Destinations Thailand

Sweet, Sour & Spicy: The 7 Best Thai Food Experiences

Floating market in Thailand.

Beyond the beaches and islands, there’s another delicious reason travellers flock to this Asian paradise: the incredible Thai food experiences.

Foodies everywhere will agree that Thailand’s gastronomic scene is beyond compare – just the words ‘Thai food’ evoke mouthwatering images of piquant Pad Thai, crunchy green papaya salad and rich, melt-in-your-mouth beef massaman curry. Take your tastebuds on a journey that goes above and beyond the usual and discover a smorgasbord of divine epicurean experiences, from upscale gin bars to authentic floating markets and soaring city rooftop restaurants. This is where food becomes more than just a meal, it becomes a memory-making event. Read on to discover our top seven best Thai food experiences.

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Top-shelf gins for lovers of a good G&T

Magic Gin.

Fans of the herbaceous drop can’t pass up the chance to visit Centara Reserve Samui’s sophisticated The Gin Run. This swanky bar is a trendy mosaic of romantic low-lighting, plush seating and a statement bar hosting vials of top-shelf gins and other premium spirits. Order your elixir of choice and swill it while admiring views of the ocean and swaying palm trees from floor-to-ceiling windows. It would be remiss of you to come to this renowned Thai gin bar and not try one of the signature cocktails on offer. Try the Magic Gin, a silky, inky concoction which wouldn’t look out of place in a scientist’s laboratory, or opt for the Ink Gin Smoke cocktail, served inside an opalescent bubble to be popped upon drinking. 

Dine among the rice paddies in the Golden Triangle

Chiang Rai rice paddies.

It’s not every day you can dine in the heart of rice paddies from an unbeatable location in Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle. At Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort in Chiang Rai, this dream culinary destination becomes reality. Sala Mae Nam is an all-day restaurant in a magnificent two-storey pavilion surrounded by endless green rice paddies. In the distance, the Myanmar, Laos and Thailand borders meet to form the Golden Triangle. Spend misty mornings fuelling up on freshly brewed coffee, buttered pancakes or fresh acai bowls, while dinner is a sumptuous affair with traditional Pad Thai or Gaeng Hang Lay Moo (Northern Thai pork belly with pickled Burmese garlic, peanut and ginger). During your meal, sip from local and international wines from a master wine list. 

Get a taste for rural Thailand at a floating market

With nothing but the sounds of hawkers selling their wares and the quiet splash of oars moving through water, The Amphawa & Tha Kha Floating Markets feel like stepping back in time. This authentic floating market has been used by locals for centuries, and now visitors are privy to its charms. On a guided tour, embark on a traditional wooden sampan (rowboat) and glide along the canals, chatting with locals and farmers before making pit stops at the riverside villages. Try village and market dishes like rice with mackerel fish served in a coconut leaf bowl, steamed freshwater prawns and crab chilli paste with fresh vegetables. For dessert, tropical fruits, whole green coconuts and coconut ice cream will satisfy your sweet tooth.  

Dine at great heights in Bangkok

Moon Bar.

See Bangkok’s dizzying metropolis from an epic aerial position at Vertigo, a stylish rooftop restaurant at Banyan Tree Bangkok. Guests dress to the nines to sit at candlelit tables and admire the glittering cityscape over plates of exquisite grilled meat cuts like premium Japanese Miyazaki tenderloin, Black Angus beef tenderloin and crispy skin salmon with caviar. For a true treat-yourself moment, opt for a mouthwatering four-course set dinner. Dishes like soft shell crab salad, royal Caribbean bisque soup, grilled snow fish and an à la carte dessert arrive on your plate in a flurrying montage of deliciousness. Top it all off with cocktail from the Moon Bar (try the Mai Butterfly Tai for a new take on a classic). 

Master Thai dishes at a cooking class

We’ve all been there – when you arrive home from holiday and desperately try to recreate that favourite dish you’re inevitably craving the moment you touch down on home soil. But often it’s never quite the same. At Pullman Phuket Arcadia Naithon Beach, join a Thai cooking class and master your favourite dishes with the help of a head chef. Begin your experience with a visit to the nearby Phuket market and the resort’s herb garden to gather fresh ingredients before hitting the kitchen. After learning how to whip up everything from Thai fish cakes to papaya salad and fragrant green curry, get ready to impress your family and friends back home. You’ll also receive a Pullman cookbook, certificate and apron as a memento of your experience.  

Sample street food at Hua Hin night market

If there’s one thing you should tick off your to-do list in the seaside city of Hua Hin, it’s visiting the famous night market. Every evening at 5pm, the intersection at Decha Nuchit Road and the well-known Phetchkasem Road transforms: stalls materialise on the kerb, the smell of grilled, sizzling meat fills the air and glowing festoon lights illuminate the area. Like many night markets, here you’ll discover handmade clothes, handicrafts and souvenirs. But it’s the street food that really draws in the crowds. Be sure to try friend and grilled prawns, freshly shucked oysters, sushi, pork skewers, minced pork with rice and mango sticky rice.  

Discover the coolest beach bar in Koh Samui

If there’s a one-stop shop in Koh Samui for beachfront drinking and excellent Thai food, it has to be Salt Society, part of the five-star Centara Reserve Samui. This ultra-cool beach club enjoys Mediterranean vibes with crisp white sunbeds on the fringes of Chaweng Beach’s gleaming shores, with powder blue accents and an alfresco dining set up. Cool, low-fi tunes set the mood while skilful mixologists shake up a storm behind the bar. Creative cocktails include a Carrotini, an intoxicating blend of gin, triple sec, carrot and orange, or a Mali Sake with sake, gin, Midori and sweet basil. Meanwhile, oceanfront lunches and open-air dinners include tasty morsels like steak tartare, whole baked red snapper and balsamic-infused burrata. 

Read more: 7 Unmissable Things to do in Phuket

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A keen traveller and a margarita enthusiast, Felicia is all about getting to the nitty gritty of each destination she visits and discovering its hidden gems (and then running home to write about it).