wasn’t ready for my first culinary experience in Bangkok to be fried insects. I politely declined her offer, and she smiled and giggled as if she was aware that I was just too afraid to try it. To be perfectly honest with you, I have yet to be adventurous enough to try fried insects after 7 years of traveling to Thailand.
The powers that be in Bangkok have decided, according to the last online articles that I have read, that street food vendors will now be restricted to only certain areas, and they must also be trained in safe food handling before being allowed to sell food on the streets of Bangkok.
I will have to agree with the Thai government on that decision. Food sellers should be required to be knowledgeable about safe food handling before selling cooked food to the public. I will have to admit however that I have eaten at many different street food stands, and have never gotten sick from anything. Some food sellers served food that tasted better than others, but none made me sick.
I am sure that government officials in Bangkok have access to more facts, and information about the situation with street food vendors there, but in my humble opinion, street food vendors are part of the charm of Bangkok. Anybody who has ever been to Bangkok will agree that, the delectable and inexpensive street food was one of the best parts of their Thailand experience.
I highly recommend that you enjoy some freshly cooked food on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. There are all kinds of different foods for you to enjoy. Try different dishes from different vendors, and if you feel adventurous enough, go ahead and try fried insects as well.