I was really looking forward to this day because of the floating market that we were going to go to in the morning. The alarm sounds early, around 6:30, and we all hurry to shower and get ready for our day. We meet Nat downstairs and follow her out to the car and driver awaiting us. The Floating Market Dummoen Saduak is about 2 hours away from Bangkok and we all take opportunity to catch up on sleep and look lazily out the window as the scenery changes once more from city to countryside.
We arrive at what looks like a large outdoor market and follow Nat in through the crowded stalls towards a long canal where she hires a long brown old fashioned row boat to take us through the market. We all hop in, one to a row, and I look around at amazement at what I am immersed in. Hundreds of shopkeepers on moving or stationary boats of their own, their wares included everything from fresh fruit to spices to souvenirs. As we sailed (or more accurately the man rowed us) through the crowded waterways shop keepers would hold onto our vessel and show us their fresh strawberries or the like, looking for a head nod of offering. Nat purchased some fried bananas which were so fresh and delectable, the women frying them in front of our eyes on her own moveable vessel! As we continued our journey I spotted some Thai Iced Coffee and for 30 baht enjoyed the best coffee of my life. We laughed as we explored, not buying much (I also bought for next to nothing a canvas bag with a women with many limbs to bring to the beach in Hawaii and an elephant tapestry (less than 5$)) but thoroughly enjoying the experience. Nat informed us that in the old days many markets were floating due to the plethora of canals and the fisherman that frequented them. I took a ton of pictures and each one looked like it could have been shot 300 years ago, with women in their conical hats selling cucumber looking veggies and the like.
On our way back to Bangkok I saw some sort of street food wrapped in banana leaves on the side of the road. I asked Nat what it was and she promptly pulled over and bought a whole bag full of them. It turns out that they were sugary coconut jellies and for 20 baht we had enough to last all of us (including the driver) the rest of our lives, another example of how inexpensive Thailand is for foreigners.
We got to Bangkok earlier than we expected so we asked Nat to drop us off near the Bai Pai Cooking School, where we were to have our cooking lessons. We said good bye to Nat who handed us each brightly colored scarves to remember her by. We were sad to see her go and promptly wrapped ourselves in the scarves before saying goodbye. She had dropped us off outside of Tesco, a supermarket building that also housed some smaller shops on the first floor. Brittany and I immediately located a Dunkin Donuts out of the corner of our eyes.
Since I had already had coffee I decided to just get a donut. Their donuts were unlike any I have ever seen before. They were every color and very decorative. The ones we bought were crème filled with chocolate icing and multi-colored sugar balls on top. It was quite a sight. After exploring the supermarket we headed down to the McDonalds to meet the car for our cooking lesson. Outside the restaurant was a Ronald McDonald with his arms in the Thai greeting position (arms inward with palms pressing each other), which we happily took pictures with.
The drive to the cooking school was short. We enter the open air building with wide eyes, eager to learn. It is w ell decorated with a brown wood motif and almost looked like it could be on South Beach. There are about twelve people in total including the four of us. We each take our seats on a long Samurai (the restaurant) style table. We create five courses: Satay Chicken (Gai Satay), Pad Thai, Savory Prawn (Plah Goong), Coconut Sticky Rice (Kao Neaw Moon) and Chicken with Cashew Nuts (Gai Pad Med Ma-Muang). We learned how to stir-fry, marinate, use woks and present our work it appealing way. Each lesson consisted of the two instructors making the dish (we could view it on the tilted mirror) and explaining all of the ingredients. Then we would have tasting time wherein we could sample the delectable dishes before parlaying into our own cooking adventure. I think all of my dishes came out rather well and I only sustained minor burns from the frying, lol.
We were exhausted (and stuffed!) by the time we left the baipai cooking class, but we still managed to stop at a 7-11 for some local beer, Tiger and Singha (dad, you would have liked it!). We laughed and played with makeup as we got ready to go out on the town. We had heard that a lot of SASers were going to go to Khoisan road, so we met up with Nathan and then headed in that direction. After walking around the funky street for a while we decided to head into The Club. It played American music (as is true in most countries so far) and we had a lot of fun dancing and singing along. The people watching was also fun as there were many locals but also a lot of backpackers and travelers from all over. It had a very international feel. We did tire eventually and took a taxi home to shower and have a good night of sleep before our last day.
Feeling like we had seen most of Bangkok and well aware that our shuttle was going to leave at 1pm with or without us, we decide to just sleep in and then head back to the mall (where our shuttle was) in order to be safe. The doorbell rings at 10 am and we hurry to pack and have breakfast. It doesnt take me long (I was the only who didnt have to purchase another bag to fit my newly acquired belongings!) so I run downstairs to take advantage of the free internet before the hotels shuttle drops us off at Central World.
We walk around once more, trying to spend our remaining Baht (its always a little difficult to figure out how much to take out, etc ). I only had 400 baht left (a little over 10 dollars), but luckily I fell in love with a cute Jim Thompson silk neck scarf (so me!) with which to utilize the baht, lol. Unfortunately I didnt remember that I still had to purchase lunch with the baht (many places dont accept credit cards as readily as they do in the states) so Brittany and I had sandwiches at Starbucks (they were only 2$, United States Starbucks need to take notice!) while Becca and Perri had burgers next door. We were quite a sight moving through the mall, Brittany pulling Perris suitcase with her duffle and mine on top (good idea mom, with the small black one!), while I balanced others shopping bags and my camera bag. The drive back was uneventful and I managed to sleep most of the time.
Thailand was a lot of fun. It was not as in your face nor as life changing as some other ports (South Africa, India, etc ), but it was a wonderful experience. From the absolute beauty of the Grand Palace (which I now believe everyone must see once in their lives!) to the funky shopping of the markets I enjoyed every minute of the city life. Even Pad Thai will take on meaning as I will be able to reminisce about learning how to make it by Thai people.
PS. Were currently in the South China Sea which is absolutely gorgeous! The sunsets are unreal and its also very odd (but beautiful!) to see other ships and land masses out my window, rather than endless ocean (not that Im complaining about that ).
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thailand Days 4-5