You’ve already heard about our venture into the malls on New Year’s Eve. We returned empty handed – almost. Asia Books had a good map of Laos – one with both Laos script and Latin letters.
Our day for exploring was more successful. Fai, our guide from Chilli Paste Tours, showed us around Thonburi – a part of Bangkok that’s decidedly off the beaten track. It was established by King Rama 1 and was only incorporated into the city in the 1970s.
The area is known for it’s artisanal communities Some make tumeric powder, others buddha images. It’s a way of life that’s rapidly disappearing.
We visited two. The first was a family who prepare stone-apple tea in the traditional manner.
The name of this fruit says it all. It’s an apple that requires a machete if you want to peel it. And wielding a machete takes skill. It’s a job for the patient and the dextrous. An elderly woman was steadily working her way through this pile!
Once peeled the stone apples are cored, soaked in limewater and then boiled for more than five hours before being set to dry.
The end result’s a refreshing tea that’s packed with antioxidants.
Next up was a visit to a traditional bronze foundry. These guys work hard and in conditions that made me worry for their well- being!
Sparks flew and the metal clanged with each blow of the sledge hammer.
All that heat and pounding resulted in finely crafted bowls and platters.
Add to these experiences a visit to the Bell Temple, a wander through a fresh market, the opportunity to sample curries and stir fries from the south, Pad Thai, and deep fried frogs and silkworms from the Isaan region, and you have an action packed tour.
In case you’re wondering, the frogs tasted a bit like french fries. My mistake was to look at the creature. I felt sorry for the little thing. And with the silk worms my mistake was to touch them. I’d expected firm and crunchy. What I got was something squishy – like a worm. There was no way that was going in my mouth.
On a day of highlights Fai saved the best for last. We finished the tour at the Artist’s House in the Khlong Bang Luang community. We would never have found it without her help. It’s tucked away, on a side street, near a klong,
and down winding alleys.
This community is hundreds of years old. I could have sat for hours in the peace and quiet watching the fish fighting for scraps of bread,
musing like this guy on the meaning of life,
and waving at the tourists cruising by in long tail boats. Those boats were noisy interruptions. Watching those tourists watching us was a bit like looking in a mirror. I knew they were wondering how we got to be sitting on the verandah in such a fascinating place. We have Fai and Chili Paste Tours to thanks for that!