Destination Bangkok

Modernity, poverty, street vendors, luxury shops, tuk tuks, Mercedes, skyscrapers, temples, lady boys, Buddhas, tailored-made suits for 50 Euros, sapphires, boxing, whiskey, traffic jams: Bangkok has it all.  Catching the newly established sky train from the airport to downtown Bangkok, I saw the city I’d been longing to come to for the first time.  The sharp contrast of contemporary skyscrapers and sky trains mixed with neglected neighborhoods and poverty intrigued me.  The blend of old temples with new modern amenities seemed strange yet somehow fit together.  I was anxious to explore and of course to eat.  Before leaving on my two-week trip I had heard horror stories of upset stomachs, digestion problems and bathroom issues, but till this point it hadn’t phased me.  It wasn’t until I was walking around Chinatown and saw women cleaning bowls and silverware in buckets sitting on the side of the curb that my stomach started to feel a little bit queasy.  I never thought that I would care so much about hygiene, but as I watched these outdoor food venders doing the dishes with their hands I thought “there is no way I can eat in this kind of place”.  Luckily I faced my fear because some of the best food that I ate in Bangkok wasn’t in restaurants but served on the street.  Now ordering from street vendors can be quite tricky because the street vendors where the locals go don’t have English menus.  One morning I was grabbing a Thai coffee from a street vendor when I saw the man next to him making these delicious looking pastries (or so I thought) which looked like donut holes.  I saw all of the locals eating them so I had to try some.  I point to the balls and the man gives me my breakfast with a smile.  Not able to wait to find a place to sit and enjoy my breakfast I bit into one of the balls only to find out, they are not sweet, fluffy pastries….they are stuffed with fish!  My mouth went into shock.  You know what it’s like to drink from a cup that you think is water, but it’s sprite?  Well, that’s exactly what this was like.  I was expecting some sweet Thai specialty and I had my mouth full of fish at eight in the morning.  So I quickly learned to expect the unexpected.  I went around Bangkok looking at what the locals were eating and then pointing at the dishes to order.  Many times the waitress would look at me with an “are you sure?” look in her eyes then laugh, smile, bow and bring me back whatever dish I just ordered.  And boy did I order: soups, noodles, curries, spring rolls, chicken, beef, pork, seafood and so much rice that I still haven’t eaten risotto since coming back to Italy!  The array of dishes that can be found around the city were more than enough to keep my belly happy and full.  I was amazed by all of the street food stalls and the Thai people who run these.  It seemed that they never close.  No matter what time of day (or night) there was always someone more than willing to feed you.  The long hours that these people work to make a living and to feed the city really made an impression on me and I am grateful to have shared this unique street-side food experience with them.

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