Bangkok (January 23, 2010)
We only have one full day in Bangkok on this trip, and because we will mostly be snorkeling from here on out, we need to squeeze in as much souvenir shopping as possible. Or other shopping: I would like to find some magical pants that provide good sun and mosquito protection, and yet are very lightweight and breathable, and clean themselves. Well, at least some of these things might be possible.
We gathered at 7:00 am for noodles and various goodies from the vendors who line the local blocks every Saturday morning. With a full complement of fourteen snaking through the crowd, it simply was not possible to hear, see, and taste everything. During our stroll, we snacked on bite-sized pieces of fried chicken with a spicy-sweet sauce and a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and plain fried bread akin to Chinese doughnuts (which together make a kind of virtual Thai chicken sandwich). Upon arrival at the noodle shop for bowls of hot and sour (soup or dry) noodles, many of our favorites from the street vendors were there: khanom krok coconut confections (like a half-sphere of rich pudding with a crispy round side); chive-filled rice dumplings; chewy glutinous chive cakes; roasted bananas; and mango with sweet sticky rice. We were more than full, and ready for some activity to burn off the calories.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market was immense in 2006, and it seems only to have grown. With stalls as diverse as decorative wood carvings, glass figurines, natural soaps, hill tribe crafts, flip flops, cheap fashion watches, fine art, and used clothing, you probably can find anything here — if you have time to actually find it amidst the clutter and disorganization. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I mostly wandered around the quieter art and antiques sections.
We reconnected for lunch at Toh Plue, one of the market’s few air conditioned restaurants. An appetizer of fried fish cakes with the usual sweet-and-sour cucumber relish started us out. Pictured on the placemat along with many different desserts, the house specialty of red curry mixed seafood served in a young coconut was delicious as usual. They also did a good job with a larb of pork neck meat and a panang curry chicken. Last to arrive was a butterflied and fried cottonfish (trevally), which we topped just before serving with a tangy salad of shredded green mango. It’s not as much fun as the shredded and refried fish, but it wins for fresh taste. Because we expect to be dessert-deprived on the islands, we were allowed to indulge today, but I was already too full and ready for a nap when we returned to the market for a bit more shopping.
I spent my free afternoon napping and picking up my laundry, so I was ready for some excitement in the form of dinner. When we arrived at nearby My Choice restaurant, it was unusually busy. First up was a special order of beef tongue in massaman curry with roti (Southern style fried bread). This triple layering of richness (fatty tongue plus coconut milk curry plus well oiled roti) had me near capacity, but because the kitchen was running behind, we had a well paced meal and managed to clean almost all our plates. Naturally, we had the usual My Choice favorites: a rich crab and coconut dip with astringent banana blossom, young turmeric, and crunchy vegetables; smoky eggplant salad; mixed seafood with basil (not as blistering hot as usual); a dry style Southern chicken curry; and a tasty wing bean salad with crispy shallots. We continued stockpiling desserts, looking forward (sort of) to leaner times ahead. After our briefing on the next few days, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for a very early start, pausing along the way for a bottle or two of the local firewater for those long island afternoons.