What to Drink in Bangkok
So you’ve just landed in the real Sin City, and the sun’s blasting in your face – or maybe it’s late and you’re feeling the nightly Bangkok vibes and want a drink before you turn in at your hotel. Whichever type of drink you prefer, if you’re into exploring cool shit, Bangkok is the city to do it.
Here’s some knowledge about what you should consider drinking once you’re in Bangkok.
For your Daily Caffeine Fix
There’s no shortage of caffeine peddlers in BKK, that’s for sure. You’re bound to find anything from the upscale experience (read “pricey for the ambience”) to running into a stall at every other street corner. Don’t knock the stalls just yet though. They’re popular for a reason, and they’re even more attractive if you’re on a budget.
Try the Oliang
Oliang is the local coffee you can get from the stalls. Don’t confuse it with the Americano. They’re concocted from the same beans, but brewed in a different fashion. The frequent accompaniment of condensed milk and/or evaporated milk to the Oliang is a welcome addition. (Here’s hoping you brought a sweet tooth, because sweet drinks are all the rage here.)
Anyway, on occasion you’ll be handed a plastic bag full of brown fluid, with a straw popping out the top. That’s the old-school method of consuming this local brew.
Spot worth checking out: The Unicorn Café. If you haven’t heard of this locale, you’re in for a treat. Once you show up, they’ll hand you a unicorn onesie at the entrance for you to change into. You’re free to take photos in it while savoring a coffee with your fellow unicorn caffeine guzzlers.
Pro tip #1: Wherever you’re ordering from, if it’s to go, try to say no to plastic. Many places will give you a plastic bag with your cup without your asking, and you’re just going to end up accumulating a shocking load of trash.
Pro tip #2: Buying an Americano from a stall versus getting one at even a small coffee shop could make a massive difference to your wallet. Yes, even when you’re paying for the same drink. The only cost difference is the ambience. So save yourself some cash when you can.
For your Local Cocktail Fix
Tom Yam Soup hasn’t been a personal favorite since I first tried it in high school. But the Thai cocktail Tom Yam Siam, despite being based on the traditional Tom Yam flavors of its soup mother, has a spicy kick to it that’s bound to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. The concoction consists of Absolut vodka and rum mixed in with lychee and coconut, with lemongrass and Thai chili to top it off.
Where to drink it
SkyBar hopping is actually a thing, and Bangkok is the SkyBar capital. Forget “The Hangover”; good luck finding a seat with a decent view at that bar. (They don’t do reservations.) Besides, there’s one SkyBar out of the dozens out there that none can hold a candle to.
It’s the Banyan Tree Moon Bar.
Located on the 61st floor, the spacious bar that doubles as a buffet offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city. Take my advice and leave your friends home for this one. Best saved for a date.
Pro tip: Sure, there’s a surplus of wallet-friendly pubs you can frequent when in Bangkok. But if you’re really tight on cash and you fancy a bit of a lie-down, there’s Number 6, Nest Bar. Not only does this spot offer a gorgeous rooftop view, it’s decked out with oversized beds, so you can relish one of their many affordable cocktails while enjoying Bangkok’s spectacular night sky.
Some of the furnishings may appear a bit rundown, but if you can get over the minor cosmetic flaws, there’s much this locale has to offer in enjoyment and experience.
For your Smoothie/Fruit Drink Fix
It would be a shame for you to leave Thailand without at least having tried one of the many elaborate smoothies that this country has to offer. You’ll literally find them everywhere too, so you have no excuses for not having had the pleasure. I strongly recommend the coconut water, watermelon, and sugarcane smoothies as well as their fruit drink alternatives. Seriously. In this heat, you can’t go wrong.
Pro tip for the weight-conscious: Watch out for the syrup. Even when you think you’re about to power up with a healthy smoothie, you just might be getting a blast of high fructose corn syrup, so keep an eye out on your drink while it’s being made.
For your Local Tea Fix
As mentioned, many Thai people have a love affair with sweet drinks. Cha Yen is one such local drink that can be served either chilled or hot. Both ways are worth trying, especially if you’ve got that sweet tooth. I personally prefer it chilled, but then again, with this weather, you should too. And so it seems to go with the rest of the population.
In fact, hot tea is usually reserved for drinking in the mornings. Cha Yen usually has as its base these local tea leaves called Bai Miang, which include orange dye, giving Cha Yen its peculiar cartoonish-orange color. Its potency is usually diluted with condensed milk, and it is then poured over crushed ice. Before serving, it’s customary to set the “cherry on top” with evaporated milk (think heavy cream) or coconut milk.
You really can’t go wrong with this drink. And if you choose to make it yourself, don’t shy away from experimenting. There are numerous variations out there, each one as good as the last. Finding your own flavor with this blend will surely prove rewarding. Hell, even if you don’t like tea, this drink truly is for anyone who enjoys a chill drink that’s guaranteed to treat your taste buds with some much-needed refreshing sweetness.
For your Energy Drink Fix
Thai Red Bull. If Red Bull gives you wings, Thai Red Bull will give you bullhorns. In fact, it’s the original energy drink. Locally called Krating Daeng, these powerful mixtures come in short golden cans—but don’t let their miniature stature fool you. It packs a mean punch. The main taste difference you’ll first notice is that the drink is much, much sweeter. And flat. With a somewhat syrupy consistency in contrast to its Western cousin.
Sure, there are other, more popular energy drinks in Thailand when ranked by sales volume. But Red Bull will always hold a special place in Thailand’s history, having established itself in the 1970s as Thailand’s first energy drink. So you really can’t overlook this drink.
Where to drink it?
Best enjoyed at a Muay Thai match. Thai Red Bull is the official sponsor of many such events.
Pro tip: It’s also a popular mixer, so don’t be afraid to try out some concoctions of your own with some vodka or gin of your choice. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could always ask your local bartender to surprise you.
Have at it, Hoss
And there you have it. Five drinks you can and absolutely should try whenever you set foot in Bangkok and get that inevitable itch to explore the city. Do let us know in the comments if you feel I’ve failed to mention something in particular, as always seems to be the case. After all, a list of only five drinks in Bangkok is surely an article targeting new visitors. More advanced travelers will have some badass suggestions. I look forward to reading them.
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