4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Bangkok”

One Night in Bangkok (by Nathan)

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don’t know what the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner

Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
Since the Tirolean Spa had the chess boys in it
All change, don’t you know that when you
Play at this level, there’s no ordinary venue

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a God in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the God’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

by Murray Head

Bowls and bowls of boat noodles

Bowls and bowls of boat noodles

Yes, almost by circumstance I decided to relive one of my favorite 80’s songs, Murray Heads’s “One Night in Bangkok”. Our chess match involved all the the intricacies and intelligence of maneuvering around the world and the reward was a day to enjoy Thai food. Of all places to have a one-day layover, Bangkok is a delicious place to be stuck with twenty-four hours to burn. The epicenter of Thai food is guaranteed to tantalize with vibrant flavors and leave the mouth panting for more while the stomach pleads for it all to stop. Thus, as expected, we spent our last day in Thailand eating, walking and eating a bit more and fulfilling everything that 4feet2mouths can be.

Roadside golden Buddha

Roadside golden Buddha

The challenge of securing a Chinese visa is that proof-of-entrance and exit is required. Thus, six months ago we took a stab-in-the-dark and booked a flight to Kunming from Bangkok. In hindsight it would have been slightly easier and cheaper to just bus over from Northern Laos, but we would have had to fake a flight at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. Thus When we finally returned to Thailand, it felt very natural, and it was welcoming and exciting to be in a place that we had explored and enjoyed six weeks ago. Within 10 minutes of our hotel we were graced by a hundred Buddhas that were humbly meditating the streets and awaiting to be purchased and set into future Thai temples.

Green curry and crab soufflé at Krua Apsorn

Green curry and crab soufflé at Krua Apsorn

The deliciously simple miang khanna at Krua Apsorn

The deliciously simple miang khanna at Krua Apsorn

There was really one destination that we had in mind, Thanon Dinson. This two block street is all that you need to know for excellent Thai food. There is everything from noodles, barbecue, soups and rice dishes; and everything is excellent. Our first place was Krua Apsorn. this mid-range restaurant serves mostly central Thai cuisine of very high quality. We ordered a fish ball and baby eggplant green curry and crab soufflé. The star of the restaurant was the extremely simple and fresh appetizer called miang khanna. A platter arrived with lime wedges, ginger, chopped onion, peanuts, pork cracklings, dried shrimp, betel leaves and a tamarind sauce. We rolled up some of everything and took a bite that exploded with textures and flavors. We will definitely be recreating this one at home!

Boat noodle perfection

Boat noodle perfection

Literally across the street and to the right a little bit is a delicious spot for boat noodles. This is the birth place of our “dirty noodles” concept that the best soup shops are fast, cheap, and deserve with people. They pulled a couple bowls off the stack and added the noodle thickness of our choice. It was up to us to make it special with some added chili, vinegar and a dash of sugar.

Tranquil canal on Dipsom Road

Tranquil canal on Dipsom Road

We crossed the street again I and enjoyed the serene canal. It was a really warm, but peaceful day. We could not expect anything better on our last day in Thailand.

Colorful Thai traffic jam

Colorful Thai traffic jam

Riding the canal boat

Riding the canal boat

The Klong San Sap canal boat public transit in Bangkok is wonderful. There is an elevated rail and plently of colorful taxies, but the canal system is the more fun way to get around. We did not get to experience this on our first trip. But this time we conveniently found ourselves making trips from Old town to near the MBK mall. We loaded onto the thirty person boat and it roared down the twenty foot wide canal. At first I wondered why the ticket operator was wearing a helmet, then suddenly the whole roof of the boat collapsed swiftly to clear the bridge ahead. They had actually designed the boat so that the roof was hinged to drop the height three feet and at these brief moments the driver maneuvered the boat peering through the three inches of visible windshield. We gripped our seat for the first few times, but ultimately the experience proved enjoyable and entertaining.

The must-visit Thanon Mahannop fish soup shop.

The must-visit Thanon Mahannop fish soup shop.

Delectable Thai fish soup

Delectable Thai fish soup

Can you imagine the anxiety of eating your last Thai meal? What if you knew you could not have Thai food for eight weeks?  Funny, yes, but we took this very serious. Our final morning in Bangkok was spent roaming the streets for something that might sustain our memory of Thai cuisine.  We scoured the streets to find something that would be sour, spicy, sweet, salty and savory. Our first thought was the fabulous pad thai at Thip Sanai on 313 Thanon Mahachai, but it was closed! Thus, we drifted to our trusty Thanon Dinso. What we discovered was one of the best meals of all Thailand. We peered up a side street called Thanon Mahannop, just west of Thanon Dinso. We found a small crowd of people outside a tiny restaurant on the south side of the street. We snagged a table and pointed for two bowls of what everyone else was having…some sort of stew. The bowls arrived with a red broth packed with lemongrass and chunks of fish. This was the most intensely flavored wonderful dish. Any discussion of it and I watch Carmen lick her lips remembering the flavors. The stew was spicy, the fish tender and the sour lemongrass potent. This was an awesome find for our last Thai meal.

And just as quick as One Night in Bangkok came into existence, our layover was finished. Backpacks were cinched tight and thrown over our shoulders once more.  China, our final frontier, loomed just to the north.

Giving Thanks Thai Style in Bangkok (by Carmen)

Scrumptious snacks - pork over rice, coconut toast, chicken satay

Scrumptious snacks – pork over rice, coconut toast, chicken satay

Arriving from Delhi, Bangkok was a breath of fresh air.  Our smooth, air-conditioned taxi glided through the streets.  It was a stark contrast to the bumpy airport ride in the bare bones taxi in Delhi.  On the streets there were actual crosswalks to safely cross, vehicles often stopped for pedestrians, and there was comparatively no honking! It felt relatively quiet and welcoming – especially when we were received with a warm smile by our close friend, Nalat.  As we hugged our hellos a lone firework was set off nearby – an auspicious start to our reunion.  She ushered us in and fed us coconut pies made by her grandmother’s bakery, which she had just visited in northern Thailand.

Roast chicken with chili dipping sauce

Roast chicken with chili dipping sauce

The next day was thanksgiving.  Our late night the previous evening meant we got a late start to the day but that’s ok because we had a single, thanksgiving-appropriate goal: food.  Lip-smacking, finger-licking, irresistibly good food.

Nalat is a Bangkok native that we met during college.  Over the years we grew close over our mutual love of cooking and eventually started a bi-weekly dinner party with our friend Brenda.  So to spend the the next week and a half with a fellow foodie that can navigate Thai menus and food blogs and that you love spending time with – that’s striking gold!

Green papaya salad with crab

Green papaya salad with crab

Our first adventure was a local market, well-lit, white-tiled and filled with produce and hawker stalls.  First stop: crispy roast chicken with a sweet chili dipping sauce and tangy, crunchy papaya salad with crab.  We complemented this with green coconut based curry over rice noodles and sator, a large bean, stir fried with dried shrimp over rice.  The textures and bright flavors were exactly what we wanted in our first Thai meal.

Mangosteen

Mangosteen

We decided on a dessert of fruit.  Nathan and I were happy to be reunited with the delicious fruit we encountered on our first trip to Asia in 2009.  One of our favorites was mangosteen, which on the inside looks like garlic but tastes more like strawberry.  We also sampled a few pieces of durian, which were smooth, creamy and much less pungent than other varieties we had tried.

Boat noodles

Thick boat noodles

Thin boat noodles

Thin boat noodles

The three of us walked around Bangkok a bit stopping at Mont for hot toast slathered with coconut spread.  We eventually settled in a cafe for a few beers and lots of catch up talk. Soon enough it was time for dinner so we walked into a restaurant serving boat noodles.  Boat noodles are so called because they were once sold by floating vendors.  They refer to a simple dish of broth, noodles and a few pieces of meat or seafood.  Bowls are rather small so you can have multiple or just have one as a snack.  Nalat gave us a lesson on how to order with broth or dry (naam or haeng) and noodle width.  I prefer sen yai (thick) while Nathan opts for sen lai (thin).

Pad Thai deliciousness!

Pad Thai deliciousness!

Our boat noodles were a mere snack for the main dinner – pad thai.  This is the dish Thailand is known for.  The place we ate was churning out plate after plate of the good stuff mixed with your choice of meat or seafood.  You could even get your bundle of noodles wrapped in a thin layer of egg.  The traditional Thai flavors – salty, sweet, sour, spicy – were respectively represented on the table with fish sauce, sugar, vinegar and chili powder.  We customized the balance of taste in our pad Thai and dug in.  I like that at the end of the meal the waiter gave us a sticker that says something like “pad thai is flying yummy” alongside a winged plate of the noodles.

Weekend brunch - congee and chicken rice

Weekend brunch – congee and chicken rice

The next morning, Nalat and her mom greeted us with congee (rice porridge) and chicken rice.  We relaxed while we waited for another close friend, Nalat’s boyfriend, Tim to join us.  He arrived and there were more smiles and hugs.  Despite his 19 hour trip, Tim was ready to jump right in to Bangkok so off we went to explore.

Floating clovers at the Jim Thompson House

Floating clovers at the Jim Thompson House

Yes we did more than just eat!  Ok fine, first we had pork over rice and some excellent chicken satay. Then we went to the Jim Thompson House.  Thompson was a silk trader enamored with Thai culture and he built this elegant raised house mixing eastern and western styles.  Even the gardens were peaceful and artfully arranged.

Solid gold Buddha

Solid gold Buddha

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Buddha's toes

Buddha’s toes

Afterwards, we explored a few buddhist wat (temples).  The first, Wat Traimit, was known for having a solid gold Buddha that weighs 5.5 tonnes!  Next we made our way to Wat Pho to see the famous reclining buddha.  He definitely looked at peace lying there. My favorite part were his mother of pearl decorated feet.

Bangkok Chinatown

Bangkok Chinatown

Duck noodle stand in Chinatown

Duck noodle stand in Chinatown

Duck noodles

Duck noodles

Chinatown had its own busy character distinct from the other neighborhoods of Bangkok.  Mandarin drifted out of the busy restaurants.  Sharks fin was advertised in restaurant windows.  We were here for duck noodles served up by a stand that had carved some space out from the busy central street.  The duck noodles were indeed delicious with their rich broth washed down with some Chang beers.

Wat Phra Kaew golden tiles

Wat Phra Kaew golden tiles

Wat Phra Kaew golden monkey and colorful temple

Wat Phra Kaew golden monkey and colorful temple

Traditional Thai costume session

Traditional Thai costume session

The four of us squeezed in more culture the next day with a visit to the grand palace and its associated Wat Phra Kaew.  It was laid out quite differently than a european palace – it was more of a jumble of different styles crammed in together.  We learned about the royal family, how Thailand avoided colonization and how some of the buildings were inspired by royal visits to Versailles and Buckingham Palace.  Then we got a chance to play dress up.

Crispy wonton noodles

Crispy wonton noodles

We followed up the palace with noodles served in pork broth with crispy bits of pork belly thrown in.  Extra crunch was provided by fried wonton. I, for one, can never get enough noodles so I am in heaven.  Especially when eaten on plastic stools in a narrow, dimly lit alleyway.

The Thai iced coffee and tea guru

The Thai iced coffee and tea guru

Moo Naam Tok (spicy pork)

Moo Naam Tok (spicy pork)

Our last day in Bangkok was market day.  In the morning we went to the sprawling Chatachuk weekend market.  It’s labyrinth of stalls has cool t shirts, jewelry, shoes, housewares and food all mixed up together.  We enjoyed some Thai tea and coffee from one steamy corner.  In another part of the market we ordered moo naam tok which was tangy and delicious.

Amphawa floating market

Amphawa floating market

Fried shrimp at floating market

Fried shrimp at floating market

The food didn’t stop there.  With Nalat’s mom, we all made the 2 hour ride to Amphawa for the floating market along a canal.  We sampled a variety of Thai snacks, my favorite being the deep fried garlic shrimp.  In the evening, as a few fire flies were lighting up we boarded a boat and received an hour long foot massage as we floated along the canal to a lazy river.  Pretty ideal for only $12.

Thailand is a wonderful place to spend thanksgiving weekend.  I missed some of my American favorites with family but am happy to have shared the holiday with Nalat and Tim.  I know I have much to be thankful for. Family to miss back home, friends to laugh with, a fiancée to hold hands with, and a world to explore.

THANKSGIVING CONVERSIONS
-Turkey with cranberry sauce – roast chicken with chili vinegar dipping sauce
-Stuffing – egg stuffed with pad Thai
-Mashed potatoes and gravy – rice noodles with coconut curry
-Green beans – satol beans with dried shrimp
-Salad – papaya salad with crab
-Pumpkin pie – coconut toast

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