The Gastronomic Trail – The Amazing Adventure Bangkok

The Amazing Adventure Bangkok puts on several super fun tours around the city.  They organize these trips like scavenger hunts, giving you new missions as you go, along with opportunities to collect bonus points.  My tour choice was The Gastronomic Trail, a food tour which started at Suan Plern Market in Rama 4 Mall at 10am, and lasted until about 2pm.  It took us too several different neighborhoods using many different transport options.  Full disclosure: I got to go on the tour for free as a travel blogger ambassador, but my opinion is totally genuine and it is that this tour is awesome!

Our first mission on The Amazing Adventure Bangkok was find a ride to the Khlong Toei Market, the biggest fresh food market in Bangkok.  Once at the market we had to round up all the ingredients to make “som tum”, the classic Thai spicy green papaya salad.  At the start of the adventure you are given a purse with all of the money for the tour.  By negotiating the prices and finding cheap alternatives, you can score more points by having more funds remaining at the end of the day.

Amazing Adventure Bangkok
Kissing a live fish for bonus points!

We took a bus to the market because we had five people on our team (an awkward number for a taxi or tuk tuk ).  The Bangkok local buses are super cheap and pretty easy to navigate; use our guide to get yourself around the city!  Once at the market we split into teams, each taking half of the salad list.  The market was a very local type of place, with every type of food you could imagine (and more).  We searched for ingredients for our salad, first picking up a green papaya, some limes and chilies, peanuts, tomatoes, then the palm sugar.  Along the way we found some fish in a bucket.  One of the bonus points was to “kiss a live fish” so it was of course my job to complete this task.

With all of our salad fixings assembled, we split up into two tuk tuks and had a race to the next destination.  We drove like mad and our tuk tuk won of course.  We walked down a street to a small restaurant where they had some cooking tools set up for our salad-making.  They showed us how to grate the papaya, how much palm sugar and fish sauce to add, long beans and garlic as well as tamarind paste, limes, chilies, tomato, and peanuts.  Everything gets put into a giant mortar and pestle-pounded a little bit, releasing the juices which become the delicious sauce.  I got extra points for eating the whole thing– not really a challenge for me.

Our next mission was the cross the Chao Phraya River.  On to a ferry we went and minutes later we arrived on the far bank.  This area was Bang Krachao, “the green lungs of Bangkok.”  So close to the city, Bang Krachao seemed so far away.  Small elevated sidewalks connect the villages and everything is slower paced.  The peacefulness of the area made me feel happy and calm, the hustle of the city fading away.

After being dropped off by the ferry it was time for a bonus challenge.  I had to eat a whole century egg.  Century eggs are fermented in clay, lye, and salt for several weeks to a month until they turn deep black and become the texture of jello.  The flavor is salty and fermented, the texture hard to overcome, especially when you get to the black, runny yolk.  However, I won the challenge and we continued on to our next destination.

Mounting bicycles we rode for 5-10 minutes to a small lake.  Waiting for us was a local woman with a basket of lotus flowers.  She proceeded to teach us how to fold the flowers to reveal their beautiful insides, like a natural form of origami.  The lotus flower is the most sacred flower in Buddhism, so after folding them we paced the flowers into our bike baskets to take to the temple later.

The Amazing Adventure Bangkok continued the gastronomic trail to our next challenge; a blind-folded taste test.  We tasted two dishes and it’s amazing how hard it is to tell what food is without seeing it.  My group-mates knew I was a chef so they put a lot of faith in me, but it was the Thai people who were way better at picking out the flavors.  I could not distinguish between fish sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce…ah!  Maybe in time.

We made our way back to the ferry, ditching our bikes at the shop on the river’s edge.  Back in Bangkok we went to a nearby temple where we left our lotus flowers for the Buddha.  The guides explained to me about the Kau Cim sticks, in a bucket near the altar.  After kkneeling and praying, you pass the sticks around incense three times and then begin to shake the sticks, focusing on your question.  After shaking harder and harder, eventually a single stick pops out.  On this stick is a number which corresponds to a paper you draw from a basket to get your fortune.  From here you find the paper with your number which then states your fortune.  I liked parts of mine, but I’m not sure if I did the process right.

Traditionally after receiving your stick you should toss the Jiaobei blocks which have a round side and a flat side.  A correct fortune will result in both stones facing opposite directions, while two rounded sides up means NO or that the gods are displeased with the question.  Two flat sides up can mean NO or that the gods are laughing at you.  If you get this you should repeat the process.  My number was 13 and my Thai guides said “interesting”, but they didn’t go so far as to tell me what that meant!

One last mission of the Amazing Adventure Bangkok was to get back to the starting point and order lunch in Thai.  The five of us, much better friends now, crammed into a four seat taxi.  Very soon we were back at the beginning and we sat in the food court.  Our last challenge was to use Thai words to order certain foods.  All the signs were in Thai as well so we had to ask around, finding certain dishes.  We got some Tom Yum soup, an omelet, and some stir-fried pork and basil leaf.  The food was delicious and as we ate I tried to learn some new Thai words.

The Gastronomic Trail tour put on by The Amazing Adventure Bangkok was a fantastic time!  Much more than I expected, the price of the tour includes everything listed above, even the large meal at the end.  I really couldn’t have eaten any more.  The guides were very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about the city, going to some places that I wouldn’t have found without the tour.  Check out their website for prices and a list of other tours which they put on.  The tour would be especially great if you only had a few days in the city.  Being able to experience the local market and Bang Krachao are things that a normal three-day-tourist can’t accomplish.

Thanks Amazing Adventure Bangkok for a perfect tour!


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Backpacker Fashion : There Are No Rules

Perú is a country packed full of foreigners with huge packs, long hair, and scruffy beards.  When you throw your life into a backpack and run away to far-off parts of the world, what do you bring along to wear?  There is no real consensus on this subject, but rather a lot of different ideas about what a “backpacker” should look like.  Here we will highlight a few groups of backpackers and how they dress:  Backpacker fashion 101.

Backpacking Fashion 101:

1- The People Who Brought Too Much Stuff

These people have different, fashionable outfits for every day of the week, make-up, hats, accessories, and multiple pairs of shoes.  They usually look very well put together, but when they get into town they are usually physically unable to carry their backpack farther than from the taxi to their hostel.

2- The People Who  Always Wear The Awesome Local Stuff

These people show up with a proper-sized backpack, but once something gets a little dirty they ditch it and buy something handcrafted and awesome from the local markets.  Sure you can find cheap goods, but the extra cost adds up.  When the vendors see these people coming, they all run into the street and hound them for cash.  We pretend to dislike these people, but really they just make us jealous because we wish we could afford that much stuff.

3- The People With One Pair of Clothes

These people are generally a little bit grungy, with patches in their jeans and scratches on their sunglasses.  They grow a beard or long hair to add to the feel of it.   Usually these people aren’t hassled as much by the pushy merchants.

4- The Ones Who Aren’t Really Backpackers 

These people sneak into your hostel with several large suitcases, hide them in their private room and call themselves a “backpacker.”  Watch out for these fakers.  Signs include brand-name, impeccably clean clothing and an unwillingness to eat local food!

We definitely fit into backpacker fashion category 3.  We only brought a few outfits each and we’re trying to make them last.  As much as we want to buy EVERYTHING we see in the clothing and jewelry markets, we’d rather save our money to travel farther!  However, we did recently purchase one item which is just the bee’s knees.  I present to you, the AMAZING TECHNICOLORED DREAM PANTS!!!!!!!!!!!

Backpacker FashionThese pants, which come in every color pattern known to man, would clearly be considered pajamas in the U.S., but in South America they are perfectly acceptable and highly-fashionable for backpackers.  Locals don’t wear them in public once they are over they age of five, but who cares?  We’re traveling; we’re allowed to be outrageous and comfortable!  Why NOT wear pajamas down the street, out to dinner, to the club, etc.?  Carrie and I have wanted some since Colombia, but we held out until recently, when the price was right.  We bought this one pair to share, and they are amazing and ridiculous.  You know you love them.  Dig our backpacker fashion?

Of course, some people are very good at what they do and have small packs and look like real people.  Also, people backpacking in their own country or continent generally fit in a lot better than the rest of us.  After awhile you can start to tell where people are from before they even open their mouths.  Almost every backpacker from the States has a pair of trusty Chacos (nearly indestructible sandals).  They make us stick out like a sore thumb to other Americans and are always a good conversation starter.  Aussies and Kiwis, without trying, show up looking like the cast of Wayne’s World (apparently this is a trend down under?) and always carry a tube of Vegamite (gross yeast extract that they put on everything).  The Irish and British spend maybe a little too much time in the local pub, and the French and Germans smoke far too many cigarettes.  The Chinese have the biggest cameras, and, in general, hang out in crowds.  Of course we know these are stereotypes and don’t apply to everyone, but let’s have a laugh at the expense of others once in awhile!  All in all, when you don’t have to show up to work every day, you can dress however you want.  One thing I have never seen a backpacker wear is a suit and tie.  I think we all set them on fire before we left home.

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