Friday, February 12, 2016

A Morning in Bangkok.

Buying some delicious fried bananas from the vendor across the street.

Good morning, Bangkok.  Although we didn't set an alarm to wake us up this morning, we were all up bright and early.  I think we're still reeling from the excitement of being here.

Our plan today was to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.  I had delegated navigational duties to Bro and Ayşe. Aea had left us with a rough map of the city and Bro had carefully looked it over last night to familiarize himself with the lay of the land.  We decided we would approach the Grand Palace by boat.  Good excuse for a short boat ride up the Chao Phraya River.

But, first things first.  Since we're staying in an apartment as opposed to a hotel, we have to find places to eat our meals.  We kick started our day in search of a place for breakfast.  I had spotted a couple of cafes, on Surawong Road,

We didn't have to go far to get our first bite.  Just across the street.  There were a couple of street vendors already cooking away.  We decided to check them out.

The first stop was at the lady selling fried fritters.  Bro and I immediately recognized the yao tiao.   The woman was just frying up a batch.  Yao tiao are best eaten when they are piping hot, just pulled from the oil.  We had to have some.  She spoke no English and we know not a lick of Thai but with some sign language, followed by a few giggles, we managed to convey what we wanted and she could indicate how much we had to pay her.  Who says language is a barrier?? :-)

That's our apartment building in the background.  She was frying away when we approached her.

Yao tiao on the left.  Shorter in length than what we're used to but the taste was the same.  Delish!


A few yiao tiao for a few baht.
Next, we bought a few fried banana fritters from the next street vendor.  They were the same as the ones that Aea had treated us to yesterday.  What makes them so delicious is they are made with the small, fragrant bananas that we're used to in Southeast Asia.  Once you have an Asian banana, you realize why you can never really enjoy the larger size ones we get in the US - they lack flavor and fragrance and they are much drier in texture.

We walked along Surawong Road, heading towards the river, as we munched.

Walking, munching, talking.  We're enjoying ourselves.  It's still too early for the shops to open up.

We noticed a small street market and crossed the street to check it out.   The market is on Soi Pradit.  All three of us love markets!  This was a small neighborhood market, catering to the local community.


Bro's radar was on the look out for fruits.  Unfortunately, this is the dry season so many of our favorite tropical fruits are not yet available.

Oranges.  Most likely imported as they have stickers on them.

Guavas.

There was a section dedicated to prepared foods.   If I lived in Bangkok, I would likely pick up a meal or two in place like this.

They sell a lot of things in small plastic bags here.  These were sauces and condiments to accompany grilled meat and fish.

If you need more than just condiments, you can get your entire meal in a bag too!

We quickly popped inside the covered, fresh market.  Lots of items I recognized but there were plenty that were completely unfamiliar to me.  I love it when I go to a place and I find things that people eat but that I've never seen before.  It means there's something new for me to taste!


Bananas.  Something familiar.

Eggplants on the left.  But the green thing on the right??  Turns out it's wild eggplant.  Must try some.


All the herbs you need for a Thai curry.  Clockwise from the top:  kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, galangal, tumeric and finger root (a relative of ginger)
We breezed by the meat section, especially the vendors selling pork as we have a Muslim with us.

There was a lot of seafood for sale and it looked very fresh.  Too bad we're not doing any cooking here. I'd pick up something.

As we walked along, I noticed plenty of local restaurants serving up food.  Here, there is no such thing as breakfast food.  Food is food so for breakfast, you eat what you would ordinarily eat for lunch and dinner.  Bro and I are accustomed to downing a bowl of noodle soup in a small eatery but this is very foreign to Ayşe who is more used to eating either a Turkish or continental breakfast.  I could see the look of trepidation on her face when I suggested we find a place to eat on this street.  I made a note to keep an eye out for a more *Western aka European* style cafe or restaurant.

In the meantime, Bro and Ayşe were happily distracted with buying fruit.  Ayşe wanted to buy some of the small bananas and so she turned to our resident fruit expert for help.

Buying our bananas.

Ayşe with her bananas.  Good that we bought two bunches as each banana is only two bites!

Eyeing one of his favorite fruits.  In Malaysia, we know it as chikoo.  Else, it's commonly known as sapodilla, its Mexican name.

A selection of Thai fruits.  Clockwise from the top:  longan (we bought some for Ayşe to try),  mangos,
mangosteens (we also bought a few of these), rambutans, rose apples, papayas, tangerines, and in the middle, chikoo.

Checking out the rambutans.  In the end, we didn't buy any.

Happy to be in Bangkok!

While the other two were checking out the fruit, I was checking out the sweets that were being sold nearby.  In Malaysia, we would refer to these as kuih, a specialty of Nonya cuisine.  They are typically a sweet dessert item made from a variation of glutinous rice, coconut (meat and mik), beans, and pandan (for flavoring).  Some kuih can be savory and some can be a combination of sweet and savory.  I absolutely LOVE kuih!!  When I was a child in Malaysia, it was a treat to get kuih for breakfast.  These days, I rarely get to have any and in fact, I think I have to teach myself how to make them so I can feed my own addiction.  Of course, I was curious to taste the Thai versions so I got a few to try.


Soi Pradit connects Surawong Road with Silom Road.  At the intersection of Soi Pradit and Silom Road is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.  Seeing the temple triggered a lightbulb to go off in my head.  Yesterday, I had asked Aea about a market and she mentioned there was one located across from the Hindu temple on Silom Road.

We should have detoured and gone inside to check out the temple but for some reason, we just walked on by.  I guess we were determined to get on with our mission of getting to the Grand Palace.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.  There seemed to be some construction going on.

Floral garlands for sale near the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

Grilled bananas for sale.  These were a short, fat banana.  Could it be better than the delicious two biter I was enjoying? 

From Silom Road, I fired up Google Maps to get us to the pier. We ended up on a side street.  By now, the heat and humidity was beginning to rise as morning progressed.  I was okay but was already dreading how bad it could all get come high noon.  Bro and I had come prepared with frozen bottles of water - we had stuck our water bottles in the freezer last night.  I hope the icy, cold water will be enough to keep me hydrated and feeling comfortable.

Our walk took us past a hostel.  We decided to step inside.  There, we were able to get a better map of the city.  I also wanted to find out about sightseeing options - in particular, trips to a floating market and Ayutthaya.  It was disappointment on the floating market side though I wasn't surprised - all the trips were to Damnoen Saduak, the uber touristy market. No surprise really. There were some reasonably priced day trips to Ayutthaya, which I kept in mind as we walked out the door.

Our next stop was barely a few feet from the hostel.  It was an office building and what initially caught our attention were the men, suspended above, doing some repair work.  No fancy scaffolding here.  He just wrapped his leg around the rope which also held up a small piece of wood that functioned as his seat.

After gazing up, we gazed down.  Bro had spotted the plumeria trees and he introduced Ayşe and I to the intense fragrance of their blooms.  Wow! 


From here, we were only about a 10 minute walk from the ferry pier, at least according to Google Maps.  We happened upon a very busy intersection.  Google wanted us to cross the street to the other side but my two, stubborn travel partners wanted to continue down the side of the street we were on.  I told them there was probably a good reason why Google was directing us to cross the street but they refused to buy that statement so I followed them down the road.


I stopped to admire another streetside altar.  They are a common sight in the city and they're often located in very unexpected places. This one, complete with food offerings, was located out front of an office building, near the entrance to the highway.


Someone really took time and care to lay out the food.  From what I could tell, it was fresh food.....not left over from yesterday.  There was a full meal including drinks and dessert!



Our walk took us to a small road that ran alongside the highway.  The road dead ended at the Saphan Taksin pier.  Now.....to figure out which boat to take.

Our adventure in Bangkok is just beginning!