Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thailand Part 3: Markets, Boat Trips, and Elephants

Our day began with a trip to the Chatuchak Weekend Market via Skytrain. We met back up with Mike and Allison the night before, bringing the crew back up to four. Its the mother of all markets, so large that maps are necessary to have even a prayer of navigating it. Giant sections of the place were loosely devoted to subjects like clothing or furniture, but that was the extent of organization. It was probably the hottest day of my whole trip, but mercifully the majority of the stalls were covered. They were set out it rows and columns that divided everything into squares. Logical enough, but it made the giant number of lanes into a labyrinth. No one's cellphone worked in Thailand, so I spent more time looking for lost friends than I did shopping. In the end I think one t-shirt was all I ended up buying for myself. The Lonely Planet guide calls it "one great big market-style concentration camp" with "a climate like a sauna".

Police patrols strode by periodically. Thankfully I didn't have any interactions with them during my time in the country. The police in Thailand seem much like they are everywhere else. One thing I will mention though, is that they wear really, really tight uniforms.

There were lots of little places to eat within the market, but the huge amount of shoppers did a pretty good job of occupying every last spot to sit down. So, the four of us ate lunch at a nearby restaurant.

I thought I ordered a fried catfish, but what I got looked like someone forgot to add the fish to the batter. I guess it was good, but it wasn't super filling. It was accompanied by a spicy papaya salad.

My dessert intake goes way up when I'm traveling, as its another chance to experience the menu. This time I had a big chunk of mango with a sweet and sticky pile of rice pudding. The dish is called kao niao ma muang.

I washed it all down with some 7up in glass bottles. I swear the soda tastes better in some countries over others. I really need to stage a taste test one of these days.

This was one of our wander-around sort of days. Its not the most efficient way of seeing things, but it does provide some unique opportunities if you're lucky.

Gold: check. Pointy: check.

These people's hustle is that they will release one of these birds if you give them about $2.50. The sign is in English if you're interested. If releasing one bird gives me "luck and happiness forever", then what of the person who caught them all in the first place?

Each one of these little guys is a dried squid. I never tried one, but I could smell them from some distance.

Favorite sign of the whole trip, hands down.

At one point we decided that it might be cool to take a take a ferry. We thought it would be as simple as walking to the river and looking both ways, but unfortunately we did quite a bit of walking before we discovered something. The boat we did find was more about taking tours rather than getting locals to work, but we had the whole thing to ourselves which was nice.

A large part of the trip was spent zooming through residential areas. Some areas of Bangkok have a bit of a Venetian waterway thing going on, only poorer. These canals are called khlongs. Many houses were right up against the khlongs, and it seemed as if their front doors were facing the water. Many had mailboxes out as well. Maybe its faster to deliver mail by boat to these folks. I was surprised at how friendly so many of them were. Adults and children alike smiled and waved at us vigorously, ignoring the fact that we were gawking tourists taking pictures of their daily lives.

Midway through our journey another little canoe shaped boat came up along side us. The man in it was selling random things. Included in his offering was a big piles of banana bunches. I was feeling impulsive and they were super cheap, so I grabbed a ripe looking one. They were new to me. Not only were they fun size, but the inside was more yellow than the average fruit. I think they tasted sweeter than a normal banana as well. No one else would eat more than one or two, so I happily took care of most of them myself.

The one downside is that when the banana is 1/3 the size, it takes 3 times more peeling to get the same amount of fruit.

Out of the klongs and into the open river, we could see some of the important buildings in the center of the city.

That night while eating dinner, I saw four or five elephants being led around. It was the same game as the day before: give them some money and they will give some food to the poor creature.

These were really good. It was meat wrapped in a leaf, deep fried to crispiness.

Tom yum soup. It's spicy, it's sour, it's freaking delicious. It is a pretty widely known Thai food and I can't get enough of it. I'm pretty well acquainted with the soup because it's available at the Thai restaurant here in Ashikaga. So good!

This poor guy had red lights tied to his tail to help him better survive traffic.

My companions were not very amused by the elephants. They thought it was wrong for the elephants to be here and roundly ignored them. I understand their point, but I figured that money, not attention, is what fueled the wildlife presence here, so as long as I didn't pay anyone for the pleasure, I should be able to take as many pictures as I like. Booyah.

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