Thailand Part 2: Chinatown Eats & Adventures in Public Transportation

We woke up bright and early the next morning and headed to Chinatown. We had planned to begin at the Flower Market but ended up being dropped off at the plain old Market (Eh…A for Effort and L for Language Barrier). Rather than hopping in another cab we took the opportunity to explore our surroundings. And there was oh so much to explore. Produce stalls. Fruit stalls (OH the fresh fruit…how I miss it). Seafood stalls. Hot food stalls. Bags full of fried things stalls. Stalls selling clothes. Stalls selling shoes. Stalls selling toys. Heck, there was even a stall selling nothing but sew on patches. If you want it, you can find it in Chinatown.

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After feasting with our eyes we decided it was time to feast with our bellies. First, we sampled durian, a fruit I had previously only seen on the likes of Top Chef or Chopped. If you are unfamiliar with durian (and you probably are because it doesn’t make regular appearances in most supermarkets), it is famous for it’s stench. In fact, most Thai hotels have signs informing guests that durians are not allowed in the rooms due to their foul odor.

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Durians have a thick, spiky skin, kind of like a pineapple, which reveals yellow fruit at its core when sliced open. The durian tasted mild and sweet but the consistency was unlike an other fruit I’ve ever tried, very creamy, almost custardy. It tasted ok but I won’t be sad if I never try another. On to the next treat!

Our next stop was the fried food stand.

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I’m not really sure what else to call it. The stall was piled high with fried foods. You pointed at the ones you wanted which were then roughly chopped, popped into a bag and covered with a sweet sauce.

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We couldn’t decipher what any of the fried foods actually were but decided to chance it and randomly pointed to three. One seemed to be a corn fritter but the other two are still indistinguishable. Everything tasted like batter and sauce and was generally disappointing. 0 for 2.

Next we went for pork skewers. The low price made me gulp (7 baht per skewer..roughly 25 cents) but they were hot off the grill so we went for it. Finally, something delicious! We followed these up with popsicles that were equally as yummy. This time I opted for coconut milk rather than red bean flavor, MUCH tastier. IMG_3186

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A million dried fish, costume jewelry and souvenir stalls later and we had had our fill of China town. We caught a cab and headed to the Jim Thompson House. My guide book had been a little vague but had rated this attraction highly so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

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The “house” is actually more like a compound. It is composed of 6 teak houses that were purchased by Jim Thompson, an American businessman who fell in love with Thailand and built a large silk company there. Mr. Thompson was not only a silk mogul but also a collector of Southeast Asian antiques and art. Thompson disappeared in 1967 while out on a walk (creepy) so his estate was turned into a museum.

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The complex felt like stepping into a secret garden, full of lush green plants in contrast to the rest of concrete filled Bangkok. IMG_3206

There was a silk display, koi ponds and traditional Thai dancers.

After we paid our admission (150 baht, about $5) Haley and I decided to grab a late lunch at the restaurant before our tour. IMG_3221

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The food was just OK for the price, but the air conditioning was well worth it.

We got put in the English speaking tour group (several languages were available) and had a brief wait (10-15 minutes) as it filled up. IMG_3227

Our tour guide took us through the gardens and the home, pointing out specific architecture features and many of the antique art works that decorated the home. Pictures weren’t allowed inside, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was lovely.

The house sat beside one of Bangkok’s many klongs (canals) so when our tour finished we decided to save a few baht and try our hand at public transportation.

Our next destination was another guide book suggestion, The NaiLert Park Fertility Shrine. We walked to the canal boat station and found that no one seemed to know exactly where the shrine was, but thought they could point us in the general direction. I thought this was odd but figured we’d make it there eventually.

The boats were WAY cheaper than any taxi or tuk tuk (10 baht or so… less than a dollar) but were slightly confusing to navigate. Boats run in only one direction so if you miss your stop (which we did) you have to hop off and wait for a boat coming the other direction. The boats don’t stop for long so make sure when they do you are ready to scramble on and off very quickly! And I do mean scramble.. there is no ramp and no steps, you crawl over the side of the boat to get off and on. Ticket punchers hang on to the outside of the boat and walk along the narrow ledge punching tickets as you cruise. Thai transportation never disappoints!

We got off the boat at our stop (finally) and still had trouble finding someone to point us in the correct direction. We enjoyed the walk through the busy neighborhood on the way there, especially the ever present jumble of power lines.

When we finally got to the shrine we realized why it had been so hard to find. I was expecting a public park that housed the shrine. In actuality the Nai Lert Park is the name of a hotel, and the (small) shrine just so happens to be located in the front lawn of the hotel. IMG_3248

Womp womp. So small and only one offering that would even clue you in to the “fertility” aspect.

I couldn’t believe this was in the guidebook. Definitely not worth all the hassle to get there. Oh well, we can laugh about it now! We said a quick prayer for our future fertility (when in Rome) and caught a cab back to our hotel. We went to bed early in anticipation of an early start to make it to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. More on that trip (and all my budget savvy ways) up next!

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