Thai Cooking

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Learning to cook some Thai dishes at Silom Thai Cooking School was a blast! The outdoor kitchen is tucked away down a side street across from a market that’s the first lesson. Owner and teacher Nusi explained the various ingredients and filled up our baskets with goodies. This would be the first of many effective uses of delegation…

Back at the school, we split into groups to prepare the ingredients. We washed vegatables, peeled ginger, and shelled & deveined shrimp. Next up was making coconut milk from freshly shredded cocounut mixed with water and hand-squeezed. While we got to know our classmates, Iron Chef Nusi provided motivation by good-naturedly cracking the whip, “chop faster - hurry, hurry!”; he’d be a great project manager!

To prepare the dishes, we circled around a big pile of ingredients on a straw mat on the floor, and chopped up vegatables for soup. All that went into woks on burners on the balcony, where we fine-tuned the gas “more heat! less heat!” until it was ready to serve - and eat! (As my chemistry teacher Mr. Schwartz used to say, “the best part about cooking class is you get to eat your homework!”) The more forward thinking students had actually skipped breakfast in anticipation.

The rest of the menu included classic pad thai, curries, and jellied water chestnuts in coconut milk for dessert. Our diverse class found plenty to talk about as we were all at the start, middle, or end of some kind of travel oddessy. Everyone left full, with a new appreciation for making Thai food completely from scratch, and ready with a recipe book for future dinner parties!

Thai Massage

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Cheap massages are a definite plus for Bangkok; an hour of Thai massage is around $10. It was a nice treat after pounding airline seats and pavements for the last few days. You start with a foot wash, one of those simple things that’s totally luxurious when someone else does it for you. After that, change into a loose, pajama-type outfit and lay on a thin mattress on the floor.

The support is needed; much of the massage is stretches and good muscle pressure with body weight behind the elbow, foot, or forearm being pressed into you. Some of the stretches were like being walked though yoga, others were complicated body twists that really popped nicely. Overall, a very nice way to spend the morning!

The Many Wats of Bangkok

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Not being a city person, the main attraction to me of Bangkok are the sights and many historic temples or wats. Built by various rulers, they feature ornate and colorful tile and architecture on the outside, and contain richly painted interiours housing a variety of Buddha statues, including a massive reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.

Pre-trip Flickr-scouting confined a guidebook recommendation: hitting the upstairs bar at The Deck to watch the sunset behind Wat Arun. It was a spectular view well worth the wait; the sun glowed red through the hazy clouds and soon after it set Wat Arun’s dramatic night-time lighting kicked on. It’s obviously a popular spot; myself and other photographers lined the front row of tables, and another group was actually doing some modeling photos with a studio strobe.

One of the other shooters was Tony, orginally from California and now living in Bangkok. We had a nice chat and found common ground exchanging Flickr id’s. Nice to find some things are universal halfway around the world!

Crosstown Traffic

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Hopping in a taxi during Bangkok’s morning rush gave me a first-hand glance at the traffic here. Cars, tuk tuk’s, and motorcycles give each other just millimeters of breathing space, the shoulder is a lane, roads detour around demonstrators and police barricades, and the elevated expressways duck in and out of ground-level ground. At least the taxis are air-conditioned and cheap, even if it always takes a bit of effort to explain where I want to go. (I even tried handing over the hotel’s bilingual card with map and got a confused look!)

Public transit seems to avoid the traffic jams; the river ferry provides a nice view from the water - including the many wats (temples) and car-packed bridges. The central pier connects with the Skytrain, a pleasant and popular air-conditioned elevated train through the more central parts of town. And yes, the air-conditioning does matter, since it’s a pretty streay 95 degrees here with a brain-melting heat index in the midday sun.

The Adventure Begins

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I’m in Bangkok, a journery that involved about 24 hours stuffed into 3 planes, and a 34-hour span between my body feeling the welcome embrace of a shower and a flat bed! (I’ll be spending the next three weeks in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, for those who think this is quite the non sequiter.)

Flying Asiana was a step up in service; hot towels before meals which come with instructions for confused foreigners like myself. And I was certainly the ethnic minority on the flight; one of those signs I was heading to a vastly different world.

Arriving at 1 am, Bangkok was still going strong - both the heat and the people! Street-side food and flea markets still glowed under flourescent lights as the brightly-colored tuk tuk’s (motorized rickshaws) buzzed by.