We’re in Pak Chong, an expansive blur like city with two distinctly different lives. On one side there’s a transit town for people going to Khao Yai national park or the Cambodian border. The other side is luxurious swankville, the most famous getaway location for local celebrities and money waggers. We’re on our way to Khao Yai tomorrow. So far we haven’t had the pleasure of spotting any pop-stars or their weekend mansions. What we did spot is a Snacktown.
This is a welcome site. Songkran was like a snack muffler – Bangkok, usually the envy of all snack metropoli, was annoyingly barren. Every time Alice and I went exploring for street food markets all we found was a handful of luncheon meat BBQs and some dudes selling pomegranate juice.
I approached a pomegranate juice vendor the other day and I asked him the cost of his wares. I heard yee-sip baht (80c) and said good stuff, go ahead and give me one. He tore the cap off and donked a straw in. I handed over the dosh and he looked surprised.
“See-sip baht,” he said. That’s about $1.60. I had misheard. I told him not to worry about it, I didn’t want it. He immediately pulled out the straw and threw it at my feet. He couldn’t speak english but I gathered from his face that he wanted to say something like ‘You fuck!’.
I’m sure I sound like the world’s stingiest arsehole but I wasn’t saying no because I didn’t want to pay the extra 80c it was because I didn’t want to pay a dishonest guy. I can easily afford to pay $1.60 for a pomegranate juice but I know there are heaps of juice vendors selling it for half that. This guy, and probably all the others in Chinatown, had just inflated their price because they sold in a touristy area.
Earlier in the day we’d tried to get a cab from the Grand Palace back to our hotel. The first driver we waved offered us a flat fee of 500baht, about $18. Obviously I said no but it left me feeling infuriated. I didn’t care about the cost, that’s how much I’d pay at home, it was his dishonesty. That guy thrives off ignorance. He’s making shit loads from idiots but the other cab drivers are earning a tenth as much, like some kind of honesty tax.
It makes me feel very awkward. I always say no to these guys, sometimes offensively but I know I can afford it. Maybe if every cab driver charged a different rate for locals and foreigners that would be ok. It’s unfair there is a discrepancy in the value of currencies, maybe having a discrepancy in cost makes it fair. I can’t decide. But as it is those guys are just taking advantage of me and all the honest people so they can get fucked.
Many of my friends and family we’re worried that this trip would turn me into an eviscerated twig – all the riding combined with my usually super-heroic metabolism would dissolve all remaining non-essential meat from my body. Well the opposite seems to have happened. Maybe it’s the eight days I’ve been without my bike or maybe I’ve just eaten so monstrously my body can no longer cope. Those who were worried about my thinness you may now take a short break before worrying about my increasing plumpness.
I’ve started sportsersizing again to counteract any flabersizing. I’m very sore. There’s no way I’m eating any less.
For my whole trip I’ve constantly thought about how my friends and family members would have been on the same journey. What would they want to eat? How would they interact with the locals? Would they care about cleaning their bums with their hands? Most of all I imagined being with Alice and all the things she would have thought and done. I was very excited to show her what my life was but I haven’t really had the opportunity until now. The first night in Bangkok we stayed in an airbnb condo and the other nights we were with her second cousins in a suburban apartment. It was much more luxurious and comfortable than I had been all trip. Now that we’re in Pak Chong I feel like I’ve brought Alice to see my new house. Our day was exactly as it would have been if I was alone (with a train trip instead of biking 80km). We arrived in mid afternoon without a hotel booked only to check into a hotel that’s perfectly similar to every other one I’ve stayed in – double bed, fan, extraneous furniture, a towel for a sheet, terrible pillows and a shower that overlooks the toilet. We’ve spent the afternoon strolling around Pak Chong looking for books and laundromats. Otherwise we’ve just lounged around the hotel room saving our energy and space for a Snacktown inquisition.
Just came back from Snacktown . . . Holy shit. I can’t remember being that excited since I rode past food paradise on my way to Chukai*. Potentially the best night market I’ve been too. The range of options was ridiculous and every one of them was glisteningly fresh or fatty. It was painfully good, literally. My stomach has stretched out far enough to make me feel like I constantly need to shit (tried, don’t need to), my lips have the chilli sizzles and my mind is awash with thoughts of missed opportunity. Lucky Alice was with me so I could try more things. Without her I may have just sadly withered under the pressure of choice – instead we got:
Mackerel and cassia leaf curry steamed in a banana leaf.
The most deliciously succulent deep fried pork with a thick tamarind dressing
A variety of delicious fried sausages torn apart and mixed by hand with fresh chilies, herbs, nuts and lettuce.
Really limey som tum with extra chilli and thai cucumber.
Some coconut, taro and corn fritters.
Some fresh watermelon.
And a fresh lime and coconut slushy.
Everything freshly made in front of us, everything amazing. I only have two big regrets – we couldn’t find room for some roti and I didn’t get to try whatever the hell this is:
*See day 6.