My Bangkok trip this past summer was a reunion for me and my old friends from my first high school. (I say first because I moved to the States to start sophomore year.) The last time I was in the Philippines was almost three years ago when my older brother got married. I saw my good friends then but have not been back to Asia since. When the opportunity came up to visit a mutual friend living in Bangkok, we all knew we had to make our separate flights and meet there. They schlepped from Manila and I made the long trek from New York City via Frankfurt and Singapore.
You know when people say good friends just pick up where they’ve left off even after it has been a long time since they’ve seen each other? This was true with Krisan, Ria and Pat–we chatted, laughed and squealed like it’s only been a week. Sure, Facebook has made it possible now to keep each other updated, but nothing beats gathering around a table, eating and drinking in a new country. I love my girls, and this post is dedicated to all three of them.
One of the most touristy things I did during my four-day stay in Bangkok was the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, but it was also the only thing on my list that I knew I had to experience. We were already eating pretty well, visiting public markets, tasting everything that looked good and trying out several restaurants that were recommended by other friends. At the floating market, I was like a child on Christmas morning. I couldn’t contain myself every time I saw something I haven’t tasted before. I was overwhelmed with the choices, so I ate everything.
While on a slow-moving boat that squeezed through the narrow canals avoiding collisions with other vessels, I pointed at every seller that looked like they were cooking and selling something interesting. Most of them were! Each point was followed by a vendor who rowed towards us or hooked their long canes to our boats to bring us closer and to keep us both steady so we could do some business. We spoke English and they spoke Thai, but we all understood the language of food.
I expected prepared goods to be on sale, but I didn’t expect boats outfitted with kerosene gas tanks deep-frying vegetables and hot coals grilling skewered meats. There were boats filled with fruits I grew up with but haven’t had a chance to eat again since I left Asia: balingbings or star fruits, lanzones, rambutans, atis or sugar apples, chicos, mangosteens and guavas. I also didn’t expect the best coconut ice cream from a boat with its own creamery on board. There were boats selling Pad Thai noodles that don’t even compare to the laughable version they have here in America, vegetable salads sprinkled with the most fresh and fragrant basil and mint leaves, sprouts and spring rolls up the wazoo with killer Thai chiles in different kinds of dipping sauces, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves you eat by cupping it with the small palm of your hand… I could go on, but my mouth is watering just trying to remember how my stomach grumbled at every sight of food, mysterious or familiar.
You can only imagine how hot and humid it is in Thailand during the month of August. It was sweltering when we visited and we were drenched in sweat while trying to keep up with all the food around us. The vendors were mostly covered in straw hats and long-sleeved shirts, but funnily enough, with caked-on makeup to look good (or scary) in photographs.
The heat didn’t stop me from buying hot soup from the lady who expertly chopped duck meat off a carcass and assembled bowls after bowls in less time than I could set my camera to shoot. Indecipherable Thai was thrown from vendor to vendor and everyone efficiently served those of us with bottomless stomachs. You’d order from one lady and walk around with your camera to take more photographs, and in a few seconds, she’d motion for you to come and sit down to eat even if there were hundreds of other people there ordering at the same time. Thai baht were exchanged as if in a rowdy stock market, but I always somehow got the correct change.
The entire market was a blow to all my senses and I mean that in the best way possible. Thai food will never be the same for me ever again.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market photos on Flickr