There are no shortage of places to buy a beer in Bangkok. Drinking seems to be one of the most popular hobbies in the city. I recently read an article that states that Thailand is 40th in the world for alcohol consumption. A local publication offers an app that will tell you where a happy hour is at anytime of day throughout the city. We try to temper our consumption, but as the weather has been so hot lately it is hard not to imbibe now and again.
Where you drink depends only on your budget, some posh roof top patio at 44 floors or street level in one of the carts that pull up out of no where along Sukhumvit as the sun goes down. The choice is yours or rather your wallet’s. Whether you are a tourist or a local, at one time or another you will find yourself at one of these little road side bars, sitting on a plastic stool and having a beer, perhaps passing time on your way to another happy hour or washing down a bowl of noodles. Most of these carts are manned by entrepreneurial women, often in pairs. It is a simple affair; a cart or maybe an old bar(like the one your Dad had in the basement) some stools, tables, coolers full of beer and a few bottles of the hard stuff. The overhead for such a venture isn’t a lot. Some form of payment for your spot on the sidewalk goes to the people who own the shop that the sidewalk is in front of and the booze, add a smile and some music and the girls are in business.
If you are visiting Bangkok, you have to stop by and have a beer at one of the stands, it is a true Thailand experience.
There is only one rule.
Don’t barter for your beer!
Saturday night we found ourselves sitting on Sukhumvit having a beer and eventually we were joined by some young tourists from Poland. One of the first questions that all Westerns ask each other, “Where are you from?” If you are on Sukhumvit and you asked this question it is almost always assumed that you too are a tourist, because most tourists can not believe that it is possible you actually live in Bangkok. As we are having this conversation with the youngsters, they order their beers and the young lady in the group immediatley begins to try to barter with the vendor over the price of her bottle of beer.
It pissed me off.
I know all about bartering, but there are just some things you do not barter over. Just for the record a small beer in a local bar goes for about two dollars Canadian. For the vendor it would cost slightly less than that, there is no high-end mark up for street vendors. Alcohol is so highly taxed in Thailand that for these street level bars there is a very tight bottom line. This woman was bartering over was in effect about twenty cents.
I couldn’t help myself I said something.
They were shocked by my outburst, they could go to 7-11 and buy the same beer for about twenty cents less and besides to barter for everything in Thailand is “fun”.
For the record this type of behavior is not fun or cool, it makes you look cheap and stupid. The locals don’t think that you are clever, they think that you are low and we as fellow westerners are embarrassed for you.
Do you barter over your beer at beer joints in Poland?
I don’t understand this kind of behavior and it makes me stay away from any place in Bangkok where tourists cluster. I hate to think that I get lumped in with this group of people.
I really need to move away from the Sukhumvit area.
I only have one other thing to say about this, “For gods sake men you are downtown in a major city, I don’t care how hot it is, it is not the beach, have some dignity and put your shirt back on!”
No wonder the Thais call you Farang Kee Nok
If you live in Thailand for any amount of time, you can pretty much bet at some point you are going to travel to Vientiane. The reason being is it is one of the closest places to get any kind of longer term Thai visa. Most expats bitch about having to go and then once there gripe the whole time about how the city is so boring. I am not one of these people, I actually like Vientiane. Sure it is no mega Asian city with a teeming nightlife, in fact the little city pretty much rolls up the streets at eleven pm. It isn’t what most people would call pretty, it is slightly down trodden and a little frayed along the edges, but you would be too if a communist army was looking after your personal styling.
Lao isn’t exactly know for its vegetarian friendly cuisine and combined with the French history, we were surprised on our last visit, that we didn’t have to look too hard to find something good to eat. There isn’t a lot of options, but there are a handful of places that have some decent adult vegetarian food on the menu. By adult I mean something other than french fries and Pad Thai. There are a number of what are often called “Chinese” vegetarian restaurants located on the out skirts of down town. These tend to be mock meat buffets and are usually not very good quality, flavourful or appetizing to look at. There is one and only one pure vegetarian, yes it is actually vegan restaurant in town. Last year when we stopped by we had just spent five months in India and had not had a decent vegetarian meal pretty much the whole time, let alone any kind of tofu.
We ate at Cuisine d’or Vegetarian at least four times in five days. We gorged at the trough of tofu. So this time when we were back it was one of our first stops. Don’t be confused by the Happy Cow reviews, there is no meat on the menu. There is mock meat, mostly made from wheat gluten, but there are lots of choices that are just vegetarian. Set in a cute little garden, down a soi and between two of the major streets down town, it is convenient and easy to find. The service is quick and friendly. The food is clean, fresh and delicious. When I remembered to bring my camera it was later in the evening so please forgive my poor photography skills. One of my favorites off the very large menu is the stuffed tofu. Tofu triangles, stuffed with more tofu and spices and then fried till crispy. I’m in heaven!
This meal, we had the tofu and wheat gluten with spicy sauce appetizer followed by a really simple stir fry garnished with fried seaweed and of course gabba rice.
Somewhere that we had heard of and heard good things about is The Spirit House It has a great location, just out of the city centre and along the bank of the Mekong river. The Mekong is not really very pretty this time of year, it is low and muddy looking with a big sand bar that seems to run along the whole promenade area of Vientiane, but on the very hot day we dropped by it was one of the few places in the city to catch any breeze. Set inside a cute little Laos style house, the atmosphere was wonderful! It was the May day holiday and there were a few other people enjoying an early afternoon brunch type meal. We had heard that the staff encouraged their house mojitos on everyone, we didn’t have this experience and opted for a couple of cold beers instead. When the menu came I got really excited, it certainly wasn’t vegetarian, but their was all sorts of things that we could eat.
What did I choose…a veggie burger, why when I had so many choices did I choose a culinary master piece of a veggie burger, in about fifteen minutes I regretted my choice. It looked good and it would of been if it was hot, even room temperature would have done. The patty was really the same as the falafel that my husband ordered. The pita was good, fresh soft and chewy and he was lucky enough to have it served warm. Both my burger and the falafel were covered in a bottled mayo dressing, that was flavorless.
Too bad! It looked so promising.
I have one more place to share, watch for that post soon.
Recently I made a comment on another form of social media about my admiration for an old building here in Bangkok. Bangkok is a rapidly growing city and over the past ten years developers have not missed the opportunity to demolish anything possible and build something new, usually a shopping mall. I was lamenting this and comparing the rapid growth and demolition of some of this cities older buildings to what happen in the Canadian city of my birth during the 1980′s. Seems some of the people I left behind in that city took offense to the comparison or what they interpreted as my uneducated view on change in SE Asia.
Sometimes we rush head long into the future with stopping to honor the past.
Sometimes the past needs to be destroyed to move into the future.
An example of this in Bangkok would be Washington Square. We have live in the neighbourhood since moving to Bangkok. The square was really a semi-circle of sois, lined with buildings about five to six stories high, giving the area a closed in feel. The bottom of these buildings were occupied with variety of dive bars with names like “Taffy’s Hairy Pie Club” , massage parlors, restaurants and most famously The Mambo Night Club a Katoey (lady boy) cabaret style night club. Common lore says that the area was frequented by GI’s on leave from Vietnam, giving the area a more glamorous reputation than warranted. Truth is the area was not that old and the bars and restaurants were not around during that period of time. The business were run by and frequented by the older men that perhaps fought in the war and to were to damaged, lazy or captivated by Bangkok to return home. White socks with sandals, khaki fisherman’s vest, fanny packs, comb overs and a lot of bullshit stories, that is what Washington Square was famous for.
I say was..during our stay in India the whole thing was torn down. It needed to go, for about the last five years it was abandoned and taken over by squatters, cats and pigeons. A few things held on to the bitter end, Bourbon Street was well-known restaurant, serving Cajun food, but eventually they too heard the death knell and moved to the much more upscale Ekami area. There are remnants left, Denny’s Dive Bar on the corner of Soi 22, we call it the Cat Bar as it over run with cats. Will we miss Washington Square? Only because it was a short cut through the neighbourhood. Will anyone remember it? In twenty years..no. Will any one care, maybe Taffy, but by that time he will be gone to, replaced by much better dressed Japanese expats and Korean business owners. Now it is an interesting pile of rumble, kind of a Mad Max wasteland in the middle of the city.
Why am I talking about this? It started me thinking about change.
There has been a change in my yoga practice in the last year. I left Bangkok in pretty fine yoga form, I practiced everyday, sometimes twice a day. I felt this was real growth inspired by the people who I practiced with. Six months in India left my practice in tatters. If you have the opportunity to run the day-to-day operations of a yoga teacher training school do not do it thinking that you will have the opportunity to practice yoga everyday or that it will be good for your practice. You won’t and it won’t. Now I’m back in a routine and practicing at a proper studio has become much like a job that I do three hours every day. If the Indian experience tore down my practice (yet again, I might add) The next six months will build it back up. My body will also get stronger tearing down muscle so it can build it back up, however in all honesty my body is getting a little old to keep starting over. I also find by practicing in a modern atmosphere with teachers and students that are continuing to learn from each other I am breaking down old techniques and learning new ways and ideas as to how to practice asana.
We have been away from that Canadian city for almost two years now. I now know that we won’t be going back. In the back of my mind I knew that before we left, but it is now a fact. We will make our lives here in Asia in some way. The experiences that we have had over the past two years have broken down some of the conceptions and ideas that we previously had and open up new possibilities for growth here. What ever work we are currently engaged in may not be the outcome of that growth, but it is certainly part of the path to the final destination.
This is also true when it comes to some of the friends that we had back in Canada. It is time to let some of these relationships go. We are not “lucky” to be living where we do or living our lives they way we are…we made conscious decisions and sacrifices in our old lives to enable us to be where we are today, both physically and mentally. You too can make decisions and sacrifices to take your life in any direction you want to go, but don’t get mad and snipe at me because you are unwilling to do the work.
Sometimes you just have to knock that old building down otherwise you may find yourself sitting on that same bar stool ten years from now, dressed in out dated clothing and talking about your glory days to a “friend” who is isn’t really listening, only nodding their head in agreement.
This is a not a Thai recipe or even a Thai inspired recipe and not something that either of us every eats. Way back when, when I ate meat I never ate chicken wings. I never understood why you would want to gnaw the gristle of a chicken bone, but each to their own tastes.
So how did I get it into my head to make a veganized version of this classic bar food?
Well a few weeks back my sister-in-law, Kristin sent us a recipes for home-made Sriracha Sauce, sometimes called Rooster Sauce for the rooster on its label. I have to admit although we appreciated the recipe, neither us ever imagined making it. We can go into pretty much any store here in Bangkok including 7-11 and buy all the hot sauce we could ever desire.
A few years back on one of my many trips to Thailand I stayed at a place called Bang Saen for a few days. It is a tiny little town about an hours drive straight south down Sukhumvit towards Pattaya. It is a pretty sleepy little place, until the weekend comes and then the whole town triples in population, as every Thai in Bangkok comes down for the weekend to catch some beach time. Typical of me I found an out of the way place that no westerner comes to (there is a fairly large Scandinavian population for some reason, not that I saw many of them). I really liked it! On a day trip I took a tuk tuk and ventured a little further south and went to the town of Sriracha, home of the above mentioned hot sauce. There is a pier there and you can catch a boat across to the little island of Ko Sichang. If you are ever in the area check out Bang Saen and Ko Sichang.
You are not missing anything if you skip Sriracha.
Every Friday night in Bang Saen tons of people showed up with their fixed gear bicycles (as this was more than a few years ago, it was before they were popular as street bikes)and raced their bikes on the main street, which is long and flat.
We are leaving for Laos tomorrow for a few days. Last year in Vientiane along the main street and promenade every night what seems like the whole town turns up to eat and shop at the market, but every kid in town turns up with his fixed gear bike and tears around.
The combination of all these things inspired me to make this recipe.
Buy some beer and put it on ice to wash these babies down.
for the dressing
1/2 cup Vegenaise
2-3 TB fresh parsley, chopped
1 TB onion powder
a few dashes of pepper
for the wings
1 block of tofu, unpressed, cut into triangles
1 1/2 tsp ground flax-seed, whisked with 5 TB water
1-2 cups cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
To make the dressing, combine all of the dressing ingredients together. Set aside.
To make the sauce, add one tablespoon of the vegan butter into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add in the smashed garlic and shallots and saute until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and then add in the remaining two tablespoons of vegan butter, sriracha, agave, vinegar, salt and liquid smoke. Let simmer while making the wings, giving it a little stir every now and then.
To make the wings, set up two wide and shallow bowls. Place the flax-seed/water mixture in one and the cornstarch in the other. Heat plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. You can tell that the oil is ready by dropping a pinch of the cornstarch into it: if it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry. Dunk one of the triangles into the flax-seed mixture, then coat it with a thin layer of cornstarch, tapping off any excess. Drop into the oil (only fry two pieces at a time) and fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oil with silicone tongs and place on paper towels to drain.
Place the buffalo wings sauce into a large prep bowl, then throw in the tofu triangles. Gently toss them until well coated. Plate the wings, drizzling any excess buffalo wing sauce and soft chunks of garlic and shallots over the top. Serve with the ranch dressing, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and crisp slices of fresh celery.
As an added bonus the Sriracha recipe
*2 teaspoons cooking oil (I used organic coconut oil)
*1/4 pound fresh hot chiles, such as Cayenne, Cherry, Fresno, Habanero, Holland or Dutch, Jalapeño, Serrano, or Thai Chile (I used a combination of Jalapeños and Serranos), chopped
*1/4 pound fresh mild chiles, such as Anaheim, Banana, Pasilla, Shishito, or sweet peppers (I used sweet red pepper), chopped
*4 cloves garlic, chopped
*2 tablespoons light brown or palm sugar (I used organic coconut sugar)
*4 tablespoons rice vinegar or wine vinegar (I used organic brown rice vinegar)
*1 tablespoon fish sauce
*1/2 cup hot water
1. Heat oil in frying pan (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium heat. When hot, add the chiles and garlic. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to burn the peppers or garlic.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning according to taste. Transfer to a blender, cover, and purée until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
I’ve got a few tattoos. Not a full Japanese body tattoo, but enough to make a lot of people uncomfortable or question my sanity. I got my first one when I was quite young and because I was quite young (and stupid), I ended up needing to have it covered up a few years down line. Not because I had a Tweety Bird cartoon or a boyfriends name, I just had a bad tattoo.I waited a while after that and then apparently I made up for lost time in my forties. I’ve never regretted any of them, not even the one that got covered up. Many people have regretted them for me (and have said horrible things to me), but me, never. I’m not sure when I first got it into my head that I wanted to be tattooed. I remember being quite young and my Mom had a friend that was a retired army guy. His arms were filled with that blurry, thick lined old ink, naked women, ships, probably man’s ruin that kind of thing. I remember being fascinated.
In the last decade it has become trendy to be tattooed and it may seem like a social statement when you are in you twenties. It will become a different thing when you are pushing fifty, wait a while…you’ll see. For years, I owned a service industry business with my husband and our clients were corporate people. I kept all my tattoos covered, because I am no longer stupid and realize that people make judgments about you based on the way you look…it’s true. Besides my tattoos are for me, I don’t need the attention that badly, that I need to let everyone know that I have them. Part of being a heavily tattooed adult is knowing when it is appropriate to cover them up and when you can let them loose on the world. I don’t really see them any more when I look in the mirror and I seldom think about them, they are just part of me, like a birth mark or a mole. I remember once I was standing in line waiting for a coffee and when I got to the cashier, she asked me, “what do the birds mean?” (I have the classic old school sailor’s set of swallows, one on each shoulder) I had no idea what she was talking about. It was Spring and the birds were out, but I thought she had lost her mind and then I realized that I was wearing a tank top and she was talking about the tattoos.
These days because of my job and because of the climate where we live, I am not often in long sleeves, pants and shoes and socks. We also live in Thailand where tattooing is a big part of the culture. It was one of the first things that I loved about Thailand when I first started coming here. Although generally modest people, you see ink creeping out of all sorts of people’s clothing. Often working class men, but ride the Skytrain any morning and you will see office girls with tattoos too. More and more modern tattoos are the norm for Thais, but my favorites are still the traditional tattoos, the sak yant or sacred tattoo. The skin has been transformed into a magical canvas, a manifestation of faith, on which archaic geometrical patterns interspersed with ancient script, Buddhist iconography, deities from the Hindu pantheon, heavenly creatures and earthly animals are woven into a primeval codex designed to protect the wearer from accidents, misfortune and crime.
To get a traditional Thai tattoo done by a monk, you need to follow a lot of rules. Most of it good common sense; no smoking, no drinking , stop taking drugs, that kind of thing. The tattoo serves a moral compass, a reminder to stay on the right path. Many religions peddle uncertain truths as dogma, so why not believe in the power of an ancient diagram etched into your skin? I’m not going down to the neighbourhood temple in the near future (besides a Thai would have to take me and get me introduced) but I think about it …often.
In the meantime as I walk around Bangkok in short sleeves, I am a friend to every motorcycle taxi driver on the street. They never pass judgment or question my personal choices for decorating my skin, they just give me the thumbs up.
Well, hello there. Have we met? I think so,it was a while ago, maybe on a train in India?
It’s been a while, where ever it was.
As you have noticed I have not been very active lately. Maybe you have not noticed at all and I think to highly of myself. The later is probably closer to the truth. Well, I’m back. I wish I could say stronger than ever…let`s just say I`m back and leave it at that.
Where I have been and what I have been doing does not seem that relevant now. Have I had writer`s block…maybe, but that is not important either.
Let`s just pick up where we left off and let the past five months add to my persona mystique.
Bark at you soon.
I have procured myself a plum position as this year’s Student Co-ordinator for the Shala where I took my teacher training course. It is a volunteer position, so my riches come from the karma of giving back to the Shala and sharing my experiences with the students of each months course, that and my cut of the yoga classes that I teach! All and all I am pretty stoked about the whole thing, five months of yoga every day and be able to live a stones throw from one of the nicest beaches in all of India.
At this moment it feels pretty good to be me.
Click on this link to read Confessions of a Yoga School Den Mother
All persons, locations and conversations are a composite of many different situations.
It isn’t about you, get over yourself!