Thursday, November 29, 2007

Breakfast at Lumphini.

Though I'm not nearly as nocturnal as I was in college, I'm still not an early riser. Waking up at 6:40 in order to commute to school is a fair challenge for me, nearly impossible without a strong cup of coffee. Yet last night when I read a note on the Nancy Chandler map mentioning breakfast stands in Lumphini Park, I convinced Bordeaux that we had to set our alarms for 5:45 in order to go.

Set beneath the high rise towers of Sathorn, Lumphini is the definition of urban-exotic, with unusual trees and tropical palms clustering along well laid out pedestrian paths, and with ornate pavilions and pagodas resting on the banks of a placid lake. As described in the guidebooks, the grounds of the park were crowded with people exercising in the pale early morning light. There were older women slowly moving their bodies through tai chi practice, young people biking, and dozens of older men in too-short running shorts. There were also less expected sights, like elderly women wielding swords, and several couples stepping through ballroom dance moves to a blaring big band record.

Though there was much to distract us in the park, we were in search of breakfast. We crossed the park, and stepped out onto Soi Sarasin, where a number of food stands clustered against the park's northern fence. We walked past several stands, who offered dim sum, noodle soups, porridges, and many other highly fragrant dishes under wide umbrellas. Coffee was our first priority, however, so we waited to choose one until we could find a stand brewing coffee in tin kettles.

We stopped at a roti stand, which featured a kitchen built into the back of a truck. Two girls were working in the back: one rolled out balls of roti dough, and the other flipped them onto the grill. Bordeaux asked if they had 'kaafae thung'- the thick, rich bag coffee- and one of the waitresses nodded yes. As we tried to figure out what to have for breakfast, a helpful jogger stopped to translate for us. He asked if we wanted coffee and, pointing to the grill, asked if we wanted the breakfast combo. There were several plates going out at the same time, so it was difficult to tell what we would be getting, but we hoped it would be something with roti.

Unfortunately, it was not. We were first brought the coffee, which was actually Nescafe. We were then brought our breakfast, two platters of an 'American style' breakfast of eggs, ham, and a sausage, clustered around a salad with mayonnaise dressing. While not terribly exciting or flavorful, the meal benefited greatly from a heavy dose of chili sauce, and was perfectly satisfying. We enjoyed the breakfast slowly, listening to the conversation of the old men and women sitting around us, and the calls of the lottery ticket sellers.

As we were eating, an older gentleman sat down at the table with us, and showed us what we should have ordered: a plate of scrambled egg and roti, dripping with condensed milk. After finishing our large breakfasts, we were feeling satisfied- but I was too curious to leave without ordering the roti scramble. Despite what the picture above suggests, it was incredibly delicious: buttery roti coated in fluffy scrambled eggs, sweetened with the syrupy milk. We managed to finish the whole plate without trouble.

Despite the challenge of waking up early, I'll certainly return; and next time I'll make sure to get a cup of real coffee, and to order the roti scramble.


Heather Moore said...

What a beautiful tale! I am absolutely green with envy every time I read your blog!

christel said...

i think you should do this every day...and join the old ladies for tai chi...

laradunston said...

Oh, we looked for the food stands recently but I think we were too late and must have missed them - couldn't find them? - what time do they pack up?

How are those enormous lizards that look like crocodiles? Crazy! Especially when you accidentally come across a colossal one basking in the sun? Do you know what they are exactly? There was no-one around for us to ask when we visited. I'll have to look it up. Loving the blog!

Katie said...

i want to visit you.

repeat x1000.

Xander said...

I think those massive lizards were likely Giant Water Monitors, close relatives to the Komodo Dragon, and the African Nile Monitor. I actually haven't seen them, but I've read about them- apparently they're quite common along the khlongs (canals) and rivers here in Thailand, and have adapted quick successfully to life in Lumphini Park. I think I will have to return to Lumphini, both for breakfast and for a little urban safari in search of these creatures.

I think the food stands close up around 8 am. When we arrived, around 6:40, the sidewalk was packed with customers, and was quite lively. By the time we left, maybe 30-40 minutes later, it was already growing quiet, with only a few stragglers reading the paper and slurping their last noodles.

And Katie, we have a couch that is always ready for you. x1000


Anonymous said...

The 2008 edition of Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok is currently in production. Look out for it in March 2008!