It’s April 11th and I’m sitting at SFO waiting for our flight that will take us back to Oregon and normalcy. I decided that I needed to write this post before the glow of our last day in Bangkok begins to fade.
We decided to forgo the “big” sights of Bangkok on our 2 1/2 days in the city; instead, we hit the markets about which I posted last and we went on a nighttime tuk tuk street food tour. Turns out the street food tour was a perfect way to wind up our three plus weeks in Southeast Asia.
We rendezvoused with our guide, Guitar (yes, that is his name), at 6 p.m. in our hotel lobby. From first meeting, we suspected that he was going to be a lot of fun and such turned out to be the case. Very talkative, very flamboyant and very enthusiastic.
The tuk tuks were big enough for two and a half people (in addition to the driver) and Guitar alternated sitting in one tuk tuk and then the other to give all of us equal shares of his irrepressible personality. The format of the tour was that we would go to one area, get out of the tuk tuks and then wander the streets sampling various foos stuffs on offer. We would then meet up with the tuk tuks and they would take us to another area to explore.
The night streets are alive with vehicles, vendors and people. It was a very warm and steaming evening. One of the first things Guitar said was to tell Claire to take off the overblouse she was wearing and “show some skin” because it was just too warm to keep it on.
The evening air was fragrant with the smells of frying, boiling, and grilling food overlaid with the extraordinarily pungent pong coming up from the drains. Perhaps one gets used to it but, if so, I can testify to the fact that it takes more than one evening. The smell did not appear to dampen anyone’s appetite, however, and all of the vendors were doing a brisk business.
Our first stop was for patongko, a rice flour fried donut type thing, that is dipped in a sauce of pandan (a green leaf reminiscent of lemongrass or iris leaves) and coconut milk. I call the sauce the “super snot sauce” due to its green color and truly disgusting viscosity. I think if one had been a confirmed nose picker as a child, the sauce might not have been quite so revolting but, for those of us who were not, it took a small leap of faith to drag the patongko through the stuff before stuffing it into one’s mouth. But it was worth the leap because it was delicious.
We tried the duck noodle soup from two lovely ladies. The broth was rich with complex flavors, the sliced duck was tender and yummy and the noodles were slippery and slidey, which made eating it a challenge. Guitar showed us how to use both hands with two utensils to kind of chop it all up to facilitate getting most of it into our mouths and not down our shirtfronts.
We had slices of roast duck from another little shop, which were exceptional.
We took a short detour down a side street to see the lady with the stall selling fried crickets, scorpions and worms of various sizes and degrees of crispiness. When I asked for one cricket, the proprietor was a bit taken aback as the delicacies are normally sold several to a stick but she accommodated my request and I gobbled one up: Crispy with a hint of sourness. Not the highlight of the evening. I might still be picking bits of cricket legs out of my teeth.
Guitar purchased sticky rice with mango from another vendor. We took it with us when we rejoined our tuk tuks and went to the flower market and pier to enjoy it while looking at the river with all of the illuminated dinner cruise boats chugging by. It was lovely. We had been to this same location on our cruise tour but the area was completely different by night. The lights made it enchanting. A small aside here: The mangoes in Bangkok spoil you for mangos anywhere else. They are so succulent and sweet; not a hint of fiber. I don’t know if I will ever be able to enjoy mangoes from the store again .
The flower market is open 24 hours a day and it is transformed at night. It seems like, at night, the vendors are primarily packaging flowers/blossoms for shipment elsewhere rather than selling directly to customers.
Barbeque pork on skewers was our next course. Also delicious although our appetites were beginning to flag in direct relation to the amount of food we were eating.
Our final stop of the evening was at Thipsamai, the MOST famous pad Thai joint in Bangkok if all of the testimonials on the walls are to be believed. Due to our connection with Guitar, we were whisked past the lengthy queue out front and to a table for four that was awaiting our arrival. The best we could manage was one order of pad Thai between the four of us. It was beautifully presented as a little parcel; the noodly yumminess of the pad Thai was enclosed within the thinnest layer of omelet. Lovely and delectable.
Our tour was supposed to include a visit to a local roof top bar in the back packers’ area of the city. Not being back packers, not being in the first blush of youth and having a very early departure in the morning, we opted to cut the tour short at Thipsamai and head back through the streets of Bangkok to our hotel.
We discovered several things on this tour:
First, the street food of Bangkok, vendors and restaurants, is delicious.
Second, street food establishments can have Michelin star ratings and recommendations and we passed one that had a star and ate from one with a recommendation.
Third, street food establishments can be awarded a certificate designating them clean and wholesome; all of the vendors we ate from had this designation. As far as I know, none of us suffered from any problems as a result of our eating, so, I think the “clean and wholesome” indicator is probably legitimate. Of course, we did use abundant amounts of hand sanitizer throughout our three+ weeks in Southeast Asia and that has to have helped.
What a wonderful way to cap our time in this part of the world. I would recommend it to anyone with a taste for adventure and good food.