One of the more challenging aspects of Bangkok to capture is the smells of the city. First, the heavy pollution and exhaust is pervasive, though also subtle. I wouldn’t say it feels like you’re sucking on a tailpipe and smoking 10 packs of cigarettes in one go. But, the warm, humid air is heavy with pollution.
Walking down the street, a variety of smells assault you. Passing over a grate in the sidewalk, you’re confronted with the rotting stench of sewage. But then, just steps later, you pass by the sweet smell of fresh-made cakes, the spicy aroma of chili, or the tender taste of grilled meats.
And, since the vendors all use open barbecue fires, the smell of burning charcoal wafts through the air, bringing some kind of odiferous harmony to the auto exhaust, sewage and street food. It’s quite the juxtaposition of odors.
The number of Thais cooking and serving meals along the sidewalk is simply astounding. There’s a timeless quality to it, as if this has been going on for centuries — which might well be the case. And, of course, it’s not just hot food that you’ll find, but also drinks, fruit, peanuts and more. It puts D.C.’s pathetic pretzels, hot dogs and cases of overprice water and sodas to shame.
The prices can’t be beat, either; less than a dollar for hot, freshly made dinner.
Oh, and one more thing. I love that I’m discovering new fruit here. I already mentioned the dragon fruit in a previous post. Yesterday, I came across these little purple buggers. At first I thought they might be figs, but they aren’t. They have a hard, bitter outer shell that is deep purple (and stains). Inside is a white flesh, sectioned sort of like an orange, but with the texture of a fleshy grape. (Someone said they look like little brains. Don’t let that scare you.) They are absolutely delicious. They’re called mangosteens and apparently they don’t travel well, so if you want them (and you do), get thee to the tropics and go nuts.