16 August 2008

Serenity is here

Serenity is here: lush tropical foliage, golden wats (Thai temples), inviting swimming pools, deliciously scented wafts from street side food stalls, and peaceful looking, fabric swathed monks are all common place. But, that being said, Bangkok is also anything but serene. Bangkok is hip and trendy and fast and colorful and LOUD: a complete sensory overload. 

Bangkok is truly a city of unbelievable contrasts. Prior to departure, I read similar phrases in travel journal after travel journal. But, never did I grasp exactly what that phrase meant. I am now beginning to comprehend and understanding that the contrasts exist makes everyday life a bit easier to navigate.

Bangkok is both dirty and dusty, while also sparkling and pristine. It is deliciously scented, at times, and horribly stinky at others. It is full of traditional open air markets and sleek, modern, glassed-in mega centers. And, birds chirp, foliage waves in the morning heat, all the while giant construction sites are full of pounding and sawing. And, while pickups full of produce and meats display their goods in a movable feast of sorts, the Skytrain zooms overhead and cars stacked sometimes six or seven rows deep (on streets built for three or four lanes!) honk and idle in the sun. 

It is an amazing experience for your brain to take in all at once. Today was a perfect example of the city's contrast and how it affects us. 

T started breakfast at the other end of the house, while the kids and I stretched slowly out of bed this morning, waking up to 'mama's bird'. Yes, I now have a bird named after me. It's the little bird that sings 'Woo-Hoo!' when the sun rises and when the sun sets. And, like every other day so far in Bangkok, the kids opened their eyes and said 'Mama, it's your bird!' I am convinced that this little bird was created to shout 'woo hoo' purely for my enjoyment because I can't help but smile when I hear it calling out. I love that little bird. 

After stretching a moment more, we made it to the dining room and were treated to a flavorful concoction of fresh, local ingredients. If I didn't already know it, I do now... T is a genius. His spin on French toast was absolutely delectable and one that you should treat your family to this weekend (see below).

After what was a completely peaceful weekend morning, we loaded up our day pack (which mainly consisted of water and our son!) and were off to Skytrain. The quiet, fresh tropical morning of our neighborhood sub sois (side streets) was gone and we entered the dusty, humid, noisy intersection where we ascended high above the traffic to catch the sky train. Just as our cheeks start to grow red in the heat, ahhh... the train arrived, we entered and were greeted by blasts of air conditioning. Zoom... we are off to Siam Paragon, a mega, mega, mega shopping complex that is all glass and glitz and manufactured water falls (a relatively short distance in miles, but a long ways away from the look of our neighborly sub sois!). And, much to the kids excitement, home to Siam Oceanworld. This is our second visit to what is the best aquarium I have ever visited.

After rendezvousing with the gargantuan sea turtles, staying far away from the Python (that our daughter enjoyed petting!), seeing a giant fish that can actually survive a draught (by crawling into a hole and breathing air), and wondering why nutria (the giant rats... i mean rodents... really they look like giant rats... and people were all gathered around for their feeding time... hmmm... I'm obviously missing something because I don't get it) exhibit even exists, we went in search of lunch. 

Bangkok's sensory overload was completely apparent over lunch. Sitting in a food court type environment where at least 5o different restaurants sit side by side, music pounds, light shows flare across the walls, giant fish tanks and media screens compete for your attention while a loud speaker announcement requests your attention please (to something that I'm sure was important, but I couldn't hear it!). While trying to have a good (scream) conversation, I started to laugh and realized that this was what Bangkok is currently all about... preserving the serenity of past cultures, while attempting to also develop into a modern, competitive world. Sometimes it's hard to feel at home in both environments, but when I can learn to transition between the two, I think serenity will be mine.

p.s. The picture above is of the view from our home towards the our neighborhood Skytrain station. The station is towards the back of the picture. The foliage covers our sub sois that lead us to the station.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no 3:
Thai Toast
Today, T woke up early and concocted this dish for our family. It is delicious and is sure to be repeated again and again and again.

1/2 inch thick slices of fresh french bread, at least two per person
1/4 cup coconut milk
the juice of one orange*
4 eggs, well beaten
salt, to taste
butter, for the skillet
mango or papaya, finely diced, and shredded coconut for garnish, optional

Mix the milk, orange juice, eggs and salt in a large shallow dish until frothy. Place the sliced bread into the mixture and flip to coat completely. Melt a couple of pats of butter in a skillet and heat until hot. Add the bread slices and cook over medium heat until lightly golden on both sides. Serve hot with desired garnishes.

* T used Thai oranges, which are slightly bitter. You could use regular oranges and add a few drops of Angostura bitters if you want to achieve a similar flavor.


  1. Your husband sounds like a dream. Where can I find a carbon copy?

  2. I tried your Thai Toast this weekend. It was really good! Congrats to your cook!


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