A Foodie Experience in Bangkok!
Bangkok is a wonderful place for shopping, sightseeing, and eating. For me, it's all about the food, followed by the shopping spree. Before I make my trip to Bangkok, like twice a year, I have already mapped out the places and restaurants that I want to hunt down while I am there. You simply cannot imagine my excitement at the thought of the wonderfully spicy tom yam beckoning at me from a little stall tucked away at MBK.
Day 1 - Lunch
The moment I check in to the Pathumwan Princess Hotel, I made a beeline towards MBK - with one thought in mind. Guess why I even booked myself at Pathumwan Princess? I could choose from any other hotels at Siam Square and not have to pay the extra for such a centralized location. However, Pathumwan Princess is adjoining MBK, where some of the best shopping experience is to be found! (and food) Anyway, I digress.
I weaved through the crowd with my husband in tow, and with great memory, we managed to find the food court with hardly any problems. The moment we stepped into the food court, the beautiful colors of the local fruits and desserts greeted us. Rubbing our hands in glee, we headed straight to the stall and ordered a variety of desserts such as the Thai Mango Sticky Sweet Rice, which is a dessert of ripe mango served with sticky rice with a general dose of coconut milk over the rice; Thai Tapioca Coconut Pudding, which is tapioca pudding in warm coconut milk; and of course, the must-have Rubies in Coconut milk, which is small cubed water chestnut coated with tapioca flour and served with shaved ice and coconut milk. Lip-smacking goodness!
Next, we head on towards the far end. Right in the center is a stall selling braised pork knuckles. This is like one of the best braised pork knuckles I have ever tasted. You will see a huge wok over a slow fire. In it, stewing for hours, are the delicious pork knuckles. You can pick to have the meat or the knuckles. It will be served to you with a bowl of rice and some salted vegetables. I am not too fond of the salted vegetables though. They taste different from the ones in Malaysia. But I love the gravy and always make sure that my rice is literally swimming in gravy. That is one cheap meal!
Walk a few stalls down and you will come to a stall selling tom yum and the likes. The tom yum kung (tom yum with prawns) is cheap at food court prices, and best of all, it is really tasty. It comes in a generous portion with large prawns swimming in it. Tasting the tom yum at MBK and at various other places has given me one conclusion. It does not matter where you are - the tom yum in Thailand is excellent and simply cannot go wrong.
Day 1 - Dinner
For dinner that day, we have decided to head towards Central Chidlom. From my hotel, it is easily accessible via the BTS Sky Train, stopping at the Chidlom station. While doing some research online prior to this trip, I have already discovered a highly-recommended food court within the shopping mall itself. Of course, going to Central Chidlom is not just for the food. The last time I visited Bangkok, I was not aware of this place (strange!). This time around, I will not miss it. With so many shopping malls in Bangkok, I find Central Chidlom one of the better malls. When I was there, a sale was on and there are some pretty good bargains. I can shop in comfort and the range is pretty decent. But of course, my main objective is to get dinner (and to think that I have just had a late lunch). Up we go to the 7th floor, and voila! Food Loft here we come! Food Loft uses the card system with barcode for ordering and payment, whereby the card contains 1000THB. Each time when ordering anything, just hand over the card and pay upon exit. Because the prices of the food are totally reasonable, it is not really that easy to use up 1000THB in one visit. If this is your first time to Food Loft, you would not believe that the prices of the food are that reasonable. This is because the décor is way too classy for the price range. It is cozy and tastefully furnished. Instead of the usual layout of a food court with square boxes as food outlets lining the four corners of the wall, Food Loft uses the kitchen island concept. Each "island" is home to a different cuisine, namely Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian and Thai of course. Since we are in Thailand, I naturally would not want to try any other cuisines but Thai food. The hubby tried the tom yum noodles while I tried the pad thai. And you know what? They were both excellent! We had glasses of fresh juices as well, and of course, the price of beer is reasonable too. I say this because liquor is very expensive for me back home. But that's another story altogether. As for the layout of the restaurant, it is divided into two. The lower section is where all the stalls are, while a higher level is where you will find more tables. The décor made me feel, for a moment, that I was in a hotel, dining under candlelight with the sound of water running nearby. It was a memorable first time.
For your information, Food Loft opens from 10 am to 10 pm daily.
Day 2 - Breakfast
Breakfast was at the hotel restaurant. It was provided as part of the room package. It was good, but nothing like good ol' Bangkok street food. After breakfast, we hop on the BTS again and headed towards one of the end stations. To Chatuchak Weekend Market we go.
Of course, after a hearty buffet breakfast, all we could do was shop around for some good bargains and check out the interesting variety of food and drink stalls along the way. There is one particular stall worth mentioning. From a distance, I could see a wooden table laden with several pile of brownish and whitish items. I did not know they were food items until my hubby spotted them. With a gleam in his eyes and a grin forming on his mouth, he quickly went to order a bag of something! I saw the proprietor scooping up some of the brown fried stuff and putting it into a plastic bag. Then he splashed on some brown sauce, which I gathered could be light soya sauce. I figured anything with light soya sauce and crispy looking cannot be all that bad!
Eagerly I went forward to check out the stall and to my horror; the table was covered with small mounds of crickets and other bugs. The "crispy looking brown thing" my hubby bought was actually fried crickets doused with soya sauce. As he was happily crunching them down, he pushed one at me. Unfortunately, it was an entire cricket, and the poor thing was staring at me with eyes perfectly retained from the frying process. Dear hubby said to take one bite. To me, that was a no-no. How can you eat anything that is staring at you with those eyes? To pacify me, he turned the cricket around, and this time, the tail part was staring at me. Really, how can anyone bite off someone's butt? Disgusting I thought. Finally, he tore off the head (ouch!) and handed me the middle part of the cricket. Here, try it, he said. You cannot claim to have come to Thailand and not eat one of these. I reckoned he has a point. I held my breath and pop it into my mouth. Salty, was my first thought. Crunchy, was my second thought. Vile tasting was my conclusion. YUCKS! That thing tasted exactly like how I imagine crickets to taste. Foul. And I apologize in advanced to those of you who actually like eating maggots, bugs and crickets. But this is probably the last time I will eat a cricket willingly.
On the way out of Chatuchak Weekend Market, we decided to stop by a stall and buy some fresh local fruits. Now, that is at least edible.
Day 2 - Lunch
It is embarrassing to admit, but we went back to MBK's food court for lunch that day. And we ate the exact same thing as the previous day. It was simple irresistible.
Day 2 - Dinner
Our dinner for the second day was a relatively nice affair where we decided to splurge a little. We booked one of those river cruises cum dinner tours. The experience was wonderful and the memories were nothing but fondness. Because it was meant to be a treat, the service was good as well. We had a couple of appetizers, followed by the prerequisite tom yum kung, our main meal of seafood dishes and a nice dessert to cap it. While enjoying our meal, we were also treated to some dance and musical performances as well as an opportunity to view the night scenes of the Chao Phraya River. The sparkling lights reflected off the waters of the river, making the moment very magical.
After dinner, we did not want to go back to the hotel so soon. We instructed the tour company to drop us off at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Suan Lum is located just opposite Lumpini Park at the Pathum Wan district. Here was another treat for us! The night bazaar is generally open from 3pm to midnight, although some shops remain open past that time. This is like a mini Chathuchak! It has almost all the items similar as Chathuchak, except that the place is smaller and easier to shop as the chances of you getting lost is minimal compared to Chathuchak. It has small outlets selling a variety of clothing, jewelry, textile, knickknacks, food, hand-made products, and lots more! There is also a huge beer garden serving a variety of food and live entertainment. I like coming to Suan Lum for the beer (cheap!) and the live music. The Joe Louis Puppet Theatre is also located at Suan Lum. Unfortunately, there are news that Suan Lum Night Bazaar will be closed down in April 2007, however, as of August 2007, the place is still up and running according to Wikipedia.
Day 3 - Breakfast
We have pre-booked the tour to Damnoen Saduak, Thailand's famous floating market. Breakfast was a quick affair at the hotel's restaurant once again, but we were actually looking forward to brunch or lunch at Damnoen Saduak. So off we go!
Day 3 - Brunch
Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi is located about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. Although the market operates every morning until noon, it is better to be there as early as possible to really take in the scenes and sounds of the floating market. Preferably latest by 8 am. 7 am would be ideal. Most tour buses will start to arrive at about 9 am and the place will become too congested. When we arrived, we took a long tail boat to get to the floating market. Along the way, we are able to observe the villagers going about their daily lives. There are houses on both sides of the canals with orchards, pets running around, laundry on the clothesline, and even a swing in the garden!
Once you reach Damnoen Saduak, you can hire boats so that you can get up close and personal with the villages and boat vendors. Damnoen Saduak is like a place caught in a timeless picturesque scene where the Thai natives lead a completely different lifestyle from the observers.
For long moments, I stood at the bridge, looking down at the beautiful colorful scenery, and felt as if time has stopped. The natives go about doing their business, totally oblivious to the tourists busy snapping their pictures, just part of life to sell from a boat. And just as sudden, my reverie is broken by the lively bustling sounds of laughter from the tourists, natives proffering their wares (food! More food!), and splashing of water as the boats knocked into each other due to the congestion in the waterways.
After having gone through the souvenir stalls, it is finally time for food! Because I did not hire a boat for the ride down the canal (being heavily pregnant at that time), I stood by the side of the canal and have no problems hailing vendors to bring me my choice foods. The vendors are more than eager to sail over and interestingly, a transaction can take place by one standing on solid ground, while another is maneuvering a boat. We ordered the Coconut Pancake, a sweet coconut dessert, made to look like mini pancakes, covered with coconut shavings, steamed, and then served to you on a banana leaf. Yummy! For want of something more filling, we managed to get a seat by the side of the canal and ordered noodles. I really have no idea what I ate, but I have fond memories of the soup noodles with fish sauce and lots of raw bean sprouts. If you flinch at the hygienic (or non-) settings, then this is not the place for you. After a hearty meal of noodles, we managed to hail a vendor selling Thai Mango Sticky Sweet Rice. To wash it all down, we got a fresh coconut each. Overall pricing? Too low to discuss.
Finally, it is time to go. On the way back to the hotel, we dropped by the Teakwood Handicraft Center where you will get to see the locals at work creating many masterpieces. These people are truly talented.
Day 3 - Dinner
Alas, my trip is over. Short, but fulfilling. Not quite willing to let go for Thailand yet, we had our last meal at the airport restaurant while waiting for our flight home. We ordered tom yum kung and green curry chicken with rice. It was, well, nothing to shout about. With that, we vow to be back soon. Live to eat!