Two American Girls Cause Food Shortage in Thailand

Guys, this title is no joke. Basically we ate in Thailand and found things to do between meals. And sometimes the thing to do between eating meals was eat snacks. 

Our first meal was a place we'd go back to multiple times. As we had walked in the wrong direction to our hotel we passed a little open-air shop that was emanating a delicious smell out into the street; when we saw it was full of only locals we knew that would be our first meal in Thailand. And it did not disappoint. After returning from dropping our bags off we were whisked to a metal table with a fan overhead and were very quickly brought what is quite possibly the best beef noodle soup I've ever had. The broth had been cooking all day and then simply tossed in some beef, a handful of veggies, and vermicelli noodles. As we are the smell continued to waft into our noses and the heat of the soup combined with the scorching outside temperature and humidity made us sweat. In the four times that we went back for this soup, we did not see any westerners, and the only thing that changed each time was the type of noodles we got. I'm salivating just reminiscing about it, and hope I can figure out what it was and how to make it.

Later that night did not disappoint either, as we walked out from our favorite lady-man massage place and found the street full of food options that had popped up as the sun went down. I found a woman cooking pad thai and Katie found some basil chicken, and we chopstick-shoveled our food in our mouths and walked down the street. As we continued to walk down the street we started to compile a list of things we needed to try: the fried chicken, the chicken and pork satay, the whole fried fish. Basically, we used our noses and saw where the locals were eating to determine where and what we'd eat. 

Per the suggestion of a friend, we tried the food court at one of the many high-end malls in Bangkok: Siam Paragon. First we were taken back by the sheer size of the mall, then by the stores in it. We did not expect a mall full of Valentino, Pucci, Prada and other high end designers, not to mention the car floor which had the likes of Porsche and Maserati. But we were really there to eat, and that we did. We found the food court, deposited money on food court cards, and went to town. Between the two of us we ordered at least four full meals. While some of them were tasty, others disappointed a little. And none of them compared to what we had found on the street, though a brief reprieve from the heat was nice. We also tried durian ice cream (the only way I'd suggest trying durian, though I wouldn't even recommend that), and found a gourmet supermarket that we knew we'd be back to. 

Another memorable meal happened the night before we left for Bali, when we met an expat and Thai at an outdoor restaurant. Besides drinking a bit too much, we also are quite a lot because Tick, the Thai guy, kept ordering more food for us to try. First we had a spicy lemongrass and chicken soup that was delicious and HOT. That was followed by some deliciously marinated meat and rice. This was a pivotal meal, as we learned to eat the way locals do: grab some rice in your hand, roll it into a tight ball, and then use that to soak up the delicious sauce that was used in cooking. 

After Bali and before Cambodia we had more eating time in Bangkok and that's just what we did. The last two memorable dishes were once again street food. We finally tried the fried chicken from the guy outside of our massage place and wow was it tasty - definitely gives the south a run for its money! And the final wow came from a snack when we weren't even hungry. We were strolling through our neighborhood market, both tired and not hungry, when we walked passed a cart that had the most delicious smell wafting into the air. It literally stopped us in our tracks. Once we went over we looked and saw what looked like fried green tofu - we didn't care what it was, we were trying it. She put some in a bowl, poured a soy sauce with chilis over it, and handed it to us with two toothpicks. We went to town, no breathing, just eating. It wasn't until later that we learned that these were choice dumplings, and our attempts at finding chive dumpling lady again proved futile. 

Needless to say, Katie and I did a good job of eating all the Thai food, and I can't say either of us regret it even if it causes us to gain a few pounds. 

I'll Fight You For a Singha

Our last day in Bangkok before Bali delivered. We took the train to the Chao Phraya River that runs through the city, and hired a long boat for a one hour tour of the canals. It was beyond interesting to see this other side of Bangkok, where people live literally on the water, and to see the juxtaposition of new modern homes next to old, dilapidated houses, all intertwined with marvelous temples and shrines. There were storefronts that face out to the canal, so people can buy necessities from their boats. And there were areas where nature had taken over with lush greenery. All of this was complimented by an ice cold Singha that we paid a whopping $4 for (and were not ashamed because it was so good). 

Side note: there are two Thai beers - Singha and Chang. Naturally, Katie and I had to try both and wow were we disappointed in Chang. If you're ever in Thailand, Singha is the way to go.
After our tour we wandered through the streets and made our way back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped in a small park and were blown away by the body weight exercise equipment (we gave it a test drive). A little relaxation after our workout and we were off to see our first ever Muay Thai (Thai boxing) match.

One of the workers at our hotel walked us out to the street to hail. This man is one of the happiest old men ever. As we walked past food stalls and shops, he'd smile and chat with everyone. He proudly pointed things out to us, such as the impressive high rise down the street. Despite it being rush hour (which I think it's maybe always rush hour in Bangkok), we got a taxi and made our way to Rajadamnern Stadium. Rajadamnern Stadium was built in 1945, and Muay Thai has been a Thai sport since the Sukothai period which ended in 1767 AD. Muay Thai originated as hands on combat in times of war, but later became a sport. It is considered full body combat, and is the only combat sport that uses punches, kicks, elbow, and knee strikes. 
The hustle and bustle of the stadium hit us the minute we stepped out of the cab. There were food stalls, people selling tickets, a plethora of motorbikes, and gamblers placing their bets. We splurged on our tickets - $60 for ringside, knowing that it would give us access to the entire stadium. We settled into our seats, and just like at any American sporting event, paid an astronomical amount for beers (Singha, of course). We were close enough to see the beads of sweat dripping off the fighters insane abs. These men were ripped. That said, they were also tiny. The 9 matches of the night ranged in weight class from 109lbs to 126lbs, with the 126lbs match being the highlight. Before each match the boxers do a ritual dance around the ring and pray in each corner - it was quite surreal to watch. Each match then consists of 5 rounds, and typically the first round isn't very exciting as the fighters feel each other out. Between rounds the fighters get doused in water, pumped up by their coach, and rubbed down with what we believe was an oil of some sort. The excitement of the whole evening did not disappoint. 

One of the benefits of spending $60 on tickets meant that we could really go anywhere in the stadium - so we did just that. After one of the fights we wandered back into where the boxer had gone and found him giving an interview. His family and coaches surrounded him, and we learned that family members who cannot afford tickets can sit in the back and watch the match on TV. We took pictures with this fighter, and then went to watch the peak match (the 126lbs weight class).
All of the matches were entertaining but there was typically a clear winner. This match was different - there was not a moment that didn't have us on the edge of our seats. Once the match was over we got to take a picture with the winner. He was quite sweaty, and had a deep gash above his left eye from the fight. We could've stayed for 2 more matches, but hunger had hit us so we ventured out. 

Our plan had been to get some food and go home. Well that plan did not happen. We grabbed a taxi to a street near where our hotel was with the hopes that food stalls would still be open. Luckily they were. And then we followed our noses and noticed where the locals were eating to decide which place we would eat. Across from us there was a Thai man (Tick) and an expat (Martin) eating and drinking, so naturally I asked them for food recommendations and wow did they deliver. We had an amazingly spicy lemongrass chicken soup, sticky rice, and delicious pork. 
It became very clear that the night would not be ending early, as Tick and Martin invited us to join their table. Tick ordered more food for us to try, and we helped them a bit with the bottle of Johnny Walker on the table. We learned to make little rice balls with our hands to soak up the juices of the pork. We also learned that Tick works in the tourism industry (he will now be our tour guide when we go back to Bangkok) and Martin is a film director who lives half the year in northern Thailand (and may hook me up with some travel opportunities if I push my flight back). The entire experience was so amazing and made Katie and I both feel like we were really getting to experience Bangkok. Hell, it even included multiple trips to the gas station squatter (which was not a fun experience in flip flops). 
Martin and Tick kindly ushered us back to our hotel a mere 90 minutes before our taxi to the airport would be coming. Needless to say, the flight to Bali would be rough, but it was all well worth it for what was easily our best night in Bangkok. 

Thailand Does It Better

What does Thailand do better, you ask? A lot of things - temples, shrines, clean streets, roadways, markets, food, massages, malls, grocery stores. 

We started our day taking a taxi to visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. We knew we had to dress conservatively so we brought scarves to cover our shoulders and wore pants/dresses to our ankles. This didn't cut it - we were forced to rock out some pale blue polyester button down shirts. They were hot (in more ways than one). 

Upon entering the temple and Grand Palace area we were in awe. The size, the colors, the detail of the temples were simply stunning, especially against the blue sky. We started at The Upper Terrace, which consists of 4 monuments and scattered statues of elephants and other mythical creatures. After that we walked through the crowds to The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha. We took our shoes off, doused ourselves with holy water, and entered the temple among the throngs of people. We were immediately bummed that photos were not allowed. The site was indescribable - from the marble floors, to the traditional golden Thai-style throne, to the Buddha himself. Disclaimer: the Emerald Buddha is actually jade, blame the abbot who initially discovered the Buddha covered in plaster in the 1400s. This Temple is why Thailand does temples better. 

At this point, quite sweaty and tired, we continued on to the Grand Palace. Some stops included the weapon museum which included tridents (I thought only King Triton from the Little Mermaid used a trident; apparently I was wrong) and hat caskets, and some beautiful architecture such as the Dusit Maha Prasat Hall, which is still used for the annual Coronation Day Ceremony (complete with throne). 

We happily returned our polyester prison garb and began our 10km walk back towards our hotel. Along our walk, we passed houses, the United Nations building, several government ministries - the majority of which had beautiful shrines. 

We also noted a lack of trash on the streets, and specifically mentioned that we had yet to see a single pothole (thus making the streets infinitely better than those of Houston...Westheimer in the loop, anyone?). 

Further along our walk home we happened upon a floating market. I've been to many a market in Latin America and they all have their bonuses. The bonuses of this one? The floating aspect, the bright colors reflecting against the water, the skincare products being sold (including a plethora of coconut oil products), and the food. We have yet to have any truly bad food in Thailand. If you want more on food (and massages), check out the feed me, rub me post or wait for an all encompassing food post that will make you go get Thai food (which I promise will not be as good as the Thai food I can get here).

After another round of massage, Katie and I headed to Siam Paragon, a mall recommended to me specifically for their food court. Well, let me tell you, Thailand wins the game in malls. On our short walk to Siam Paragon we passed at least 3 other malls that were massive, nice, and well-stocked with stores (think everything ranging from H&M to Mango to Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga). Once we reached Siam Paragon our minds were blown. WOW, does Thailand do malls better. Besides the store options, you also have options of visiting the aquarium in the bottom floor, or watching an IMAX on the top floor. But we were there for one thing, and one thing only - the food court. We each put 300 baht on a food court card and got started. Overall, I think their food court was good, but the street food is better. Following our meals (and ice cream), we wandered into the grocery store within the mall (it literally is your one stop place to shop)! We were, yet again, blown away. The rice selections, the pre-cut vegetable selections - all of it made HEB and Whole Foods look like a Piggly Wiggly. Hey U.S. Grocery stores, step up your game!

So there are some of the things that Thailand does better. What can they improve on? Traffic lights. As Katie says, "they're the longest in the world".

Feed Me and Rub Me

Oof that flight was rough...for everyone else on the plane. I very quickly passed out into a sleep-deprived, Benadryl-induced, drool-included slumber. My apologies to the two men in my row. 

Doesn't matter to me though, because I made it to Bangkok and met up with Katie. First impressions of Bangkok (and Thailand) are that it is a big, bustling city but still has greenery, public transportation is good and clean, and people are BEYOND friendly and helpful. 

We took the train from the airport to Ratchaprarop Station and then walked to our hotel. Unsurprisingly, we walked the wrong way (past a street stall selling something that smelled amazing), but a nice guy at a tailor shop asked us where we were going and pointed us in the right direction. We checked in at our hotel (Hotel de Bangkok) and were greeted with a welcome drink and AC! We took some time to decompress and then headed out into the streets with no plan in mind besides street food. And street food we got. We started by going back to that street stall where we were quickly ushered to a little metal table. We didn't even order anything, food just showed up. I can't actually tell you what it was called, but it was a beef broth with noodles, beef, and some vegetables. It was DELICIOUS. All for 70 Baht. One USD is approximately 32 Baht).

We then decided to just walk around and see what else Bangkok had to offer. We ended up meandering through a market while the likes of Lady Gaga and Tove Lo were blasting in the air. My guess is that they don't realize what Tove Lo is saying in "Talking Body". Next on our to do list was hydration so naturally we had to have fresh coconut water. The teenager that we got them from tried to cut Katie's open and drastically failed. His mom stepped in, and let me tell you, I would not mess with her when she has a butcher's knife in her hand! 

Coconut waters in hand, we wandered further down a street. By this point we had eaten and hydrated, and my feet were hurting and swollen from all the flying - so next on the list was obviously a massage. 

200 Baht later, with the softest feet ever, and feeling relaxed, we wandered back onto the street. I was shocked that it was already dark out! However, that meant that there were more and different street carts out with food. For someone who can be indecisive, having so many options can be tough. That is, until I saw a lady making pad Thai. Wowza was it good. Katie got garlic chicken and we ate while we walked back to our hotel for an early night to hopefully deal with some of our jet lag. 

Two takeaways: (1) the food is amazing and the smells are indescribable (in a good way); (2) we will likely get massages daily. Given these, I'm pretty sure the title of this post will be all-encompassing for our time in Thailand.