Bangkok Report

  A few weeks ago Tex and I made the quick decision to hop on a cheap flight to Bangkok with our buddies. Traveling locally to post while abroad is one of the many perks of being in the Foreign Service. It was handy not having  that whole 13 hour jeg lag problem. Atmosphere: Bangkok is bustling to say the least.  Like so many Asian cities there are seemingly too many people, too many cars, and too many buildings for the area on which it is built. It is entirely too hot, even for November.  It is entirely too loud and dirty – for an American country-bred girl. We stayed in a great hotel in the expat area with a rooftop bar, a great restaurant, and wonderful service.  Though, just outside the door dozens of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers insisted on giving us a ride.  Street vendors were also nearby offering their cheap wares including rather large displays of sex toys. I wonder about the person who would buy a cheap sex toy off a dirty street in Bangkok. In general, there was a bit of a seedy feel to the entire city.  That probably has to do with my pre-misconceptions of the city — and the sex toys. Despite the seediness, the pushy drivers and the heat we all had a fantastic time. Transportation: All modes of transportation are cheap but it’s easy to get hosed.  We were constantly telling taxi drivers to use their meter before we got in the car and ensuring that they were not going to try to give us an unsolicited tour of Bangkok The subway systems are clean and easy to use.  We used the boat taxis to navigate popular sites on the river which is a much more relaxing way to travel.  Regular taxis are very cheap but subject to the infamous Bangkok traffic so it’s fruitless to use them at times.  Scooter taxis are popular though they appear to be death traps. There are also thousands of tuk-tuks around the city.  We took the one offered by the hotel once.  It was a very rough ride. Sights: I’ve never been great at describing art.  If it’s pleasing to the eye – I like it.  Thai Buddhist art is easy on the eyes. Bangkok – October 2013 Food: Anyone that knows me understands that I despise Thai food.  This is the culprit:  Cilantro is gross. In short, cilantro and lemongrass taste like dial soap to me.  Also, I’m not a huge fan of coconut milk.  A small amount added to a dish is great but the buttloads they put in Thai food is incredibly offensive. Not to mention peanut sauce – uh, why would I want to put peanut butter on my chicken?  In light of my taste buds we were a little concerned with our trip. While there were a ton of cuisines to enjoy in the city I couldn’t take the enjoyment of eating local cuisine away from my travel companions.  Luckily, early on, I found one thing, ONE THING I could eat.  Tom Yum Kung soup.  It’s full of cilantro, lemongrass, coconut milk, and something so spicy that it kills all of those flavors.  I could only eat the broth and the prawns but it was delicious. I ate it 5 times. What you’re supposed to buy: A suit.  A tailored suit.  We saw at least 60 tailors while we were there.  Luckily our buddy knew the place to go.  Raja’s.  The staff greets you with a beer and some swatches.  Tex had a suit and a tux made in a little under 4 days.  They fit great.  I’m regretting not getting a few shirts made myself. The best thing: What they lacked in regional cuisine (in my humble opinion) they made up for in popcorn. Our lobby had a popcorn machine which they moved to the hotel bar when happy hour started.  I saw a popcorn machine at the hotel next door and the bar we went to on our last night had popcorn.  I got to eat popcorn every single day.   It is always best to leave a vacation wishing you could have done more than relieved to be going home. We have so much more to see in Thailand. Bangkok was great but we both look forward to seeing what else Thailand has to offer maybe along the...

Hot Pot

Yes, another post about food.  Food is by far the easiest way to experience a new culture.  So, yes, another post about food. Hot Pot is my new favorite meal.  Our friends introduced us to a great all you can eat hot pot restaurant when we first arrived but we were still in a jet lag induced lethargy. It’s called huǒguō here.  (pronunciation)       火鍋 The first character above is the character for fire.   So, you order a soup or two, make a sauce of your choosing, pick up a bunch of fish and vegetables from the food bar, grab a beer and sit down.  Then, you wait for your hot pot to boil and start putting a bunch of food in.  As it cooks you pull it out with your chopsticks, dip it in your sauce, and eat it.  (Don’t dig too deep in the pot – last time we found coagulated pig blood – worst prize ever.) Tex takes advantage of some all you can drink San Miguel beer. We chose a pot with half miso and half spicy. The spicy was VERY spicy. They gave us this “nice cooker” to stir the pot and fish out the delicious morsels. Tex adds some miscellany to the pot. The best thing about this place, besides the free beer of course, is the delicious cotton candy! It looks like a peep!   Tex and I are pretty convinced that very few Americans know about the hot pot deal in Taipei.  For 2 hours you gorge yourself on meat, fish, vegetables, ALL YOU CAN DRINK BEER, and ALL YOU CAN EAT ICE CREAM!  Not to mention the cotton candy machine and the chocolate fountain they had at this place.  It costs about $20 per person.  What red-blooded American could pass that up? The only downside to going out for hot pot is that frequently it’s difficult to determine what exactly it is that you’re putting in your mouth. If things are labeled they are labeled with Chinese characters (which neither of us can read yet). Certain things are obvious.  “Ah, yes, cabbage!” Never did I think cabbage could be so comforting then when on a plate next to various gray colored balls.  Some of the dumplings are very good, some are suspicious, and some are downright disgusting.  Regardless, it’s a great adventure. SO!  After we had hot pot at our friend’s dinner party I learned that it’s possible to make this at home!  This way I can control the ingredients and experiment with flavors.  It still costs about the same since vegetables can be rather expensive but it’s worth it for a relaxing meal....