Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bangkok - Eating and Travel

A few months ago I went to Bangkok with Nicholson. A former ex, he tore my heart out and danced on it with his devil hooves - but, I forgive him. Not really, actually, I just like being dramatic. We had a great time in Bangkok teasing each other.

We stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel which he obtained at a discount rate of ~AU$200 a night. Quite a steal as usually it goes for US$200 a night. The tourism downturn has really hit Thailand badly. The junta govt, the uprisings in the south and the bomb explosions a few weeks earlier had cleared out the usually crowded streets.

Flying up on a Friday evening, we ate at Noodi an ostensibly 'westernised' global noodle bar (they do pasta too). I say ostensibly because Nicholson assured me that the usually fiery hot yum woon sern would be to the Western palate. Boy was he wrong - no compromises with the fresh chilli and chilli flakes here! My mouth was burning and I dreaded to think about what was going to happen to the other end of my gut.

We visited a gogo bar with boys on parade (interesting but no more details on this G-rated blog) then headed to DJ Station to see what the fuss was about.

Breakfast next morning we took at the Healthy Food bar at the Metropolitan - Glow. It's like spa-food, but very delicious; low on meat, oil, salt and other evil ingredients of the moment; high on vegetables, whole grains, minimal cooking, etc. Long rectangular trays of wheatgrass lined the room dividers. I guess one could ask for freshly squeezed wheatgrass if one wanted.

I had a Bircher muesli and tomato avocado bruschetta. Nicholson had a fruit salad and some berry pancakes...I think - can't remember. The muesli was creamy and as it should be: grainy but not excessively so, yoghurty and fruity. Great ingredients all round.

We walked the streets (no, not like that) to get a bit of local colour. Nicholson loves Bangkok and I enjoyed being in a city that wasn't anal-retentively clean. It reminded me a lot like the streets of Kuala Lumpur. I smelled the aroma of caramelised vanilla and baking wafting towards me and bought these madeleines from a street vendor. Of course I got confused with the currency and overpaid him 10x what they were worth but he gave me the correct change. He's probably inwardly cursing that he's got no more change for the rest of the day but Nicholson assures me that they're very Buddhist about this sort of thing.

These are made on a batter poured onto cast iron moulds heat with a gas burner. He sits on the corner turning the pan and dishing out the cakes as soon as they're made. Mine had some sort of fig or dried fruit jam in the middle; deliciously light and very slightly chewy.

We hailed a cab to get to Thewet to catch a river boat down the Chao Praya river. Nicholson's been here several times to do the tourist circuit so the Royal Palace, Reclining Buddha, etc. are not of interest to him. My proximity to Bangkok makes it easy for me to visit again soon, and I will. We bumped into some monks and marvelled at the teeming fish in the river. It's great that a river running through one of Asia's biggest cities is host to such wildlife.

Several of these boats powered by what looked like converted artillery guns roared past at great speed.

After a day shopping at Central World (we were disappointed as Nicholson's favourite Hong Kong brand has "turned to shit") we ate at the superb food court above. An elegant black stone surround on the highest public-accessible level of Central World offers cuisines of the world. You get a token and go around ordering. The cooks scan the bar code and it's all computed and paid for at the end of your visit. I ate this laksa with sour vegetables and a sambal. This dish is from the north of Thailand - very delicious chicken gravy with coconunt milk. There's a drink made from a local fruit behind (I can't remember now, ugh).

We walked through the park via Saladaeng to get back to our hotel for our second expedition that night (again, G-ratedness prevents me from revealing more; suffice to say that we visited the former kingdom of Hammurabi). We sampled Thai pineapple and freshly squeezed Thai mandarin juice from street vendors. Honestly, this country has the best pineapple and mandarins in the world. I once saw Thai pineapple for sale in Singapore and got all excited only to find that they had sold out. We passed a Buddhist offering place where one could pay money to have a troup of Thai girls in traditional dress dance - the more money, the longer they danced.

Afterwards we went to the Sky Bar at the Hilton where I felt like a moviestar. It's a beautiful rooftop bar on one of the higher buildings in Bangkok. There are several levels and descending to the corner bar there's a long buffet table to eat from. I felt like I was entering some rich person's party.

Our last meal in Bangkok we took at the airport. For some reason Nicholson ate nothing but pad thai for this entire journey. He's usually quite adventurous, but he just felt like fried rice noodles this time round. This time I also had the pad thai. We washed it down with some orange-coloured iced tea.

Aren't the condiment holders so cute?

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