Bangkok is a huge city. When I travel here I look for the little moments and the tucked away locations that make me want to share this incredible city with others.
On our recent trip to Thailand we took our group on a local food tour. We have done food tours with our guide Nutt before and we were all looking forward to it. This tour was specifically billed as one to taste very local foods, many of which you would not find at most restaurants in Bangkok.
We met Nutt and started our day on a Klong boat on one of the canals in downtown Bangkok. These canals are very efficient for getting around the city. At one time many of what are now streets in downtown Bangkok, were canals. There are a few remaining in the city east of the Chao Phraya river and many still in use on the west side in historic Thonburi.
Before we boarded the Klong boat Nutt introduced us to a common snack for the locals made from sticky rice, coconut and sugar, wrapped in banana leaves and
grilled on an open fire. Very delicious and convenient.
We headed off down the canal, giving us a view behind the scenes of the city. Although not the most picturesque views, it certainly gives you a sense of how many of the locals live. The stops are very quick as the locals hop on and off with ease while on their way to work.
Arriving at our stop we carefully exited the rocking boat, with a hand from the local dock man. Winding our way through a bustling wholesale market where you can buy 10 t-shirts or the ubiquitous “elephant” pants for about twenty Canadian dollars. Nutt guides us through the maze and our next stop is for the most delicious fried bananas, two styles crunchy and creamy. I don’t usually eat bananas but these were incredible!!
We eat our way through this quiet neighbourhood that feels friendly, clean and welcoming. Tucked away off the street is a lovely local market with many stalls making delicious food. Nutt chooses our next items for the food tour tastings and we settle in for more eating.
This is when we meet Thom for the first time. A smiling lady doing a little dance comes up to Nutt to say hi. They chat for a minute, we say hello and share a smile, then she dances off down the aisle. Nutt tells us a little of Thom’s story.
Thom has 11 children.
She is homeless.
She is still smiling.
My first thought is why are none of her children helping her but Nutt explains they are struggling themselves. I ask if I can give Nutt some money for him to give to her. Nutt wants me to give it to her, saying that it will mean so much more coming from a tourist. We have to search for her. She is not begging.
Honestly, I think I am giving her the money to make myself feel better, but when we finally find her and I give a small amount of cash to her she bursts in to tears. Hugs ensue and I am choking back tears myself.
Thom escorts us out of the market to where we are meeting our driver. She heads out on to the street to stop traffic for us so we can cross. Seriously, she does this. This quiet little market is her home, the neighbours her family. The cars stop for her.
This is why I travel. This is why I want to get off the busy main streets in to the not always beautiful back roads. Because this is where the beautiful moments happen.