The one thing we were really looking forward to in returning to Bangkok was "old woman" coffee. Rich and I head out from Janel's house down the street to find our lady. Yeah! She is there! She gives us a warm smile and we order 3 cafe yen mai wan (iced coffee - not sweet). As she is working on them, we are eyeing the chicken that is grilling next to her. I ask her "alloy, alloy?" (delicious?) She answers "alloy mak mak" (very delicious, of course!) Ok - we'll take a couple of skewers of chicken. The skewers are each a quarter chicken (including feet) which she removes from the skewer and chops into pieces. We also stop at the fruit cart and grab some saparote (pineapple) to round out our breakfast.
The "hub" of the house
Back at the house we feast on our finds and discuss plans for the day. The only thing we actually NEED to do is to secure airport transportation for our early flight tomorrow. I am already a bit concerned about making sure we can get a ride at that time of day. I want to double check our flight time, but the house internet is on the fritz so we decide we will find an internet cafe somewhere during our wandering today.
Janel and Carlos want to take us to one of the places that they went to for a LookEast article - Patara Thai. It is in an interesting area of town and we plan to do some walking around. We head down the street and easily catch a taxi. We zoom into the Thonglor area and hop out onto a busy street close to the restaurant. We want to explore the area before lunch and make a valiant effort to do so. However, the heat is so oppressive (we had conveniently forgotten that about Bangkok) that we are dripping with sweat after about 15 minutes. Plan B comes into play and we decide to have lunch and then head to an indoor shopping area that Janel and Carlos like.
When we get in sight of the restaurant, an attendant comes running from the parking lot with a huge umbrella in which to shade us for the rest of the way. Awesome!
The restaurant is kind of an upscale Thai place. Very pretty and the staff is quite attentive. We alreay know that we want the crab curry. Janel says she has been dreaming about it since she wrote her article in January. We also order a salad with Chinese bengets (?), lemon grass/lime and a lamb satay to start. Janel has a lemongrass iced tea, Rich and I have a delicious lime iced tea and Carlos goes out on a limb and orders the Rosella drink. When it comes it is a beautiful rosy color and is served with a little pot of honey to add to it. He says it is very similar to Mexican Jamaica (hibiscus tea).
All of the dishes are delicious, but the suprise frontrunner is the salad. It has many different textures and tastes and we can't get enough of it. Janel is intrigued and vows to try more Thai salads in the future. The crab curry is, indeed delectable. We almost lick the bowl.
In order to get to Platinum (the wholesale, indoor mall) Carlos suggests that we take the Klong boat. He says it is much quicker than a taxi and it also sounds like it could be fun. We walk a few blocks to the river and wait at one of the stops for a boat to come by. When it arrives, it only stops long enough for passengers to disembark and others to get on - kind of. You have to be quick and step off the dock onto the side of the boat while holding on to a little rope all whilst trying to keep your balance and make it into the boat before it roars off. It really is a great way to travel and the scenery is interesting along the way. It is also shaded and much cooler than being in the street. (Have I mentioned the heat yet???)
We finally end up at Platinum. You have to see this place to believe it. I think it is 6 stories of tiny wholesale-type shops selling mostly clothes and accessories. Tons and tons of stuff. Most of the fashions are for the younger set, but there are great bags, shoes, earrings, etc. at waaay cheap prices. I have no idea where all of this stuff comes from! We have fun just wandering and looking at No major shopping for us - Janel finds a cool pair of earrings, but I don't see anything that I just can't live without.
We decide we should head home and maybe take a nap before we go back out for the evening. Carlos has managed to get on Delta.com on his cellphone and has confirmed our flight time so we will try to arrange transportation when we get back to the house. We walk back to catch the boat and Rich spots a chicken vendor. He immediately goes into a "chicken fit" and has to have some. This vendor was just pulling out some whole (and I mean WHOLE - complete with neck/head) chickens out of a vat to hang up and he also had some fresh fried chicken on the side. Rich orders some fried chicken. They are thighs and the vendor quickly bones and chops them for us. He bags them up for "take-away" along with rice and a couple of bags of the broth where he has been cooking his boiled chickens. Our entire meal that served 4 was 90bht (less than $3)
This is a great area of street food and it is hoppin' since many folks are on their way home at this time of day. We enjoy the walk back to the boat.
When we get back home I insist that we try to arrange our airport transfer. One possibility is a random taxi driver named Tony that we had once when we were here at the beginning of our trip. We had an especially long ride that day due to traffic and after he figured out that we spoke Enlish he put on American music for us and then gave us his card. He told us if we needed a ride to call him 3 hours in advance - his English was pretty good. Ok - this seems like a shot in the dark to me to expect him to come to our house at 3 in the morning, but it can't hurt to call. Carlos is tasked with making the call. Tony answers his cell phone, but tells Carlos that today is a holiday for him. Carlos tells him that's ok - we really need you for tomorrow, but in the early, early morning. Tony agrees (!) and takes our information. Carlos asks him to call when he is on his way (so we will know he is coming).
We agree that the possibility of this guy actually showing up at 3am is about 30% and make an alternate plan. We figure that at that time of night, there will not be many (if any) taxis just randomly coming down Janel's soi (street). It is a pretty quiet area. So, if Tony hasn't called by 3, Carlos will get on his motorbike and zoom down to the area around Victoria (a well-known massage parlor!). He can snag a cab from there and lead him back to the house. Sounds like a plan (sounds like a shaky plan to me, but what else can we do?)
As a side note: During this entire trip EVERYTHING has gone so smoothly. All of our transport, hotels, tours, everything has worked beautifully. There literally has been no stress. I can't remember another trip where it has all gone completely as planned. There is only this one last little snag left and it could potentially cause a HUGE amount of stress.
Ok - naptime. It is about 6:30 and we plan to head out for dinner, etc around 8-8:30. Rich and I try to nap, but can't quite manage it. We end up downstairs reading and trying to make sure we have everything in order for our trip back home.
We all reconnect around 8:30 and venture out for the evening. (We forgot the camera, so if you only read this for the pics you are out of luck. . .) Our plans are to go to an area called "Na Na" (seriously) and hang out, eat, people watch etc. until very late. Then return home and take off for the airport. NaNa is a weird corner of Bangkok. It is quite Arab in influence. There are many restaurants, food stalls selling all kinds of Arab food (no liquour in the restaurants). Mixed in with that are lots of vendors selling knock-off watches, bags, clothing, etc. Added to that you have your sleaze factor (which is one of the reasons we came here to people watch). There are probably more prostitutes and ladyboys soliciting in this area than anywhere we have seen. However, it doesn't really feel sleazy or dangerous at all. You have Arab women wearning traditional garments covering them head to toe and then you have "ladies" wearing next to nothing right beside them. Very strange vibe.
We pop in a 7-11 (where else?) and grab a couple of beers for strolling. (it is ok to have alcohol on the street - just not in these particular Arab restaurants). We get a kick out of watching to see what happens with Rich. If we walk ahead of him a few paces he gets accosted by scores of "ladies." I asked him what they say to him and he says "nothing - they don't have to." It seems that if he makes even the slightest eye contact they are all over him, petting, grabing his arm, etc. Doesn't bother me - I told him that I figure at least 50% of the "ladies" approaching him are boys!
We stopped on the street and had a couple of kebabs that were great and then wind up meeting Janel's roomates - Penny/Chris - at one of their favorite Arab restaurants. It is really cool inside with gilded mirros and patrons smoking hookahs. We order baba ganough, hummus, nan (bread), a salad and a plate of lamb kebabs all to share. The food is delicious and we devour it. I can see why Janel and Carlos like this place. The food is awesome and cheap! Dinner for 6 persons was 600bht (about $18).
After diner we head into an area of bars where the people watching is ripe. We find a balcony seating at "The Cathouse" (yes) and we are literally in the catbird seat for viewing the goings on. You see it all here and it is quite a study. Not necessarily a place I would want to come to often, but it is an interesting side of the city.
It is about 1am and we grab a taxi and head home. We have some time to kill and need to stay awake so we decide to play a game. We play Apples to Apples for a while and have a nice chilled out time. As 2:30 approaches I am starting to get antsy about our ride. Then at 2:50 Carlos' phone rings and it is Tony! He says he will be here by 3:15. I still can't believe it. Sure enough he shows up right on time. He packs up the taxi and we prepare to say our goodbyes.
This is the hard part. We have had such a fantastic time traveling with Janel and have gotten so used to her being around. It truly breaks my heart to leave her. But, I know that we must go and we hug like there is no tomorrow. Thank you Janel and Carlos for showing us your Bangkok.
We tear ourselves away and drive away. It is a melancholy ride to the airport. When we arrive, Tony gets all our bags out. He thanks us for the business and then actually gives us a hug! It was very touching and a fitting way to say goodbye to the friendly people of thailand.
We have a long, long way to go today. Bangkok to Tokyo - 6 hours. Tokyo to Detroit - 12 hours. Detroit to Phoenix - 4.5 hours (and thos are just the in flight times). We are right now on the plane from Tokyo to Detroit and are probably at least halfway there. I think it is going to feel very strange to be back home.