It has been great to be back in Bangkok. Lucky for us, we’ve both been here before, so we didn’t rush around trying to see all the sites. I enjoyed just wandering around the streets and trying out the fantastic food. We had the best Pad Thai I’ve ever tasted the first night we arrived. We were tired so just went to a simple, cheap place near where we were staying. There was some lime to squeeze over the noodles, chopped peanuts to sprinkle and some chili oil to dribble (as Nigel Slater would say).
Another great food experience we had was in Little Arabia. We went there in search of food one evening. The place had a great buzz about it with night markets, brightly lit restaurants and bars and men dressed in flowing Arabian attire around and about. We choose a quiet Lebanese restaurant and had fantastic falafel, creamy humus (almost the best humus I’ve ever had, but not as good as my friend Julie’s), smokey baba ganoush and tangy tabbouleh, all scooped up with big slabs of pita bread.
This is a bit of a strange thing to do in Bangkok perhaps. I’d never been to Khao San road before – the part of town where backpackers invariably stay – so we took a trip to the area. The place was full of westerners at 3 in the afternoon. People were sitting in bars drinking beer, some deep in conversation and some just watching the world go by. There were Nepalese men walking up and down trying to get tourists into the tailoring shops they worked at and women dressed in minority head-gear were selling cheap jewelery. Also in the mix there were street stalls selling all manner of food from noodle soup to satay. We had a drink and watched all the activity.
I’m sure I’ll be back to Bangkok because my friend Tam is moving back here very soon. Unfortunately we just missed each other this time. I look forward to coming back again.
When we first arrived in Bangkok it felt a bit like being in a big western city again. Air conditioned skyrails and metros, big fancy shopping centres, metered taxis… The cars even seemed to be following the road signs to a certain extent! This is all very different to the cities we’ve been visiting recently.
Within a couple of days we’d seen another side of things. We took a ferry along the river and saw ramshackle houses (more like tin sheds) coming down to the water. We wandered through the Chinatown markets – a maze of street stalls and vendors selling all sorts of things in the shadows of countless modern high rise buildings. It’s all this contrast that makes the place interesting.
I’ve been to Bangkok a few times – usually in transit and I guess I’ve usually been in a bit of a hurry to move on again. This time we’ve stayed for four or five days, took our time, relaxed into the hustle and bustle and saw a few things that I hadn’t seen on my previous visits. We went to the Golden Mount – a temple on a hill with a giant golden stupa – where we had great views of the city. It really is a big sprawling city. We also visited Jim Thompson’s house – a beautiful place comprising of six traditional teak houses put together in a stylish combination. Jim Thompson helped create a market for Thai silk in western countries and did a pretty good job of it. He was an architect originally and walking around his place gives you an idea of his good taste.
We’ve been staying in an area of Bangkok called Siam Square (a big improvement on Khao San Road if you ask me). We were about 500 metres away from at least four major shopping centres but sure enough there were street vendors selling delicious food right outside our door. As we walked home one night I was extremely happy to spot a woman slapping out some roti dough. Banana roti – awesome! We only found her the one night though which is unfortunate because I love a good banana roti.
We’re getting on a train tomorrow directly down to the island of Penang – in Malaysia. It feels strange and a little sad to be spending such a short time in Thailand. I really like this country – the language is beautiful, the people are friendly and there’s lots of interesting and beautiful things to see. Ah well, there’s always next time.