Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Second city delights

Today we headed north out of Bangkok towards its second city of Korat, along a wide, modern highway past rice fields, a big dam, small busy towns, men watching small herds of Brahman cattle or water buffalo, people sitting at stalls selling fruit and sweetcorn, and some hills - "mountains" according to Suree.

On the far side of the city we visited Khmer ruins at Phimai, a smaller but older version of Angkor Wat, which lies at the other end of a road that starts there. There was some history, of a pre-Thailand, the usual thing of shifting borders and exchanges of power; but mostly we wandered freely around the ancient stone, 1000 years old, carved and weathered, red and white sandstone blackened with age and set off by neat green grass being trimmed by women with big knives.

There was more eating today, of course, first a lunch of crispy fish and duck, with tangy papaya salad and delicious Pad Thai, in an open-sided restaurant where an eager cat flitted around under the table, shamelessly begging. Then tonight we had a succession of interesting dishes laid before us in another unpretentious place of formica and neon strip lights: fresh-tasting varied things frequently unidentifiable, but all hot and crisp and delicious. There were lotus stalks and a spicy peanut mix to wrap inside leaves, more fish and chicken and sweetcorn fritters, soup and rices, salads and noodles. We had all complained about over-feeding as we entered, but there were no complaints once the food started coming, and not much of it left at the end.

Then we went to a night market, which was really good: authentic, non-touristy, non-pushy, relaxed and lively. One side was food stalls, the other clothes, bags, shoes, electronics, a lot of it second-hand, and most of the customers and stall-holders young people, all enjoying the social side of the event as much as the chance to buy or sell. Everyone was friendly and smiling, the night was warm with a pleasant breeze, there was music, live and canned...  I even bought a gold watch, with Thai numbers, since I forgot to bring mine. It cost 100 baht! That's about $3.60. What a lovely way to finish the day.

[If you're interested, Duncan's YouTube post about the day is here.]

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