All Thaired Out

We arrived in Bangkok at our familiarly early time of 6:30. No delays having just emerged from Phuket, we felt groggy but we felt good. We had to. We had about 24 hours to conquer a city that travelers at our last hostel had spent about a month and our friend Simon (who we met in Delhi) had spent 3 years exploring.

After regrouping, identifying our goals for the day and getting out more money, we were off. Two cabs to Taling Chan Floating Market. We stepped out of the hot pink doors to a cultural heaven with at least mile of stalls offering us vibrant local flowers and authentic local food.

We’ll start with flowers. Orchids upon orchids upon orchids upon birds of paradise upon orchids. And not only were they beautiful, they were unbelievably cheap. 3 for 100 bhat. With the conversion rate, that’s just over 3 for $3. I cannot begin to express my heartbreak that I couldn’t bring back a flat as souvenirs and to adorn my apartment next year.

20110621-042225.jpg

What’s the only thing that can cure such a profound level of depression? …Food. And was there food. We experienced Thailand Anthony Bourdain style. We stopped at stall after stall taking turns buying items and sharing them with our group. Priya and I even interacted with locals learning about the name and proper ways to prepare and eat some foods (katon- jack fruit and seeds; lotus seeds). The woman and her 85 year old father were even kind enough to buy us some items they wanted us to try. Unfortunately I don’t know the names of most of items we tried but these brief descriptions and collection of photos will have to suffice until you travel here yourself. We tried a large yellow meaty jack fruit and it’s seeds, pork meatball skewers in a spicy chili sauce, a fried drumstick that would put Paula Dean out of business, a quail egg disk topped with a mussel (a definite must try for all foodies out there), dessert Thai tacos made on a griddle with a tuile batter, meringue, and pickled mango to provide color, custard apple (which we were so excited about since we failed to find this much anticipated fruit in India), spring roll, a large Thai omelet filled with bean sprouts, ground pork, and tofu as best we could decide and accompanied with a cucumber salad, sticky rice with a banana slice toasted in banana leaf.

20110621-042124.jpg

20110621-041939.jpg

20110621-041959.jpg

20110621-042004.jpg

We had finally reached our satiation point, quite a feat since we have four vociferous 22-year-old male eaters and three lovely ladies who do a decent job of keeping up. So we hopped onto a river tour to visit another floating market. On our journey we saw the coolest restaurant delivery. People live directly off the river with some type of steps or dock to access it from their house. Literally, a floating market food boat was docked at someone’s house and was preparing the food fresh, in their backyard.

Our first stop was at a Buddhist temple. As Ali put it, it was a very calming experience. With a nominal donation and some cultural observation, several of us lit small candles and incense sticks and placed them in front of the Buddhas and stuck small gold leaves on the Buddha statues. It really was beautiful to see the Buddhas shimmering in the candle light, reflecting the orchids that were also placed around them.

20110621-042026.jpg

20110621-042132.jpg

We ended our tour at the next stop, another floating market (Wat Saphran). There, hungry again, we lunched. I had a sushi styled spring roll wrapped in a noodle. We also had ordered several Pad Thais served in a banana leaf bowl (Ali’s vote for Thailand’s best Pad Thai). Lastly, we ordered some type of mango-tangerine juice that Jared cited as “out of this world.”

20110621-042242.jpg

20110621-042137.jpg

Next, off to the Grand Palace. There were so many ornately decorated buildings it was more like a Grand Complex. The centerpiece of the complex was a temple with an emerald Buddha, tres beautiful. Other buildings included a faux gold plated temple (Chitra) and galleries which were especially memorable to Priya.

20110621-042018.jpg

20110621-042304.jpg

We took a very enjoyable but a very short tuk-tuk ride to the ferry station to get to the Temple of Dawn. We were able to summit the temple, adorned with mosaics, by scaling up nearly vertical stairs to the top landing. At the top, we had a beautiful view of the city. There was a banner wrapped around the temple at the top which thousands of people had signed and naturally, the Trip of Wonders left its mark.

Tired and smelly, we checked into our hostel, Nap Park. It had beautiful facilities and an awesome location just two blocks away from the backpackers Mecca: Khao San Road. It was designed as a modern hippy chic hostel with large showers with decorative stonework, copper bowl-shaped sinks (the perfect shape for Hersh to wet his hair before his much anticipated haircut from yours truly), and large bunk beds with window covers and bed separators at night and a sheer curtain to cover the entry to the beds. The room we stayed in was a 22-bed dorm, our first hostel dorm experience, but with all the curtains and the fact that our group all but one bed in a section of the room it felt surprisingly private. Downstairs may have been called “The Daydreaming Sanctuary,” set up in a similarly communal way with a large section of the floor covered with leather pads and triangular pillows to encourage social napping. After soaking up enough zen feelings from our temporary home, we left in search for more.

As directed by one of our very cool hostel staff members, we headed past Khao San Road to Trok Mayom Road for Thai massages and mani-pedis. The boys got hour-long Thai massages for 180 bhat and the girls got half-hour long massages (100 bhat) and mani-pedis (200 bhat). That comes out to about $6 for the boys and $10 for the girls for our various spa treatments. Warning: Thai massages are not for the fragile or sensitive. These small women exert astonishing amounts of extended pressure all over the body and can twist your body in unimaginable ways.

Cliff and Ryan had decided we would eat dinner at a famously good and notoriously hard-to-find restaurant. With our research in hand (directions and a picture of the restaurant since the sign was in Thai), we ventured out. The boys were very well prepared so we found the restaurant without any wrong turns. This, according to everyone except Ali, offered Thailand’s best Pad Thai. It was served in an thin egg casing (almost like a sheer omelet) and was accompanied by a plate of bean sprouts, scallions, and limes, all for only 70!

Thip Sa Mai Pad Thai Restaurant opened on sept 9, 1996 (9 is a lucky number in Thailand). It was
started by selling Chatanburi noodles with big shrimp and fried eggs for 1.50-2.00 baht. Mrs. Samai Baisamut, the founder, is from Kratoomban District, in western Thailand and learned to cook from her mother. Her family used to sell fruits up and down a local river there. As an adult, she married Chote Baisamut and moved to Maha Cai district where her husband’s mother taught her to cook Pad Thai using chanburi noodles, big shrimp, and fried egg. The married couple moved to Bangkok and started a sidewalk Pad Thai stand, selling two styles (regular and special) for 1.5 and 2 baht!
Due to high demand and the pesky rainy season, they moved to an indoor location (current location). And although the building rent increase yearly, Mrs Samai refuses to move because of her clientele and popularity
Directions: Thip Sa Mai Pad Thai restaurant is just opposite Raj Nad Da Temple. Open daily from 6pm-12am. Order the superb pad Thai and send the TOW’s regards!

20110621-042321.jpg

20110621-042311.jpg

20110621-042038.jpg

Cliff bought a bracelet.

With all our bags packed and our bed curtains drawn, we were finally able to sleep. The one downside to staying in a dormitory-style hostel two streets down from a party street is you’ll get the occasional loud partier bunch late late at night. Around 4:45am, a very intoxicated boisterous bunch of Nordic young chaps stumbled in, on, around, and all over our room. The only yelling that was discernible was “So pure! SO PURE!!” Between that repetition and the ongoing stumbling that convinced my body I was at sea, the Trip of Wonders had enough. Despite Ali and Hersh’s kind requests and Jared’s forceful demands, the drunkards persisted. Luckily, Priya the wise was way ahead of us and had already complained to the front desk. Before we knew it, a small Thai woman entered our room yelling, “If you don’t quiet down, I call cops!” And those boys piped right down real quick. Yet before we fell asleep, they had one more offense… Axe. Gross.

Despite our rocky ending, we loved Thailand. In two words… so pure.

Advertisements
Comments
5 Responses to “All Thaired Out”
  1. Diane briggs says:

    You really managed to experience quite a bit in the short time you were there! All the food looks and sounds delicious!

  2. Jude Mahler says:

    Wow, you really ate your way through the market. I am eagerly anticipating the post from the Philippines. Tell Jared to check his email.

  3. Ami Costello says:

    Eloquently described Thailand’s best, leaving me so jealous and hungry for authentic Thai food esp. Jared’s and also my favorite Thai dish – “pad thai”. Thanks Steph! You definitely stirred our imagination. Continue to explore and have fun TOW travelers and take us along in the ride, with your wonderful blogs!! Let’s see your haircut Hersh!

  4. Jude Mahler says:

    Yes, let’s see that haircut Hersh.

  5. Molly Clifford says:

    I just caught up with your trip and it sounds amazing! Cliff- you take great pictures!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: