And the poem began….
Everywhere was quiet.
Throughout the house neither man, nor woman, nor child,
Nay, not even a mouse
All was good and Morpheus smiled kindly down on a family in a far, far away land.
Then the phone blared. A high pitched, discordant klaxon into our lives, shattering the serene slumber that the parents of a 1yr old crave, treasure, would sell their souls for. The diplomat answers. I can hear an excited voice from t’other end of the squawk box. It is a short conversation. A download of information, a data flow moving quicker than the fantasy claims of Rogers or BT Internet providers. Suddenly all is a flurry of action, of movement as the diplomat vaults into the new day.
“Er, what’s up?” I mumble from beneath a cocoon of The White Company.
“Let’s go. The Emporium’s got a 60%-80% sale of all things Karen Millen.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the diplomat cuts a fine figure in anything Karen Millen. And this is Bangkok…the prices will be low. Time to haul ass. Of course, with a 1yr old speed just isn’t possible so – after breakfast, the Teletubbies, several coffees, and a subsequent Isla nap – the diplomat, Isla and I set off from Chez Langsuan. I am more than happy to do this as the diplomat is that rarest of breeds…a non-window shopper. She knows what she wants, what she likes and finds her target swiftly. Plus The Emporium has got a great bookstore I can happily rumble around (see a previous blog extolling Kinokuniya’s virtues) picking up odd novels. I got a great new version of Hugo’s “Les Miserables” for my shelves and Fitzgerald’s “Tales of the Jazz Age”….but I am getting ahead of myself.
So…we back pack Isla, hop on the BTS at Chit Lom and cooling-AC ourselves down to Phrom Phong where I pay the extra 5Baht for mis-judging the station we had to use. Anyway we are there, now time to locate this clothing sale. Which, we do with some ease as this mall is high on quality and low on quantity of shops. It’s less Gap, Next, Loblaws, Primark and more Prada, Cartier, Louis Vuitton. Whilst I sit in the shop both with Isla amusing the gaggle of Thai shop assistants by crawling over to their cash desks and pulling hard on the spaghetti that is their IT connectivity and with the diplomat happily trying on various Karen selection I become increasingly aware of the shop background music.
I cock my head to one side to hear better because surely I’m imagining things? The excited tones of a rap artist swells into the atmosphere.
“Dance with me/Yeah/Yeah/Coz you’re one sh*t b*tch/But I love you/Would f**k you up in the name of love/….“
What? I start to listen intently. Yep, I am not hearing things. Or in this case I am hearing what I think I am. And so the music rolled on with the salty language of a Hornblower port tavern assailing my ears.
I glance at all the smiling Thai assistants.
“Er…poot pah sah, angrit bpen mai?” (Can we speak in English?) I venture. Blank stares and more smiles. Apparently not. They clearly have no idea what the lyrics of their store background music mean.
The diplomat found some bargains, I plugged back the various cables Isla had amused herself with, we paid and left the store with the friendly musical sign off: “That’s a wicked attempt to indulge in sin/F**k, yeah.” Indeed. Quite a sales pitch for Karen Millen.
We went to the bookstore I mentioned and then decided to go grab some food. As you have all probably heard, Thai street food is a natural calling card of the tourist allure for Thailand. We found out what this means to the TWG (The Wellness Group) better known as Twinings. We were softly ushered into a cafe, seated carefully at a table where silver service was laid out and given a menu that consisted of a thousand types of tea. From all over the world. Hot or Iced. It was incredible. After my Jakarta trip I plumped for an Indonesia Green Tea, the diplomat for a Cambodian one. Subsequently, an “Aviator” brunch was ordered which consisted of a chicken salad (with whole peeled tomatoes), a juice of fresh squeezed Fuji apples – a cloudy mix, the aforementioned tea, two scones with jam and creme (word of warning here, no matter how posh the eatery, Thailand cannot do cream. If you want a genuine clotted creme experience head to the UK, to Cornwall/Devon or Dorset in particular), and a patisserie dessert of manicured cakes. Here’s a view of what they were offering on their Thai Street Food menu:
Anyway, having watched Isla select proffered dainty morsels and lob them over her shoulder to the pristine marble floor, we happily sipped on tea and partook of Cordon Bleu level sustenance. It was also so terribly quaint. Thai Street Food – TWG-style, indeed.
The cafe sits neatly in the ground floor atrium of The Emporium and surrounds itself in palm-tree and orchid opulence, glittering golds and exquisite teas. Heck, they had a rotating carousel that was 10m high with a library-esque ladder to both access and spin their massive tea containers around. Each tea was different. Forget that Typhoo nonsense, this is what it’s about. South-East Asia does Tea and does it very well. If you are out here with a culinary agenda, then tea and coffee is a must. Javanese coffees, Thai teas….try them all.
‘Timeless teas’ sums it up pretty well.
All of which can be delivered in porcelain cups, presented in tea pots made with artistry and care. We saw a Russian tea service proudly encased in a glass box, strategically lit for maximum effect. Yours for a mere 153,000Baht (that’s about £3,000).
But…what makes this Thai Street food so very pleasant is the service….as is prevalent throughout Thailand. Thai people understand service, understand nicety, understand the power of the smile, the soft tone. It is not an eagerness to please, it is not a subservience….it is a meeting of equals, where pleasantry, respect, genuine kindness shine through. I’ve walked the scowling streets of New York, been rudely served by sniffing Parisian waiters, run the gauntlet of resentful local pub patrons in London, endured the impatient sighs of Rome’s sales assistants. Here…you get none of that….and here, society relaxes. You get no sense of judgment, no sense of resentment for being a tolerated foreigner in a foreign land. There is no need here for a small corner of a field to be forever England as Rupert Graves laments.
So, as the diplomat, and I sat in our corner for an hour and Isla threw food under the smiling gazes of owners and patrons alike we got a taste of Thai street food – TWG-style.
Is this what diplomacy is all about?