Through my eyes: Bangkok street art

I was looking through some photos I have stored on our computer from our last trip to Thailand, in 2014, and came across this one…

Husband and I had been walking through the streets while the Shutdown Bangkok protests were in full swing. We were seeing people camped out on the road sides, simple food sold from the backs of motorbikes, and locals walking around in torn tshirts and bare feet.

Then, we turned a corner, and found this brightly coloured, fun, modern piece of art. In complete contrast to everything going on around it, and ee both just stopped and burst into laughter. That’s why I love Bangkok so much; you really never know what you’re going to stumble onto!

Top 5 Things To Do in Bangkok

1. Shop up an absolute storm at Chatuchak Weekend Market
http://www.chatuchak.org/
Where? Chatuchak Market is adjacent to the Kamphaengpecth Station (MRT) about 5 minute walk from Mochit Skytrain (BTS) Station and Suan Chatuchak (Chatuchak Park) Station (MRT)
Why go? Spanning 27 acres, it’s one of the biggest markets in the world. The atmosphere is electric, the food is great, and if you can’t find something you want to buy, it doesn’t exist.
How long will you need? At least half a day
Cost? Depends how much you plan to buy – make sure you barter, though!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market

 

2. Eat up a storm on Soi 38

Where? right near BTS stop: Thonglor
Why go? Because it’s street food heaven. They all congregate there and the smell of it all is magic.
How long will you need? An hour or two
Cost? You’ll be able to get a great meal for only a few dollars – the pork and noodle dish above cost under AUD$4.00!
Read more:
– Street food heaven: Soi 38, Bangkok, Thailand

 

3. Then, learn to cook for yourself at BaiPai Cooking 

http://www.baipai.com/
Where? 8/91 Ngam Wongwan Road, Soi 54, Ladyao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
Why go? To learn to cook! The classes are fantastic, very hands on, and come with full recipes for you to take home. And once you’re done cooking in the class, you get to sit down with your classmates and eat it all!
How long will you need? A few hours, depending on your class time:
Morning Class – 09:30 – 13:30
Afternoon Class – 13:30 – 17:30
Cost? THB 2,2200 per person (around AUD$80.00)
Read more:
– Baipai Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand

 

4. Take a boat down the river to the Wat Pho Temple complex

Where? Maharat Road, near the river. Take the Chao Phraya River Express to the Tha Thien Pier – it’ll cost under a dollar.
Why go? Because Bangkok is a crazy city, and this is the most beautiful little piece of paradise you could possibly hope to escape to 🙂
How long will you need? Half a day
Cost? Entry is THB 100 per person (around AUD$3.80)
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Wat Pho Temple Complex, Bangkok (part 1)
– Through my eyes: Wat Pho Temple Complex, Bangkok (part 2)

 

5. Take a stop off at Chinatown on the boat ride back to the city

Where? Take the Chao Phraya River Express back towards the city and stop at the Ratchawong Pier. From there, walk up Ratchawong Road to Sampaeng Lane, and Yaowarat Road (Chinatown’s main street).
Why go? This is the ultimate antidote to the peace and tranquility in the temples. Chaos is an understatement, the shopping is heavy on tacky souvenirs, but the food is great and the atmosphere is insane in the best possible way!
How long will you need? Add another few hours to your half day at the Wat Pho Temple Complex
Cost? Depends on your shopping habits!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Bangkok’s Chinatown, Thailand

 

10 Delicious Things To Eat In Thailand

I wrote this article last week for Outlet Magazine, and enjoyed writing it so much (it brought back so many great memories!) that I thought I’d share it here, too 🙂 Thailand has been relatively quiet in the world news since the Shutdown Bangkok movement of January 2014 that we somehow managed to get caught up in; that is, until the bombings in the country’s capital last week. For a country that makes a great portion of its living from tourism, this is a huge blow to the already struggling economy, which actually really upset me; for the most part, they’re good people who are working hard to make better lives for themselves. To be attacked like that is just cruel, it’s really really hard to hear about, especially when it’s Bangkok – the city gets a shitty wrap, but it’s still one of my favourite places! But, like I said when I wrote about the Shutdown thing, there are still so many great reasons to visit Thailand! Think cheap cocktails and beer, endless shopping, bustling markets and (best of all) some of the best food in the world. When things settle down and we’re all ready to head over to spend up on handbags and food, here are ten of the best things to eat.

 

  1. Anything on a stick
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    Chances are if it’s edible meat of any description, you’ll find it in Thailand threaded onto a skewer and grilled. Chicken, beef, pork, seafood, whatever – it’s all fair game, and it’s always delicious. Extra delicious if you can find honey marinated grilled pork skewers, those are the best.
  1. Noodles with wontons
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    There’s a pretty noticeable Chinese influence in Thailand, and you can see it in a lot of the food. Fresh noodles with BBQ pork and wontons are one of those dishes that allows the Chinese influence to sneak in, but it’s so good no one seems to mind.
  1. Satay chicken skewers
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    This is a simple dish, but a huge street food favourite. Grilled chicken on a stick with flavourful, delicious satay sauce. Really good option on the way home from a big night on Bangla Road.
  1. Freshly grilled seafood
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    Find a decent seafood restaurant (look for somewhere super busy), pick out your dinner from the monster crustaceans displayed on ice out the front, ask to have them grilled and go with a simple butter garlic sauce on the side. Amazing!
  1. Pork fried rice
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    Another dish with a Chinese influence, fried rice is always a classic. It’s a great one to order from the street food vendors at night, particularly if you’re looking for something a bit more comforting and familiar.
  1. Nutella crepes
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    Every bit as good as the Parisian stuff. Actually, they’re better here, because more often than not, your Nutella and strawberry stuffed crepe will be doused in condensed milk before it’s served up to you. If that sounds unappealing to you, it’s only because you haven’t had one after a few cheap cocktails at 1am. You should try it.
  1. Pad Thai
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    Duh – can’t well go to Thailand without eating Pad Thai!! Skip the tacky Westernised restaurants and head straight to the street food vendors; that’s where the best stuff comes from. Grab a fresh coconut to drink from while you’re at it – absolute winning combination.
  1. Fresh fruit smoothies
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    These little stalls are set up absolutely everywhere and are the best way to feel better about your holiday food intake. Fresh mangos, strawberries, watermelon and pineapples all blended with ice into a cool, thick cup of healthy deliciousness. They also double up as great happy hour options if you buy your own liqueur at one of the infinite 7/11s floating around 😉
  1. Coconut sticky rice with fresh mango
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    Another Thai classic – thick, sticky, coconut rice topped with sweet, fresh mango. It’s one of those dishes you don’t even need to be hungry to eat – it’s just soooo good!
  1. Coconut ice cream
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    Yeah, they like their coconut over there. And when it’s so delicious and fresh, you can’t blame them for coming up with so many ways to use it. Freshly churned coconut ice cream at the end of a hot day is complete perfection. And because it’s technically made from fruit, you can eat as much as you like without feeling guilty! Everyone wins!

Eat here (if you can find it!): The best ice cream in Bangkok, Thailand

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FINALLY!! Something that resembles summer weather in Melbourne! After a pretty pathetic attempt at summer involving some rain and a lot of grey clouds, Mother Nature has finally lifted her game and given us some sunshine! I am generally not a summer person, I prefer the cold, but after spending the bulk of what would have been summer in the cold and snow of Chicago, Toronto, New York and the like, it’s actually nice to see a bit of sunshine this weekend 🙂 And for me, sunshine and summer time means ice cream, which has had me thinking of some of the best ice cream I’ve found on my travels… in Bangkok, of all places!

In amongst the craziness of the Shutdown Bangkok 2014 movement, I found a little piece of heaven. A few pieces, actually. I spotted it like a colourful, rainbow beacon nestled in between the thousands of people out in force; it was so bright, you couldn’t possibly miss it! What I did miss, however, was the name… I can’t for the life of me remember the name of this ice cream cart, but it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had (rich, creamy, beautiful flavours like the strawberry cheesecake which is the one with the bow on it below), not to mention the absolute prettiest!

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Anyone else been to Bangkok and seen this ice cream truck?!?

One of the best meals of my life: late night street food in Bangkok.

 

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I’m pretty sure when “normal” people are asked about the best meals of their lives, they’re usually going to talk about Michelin-starred or three-hatted restaurants, well-known, celebrity chefs, exceptional, knowledgeable and courteous service, caviar and truffles and expensive, vintage wine, maybe even a beautiful view of some gorgeous beach landscape. If you ask me, the first I’ll probably think of will be a dodgy looking, street-side vendor, under a motor-way overpass, on the back streets of Bangkok. Yeah, if you haven’t worked it out yet, I’m not “normal.”

Husband and I were in Thailand January just passed (2014), while the city was in the midst of the “Shutdown Bangkok” political movement. It wasn’t ideal. A lot of the markets and street food vendors I’d remembered so fondly from a previous visit were either not operating, or doing much shorter hours than usual. The protestors were peaceful, and as such, really didn’t hinder our movements around the city. On our last night in Bangkok, we set out for one of the night markets I’d visited last time (honestly can’t remember which one it was now, unfortunately!), and after a few wrong turns, we finally found it. Only to discover that perhaps a scant 10% of the regular vendors were operating. And no street food to be seen.

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Given that we’re both foodies and will eat authentic street food over a fancy restaurant any day, we decided to keep walking until we found somewhere that looked good for dinner; we’d never forgive ourselves if our last meal in Thailand was a Thai-by-numbers, made-for-tourists event. Inevitably, because our Thai isn’t too crash hot and I did my best navigating a Thai map with Thai street names, wrong turns were taken and we just kept walking in the general direction of our hotel. We ended up on what seemed to be much quieter streets without really realising how we got there, but we just kept walking. Until we found this place. It was PACKED! I vividly remember an older lady sitting in the gutter, washing out dishes by hand, and pouring the dirty water from the buckets down the street before re-filling them from the hose that lay next to her.

We took a seat on the squat plastic stools, and were handed two plastic menus. We ordered a bit of everything; papaya salad (for husband who has a masochistic love for anything spicy), stir fried greens in oyster sauce, pork fried rice and BBQ beef. While we were waiting for our food, we just sat back and took stock.

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Of the place we were, in that moment, literally; on the side of a dark street in Bangkok, late at night. There were women manning enormous woks over my left shoulder, with bright orange flames licking the sides.  A few plastic menus, sticky with various sauces, being passed around and shared. Locals and other travellers all sharing the space, and enjoying their meals immensely. And this little lady, sitting in the gutter, robotically cleaning the dishes.  Then I thought about where I was in life. My childhood dreams were to see the world and have adventures. I didn’t play “mummy” with my dolls, pretending to make a home for them, and bathe and clothe and cuddle and feed them. I put my dolls on trains that had been thrown off the tracks by an earthquake and onto the precipice of a cliff, where they were hanging on for dear life. Other dolls sailed away on boats, dodging all manor of sealife, real and mythical, to their destination on the other side of the world. More yet rode horses out into the wilderness and saw incredible things. That’s what I had always wanted. And as I looked around, though tame to a lot of people I’m sure, wasn’t this some sort of an adventure? Wasn’t I finally living my life the way I wanted to? That’s why I look so glazed over and happy in this photo..

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Yes, the food was good. Amazing, actually. I’ve been to modern restaurants where I haven’t eaten beef than tender and well cooked. How they managed to impart that much flavour into green vegetables with oyster sauce is beyond me. The food was delicious! But good food clearly isn’t the only thing to consider when thinking about your best ever meals.

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Through my eyes: Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok
www.chatuchak.org

I really love visiting markets when I’m travelling. It’s the ultimate way to experience life in the city you’ve visiting; you get to see what the locals buy, what they eat, how they communicate with each other, how they live. Any time I travel, one of the first things I do in the planning phase is check out what markets are in the area so I can line up visits when they’re actually open. My first trip to Bangkok a few years ago saw my develop a fascination with the Chatuchak Weekend Market long before I actually arrived in the city. Online research taught me that the JJ Market is one of the largest in the world, spanning over 27 acres of anything and everything you could ever dream of; if they don’t sell it there, it doesn’t exist.

I love this market because it’s so real. The atmosphere is absolutely electric, it’s packed full of both tourists and locals alike, and it’s just an experience that’s completely insane and utterly necessary! If you’re ever in Bangkok, please make time to visit this place. But really visit this place – when you get there, talk to people, talk to the people selling the clothes, the hand made trinkets, and especially the people making the food! And try the food! Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you don’t know what it is! Learn and experience, don’t just be another tourist wondering aimlessly! It’s incredible, truly!

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“Shutdown Bangkok,” Thai politics & why you should still visit this city.

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I absolutely adore Bangkok. I think it’s an incredible city, and one of my favourites in the world. I visited Bangkok for the second time in January this year with my husband (his first time there), and as luck would have it, we arrived bang in the middle of the Shutdown Bangkok protests; it was a very different Bangkok to the one I saw a few years ago on my first visit.

The night before we were due to fly over from Koh Samui, we watched in shock from the safety of our hotel room as reports of an unarmed, civilian protestor being shot and killed flashed across the TV screen. Our panic was only momentary; we remembered our 2013 trip to Egypt and how ridiculously over-sensationalised the violence of those protest were by the media – even the locals laughed at how much it was blown out of proportion. We packed our bags as planned to continue on, however we did do some research online to find out exactly what we were heading head first into – after all, knowledge is power.

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The SHUTDOWN BANGKOK 2014 movement essentially involved shutting down the city centre with the bigger goal of shutting down the entire Thai capital and the ultimate goal of effecting political change. The sea of protestors that inhabited the streets of Bangkok wanted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra out, accused of being an easily manipulated puppet at the mercy of her brother and former prime minister – he had been ousted in 2006 in a military coup. Long story short, by the time we got there in mid January 2014, an election had been called, however the Thai people wanted a major reform of the political system first.

The movement was dubbed the “people’s revolution” and once we were in the thick of it, it wasn’t difficult to see why. It didn’t require an advanced knowledge of politics to see that the people of Thailand were presenting a very strongly unified front. They have an unwavering belief that they needed better from their prime minister, and they were not backing down. Hailing from Australia, where we whinge about having to vote every four years and take the piss out of our politicians for everything from their hair colour to their choice of swimwear (seriously), this experience was foreign in absolutely every sense of the word.

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From the first few minutes after arrival, the far-reaching implications of the shutdown were blazingly evident. Every main road and square in the city had been completely shutdown and immobilised. There was no longer the bumper to bumper traffic, the blaring car horns, the people running across the road, dodging the speeding motorbikes and tuk tuks. They had really, truly shutdown the city, transforming the formerly packed streets into sort of street market-cum-temporary housing projects. People were so serious about this reform that they had relocated not only their businesses, but their families and homes as well to protest sites across the city; they really weren’t going anywhere until they got what they wanted.

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After hearing about the shooting and subsequent death prior to our arrival, we were initially a little hesitant about going out at night. Our first night there was an early one, back in our hotel by around 7pm, but we didn’t sleep because the protestors were partying like nobody’s business all around the city. The noise literally did not stop until around 4am, then started up again at around 7am. After that first night, we kinda just threw caution to the wind a little a decided to head out. We took the precautions of taking the quieter streets and avoiding the main streets and squares. The next night, we just threw ourselves right into the middle of it all, and had the best time

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These were no ordinary nasty, angry, violent protestors. They were parents with young children. Teenagers who should have been studying. Elderly residents getting around with walking sticks. They were regular people who were fighting for a fair go. Given that our hotel was right out the front of the start of the main protest zone, we decided one morning to just join the locals and walk straight through the main street, amongst the relocated street food vendors and the rest of the mayhem. We were waved through by a security guard, one of the many posted at the entrances to the gated protest zones, and greeted by smiles and waves by the citizens of Bangkok. We were welcomed with open arms, even approached by two older women who invited us back to the square for a “party” that night. I asked them how they felt the movement was going, if they felt any progress was being made, and what they were fighting for. “Fairness! That’s all we want! Basic right!” They went on the explain that they appreciated the gesture of the election being announced, but without a reform of the current policies, it’d essentially be the same problems with a new prime minister. That hit us hard and really got us thinking; how many people back home in Australia would be willing to give up their day-to-day lives for the foreseeable future, to relocate their businesses and kids, to potentially lose a lot of income, to forget about dinner with their friends and their favourite TV show for potentially weeks, just to fight for their political rights? We have freedom, fairness, equality, and we take it utterly for granted. How cruel the world can be.

We made sure we spent time each of the five days we were in Bangkok in the protest sites. It was a real experience. It was grass roots, it was organic, it was real. The impact on the economy was phenomenal – kids were out of school, people were either not working at all or taking time off their jobs to set up temporary stalls to sell paraphernalia. The rest of the city was a veritable ghost town at times – for example, when we visited Soi 38 for our street food fix one night, it was half the size it usually us, because so many of the street food vendors had relocated to the protest sites.

Photos below show the same area by day and by night; as you can see, there was no quiet period.

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Funnily enough, I’d started writing this post before the latest flare up started a few days ago, so it seems a lot more appropriate now. My heart goes out to the Thai people and their situation; they are genuinely some of the kindest, most generous, real people I’ve ever come across, and I hope things can get better for them. I won’t pretend to have an extensive knowledge on the political situation that is now plaguing the country, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about my observations from my last visit. And those observations are that the city is still incredible. It is beautiful, it is traditional and modern all at the same time, it is authentic, it is accepting of everyone, and it has real soul. I’d never advocate visiting a city under such political duress, but when the current political situation does settle down, I’d really encourage everyone who has wanderlust in their heart (and even those of you who don’t) to visit this city.

Don’t just go to catch a cab from MBK to Siam Discovery to the next air-conditioned shopping centre, stay in your hotel, lounging by the pool and only eat Maccas. Get out, walk the streets (they really aren’t so scary, not even at night), learn to say hello and thank you (I can’t even tell you how far those two words have gotten me over there!), eat the street food at the places the locals are eating it, and for God’s sake, TALK TO THEM!!!! Bangkok and it’s people are so real and everyone should experience a place like that once in their travels.

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