In Bangkok, Thailand, Food Connects Two Strangers
I’ve never loved big cities. Never. In December, however, I was on a trip with TakeMeTour Thailand, a community-based travel organization which provides meaningful travel experiences. I was in Bangkok. Bangkok. The crazy big capital city of Thailand. And in Bangkok, I learned to love cities.
It was mid-December when I landed in Bangkok for the first time with Thai AirAsia. I quickly grabbed a dtac SIM card, booked a Grab and headed to my favorite hostel. The Spades is a gorgeous boutique hostel. It’s luxe, beautifully-designed and has a cute little restaurant downstairs. They do craft beer gatherings in the evenings.
On my first day in Bangkok, I walked and walked and walked. I crowd-watched. I sat on small plastic stools on the pavement, sipped coconuts and talked to random vendors. I ate food I knew nothing about. I took pictures of all of them. I gulped down Thai Iced Tea and munched a few Khanom Bueang (Thai crepes). I had my favorite Pad Thai and went to Pratunam market.
My second day was reserved for two beautiful temples. I booked a grab and headed to Wat Pho. It’s famous for the reclining Buddha, but the temple complex is so vast that you are still able to find tiny corners to yourself. From Wat Pho, I took the ferry for four baht and headed to Wat Arun. The tiny details of Wat Arun surely fascinated me. Then, for fifty baht, I took the Chao Phraya Express Boat. On my second day, I walked to a few street joints to get my dinner. It was where I had the spiciest bowl of Tom Yum. I also ordered sticky mango rice, which is one of my favorite Thai dishes I used to order from Dao Krua Thai in Colombo.
My third day, however, was one of the best days of my Thailand trip. It was when I joined Tun, my local expert from TakeMeTour. We drove two hours outside Bangkok to see the beautiful Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Maeklong Railway Market. As you drive past Bangkok city limits, the roaring skyline is replaced with patches of greenery, salt farms and river streams. We first went to the floating market. We were there before it was 10. By 10.30 AM, the place gets crowded. It definitely is a touristy place, but remember, sometimes, some places are touristy because they are incredible. I hopped on a boat with Tun. We went around the market, had coconut ice cream presented in a lovely little coconut shell with orchids. I again had Khanom Bueang. Yes, I love them!
I, however, loved the Maeklong Railway Market the most. While everyone was waiting for the train, there’s a raw, breathing market inside, where a tourist rarely steps into. Meat chopping women with their earphones on! Shelves stacked with fresh produce. Bananas with a yellow tinge on top. Shellfish. Dry fish in bamboo baskets. Local markets are like an open book where its pages are colored with drawings of everyday life.
My favorite time of the day was when we stopped at a local restaurant for our LocalTable lunch. The lovely open restaurant is called Krua Rim Tang Klang Bor. The area is popular for its mackerel produce so Tun ordered several mackerel dishes, those that are cooked in different ways. We had Pla Kra Pong Tod Nam Pla (deep fried mackerel in fish sauce), Pla Tu Tod (deep fried dried mackerel), Tom Som Pla Tu (Tamarind Soup with Mackerel), Khai Jiao (Thai style omelet) and rice. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and Tun briefed me about the history of these dishes.
I was also fascinated to know that many people in Bangkok don’t cook. Most locals eat outside food, because…why not? Cooked food is widely available everywhere in Bangkok and they taste brilliant.
The next day, I left to Chiang Mai, but before I left Thailand, I had two more days in Thailand’s vibrant capital. And on one of those days, I got lost. I hopped on a local bus where two lovely women helped me to get down at the right stop.
And that’s how I fell in love with Bangkok. It wasn’t a slow, take-it-easy, savor-little-by-little process. I dived deep into her diverse cuisine. It’s aromas. It’s colored. It’s raw spices. I dived deep into her food, without even questioning their names. The night food joints. Makeshift tables on leveled pavements. Coconuts, green, covered in crushed ice. The people who make them. Those that I couldn’t speak with because I wasn’t well versed with Thai. But our smiles could connect each other. And if there’s something else that could connect two strangers, it’s the love for food.
I was part of the LocalTable Campaign organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, TakeMeTour Thailand, Thai AirAsia and dtac, but all opinions are my own and entirely true.