Thursday, June 16, 2016

EER R&R: Bangkok Part One

Oh Bangkok. What lovely memories I have of you. The food. The traffic. The colors. The occasional elephants. The hot water! When I studied in Khon Kaen I loved coming to Bangkok (2-3 times during the semester) because we stayed right in the city and our hotel had hot showers. I never saw the tourist sites (except Khao San Road since we stayed nearby), but I loved the energy, the abundance of street food, and the greenery and relative quiet of many city streets. Fast forward 13.5 years, and I'm ready to rediscover this lovely city... although hot water is not my only luxury this time.

Immigration was quick but baggage took a while, and I made it out to a taxi within about an hour of landing. The taxi driver very helpfully tuned the radio to American pop hits since, as he said "I know Americans! They like American music! They do not like Thai music. I like Thai music. But Americans do not like Thai music!" I didn't bother arguing, especially since I'd never heard most of the American songs anyway so it was all new to my ears.

We made it into Bangkok fairly quickly, though traffic was a bit backed up downtown. Luckily the hotel let me check in a couple hours early. Thank goodness for status which also got a room category upgrade! I took a quick shower and changed clothes and then had the doorman help me get a cab to my first stop - the tailor. It took a bit of back and forth to understand the address (even with the map I'd printed out), and I realized later that it was much easier to go by skytrain. Oh well. I got to see some of the neighborhood!

The tailor experience didn't start off great, but once the inexperienced salesman turned me over to one of the tailors it went smoothly. I chose the fabrics for suits and shirts, we did quick designs, he took the measurements, and I was done for the day! When I had initially inquired with the tailor about getting things done while I was in town, they told me they were closed for ten days for Songkran (Thai New Year) right in the middle of my stay. So I needed to get the fittings done right away, and I decided to have them mail me the finished products. That would leave more room for souvenirs in my suitcase anyway!

I took the skytrain back to the hotel and called the spa to check their availability. Luckily they were completely open, so I went right up for a foot/leg massage and then a head massage. It was perfect. Exactly what I needed after traveling - great ambience, great staff, great amenities. After that I decided to eat in the hotel for dinner. They have a Chinese restaurant that was okay, though I don't think I did the best job ordering. Oh well. Service was lovely. I FaceTimed with my parents before bed and then had a great night's sleep.

Friday I woke up for breakfast (amazing, diverse spread!) and got ready for my first food adventure with Traveling Spoon. I read about this company a couple months ago and then read an FS blog post about one woman's experience with them in New Delhi. When I checked the website and saw their heavy Asia presence (and in the cities I was visiting!) I started researching. Traveling Spoon matches travelers with hosts in their home cities for meals, cooking demonstrations, and market experiences.

For Thailand I chose a host who advertised some of my favorite Thai dishes and had studied in the United States. I thought that was a nice combination. The first date I suggested didn't work for her, but she was free on Friday so I confirmed, and we set it up! I met Cherry at a BTS station and we walked to a neighborhood market. She had already purchased some of the ingredients but talked me through noodle, tofu, veggie, mango, and sticky rice choices. We headed back to her apartment to cook and chatted the whole time. She had me be the sous chef, chopping, washing, and prepping ingredients as she talked through the theory of the various tastes and techniques. We made tom kha gai soup, pad thai, and spicy pork with savory basil. Plus we had mango with sticky rice for dessert! After cooking the dishes we sat down and feasted and chatted some more. It was absolutely delicious, and I got some great insights into Thai culture for a modern family in Bangkok. This was a really great experience, and I encourage others to take advantage while traveling in the region.

The rest of the day was napping since my cold was now full-blown, and I had room service for a light dinner.

Buying noodles and tofu at the neighborhood market

She wanted me to take a photo but looked away

Chilis. I don't do chilis well. This was considered a very minor amount, but it was way too much for me.

Prepping the next dish

Tom Kaa Gai simmering

Mmmm Thai basil...

Adding the noodles to pad thai

Pad Thai

About to enjoy the results!

Pad Graepow
Typical Thai condiments

Tom Kaa Gai Soup

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