The best 24 hours of our trip so far, I think.
Last night, after reading the section titled “Will I die?” in the Moon Guide to Thailand (where they discuss the issue of eating at restaurants vs. street stalls and suggest that generally no, you won’t die eating from street stalls) we plucked up our courage, diverted from our usual mid-range restaurant tradition, and had the best meal of our trip at the Flying Noodle on the riverfront in Phitsanulok.
The Flying Noodle is not, technically, a street stall — it’s more of a giant street-stall collection with tables and chairs and a television set, all under a tent on the side of the river. We had garlic and basil fried chicken, rice, and a large bottle of Singah beer to split, and the total bill was 120 baht, or about $5 (and, by coincidence, the same amount that Catherine paid at The Oriental Hotel for her bottle of Evian water).
By the way, the reason the Flying Noodle is called such is that if you order fried morning glory, your food is thrown backwards over the head of the chef into a plate held by your waiter standing on top of a ladder on top of a truck. You have to see this to believe it.
Phitsanulok was a very pleasant low-key town and we had a very good time there. As near as we could see we were 3 of about 6 western tourists in the entire city, a nice change from touristy Chiang Mai. This made it difficult to walk down the sidewalk, however, as Oliver was stopped every 6 feet or so to accept greeting from shopkeepers, lottery ticket salespeople, police officers and so on.
This morning we were off to the bus station at 9:00 a.m. The bus station was a confusing place, and we made the apparent mistake of buying tickets from a private bus company rather than the state-owned enterprise. As a result we probably paid a little more, and our bus was a little grotty, though not too bad. Oddly we were fed a meal of rice and chicken, along with a glass of Coke at 9:40 a.m. right after we departed, and then there was no further offer of food nor drink for the rest of the trip (save for a self-catered rest stop about 1/2 way through the trip).
The silver lining of the bus trip was that we were seated beside a young Thai woman and her 5 year old daughter. Oliver and daughter became fast friends, and the two of them alternated between our seats and her mothers. The daughter read Oliver our Thai-language copy of “Country Mouse and City Mouse,” shared her cocoa-puffs and potato chips, played puppets and generally kept Oliver well entertained. Midway through the trip we looked over and found Oliver lounging around on his back with his head on the mother’s lap and daughter playing “paddy cake” with him. They exchanged gifts — Oliver got a flower bracelet and daughter one of Oliver’s finger puppets — and then the trip was over.
It’s days like these that make you realize why it’s so important (and fun) to travel.
We arrived Bangkok 3:00 p.m. and hobbled our way to a taxi, which delivered us directly to our hotel. Bangkok is as hot as we remember, but Oliver’s waitress friends at the hotel coffee shop greeted him like an old friend.
Bangkok ‘til Wednesday, then Thursday in Tokyo, followed by another Thursday in Toronto (I think) and home at the end of the week. Snow!?