A group of friends (Sunia, Joseph, and Vince) and I decided to travel to Thailand for our Mid-Autumn Festival Break (in an attempt to get away from the abundance of mooncakes…just kidding…sort of). Four days in Bangkok and three days in Chiang Mai. Our plans were made! We flew Thai Airways from Hong Kong to Bangkok…this airline was amazing! For our two hour flight, we were served an actual meal. Back home in the States, you are lucky to score a cup of water without paying for it. This airline knew how to treat its customers. We took a taxi to our hotel…The Residence Rajtavee was an obscure hotel. Most of the drivers we used during the week didn’t really know where it was without a map the hotel provided on a back of a card. The front desk staff was nice and helpful, however the spa was under renovation, and Sunia and I had a magnificent view of a building’s wall of a/c units. Our days were jammed packed with fun and discovery so the view from the room didn’t really matter!
I know when I write about my trips, I usually break it down as one entry equals a day, but I think I’m going to do it differently this time. This time, I’m going to do one entry per activity (or at least I’m going to try!). We did so many fantastic things that I want to make sure the people we trusted as guides get their due.
The first thing we did was take a Midnight Food by Tuk Tuk Tour of Bangkok. The tour was given by Bangkok Food Tours, but I was able to book it through Expedia without a hitch. We met Mang (I believe this is how one would spell his name—in fact, I apologize for future misspellings because I’m sure there will be many) a few BTS (skytrain system, which is super easy to navigate and use) stops over from our hotel’s area. Each tuk-tuk* would be able to hold two people in it so Vince and I paired up.
Vince and I in our tuk-tuk!
Our first stop was at a local place (Khao Mungai Pratunam) that specialized in chicken and rice. Sure, sounds simple, but it was full of flavor and delicious. Basically, it’s chicken (I prefer it with skin) served over rice. Two sauces were given to us along with our dish: a clear broth and one with a bit more kick that had some chili in it. Also, a small piece of congealed chicken blood was served; it was almost like a thick, set pudding. This is supposedly healthy; I’m not sold on the health benefits of it, but I will say it wasn’t too bad…bland, but not disgusting. Mang also gave us a longan juice made with brown sugar. Talk about sweet! I’d definitely order that again. For dessert, we got the traditional mango with sticky rice and crispy mung beans. But that was only our first place…
The first stop…
The gang waiting for the arrival of our first dish.
Bon appetite! Chicken and rice…with some chicken blood pudding.
Stop number two (Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai) was a short tuk-tuk ride away (I really need to get one of those things) at a place known for their crispy noodle dishes. I went with the special: ham, squid, and I think it also had some chicken. This dish was okay. Not sure if I’d order it again. But, the restaurant allowed us to go into their “kitchen” (which was in an alley behind the restaurant, but I’ve found that the best places prepare their food this way; in fact, when I go home in December for Christmas, I think I’ll just cook a dish up in the driveway for my parents) to see how they prepare the food. It was pretty cool actually. A few men each had a station with the ingredients and supplies. A can, resembling a metal garbage can, had a fire blazing underneath a wok/pan. The “chef” sauted and twirled the noodles and ingredients together. The actual process is fairly quick and neat to watch.
The “chef” frying some noodles up!
Up next was a walk through the flower market. It was overwhelming! Mang told me it was considered the largest flower market in the world—I really don’t see where anyone could argue against that. It was HUGE! Vendor after vendor with an array of flowers in various colors, sizes, shapes…orchids, peonies, marigolds, lilies…was trying to sell their goods. Some people were creating bouquets while some were working on offerings for Buddha (to be offered at shrines and temples). A long time ago, I watched an episode Samantha Brown (a travel journalist that had a ton of shows on the Travel Channel…when I was in my twenties, I wanted to be Samantha Brown, and trust me, you’ll hear about her again in my blog) did in Thailand. In one of the segments, she went to the flower market and was allowed to help make a “ribbon” of flowers she would use for an offering when she went to the temple. Well, I had my mind set on trying it out like she did. I eventually found my mark, an older woman working on threading marigolds together on a ribbon. I stood there for a minute smiling at her (Thailand is suppose to be the land of smiles); she smiled back and I knew I had her. I used my phenomenal pantomiming skills to ask if I could try. She nodded, held out a long needle, and tossed some marigold heads up. I have to say, I did pretty well. I think next time I’m ready for a more intricate design. While continuing our stroll through the garden of stalls, Mang stopped and asked if anyone would be willing to try some insects. I thought about it for a minute and decided to try one. Heck, I ate a silkworm before. Why not an insect? A small cart was selling grasshoppers, tiny frogs, and worms, all fried and ready for our consumption. I opted for the worm (Did you really thing I would eat a frog when I can’t stand being near a live one?). It wasn’t too bad. Crunchy, but it didn’t leave that burnt aftertaste in your mouth like the silkworm had. Would I eat another one? Eh, I tried it once; that’s enough.
Mmmm….grasshoppers, worms, and baby frogs!
And even more flowers!
Our tuk-tuks (this time, I decided to mix up some and ride with Sunia) met us at the end of the market and whisked us away to our fourth location: Wat Pho. Wat Pho has a few claims to fame. First of all, it’s where the impressive Reclining Buddha resides. Secondly, it is the home of the Thai massage (or so I’m told). Since it was about 10pm at this point, the Buddha and massage school were closed, but we were given permission to walk around the surrounding area to look at the stupas and buildings within the walls of Wat Pho. First of all, we were the only ones there—no other tourists or visitors. The sky was clear and a full moon shone above us. It was almost magical. The porcelain tiles on the Chinese stupas glistened, looming over us. The buildings proudly stood with their Thai architecture sparkling.
Sunia and I tuk-tuking along
Stupas reaching into the night sky.
The fifth location was a surprise to us. In fact, the brochure we were given in the beginning of the tour said “Secret Place”. It was actually a bed and breakfast that had a rooftop bar, Eagle’s Nest. We climbed about four flights of stairs, but it was totally worth the effort. On one side, we could see Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn); and in the opposite direction, we saw the Grand Palace and Wat Pho lit up in all their glory. We were also served a beverage. What could be better than sipping on a cool beverage while gazing at a magnificent view?
View of the Grand Palace from the Eagle’s Nest
The “chef” preparing Pad Thai
Allow me to answer that question. Pad Thai cooked on the streets of Bangkok is better. My mouth is watering as I type this (I may have to take a break from writing so I can go order some) just thinking of pad thai. Now, those that know me well know that I go to bed relatively early…like, 9ish. The time was now just past midnight, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like sleepiness get in the way of eating pad thai. This restaurant (Thip Samai Pad Thai) did not disappoint. The noodles and shrimp were cooked to perfection and served inside egg (almost like an omelet). I ate everything on my plate even though I was stuffed from all the meals we were given on this tour. As a final dessert, Mang brought us something that looked like a miniature taco. Inside a thin crispy shell, there was shredded egg. It was actually pretty good.
It was delicious!
Our dessert taco
Sadly, our night was over after this last stop and our tuk-tuks drove us to our hotel.
If you ever find yourself in Bangkok, I highly recommend this tour. It gives a great tour of the city while feeding you fabulous food. I don’t share cost of vacation-related things very often, but this tour costs about $53USD for each person and believe me when I say it was worth every penny.
*Seriously, tuk-tuks are super fun. Some go faster than others, but you can still feel the wind in your hair as your driver steers the little vehicle through the streets of Bangkok.