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a bit about Bangkok

Having never set foot in Thailand, there were nevertheless two expectations D hoped to indulge – delicious food and excellent massages – and Bangkok did not disappoint on either score.

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After a late night celebrating the birthday boy, D’s first full day in the city felt lethargic. While most of the guys went to the tailor to get fitted for suits, D and a handful of friends headed to Chatuchak market for a stroll and late breakfast.

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Chatuchak is vast, and though it looks orderly on the tourist map, it can be quite overwhelming. After sampling a variety of delicious fare, the gang split up and D found himself instantly lost in the market maze, which called to mind Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

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In addition to a wide array of food, souvenirs and knickknacks, clothing, and various items for everyday use, there were also a number of establishments offering Thai massages and foot rubs. After wandering around aimlessly and snapping pictures, D decided to give the foot massage a try.

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Although he subsequently had several excellent massages, D regretted the foot rub almost as soon as he sat down. The massage itself was actually quite good, but the venue – a little room hermetically sealed off with sheets of thick plastic – created an atmosphere that was literally painful. The masseurs used a eucalyptus-scented ointment whose odors, trapped in the confined space, seemed capable of peeling paint. D’s eyes began to water after a minute, and he spent the entire massage with his eyes firmly shut – not to maximize enjoyment, but rather to avoid the searing eucalyptus fumes.

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Markets are a great place to people-watch, but despite the crowds of locals Chatuchak also felt a bit touristy – again, much like the Grand Bazaar. Unlike a handful of the markets in Bangkok’s outer boroughs, Chatuchak also stands on firm ground, and D had been hoping to see one of the floating markets he had read about.

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The next morning, D and a friend got up early and took a cab to Khlong Lat Mayom, which is well away from the city center. Lat Mayom is not a floating market per se – it stretches alongside a narrow canal, and though there were a handful of vendors plying their wares from canoes, most of the establishments were set up on either side of the canal.

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There was no question, however, that Lat Mayom was the place to be on the weekend. D spotted only half a dozen white faces among the multitudes that thronged the food stalls that dominate one side of the canal. One of the best things about Thailand is that eating out is an integral part of the national culture – there was nothing special about the weekend, and yet locals flocked to Lat Mayom by the hundreds – if not the thousands – to enjoy a fresh-cooked meal.

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D and his friend tried as many dishes as they could without bursting and still only sampled a miniscule percent of the available fare, which was exceptionally flavorful. From high-end restaurants to a late night tuk-tuk tour of Bangkok’s best hole-in-the-wall eateries, D enjoyed a number of excellent meals in Thailand, but the breakfast in Lat Mayom stands out as one of the more memorable.

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