Helen was recently lucky enough to enjoy a work trip to Thailand, the next couple of blogs are about the amazing adventures Helen had in this eclectic country. Guy, unfortunately, was not allowed on this one!
Having arrived late the previous night and headed straight to the hotel and to bed, we woke up to the incredible views from the 27th floor of our hotel the Mode Sathorn. Heading out into the bustle of Bangkok we were hit by the 31˚C, September is rainy season in Thailand but apart from the occasional heavy downpour we largely enjoyed blue skies and sunshine, accompanied by 80% humidity!
First stop on our brief visit to Bangkok was the MBK shopping centre, Bangkok is something of a shopaholics delight…certainly not my cup of tea, I would have much preferred to visit some of the temples or the Grand Palace…still my itinerary was dictated by work, and I wasn’t going to be complaining for my luck in being selected to go on the trip! MBK is huge, a fairly overwhelming array of shops and stalls set over 5 floors. Confusingly, you have to pay full price in anything that looks like a shop but can barter on the stalls that line every walkway in between. There was a lot going on, and essentially you could do all your shopping for a year’s supply of anything all in one place should you so wish! We decided to duck out of the madness and into the quiet of the Svensten’s a famous ice cream chain, our Thai representative who was acting as something of a tour guide made us try the Dorian ice cream. Dorian is a large fruit that smells disgusting and tastes savoury, they are obsessed with it! You can get everything including fresh, dried, crisps, and the aforementioned ice cream which is served with purple sticky rice?! I made the mistake of giving it a sniff before I tried it (not pleasant), and can’t say I enjoyed the flavour much either, each to their own. Luckily I had a delicious scoop of mocha, almond, fudge to wash it down with!
For the afternoon of our one day in Bangkok we headed to the city suburbs and the Baipai Cooking School. Make sure you have a driver who knows where they are going for this one as it’s a bit out of the way, we ended up in a very narrow one way street and our driver did some impressive reversing out to get us back on course! Worth the drive though as the school is great, in a courtyard with lush gardens (watered by a hose, attached to a pump on the pond, and driven by an old bike!), a covered deck and an open plan kitchen on the bottom floor of the building. We were greeted by our host Pae who donned us with aprons and gave us our recipes for the afternoon, before meeting Chef Eye who would be demonstrating and helping us through each of the Thai dishes.
The class began with an introduction to the raw ingredients from the garden that we would be using, this was followed by an expert demo of how to break into a coconut and scrape out the inside to squeeze your own coconut milk. Taking up our seats in the kitchen, with immaculately presented ingredients laid out in front of us, we began the main event. The class is a bit of a gastronomical feast with four courses to work our way through, and after creating each dish we enjoyed the fruits of our labour while our bench was cleared ready for the next round.
Marinating, crushing, chopping, barbequing and stir-frying our way through the afternoon. We created dishes of Satay Chicken, Prawn salad with a spicy Thai dressing, Beef stir-fry, and the piece de resistance a chicken Panang Curry, surpassing all expectations of our culinary skills! For the Panang Curry we even made the curry paste from scratch, smashing the ingredients in a pestle and mortar, before cooking it all up in the wok. Trying our best at Michelin star presentation we dished up and headed upstairs to eat our final dish (delicious by the way!). Pae and Chef Eye presented us with souvenir photo of us chef-ing, captured forevermore in a fridge magnet, mine was me sat scraping away at my coconut and looking ecstatic! (See below). Masterchef here we come!
Heading back through Bangkok we passed shops and markets, a Hindu temple with its brightly coloured and carved towers, and a skyscraper that looked like a tetris block. I kept noticing small shrines outside of the buildings, and on the streets corners so asked our Thai rep about them. Turns out these shrines are called spirit houses, in Thailand they believe that the spirits occupy the ground and land, so when they build upon it they create a spirit house to appease and rehome the displaced spirits. In return the spirits grant good fortune to the building and its inhabitants, which sounds like pretty good manners to me. They also make for an attractive feature of the country all adorned with flower garlands and incense.
Back at our hotel, after a bit of a run in with the notorious Bangkok rush hour traffic, we ventured up to The Roof@38 which is the Mode’s rooftop bar and eatery. We couldn’t muster much more in the way of food after our big day of cooking, but enjoyed a few wines as we looked out across the panorama of the city at night from the 38th floor. A spectacular end to what had been a fantastic, if not brief, introduction to the city of Bangkok.