Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Miss Saigon in Thailand vs La Jolla Playhouse's Fiasco

“All knowledge that is about human society, and not about the natural world, is historical knowledge, and therefore rests upon judgment and interpretation. This is not to say that facts or data are nonexistent, but that facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.”

― Edward W. Said

In Thailand, the advertisement for a 2012 production in Bangkok of Miss Saigon is very Thai. I don't see a Western name on that cast list. It's all in Thai script. If there was a Westerner, you would see the Western lettering. Given the history of this musical, I also found it interesting that the production poster of the Bangkok production has not a single white face in it. This got me into a mode of thinking about the problems of being Asian in America.

Much of it is directly because of the social media storm that developed after La Jolla Playhouse did a production of a play set in China with very few Asian actors. Hans Christian Anderson's "The Nightingale" becomes a musical with Duncan Sheik lyrics. The fact that it is based on a fairy tale about Asia by a European is a little weird too. So why the uproar? Asian Pacific Americans (APA) are always either ignored, or misread.

Asians in Asia don't have a hangup on identity. They know who they are. They know what their culture demands. If there are no White actors around, they'll cast an Asian. Screw it. They know that they are on top of the food chain in their country. People ask me, "What's up with Asians in America?" It's complicated; it's also sad. In some ways, I've been trying to develop a noun with a proper definition. My working terminology is APA Purgatorio. We exist existentially in the marginalia of cultural contexts. We don't fit in America. We don't necessarily fit in Asia. We are perhaps truly globalized existential beings.

Asian Pacific Americans (APA) are perpetually under various forms of reductionism in the USA. We get statements like:

You speak English so well. How long have you been here? Where are you really from? Etc.

We are considered foreigners in our own land. In Ronald Takaki's Introduction to A Different Mirror, he discusses how the taxi driver didn't recognize that he was an American. So, in terms of casting, we aren't authentic enough. They will import an actress from Asia. Or they will recast an APA character into a Caucasian character. You would think that if you go to Asia, it would be better. Hold your Mongolian horses dude and dudettes, Bruce Lee is the exception, not a rule.

When an APA comes to a country in which Asians run the show and look down upon White people, it shakes up the perpetual inferiority complex. We become a part of the majority. But that really isn't true. We are not always accepted in Asia either. Being APA is a sort of purgatory in Asia too. My stay in Thailand is sort of complicated. They view me first as Japanese, and then get confused when I say I'm American. I'm unusual. In Japan, being Japanese American isn't exactly an asset. I would be miserable trying to find a job in Japan. In some ways, we are never perceived to be good enough. There is an underlying question of "Why did you leave the mother country? Were you poor, or a failure?" Shoot, the Japanese don't even like Japanese who get educated in the Ivy League or the University of California. Ironically, if you are Japanese American, it makes better sense to move to a third country like Thailand, or Vietnam or Singapore. Your English skills become a clear asset.

The APA Purgatorio condition manifests itself much more strongly in the culture industries--Hollywood and Broadway. The La Jolla Playhouse casting issue never showed up on the radar until an APA actress, Erin Quill posted a blog entry that openly criticized this casting decision. This created a wild fire reaction by the Los Angeles Asian American Theater community, so much so, that the La Jolla Playhouse had to have a forum. Casting Controversy Shadows La Jolla Playhouse's 'Nightingale' | KPBS.org. The backlash was sort of weird in the sense of using the premise of a multi-cultural cast was good. But, the lead role went to some white dude? So? What gives?

This is my theory. Asians from Asia are usually preferred over APAs in Hollywood and Broadway. The Harold and Kumar franchise is sort of an exception. This premise of APAs not being good enough to cast as a lead in a role has a long history, and the La Jolla Playhouse drama is not the first or last. They don't believe APAs can draw a theater audience to sell seats. There are examples.

The original production of Miss Saigon takes the wedding cake, the birthday cake, and the upside down cake combined. The fact that the main female protagonist was cast with a Filipina not Vietnamese is intriguing. Lea Salonga is good, but it seems like Hollywood would prefer to import their leading Asian actresses. The fact that the role is being a bargirl doesn't help much in terms of stereotypes of Asian women either. Most of the big Hollywood success stories of Asian male actors are from Asia: Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, Jackie Chan. To a certain extent Ken Watanabe, but that was Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima. If there are Asians in Hollywood leads, they are most often imported. Having Jonathan Pryce cast as the Eurasian brothel owner just reinforced what I call the lack of belief in the marketing power of APAs. They cast him because he was a name, and Caucasian. Only authentic Asians need apply or a substitute will be found. If they cast, Chow Yun Fat, maybe they would have tried, but he doesn't do musicals. Did "The Nightingale" surprise me? No.

The other thing is that we are foreign, but unfortunately not foreign enough for some people. One of the more basic problems about the existential condition of APAs in the USA is that many Americans perceive all Asians as being the foreigner first. Even if you were born and raised in the US of A, you are still asked if you speak English. This is not isolated to Caucasians. Blacks ask the same question. Mexicans call all Asians, chino. There is a disconnect between our appearance and what we are. This plays a role in casting which is more of a sympton of a wider existential condition.

In the David Henry Hwang's interview about his production of Yellowface (His meditation on the Miss Saigon Controversy), he gets into this entire thing about identity and race. You can watch it and come up with your own opinions.

There may be more basic issues--ethnic diversity. Because America is largely a heterogenous society composed of multiple ethnic communities and cultures, you don't have a cohesive American identity tied to ethnicity and to culture. Thailand and Vietnam, however, do have clear national ethnic identities. They are very proud of their country. With APAs, we are sort of stuck, sort of like Black and Hispanics. Blacks sort of have the identity of being slaves and a part of the history of the making of the country, however, the negative aspects. Mexicans, well, some view parts of the USA as originally Mexico, and so, they feel connected. For APAs, we love our country, but our country doesn't necessarily love us. Despite the Chinese building half the transcontinental railroad, APAs are not often included in the melting pot discussion, except during Asian Pacific History Month. For the most part, Hollywood and Broadway have shunned domestically raised APAs. Even a role that obviously screams for casting an Asian will probably get cast with some white guy or a guy who sort of looks Asian if they can't get someone like a Japanese Actor Ken Watanabe to play the role. There are some pretty glaring examples of this practice. One is from the 80s. The other is from the 70s.

Joel Grey was cast as an Korean martial arts master in the 1985 film, Remo Williams. This was really bad yellowface. The makeup really sucks.

I sort of find it difficult that you couldn't find one single Asian American actor to play a martial arts master. Can you say Mister Miyagi anyone? I think there is a reason why people remember The Karate Kid, not Remo Williams. Some things are less clear. Kung Fu the TV series of the 1970s is one show that is really mixed. I like the show, but the history of the show still stings.

It seems that Asian characters can be cast with White actors, especially if it calls for a mixed race character. David Carradine of Kung Fu is a good example. Bruce Lee came up with the concept, but they didn't let him play the part. America's rejection ended up with a number of Hong Kong flicks that rocked the world, so in a way, it ended up producing some great martial arts films. By rejecting him, they created the legend. Still, if you look at Kung Fu the TV series, APAs did get some good parts, but unfortunately, nothing allowed them to be the lead. Most often, they were given supporting mentoring roles. I call it the old martial arts mentor of young white dude role. Perpetual supporting actors roles seem to be standard fare of APA actors. You would think this perpetual support role slot would have changed since the 70s Kung Fu series. Apparently, it hasn't. Instead of casting changes, they change the entire project now.

The La Jolla Playhouse didn't perceive the casting as an issue. Why? The funny thing is that even White people often get miffed when things get cast in a whitewashed way. They made DragonBall into a live action film with White actors. Bad reviews. They made The Last Airbender, which has obvious Asian characters, with mostly white actors. Most stayed home. There were machinations to make the seminal anime movie, Akira, with white actors. Why the need to pull a David Carradine?

The 18 Mighty Mountain Warrior, sketch comedy team, often explore this issue. Sometime comedy is more effective than a rant. In this piece, the children speak. Right now, if they made the film, I would ignore it like I ignored the other anime based films. By de-asianizing it, you lose the soul of the story. I've heard that they've optioned the Japanese film, Battle Royale. Somehow, I think if they remake it with an all white cast, it will suck. Besides, they already made it already with The Hunger Games. I believe there is such a thing as an Asian aesthetic.

So, what to think of it all? America is one mighty screwed up country. We think of race relations having improved recently. I'm not sure. The racial overtones over Obama is disturbing. Recent articles by the AP say that things are mixed. The Associated Press article, "In Obama Era, has race relations improved," shows some contradictory polling and responses.

My other suspicion is that they just cast their friends. If you want to cast APAs, you have to create the forums for them. People often pull out of their networks, and if their networks are not that extensive, you get what you get.

Interesting comparison. Thailand had a similar casting beef a long time ago. The King is held in high esteem here. 1st Rule of Thailand, "Don't mess with the King." Second rule, refer back to first rule. Remember, The King and I, that musical that became Yul Brynner's meal ticket. It's about Thailand or late 1800s Siam. It's based on basically a British nanny's impression of being a nanny to Asians. Most Americans are exposed to Thailand through this musical. Note: Yul was not Thai, but rather Russian American. King Mongkut is Thai. That sucker is banned here. Production, film, book. Et al. It's considered insulting. The casting was insulting. The storyline is insulting. The history is flawed with inaccuracies. It's Banned. Thailand does not suffer such orientalism lightly.

I guess if you want to do a play or a film about Asia with Asian actors, do it in Asia. If you want to recast a version of Miss Saigon or Madame Butterfly, do it in Asia. Maybe we all have to become cultural Bruce Lee warriors to make it happen. But then, APA Purgatorio is sort of like The Train Station in The Matrix. It's hard to break out. The Train Man is always around to keep you there. You must do what you must do. At least one Eurasian actor got to lead in a franchise.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ramkhanhaeng Street Food Scene

You too can be like this man. Well, he has handlers. There are people who recon for him, so he doesn't end up with a very unhappy time paying alms to the almighty altar of Montezuma's Revenge.

Street food is interesting in SE Asia. I've actually traveled quite a bit in this part of the world. The first foreign place that I visited was not Mexico (actually still never been there), but rather Phang Na, Thailand. That's where the Andaman Ocean Tsunami of 2004 hit. That's when I got drafted to do charity work. That's how I was forced to overcome my fear of flying, and now I fly everywhere. And, I am good at it now. Food is a major part of my travel agenda. Bangkok is pretty safe in terms of foodie adventures. Vietnam, is also very nice. Cambodia, well, that's a little interesting. That's one of the few countries in which I got traveler's sickness. And in Cambodia, I recommend beer. As with all travel, sometimes beer is safer than the water. I wasn't entirely convinced that bottled water in Cambodia was safer than beer.

Having been to several parts of Thailand, I have to say that the street food scene of the Ramkhanhaeng area is amazing. There are many areas of Bangkok with strong street food sections, but nothing really compares to the density and the variety of food items that you can get here.

Bangkok is synonymous with good food and the street food culture. If there is room on a sidewalk, they will put up a stall. In fact, many of the street food scenes are located near colleges and universities. They serve relatively cheap food for starving students. In the meantime, the vendors earn money. For the most part in Thailand, there is no unemployment insurance. There are also no regulations or licensing. You can start a business with a cart in a day. Wages are low, but unemployment is also low. This is why the street food scene probably is very strong in Bangkok. Prime locations seem to be around the 7/11 and Fresh Mart areas. People walk into these places and buy a coke, or a beer to go along with the food being served up. Competition is fierce. You have to be the best to survive. So, what can you get? Let's see.

You have fruit stalls. The bananas in Thailand are smaller. They are not the same size as the one's in the States. Also, you have fruit like longan, mango and other stuff.

Every vendor pretty much is a specialist. They only do one type of dish. There may be variations, but generally, they are usually very specific. A noodle stall will focus on a type of noodle. Pork stalls will do the same. Duck stall will only deal with duck dishes.

A view of the street shows that the vendors are also literally on the street. You have a sidewalk, but you can then pick your foods from both sides. By the way, this only begins to become active after sundown. Bangkok is known for its nightlife for a reason. The sunlight in Bangkok can be unrelenting, and many prefer to shop and to go out after sundown.

Both sides of the street have food vendors. The guys on the scooters wearing the orange vests, they are motorcycle taxis. They will take you to a spot for about 10 to 20 baht. That's less than a dollar. I avoid them because they are sort of fearless with cars and going in the opposite direction of traffic sometimes.

As you can tell, the space between one vendor and the vendors sitting in the street are very close. You will not see a food truck in this neighborhood. Number one--too big. Number two--Thailand doesn't have the food Nazis. In Los Angeles, the illegal bacon wrapped hot dog vendors run a cat and mouse game with the food police. The food police here are the customers. That sign on the concrete pole means, "Don't climb it!" If you know the wiring and infrastructure of SE Asia, that's good advice.

There are a number of stalls that specialize in fried foods. Fried fish cakes, shrimp cakes and other stuff. There are also a number of stalls that have a variety of sausages and mystery meat. Thais also eat liver, kidneys, and other things that Americans tend to shun. I can't eat liver. Ever since I was a kid, I detested it. I think it was because of the texture.

Side streets along the main street also are populated by stalls. In fact, you can't go anywhere without your senses being overloaded with food. In Thailand, they don't say, "How are you?" They say, "Have you eaten yet?" The servings are small. The prices will be around 30 baht per plate, which is about a dollar.

At the end of the evening, piles of trash accumulate on corners. They still give out plastic bags here, so people use them up.

You can get some flowers for your girl, and you can get some roasted fish. The street scene is so much more interesting sometimes.

Unlike Los Angeles, there is a vibrant life on the streets of Bangkok. This is especially true in the Ramkhanhaeng area. There are things that you would want to watch out for. Because there are no food Nazis, you have to be very careful. If not, you can have a long day of Montezuma's Revenge.

For example, grilled fish. You can get grilled fish for about 30 baht or about a dollar. That might seem like a bargain. Other fish might be 300 baht. Get the 300 baht fish. It's been sourced from some more reputable companies like CP Group. You can ask, but it is better to have another Thai. Sometimes, you do get what you pay for.

If you are careful, you can get some really good stuff. Grilled squid anybody? These must have been big, as the meat chunks are about a half inch thick. And no, they don't taste like a tire either.

So, if you get a chance, check it out. And by the way, if you so desire, you can have your grilled squid with a beer on the sidewalk next to the 7/11. No one cares.

A Walk along the Neighborhood Khlong, Bangkok

Neighborhoods in Bangkok are very diverse. One mile away from the apartment is the bustle of Ramkhanaheng University and the Thai Sports Authority. On that street, you will experience a massive traffic jam, and endless examples of street food. It's the Bangkok of movies. Where I am, it is rather quiet. On an annual basis, I come by to hang out with my old high school friend, Dr. Ton. He's permanently left the USA to do tsunami relief work, and he now resides in Bangkok. At night, it can be crazy. During the day, a lot of people either work, or they hibernate. I woke up at a decent hour, so I decided to go exploring. What do I see out my window?

It's a mix of neighborhoods. That ugly corregated roof is a restaurant complex. Way out in the distance is what counts as a sort of Coliseium here, which is the Thai Sports Authority. As you can tell, Bangkok, although congested, is green. In between the apartment and Ramkhanhaeng is a khlong. Bangkok used to be called the Venice of Asia, but they have been paving these things over in order to add streets to accommodate the ever increasing levels of traffic.
The sidewalks aren't exactly the best, but a walk in the neighborhood reveals many small shops nearby. There are a number of coffee places, a barber shop and across the khlong (canal) a 7/11. By the way, 7/11 is everywhere, and it is where everyone goes for supplies. You literally can have a 7 every 2 blocks.

You will see all sorts of trees and flowers. I was walking down the street towards the khlong, and came across this thing.

I am living very close to the Khlong KaCha. I'm standing on the bridge. One block from here is the 7/11 and a few other stores. They don't serve hot dogs like in the USA. They cut it up, and put mustard or chili sauce on it. No hot dog buns in this part of the town.


Again, there are very very basic forms of housing right next to condo complexes. It's very green here, but the water is really polluted.


You go down the stairs, and there is a walkway. I did this during the day, because I needed the light, and I don't like walking around during the evening in unfamiliar areas not populated by regular steady traffic. Still, it makes for some interesting photos.

People store things on the concrete beams that stretch across the khlong. It can be rather unsightly, but in Bangkok, you don't have the code police writing you up.

Along the khlong, there are numerous small streets. There are small mom/pop restaurants, and the color of the city is again green.


It is actually a pleasant walk. You can tell that there are people who are sort of just scraping by with the patchwork of housing along the way.

But then, it is sort of cool to have this in your backyard. I just wouldn't recommend you do any fishing or swimming or anything else in that water. It's really smelly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Art of Making Mataba Roti

There is something amazing about the dish that they call roti in Thailand. It can be either a sweet dish often stuffed with bananas, or a savory dish stuffed with some really interesting flavors, much of it being curry in nature. Most of the times, I've eaten the banana version of this dish. On this trip, I finally got a chance to check out a savory version. If you eat roti, generally the venders may be Muslim. It's a dish that has Malaysian roots, and it's sort of a hybridization of global food influences all rolled into a single dish. It's not a crepe. The dough is worked almost like a pizza dough, versus a crepe in which a batter is poured onto one of those pricey crepe pans. There are elements of Indian influences in this dish with the curry. Being often a favorite of Muslims here, it meets the halal requirements as well.

Good food can be found in very humble settings. Most street food chefs are specialists. They focus on one dish and one dish only. When you eat street food in Thailand, it is best to know which vender is good. A local's knowledge is key. By the way, I believe the price was about 40 baht per dish, which is just over a dollar. So this dish is about the same price as an item on the McDonalds dollar menu. Somehow, I think it looks better than a wimpy burger with one pickle.

You can go here to check out a sample of the recipe. This thing is not easy to make. Apparently, there are a lot of people who can make this, but not many people can make it well. Fortunately for me, I'm in an area where a street food stall makes the best in the area. Given the active street food universe of Ramkhanhaeng, it says alot. Competition in street food is fierce. You earn your customer base only if you make good stuff. If you suck, you get no business.

It begins with a dough. I don't know what's in the dough, but it's pretty good stuff. He has it mixed in a way that depending upon how he preps it, it can be chewy or paper thin like filo dough used for baklava. He cooks it on what appears to be a sort of crepe pan, but heated with propane. This is a street food cart, not a food truck or fancy restaurant.

When he is prepping the dough, he tosses it like a pizza man, but the dough becomes paper thin almost translucent. He is also very fast. From beginning to end, it only took a few minutes from tossing to getting it onto the pan.

He would mix the savory contents quickly and efficiently. Egg is also a part of the mix. He was so fast that I couldn't tell exactly what he was putting into the filler. It contains a blend of egg, beef, and chicken with a sort of curry based blend of spices. For a while, I had trouble figuring out what that unique flavor was. Then the little light bulb in my head said, curry powder. Perhaps it is because I'm used to seeing curry in Japanese restaurants and in bowls. Not in a roti.

Into the pan it goes. What the stuff in that pink bowl could be, I am to this day clueless. His hands were too fast for me to pick up on the contents. His wife is the sous chef, and she has all the items ready for him to dump into a mixing bowl. Dump, dump, dump and mix. He then pours the filler into the center of the crisping dough.
On the crepe pan gizmo, he would fold the filler and dough into a square and flip it regularly. Occasionally he would add oil to try to get a crisper texture. We asked for this one to be crispy, and it was great.

Once done, he gets a square parchment paper, and places the mataba on it. He then chops it into bite size pieces.

He always asks you how you want it. The tiny woman is his sous chef wife.

The wife presents the finished product. It comes with a spicy vinegar based dip with cucumbers.

The thumb of approval is declared. From beginning to end, it only took about 10 minutes.

This is how it looks. Can you see the carmelization of the dough? It's crisp, paper thin, and the filling has light hints of curry; it isn't overwhelming. Thin slices of carrot, cucumber and chili are also presented on the side.

We actually got a sweet version as well. This one is filled with bananas. As you can tell, the toppings are not the same. This one was requested as being more chewy. As you can tell, the color of the dough is light, but not crisped.

By the way, he made both of these things under 15 minutes in front of your eyes. Just watching him make this was worth the trip.


Thai Food, Smile Food

On average, you can eat for cheap in Thailand, and when I mean cheap, I mean cheap. This of course depends upon your ability to figure out what's good or bad. If you go to a sit down restaurant in a mall, your costs will go up by quite a bit. As of 2012, the exchange rate between the Thai Baht and the USD is just about 30 baht per dollar. If you spend 300 baht, it's about 10 dollars. In a mall, you can get dishes in the range of about 150 Baht, which is roughly about 5 dollars per meal. Your costs can go up by quite a bit though, depending upon what it is.

How about regular Thai food on the street. The venues are often supersized versions of street food carts. Street food rules in Bangkok. With local venues, the kitchens are often open air, and you sit underneath fans on plastic chairs and plastic tables. Even the indoor restaurants often have outdoor kitchens. Local Thai food is roughly about 30 to 60 baht per dish. Essentially one dish is about a dollar. Some dishes, if you are splurging, can go up to 2 dollars per dish. Now, if you are into eating a variety of dishes, then you are in the foodie heaven of all heavens. Now, if you are a food safety Nazi, then some aspects of this country will irk you. The kitchens often do not have hot water. You will often see people washing dishes on the sidewalk. Many of these places do not have a restroom. Even in the mall, the restroom is located away from the restaurant. The safest thing is to go to places that are crowded, or go to places that a local recommends. Now if you are on a tourist run, the local recommendations might be a little hard. My suggestion would be to use The Lonely Planet guides. They tend to recommend places that are tourist friendly. They are good starting points if you don't have access. Fortunately for me, I have Thai friends who can order for me.

This place serves mainly Issan food. Issan is a northern style of food, and it is most often associated with papaya salad, larbs and other dishes. It is the cuisine that many in the USA might be the most familiar. As a rule, the further south you go, the chili count goes up.

Now, this spread contains 2 papaya salads (one spicy, one mild), rice, sticky rice, larb, a hot and sour beef soup. They will always serve it with some cabbage, Thai basil and a raw bean that makes for good snacking. Total costs for this spread would be about 8 dollars if you go by the idea of each plate being 60 baht. And yes, it's good eats. Here's a rundown on some of the dishes we got here.

Issan style pork slices. These cuts are thinly sliced with a layer of pork fat. The dipping sauce is spicy, although I can't tell you what's in it. This was really good, and quite tender.
Larb. This again is pork larb, which is laced with chili, lime juice, and fish sauce. Onions are a part of this dish. It's quite a bit better than the stuff in Los Angeles.
Papaya salad. The one I ate was spicy with chili. The long beans in this dish are facinating, and crisp. This dish had peanut brittle in it, which gives the salad the sweetness often delivered with palm sugar.
Although Bangkok is a huge mega-city, Thais tend to live, to eat and to go out locally. When I stay in Thailand, I stay close to my high school friend, who lives in the Ramkhanhaeng area by the Thai Sports Authority. It's a location away from the bustle of Sukumvit, which can be a zoo. There is a parking lot area by Ramkhanhaeng University that has a number of venues. This particular area is often called Centerpoint. Generally, all of these places play Thai music to patrons who stay up late, eat and drink. Most of these venues put up canopies, folding or budget chair and tables, and serve enormous amounts of alcohol. Thais enjoy themselves. They drink; they eat; they stay up very late. Very late.

This restaurant/bar is called One Way. In fact, because I don't read Thai, I just know a place by location only.

If you look direcly across from One Way, you can see a vast array of plastic table and food and drink being served. This location becomes really active after sundown. During the day, it is very quiet. Thais come out to eat and to meet with friends quite often during the evenings. A sidebar fact . . . it is rare to see Thai people eating alone. I eat alone, and often someone just sits next to me out of sympathy. Very interesting in terms of culture differences.

So, what types of food can you get at a place like One Way? Some of the best food I've had has been prepared in these types of places. Here's a rundown.

This is an interesting dish. It's marinated pork that has been thinly sliced. Some of it is so thin, that it reminds you of really good Thai pork jerky in LA, but it's much better. When I mean by thin, I mean paper thin.

You may recognize this dish. It's a seafood and pork salad. It has those translucent thai noodles mixed in which chili, lime, fish sauce with I think a touch of Thai basil. You can order this dish from mild to Man Vs Food challenge levels of chili goodness.

This is an interesting beef dish. I can tell that it is deeply marinated. The beef chunks are deep fried into some fatty goodness. I don't know where the cut is coming from, but the texture is chewy in a good way. It's sort of an interesting type of gastropub type of food that you snack on while having a beer.

There are also local places that serve lunch. The prices range from 30 to 60 baht per plate. Next to my apartment here, there is a local place that specializes in these really cool Thai dishes. They already know my pattern. I order a plate. I get a Pepsi. I tip them 10 baht. They also remember me. This is an example of some of their dishes. This is stewed chicken with noodles and veggies. It was really good, and surprisingly light.

This was not a bad dish. The broth is dark, and the vegetables are fresh. The drumstick was laced with the soy sauce goodness of the broth.

These two shots were done with the Hipstamatic app in the iPhone. I've had this soup the second day here. It's spicy with lots of chili. The shrimp was great and the noodles were tasty. A few things were identified by my palate. Coconut milk, chili, fish sauce, galangal root and probably lemon grass.
Unfortunately, many of my food pics are on the iPhone. Bangkok is interesting. The concept of free Wifi is nonexistent here. For Photo Stream to work, I need a Wifi connection, and I may have to update more pics ironically when I am in Hanoi, which is another major foodie destination. I've done a temporary work around using the iPad as a hotspot, uploading to Facebook then downloading the pics. Not very efficient.