I write this afternoon from the Emirates Lounge at Bangkok airport, to wrap up the last day and an educational 5 days in Thailand. The lounge is lovely, quiet; the food halal, the wine Italian, weather outside overcast – so a good place to be right now to reflect.
Knowing there was a long night ahead on a crowded plane I had a bit of a sleep in and partially packed my bags before deciding on where to go for a final walk. Indian sweets accompanied my chai this morning; laddu, papdi and halwa – courtesy of my visit to Little India yesterday; plus the remains of the baby pineapple segments I’d bought at the markets. A winning combination I must say. The acidic fruit was a good countenance to the rich, buttery, sugary sweets.
I checked the scales this morning and have only managed to add 1kg so it was time to go hard this morning. Mondays are compulsory rest days for the street food markets here – perhaps so the council can have a good scrub down and clean up. I have seen the odd sewer rat about but I’m sure we’re better off with them than without as they must clean up a lot of left overs. Venturing down the laneway behind the hotel I was glad to see rest day didn’t apply to the more permanent food stalls so pulled up a stool at the place I’d eaten at a couple of days earlier for meal number two. I hadn’t realised before it was set up on the veranda of a small roadside temple.
As I got my three veg dishes with rice at 9.30am it was breakfast time for the staff as well. They must have had a busy morning as the dishes and empty pans were piling up on the street waiting for someone to scrub them. Flat white noodles with chicken feet and tofu soup seemed to be the choice of tucker for the family running the stall. I still hadn’t decided what to do this morning so looked at the map over breakfast and thought a more casual wander through the back streets behind the hotel, across the canal to the financial district and around up to the Hua Lamphong station would make a good circuit before my midday check out.
One lovely sight I witnessed (but would no way take a photo of) was a teenage girl feeding a very elderly grandmother plain steamed rice cakes on the veranda of their corner home. I’d seen this earlier where the incapacitated are lying in a bed in a shop front looking out onto the action of the street. Surely this must be better for the mind to witness the passing parade of life, than being confined to a hospital bed and 4 white walls.
So down through the laneways away from the markets just to poke about a bit. Food carts were supplying any number of different delicacies to passers-by and small cafes had dishes displayed on a rickety wooden tables out the front. As I was about to take a photo of a white cat staring longingly up at a tray full of freshly cooked omelettes an old man in his singlet and jocks wander out for a smoke – so I hastily retreated. Life is lived on the streets and privacy needs to be respected.
An abandoned cart with layers of small egg cup sized bowls, separated by banana leaves, was parked up on a corner. I hovered about a bit trying to attract some attention, walked past, came back, then tentatively lifted up one of the bowls. Someone finally noticed and came over and told me a price but not what the contents were. Anyway intrigued, I bought a packet, took a photo, ate some on the spot at the stall and let out a large sigh! The most delicious sticky rice and coconut custard cakes I have ever had. (See previous post today also). This little moment was my ultimate Thai experience – in a dusty laneway, having to wake up the “vendor of sweets” and convince him to sell me some of his wares.
Right that’s it – I could go home happy now! But I continued on, past the bakery where moon cakes are baked and packed, and over the bridge to a different part of town. Suddenly it was noisy, polluted, too much fast moving traffic, so I turned around and walked back along the canal towards the station to see if I could discover a different route from the precarious one I’d been taking, that might be more suitcase friendly for the trip to the airport this arvo.
Nice one – a different entrance with escalators down to the platform and not so many busy roads to cross. Now to remember the way for later. It was time to head back to the hotel to finish packing and check out. I could have wandered for a couple more hours after check out but decided I may as well go to the airport early, have a good poke about and then sit in the comfort of the lounge and catch up on some work. Not quite ready to call my wander quits, I zig-zagged through the back streets again, taking a few shots to remind me of the cottage industry going on behind the main street of Chinatown in the heart of one of the world’s largest cities.
Packed, checked out on my way down the street one of the hotel staff chased me all in a fluster. I had left my orchid flowers in the bathroom! Did I want to take them with me? “No – please give them to your wife or girlfriend” I said. I hope someone gets to enjoy them for another day or two as I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Chinatown Hotel in Bangkok