I know better than to just lie down and close my eyes “for a minute.” I awoke at midnight hot, thirsty, and wearing even more wrinkled clothes. All too soon the alarm was buzzing; it was time for a quick shower and the first of many market walks.
Our day began with a dramatic accident when one member of the group was struck by a motorcycle as we were crossing three lanes of traffic on Sukhumvit. By law, motorcyclists should stop when all three lanes of cars have come to a halt, but one guy unexpectedly squirted through at full speed. He briefly seemed to be interested in helping but soon chose to ride away as quickly as possible. I had the wrong camera to get a clear shot of his license plate, so we might never track down the culprit. Our trip member was in some pain and recovered only half of her glasses, but she chose to continue down the sidewalk for breakfast.
Perhaps due to New Years, there were fewer vendors than usual, so we missed some regular treats. In transit, we snacked on fried bread and crispy pork from two different vendors, and then convened at the noodle shop for stretchy rice noodles with a variety of fish dumplings. The noodles can be served with or without broth, and even in the modest heat of early morning, “dry style” seemed like the better choice. We seasoned the noodles to taste with chopped peanuts, ground dried chillies, slices chillies in vinegar, and granulated sugar. We had a couple of mangosteens as a sweet end to the meal.
The Grand Palace
Kasma gave us a short briefing on the Emerald Buddha, the temple compound, and the rest of the Grand Palace, and we headed out. Traffic was unusually light, so we made good time. Nevertheless, the sun already was quite hot and I instantly regretted leaving my sunscreen in the van. Fortunately, there are plenty of shaded spots around the grounds, including all around the interior wall, where a lengthy mural depicts scenes from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Ramayana).
The last building is the Queen’s new textile museum. One particularly informative video shows the process of creating Thai silk thread, including the lifecycle of the silkworm and how patterns are created during the dyeing process. A nearby display encouraged visitors to “please touch” various samples. The initial threads are yellow and wiry, but after bleaching are very soft-textured and a translucent white color. Perhaps to spare sensitive stomachs, there were no references to eating the silkworms after the silk has been harvested from their cocoons.
Lunch at Yok Yor Marina
I previously visited Yok Yor restaurant from a boat, and that seemed much easier than driving there, but eventually we found it. First up was a sweet and mild yellow curry with roast duck. This was followed by garlic pepper squid and sour ribs. The ribs, soured by fermenting with sticky rice, are deep fried and served with small cubes of ginger, slices of shallot, peanuts, hot Thai chillies, and sprigs of cilantro. There are no leaves for wrapping, so you just pop the desired items into your mouth and chew them together. Extra rice was helpful when the Thai chillies got the better of you. Our salad was a shrimp larb, the Northern salad with the spicy dressing and ground toasted rice, served with various raw vegetables and herbs. There was quite a wait for our last two dishes, but they were worth it. A crab in yellow curry was shell-licking good, and a steamed barramundi (a type of grouper) was meltingly tender and bathed in a brightly flavored sour broth that danced on your tongue. Not literally, but after so many great dishes, this one was a knockout.
The Queen’s SUPPORT Museum
Before our naptime could begin, we had one more stop to make. Queen Sirikit is a champion of local handicrafts, and in recognition of her support (and the SUPPORT program) craftspersons design stunning pieces for the palace, some of which end up in this museum. The crafts range from wood carving, intricate gold inlay, and baskets woven of very fine bamboo fibers, to some objects more unique to particular regions of Thailand, such as: nielloware, yan lipao (fern vine) baskets, the application of iridescent beetle wings to jewelry and sculpture, and hand-woven cloth representing regional styles from around the country. No gift shop here, no photos allowed, and no museum book. It’s a lost opportunity to get the word out further about these nearly lost arts.
Dinner at My Choice
We walked two blocks from the Hotel Rex to My Choice restaurant, a perennial favorite. We started with the wing bean (or winged bean) salad, featuring long wing beans cut crossways into thin slices, dressed with a slightly sweet sauce, and topped with chopped peanuts, fried shallots, and a drizzle of rich coconut cream. Who could not love this salad? This mild delight was no preparation for our second course, a dry Southern-style curry of chicken, sadtaw beans (stinky beans), bamboo shoots, Thai eggplant, green beans, and baby corn. Without any cooling coconut milk, the curry paste delivers its full dose of chillies in every bite, building to the point where a rice pack (or coconut ice cream) may be needed to stop the pain. Some people found Singha beer to be helpful as well.
My Choice’s grilled eggplant salad was a big hit. I’ve made this smoky and lime-y salad for friends in California using Chinese eggplant from the supermarket, but the texture of the long green eggplants available in Thailand is better able to hold its shape from the grill to the final dish. A Panang curry with beef and a coconut soup with mixed seafood contributed to heat relief, while lemongrass marinated roast pork contributed vast amounts of sweet animal fat to the meal.
We finished with a choice of house made “ice creams” (made with coconut milk rather than cow’s milk). I enjoyed lemon basil seeds (a translucent, tapioca-like layer around a tiny black core) and bits of jackfruit in mine. Too bad this dessert does not seem to be found anywhere else.
Tomorrow morning we would be leaving at 5:30am, so I would need to allow extra time for packing. And re-packing. Yeah, you know how that goes.
Our story continues: In Which Shopping Opportunities Abound