Today we’ll fly to Bangkok and wrap up our adventure in Southern Thailand with the traditional feast of Northeastern food and entertainment — my tenth. It’s remarkable that after all these years I still can’t predict whether my purchases will fit in my bags and meet the weight limit. But then, it wouldn’t be travel without surprises.
After taking a couple of days to orient myself to local time, I will at last be meeting up with our group for the first of many dinnertime feasts, and tomorrow our journey begins in earnest. At mid-day I will move from the condo to our hotel, but first, I’ll have one last breakfast on my own. Maybe it’s time to take a break from pork noodle soup? There are so many other kinds of noodle soup I could try.
When I mention to people that I’m traveling to Thailand with my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit, they often think I am coming here to learn how to cook Thai food. I always feel a bit sheepish explaining that I take my Thai cooking lessons right at home, in Oakland, California (The Art of Thai Cooking), and I come to Thailand to eat as much properly cooked Thai food as humanly possible. Not out of mere gluttony — also to refresh my taste memory of the heights to which my cooking aspires. Today I will finally take a cooking class on this side of the Pacific and learn some variations from the techniques I’ve been taught in the past. But first, how about some pork noodle soup for breakfast?
Before my trip last year, my sister gave me Thailand’s Best Street Food (Amazon.com), and since I wasn’t able to work my way through the entire list then, I’m going to resume my work today and try to eat as much Bangkok street food as possible. I think I’m ready for any eventuality: I brought Tums, Pepto-Bismol, and a Z-Pak.
My roommate Greg kindly agreed to drive me to the airport for my flight. Although I had ambitions of leaving home by 8:00AM — wait, why are you laughing? — true to form, with so much to pack in so little space, not unsurprisingly, our actual departure was much later. As I rolled my bags toward the counter and spotted the self-check-in machines, I suddenly remembered what I had forgotten to pack. It wasn’t the mask, snorkel, or fins, six (!) cameras, their chargers, or innumerable batteries. It was the one thing you most need for an international trip, and I don’t mean clean underwear (although, at that point, it might have been welcome). Call an Uber: I forgot my passport!
Today we return to Bangkok for a final feast and lots of farewells, and tomorrow morning I have a few bonus hours for shopping and, of course, frantic packing. But first, we must pick over the Tanya Inn’s breakfast buffet one last time and dash to the Chiang Rai airport where, true to form, a delay will have us cooling our heels. Same same.
Everyone on this new Northern Frontiers trip (Online Itinerary) has traveled with Kasma at least twice before. I look forward to seeing a few old friends and making several new ones. But first, since I’ve arrived in Bangkok a bit early, I need to successfully navigate between hotels and manage to feed myself once or twice more.
Today I will devote myself to eating excellent Thai food around Bangkok. And it must also be an amazing value, so I’m continuing to work my way through “Thailand’s Best Street Food.” Diversions happen, but I will not go to bed hungry. (Not that I remember the last time that happened…)
Our time in Thailand is drawing to a close. A bit more shopping and eating is all we can fit in before boarding our onward flights.
We have just one full day in Bangkok and we’re going shopping. With hundreds of vendor stalls, Chatuchak weekend market almost certainly has what you’re looking for (even if you don’t know until you see it). But with its confusing layout and crowded walkways, will you find it before the heat and stuffiness force you to the periphery for a refreshing beverage? Fortunately, refreshing beverages are everywhere you look. You might even find a full bar nestled among the souvenirs.
On this final morning in Bangkok, there was little time to roam the streets for last minute tastes of the deliciously familiar. Instead, it was the challenge of securely packaging precious souvenirs in a manageable fashion that compelled me to check the 7-11 for rope, twine, handles, or anything to supplement my packing tape. In the end, more tape would have to do. After a last breakfast of rice porridge in the hotel restaurant, we loaded into the van for the airport.
I needed a little time for the internet, so I arose early, showered, and somehow crammed everything into my roller bag without having to use the expansion feature. The Krabi Maritime’s breakfast buffet offered one last bowl of rice porridge, and the weirdest looking pad Thai I’ve ever seen, in a very unnatural shade of red. Surely the food choices will improve when we arrive in Bangkok.
On the first Saturday morning of her trips, Kasma likes to lead bewildered Americans down the crowded sidewalk of Sukhumvit between Soi 55 (Soi Thonglor) and Soi 57, where a market blossoms at dawn. Fragrant grilled pork, strings of flower buds for Buddhist offerings, and knick-knacks beckoned, but we were on a quest. We picked up plump pan-fried dumplings stuffed with garlicky Chinese chives, chewy glutinous rice chive cakes, fried bread (a kind of unsweetened doughnut), grilled bananas, and khanom krok, the deliciously rich coconut milk pancakes (in this case topped with a few kernels of corn or bits of green onion). Oh, and two trays of mango and sticky rice.
Our flight landed on time at Suvarnabhumi Airport, but the lines at immigration were insanely long. When we emerged from the terminal onto the walkway to the parking structure, the heat didn’t seem so bad. By the time I was in full sun, and full humidity, the memories flooded back. I will need more bottled water.
Bangkok (February 10, 2010)
I awoke very early, and decided to catch up on some notes and recharging. This always is dangerous because delaying a shower and packing can least to last minute madness. And so it went. Luckily, a few fellow travelers were able to accommodate my overflow of clothing in their duffel bags, so I didn’t need to visit the shrink wrap machine at the airport to improvise a larger bag.