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Bangkok (part 1) – Two days of Buddhas and cooking

Full size gallery of the pictures below –

Some important background information before I go into our adventures in Bangkok is the fact that when I was younger (like 4-8) I lived in Bangkok for four years. I have not been back to Bangkok since we moved, so being able to reminisce on some of the memories I have as a little kid was awesome. Also, my dad was the General Manager of a hotel in Bangkok (that we lived in for some of our time in BKK) so as a graduation present I got to stay at that very hotel (Holiday Inn Silom Road). We have stayed at some pretty comfortable hostels but the jump from hostels/guesthouse to a really nice hotel in Bangkok is pretty significant.
We got to experience the joy of taking a sleeper night train from Chumphon to Bangkok. It was a lot more comfortable than I expected even with the fact that I had to curl up in order to fit in the bed. However, Shannon fit perfectly well and fell asleep instantly and I am sure Collin had no problems given that he fell asleep on the concrete in Singapore once. We woke up arriving in Bangkok confused by the many dead mosquitoes that appeared on our little beds, but better dead than alive! Anyway, we arrived at the hotel around 8AM and from the moment we stepped in the lobby we asked ourselves why we only gave ourselves 4 days in the city.

Wat Pho and walking around aimlessly

After gushing over the comfort of our beds, the cleanliness of our bathroom (freaking out over the fact that we had a bathtub), and simply enjoying  the overall feeling of comfort, we went out with the purpose of visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
On our way to the boat taxi to get us to the Grand Palace we ran into a Thai man who claimed to be a teacher (he really emphasized the fact that he was a teacher). He was quite friendly and then five minutes into the conversation he decided that we needed a suit. More specifically he grabbed Collin by the arm and led him (with us following) to a suit store. As much as we would enjoy custom “Armani” suits, that isn’t really our niche. However, the “teacher” kept insisting and decided to adopt Collin calling him his American son. After we left this guy kept following until Collin learned to use the word no (we were very proud of him) and he left us to be and told us he would wait for us on the same corner. Needless to say, we avoided said corner and made it to the river without obtaining another Thai father who thinks we need expensive suits even though we look like we just got off a 9 hour overnight train.
It was quite the interesting trip because we got on the boat without paying and spent the entire trip wondering how to pay. We got to our stop and jumped off (we later learned that if you don’t sprint off the boat they wont let you get off) still without paying. The boat left, and we looked to ourselves and figured that Bangkok has a really cool system of having free boat rides everywhere. On to the Grand Palace!
We got close to the grand palace and met some more Thai men pretending to be things they weren’t. This time we met a security officer. He informed us that the Grand Palace was closed for a mourning ceremony for the King and that no foreigners were allowed in. Instead, he took out a map and showed us a route that would involve 4 free fun things to see which he could conveniently get us a tuk tuk taxi for. After we escaped this guy, another security officer yells at us to tell him what that guy told us. He gave us some more bullshit that I didn’t pay attention to and we went on our way.

Unfortunately, we believed the fact that the Grand Palace was closed (due to the mass of Thai people in black clothing going in) so we decided to go to Wat Pho while ignoring more fake security officers. Once we finally got to Wat Pho we were absolutely okay with spending some extra time in the huge and beautiful temple. 
The best way to describe Wat Pho is one big Reclining Buddha along with approximately 700 other buddhas. Never have I seen so many Buddhas. The reclining Buddha was truly amazing given its size and beauty. The other buddhas… were cool but got old after like the tenth one that looked exactly the same. In addition to Buddhas, the actual temple itself was very intricate, beautiful and huge. We walked around for quite awhile marveling at the intricacies of the temples and only left once we decided we never wanted to see another Buddha (quite short-lived). 
After Wat Pho we didn’t really have a plan in mind, which is not good in Bangkok because when you look like you don’t have a plan the tuk tuk hawks attack. However, we were well practiced in giving them the f*** off look so we weren’t bothered. We ended up having a nice walk thru little India (cause we needed our samosa and mango lassi fix) and then thru Chinatown. We have been to many chinatowns so we walked thru this one rather quickly, or at least tried to but got lost in the maze. We attributed it to getting drugged. We bought some random drink in a clear bottle that was supposed to be lemongrass juice. It ended up being supersaturated sugar with the essence of lemongrass and some kind of drug that prevents you from figuring out how to get out of Chinatown. Luckily, Collin stayed away from Chinatown LSD and we got out of Chinatown and on a boat! Unfortunately, we paid our 15 Baht (50 cent) and took a much less enjoyable (only because we payed so much for it) boat ride back to the hotel. Much like chinatown, once you’re in the hotel (specifically in our bed watching a movie) it is very hard to get out… I eventually did make it out and went to the British Club where my family used to spend most of our afternoons when I was a kid. I met with two of the most amazing people I know (read their book – ‘Bring Your Eyes and See’) and finally had a taste of real and really good Thai food. I was in heaven.

Cooking With Poo and Jim Thompson

After much googling I decided to book the cooking class: “Cooking with Poo”. I did book it a month or two in advance but did not realize how famous it was until we found out she was featured on BBC and had her own cooking book. Anyway, it lived up to the hype and was definitely a highlight of the trip. Poo (the lady’s nickname) was really fun and we could not have asked for a better cooking teacher.

We started off in the largest food market in Bangkok with her as our guide and explaining every food we came across. While we were here we bought some of the missing ingredients we needed to cook our food and she showed us all of the fruit (like 12 different types) that she had bought for us to try later. Walking thru the market with someone who knows where they are going is definitely the way to do it. From live frogs in a bag to insects to pig head to little chickens, everything you could think up was conveniently in one location. 

After we were finished with the market we went to the slum where poo lives to start our cooking class. Poo’s story is a very uplifting one in which she went from living with her neighbors in the slum to opening her own cooking school (knowing no English). Now she is very well known throughout Bangkok, especially with expats, and has one of the most popular cooking classes in Bangkok. She uses the money she gains from this school to help all of those in her slum and has been able to help start dozens of small businesses in her slum.
Of course the cooking was amazing. Every dish was perfect and surprisingly easy. We cooked Spicy Beef Salad (Yam Neua), Phad Thai, and Green Curry (Gaeng Khiaw Waan). Cooking each dish was fun and delicious. By the end of the three dishes we were stuffed, but luckily I have an endless pit of a stomach when it comes to mango sticky rice. I then proceeded to eating three plates of mango sticky rice along with many samples of different fruits. We left the cooking class happy and full, excited to bring these recipes back to our friends and family back home. 
We managed to get back to the hotel and leave for Jim Thompson’s house in time to make the last tour of the house. It was very cool to see the many beautiful decorations he used in his house. We all had different opinions on Jim Thompson without any of us really knowing anything about him. Without ever having the chance to really google him, I decided he was some kind of bad ass with a lot of money and silk who became a spy that later disappeared because he knew too much.Regardless, he had a really cool house with some beautiful Thai decorations. A really good way to spend the last bit of daylight. However, we wasted no time in taking advantage of the night…

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