Bangkok, May 16 (IANS) Thailand’s capital Bangkok is famous the world over for its unique street food.
However, there is one place for food a new visitor may not be aware of that is worth checking out.
Like the “khao gallis” in various Indian cities, there is C-shaped path on the side of a sub-road in Sukhumvit area in the heart of Bangkok that teems with tourists all the time.
If one is to take the entrance on the left of the sub-road, the path goes down around 18 yards, takes a right double that length and then turns right and emerges on the sub-road.
And in that short space, one can find a wide variety of foods.
Apart from a restaurant that serves divine Thai food, there is Snapper New Zealand, Charlie Brown’s Mexicana, Chez Pape French Bistro, a Chinese takeaway without a name, and two Indian restaurants, the Moghul Room and Shalimar Sharma’s Indian Restaurant.
However, according to a worker in one of the Indian restaurants, what Western tourists come to the place is for a joint called Cheap Charlie’s.
Opened around 40 years back, Cheap Charlie’s sells only beer and alcohol and no food. The place is replete with collectibles gathered over the years and one hardly finds any place to sit there in the evening.
During the day, the food path remains completely empty. The shops open sharp at 5 p.m. and closes at 11.45 p.m., doing six-and-half hours of business daily.
Delhiites will call it a miniature Hauz Khas Village.
For those planning to buy Buddha statues while on a trip to Thailand, be forewarned.
A notice at the immigration counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok serves a strong warning to all visitors.
“Welcome to Buddha Land,” it states.
“IT’S WRONG to buy or use Buddha symbol as merchandise, decoration, tattoo, or to own Buddha head. Disrespect to Buddha is wrong by law,” it adds.
India is known for its colours. But for a first time visitor from India, the streets of Bangkok are striking for the brightly coloured and very well maintained taxis.
There are the green-and-yellow ones. These are owner-driven cars.
Then there are those in bright yellow, bright pink, bright red, bright orange, bright blue and what have you. These are vehicles belonging to various taxi cooperative societies, one learns.
That there are similarities between the cultures of India’s northeast and southeast Asia became apparent when this correspondent who hails from Assam smelled something which a woman coconut hawker in Bangkok was chewing that reminded him of home.
Yes, it was raw betel nut and leaf alright.
Chewing raw betel nut with a lime-coated leaf – unlike the supari or pan masala, the dried versions of betel nut, found in other parts of India – is a habit among the people of India’s northeast.
Known as tamul or gua in Assam, kwai in Meghalaya, kwa in Manipur and khuva in Mizoram, the betel nut is also a major source of mouth and throat cancer.
Today’s generation has mostly given up the habit, one of the reasons being that the red spit by the chewers dirties up a place.
The Thai government banned the practice in 1996, the first of the country’s biannual tourism years. However, the habit apparently continues among the rural areas.
Another similarity among northeast India and Thailand. The host in Bangkok gifted this correspondent two Thai sweet dishes. One is called Roti Mai Tai and the other some other Thai name. On unwrapping the gift, one found two very traditional Assamese dishes – pani pitha, a wet rice bread rolled around a sweet, and aamor murabba, a sweet made out of dried mango.
(Aroonim Bhuyan visited Thailand at the invitation of the Board of Investment, Thailand. He can be contacted at email@example.com)