One of the greatest joys of visiting Thailand is the plethora of dining options in any area. From high-class hotel restaurants with elegant buffet luncheons to simple, friendly diners, you'll find it all, and in this edition I list the whole range. To give an idea of how much it will cost, restaurants are divided into categories: Very expensive means that a meal for one without drinks will probably cost over 1,000B; in expensive places, expect to pay from 500B to 1,000B; moderate covers the range from 200B to 500B; and inexpensive means you'll pay less than 200B per person.
Storefront restaurants and street vendors, apart from those in a specified night market area, are open early morning to late at night. To ease congested streets, food vendors are now banned in Bangkok on Mondays. Restaurants catering to tourists also open from morning until late. You're not expected to tip at most Thai restaurants, but rounding up the bill or leaving 20B on top of most checks is much appreciated. (A 15%-20% tip will shock and awe in smaller restaurants, but will be readily expected at fine-dining outlets.)
Thais are very practical about table manners. If something is best eaten with the hands, then feel free. If there are seeds or bones, you can spit them out onto the table or into a tissue. Single-serve noodle soups are usually eaten with chopsticks and a Chinese spoon. Rice dishes are eaten with a spoon and fork; the spoon is commonly held in the right hand, and the fork in the left is used only to load the spoon for delivery. Follow local customs if you wish, but do whatever you're comfortable with.
Note: In small towns featured throughout this guide, many dining (and nightlife) spots don't have working land lines; in those cases, mobile numbers are provided wherever possible.
Overcoming a Fear of Food Stalls
Considering the fact that, in Western countries, most people judge the potential quality of a restaurant's food by the smartness of its decor, it's hardly surprising that many visitors to Thailand can never bring themselves to order food from a street food stall. Typically, they suspect that hygiene will be poor, and with such cheap prices, surely the cooks must use inferior ingredients? The fact that most such stalls have no English menu also dissuades potential customers.
Breaking through this fear of food stalls is a major step toward appreciating the fantastic variety of Thai cuisine. For a start, try to forget the hygiene concerns, as all Thais are meticulous about cleanliness in food preparation. (To be certain, check all ingredients for freshness, and make sure that anything you eat is prepared fresh and hasn't been languishing on liquefied ice for ages.) Also, because most stalls sell a single dish, they need to select the best ingredients to gain a competitive edge. As for the lack of a menu, you can overcome this by simply pointing at a dish you would like to sample. So next time you feel peckish as you walk past a food stall giving off an appealing aroma, do as the Thais do -- sit down and eat!