At the end of 2013, my family and I headed to Thailand for a long planned family holiday. The last time I had been there was at the age of 12, and I still remember the wave of fear overflowing me, once I had left the secure surroundings of Bangkok airport. Not having been to Asia before, my senses seemed to be a bit overstrung by the different smells, views and tastes that lowered on the streets of this big city. You just have to imagine – while at one corner you notice the delicious smell of exotic fruits like Mangos, Pomelos and Rambutan, the next one hits you with the smell of rotting meat and feces – quite the contrast, indeed.
During this last trip, I ended up spending most of my time in our hotel room, scared oft the dark allies and busy streets my dad used to explore with excitement.
This time around however, being a few years older and more adventurous, I couldn´t wait to wander the streets of Bangkok and try the different food the city has to offer.
After a very stressful trip, having been kicked out of our flight due to overbooking, we managed to arrive in Bangkok just in time for New Years Eve. We had made a reservation at "Breeze", one of the restaurants on top of Lebua at state tower with a beautiful view over Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River and I felt so grateful for being able to see the city and the colorful fireworks from above. Needlessly to say the food was exquisite as well and included rare asian specialities like shark tail soup (not something I would go for again!) and wagyu beef.
After this rememberable new year's eve, we decided to take a morning walk around Bangkok and grab some food at one of the many foodstalls we remembered from our last trip. But soon after leaving our hotel, we were suprised by the appearence of our neighborhood. Gone were the foodstalls, the busy traffic, the tuktuks and the sales people welcoming you in their shops and massage salons. After passing the first block, we officially felt as if we had been stranded in a apocalyptic zombie city, there was an odd silence surrounding us, so calm, you would have been able to hear a coin drop ten meters next to you. By then we realized that Thai people do not only party hard, but must also value taking a good rest afterwards.
By lunchtime we finally found a place to eat at, a seafood temple, called "Somboon Seafood". Entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed were the large tanks of water, filled with crabs, lobsters and other exotic seafood. Like all asian countries thai people generally love their food fresh – meaning the animal is killed shortly before it is prepared for serving. Apart from the visually interesting appearence this gave to the restaurant, it also made sense economically, since there is no need for expensive refridgerators or freezers.
After taking a closer look at the Menu, we ordered a plate of stir fried king prawns with garlic and chili, called "Gung Gratiam", their special king crab cooked in a red curry paste and topped with extra crab meat and my dad´s favorite – a garlic and chili seamed fish, also called "Pla Nung Manao". Every dish additionally came with a serving of steamed rice, which forms the base of any Thai dish. One thing I had to learn early on in my life when it comes to Thai food – you can´t be afraid of bad breath! Nearly every traditional Thai dish includes garlic, no matter if it is fried, steamed or raw. This is what in my opinion brings all of the exotic flavors to life. The majority of thai dishes moreover contain ginger, which makes them “feel good food“ even for european tummies. At the end of our lunch we were all amazed by the freshness and quality of the food, as well as of the rich and flavourfull sauces, which I cherish most of all.
The next day we took the sky train to Siam Square, a colorful and hip neighborhood I had never been to before. Having seen only the area around our hotel and Silom Road, I was suprised to enter a world of hip korean fashion stores, new beauty salons and modern cafés, filled with young thai people in hipster clothes and glasses. It was interesting to see how the trends created in Europe are being transfered to other countries and even continents now that information can be shared and displayed as easily via the internet, online blogs and social media platforms.
For dinner we decided to head to MBK shopping mall, since we knew it included a gigantic foodcourt on the top floor. Even though german shopping malls nowadays sometimes have their own foodcourts as well, they can´t nearly compare to the ones I saw in Thailand. The food there is amazingly affordable and at the same time incredibly delicious. There was a variety of food to chose from, including noodle dishes like "Pad Thai" (stir fried noodles with vegetables, tofu and chicken or prawns) , big bowls with fresh soup or freshly cooked curries, including chicken or seafood. The stall that excited me the most however, was the one offering a selection of thai desserts. As far as my experience with thai cuisine goes, desserts don´t seem to have a very important place in it. No wonder if you look at the variety of fresh fruit they have access to in most parts of the country. Still, there is one particular dessert that my whole family can´t seem to get enough of. "Cao Niew Mamoang" consists of various slices of fresh mango and sticky rice, boiled in coconut milk. It´s incredible how a dish with such few components, as well as relatively cheap and accesible ingredients, tastes as delicious.
Sadly, our 3 day stay in Bangkok came to an end very quickly. I however went home with many new impressions of a very modern, fast paced city, that has still left many things to discover - until next time, Bangkok!
For more information about the restaurants I mentioned...
Somboon Seafood: www.somboonseafood.com
Street market in Silom
Hidden street near Chinatown
Long tail boat on the Chao Phraya River
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