Sometimes it’s nice to venture out on your own and other days it’s really great to have someone give you a little guidance and a really good time. That’s exactly what the Bauers did for us. Jeff, Jan, and Maddie Bauer moved to Bangkok in September from San Diego (Oregon natives, though). We have been connecting with them (thanks again, Tim!) over the last few weeks to get advice on coming to Thailand and also to see about the possibility of meeting up. They were more than welcoming and offered to spend a day hosting us in their new city. What better way to spend a day in Bangkok, but at the largest outdoor market in the world, Chatachuk Weekend Market. According to our Lonely Planet, over 200,000 people visit this market every weekend, and we were right there in the middle of it with them. We knew we were in well over our heads when even Jeff and Jan had trouble finding places they had been before in the market. It was like a labyrinth with new sections behind every corner (and, unfortunately, no David Bowie). There were animals (puppies, flying squirrels, snakes, fish, turtles, hedgehogs, and things that Jeff said are illegal and are too deep in the labyrinth for us to find); housewares; heavy metal rocker paraphanelia; cowboy boots; silk; toys; furniture; hats; wallets; bags; knock-off high-end backpacks (John was in heaven, but didn’t purchase anything… yet); jewelry; and most importantly–FOOD!
Food was an area where the Bauers helped us step out of our pad thai ways and be a little more adventurous. They even gave us a personal Thai language lesson which included ordering food. We have been using it since that day and have got some really good eats (the type that will make your lips burn and your forehead sweat). Our first food stop was for iced coffee which, being from the NW, home of the world’s best coffee, we have to say was quite good. We wandered around the market working up an appetite for lunch. When it was time to order lunch, we didn’t use a menu (there weren’t menus anyways), we ordered Thai style, to the best of our ability. The “restaurant” was basically a cart on the sidewalk with tables set up. In the middle of the small table was a spread of bowls filled with basil, bean sprouts, and cabbage which you add to your basic noodle and meat dish when it arrives. The Bauers also taught us to put a little fish oil and some chilies on our meal to make it just right. As wel, John learned how to ask for the check–if you don’t ask for the check, you just might sit there until sundown.
Some other great eats we found that afternoon included: fresh coconut (not like Hawaii, a lot more milk) which was opened right in front of us and presented with a straw and an Indian treat of delicious flaky bread (like the texture of a Toaster Streudel) with bananas, chocolate, egg, and sweetened condensed milk all fried up. We haven’t done a good job of selling this, but we will definitely be buying this anytime we can find it. And of course it cost less than $1 USD.
After several hours of eating our way through Chatuchak, Jeff and Jan invited us to spend the evening with them. They had recently discovered a great German brewery only minutes from their house. It seemed like the perfect way to top off this great day so we jumped in the car… well, not exactly. Thai parking lots are MUCH different than what we are used to back home. We actually had to roll cars out of the way in order to be able to back out of the parking space. It was hilarious. Everyone leaves their car in neutral, knowing full well this is how it works. This is one practice we probably won’t try to bring back to the States. After squeezing out of the parking lot, we headed to Jeff and Jan’s place for some down time, a tour of their home, some fresh dragonfruit, a taste of tamarind, and some more conversation.
The grand finale to the day was the Tawandang German Brewery. This restaurant/entertainment hall remindedus of something you’d see in Disneyland. It was basically a huge concert hall filled with rows and rows of tables and chairs, with a stage at the front. We have always enjoyed eating family style, being able to sample a bunch of different meals, and Jeff ordered for the whole table a variety of Thai and German dishes including pig knuckle (actually German, not Thai, and very good), Tom Yum (a spicy soup), Pat Pak Ruam (veggies), German sausages, and another Thai rice dish (can’t remember the name). Jeff asked us if we were okay with a little heat and that is what this meal brought. Thankfully, they also brought lots of water and cucumbers which helped quench the burn. Everything was really good!
After a couple of hours of eating and talking, the entertainment began. This alternated between Thai pop ballads complete with music videos on the big screens and Chinese acrobats. Pretty hilarious to be at German pub, eating Thai food, watching Chinese acrobats! We never would have guessed that’s how our evening would have been spent. Jeff and Jan had to work the next day and we were still recovering from the time change so we called it a night after one last acrobatic feat. This was a really fun day and Jeff and Jan were wonderful hosts. We learned so much throughout from them about Thai culture and language, and they helped us feel comfortable and excited to be in SE Asia. We look forward to seeing them again at the end of our SE Asia time and possibly sharing another pig’s knuckle.