This summer we took a bit of a risk with our family holiday and headed away from the typical Lanzarote, Tenerife, Turkey holidays a lot of families opt for, and headed on the road less travelled to…Thailand! Adventure, elephants, diving and jungles awaited, and we have literally the best time so far in our lives (to date, anyway).
And so, shamefully neglecting the plethora of wonders this stunningly beautiful country has to offer, I couldn’t resist putting this article together to share my experiences of the Thai food markets.
Thailand is a country of incredible contrasts. Traditional temples sit opposite strip clubs and tuk tuks compete for space with BMWs on the countries hectic streets. We arrive at Bangkok’s international airport and step out into the humid heat, a world away from the mild weather we’ve left behind. As a taxi whisks us into the city the kids are full of excitement at the amazing new world they’re seeing. I see rice fields out of the window. Women wearing traditional hats stoop low, their backs hunched, tending the fields that their ancestors have tended for generations. Then this view is replaced by a bill board advertising a Thai brand of instant noodles. A land of contrasts indeed.
One of my key motivations for coming to Thailand was simple: real Thai food. Not an imitation of Thai food, but the real, genuine cuisine. We arrive at the hotel and I stow the kids away in the room, but not before spotting a Pad Thai street vendor across the road. Four is a lot of children to take alone to a country as alien as Thailand, but I thought it was important for them to experience something different. And Thailand is certainly different.
Kids safely asleep with my wife chilling with a book, I head out onto the street for a midnight snack before hitting the city the next day. I order a portion of Pad Thai. The Thai lady instantly throws noodles and bean sprouts into the hot wok she had before her, and breaks in an egg which she expertly scrambles. After a few minutes of frying and adding some peanuts, my Pad Thai is ready. The cost? About $1 US. I hand it over gratefully, and sink into my first taste of Thai food. It is delicious. A subtle peanutty taste blends with the sesame seed oil that the noodles have been cooked in, whilst the beansprouts offer a lovely crunch which contrasts well with the softness of the noodles. Satiated, I go to bed with my stomach full, dreaming of more Thai food to come.
Next day and a tour guide picks us up to take us to one of Bangkok’s floating markets. Within an hour we’re inside a traditional Thai canoe, being paddled towards a floating market of boats/market stalls filled with an incredible array of food. The first thing that strikes you is the incredible colours. Bright reds and vibrant yellows mix with deep greens and bright oranges. Second comes the smell. Spices and herbs tantalise your nose, from khamin (tumeric) to maenglak (lemon basil) and everything in between. From fruits and vegetables to freshly caught fish, everything is here and everything is fresh. Before long we’re buying lychees and mangoes, the kids loving that their dad has taken them to such an amazing, fairytale like place.
Evening comes and we go to a traditional food hall in Bangkok, a sort of Thai food market for prepared dishes. You buy tickets and exchange them at the counter for things that you want. Before we know it we’ve sampled pink eggs, green curry, red curry and a huge variety of other dishes. I bundle the kids back to the hotel, our stomachs full and our minds aglow with the excitement and difference of Thai culture.