There is of course much more to Bangkok than awe-inspiring temples. DonQui is determined to explore further — seeking out the backwaters and backstreets.
DonQui has engaged one of Bangkok’s famous long tail boats to give him a tour of the river and canals.
Along the way there are yet more temples and this impressive statue of Buddha, nicely set off by the pink of the setting sun.
For the most part, the canals are lined with various wooden shops and habitations.
…not all of which are in the best of repair.
After a most interesting trip the boat pulls in to the dock of the Chakrabongse Villas on the posh side of the river. DonQui is lucky enough to be staying here for a couple of nights.
Later he tries out the spanking new Metro to get a little further afield. The station entrance looks more like the lobby of an expensive five star hotel than an underground station. DonQui ponders the fact that the Victorians had similar ideas when they first built London’s grand railway stations such as St Pancras.
Clean and efficient, the Metro is pretty easy to use with signs in English as well as Thai. The same unwritten rules seem to apply as on the London Underground — no one talks to anyone. Given that there is a phone signal, phones replace newspapers as a device to ensure that no one disturbs the peace and quiet of one’s journey.
For shorter trips it is hard to beat a tuk tuk. Prices are flexible with tourists often paying a premium. DonQui is lucky to have a local negotiate the fare for him.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without some time in the backpacker hub of Khao San Road with its many bars, restaurants, cannabis cafés and places offering Thai massage.
There are a huge variety of interesting street food stalls — some offering cooked spiders, scorpions and other unsavoury creatures which DonQui is not tempted to try. The area may be a bit of a tourist cliché but it is a lot of fun.
So he takes a pew, orders a beer or two, and settles in to watch the wild life.
Having decided to eat his way around Sicily, DonQui begins his gastronomic tour in Palermo.
The coffee from the machine in the hotel breakfast room is not that great so he takes a tip from a local and starts his day with a super-charged shot of espresso from the bar over the road.
Then he makes his way over to Capo market which is reminiscent of an Arab souk. This is hardly surprising given that it sprung up during the Arab occupation of Sicily 1200 years ago.
The tastefully arranged displays of vegetables are amazing and DonQui learns a couple of interesting facts.
These super long zucchini (courgettes) are a local speciality. They are grown over trellises which allow the zucchini to hang down and gain their long length.
In Palermo, broccoli is called “sparacelli” and cauliflower is called “broccoli”.
Palermo is famous for its street food.
After a bit of a wander around the market, DonQui stops off atArianna’s “Friggitoria Gastronomia” to sample some.
Cazzili are a sort of potato fritter flavoured with mint and parsley. Although not a great potato eater, DonQui rather likes them although one is plenty for him.
Next up are arancine — deep fried balls of saffron-flavoured rice with a filling of meat and vegetables. These can be found all over Italy but these ones use the original recipe which pre-dates the introduction of tomatoes to Europe. They are utterly delicious and DonQui much prefers the saffron rice to the tomato infused version often served elsewhere.
DonQui is informed by his local guide that a good arancina needs to be crisp and crunchy on the outside. This can only be achieved if freshly fried. If left in a display case for any length of time the steam will cause it to go soggy.
Panella — a fritter of chickpea flour is OK but a bit boring. It needs a good squeeze of lemon to give it some cut-though but even then it is rather bland, stodgy and a bit greasy. DonQui can imagine that it would be the sort of thing he might enjoy later in the evening after a few too many beers.
After a bit of a trot around the old city to work off one or two calories, DonQui summons up the courage to taste that most infamous of Palermo street food — the pani ca meusa, or spleen sandwich.
The inhabitants of Palermo love their spleen sandwiches and 72 year old Pippo has been preparing them since he was 6. His are reputed to be the best in the city.
Thinly sliced pieces of offal are slowly simmered in a cauldron. The only spicing is salt. You can have them “single” with just a squeeze of lemon, or “married” with a sprinkling of cheese as well. DonQui goes for the former as his guide advises that it is best to remain single at first and only contemplate marriage later.
DonQui finds it absolutely delicious. The meat is very tender and quite mild-tasting. The lemon juice provides a bit of a zing which balances the flavours perfectly. Maybe next time he will try ithe ‘married’ version with cheese.
A short trot away from Pippo’s spleen sandwich stall is a tiny taverna which has been operated by the same family since the 19th century.It is a bit of a dive but DonQui rather likes this as the place has plenty of atmosphere.
Here he samples the local sangue or “blood wine”. This is a rough, sweet, fortified wine — a little bit like port without any refinement. It is rather good and DonQui is glad he tried it, even if it does not quite match the taste of a good port or marsala.
To accompany his sangue he nibbles on some cheese and a piece of sfincione — thick soft bread with a topping of tomato, onion and anchovies. Although often described as Sicilian pizza, DonQui thinks it is perhaps more like a soft bruschetta. It is OK but not outstanding.
Having grazed his way around the old city, DonQui stops off at a gelateria for a coffee and bacio ice cream. A more traditional way to have an ice cream in Palermo would have been a broscia which is a brioche cut in half with an ice cream in the middle. Since he has eaten so much already DonQui decides to stick with a cone as do most of the locals eating there.
His stroll around the city provides DonQui with more than enough food to last him the day. In the evening he settles down at the very pleasant Caffe Spinnato on via Belvadore for a beer or two.
As these come with copious snacks he has no need to seek out a restaurant for dinner.
Note:DonQui likes to portray himself as an intrepid, independent explorer. He has a bit of that in him but the truth is that he would never have discovered the delights of Palermo street food on his own. His guide was the knowledgable and cheerful Marco on Exodus’ Sicily Food Adventure tour.