My ultra-organised planning went completely awry this morning. Got out of bed, opened the bar fridge and I was completely out of breakfast cakes! Nothing else to do but get dressed and vaguely presentable and visit the stalls outside the hotel for banana fritters and coconut-rice pancakes. Luckily they’re early starters.
After plenty of tea, cakes and fruit, todays’ excursion took me to the nearby MRT station, Hua Lampheng to journey almost the full length of the train line to Kamphaeng Phet. I was intrigued by what I’d read about Or Tor Kor market and was keen to investigate further. One of the “top ten fresh food markets in the world” according to some guide books. Personally I would include Darwin’s Rapid Creek in my top ten but Or Tor Kor was pretty special as you shall hear.
I did a bit of a reccy last night and finally found the elusive station I’d booked my accommodation around. It’s quite a grand building as this is where the country trains leave at ground level while the MRT station is underground next door. With the help of a friendly youngster standing behind me in the queue I worked out the ticketing machine (der – you have to press the screen to select your station, not the picture on the wall next to it!) Then a matter of trying to match the Thai station name on the screen to the English one on my map so I got the right ticket. Anyway for 42 Baht I got a plastic token amongst all my coin change to take me across town.
As my home station is the end of the line, once alighting passengers had cleared, boarding passengers stood patiently at the doors waiting to be told by the guards to get on. It was then I realised that a gang of cleaners were doing a quick sweep of the carriages to pick up any rubbish left behind. Can’t imagine that happening in Oz. And passengers wouldn’t dare leave rubbish behind in Singapore so probably no need for this service there.
The MRT system was pretty good. Well air-conditioned carriages, announcements in both Thai and English and information about which stations also accessed the BTS (sky train system). My reading suggested that the market I wanted was right outside the train station. I got off and exited left to a massive market, possibly as big the entire Sydney or Melbourne showgrounds by my reckoning. However, it didn’t look right and I was getting frustrated by the acres of clothing and household items and no fresh food. Finally, I asked someone. The market I wanted was across the road! As mentioned in previous posts, crossing the road ain’t no simple matter in Bangkok, so back into the station tunnel and take the right hand exit instead.
I was wondering why so many people had got off the train at the previous station to me. The Chatuchak Weekend market that I’d initially started in takes up the whole block and spans two stations. You could literally spend a week there and not see everything! So anyway I found my fresh food market and it really is astonishingly beautiful to wander around. Wide rows of immaculately presented produce and cooked food on a spotlessly white tiled floor and cool overhead roof with open sides. I really didn’t know where to start but slowly covered every aisle and every stall.
Amazing piles of freshly ground curry pastes; towering bags of dried prawns, trays of lovingly peeled fruits, stacks of perfectly arranged garlic bulbs and chillies; pots of prepared curries to ladle out and take home; sweet treats for every appetite; aquariums of fresh seafood plus hygienic trays of gutted and shelled creatures for the lazy or squeamish – it was all there. Plus, a food hall situated in the middle so one could rest, eat and contemplate more shopping.
It was nearly 11 am and I hadn’t had my second breakfast yet. I was figuratively (but not literally) starving! With plenty of hawker stalls to choose from, I did the three dishes and rice thing to fortify myself for further exploration. Meals and produce are more expensive here than on the streets. It’s more of a yuppie market apparently but everything is good quality. As nice as my meal was, the food I’d eaten at the station yesterday was tastier and half the price. Still I was grateful for the atmosphere and experience of this market.
Once I’d “done” the market that I came to do, I was more relaxed about heading back to the crazy weekend market to waste some time and see what could possibly fill such a vast area. The aisles inside were hundreds of metres of long and very narrow, but I pushed my way along one through to the back where the there was a break in the cover and more sheds continued on behind. Ah, a homewares section. This could be interesting and perhaps I could find a pomegranate juicer and the moulds mum was looking for her special Thai dumplings.
First off I found a juicer at half the price of the one I’d seen at the next door posh market. Bargain! Then I thought saw the dumpling moulds but they were all bagged up, strung up out of reach and the stall owner wasn’t particularly helpful so I moved on. Entering another homeware stall I spotted some on the back wall and pointed. The sales girl got them down for me then an older lady behind the counter produced a postcard picture of the dumplings they were made to create. Yeah – I reckon that was the right thing, so I bought two and hoped like hell I’d got the right ones. You’re on a promise now Mother to produce some for Xmas nibbles.
I reckon anything you want you could get at this market! An extraordinary number of stalls and variety. I was particularly taken with some lovely hand-made paper, string and gift bag stalls and the aisles of fake flowers was like walking through a botanical garden. I reckon I’ll come back with a big suitcase and stock up to fill my house with colour.
By early afternoon I was shopped out. Never a good shopper, it was time to get out of the mayhem and back to the relatively peaceful (or perhaps familiar) streets of Chinatown. Once home I checked the fridge for supplies and decided tomorrows breakfast was taken care of but not dinner tonight. The street markets around Chinatown seemed particularly busy this afternoon – perhaps the weekend trade expands the number of stalls setting up and patrons out enjoying the day. I headed to a pure veg stall to get a bag of corn fritters and an unknown item that turned out to be a sort of bubble and squeak in a large thin spring roll type wrapper. Bloody excellent.
Half way through writing this I felt more beer was needed so ducked out for a two pack of Chang. In the lift back up to my room I met a fellow from Myanmar who also had a plastic bag of beer cans, so we swapped pleasantries in the 30 seconds it took to travel to our respective floors.
I fibbed a little yesterday when I said life was more about the journey than the destination. Today was definitely about the destination, and I got a bit cranky when at first I couldn’t find it. But once sated, I was happy to continue poking about and see where my legs took me. Facebook Friends are trying to persuade me to take a long train trip tomorrow to the ancient capital, but I suspect some more exploring on foot towards the bend in the river nearby might be the actuality. We’ll see what the morning brings.