Thursday was full-on straight-up no-shit capital-H hot. By 8am I was sweating.
Moddang and I headed to Wat Pho, a temple in the old part of Bangkok. Like Wat Pananchoeng, Wat Pho was somewhat influenced by Chinese architecture and culture. There are several Chinese statues flanked on either side of doorways.
We tried to make it to the grand palace but quickly ran out of time. Moddang had some clients to see at Siriraj Hospital (where King Rama IX, in poor health at the moment, is also staying). We made our way through crowded, hot streets. Vendors selling food and trinkets were set up everywhere in every direction under big umbrellas. I smelled chicken and beef and deep fried things, grill smoke, cilantro, sweat, and a hundred other smells all at once. Finally, we made it to the dock where we took a ferry across the river to the hospital. We ate a quick lunch in a suspicious-looking coffeehouse, though food turned out splendid – indeed, the spicy apple salad I ordered was the first time I experienced the “narrowing of the senses” I sometimes get when food is too damn spicy.
Anyway, we made it to Siriraj in time. I waited for Moddang in the hospital coffee shop and read most of John le Carre’s Call for the Dead. I ordered a couple of iced teas; the waitstaff, who were very kind and happy, nonetheless seemed a little weirded out by a farang (foreigner) in their establishment. Still, it was nice to cool down for a little while – I’d been sweating pretty profusely.
When Moddang finished, she and I and her boss (farang like me) took another ferry downriver. We said our goodbyes to her boss and took the train to Siam Square. I was back to sweating through my clothes, so the air conditioning in the huge (and I mean huuuuuuge) mall was most welcome.
We ate an excellent dinner at Greyhound. Moddang ordered salmon sashimi with dill and mint leaves, and a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers, and sugar. I’d never eaten raw salmon before except in maki rolls, not to mention that I’m not a big raw fish fan in general, so I was a little suspicious. The dish was light and flavorful. Particularly of note: the first bit I tried was without the dill or mint; the second, with the dill, was an entirely new sensation of taste and, for a moment, I contemplated eating nothing else but this dish for the rest of my days; the third piece, with dill and mint, doubled that feeling.
I ordered a buffalo burger (so American, I know). The reason I ordered it, however, wasn’t because I was feeling homesick or tired of Thai food (that’s simply impossible) – it was because the bun the burger was served with charred and injected with squid ink. So, um, yes please. The burger was fairly standard in taste except for the basil leaf which, for whatever reason, raised it from pretty good to wildly good. I’m definitely putting basil leaves on all my burgers now.
We also ordered a spicy soup dish which, while good, was the least interesting of the meal dishes. We only had two tiffs with the restaurant: 1) they neglected to serve us the buns and butter that usually come before the meal, and 2) Moddang was given chopsticks and I was not: a clear iinsult to my farangness! I kid, I kid.
After dinner, we wandered the mall for awhile. There was so much to see, so many flashing lights. We visited Siam Paragon, another huge mall next to Siam Square (Siam Discovery, yet another gigantic shopping center was accessible by train tube, but we didn’t go). In Paragon, we found an awesome bookstore. I was happy. Moddang was happy.
We took the BTS and MRT trains home. Moddang’s parents picked us up at the station and we returned to photobooks of Moddang’s youth. Although we needed to wake up early again to get to Salaya, we were up until midnight talking, looking at photos, and watching YouTube videos. After awhile, I didn’t mind the heat at all.