In his collection of essays entitled The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain discussed his Platonic ideal of fast food–his preference over the Chicken McNuggets and Whoppers that most Americans turn to when they want dinner fast. To him, fast food is street food served by vendors around the world. Walking the streets of Bangkok, I can see what he is talking about. You can’t walk down a city block without seeing a vendor roasting skewers of chicken or slicing up fresh pieces of pineapple and papaya. If people have to eat fast food, Bourdain (and I) would rather this be it–unprocessed, freshly made (sometimes), and independently produced.
Today we came across pan fried omelets; vegetable noodles; mini fried quail eggs; fresh orange juice; sliced watermelon, pineapple, papaya, and pomelo; sizzling pad Thai, hot noodles with curry, asparagus, and sprouts; and mini creamed spinach lasagnas. I would be happy eating the traditional pad Thai every day–the cook’s greasy pan filled with sharp green onions, tofu, chilis, peanut sauce, and translucent noodles with peanuts and sprouts sprinkled on top.
The traffic is fierce here, especially the motorcyclists. They make being a pedestrian interesting since they can dart past without a warning or use a sidewalk as a second road. I have an affinity for the taxis which are cheerily painted bright pink, yellow, red, orange, or blue.
The adventurous visitors use tuk-tuks–mini taxis like a motorcycle with a back cab. We used a tuk-tuk for one trip, and the experience was hair raising. The driver had no fear when zipping past taxis, semis, and motorcycles. Even some of the locals are too afraid to take these vehicles. Aside from the proximity of other vehicles and danger of death, a rider has to sit through a lot of car exhaust.
The main family-oriented tourist activites are shopping, visiting Buddhist temples, or taking a boat in the river. I am amazed by how many tailors and gemstones dealers there are here. Not surprisingly, there are also a lot of knockoff vendor markets. The saddening side to the city is seeing all of the prostitutes. They openly wait by the bus stop and at bars on certain streets.
I have found that the Thai people, as a rule, are extremely kind and helpful. I only wish that I could say more than “hello” and “thank you.”