Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, May 22, 2007
Things got a little sticky with the travel agent. Turned out that we had to leave from Chiang Mai to go over to Vietnam a day earlier than we wanted to, or pay an additional $300, which we really really didn't want to do - so we elected to get out of Bangkok a day earlier than we had planned.
Unfortunately, we had to go by the travel agent at 3 to pick up our flight and train tickets before we could leave town.
So we ate.
A noodle place on Soi Rambuttri provided a tasty brunch of pad thai (the second in two days) along with pad see-ew. Lotsa savory noodles for us!
Husbear also went to grab a tasty-looking sausage from one of the other guys hanging out on the street. It was tasty, but extremely sweet - a bit of a surprise for us.
Then we stopped and got pineapple juices. I started to freak out about the ice, but... whatever.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to get into a diatribe about Thai taxis?
They have meters. Legally, the drivers have to use the meters. Therefore, the drivers almost never will agree to use the meters. Of course.
Also, they will often simply refuse your fare if they think there's too much traffic where you want to go or the place you want them to take you is too close.
So, whenever you want to take a taxi anywhere, you have to bargain and haggle and hope you don't have to be where you're going anytime soon, because even if you do find a taxi the traffic will be awful.
Also, sometimes you will go through the fun of finding a taxi, agreeing on the price, and getting into the taxi only to find out that your driver doesn't know where he's going, or that he wants to rebargain the fare for some reason.
I heart Farang, indeed. (Farang is the Thai word for foreigner, and it's how you will hear yourself addressed ALL THE TIME. If you want something spicy, say "Thai spicy, not farang spicy!" If you don't understand something in a shop, you will hear lots of chatter liberally interspersed with the word Farang.)
Sometimes it made me want to do this.
We loved most of the Thai people we came in contact with, but almost all of the taxi drivers we had to deal with were infuriating. Almost.
ANYWAY. End of diatribe.
As soon as our tickets were ready, we grabbed them and our bags and haggled a 150 baht taxi over to the, I think Southern bus terminal (oddly in the northwest part of Bangkok) to catch a bus for Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai. Two hours or so later, there we were, throwing our bags and ourselves into a modified pickup truck called a songthaew.
The truck got us quickly and safely to our hotel for the evening, the VN Guesthouse. The guesthouse gives you the option of staying in a raft on the River Kwai (or Kway, as it's called in Thailand), and we jumped on it.
You can also stay more cheaply in a room in the main building, up on the banks of the river.
The room itself was pretty barebones, but the view was so calming.
Except for the disco boat, though it only went by twice and was done before eight. And was awesome. We considered swimming out to it.
We got to enjoy our elephant beers while watching the bats skim over the surface of the water.
Then we went inside to try to figure out the toilet. The step-by-step instructions were helpful. I've never stayed in a hotel where you flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water down it, and the thing I learned is - it really doesn't take that much water to flush a toilet!
Eventually, we started to get hungry. Our original plan was to walk back to the area around the bus station, where we had seen a huge variety of streetfood when we arrived, but after walking past the war cemetery we realized this was a really long way to go.
We ducked into a place with their kitchen out on the street. From the frontage, the place looked tiny, but once we got inside the true dimensions were revealed, along with a singer doing wonderful things to Beatles favorites. (Hearing a Thai man phonetically sing the French in "Michelle" - can't be beat.)
They had an English menu, which was presented to us by four or five waitstaff who eagerly waited for our order. We tried to fend them off by ordering beer, and one woman tried to explain that if we ordered Beer Chiang, we got something for free. We didn't understand what it was, but learned quickly enough when it came to our table just behind the beers themselves.
A chicken foot soup with blood cake!
The waiter who put it down on our table told us that this was one of their best sellers, and we dug in. It was delicious - just amazing. The broth was thick with spices and rich with meaty flavor. I couldn't (and still can't) get much of anything off chicken feet, but Husbear likes them. The blood cake tasted a little like liver and a little of iron, and had a gelatinous texture that was actually really tasty in the soup.
After that... what to do?
Sour spicy beef salad. Approximately the spiciest thing I have ever put in my mouth. The flavors were intense and a revelation - balanced perfectly just below actual pain (No, there was definitely pain -L. Pants).
Not knowing what it was, we ordered the "serpent head salad." We certainly weren't expecting a whole fish, expertly fried and topped with a raw salad of onion, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and little unidentifiables.
With the exception of the yet-to-be-blogged Fat Duck, I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant meal make Husbear this happy.
We did a pretty good job on all of the food, including the shrimp crackers that I didn't include a picture of.
Note to readers - beer does a very good job of washing the spicy out of your mouth, but careful not to be like Girlie and accidentally chug two large ones (at 7% abv) trying to eat the delicious food. Temper with water. Please.
The dynamos cooking in the kitchen were more than happy to allow us to take a photo while we were leaving. Again, it's just mindblowing that such great food comes out of such barebones kitchens!
Husbear still rates this as the best restaurant we ate at in Southeast Asia, and we don't even know the name. How stupid are we? All I know is that it's south of the war cemetery on the southwest side of route 323, and I think it's before you get to Ban Nue Road. Good luck. We'll try to meet you there.
(Ok. I really don't think that's it's possible to describe just how awesomely delicious the food at this place was. It was everything that I had been led to believe real Thai food is- sweet, salty, sour, a touch of bitter, aromatic herbs shoved in everything and spicy as all hell. Small tears are running down my face even now as I think about it. Unfortunately, this was not an experience that we were able to duplicate or even really approximate very often. Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of great food, but I often got the sense that my big white head doomed me to the tourist approved version more often than not. In all seriousness though, when I get back to Thailand I will definately be spending a night or two in Kanchanaburi just to eat at this place as many times as possible in each 24 hour period. I may sleep on their floor. -L. Pants)
(Oh and for the record, it's not like we forgot to look at the name or lost our notes or something- this place was bent on maintaining anonymity; no name on the menu, no signs, no embroidered napkins, nothing. They did have a big banner with a crazy looking chicken on it with the website www.aomteenkai.com, but this just appears to be some sort of business directory. So if anyone can help, please, please, please tell us the name of this place. I have a tattoo artist on retainer, I just need the correct spelling. Thanks)
Next day - The Bridge. And a six-hour, non a/c bus ride to Sangkhlaburi. Oops.