Just had my first little wander through the streets of Chinatown Bangkok to get my bearings and a feel for the area. I arrived at 2.00am last night so the whole of the city was quiet and in darkness. My diminutive taxi driver in his small car for those without much luggage was the perfect driver. Sticking to the speed limits and cursing those who sped on by. One of the few times I’ve arrived at a hotel by taxi and not been car-sick. After a short sleep and an attempt at the complimentary hotel breakfast I started with a walk around my immediate block to see who I’d become friends with over the next week.
Barely 100m down the road was a man with a wok of hot oil balanced on a mobile trolley, dunking banana and taro into batter for frying. I waited till he’d cleaned his hands to serve me and spent my first baht in Thailand (excluding taxi fare from airport). Strolling and munching on tiny warm banana fritters a world of markets opened up in the streets in front of me. Many stalls were still setting up for the day at 9.30am so I can imagine what this place will be like tonight. Totally humming with activity.
Next stop was at another roadside stall where a lady was cooking some sort of batter in circular moulds. I watched as men on motorbikes pulled over and ladies with arm loads of shopping stopped to purchase these delicacies, when a tray-full was thrust my way. Obviously I was in the queue so had to try some. Sweet rice and coconut batter with pandan leaf and sesame seeds flavouring were amazing. Right well that’s’ my local breakfast spots sorted for the trip now!
The laneways are chaos with stalls set up on the footpaths and pedestrians, motorbikes and cars share the narrow road space. Everything is all muddled up – cooked foods, spices, kitchen ware, temple offerings, fruit & veg, fish and meat stalls are not segregated into separate areas but all side by side, street after street. It’s fascinating and I can see I won’t need to leave the circle of Chinatown to be constantly entertained by everyday life here.
Next purchase was a kilo of longans which thankfully seem to be in season at the moment and a poke about the fruit stalls to see what else looked good. Tiny pineapples, sold whole or peeled and diced on skewers smelt wonderful. I think I’ll take the pre-prepared option tomorrow rather than run the risk of attracting ants in my hotel room in attempts at pineapple dissections.
Down to only 500 Baht ($20) notes in my wallet I needed some small change for the streets so popped into a supermarket to buy coffee and soya milk for my hotel room. I can’t do the 3-in-1 coffee sachets provided and there is no milk/whitener for my tea so those purchases gave me a chance to break a big note.
Road works prevented me from doing the next loop so I ducked back into another covered market place to find a short cut through to the hotel. My bag was getting heavy with shopping so time to decant before starting again. I followed some people down a side alley which turned into a dead end at a small temple. A lady and her daughters were frying noodle and rice dishes in a wok near the entrance. I watched as clams, green veg, egg, chilli and garlic were stir fried with wide flat noodles and tipped into a plastic bag for takeaway. Some pointing and a call to an English speaking girl nearby and I secured noodles with fish, veg and egg cooked up fresh for an early lunch. Not that I needed it yet!
I think I need to find a Thai/English speaker to help with identifying some of the wonderful smelling foods on offer. A friend, Sue Graham, has given the great tip of the yellow flags on stalls meaning vegetarian foods and I’ve already come across some of those this morning. I wasn’t quite game (or hungry enough) to try the amazing soup boiling away on the footpath with small white balls in it. Maybe fish, maybe chicken balls? I’ll check it out again tomorrow as the aromas of lemongrass, ginger, garlic etc. like a pungent green curry was enough to stop me in my tracks.
The hotel has kindly installed a set of scales in my room. I weighed in at 61 kg this morning before venturing out. Let’s see how much that increases that by the end of 6 days. If I’m not 65 kg I haven’t tried hard enough!