Being Sunday, it’s a perfect day to head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand’s largest bazaar. I only had one taker for this plan, so there will be multiple itineraries today. We’ll meet up for dinner and share stories.
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Geneva and I headed to the Sheraton’s boat pier but the attendant waved us off because their first departure is at 10am. We could have used the nearby public pier and caught a different boat to the BTS Skytrain station, but it seemed simpler to walk to the MRT station. We took the subway all the way to the Kampaeng Phet station, which has exits for both Chatuchak and the wonderful fresh market, Aw Taw Kaw (or Or Tor Kor). We decided to start on the fresh market side.
I guided Geneva to several stands Kasma has recommended in the past for everything from dried mango and sesame cashews, to GABA rice and Moringa oil. We also visited a sweet shop where mango leather shaped into roses looked like a good gift to take home. A plate of rose apple slices looked as though it would be a good mid-morning refresher. We even found the brand of sweet pickled radish Chef Ghi recommended for Pad Thai. And seeds to grow several kinds of eggplant, and so many other things. Our shopping bags soon became heavy. Actually, so far they were all Geneva’s bags; I had a very short shopping list today.
After a break to cool down, we used the underground passages of the MRT station to cross under the main street to Chatuchak market. Turns out there are free restrooms in the MRT station; must remember for future reference. At JJ market, we checked the Princess shop for possible gifts, and then wandered through the antiques section. Nothing there looked like a must-have. We headed to the stand where I had bought my huge storage bag; I was searching for a smaller one that would better work as checked baggage. A bag with pattern of elephants looked good, and the vendor’s small children helped bring it down from a rack where two dozen bags were hanging. Moments later, we were using the elephant bag to lug Geneva’s purchases. Now I understand why people arrive here with (or purchase) a piece of wheeled luggage.
To recharge, I picked up a roasted young coconut and guzzled the delicious coconut water, reserving the coconut shell for later. Standing under the shade of an umbrella, we snacked on juicy rose apple slices. Thus fueled, we checked out T-shirt shops (some purchases were made) and the art section before taking another break to cool down. I surprised our tablemates by smashing my coconut so I could peel out the tender meat. So good.
It was almost 1:00, so I texted Theresa about lunch. Our fellow travelers were going to the buffet at the Shangri-La hotel. We wouldn’t make it back in time, so we had lunch at Toh Plue, the air conditioned restaurant in the market where I’ve eaten many times before. We ordered a deep fried fish topped with green mango salad, for comparison with the one we made in class Friday, and stir-fried morning glories. By the time we finished, the thought of proceeding to the nearby JJ Mall shopping tower had lost its appeal and we made our way to the Mo Chit BTS Skytrain station a few blocks away.
Just after 3:00, we exited at the Saphan Taksin station and walked to the boat pier. There are separate sections for regular boats and hotel boats. While we were waiting for the Sheraton’s boat, the rest of our party appeared so we were reunited and could swap stories about the markets and the Shangri-La. There’s nothing wrong with the public express boat, but the “five-star” experience on the hotel’s boat has its advantages: the comfy seats and a little bottle of cold water were very welcome.
After intensive investigation of local massage places on the Google Maps app, several of us headed over to the positively reviewed Wan Massage to try out their reflexology foot massage. As is common, we were directed to recliners in the front lobby of the business where work would begin on our feet, and progress eventually to our necks and shoulders toward the end of the hour. After four days of heavy walking, at least compared with our lives at home, some therapy was most welcome. And our timing was perfect: we were the first in, and it soon was full, masseuses seeming to appear out of nowhere as business picked up. All for a very reasonable price of about $10 including a tip. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the cart of a roti vendor to pick up a banana-stuffed pancake.
In case we weren’t relaxed enough after our massage, it was now happy hour at the Sheraton lobby bar. We reviewed the two-for-one specials on beer, wine, and selected cocktails while nibbling their bar snacks (and our banana roti). These weren’t the finest wines or tastiest cocktails, and they wouldn’t let me substitute for the second one, but it was nice to have a little downtime to catch up, as we definitely were not yet hungry for dinner.
Eventually, we hopped on the hotel boat to cross the river once again to the ICONSIAM mall, heading to the Siam Takashimaya department store. The first Takashimaya store in Thailand features several floors of imported Japanese snacks, gifts, and presumably luxury goods. While browsing, I sipped a delicious mango smoothie from the Make Me Mango stand. When it was time to eat, we headed down to their food court where offerings ranged from pricey wagyu beef teppanyaki to a variety of udon noodle soups and stir-fries, plus innumerable sweets. I chose a yakitori place and mulled over their wide selection of skewers. I decided not to try the one translated as “Ass” and instead went with two sticks of Negima, marinated chicken thighs and green onions. Served with a generous portion of rice, it was not bad. (For the record, a more appealing translation of bonjiri is “chicken tail.”)
We are getting up early tomorrow to check out and take a van to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. I think everyone is ready for a change of scenery and a little beach time. I’ve never been to Phuket, so it will be an adventure for me, too.