Ten days later and I’m still waking up each day in disbelief that I’m in Thailand now. At least I’ve mastered crossing the street, hailing/riding scooters, and using my BTS rabbit card for everything.
Suan Phlu – the Local Market
I’m living in the suburb area between the Sala Daeng and Chong Nonsi BTS stop. The local market, within a 10 minute walking distance, is called Suan Phlu. Suan Phlu is like America’s farmers market but available everyday. First visit: I walk around starving. My stomach decided I should eat everything. There was a line for some stand where the woman was mixing something in a large wooden bowl. It must be Som Tum (papaya salad). I didn’t want to wait in line, so I left and did my grocery shopping making a mental note to come back later.
I pick out an assortment of fresh veggies and pay $3. Feeling quite accomplished, I head over to the woman with the wooden bowl and ordered whatever it was that she was making. I also did the “cross -arms” no spicy sign language. She responded with lots of Thai and kept pointing at a pickled pepper, so I said OK. Then she started making “it.” She pulled out a FISH about 4 inches in length and began to smash the fish into a paste with the pickled pepper. Then, lots of fish sauce.
Utter horror. What is going on? Where’s the papaya? I start looking around the stand and notice there are no papayas. Yes, green beans, but not much else. Standing there, I tried to hide that dumb look on my face. Waiting for her to finish smashing. She shoveled the paste into a plastic baggy. 20 baht. (75 cents). I placed the smushed fish into my grocery bag and walked away. So much for Som Tum. I guess I still am quite the tourist.
Next, I decide that I should stick with what I know. Fried Chicken. Yup. That’s easy. I follow the smell and find fried chicken pieces on a stand. I point – she chops and boom. Food served. 2 pieces of Fried Chicken ( 2 pieces of thighs and drumsticks connected) for $2. Can’t complain there.
Starting to gain my confidence back after the smashed fish incident, I order some more coconut desserts and wind up at a noodle restaurant. Its filled with people, so I figure it must be good. I point to the wall- and boom they know what I want. Noodles and tea for 55 baht ( $1.50).
Content with my Suan Phlu grocery day, I decide to grab a scooter back instead of walking in the hot sun.
Tourist Time – Grand Palace and Wat Pho
Nina’s friend from Chicago came into town and had 2 days to tour Bangkok. He had many “must see” items on his list. I grew tired from just listening. But trying not to be a grinch, I decide to tag along the first day. First, we went to Wat Pho. The temple with the Giant Golden Buddha is laying on her side. Last time my cousin and I got some really great massages from the students at the temple.
This time around I skip the massage and just walk around.
Her friend spent ages taking photos on top of photos. I tried to take photos, but the hot sun got the best of me. Making me lazy. My new thai name- “the laziest tourist in thailand.”
Next – the Golden Palace
Thousands of people are standing in line to pay respects to the King. Only Thai people are allowed to visit the King; one must dress appropriately (ie. all Black). In the weeks after the King’s death, all department stores had sold out of black clothes. You see it all around. All government works are wearing black for the next year. There are white and black ribbon lacing street fences. Images of the King memorialized in front of every business. His death and his memory are all around.
The line to pay respects for the king wraps all around the palace. At dawn, the line to see the king forms and the waiting time quickly grows from 4 hours and even longer throughout the day. People from the country side are coming to Bangkok to pay respect to this Great King. It’s incredible to see their love and dedication.
On the tourist side- its a different story. The heat reminds me of death valley. There is no breeze and the marble floors seem to reflect the light in such a way that you just feel heat from all angles.
The temple within the Golden Palace houses the famous emerald buddha. No photos are allowed in the temple. The legend goes that long ago the King of Russia visited the King of Thailand. The Thai King offered the Russian king anything in his kingdom. The foreign king requested the Emerald Buddha. Without hesitation the Thai King gifted the emerald buddha. Taken back by his generosity, the Russian King would like anything in return, and the Thai King responded ” the Emerald Buddha.” Check Mate. Win.
I found the temple within the golden palace and the emerald buddha beautiful and peaceful. Once I came back out outside, I was reminded of the tourist attraction. Cameras and selfie sticks everywhere. Hot and sticky. Sweaty and stinky.
Gaggan “World’s Best Restaurant in Asia”
According to some website, Gaggan is the best restaurant in Asia. Nina’s friend made reservations 2 months in advance. Tasting Menu for 22 courses for $150. The chef came from El Bulli. That super famous restaurant. I decided to join in the bougieness,”Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Me.” This meal was my year end treat to myself.
The usual Bangkok traffic. We sit waiting for that one light that only changes once every 15 minutes. This place gives LA traffic. Nina calls the restaurant to tell them we are stuck in traffic, the hostess responds ” Try your best to get here on time.” Ok lady. Now that you mention it, we weren’t trying that hard. ha.
The Green Light gods shine down on us, We arrive on time. Randomly, we got selected to be seated at a new chef’s table. My phone is out and on the table. I’m not one to be ashamed of my food porn. Embrace it.
All 22 courses were innovative and exciting. While I didn’t fall in love with some of them, I appreciated the thought and new tastes. Uni in a wasabi cone with some fruit: Love it. Gold covered Chocolate gusher ball with spicy sauce: Not so much. Each dish had its own interpretation of Japanese and Indian cuisine fusion.
The bad side. I only have 2 complaints.
- A fly landed on a piece of sushi during preparation and none of the chefs noticed. Or at least they didn’t react to me pointing and saying “Hey! There a fly on that!” Nina was mortified. Like those card games on new york streets, I kept my eyes on the prize and made sure that I followed the sushi as the chefs served each of us. The dish was served to someone else, I dont think they saw the fly. So all is well.
- Using the same spoon to stir and taste. Whatever happened to that one spoon in a chef’s apron.
All in all, I enjoyed dinner. It reminded me of happier and richer times. Definitely innovative eats. I loved the lips starter, sushi, the uni cone, the crab curry, and the tomato soup.