The floating market in Bangkok. // © 2014 Thinkstock
From the aroma of fresh fruit and heavy spices to the sounds of monks chanting and traffic horns blaring, Thailand is a country filled with sights, sounds and smells that actively engage the senses. For those looking for a new way to experience and learn about a foreign culture, there are several fun culinary tours to whet the appetite.
During the months of September and October, Thailand holds its annual Vegetarian Festival, which traces its roots back to an early Chinese community of traders, miners and settlers. Buddhists take part in the event by foregoing meat and animal byproducts and participating in numerous ceremonies and celebrations. In Bangkok, visitors will find local markets, neighborhood food stalls and eateries serving up an assortment of vegan delicacies, including noodles, curries, tropical fruits and special sweets. VegVoyages, specializing in vegan adventure tours, offers unique 14-day tours of Bangkok during the vegetarian festival.
Become a Thai food and culture expert in just a few hours by visiting Bangkok’s Bang Rak district (also known as the village of love), famous among Thai people for its local flavors in mom-and-pop eateries. Guests will sample the diverse flavors of regional and ethnic Thai cuisine, travel upriver to taste Northeastern Thai food, meet local restaurant owners and learn the art of ordering from street carts. Tours take place rain or shine and cost $32 for a 3½-hour tour.
Yaowarat Night Foodie Walk
Yaowarat, also known as Bangkok’s Chinatown, features some of the world’s most renowned flavors and local cuisine. As clients navigate the streets and alleys of the 200-year-old community, they will stop at different street vendors and bazaars, trying traditional Thai-Chinese dishes and conversing with local merchants and cooks. In addition, guests learn about the history of Chinatown while discovering various temples and other landmarks.
Floating Markets Food Tour
On this full-day excursion, clients visit Samut Songkhram, Thailand’s last Venice of the East. In addition to visiting three floating markets, guests will taste farm-fresh local specialties such as roasted banana and mackerel fried rice. They will also ride a row boat to a coconut farm to learn the techniques of making coconut sugar. The tour includes a visit to the train market (the only market in the world that exists on train tracks) and ends with a stop at Bang Kung Temple.
Food Tour by Tuk-Tuk
No visit to Bangkok would be complete without a ride on a tuk-tuk — Thailand’s infamous three-wheel taxis. Starting at sunset, clients will zip around the traffic and make a series of stops, sampling everything from the city’s best kao mun gai (chicken with rice) and pad thai (stir fried noodles) to popular local snacks. Between bites, guests learn local cooking techniques and stop by several ancient landmarks and temples.
Thailand’s streets are filled with pushcarts peddling creepy-crawlies and fried insects. Whether guests are serious about sampling or simply want to try it for the shock factor, they can pick and choose from numerous offerings such as grasshoppers, silk worms, crickets and cockroaches. A cheap and healthy snack, a handful of insects can cost less than a dollar and is high in protein and vitamins. Still scared? Some locals and tourists have said that the bugs taste “a lot like seasoned chicken — only crunchier.”