Bangkok food tour by tuk-tuk at midnight

We've barely taken our seats when the food starts arriving. Bowls of clear chicken broth, neat mounds of rice covered with tender slices of chicken and salads topped with papaya and pork – all delivered by an army of staff in bright pink uniforms and white hats. 

Bowie, our enthusiastic guide, recommends mixing the rice with soy sauce laced with chilli and the result is simple, spicy and delicious.

Established in 1960, Go Ang restaurant in Bangkok's Pratunam district specialises in khao man gai (chicken rice). The open-sided eatery is far from fancy – wooden stools crowd around metal tables while a handful of ceiling fans do little to cut through Bangkok's crippling humidity. However, there's a line of at least 20 people waiting outside plus another crowd huddled around a busy takeaway counter.

Bangkok is full of these simple, no-frills joints. Packed with locals but with no English signage or menus, they can be a daunting proposition for even the most intrepid traveller. Enter Hivesters, a tour company started by two Thai sisters that aims to provide access to exactly these sorts of authentic experiences – whether it's sampling street food in Bangkok, volunteering at an elephant sanctuary or planting rice with a hill tribe.  

When we first meet Bowie outside Sam Yan MRT station, she explains that we'll be visiting six places tonight – three restaurants, a flower market, a temple and a "secret" venue she intriguingly describes as "her special place". 

How will we get between them? By tuk-tuk, of course. Our group of 12 piles into a convoy of colourful tuk-tuks and we join the city's frenetic traffic. It's a quintessential Bangkok experience – speeding through the sticky night air, engines screaming, the city a blur of fluorescent lights and neon signs.

After dessert at Go Ang (sweet mango slices with sticky coconut rice), we hop back in our chariots and roar towards our next stop. 

Miss Ann has been serving guay tiew kua gai (rice noodles with stir fried chicken) from her small restaurant near Chinatown for more than 20 years. The dish is cooked over flaming gas-fired kilns in a tarpaulin-covered alleyway out the back – a setup that would make a health and safety inspector back home have a seizure.

Bowie shows us which of the wide range of condiments to add (sweet chilli sauce, chilli flakes and pickles in vinegar) and the result is a spicy, eggy, chickeny triumph.  

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By now, even the Americans on the tour are full, but thankfully there's a respite. Our next stop is Bangkok Flower Market, a huge indoor warren of vendors that operates 24 hours a day. We wander between stalls piled high with colourful blooms and lush green foliage, while trying not to get run over by an army of trolley-wielding delivery men.

One of the city's most popular tourist attractions is Wat Pho, a Buddhist temple complex with more than 90 stupas and one of the country's largest statues of Buddha. However, what's less well-known is that you can also explore the complex at night, when it's not only cooler (well, marginally) but also much less crowded. 

When we arrive at 10:30pm, we have the place to ourselves. We take it in turns to place a lotus flower at the foot of one of the impressive 42-metre-high stupas and make a wish.

Bowie's "special place" turns out to be a hidden rooftop bar with mesmerising views over the Chao Phraya River. Over a cleansing Chang beer, we watch barges chug past Wat Arun temple on the opposite bank and admire the glowing city skyline.

Normally, the tour concludes with the "best pad Thai in Bangkok", but the restaurant is closed on Mondays so we have to settle for the "second best", which, conveniently, is only two doors down.

We arrive at midnight to find a crowd of people gathered around two chefs cooking over fierce open fires. Once again I let Bowie work her magic with the condiments and soon I'm tucking into a sweet, slippery, lip-numbing mess of noodles, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts that's better than any pad Thai I've had in Sydney. It's the perfect ending to what might just be the perfect tour.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

tourismthailand.org.

GETTING THERE

Qantas and Emirates fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Bangkok. See emirates.com; qantas.com.au.

STAYING THERE

Conveniently located in the heart of Sukhumvit and close to BTS and MRT stations, Well Hotel Bangkok has suites with exercise bikes and a restaurant serving health-conscious meals. See wellhotelbangkok.com.

TOURING THERE

Hivester's Midnight Tuk-Tuk Food Tour operates most days from 8pm-12pm and includes one drink and around seven tastings. Adults 1900 baht, children 1500 baht. See hivesters.com.

Rob McFarland was a guest of Hivesters and Well Hotel Bangkok.

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