May 27, 2003
Bangkok swelters under blazing sunshine and the humidity is off the charts. I duck under some shade but there is no respite from the heat. It is the kind of heat where you slowly melt into a puddle simply sittng still. I am in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok sitting at a cafe on the most touristy of all roads – the (in)famous Khao San Road. This kilometer long strip is packed with guesthouses, internet cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants. Massage parlors, travel agents, bookshops, tattoo shops and merchandise of all sorts line the pavements. So crowded is this area that it spills out onto the neighboring roads and lanes.
Come nightfall yet more venfors crowd the streets and temporary bars crop up like mushrooms after rain. The hiss and spatter of stir-fries mingle with the metallic clink of ladles against woks. Some are established restaurants with cafe tables spilling onto the pavement. The food is of every imaginable variety making it is difficult to choose. Cooked food sit in trays tempting beyond measure. Vegetables, chicken, pork, seafood, soups, fish balls, noodles and fried rice. Many of the eateries operate out of carts trundled into the space each day, the food cooked on cart. Chipped formica tables and wooden and plastic chairs sit on the pavements waiting for customers. There aren’t many that go empty for long. You can pick out what you want to eat and have it cooked up in a flash.
Or choose from the menu written in English. Barbecueing meat on skewers from one cart perfumes the air and the sizzle of pad thai comes from another. For a confirmed streetfoodaholic such as I, this is bliss. But there is only so much I can eat in a day and I find myself wishing I had multiple stomachs like cows. And then there are the fruit carts. Pineapples, papayas, mangos and guavas, sitting on ice. They chop it up, put it in a cellophane bag and hand you a long bamboo skewer. Or you could try the sweets – dumplings, pastries and pies. Or bananas – roasted, coated with molasses. Or a fruit shake – lemon, mango, guava, pinapple, coffee or any number of exotic combinations. Up until now Chengu, in the Sichuan province of China had been the undisputed winner of my list for streetfood. But Bangkok beats that hollow I think. I am in hog heaven!