Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cooking with Poo... No I'm Not Kidding!

I can now cook Thai! 
Thailand -- the land of infinite massage parlors, intriguing street food, wild weekend markets, and boundless nightlife. It also happens to be a prime conference location and that's what brought me there for about a week in August.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to venture outside of Bangkok but there's plenty to do in Bangkok, and plenty bang for your errr.. dollar ;)

The trip over was uneventful and I managed to get just enough sleep on the 20+ hour journey to arrive at the hotel at midnight ready to collapse. Mission get-over-jetlag-quickly accomplished! Incidentally, I read nearly all of Chrissie Wellington's autobiography on the plane and it turns out she trained in Thailand during her early years as a pro. So I was hopeful I could find some nice running spots around Bangkok as I had some long build up runs due on this trip.

To say Bangkok is lively at nights is an understatement! I could sense the hubbub from the taxi. However, I was so tired that I arrived at the hotel around midnight and went straight to bed. But was awake the next morning at 5AM for an eight mile run. I tried exploring the city but was constantly thwarted by street carts, motorbikes on the sidewalks, and gawking locals wondering what the heck I was doing running at 5AM!

Morning Breakfast -- Healthy Option
Morning Breakfast -- Unhealthy Option
Eventually I found my way to a park with a pond and a one-mile running track around it and ended up doing a few loops around. 
Hot and Humid. Worse than DC if you can believe it

Of course every run has to end with the local recovery drink
 The rest of the day was spent entirely at the conference but we did manage to take a boat taxi out in the evening for dinner.
One of the many temples in the city
 Another day of conferencing was followed by some weekend planning with a good friend, Tania, who happened to be attending the conference. First stop was the Grand Palace where we were greeted with the following sign:
Luckily I was wearing jeans
I almost asked this guy if I could buy his pants. I think he may have lost a bet or something...
 But it made sense since the Green Budha was housed in the Grand Palace, along with the royal family. The architecture was quite stunning:

This is the Green Budha's temple

Guardian of the temple... Not sure what the statue is all about though ;)

There were hundreds of these lining the temple walls


Had to take a picture of the pink elephants

It took us a good minute to figure out that this guy was not real! 
From here it was off to the Chatuchak weekend market, a bustling collection of thousands of street shops selling everything from underwear to plasma TVs!

Definitely worth a visit. Its only open on Sundays though. Tania and I spent hours just wandering

Yes, even dominatrix shoes were on sale! 
 Last two things on my list of to-dos were (a) get a thai massage, and (b) take a cooking class. Of course, Tania's suggestion of cooking with poo took care of (b) easily, if for no other reason than the name! For (a) we managed to find a legitimate massage parlor rather than one of the many shady brothel covers that dot the city. The massage was undoubtedly fantastic. I had run 12 miles that morning so definitely needed some dead cells removed from my legs. Definitely worth it and incredibly inexpensive!

The next day was an early start for a food market visit and then cooking with Poo -- Poo is a lovely slum dwelling lady who offers authentic Thai cooking classes and uses part of the proceeds to develop her slum. So not only was the name catchy, the cause was entirely authentic.

The market visit wasn't exactly for someone with a weak stomach. We saw all kinds of sea creatures and animals in various stages of slaughter. It wasn't pretty. At one stage, we witnessed a young man battering an eel with a wooden stick till it became limp and then he chopped it in half. I had serious thoughts of becoming a vegetarian that morning!

Dicing some frogs
Plenty of fresh fish
Pig head anyone? 
The fruit market was a welcome relief!
Some very fresh spices
After the food market, we ventured into Poo's slum and spent the rest of the morning cooking with her. We learnt how to make Pappaya Salad, a local Thai soup with shrimp, and Pad Thai. The yummiest of course was sticky rice with mango. I think I had about three helpings of that till they were out of mango.. it was divine!

Overall, it was a great trip and definitely worth going back to explore the rest of the country. Rumor has it that Thailand has some ok beaches and national parks.... Should go explore sometime soon!

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