After 2 months in Indonesia, Rob and I are excited to visit a new country! We exited the airport with fingers crossed, hoping for something a little different. After the wild traffic and pollution of Java, Bangkok seemed quiet, clean, and orderly. We thought this was funny, as Bangkok has quite the reputation. I guess we can adapt to anything!
We really enjoyed the presence of the Buddhist monks, who we first spotted on the subway. The color of their clothing makes it hard not to notice them. Dressed in full-length orange and ocher robes, they looked out of place among the cell-phone and I-pad toting passengers.
I didn’t realize the level to which monks are held in esteem in Thailand. On the subway, I was tickled to see that monks are included among those who get preferential seating. Later, at the train station, we noticed a whole flock of monks seated in rows along one side of the station. Everyone else was lolling about on the ground, beneath the large over-sized air conditioner. As we approached the monks, we saw that a sign had been posted – this section of chairs were VIP- for monks only. Who would have thought, a designated monk-area!
|This means “not you,” unless you are wearing neon.
The afternoon train was sold out, so we had some time to kill as we waited for the evening train to Northern Thailand. Rob wants to take some Thai Massage lessons at a school in Chiang Mai. It’s not quite durian season, so we figured we might as well indulge in some non-durian activities. But after our sweet taste of Thai durian in Bali, we were too eager for more to wait for the season! Thailand is famous for having durian all-year round. No matter the time of year, durian is available to those die-hard durian fans who just can’t handle the three months between seasons.
We asked one of the tuk-tuk drivers where we might find out of eason durian in Bangkok. He said Chinatown, and then offered us a ride for 200 baht, about $7! We declined the ride, and asked the man manning the convenience shop where Chinatown was. He pointed us across the canal, and said it was about a 10 minute walk. He wasn’t sure there would be durian there this time of year, but thought it was worth a try.
Within 10 minutes of entering Chinatown we found it – a street cart loaded with the spiky orbs. Strangely, there was no smell. Normally I can scent a durian stand just walking down the street, but I wouldn’t have noticed this guy if I wasn’t searching for durian.
The durian was expensive, so we just bought one of the packages, double-wrapped in plastic. We waited to dig in until we were settled at a shady bench near the canal. The flesh was a lovely yellow. Each pod had been carefully removed from the shell and placed on individual wax paper sheets, I guess so you don’t have to touch the durian as you eat it and stink up your fingers.
The flavor was everything the Indonesians had warned us about – mostly a lack of it. Mildly sweet, the custard lacked the pungency we enjoy, the characteristic durian-ess. The flavor was still enjoyable, just not a great debut for Thailand. The texture managed to be both too watery and too crunchy at the same time. I had to wonder if the Indonesian government were on the right track trying to emulate Thai durian. But then I remembered how good the Thai-variety durians were in Bali – Rob practically moans when remembering that Chanee. All fruit out of season is sub-par. So we will reserve judgement until May, when Thai durian season is in full-swing.