Yay – I found me a proper hawker style food court! I set off this morning quite early for a 5km walk to the Pratunam Markets. As always with me, every segment of everyday is about the journey and not the destination! The first 5 minutes took me up a street I went along early yesterday evening. Last night it took a while to twig that this was a poor mans’ red-light district. Girls with plenty of make-up sat on plastic stools along the footpath staring at their phones while waiting. At least it would be deserted this morning I thought. Not so – they work long hours this ladies! And many were not so young anymore.
My plotted course left me struggling to cross a busy intersection so I took a detour over a canal that I needed to cross further up anyway, and found myself in the main country trains railway station precinct. Fragrant BBQ smoke was wafting my way and there right in front of me was a bright and breezy undercover food hall. So within 20mins of leaving the hotel I was sitting down to my second breakfast at 9am. (First breakfast at 6.30 was sticky rice with banana wrapped in banana leaf and sweet potato fritters in honey syrup.)
After a quick circuit of the room to see what was on offer I stood at the window of a popular stall that had a few veg options and pointed. Rice with pumpkin and egg, bean shoots and bean curd, and deep fried chunks of fish in a sweet chilli jam were polished off quickly. I’ve been missing this kind of eating so popular in Singapore. Perhaps space is an issue in Bangkok and I think this place is where many of the rail staff and travellers eat.
Part of today’s plans was also to check out the MRT stations so I took a slightly longer route to go past Siam station. However, serious road-works made it impossible to cross where I needed to so took another detour until I found an underpass at the canal. There are plenty of pedestrian crossings marked on the roads here but no lights and no hint of traffic actually stopping at them. Walkers tend to gather until a critical mass forms then all together we push out into the traffic from both sides of the road. It works – but I wouldn’t try it un-escorted by the group!
By now I was walking along a narrow track between the canal and the backs of houses, dismissing the idea of a station reconnaissance. Waving to the tour boats and patting the odd cat I came out in the backyard of a group of elderly ladies peeling veg for lunch. They pointed to a narrow alley that would take me back up on to the road and laughed. Must happen quite a bit that lost foreigners gate crash their siesta time.
Right, so back on track, I could see modern buildings, wider footpaths and masses of people ahead. Asian tourists with selfie sticks, dreadlocked Europeans struggling under large backpacks and plenty of touts looking for business indicated I must be near the markets.
I was starting to regret this choice of destination but dived down into the rows of clothing, nick-knacks and food stalls. It all got a bit claustrophobic so I headed to a less crowded area of food stalls and sampled one of the local drinks – freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. Yummo! I think I might get me one of those squeezers they use – kind of like a large garlic crusher. Plenty of pomegranates in my backyard in Alice that the birds get more of than me.
After deciding the Pratunam Markets were not for me it was time to go hunt down an MRT or BTS station to discover how the transport system works. It seems there are two (or three) separate systems in the city with tickets not interchangeable. Passing a lady cooking pikelets on a hotplate, dolloping them with a spoonful of yellow paste then rolling them up like a (soft) brandy snap I just had to have some. Tasting one hot of the grill, the filling was a sweet eggy bean paste. I didn’t get a photo as the lady was very shy and I wouldn’t have dared ask. And the remainder were a little squashed in the bottom of my bag by the time I got home, so not a good look. But delicious with coffee later none-the less.
The stairs up to a station loomed in front of me so what the heck, no idea which line this is but let’s give it a go. I looked at the list of stations on a sign board and Victory Monument jogged my memory of something I read on-line about good food nearby. So two stations down the line for 22 Baht and I was in a completely different area and so much more interesting than Pratunam.
The BTS is an overhead sky train system so when you come out of the station there are good aerial views from the walkways to cross the intersections of the massive roundabout below. A huge monument sits in the middle of the roundabout and a maze of bus stops, markets and food stalls surround it. Ah that’s right – this is the up-county bus transport hub from memory, hence all the travel provision stalls about. Snacks, water, juice, clothing and suitcases can all be found around the edge of the monument.
I did the circuit then randomly chose one of the arterial streets to wander down. The footpaths were atrocious! Some of the worst I have ever seen, and I’ve traipsed some bad ones. However, the stalls were really interesting and I was seeing foodstuffs I hadn’t come across before. The filled eggy roti (see separate post and photo) had me spellbound while I watched the young lady cook, so one of those went in my bag. A bit further on small omelettes filled with chopped spinachy greens also took my fancy.
The sky was threatening rain and I’d been on the road for hours so time to start heading for home. Back up to the station and trying to work out which sky train stop would be closest to Chinatown, it looked like a platform change and a 2km walk at the other end was still needed. But it was through familiar territory and along the canal so not too bad a trip. The trains as they are at the moment are not a patch on Singapore and don’t cover much of the areas I want to travel to, but hopefully they will improve their reach with time.
Knackered and thirsty by the time I got home, I made a large pot of instant coffee, pulled the squashed sweet bean pancakes out of my bag and turned on the laptop. The first news that greeted me was that Dale Wakefield had won the seat of Braitling. Oh happy days. They’ll all be celebrating back in Alice Springs tonight. I might just crack a tinny of Chang Classic Lager myself right now!