Take a Bite

Thailand eats Part I: Open air

September 15th, 2013

thchicken

This chicken, coated with a light, sweet barbecue sauce was delicious. I negotiated 20 baht, about .65 cents, for two pieces, at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. — Nadine Kam photos

The mobile food vendor has made a comeback in the West, but the Thais are experts, hawking everything from noodle soups to grilled meat to dessert on land and on dirty water.

I knew I wanted to eat the street food so it's recommended that those traveling to Thailand get immunized against hepatitis A. I also got tetanus and typhoid injections, but the hep A hurt the most and I was left with a big bruise! What we go through for a taste of authenticity.

What is also authentic is getting ripped off. I was warned to watch out for the taxi drivers, but you never know what's going to happen when you get into a cab. I caught a cab outside the royal palace, a good place to scoop up tourists. I was heading for the Jim Thompson house, and the cab driver seemed friendly enough. Then, the scam starts. First, he says he's going to make one stop for gas. So I goes, "Fine. Just one stop."

Then as we're moving along, he says he's going to take me to a jewelry gallery and if I look around, they'll give him a free liter of gas. "You just have to look 10 minutes," he said.

Sigh. "All right, but no more than that. I have to meet someone for dinner," I said.

Later on, he says it's not good enough to look for 10 minutes. I have to make it look good, 20 minutes before they'll give him gas. And if I buy, they'll fill his tank!

I actually did have to buy a gift for someone, but later he asked, hopefully, if I had spent $10,000 baht, about $350. "Forget it," I said.

Nevertheless, I booked him to take me to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market the following day. And he cheated me again, taking me to the tourist entry area, where I had to pay $2,500 baht, about $80, to get on a boat to get to the market, instead of the walk-in entry. I actually did want to get on the water, and probably would have ended up paying around that anyway, but I just didn't like the way it was done. (It's basically the same cost for one person as a couple, because the boat operator's time cost is the same.)

They have the tourist thing down, snapping my photo on the boat so that a plate bearing my image was waiting for me on my return, about $7. I bought it because I didn't want a picture of me circulating around Thailand!

A lot of times the drivers will also turn off their meters. One did that when I went to the airport and I caught him midway through, so I asked him how much he would charge me. He said $600 baht, about $21. The real cost is about $400 baht, or $14, so I told him that's all I was paying. Arguing with taxi drivers became tiresome, so at the airport I converted all my baht to dollars. I didin't feel like going back to Thailand.

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Two of these tourists ran their hands through the dirty water. Why they would do that, I don't know.

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Market vendor of bananas and mangosteen. Sure, the market is touristy, but the boats also provide a service to the community,  making their way from home to home to hawk their fare. The women trade with each other, and as you can see below, socialize while eating their own cooking.

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street cook

Fish, chicken and pork on the grill in Sukhumvit.

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Waiting for the hungry in Sukhumvit.

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The plastic to go bags at left contain sauce.

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Meatballs and sausages being offered on the streets of Lumphini.

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Fish and skewered, barbecued frog (they looked like toads) were offered by this Lumphini vendor.

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This bag of cockles being sold in the Lumphini district was 35 baht, roughly USD$1.12.


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There was construction and a lot of dust flying going on behind these Sukhumvit vendors.

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