If you were to order a plate of Pad Thai from an American Thai restaurant, you'd be paying anywhere from $5-10 for a plate, maybe even more! On Khao San road, the "backpacker's ghetto" of Bangkok, prices range from $1-2, depending on what you'd like in it. Chicken or shrimp tends to cost a few cents extra, as do side dishes. Just the other day, I ordered a big plate of Pad Thai and three spring rolls, cooked right in front of me, for roughly $1.85! I had enough food for dinner that night, plus enough leftover for breakfast the next morning. Thailand is a perfect destination for budget travelers; you can eat three square meals a day for the price of one.
Now don't get me wrong; I looove Pad Thai. But you don't need to eat it every meal of every day. There are so many dishes around here, you could feasibly eat something new at every meal. I often eat meals at a local restaurant down the street, and usually just pick something random off the menu. There is so much variety here. Want a breakfast of pancakes with honey, mango, and banana? Sure. Lunch of fried chicken and rice with basil? Check. For dinner, a dish that you've never heard of? You bet!
If you head down to Khao San road, you'll have even more choices. Competition is rampant because of the sheer quantity of backpackers. It's certainly home to some of the more exotic dishes, such as deep friend insects. Why, just the other day, I challenged myself to eat a scorpion. Sounds disgusting, until you have a couple of Chang beers in you!
If you hear about the prices and think "you get what you pay for," you're wrong. My first meal in Thailand was a nondescript bag of chicken and rice, and wow! It was like an explosion had gone off in my mouth. It took eating Thai food for me to realize how bland some American food can be. Thai people have spice use down to a science; every bite is a majestic symphony of flavor. Is that enough hyperbole for you?
Another great thing about the food is how fresh everything is. You can rest assured that your fruits, vegetables, and meat were recently picked and slaughtered. I have yet to see a freezer anywhere, and plants, fish, and chickens are abundant.
On a side note it's moderately easy to practice a vegetarian lifestyle here. Back in the States, I keep a mostly vegetarian diet, but opted to lose it for my trip. There is actually a large amount of chicken and seafood here, so keep that in mind if you ever want to travel to Thailand. However, there are certainly enough meat-free dishes here if you do want/need to eat a restricted diet.
Come on out and have a bite! We can share some scorpions or something.