The name Pratu Phi means “ghost’s gate” because the gate of the fortified city was located in this area and was used to transport the dead people outside the fortifications for cremation at the beginning of the Rattanakosin (Jewelry City) period (1782 to 1932) which usually was held at Wat Saket. During a plague, 30,000 bodies were brought here. Later it was named Samran Rat (happiness citizens). But Despite the years, Pratu Phi name is still used nowadays, and it’s also a popular place for its famous street food and restaurants.
Klong Saen Saep and Wat Saket
Today, a friend who was in Bangkok for a short time visit asked me if I wanted to join him for a one-star Michelin meal at the Raan Jay Fai, of course, let’s go. Knowing that he is not familiar with this part of the city I offered him the opportunity to discover it. We left at 11.00 and as we live on Sukhumvit, we used the BTS to Chidlom station, then the Skywalk through the Gaysorn shopping center to Pratunam pier. It’s always a 15 to a 20-minute longtail boat trip on the Klong Saen Saep that I never get tired of. Nine baht/person (increased to 11baht), our destination was the last stop, Golden Mount, Wat Saket (Phu Kao Thong). My friend shows me a hostel very close to the pier I had never noticed before, the rimklong, interesting location. He told me he had never been to the top of the Wat, so we went there through the temple paid 50 baht/person and we went up to the 318 easy and shady steps. Very nice views of Bangkok.
Alms Monks Bowls
After this temple, I wanted to show him Ban Bat Village, where alms bowls are produced in the traditional way. Ban mean village, Bat is the ritual of the monks who collect food alms in their bowls in the early mornings.
To go there, we turned left at the exit of the temple, short walk, passing shops that sell wooden items up to Bamrung Muang road which we crossed and walked about 100 meters to the soi on the left. No activities, so we went back to Bamrung Muang where I remembered that on the corner of the bridge across the road was a traditional craftsman, and he was working. The bowls are made of clay or iron, and stainless steel that prevents rust. They are bought by the believers and then offered to the monks or bought by the monks themselves. Although monks prefer to use those made this way, nowadays, most bowls are made of aluminum and mass-produced. The owner said it can take up to five days to produce one and all that’s left is 2 or 3 artisans who are still active in Ban Bat. Sometimes he sells to foreigners, the proof is that my friend bought two of them that were exposed on a shelf. After a starting price of 2000 baht, he finally gets them for 1800. Later, I asked two of my Thai friends, but none of them could tell me if it was a good price.
It was lunchtime. We crossed the bridge, turned right on Maha Chai road, passed Tim House room for rent, and stopped at Raan Jay Fai to put our name on the notebook to book a table for 17h00. Then, a few meters away, we had a Pad Thai at the restaurant Lung Pa. We choose the Sen (noodles) Chan Man Kung Sod (90 baht) and Sen Chan Man Kung (60 baht). Both are very good, but we agree that we preferred Sen Chan Man Kung Sod. If you are there in the evening and don’t want to queue at the popular Thip Samai Pad Thai, go to Lung Pa next door, you won’t be disappointed.
Lung Pa restaurant
315/1 Maha Chai Road
Open 10.00 to 02.00 – Close. No fixed day
Iron Castle and Market
After lunch, we had 3 hours to stroll around. We just had to cross the road and we were in the Wat Ratchanatdaram where stands the elegant and unique by its iron structure and pyramidal appearance the temple Loha Prasat (metal castle). After walking in the labyrinth on the ground floor and despite the 85 steps to climb we did it to the top where it says the shrine contains a relic of Buddha. Peaceful and nice view. There is a small colorful market at the back where you will find lots of supplies for temples, amulets, Hindu god and goddess, small and big Buddha statues and where there are also beautiful wax representations of revered monks.
Maintenance fee 20 baht, free for children under 15
Bamrung Muang Road
Back on Maha Chai Street, we returned to Bamrung Muang which means “the street that beautified the city” a street full of history and deserves that I linger a little.
Bamrung Muang was the first shopping district of Bangkok, the first shopping mall Western-style where you could find diverse products and services, and also the main walkway from the river Chao Phraya to Wat Sutat.
It is here that the first hairdresser was opened, which put an end to the traditional barbershop that sold its door-to-door service. The first laundries were open in this street which later became very popular with the employees of the royal court, who had never washed or ironed European-style shirts and trousers they had to wear on duty.
The bridge at the beginning of this road was made of bricks and was solidified by a meter of bricks stacked underneath, so strong enough to support elephants, which were regularly seen making round trips.
It was in 1863 that it became the second paved street after Charoen Krung, but also where the first sewer system was installed. During this period the whole street was lined with wooden shops, in 1870 King Rama 5 on his return from a trip to Singapore had them demolished for constructions similar to the one he had seen there. They were the first solid buildings built in the country. The population was immediately seduced by the quality and elegance of the arched doors and this style became very popular and will be used by his successor King Rama 6. In the past passers-by could walk along this archway but later the owners built walls between each house and today there are still passages without sidewalks.
Nowadays it’s the shopping road and wholesalers of religious products for temples, from robes for the monk to Buddhist chanting books and statues of any size. We did stop in a parking space which is also a warehouse of hundreds of big Buddha statues, I never saw so many in one place. We reached the giant’s red wing (Sao Ching Cha) and Wat Suthat,
my friend says he will come back to visit it next time as we preferred to continue our stroll. From there we crossed the square where is the city hall to Dinso road where are some good restaurants including the one I wanted to show him. The Krua Apsorn, a well-known restaurant by Thai people, the original is on Samsen road but Dinso branch is the larger. I had some lunch sometimes here and I have fond memories of a couple of dishes, Stir-Fried Crab Meat with Yellow Pepper Chili, crab omelet, the menu is large and for every taste, one of the best in this area, 100 to 500 Baht/dishes, open Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 20.00. Of course, we didn’t eat there, but my friend will come for lunch when he visits the temple. Me as well.
196 Dinso Road
Open 10.30 to 20.30 – Close on Sunday
Outside the restaurant was a “Yakult Lady” who delivered some small bottles of this popular drink to some staff members of the restaurant. Before I used to see them every day, they are recognizable by their uniform and the bicycle bell they ring to signal their coming. But now, many of them use small motorcycles and some pushcart. 2200 of these small plastic bottles are sold in Thailand/day. If you see one of those ladies buy 1 or 2 bottles, it’s good for your stomach. 9 bath/bottle
We had a coffee break at the Poshtel printing house, a small boutique hotel. Ready to go for our Michelin starred dinner, we crossed the road on a square which is behind the town hall of Bangkok, and a few meters after we took a small bridge on the left and we were in small and quiet alleys. Some nice old wooden houses, some graffiti and a hidden small hostel, La Moon, then we arrived along the canal Lot Thepthida where we met a very nice gentleman there who was picking mulberries, my friend is a gardener and he wanted to exchange a few words with him. He told us that he has been growing these trees for five years and other healthy plants that he consumes himself. That he was 76 years old, but I couldn’t believe it, because he doesn’t look more than 65 years old. When I mentioned that we were going to Raan Jay Fai, he exclaimed that it is a very good restaurant and knew Mrs.Jay (72) since they were kids. He explained that she had started by selling soups (Kuay Teow), congee (rice porridge) and Rad Na (big noodles in gravy), and that the price was already double that of the others in the neighborhood, but was the best of all, which was confirmed by a Thai friend who was a student in this area. And he also told us his son was the owner of La Moon Hostel. Before we left, he gave me three mulberry branches to plant.
Early Dinner at Raan Jay Fai
This well-known street restaurant surprised everyone this year when it was awarded a Michelin star. It has become a mecca for Thai cuisine in Bangkok and very popular with tourists. We arrived at 17:00, full of clients waiting outside to be called. As we had booked earlier, we were installed directly at a table and waited 5 minutes to place our order. We choose the famous crab omelet and garlic fried seafood with a plate of rice, we stay sober with two bottles of water. The girl tells us that we will have to wait half an hour to be served. My friend told me that he did not feel at all at a Michelin-starred restaurant and that if he had come alone, he would have passed by without paying it any attention. In the meantime, like many customers, we watched Mrs.Jay, wearing her black ski-goggles, and military camouflage t-shirt, she never stops and rarely raises her head from her stoves. I’m sure she’s in her “cooking world” and doesn’t notice what’s going on around her. People taking photos and VDO’s, no need to look for the Michelin star, she is the star, but not only, her omelet is also succulent and the seafood dish was delicious. The bill 1870 baht.
July is not the high touristic season in Bangkok, and because we booked early we didn’t have to wait, but sure that during the high season it must take hours of waiting. It is preferable to book the day before or before 14.30.
Address 327 Maha Chai Road, 10 minutes from Kao San road
Open 14.30 to midnight
Close on Sunday and Monday
Dessert and Bar Along the Klong
After this good meal a small dessert would be perfect, we were lucky, a saleswoman next to Lung Pa was selling Kanom Thuai, a dessert based on rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar. Its name is derived from the small ceramic cups in which the dessert is steamed, called thuai talai (bowls of “talai”). Salt, eggs and pandan oil can also be added. We bought ten already packed in a plastic box, 45 baht and we entered the park on the right were along the Khlong there is a small grocery store, bar, benches and wooden tables with Elvis and John Lennon as decoration. We had a beer with our delicious dessert accompanied by Thai country music from a famous 60s band. After answering many questions from our friendly hosts and finishing our drink, we went on the road in front of the pier where there are many shops selling wood and wooden handicraft souvenirs, I know that my friend appreciates this kind of souvenirs (I too) of course elephants were the first he looked but did not buy, he preferred to wait and see what he could find in Chatuchak. Then we took the boat home.
A cool and delicious day
I hope this will be helpful for planning your next trip to Bangkok. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to help you out