#SundayWellSpent: Stroll Down Soi Tha Tien in BKK Old Town
Historical sites, museums, restaurants, and cafés – this old neighborhood has all the essentials for a fun Sunday.
Bangkok’s Old Town is one of the city’s most important landmarks, rich with historical sites, museums, restaurants, and cafés. Throughout the day, you’ll see tourists Thai and foreign around the neighborhood and taking in the sights and atmosphere.
On this episode of #SundayWellSpent, we’re taking you to Soi Tha Tien – a small area nestled between Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho) and The Chao Phraya River. Here are the seven spots where you should spend a Sunday exploring, enjoying, and entertaining yourself.
So if you’re ready for a super Sunday, come on and set out on a day trip with us!
(In no particular order.)
Take a 500-meter walk from MRT Sanam Chai through a small alley on Maharat Road towards Tha Tien’s riverside area, and you’ll arrive at Rongros. Once an old garage, it’s now a classy restaurant decorated in navy and blue.
Rongros serves mostly Thai comfort food – family recipes everyone knows and loves that were passed down through generations.
The restaurant features contemporary Asian style with Chinese architectural influences. Looking out, you can catch a stunning view of Wat Arun’s central prang on the other side of the river.
Since Rongros is not a large venue, this gorgeous sight can be seen from every table inside. On the rooftop is the open-air seating area, which boasts a 360º view of the surroundings. You can also expect DJs spinning live sets on weekend evenings.
The menus showcase famous ingredients from various locales in Thailand with spicy and full-bodied flavors. As for the drinks, you’ll have options of tea, coffee, juices, smoothies, cocktails, beers, wines, and champagnes.
Here are some of the recommendations we personally tried. Benja Chicken in Panang Curry, Boiled Eggs & Surin Jasmine Rice (280 THB) is served with fresh vegetables and mango chili fish sauce. The set comes on a neatly arranged rattan tray.
Watermelons with Singburi Dried Fish (280 THB) – charcoal grilled snakehead fish mashed in a mortar, then stir-fried with palm sugar and shallots, and served with cubed watermelons.
Finally, there’s the signature cocktails, Ping Pong Show (320 THB) – a colorful gin-based cocktail with orange peel syrup, mint leaves, and lemon.
Right outside MRT Sanam Chai stands a vintage-style, bright yellow building that’s home to Museum Siam. To explore and represent ‘Thainess’ through different lenses, this education center leans on creative production and activities.
Visitors can learn by interacting with the subject on display. The museum houses both permanent and rotating ‘featured’ exhibitions.
The current permanent exhibition, Decoding Thainess, explores the identity and aspects of Thainess in architecture, history, fashion, cuisine, belief, education, and more. The displays span 14 chambers, each one urging you to consider what it really means to be Thai.
As for us, we like room No. 7 “Thai Only” best. The exhibition shows things we see in our daily life, like sauces & seasonings, motorbike taxi jackets, and shrine offerings. What can these everyday objects tell us? Find out for yourself by visiting Museum Siam!
The featured exhibition is set in the all-purpose exhibition building. The latest one, “Phra Nakhon On The Move”, has been on display from November 5, 2019 to March 1, 2020.
It’s the story of Phra Nakhon, with areas like Sam Yot, Wang Burapa, and Pahurat at its heart, and its mercantile transformation under Western influences. The exhibition includes photos and various objects of interest.
Even though Phra Nakhon On The Move is almost at its end, you can expect a new one come a few months. Until then, Decoding Thainess is always ready to welcome new learners. Admission fees are 100 THB for adults and 50 THB for students.
Fine of Course
Tucked away in a small alley named Tha Ruea Daeng is Fine of Course – a premium homemade ice cream parlor. The small, bright red shop spans two floors, with soft, dainty designs and artful décor. Various art pieces pepper the place.
The ambiance is cozy and friendly; beige and off-white walls contrast with the vibrant furniture and decorations.
This house of sweets serves ice creams, drinks, and an assortment of other desserts. That said, Fine of Course is best known for its homemade ice creams; 18 flavors for 69 THB a scoop.
There are four flavor types: intense, sour, vegetarian & lactose-free, and special. The latter even changes every month to let customers enjoy new flavors. (Previously, Fine of Course served scoops of savory Thai crepe, salted eggs, and toasts. Sounds super yummy!)
As far as recommendations go, Fine of Course suggests Black Sesame, Rum Raisin, Thai Tea, Dark Chocolate, and Coconut, Lime & Honey.
We tried Passion Fruit & Mango, Black Sesame, and Thai Tea, which are served in a charcoal cone, topped with homemade brownie crunch (207 THB + 15 THB for the cone.) If you decide to eat in, the cone will be served in a champagne flute with a cute pink ribbon.
There are also other desserts on the menu that make a perfect match with ice creams. For instance, the Black Cocorice Waffles, which are made from black sticky rice, served with Thai custard and ice cream.
Puffy Burry, on the other hand, is crispy waffles topped with homemade cream cheese, mixed berry sauce, and a scoop of your favorite flavor. If you’re not much of a sweet tooth, there are also options of smoothies, tea, coffee, milkshakes, and more.
Long Tian occupies a small shophouse in an alley on Thai Wang Road on the side of The Chao Phraya River. Its menu mostly consists of Thai food and drinks.
Using a simple setting and décor, the ambiance feels casual and welcoming; it’s a place you can come back to again and again. Seatings are available indoors and out on the rooftop deck.
Serving as the highlight is the view of the surrounding Tha Tien Market and iconic landmarks like Wat Arun’s central prang, pagodas, temples, and the Royal Palace.
You’ll also see the riverside houses on two sides of the Chao Phraya. As the day goes by, the ambiance also shifts and changes under different lights. On Tuesday - Sunday between 19.30 - 21.00, Long Tian books live bands, who entertain patrons with a mix of Thai and international easy-listening tracks.
For the food menu, Long Tian focuses heavily on Thai dishes. The list boasts quite a variety, with appetizers, salads, sides, mains, soups, and curry. The restaurant also offers vegetarian options.
We tried five of Long Tian’s most popular menus. Crispy Pork Belly with Chili & Salt (165 THB) is incredibly aromatic with garlic and chili, while Kaeng Ranjuan (135 THB) – a traditional soup made from Nam Prik Kapi, pork, herbs, and seasoning – lets you enjoy salty tastes and savory fragrance.
Mango & Lotus Stem Salad with Rum Dressing (190 THB) – a refreshing dish and Long Tian’s original recipe – offers a tangy & sweet taste. Topped with dill, the components mix together in a surprisingly good combination.
Pad Thai with Prawns (155 THB), a Thai street food staple, is made with Long Tian’s special Pad Thai sauce. Grilled Squid (260/280 THB) is a squid grilled on hot charcoal for 15 minutes, served with spicy homemade seafood dip.
The drinks are distinctly Thai; local craft beers & brews, whiskeys, and spirits are served and made into cocktails with creative backstories. We tried Cinderella (150 THB) – gin, orange, pineapple, and lemon. It takes its name from the fact that Long Tian closes up shop around midnight every day.
Ha Tien Cafe
Merely 270 meters from Long Tian is Ha Tien, a popular café hidden in Soi Pratunok. Dressed in an oriental style with influences of Chinese and Western architecture, the venue features gorgeous furniture and antiques. You’ll feel like walking into a gallery or an art show that keeps you intrigued.
Each of Ha Tien’s three floors features a different design and ambiance. The first floor leans into Chinese aesthetics since the place used to a Chinese apothecary. Old medicine cabinets are repurposed as a bar counter, decorated with vintage trunks, bamboo wickerwork, and chinaware.
The second floor has a more oriental style. The walls are lined with antique frames, while the vintage chandelier complements all the decorative taxidermy well. At the back of the loft is the spiral staircase that takes you to the top floor.
Featuring glasshouse-style windows, the third floor is painted in white and allows you to admire the garden nook outside, with an atmosphere that feels homier than other floors.
As for drinks, Ha Tien offers a wide variety from tea, coffee, Italian sodas, to smoothies. The top recommendation is Indian Bael Coffee (110 THB) - aromatic and full-bodied coffee with a slight sweetness from homemade Indian bael syrup.
You can enjoy the drinks with a variety of desserts on Ha Tien’s counter: chocolate cakes, blueberry chocolate mousse, carrot cake, lemon cake, and many more.
We wholeheartedly recommend New York Cheesecake (180 THB) – semi-sweet cheesecake topped with brownies, fresh strawberries & blueberries, maple syrup, and cocoa powder. It’s as delightful as you’d imagine!
Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical School
Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical School is the name of the small pavilion on the east wing of Wat Prachetupon. Being one of the first and best schools of Thai massage, the place is usually packed all day with Thai and foreign tourists looking for traditional Thai massages.
The Wat Pho school of traditional Thai massage began in the early Rattanakosin era when King Rama III ordered royal physicians to record their medical knowledge on slate slabs. These stones are then installed on the walls of Wat Pho’s grand pagoda and the surrounding pavilions.
In 1856, King Rama V ordered royal physicians to translate texts from Pali-Sanskrit to Thai to create the Thai massage manual. Years later, in 1962, the assembly of Thai physicians at the time founded the Wat Pho school to allow the public to learn and train in the art of Thai massage. The school has continued to do so to this very day.
Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical School offers traditional Thai massage, foot massage, and Plai oil massage, with rates ranging from 320 - 680 THB. Wiped out after exploring Tha Tien? This is the perfect place to rest for a while.
We’d recommend booking your session in advance; the place is usually packed with tourists during the day and has a long queue. (Don’t worry, though, it’s well worth the time and money you spend!)
The Roof Bar at Sala Rattanakosin
On the fifth floor of Sala Rattanakosin is an open-air rooftop bar & lounge with a relaxing atmosphere. The Roof Bar’s décor leans into that minimal Scandinavian style with black & white tones. The seating area includes barstools that face The Chao Phraya River and soft couches on the Wat Pho side, which also offers a stunning view.
And what a view is it! Wherever you sit at the bar, you’ll be glad you can take in the sights of temples and the old town area.
Standing on the other side of the river is Wat Arun. The image of a Thai temple on the riverfront is quintessential to Bangkok, and this one changes under different lighting throughout the day. (The view during the sunset is simply breathtaking.)
This relaxing ambiance is perhaps why The Roof Bar at Sala Rattanakosin is always frequented by Thai and foreign tourists.
The Roof Bar offers Thai and Western menus such as burgers, pork satays, and fish & chips. You should absolutely try BBQ Pork Spare Ribs (405 THB). These pork ribs are slow-cooked slowly over eight hours, seasoned with the bar’s special sauce, and served with pickles and flavorful BBQ sauce.
As for the drinks, you’ll have options of everything from Thai craft beers, cocktails, spirits, smoothies, mocktails, juices, to wines.
The bar’s recommendation includes The River (330 THB) – a bright yellow drink with vodka, orange peel syrup, peach liqueur, mango juice, pineapple juice, and passion fruit – and My Mai Tai (330 THB) – a pale pink drink with gold rum, dark rum, orange peel syrup, lime juice, punch. Both are refreshing and very palatable.