Friday, September 4, 2015

Experiencing Thailand through food

As I mentioned, I arrived in Thailand very late on Monday evening.  I was fortunate enough to be traveling on the same flight as a coworker who has traveled to Thailand an estimated 30-40 times in his life (he previously lived in southeast Asia and would travel here multiple times a month on a short 2 hour flight.)  He was able to help me through the very easy customs process, taking out some cash, and catching a taxi to our hotel.  It was a bit hairy at first as the taxi driver seemed to have no clue where our hotel was and it took quite a while to explain to him the location that we needed to go to and to actually be on our way.

The hotel is north of the city, near where the conference center is located where our meetings were taking place. This is often the case in the cities where we travel to for work since big conference centers are not often in the heart of downtown in major cities.  My view from my room is nothing to write home about and I had the pleasure of somehow getting assigned a room with two twin beds that are just snugly pushed aside each other.  Two twin beds doesn't do a whole lot for you when the sheets are tucked in separately and you are unable to utilize the space of the two beds without totally undoing the sheets or sleeping on top of them.

I didn't actually leave the hotel/conference center until after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday as our hotel was connected to the location of the meetings, as were the location for breakfast and lunch.  Our breakfast consisted of very strong coffee, which was very welcome, and an American style breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, some cereal, etc.  I have been unable to stop myself from eating everything that I lay my eyes on since the moment I left my apartment on August 21st for my friends wedding, so this travel has been really hard on the waist line, but whatever.  I had a big breakfast, which was unneeded and not that good followed by a lunch of pad Thai shrimp that tasted good except for the tons of tiny shrimpies in it that tasted way too fishy for my liking.

Throughout the day I also enjoyed a few iced coffees (and cookies) from one of the vendor booths that was near mine within the conference center.  They have an awesome coffee bar within the booth and I quickly made friends with one of the marketing team members there because I knew I would be stopping by there often for their iced coffees.

Beyond that, the day was pretty uneventful aside from work, which kept me very busy.

Following the show, I went into the city with a few colleagues for a group dinner.  We had a really delicious meal at a restaurant that is apparently a chain called Mango Tree.  We had some fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes that included some soup, spring rolls, spicy papaya salad, noodles, fried rice, and panang curry and masang curry over white rice.  There's also an interesting Thai "omelet" type dish that essentially involves frying the egg.  It was pretty interesting but also really good.  In fact, they were all extremely yummy, which can be attest by the fact that I barely remembered to take any pictures of the food.

What made this trip into the city really memorable was that I was in a shuttle with my friend Melissa who is also on this trip as well as 4 other colleagues and for some reason the driver got lost.  We realized after he pulled into a different hotel and then pulled a U-turn to return down the same traffic filled road we had just come from that he didn't know where he was going.  I pulled up Google Maps to check our location and distance from the location just in time to realized that he passed right by the road we needed to turn down for a second time.

I tried to reach out to him and explain that he had missed the turn and point out where to go on a map but he did not react to me.  It was obvious that he did not speak English, or could he read the Thai on the map I was showing him to see where to go!  It made the otherwise short ride a bit longer and a bit more exciting for all of us!  It is one of those situations that just sort of comes along with international travel and in the end it was a funny situation that I'm sure was just as frustrating for him as it was for us!

The final note about dinner is the dessert we tried.  It was a mango crushed ice coconut milk concoction that a coworker convinced us to try and although it wasn't my favorite thing to try, it is always worthwhile to experience a new to me dessert!  And believe me, it wasn't going to be the last new/odd dessert I would try on the trip!

The next day, Wednesday, was another pretty normal day at work and another lunch with Melissa.  We tried the fried egg stuff again, spicy pork neck, and some rice and curry.  All were delicious and the company at lunch was top notch.

However, the highlight of the day was the team dinner, which was held at an amazingly beautiful venue overlooking the canal waterways in Bangkok.  It also had some cool blue mirrors to take selfies in.  I assume that was their purpose.

But what made this team dinner absolutely stand out was not the view or the blue mirrors, but the ice cream sundae bar.  Why?  You may ask.  Was this an amazing one of a kind dessert bar?  No, not really.  Except for one small detail -- that one of the toppings for the ice cream was CORN.  Yes, kernels of corn.  It was incredibly mind blowing to me and I could not stop fixating on this the entire night!

Of course I had to try this as I am on a quest to try all the ice creams of the world, and this was something totally new to me.  I also had my coworker take a photo shoot of pictures of me as I knew this would be a moment to remember forever.  It tasted - exactly like someone dumped some corn on top of some vanilla ice cream pretty much. It wasn't too tastey but it also didn't taste horrible.  I love corn, it can be really sweet, and I love ice cream.  So I guess it's not the worst idea in the world, but also not really going to be making it to my next sundae.

Following dinner and the corn sundae, the group I was with made one stop on the way back to the hotel and that was to check out the Sky Bar at the top of a local hotel.  It is actually the rooftop bar where some of the scenes from The Hangover 2, which takes place in Bangkok, is filmed.  The bar is on the 64th floor and has an incredible view of the city.  After some pictures and walking around at the top, it was home to the hotel and bedtime.  The beginning of the week was busy, busy but I enjoyed the amount of Thai culture I was able to experience through the initial meals the first couple days in Bangkok!

More to come from the latter end of the trip but trying to break things up and share these first few days so far!  Hope you're having a great week!

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