Foodies on foot

Our hotel, an old Chinese opera house converted into a boutique hotel, is smack in the middle of Bangkok’s Chinatown’s most intense eating street. We had already noticed the many restaurants but at night the number is extended by 100s of street vendors with their pop up restaurants that consist of kitchen on wheels, plastic stools and foldout tables on the pavement and in front of closed store fronts. All cooking is done in plain view and the intense fires guarantee that any unwanted creatures in the food would be killed instantly. In fact the cooking fires are so intense that the woks are no longer round.

We randomly selected one of the many restaurants near the hotel for lunch. Many of them advertise their shark fin and bird nest dishes, foods that we thought were outlawed, but clearly not here. We choose one that featured other dishes and ate Singapore shrimp noodles and pork-fried rice. After halal Malaysia, the Chinese obsession with pork is rather striking.

After lunch we retreated to our cool room as the heat and humidity were intense. We considered various ideas of what we could or should do and then we looked at our watches and realized it was getting rather late for tourist excursions and the museum had closed.

The hotel has a spa and a massage seemed just the right thing to do. Because there was a staff party (a masquerade ball no less) in the evening there was only one slot left for the day, just before the cocktail hour. We took it and had a most wonderful and relaxing massage, at least I did – Axel always has masseuses work on one muscle group or another that is tight, so his massages are satisfying in another kind of way.

It was the cocktail hour after that and we gave up all ambitions ‘to do’ something by sitting at a street side bar sipping a G&T and a Dr. Beam on the rocks. And then it was time for food again. The hotel provided us with a foodie foot tour in the hotel’s environs, each stop describing what was offered there in terms that made us want to eat right there. We followed the trail until we lost it and also had gotten too hot and sweaty to go on. We finally settled down on wobbly plastic stools in a side alley from where 100s of food stalls and pop up restaurants could be seen in all directions. We ordered two different prawn dishes and a vegetable one with strands of greens that looked a bit like what’s left after weeding the garden. Stir-fried with garlic, chilies, lime juice and fish sauce it became a yummy dish that gave me some ideas. All the while the water and beer we were drinking came straight out of our pores; the humidity did not let up after dark.

We topped off our meal with durian ice cream – Axel had only gotten whiffs of durian but never tasted it. In Melaka we noticed it is called durian belanda (dutch durian), a combination that I don’t quite get. We weren’t quite ready to eat the real thing as they were sold in packages too big to eat in one sitting. I don’t think he will have it again. I bought a kilo of mangosteens knowing he would certainly like them with their citrusy flavor. He did.

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