Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Get your dinner from the market

When it comes to food, I always wonder how local stalls can sell it that cheap. I can't cook a dish for 30 baht, no way. But since it is so convenient, I go quite often to the local market here and buy stuff. Below some pictures. The market is an afternoon/evening market, located at Soi Wat Dan Samrong/Corner Soi 62. For some reasons stalls change a lot, so you will never get the same stuff on the next day. Since it is quite local , people don't speak English (but some do), and most can at least tell you the price and what kind of meat the dish contains. You can buy cooked dishes as well as meat, vegetables and fruits.

So many stalls offer traditional Thai dishes. Just try it out.
If you prefer to cook at home, get the ingredients here.
 The market is small and not much crowded, but I met the most friendly sellers here.
The fish cakes cost just 20 Baht - and they are sooooo delicious.

Japanese food is cheap as well - 5 Baht per ball.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Something about Bangkok you can't really share on Facebook

Every morning a ride my motobike about 7 kilometers through streets and sois in the suburbs of Bangkok, and in the evening I ride the same way back home (mainly Soi Lasalle and Soi Bearing). I captured once this ride with a gopro cam  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oLvQJypnS3I) and while it gives you some impression about the area I live in (and the traffic there too), one, and maybe the most important thing is missing: the smell of hundreds of small street food shops, the odor from the early rain, from the overflowing sewage system, the gas powered tuk tuk (are they using any parfume there?), or from a decade old diesel truck.

You won't get that on a taxi or your air conditioned car. And it is something you can only try to describe, but technology has yet not make it possibe to share a scent. The pleasant smell of a simmering curry, the for some not so pleasent flavor of a durian stall. The spices vaporizing in the smoke of a BBQ grill. The fragrance of fresh roses and flower bouquets sold just next to the street. The stinking garbage truck I am stuck behind, and the parfume of the young girl on the mototaxi right in front to me, mixing to an unforgetable conglomerate of what makes this City of Angles so special.

(Of course there are downsides, like a BTS ride in the evening rush hour in the hot season or the attempt to walk through the fragrance department in a shopping mall without breathing)

Research actually shows that we remember a scent or smell quite good, even from our childhood. We can actually "recall" a scent in our brain. Remember the book "The parfume"?
- You can smell as fresh as a daisy every month and your scent cells are renewed every 28 days, so every four weeks you get a new “nose”.
-  Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. People can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while visual recall is about 50% after three months.Research has shown that smell is the sense most linked to our emotional recollection. So, when linked to a product, that can reap dividends. 
Maybe this is what makes Bangkok so unforgettable?

Some people even want to develop devices to create and share a scent: http://mashable.com/2013/05/13/chatperf-scented-phone/

But that still cannot catch what your nose gets from a stall selling my favorite Palo, the five spices mix with tofu, eggs and pork belly: cinnamon, anise, even the sugar seems to vaporize and crawl slowly through the street in a layer of fine smelling molecules, like an invisible yet detectable promotion banner.  I actually smelled it for a while until I figured out what dish it is that is smelling so significant and tasty. (Another discovery was the shop that cooks lotus stems - not so pleasant)

The only way to actually catch it is called "say thung". You buy some street food for take away and when you are back home and warm it up in the microwave for 20 seconds, it still smells like the hut with the middle age woman you bought it from.

On a side node: the olfactory experience in Vientiane/Laos for example is totally different. It is mainly burning trash with a dominant note of melting plastic and a little bit of charcoal grilled meat. Saigons sewage smell is like Old Spice: it blows everything away even the most beautiful parfume.And Phnom Penh, as much as I love it, is - from the nose speaking - a huge garbage dump.

Friday, June 6, 2014

More happiness (and calories): new Siam Square One shopping mall

So we have another shopping mall in Bangkok, where no other shopping malls where before: At Siam. It is called Siam Square One, has an open concept (means no air condition), and contains mainly restaurants. Its easy access from the BTS level (thats the 3rd floor then), and divided in Summer, Winter and Rainy sections (whatever that means). Right now there are very few shops open on this level, what is booming is the food upstairs (propably because of massive promotion).
The center attracts hundreds of students from the nearby university, I guess they are here out of curiosity and food promotions.

Entrance from Siam Square

The architectural design is interesting but also a bit confusing. The open concept is reflected in some open spaces with trees and natural light, but that is kind of absorbed by the dominating color black. Still a lot of construction going on. 
Looks like shopping malls are the thing to do in Bangkok, taking Gateway and Mercuryville aside, if you want to do retail business. Maybe the future more happy people will spend even more money as they do already: at least they will spend it there for food and not more useless investments that will even increase the debts.

Interesting is that entrance from the BTS station is quite spacious, and so is it from Siam square. But street level entrance from Rama I is a small dark hole. Thing is that no food is at level 1 and 2 so people entering from the BTS won't even see it, and customers from Siam square are lead to Level 3 through a wide open space. I wonder if the small shops downstairs can survive for long. 

Plus, they returned to a confusing concept of escalators up and down, forcing you to walk around to find you way. On the positive side, the open concept gives space for sitting and relaxing, so it might be a place where people meet and rest, chat and sit - something that remembers the old Siam Square.

Just bring mosquito repellent, the place is infested.... 

Some pictures below
Looks a bit cold and dark, more like a prison


More trees

Starbucks gives away some free drinks

Promotion at a restaurant drives students nuts

This one looks actually quite nice

Opening soon


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Easy to make, cheap and refreshing Thai drink

Although soft drinks are incredible cheap in Thailand, they are also not really healthy and I avoid them wherever I can (although I do have a thing for Pepsi Max, I have to admit). But is actually even cheaper to make your own refreshing soft drink. My favourites are butterfly pea (Cha Am) tea and Pandan leaf (Bai Tuei) tea.

You can buy both at many OTOP sections in supermarkets or at local markets. Pandan is also easy to grow in your garden, and butterfly pea makes a nice colourful hedge on your fence. For me it is more convenient to buy the dried leaves.

For a litre of tea you need about 3-4 table spoons of leaves. Just pour hot water over it (you can use a tea strainer) and let it infuse for 5-8 minutes. You can also mix the leaves to have a even better tasting tea. Use some sugar or sweetener, add lime juice (it will change the color of the butterfly tea to red) and cool it.

The perfect drink for the climate in Asia.

Monday, June 2, 2014

You speak Lao, you not foreigner

Yesterday at IKEA: a crowded shopping mall, and we are afraid of not getting a taxi home. A taxi van then stopped, we told the driver that we want to go to Samrong Nuea and he refused to take us. "No, No" he said. I took a picture of his car, just to remember the number for an optonal complaint later (depending on my level of anger and frustration divided by the time we have to wait for a taxi that takes us). It took not more than five minutes and the taxi van came back. The driver opened the door and shouted at us we should go in the taxi. I asked again if he will takes us to Samrong and switch on the meter, and he said yes. So we jumped in.

After a few meters he started asking me in Thai if I took a photo. Of course not, I answered in local honesty, why should I? "You take photo", he repeated, swearing about foreigners always doing this. I was a bit scared if we are now trapped in a taxi with an angry driver - heard stories about a not so nice outcome. But it seemed that he received some complaints before and learned his lesson and was just blowing off some steam. Then he asked about directions, and I explained him to use Banga Trad and then turn to Srinakarin road. He replied that there is a traffic jam, and I accidently asked "Yu say?" in Lao instead of "Yu ti nai" in Thai. (Where?)

He suddenly changed his mood, turned around and asked why I speak Lao. I explained that we lived there for three years and that I picked up a bit. Turned out he is - as most of his collegues - from Isan, and forgotten was all picture taking. We had some fun talking Lao and finally he said "You speak Lao, you not foreigner" in English, and when we arrived at our home, we were best friends already.

There is a reason why I always insisted at my Thai language school that I want to speak average Thai peoples language, not something that just exists in books and some very official meetings. And I am thankful for having learned enough Lao to be able to speak with many people who work in the so important service sector in Thailand.