It has been an interesting “2 weeks” here at Bangkok (pretty much as a lone traveler)!
I never thought I would make it here, alive – especially after those excruciating days of shuttling between the Spanish and the Thai embassies in DC (long enough for another blog post).
But I did. And boy! Am I glad?
Bangkok the city
Bangkok is a wonderful city- full of life. It is easy to move around this place which boasts of a well- connected transportation system- Skytrain, metros, taxis (pink ones feel cheaper than the green ones), tuk-tuks (costlier than the taxis- akin to autorickshaws in India) and of course, the motorbikes.
My first destination here was Sukhumvit where I stayed at a hostel for about a week. Sukhumvit is like the Ranganathan street of Chennai, the Commercial street of Bangalore, or even mildly like the Franklin Street of Chapel hill- full of shops, eateries and massage parlors.
This area also has the Terminal 21 mall- one of the biggest in Bangkok. Terminal 21 is an interesting mall- designed (as the name suggests) like an airport with each level denoting a different market city around the world. There’s Caribbean, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul and San Francisco. This mall is replete with eateries, although your options are limited as a vegetarian…
Sukhumvit is also one of those places with a lot of Indian restaurants- Hungry Eye, Aryaas, Pakwaan and umpteen others; one can find lots of good north Indian food -cooked predominantly by the Nepali migrants here.
Rongmuang was where I moved to, next.
I live in a nice apartment here. This place is about a 10-minute walk to the Hua Lamphong metro station. Convenient, but, this does not have a lot of eateries around. There is plenty of street food, but, your options as a vegetarian are quite limited, again! And, so, I cook- it’s not bad at all… 🙂
Pahurat (Little India)
One of those things that you need when you decide to cook the only cuisine that you know to cook is ‘Indian Groceries’.
Pahurat is about 3 km from Rongmuang and is famously known as ‘Little India’. This place also has a ‘China World’ besides the Indian market.
There are a lot of small textile shops that sell unstitched cloth at wholesale rates. The materials come from different parts of the world (I think). There is a Gurudwara in the same area too…
Royal India is a popular restaurant in this area- heavily recommended by many here. It is located in an almost invisible lane, but is easily recognized by the locals. I packed a meal – good enough for 5 to serve me for the rest of the week… This was week 1 of settling in Bangkok…
MBK Shopping Center
‘Why did he have to go to the other mall?” quizzed my HR about another co-worker (who chose to visit an expensive mall to buy his clothes).
“Things are very cheap at MBK. Huge discounts. You should buy your clothes there!” she recommended…
And so, I caught a tuk-tuk to visit the center. It was Vishaka Bucha- a public holiday here and also a time when tuk-tuk drivers got special fuel discounts. I had to stop at a jewelry showroom before my final destination to “help” my tuk-tuk driver get his fuel discount (a marketing gimmick).
The MBK center- true to its reputation had hugely discounted clothes- good ones. This was also one of the places that witnessed ‘friendly protests during the period of political instability in Thailand (before military intervention)- which brings me to another aspect about his place: Its people.
People of Thailand
I have never been to Japan, and so, the Thais are the friendliest and the most courteous people that I have ever met in my life till now.
They bow mildly while greeting, and speak with respect. This is a very flattering in a lot of ways.
They are also very helpful to those in need of help. A co-worker sent an apology note for not being around while I was looking for restaurant suggestions. While this might sound excessive to some, it definitely doesn’t feel so.
As for the language, knowing to speak Thai gives you a definite advantage. However, you can get around with boards like this one that a good friend made for me:
Food in Thailand
For the nth time (in this post), being a vegetarian and wanting to eat out- frequently and easily- can be a problem. My colleagues here treated me with street food in my very first week here at Bangkok. It was not easy for them to find a stall that serves vegetarian. The meal consisted of rice with cabbage, mushrooms etc. dipped in a sauce of sorts- it was tasty (like most street food that you get in Asia). We had the meal by a canal- later, I learned that falling into the canal was as good as being dead! But, to be fair, some Thai restaurants do serve vegetarian dishes – albeit in conservative varieties.
One restaurant that I visited had an interesting menu- it was a vegan restaurant that served “non-vegetarian-like” dishes made using vegan alternatives. I heard from a friend that this is a popular vegan food variety found mostly in Thailand and Vietnam.
Coffee, and most of the other beverages are iced- unless you ask for a hot version of the drink. The coffee that you get on street corners has a creamy taste that leaves you feeling awesome (3/4 of them)! I love this taste… Of course, filter Kaapi is the best, but, this comes a close second…
And, as for the red chillis in food- they are indeed hot hot hot (learned it the hard way- cooking with one of those)
Charoen Pokphand (CP)
When you talk about food & drinks, you have to mention CP foods here in Thailand. They own a whole range of food stores here- from 7-elevens (the ubiquitous convenience stores) to Chesters grill to True coffee to a whole range of other products.
In many ways, this CP group (which also has telecom, automobile and animal feed businesses among many other interests) seems akin to Reliance in India- like a nation within another. I heard that the founder has ancestral roots in China, and that this group was the first foreign group to enter into China! Well…
That pretty much sums up my time here. Have lots of places to explore and about 8 more weeks to do just that. I pass by several ‘Wats’ on my way to work- Buddhism is the most followed religion here. I must visit some of them this week when mom drops by…
I also hear Pattana, Kanchnaburi and Phuket are nice places to visit… Up next, one of these- maybe!
- Hualamphong and Bangkok the city: Landry Brown’s iPhone photography,
- Bing- free to use and share image search