March 23, 2011

Skankynavia: Bangin’ Cock Delish (Bangkok)

by Anders

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I’ve fallen in love with the Bangin’ Cock, aka Bangkok, the frantic and exotic capital of Thailand.

Just returned home to the rather chilly degrees of Copenhagen from a sensual 33˚C, and I severely miss the hot sticky nights, tall palm trees, weird exotic birds, first class pool swimming–and most importantly, the almost hilarious abundance of food. It’s literally EVERYWHERE!

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On the street, in the shops, in the gutter, next to junkyards, in cars, in boats, at weekend markets, at floating markets. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if a hot air balloon passed by me, offering freshly made portions of sticky rice with sliced mango.

And did I mention how cheap it is? You can fill your stomach for less than a dollar.

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Stationed in the city my goal was to locate ceramic factories and small artisan workshops doing print and sewing work for production of my own designs. I found some good leads and met a lot of very nice people–it’s all so relaxed and laid back. The Thai people seemed incredibly friendly and welcoming, such a contrast to a place like Istanbul where you’re shouted at and thrown into the gutter verbally if you don’t buy a carpet, a camel or a fake glass tea set from the local vendors.

View from my friend’s luxurious 25th floor apartment across central Bangkok:

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Here in Bangkok people won’t annoy you or get in your way, it feels like they respect you and their ability to laugh and take things with a smile makes everything so much easier. It’s like Tokyo’s aloof younger brother. There’s the Japanese politeness and good manners, without their sometimes very stiff and formal attitude.

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The Hinduism and Buddism elements are a clear thread throughout the landscape. The Thais seem to love nature and animals. I love how they honour old holy trees with this binding decor. Sort of a rainbow Thai version of the traditional Japanese Shinto tree rope bindings.

The whole city is a crazy mess of colours–I’ve never seen anything like it:

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The taxis come in all metallic colours of the rainbow. The pink ones especially light up the urban street life.

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Way over the top for a cold climate, pure design-bred Scandinavian like me, but I actually found that very inspiring. There are temples everywhere with gold, plastic, flowers and edible offerings.

People buy small pieces of gold leaf and attach it onto statues while praying:

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A monk made an offering of eggs. So beautiful:

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Even the doves enjoy the abundant offerings (yuck):

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I snapped a few (mostly) food-related photos, but it’s so hard in a flat picture to reflect the way everything comes together over there in that old Asian capital. The smells, the sights, the noise, the busy traffic and the old woman standing next to overfilled trashcans cooking up the most wonderful meal.

Here on at the huge Chajuchak weekend market, it’s sticky, wet and hot–time for a HOT curry, according to the Thais.

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Back alley with exposed meat:

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I dig how everything looks like a new years party, even a meat stall.

You always stand right next to what you’re gonna eat:

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Notice the chicken head in the shop window. Why cut it off? Someone might pass by and demand you out it in his soup.

Small steamed dishes await hungry customer, right next to a four-lane car-filled street:

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A Chinese dish of tofu, pork and spring onions:

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Chicken, spring onions, more onions and other things…

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The spicy version:

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Cotton candy vendor with magnificent walking stick. Lady Gaga really should watch and learn:

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In many restaurants they just yank a hole in a young coconut and stick a straw in it. Super fresh! You can also buy them in the supermarket for 29 bhat ($1):

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Moving into the more modern elements of the city, here are Skytrain ads for Yoyo (some kind of jelly?):

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Media idols are, like in Japan, an essential part of advertising. Funny how un-masculine, un-Thai these idolized young men look. Like European, plastic op, bleached trannies with boyband hair.

Some of the in-store eatieres have the greatest names:

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Selling such weird imports as pretzels and sausages.

Thailand LOVES sausages! With cheese inside and cheese topped bread outside!

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More sausage action at 7-Eleven!

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You can also make your own hamburger right there in the store:

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What if you could roll your own maki sushi in the 7-Elevens of Japan?!

Weird packaging design–it’s in Japanese, but something is wrong. I think it’s the Thai trying to look cool:

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More pretzel party:

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Nerd packaging:

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Canned milk:

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Red grape soda ice cream:

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Again, loving the names of the in-stores:

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And my God, what IS this??!! Some kind of stained glass pudding??? It’s fabulous! Even the name is gold:

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Would you ever stumble upon a Western product named ‘Cathedral Window’? No.

I love the Asian way of free thinking, play and direct approach to using the English language. Or maybe they just do a lot of LSD at the advertising bureaus…

… and how about this name for a dairy product chain?

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Milk jugs for tables! Brilliance!

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Drink machines at 7-Eleven:

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Loving this one. Does the pink come from strawberry or cow blood?

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Finally I spent a few hours here:

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Great place, always carries what you need.

So, I recommend you to go to Bangkok for much traffic and crazy street activity. But as an old culture that encounters the modern with much more chaos and contrast (than a city like Tokyo), it wil definitely have something in store for you.

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+++

Two hours after I landed in Bangkok on March 11th, the earthquake, then tsunami, hit Japan. It kinda overshadowed my stay quite a bit as I’ve lived and studied in Tokyo and still have many friends living all over the country. It hurts me very much to see these proud and strong people that I love so much, being hit so severely by nature’s forces.

For the past six years or so, I was often told that “The Big One” was coming very soon as the earth plates beneath Japan were in high tension. I guess this was it.

But I have no doubts that the country will rise again as it has done again and again throughout history. And I hope the reactors of Fukushima will not have a permanent impact on its surroundings. I have always been moderately pro-nuclear power, but not so much anymore. I hope this tragedy doesn’t end like something from Akira.

Big props to Umamimart’s other Japan-related writers who are working hard to support and help in these hard times.

日本がんばってね。

4 Comments

  • Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Bangkok is one of my favourite cities in the world especially for its food. We used to live there for 7 years and I still dream of the Thai steamboat at Koka, somtum, noodles and the Thai desserts. YUM.

  • agmy
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I love your Skankynavia posts but had to point out a minor thing — the Goldilocks brand is actually Filipino, not Thai. My granny serves that funky jello at special occasions, but it’s from a home-made recipe.

  • Anders
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:35 am

    Agmy – thanks for reading and for pointing that out. I had never seen the shop before, so assumed it was Thai.
    That jello sure is funky, I regret now that I didn’t buy it for sampling.

  • Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Wow, you’ve captured so much essential BKK in this post, so many different things without making it random. Nice job!
    My favorite: “Japanese politeness and good manners, without their sometimes very stiff and formal attitude”

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