03 April 2011

What I love in Bangkok right now

A few of my 'of the moment' favorite things to experience in Bangkok right now...

Vientiane Kitchen, 8 Sukhumvit Soi 36 (BTS: Thong Lo, exit 2): I've been fortunate enough to eat here a couple of times now and I absolutely love it. The building is quite magical in that you wander down a nondescript Bangkok Soi and stumble upon a small opening in a large warehouse like building. Upon entering, you are immediately transported to an open air Laotian restaurant, calm and serene. The huge space features a stage where live music featuring flutes and drums is played nightly. Giant teak tables fill the space-- which is really great when you inevitably order too much food from the fantastic menu. My husband is partial to the fried catfish. I've loved the soups served in clay pots and full of prawns and lemongrass.

Weather: WEIRD lately. It's now April and we should be in the full swing of Thai summer with heat, humidity, and more heat. Instead in the last two weeks, we've been bundling up with 70 degrees Fahrenheit weather outside.
Flooded streets, March 2011
Before you think I'm crazy for being chilled at 70 degrees, remember that Bangkok is often listed as one of the hottest capital cities and even my blood seems to now be running at a more tropical heat. Trust me, I've enjoyed the cold snap, but do find it a bit disconcerting to be chilly in the middle of the hottest season. Air conditioning has been turned off for days, hot drinks have replaced iced confections at the local coffee shop and the fashions have adapted with people scouring their closet for a few warm pieces. I usually don a sun dress and sandals to pick my daughter up from school.Last week, I actually wore long pants, long sleeves and a lightweight polar fleece jacket that was luckily tucked away in my closet. AND, my metallic painted toenails were tucked away inside socks and REAL shoes (*gasp*)!
Rainstorm, March 2011
In the middle of all this, we've had lightening and thunder and huge downpours of rain as well. Streets have flooded and I've found myself wading and 'rowing' our car on occasions usually reserved for Bangkok's monsoon season. As I write this, temperatures are now climbing again and it appears that we'll be back to normal temperatures for next week's Songkran activities.

Gorgeous Jack Fruit
Jack Fruit: I'm not a fan of the flavor/texture combo (kind of a weird fermented banana flavor in a stringy texture). But, I absolutely love seeing this spiky, green-toned fruit growing. A few years back, it would be completely normal to see an apple growing on a tree. Now, it is commonplace to see jack fruit, bananas and mango within the neighborhood.

Thai-glish: I have become fluent. I absolutely love the Thai language-- the inflection, the way one word can mean several different things depending on the tone used, the warmness that is injected with the ever present smiles. However, I can't stand how difficult it is to learn! Luckily, English is spoken in bursts throughout the city. The only trick to remember is to use English with a Thai accent-- take the inflection up at the end of most words and you'll be more easily understood than with your usual accent of using a flat tone. Want a mineral water while dining at a restaurant? They are called a 'soda' here. But don't order a flat so-da (you'll get a quizzical look). Instead, order a so-daaaahhhh (elongating the last syllable and taking it up in tone). Nice job-- bright bubbly mineral water to be served in an instant! In all seriousness though, I love how welcoming the culture is to non-native speakers. I've found patience and help when I test out a word here or there.

After You: Found at a couple places throughout the city, I'm partial to the restaurant on Phaholyothin's Villa Market complex, located across from Soi Ari and next to Phaholyothin Soi 6. Known as a dessert shop, the lines are out the door and the wait can be hours. A little known secret, though, is that you can enjoy a completely indulgent breakfast starting at 10 a.m. Get there on time though, otherwise tables will fill in the first hour fairly quickly. And, when I say 'breakfast' I say that slightly tongue in cheek as you will be served a similar menu to what they serve for dessert.
Strawberry Pancakes with ice cream!
Once in awhile though, it's a fabulously fun spot for anyone to enjoy. Watch your kids eyes grow into giant saucers or treat a guest and watch their jaw hit the floor when their 'breakfast' is served. My kids like the strawberry pancakes (served with a giant swirl of whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and freshly pureed strawberry syrup).
Shibuya Honey Toast
I'm partial to a doppio espresso and the Shibuya Honey Toast (a giant thick slice of toast, topped with butter and a bit of honey that soaks through the whole thing and served with scoops-- yes, plural--- of vanilla ice cream... oh and a nice hearty dollop of whipped cream topped with almonds as well!).