Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chatuchak Market

A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without a visit to Chatuchak Market which is a 27 acre open air marketplace.  Chatuchak Market is open on Saturdays and Sundays and attracts crowds of an estimated 200,000 per day.

The easiest way to get there is to take the Sky Train to Mo Chit which is the last stop on the line.  After exiting the train, follow the crowd.

Before entering, make a stop at the information center to pick up a free map of the market.  It is divided into sections based on the merchandise being sold and helps in finding your way around.  Once inside, the clock tower can be used as an orienting landmark or as a meeting place.

Prepare to haggle as it is expected and the vendors will think you're strange if you pay the asking price of their items.  Personally, I dislike haggling as it makes me uncomfortable, but even I gave it a go.  I must admit it was rather satisfying to walk away with my purchases after paying quite a bit less than the asking price!

 Everything under the sun can be found here from clothing to jewelry to art to home decor to pet supplies and much, much more.

There are also food vendors throughout the market as well as a food court offering delicious food and treats like vanilla ice cream served in a coconut shell.  Yum!

When visiting the market, keep in mind that it can be hot and crowded.  Wear light clothing, comfortable shoes and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  Put yourself in the right frame of mind for dealing with large crowds and a lot of noise.  Don't be in a hurry and plan to spend the day.  Having been there twice we probably won't go back anytime soon, but it was definitely an experience not to be missed!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bangkok Bathrooms and Thailand Toilet Etiquette

Before leaving for Thailand, I had heard all kinds of horror stories about bathrooms in Asia.

Overall, it's been a pleasant surprise to find that the facilities in our apartment, the malls, bars and restaurants have been western style flush toilets.  All of the public bathrooms have been relatively clean.  One of the things I'd read was to be prepared by carrying your own tissue because toilet paper is rare.  I've not found that to be the case; even the most basic of bathrooms here have had plenty of toilet paper.

When asking where the bathroom or restroom is when out in public, try to remember that unless you ask for the "toilet", most Thai people are not going to know what you want.  You will get a puzzled look instead of assistance.

The bathrooms at the shopping mall, Terminal 21, are on the high end of the scale with completely enclosed stalls, built in bidets and seat warmers.

The dash board has the complexity of a jetliner cockpit.

There is even sanitizer for the toilet seat next to the toilet.

Plumbing in Thailand and most of Asia is not generally set-up to handle toilet paper.  That is why there is a bin next to the toilet - used TP goes in there.  Yes, I found this rather difficult to do at first, but you get used to it.  The alternative is backed up plumbing, something none of us want to face.  The rule of thumb is that if there is a bin or trash can next to the toilet, put your used paper in it.

There are plenty of signs posted to remind people of this.

Don't put other trash in the bowl either.

There are people from all over the world who come to Thailand.  Apparently many of them have never encountered western style flush toilets.  They are used to squat toilets.  There are signs for them too.

We took a trip to China Town one day and it was there that I encountered the dreaded squatter.  After staring at it in a sort of terror stricken fascination, I opted to hover over the flush toilet that had no seat in the stall next to the squatter.  All western women are skilled in the act of hovering as it's not unusual to find filthy public toilets that you don't want to touch any part of your body in the United States.  

The day may come when I have no choice but to use one of these, so when we returned to our apartment from the China Town outing, I went online to learn how to use a squatting toilet.  I found this article which explains it better than I ever could.  How to Use a Squat Toilet

Out in the countryside is a different story where western style plumbing is rare.  Travel out of large cities such as Bangkok with the expectation that you will find yourself using a squat toilet or very possibly just a hole in the ground.  My motto is to be a girl scout and prepare as best you can for anything - stuff a few tissues in your bag.  You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Bangkok Christmas

Here we are spending Christmas in Bangkok.  To say that we are far from home where it's cold and snowy is an understatement.  Between the beautiful warm weather and all of the new things to see in our adopted home, it's kind of hard to remember that it's December and that Christmas is rapidly approaching.

Approximately 90 percent of the Thai people are Buddhists and don't celebrate Christmas which is a Christian holiday.  However, they like some of the holiday traditions such as decorations, Christmas carols and Santa hats.  I can't help thinking that part of the reason for the holiday cheer is for the benefit of the Westerners who live in or who are vacationing in Thailand.

Whatever the reason, the decorations are beautifully done and a small sampling is posted below:


Don't try this at home!

Poinsettias thrive in the Thailand climate:


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Bangkok!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Tropical Delights

Learning about and eating the fruit found in Thailand has been the most enjoyable experience.  Along with the expected pineapple, mango, papaya and bananas, there are many more exotic fruits that are unfamiliar to my eyes.

It seemed that the best way to get started was to buy several different kinds of fruit from the fruit sellers and conduct a taste test.  Clockwise from the top is Mangosteen, Rambuten (Hairy Fruit) and Rose Apple.

Jack Fruit has a sweet flavor and firm flesh.  The bulbs grow inside of pods that average in weight from 15 to 20 pounds but that can weigh as much as 100 pounds.  It is believed to be the largest tree borne fruit.  It's only downside is a slight smell of decay, but it isn't hard to get past the odor because the fruit is so delicious.

Fruit sellers cut the bulbs from the fibrous interior of the pods which also contain a sticky white sap:

Their efforts yield these delicious results:

Mangosteens are a round purple fruit.  The outer skin is rather thick and rubbery.  Once the rind is  removed the fruit inside is white and segmented similarly to an orange.   The fruit is sweet and juicy and the segments often contain up to four seeds, although I haven't found any seeds in the mangosteen that I've eaten.

Rambutens or Hairy Fruit are round and the leather like outer skin is covered with pliable spines which look like hairs.  The colors of this fruit range from pale green to yellow to red.  To prepare the rambuten, make a 1/4 inch cut all the way around the fruit and peel off the skin.  It comes away very easily revealing a white fruit that looks like a small egg.  I found the easiest way to prepare the fruit was to slice it into quarters and cut away the pit inside. The texture and flavor of the rambuten is very much like a grape. 

The rose apple resembles an apple in color and skin type, but is shaped more like a pear.  The flesh is white and crisp and juicy with a mild sweet flavor reminiscent of an apple.  The texture is somewhere between an apple and watermelon.

My absolute favorite of all the fruits I have tried is the Dragon Fruit.  It is oval shaped with a bright green and pink outer skin.  The fruit inside is white and full of tiny black seeds.  To prepare Dragon Fruit, simple slice into quarters and peel off the skin which easily comes away.  The flesh is similar in texture to a pear with a bit of watermelon added for good measure, while the seeds add a wonderful crunch.  The flavor is light, mild and very refreshing.

If you ever have the chance to try any of these tropical fruits, I highly recommend that you seize the opportunity.  They are are nutritious and delicious.   With only a few weeks to spend in Thailand, I am making it a point to eat at least one of these tropical delights every day.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Around the Neighborhood

It's hard to believe we've been in Thailand just over a week as we're feeling so comfortable and at home in our Bangkok neighborhood.  The local people now recognize us and some know our names.  We walk everywhere and only take the Sky Train when necessary. 

Come take a stroll with us around the neighborhood.

The vegetable seller's cart:

The broom peddler:

One of the many food vendors - so good!  When eating street food look for vendors who are selling to Thai people and who have people waiting in line.  Those are good indications that the prices are fair, the food is tasty and that the food is fresh and safe to eat.

The flower man.  The color and beauty of these flowers are spectacular. I didn't get his name, but he requested that I take his picture.

Ice deliveries to the local bars and clubs.  With workouts like these, there is no need for a gym membership!

The bug cart (yep, I mean insects).  I'm hoping to work up the courage to try these.

One thing I wasn't expecting was a modern Western style grocery store.  Local foods are available as well as imported brands such as Oreo cookies, Heinz Ketchup and Hershey's chocolate.

A neighborhood pub:

We buy most of our fruit from this fruit stand:

This lady is the neighborhood seamstress.  She sets up her sewing machine on the sidewalk first thing in the morning and does alterations/repairs until dark. 

This gentleman can be found at the same corner every day repairing shoes.  He has no shortage of customers.

It wouldn't be a neighborhood without a 7-11!

I hope you enjoyed this tour through our Bangkok neighborhood.  It's a lively, diverse, friendly and endlessly intriguing place.  We are looking forward to discovering and learning more about it over the next few weeks.