We actually spent a total of four nights in Bangkok as part of our chaperoning/judging duties, but we only had two of those nights to ourselves. On our first free evening, the International School of Bangkok organized an outing to The River Tree House, an excellent restaurant serving Thai cuisine from all four areas of the country: north, south, east, and the center. They served the best tom kar gai soup I’ve ever had. They also presented their mango with sticky rice dessert in the shape of little bears:
On Friday night, two coaches from the International School of Manilla and I took a forever-long taxi ride down to the enormous JJ Green Night Market. We mostly wanted street food, which we found in spades. First I had a bowl of soup that tasted like Vietnamese pho with a cup of iced pandan juice on the side; then I had a dish that I can best describe as a deep-fried omelet (but since the beaten eggs were dumped into a cup of simmering oil, the texture was unlike any eggs I’ve every had before — they were puffy and stringy and yummy). Here are the fixings that I had to choose from in building my omelet:
Later in the evening I tracked down green papaya salad, which women (I don’t know why, but it always seems to be women) prepare in giant mortars:
You’re not supposed to eat uncooked, unpeeled fruits and veggies in Thailand, which makes green papaya salad — loaded with green beans and tomatoes — a real challenge. I do my best to eat around some of that and then just hope none of the rest of it makes me ill. So far, so good.
The night market was really fun: crowded, local, sprawling, and so brightly lit that you could forget that it was nighttime.
Vendors sold all kinds of things, from t-shirts and sneakers to sunglasses and watches to blankets and slippers to vintage items. Some of the materials looked like they came straight from a US flea market: baseball caps that said “The Rocky Mountain State” and t-shirts that said “Fairview High Class of 2012” and stuffed animals with their Value Village tags still attached.
Almost the entire market is outdoors — there are very few tents or buildings. Some vendors set out their wares on tables …
… while others spread their items out on the ground…
… and a few even make creative use of their cars:
Some displays are just plain odd:
I’m often surprised by the types of things that people might want to buy, like these super-tricked-out phone cases…
… or these creepy/cute animal bags:
And while I resisted making any purchases, my eye is always drawn to tiny objects (I seem to have inherited this from my mom), like these itty-bitty creatures …
… and these pens:
I loved that there was lots and lots of music at the market. At least six bands were playing at the same time in different locations. This reggae group had the largest stage:
And no gathering spot in Bangkok would be complete without some sort of an altar or shrine:
I did manage to fit in two massages while I was in Thailand. One was of the inexpensive variety — walking off the compound, through someone’s living room, up two flights of stairs past a construction zone, over a pile of chicken bones on the floor that had recently been visited by a cat, behind the hospital-style curtain, lying on a bed where I looked down at the dirty linoleum and tried to tune out the whirring of the fan. That cost $8.50 for an hour. My other massage was of was of the expensive variety — on the compound, at a spa, with new age music playing and aromatherapy scents wafting through my very own room. That cost $11. If I were to return, I’m pretty sure which one I would pick.
Thai massage should, perhaps, have another name — like “Thai poking and prodding.” Thai masseuses use their elbows, their fingertips, their feet — anything that can dig into your muscles and cause temporary pain. At one point I found myself wondering, “why am I paying someone to grind her heel into my hamstrings?” It feels good afterwards, but in the moment, it’s a bizarre experience.