Beautiful Pedestrian Bridge Opens on Sathorn

Last June I wrote about the opening of Bangkok’s Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, line.  This new bit of mass transit is basically a light rail line but without the infrastructure costs of adding rails.  In a bid to connect a growing corner of the city that has never had significant mass transit to the existing rail network, BRT extends from the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station to the south side of the city along Rama III Road.

Of course, for the system to effectively feed passengers onto the rail network, there had to be an easy connection, something that was missing at the half-way point of last year.  Pictures at the BRT stations promised, though, that a grand, shaded walkway would link the BRT’s terminus with the Skytrain station.

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I’m glad to report that just a couple of weeks ago, the arched section of the pedestrian bridge opened.  There is still some additional work being done including the addition of additional, newer stairs to connect to the bridge from surrounding street corners.  This work is proceeding rapidly, though, so I think in just a few short weeks we’ll have a finished product.  Nice to see some bit of urban infrastructure actually come to fruition.

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Looking from the BRT station side of the intersection north towards the Skytrain station.

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While some finishing touches are being placed on the bridge, it is open and being used.

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Lots of people were taking pictures of what is a dramatic addition to the skyline.

 

Great Eats in Bangkok Volume 1 – Guaytiaw

As Andy whirled into town for a three-day side trip from visiting his parents in Taipei, I had high hopes of producing this mega-video in which we would taste all the great things to eat in Bangkok.  Sure enough, during the course of two full days we ate a whole lot of things that would qualify for the “great eats” list.  But as I sat down to edit the video, I realized that I didn’t have enough footage to really address that many dishes.

Since I promised a video a few days ago, I’ve gone ahead and edited a first volume of what I expect will be at least a dozen (and probably more) videos that highlight various great eats in Bangkok.  Volume One focuses on guaytiaw – rice noodles – and particularly the pink-broth fish soup called yen ta fo.  It doesn’t provide as much depth on the various types of guaytiaw as I’d like, so I imagine a revisit of the subject will occur one of these days.

Before editing the next video, I’m going to shoot some more footage and do better advance planning so that I can make sure that future volumes provide you with the high level of quality that you deserve.  In the meantime, you can visit Andy’s blog to see some beautiful pictures of the other foods we ate and the places we went. 

Please share any feedback you have, let me know if there are any particular types of Thai food you would like me to address.

Thanks to Andy for taking the time and energy to visit.  We had lots of fun and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Food in Bangkok: Sweethound

Yes, several of you are eager to see the photos and video of the food adventures I’ve had while Andy is in town, but it will take a day or two to process the videos since we’ve been eating the whole time!  In the meantime, let me leave you with some food porn…

Last Friday evening we had dinner with some of Tawn’s university friends, followed by dessert at Sweethound, the dessert branch of popular local chain Greyhound.

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It was a pleasant evening for sitting outdoors as Tawn, Bim, and Pat played with their smart phones.

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A double-chocolate mousee with whipped cream.

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Crepes Suzette.  Orange sauce.  No flambe, sorry.

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Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Rich and moist.

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Chocolate banana cake.

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Waffle with peanut butter, chocolate, and chopped peanuts.  Unlikely dessert but tasty.

 

Lesson in Economics – Black Market Krispy Kreme Donuts

Is it a matter of the law of supply and demand or are Bangkok residents just too impatient to queue up for an hour to get donuts?  One thing is for certain: ever since Thailand’s first branch of Krispy Kreme, the popular North Carolina-based donut chain indulged in by former President Bill Clinton, opened last September there has been a black market for donuts in Siam Square.

The franchise is majority owned by Ausanee Mahagitsiri, the daughter of a wealthy family who owns one of Thailand’s largest conglomerates.  With the first location at Siam Paragon, one of the largest and busiest malls in the city, Khun Ausanee expects to build 20 locations in the country over the next few years.

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Ever ready for a new trend, when the store first opened Bangkokians eagerly queued for hours to buy a few dozen of the donuts.  These days, the lines are shorter, although there are still limits placed on how many donuts you can purchase.  Also, if you want the specialty donuts (frosted, filled, sprinkles, etc.) you can only order a mixed dozen.  No picking and choosing allowed.

To fill the demand, there are “donut scalpers” at work.  Not unlike their brethren outside a sold out Rolling Stones concert (or the men selling pornographic DVDs along Silom Road or, for that matter, the taxi touts at Suvarnabhumi Airport), the scalpers discreetly flash laminated picture menus and mutter their pitch – “Donuts, donuts for sale” – in barely audible tones.

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Can you spot the scalpers?  In addition to the woman holding the laminated card, the man behind her and the woman in the light blue shirt behind him were all working the crowd of shoppers, looking for an easy mark.  Security guards were present, too, although there seemed to be a loose understanding between all parties that so long as the scalpers were discreet, they could go about their business.  (Hey, that sounds like Silom Road and the airport, too!)

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Across the street from Siam Paragon, on the sidewalks of Siam Square just a few meters from a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts shop, vendors offer Krispy Kreme donuts for sale either by the dozen or individually, in entrepreneurial plastic containers that certainly did not come from Krispy Kreme.  On the day I investigaed, prices were marked up about 25%, relatively modest.  Presumably the mark-up has decreased over time, considering that the wait at the shop is now no longer than you might expect when checking in for an international flight. 

I have to wonder how long this fad will last.  Many people around Bangkok recall the Rotiboy craze.  Rotiboy, a Malaysian chain that makes coffee flavored Mexican buns, opened here in 2006, setting off a sensation for the fad-conscious locals that included hours-long lines.  Six month later the fad was dead, most of the locations closed, and only a few rebranded (“Mr. Bun”) branches remain, their employees looking forelorn as the fickle masses pass by.

Will this happen with Krispy Kreme?  Thailand doesn’t lack for donut chains – Dunkin’ Donuts and Mister Donut are both large and at least three other chains are growing here – and according to the Bangkok Post, donuts are a billion baht business.  ($33 million)

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On the whole, though, I suspect the craze will die.  Krispy Kreme donuts, which are really only special when you’re getting them freshly baked, aren’t yet available that way in Thailand.  To keep up with demand, thousands of donuts are made in advance, boxed, and stacked on rolling shelves in the back of the shop.  This is your guarantee that the donuts you see coming off the conveyer belt are not making it into the box about to be placed in your hands.

The bigger question that crosses my mind, though, is this: why are Thais so crazy for donuts?  I’ll take a freshly made khanom krug* any day of the week.

*More about those coming soon.

 

Could you help with the class assignment?

A friend in Houston has an assignment for his Food & Beverage Management class and could use your help as a potential diner.  He has created a dinner menu for a hypothetical restaurant called UBÉ Restauran.  It is a café featuring Filipino food that he would open in the Midtown area in Houston.  He has asked for your help in reviewing the menu and identifying what you would order if you went to the restaurant.

If you would like to help, could you please do the following?  Review the menu to see what is of interest.  I’ve numbered the dishes to make the process easier.  In the comments section, please place your order – feel free to copy and paste the following to make it easier to order.  You can have:

  • One selection from the Pulutan (appetizer) menu.
  • One Sabaw (soup) or Ensalada (salad) or one of each if you want.
  • One Ulam (entrée), Pancit (noodles), or one of each. Please designate which protein you would like and also if you would like bottomless rice to accompany the order.
  • Order one Gulay (vegetable) if you would like.
  • One Minatamis (dessert) if you would like.
  • One Inuman (drink) if you would like.

Also on your comment, could you please indicate the following?

  • Age range (decade is fine – 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc.)
  • Are you Asian, Filipino, or Other?

Thank you in advance for your help.  Colin needs the responses by Tuesday the 25th so I will share whatever results have been received by then.

Here’s the menu:

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Chiang Mai Strawberries and Whipped Cream

To celebrate the completion of our bathroom re-tiling project, we celebrated with a special dessert: fresh strawberries from Chiang Mai (in the north of Thailand) and some hand-whipped cream.

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Beautiful, aren’t they?  Unlike some of those mega-monster strawberries we get from California, which are all pale inside, these strawberries reminded me of the strawberries of my childhood – smaller and sweeter.  Of course, they still weren’t as nice as the strawberries we tried in Japan two Aprils ago.  (Video of that experience here.)