Friday, August 15, 2008

The Pad Thai Experience + Don't forget your towel!

I didn't sleep well last night. I never did get sheets (I found some in the mall but they were expensive. Well, more expensive than I wanted them to be.)

Oh... and I should tell you all about last night too. I went out to get some dinner and I noticed that the whole area in front of the mall had turned into a mini night market. It was really cool - it was 90% Thai people (as opposed to most of the areas near my last guesthouse which were full of farangs (technically "foreigners" but in reality "white people"). Anyway there were all these Thai people shopping & eating, getting foot massages etc. There were four young men from the blind school playing music on the stairs. The food court was pretty spectacular... there's a lot of stuff-on-a-stick here, chicken-on-a-stick, sausage-on-a-stick, fish-on-a-stick, weird-round-object-I-don't-want-to-know-about-on-a-stick etc. But there was also a station for noodle soup and for lack of a better term a gyro place.

I took a couple laps around the market, bought some towels (I swear, bringing my towel along was one of my smarter moves - I've used it a ton, thank you Douglas Adams!), then decided to eat something. The least scary thing was the gyros, I think it was chicken though, not lamb. He warmed up the pita/tortilla bread and piled on lettuce, cabbage, chicken and sauce. I don't know how to describe the sauce other than YUM! It was kinda like a cole-slaw type sauce but not less vinegary, more creamy/tangy with a tiny kick of some spice or other. Maybe the closest thing I can think of is the Baja sauce at Taco Bell - but more Thai tasting. It was very very very good, I kinda wish I'd gotten two (they were small) and I fully intend to get another one tonight if the market is there again.

After snacking it started to rain again so I went inside the mall. I looked at sheets but they were too expensive for me... like normal American prices $50 - $60 but it looks exorbitant in Baht - 1,500B - 2,000B. Actually, I think it was more than that.... but this was in a department store, like a Macy's... I really need to find the Target. In any case I didn't get any sheets, but I did get a notebook for my class and some batteries for my camera. Oh, but there was this band playing in the mall - VieTrio... a pop band playing a song that was a blend of classical (Beethoven maybe - the tune was really familiar) and techno-rap. I am so not kidding. It was actually really good, and the lead boy was super cute. In a boy-band kind of way. I had planned on going back out to the Night Bazaar but I was just too exhausted - the heat just kills me here.

Unfortunately, as I said at the beginning of this post, I didn't sleep that well. With no sheets or blankets it was just me & my towels... again - thank you Douglas Adams! I woke up at like 4 or 5am - all stuck to my plastic mattress... it was not pretty. After watching some TV, I peeled myself out of bed, showered, and decided to do some official sight seeing today. I like getting up early because you can see people praying or making offerings at their spirit houses. I haven't taken any pictures because I think it's rude to take a picture of someone praying... but it's a really cool thing to see. The Thais seem to be a very spiritual people.

I took a tuk-tuk to Wat Phra Singh and walked around. It was incredibly beautiful. People dressed in white were making trips back and forth between the temple and an outer statue of ... a very important Monk I'm not familiar with. Again, no pictures because people were praying, but inside the temple there was a really amazing golden Buddha with sunbeams radiating from his head to show his enlightenment.

From there I stopped and had a big American Breakfast at a guesthouse across the street. I love Thai food, and have made some attempts to eat like a local, but first thing in the morning all I want is eggs, toast & tea. After breakfast, I walked another half block to the next temple. Chiang Mai is sometimes called 'the city of a thousand temples' and it is, not to be sacrilegious but it's like Starbucks in the Northwest, you can stand on a corner and point to 3 within a 2 block radius. I did get a picture of Wat Pan Tao... or at least I think that's what this one is - you wouldn't know if I was making that up or not would you? ;)

Then I went to the Chiang Mai Arts & Cultural Center. This statue commemorates the three kings who got together and founded the city 'on a judiciously chosen site'. Yes, I should know exactly who these three kings are after visiting the center, but I didn't write them down.

It was a really nice history museum... but honestly I only went in because I had a hunch there'd be a bathroom in there... and there was, with a real toilet - totally worth the admission price. ;)

The first room was where they showed the little video - in Thai with relatively well translated English subtitles. Now, I love dorky little museums and I love watching the educational videos at the beginning - it does actually teach me something about whatever area I'm exploring be it the Hermitage or Multnomah Falls or whatever. But this was hands down the LONGEST educational video I've ever seen, I think it was a good half an hour long. The other rooms had little dioramas depicting the history of the city, the role of the city within the country, it's experience with foreigners as a major trade city, and archaeological information about the prehistory of the city. Each room, however had it's own video or audio guide and OMG the audio guides were worse than the video!

Upstairs they had full scale models of an old market and homes... which were weird because I walked into this room and it looks like there's a guy standing there, but it's just a model. Then there was yet another video about & artifacts from the different ethnic minorities among the hill tribes. That part was probably my favorite. I don't know how accurate this is, or if it's just propaganda, but the Thai really do try to respect & preserve the cultural differences of the different ethnic groups. They try to preserve more traditional & unique parts of their culture while at the same time embracing modern advancements & globalization. From what I've seen, they seem to be doing a good job.

At the end of the tour I was kind of thinking to myself "There should be a shop - I like a little shop." ala the Doctor. And there was a shop - I was very excited! There was even a woman weaving cloth and I got to see how she did the pattern. I'm not even going to try to describe the process, but it was very cool watching her and one of these days I am going to get a loom and start weaving! As you would expect though, intricately hand woven Thai silk is *not* cheap, and until I get a job I can't really buy any souvenirs.

After all that... sightseeing & museum video-watching I walked another half block and came across a Pad Thai stand! Yay! It was only 20B (less than $1) and there were some Thais sitting there so I figured it would be good. Here's the little restaurant - totally open air, but with several trees to the right to provide shade. The guy on the left is making my pad thai.

I had been told that Thai food in America is very similar to actual Thai food. I'm withholding judgment on that for the moment because at the restaurants in the touristy area yes - it's almost identical to what you see in a Thai restaurant back home - I've had yellow curry, chicken with cashews & lemon grass... but in the food courts & markets there's a whole different story. I saw fried bugs last night (HUGE bug btw). Anyway the guy came by with my pad thai and it did *not* look like pad thai. I should have taken a picture first... it looked like an omelet. Seriously, like a big ol' folded over omelet, that's all, no noodles just egg. You can kinda see what it looked like on the right side of the plate. The cabbage, bean sprouts & lime were on the little green plate.

But once I actually tucked into the omelet, all the noodles and chicken (?) poured out... add the sprouts & lime - YUMMERS! It was really good. There was a sauce on the table, probably soy sauce but with peppers in it... I avoided the peppers and added some sauce and it was very good. Not quite exactly what you get at home, not so peanut tasting, but very good.

From lunch I went to the Warorot Market. I was bound & determined to find sheets there. I did find one store on the way that sold sheets - but the set cost 650 Baht & I had hoped to find some for 500 baht. Because I also need to get pillows & a "blanket" of some kind (nothing warm, but I can't sleep without something over me, and I'm tired of using my towel). Anyway I hoped that I could find something cheaper at the market so I kept going.

There's a big wholesale area that was kind of interesting... lots and lots of cheap hair clips & kids jewelery, and also like housewares etc. There were a lot of clothing booths and just lots and lots of stuff.... it would take a few hours to go through it all. I'm going along looking at everything then I decide to cross the street to main market, when all of a sudden I got that very disturbing feeling, that stomach cramping gurgley feeling when you *know* there's going to be a problem.

Oh man - the street food finally got to me, and I didn't have a clue where the nearest public toilet was... let alone what kind of condition it would be in. I seriously thought I was going to pull a Charlotte if I tried to walk anywhere! So got to a relatively main street and hailed a tuk-tuk (by the way "hailing a tuk-tuk" basically means look at one and they will make a u-turn in traffic for you), one *very* white knuckled ride & 100 baht later I had made it safely back to my very own bathroom.

I've had a couple of pepto-bismo tablets, and I'm drinking some bottled water, so I don't feel so bad... but that was a seriously close call! And I *still* don't have sheets!! Oh well. That's what towels are for.


d said...

these are the things of which nightmares are made.

Karin said...

I've been busy with my friends from out of town all week and so hadn't noticed until just now that you've written so much!!!


I just devoured every word. Time to digest.

Keep writing! Yay!

Jenn said...

so instead of putting the egg in the pad thai, they put the pad thai in egg...fascinating...

Exuberant Color said...

My stomach was gurgling just reading about what you are eating. You brave girl!

Michael5000 said...

These posts are... well, my dad would say "the most fun I've had since the ducks ate my brother." I don't know exactly what he means by that, but the point is usually that he is having a lot of fun.