Monday and Tuesday in Bangkok

One of the best things about being on vacation is that Monday is just as delightful as every other day of the week… My agenda for the next couple of days was mostly re-visiting places I’d enjoyed last October or that I’d not had time to visit. But breakfast first, of course! Back to the little joint near my hotel that specializes in pork and noodles – and that’s exactly what I had (again): pork and noodles. Though this time I got barbecue pork and noodles rather than crispy pork belly. No lie, I’d be happy to eat this for breakfast every morning forever.

Next, on to Wat Pho! I’d actually been here a couple of times last visit to Bangkok, but I had foolishly neglected to avail myself of the massage services available from the students at their world-renowned massage school and the spiritual home of Thai massage. Ak and I each went for the full treatment: one hour foot massage followed by one hour Thai massage for the extremely reasonable price of ฿840 each. The surroundings are not fancy and the massage platforms and chairs are tightly-packed. No matter though – the services are, as one would expect, top-notch. I enjoyed my foot massage – but I loved my Thai massage! My therapist really seemed intuitive and by the time I left, my recurring hamstring injury felt nearly cured. Ak found the Thai massage a bit on the intense side for his taste, but really loved his foot massage. À chacun son goût…

Massage leaves one surprisingly hungry, so I was happy that our next destination was Krua Apsorn, where I could once again scarf down some of their amazing crab curry and crab omelet. We walked there – NBD under ordinary circumstances, but BKK’s temperatures that week had been referred to online as “face-meltingly hot” and that was not wrong. The high that day was something around 97° – so our half-hour walk left us rather worn out, despite popping into one of BKK’s ubiquitous 7-11s to ostensibly buy some water but really just to luxuriate in the chilly AC (and also for me to observe all manner of fascinating items for sale!).

But we made it and the meal at Krua Apsorn was as delicious as I remember. And good thing – someone was getting a bit hangry while we waited to be served…

After lunch, a rather short stroll to a place that had been on my list to visit last time, but that I coudn’t fit into my schedule: Nuttaporn Ice Cream, a tiny place that has been turning out coconut-milk-based ice cream for 60+ years. Ak and I each went traditional and ordered the coconut ice cream, me with corn and palm jelly, his with peanuts and palm jelly. It was really good! Deeply coconutty, though with a texture more like sorbet. And rather dainty portions too – which was frankly a relief, since it meant we could order a second round!

I went with coffee, Ak with the fresh mango – no toppings for either of us. OH. EM. GEE. I immediately declared without hyperbole that the coffee ice cream was the finest I’d ever had. The texture was creamy, though a bit less so than one made with cow’s milk. The flavor was intense and only barely sweet. Sublime. As for the mango? It was as if a mango had been plucked off a tree and magically transformed into ice cream. As my nephew accurately observed when he visited Nuttaporn (on my recommendation, natch) last November, “it was the bomb!”

And while Nuttaporn is clearly doing something right – they have been in business for longer than I’ve been alive (which frankly seems impossible, given my childhood spent along the Euphrates…) – it’s quite astonishing to me that the place doesn’t have a line around the block everyday. Bangkok is already a mecca for “foodies” (ugh) and this is place has all the hallmarks of a cult favorite: hole-in-the-wall, simple, inexpensive, delicious, a bit off-the-beaten path. Don’t get me wrong – I’m kinda glad they are just keeping on as they have in the past. Part of its charm is certainly that it’s a local place with a totally neighborhood vibe.

Anway, def go here while you’re in BKK – but don’t ruin it please!

After ice cream, we hopped on the canal boat and wound up, per usual, at Siam Paragon. I think we just passed through on the way to the Skytrain station – or maybe it’s because we can’t seem to avoid popping in at least once a day for whatever reason. Whatever the case, back to my hotel for a little downtime and then time to get ready for more eating – which, if I’m being totally honest, was probably one of the main reasons I returned to BKK so quickly after my last visit, i.e. I had waaaaaaay more food to eat!

This evening, Ak  was taking me to one of this favorite local spots. We met up with his friend Koi and headed to Jae Koy. Super-local, super-simple and not a place I’d likely to have wandered into on my own – in fact, I was the only farang in the place. I loved it! Food was all great – som tum, beef salad, tom yum and gai yang. I think the beef was my particular favorite, thanks to being spicy and tangy and fragrant. Just all of it so delicious…

Toward the end of our meal, I saw a Western couple come in and sit down, as I thought to myself, “Well, they must be really dialed in to the local food scene if they are here.” And then I noticed their Thai companions bright green shirt – it was Olive, the guide who’d taken me on a marvelous floating market tour last October! That’s one great thing about having my crazy beard, nerd glasses and septum piercing – when I started waving, she def remembered me. Anyway, she came over and we chatted a bit – and she pointed out that whoever took me here must really know their food, because the place is excellent. Nice job, Ak! Not that I expected anything less from him…

Had an early night since the plan was for us to meet up early and check out the Teak and Dusit Palaces on Tuesday morning. Met Ak at the BTS station and then we clambered onto a bus for a short-ish ride to the palace grounds.

First stop, the Teak Palace. Lovely both inside and out. And, while I would’ve loved to have taken some photos of the interiors, cameras and phones are strictly prohibited since this is still a royal residence. Visitors are required to store any and all gear in a locker before entering the building. Honestly? It’s kind of nice to just take in the surroundings without trying to get photos of everything – or, as is more often the case, being pushed and shoved by tourists who don’t look at anything that doesn’t appear on their iPhone screen.

Shoes are also not permitted, so off we padded after leaving our shoes in the rather fragrant repository. The palace itself was quite lovely inside. It’s a little disappointing that there’s not much in the way of information about what one is seeing, so it’s mostly just, “Oh! This place is lovely.” Though Ak was able to provide me with some of the history and context – one of the many benefits of having a Thai friend to squire me around!

After the Teak Palace, we schlepped (srsly, it was kind of a schlep – plus it was literally one million degrees out) over to the Dusit Palace. Wow! The palace is as impressive as the lines are long! Similar drill here, too – no cameras or phones allowed. We locked up our stuff and then joined the enormous line in the blazing hot sun with no shade anywhere. This was gonna be a challenge!

Now, one of the things I’ve learned in my travels is that it is very easy to slip into making broad generalizations about the relative lack of social grace possessed by various specific nationalities. However, I’ve learned that this is not primarily a product of varying social mores (though they play a role) but rather that when you get large tour groups of people from anywhere, they tend to behave like boors. And other than Ak and myself, every visitor at the Dusit Palace had just bussed in from whatever the version of Bumfuck is from their respective countries of origin.

Happily, though, this turned out to be a boon. As we waited amongst the loud and jostling crowd, one of the line wranglers saw us and waved us up to the front of the line for immediate entry. Not really sure why (I imagine because we were not part of the massive group that had descended), but quite sure I don’t care why – I was delighted to be inside not just to look at the quite marvelous collection of objets but to experience the blissfully frigid AC.

The various gold and jewel encrusted thrones, litters, boats and other objects were certainly impressive – as were the soaring ceilings and the various painted scenes upon them. But I must say, the huge carved wood panels were breathtaking. The intricacy of the work and the realism of the subjects was astonishing. There were also some silk embroidered panels that were just lovely.

So, enough with the local sights – it’s time for more food! Lunch was at Som Tum Nua, in the Siam Center shopping center. We had som tum (duh), wings and some kind of noodles that Ak chose and were (duh) abso-effing-lutely delicious. Dessert was across the way at Siam Paragon where I managed to eat an extremely dainty matcha-cream-filled pastry, since I myself am dainty AF.

That afternoon was pretty quiet. Had a lie-down and a swim, then grabbed some tasty katsu curry around the corner for dinner, before finishing up packing. Tomorrow would be a travel day – off to Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit the temples. More to come on that in my next post!

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