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For eating out, Thailand in general, and Bangkok in particular, offer some of the greatest bargains available on this globe. This is the case for Thai cuisine as well as Western fare. The only exception is beer - not because restaurants charge an exceptionally high mark-up on drinks (even at stores beer is priced higher than in Europe); the reason is a heavy tax. In simple restaurants, a small bottle of beer costs more than the meal itself. It's a tax levied especially on foreigners in the kingdom as Thais prefer the national beverage Mekong, a whiskey more reasonably priced than beer.

A unique fact in Thailand is the quality provided by street kitchens. For 15 to 40 Baht, one can get a full meal at a street kitchen, and while the food there is cheap, it is certainly not cheapish. In Thailand, street kitchens are frequented not only by the poor. For years the author has observed rich people eating at street kitchens at the corner of Sukhumvit Rd and Soi 38 Sukhumvit Rd.

For Westerners it's amazing to see in a Mercedes limousine chauffeured by a uniformed driver parking near a street kitchen, a millionaire and his wife getting out, taking a place at a fragile table and ordering 20 or 30 Baht meals just as their driver would. The setting doesn't seem to be of much importance. What counts is the quality of the food.

The most common dishes at street kitchens are soups. Curry (chicken, beef, or fish) with rice is also commonly served, or noodles with duck, chicken, beef balls or pork. Less common but available at specialized street kitchens are unique things like fried locusts. One doesn't need to speak Thai to order at street kitchens as what one sees is what one gets and it is enough just to point.

Bangkok, aside from having many restaurants famous for the originality of their food, also has one of the most originally named restaurants in the world: Cabbages and Condoms. If one wonders how the latter are prepared as a dish, then one must remain disappointed. It isn't. The solution to the mystery is that this restaurant is run by the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). PDA is a Thai non-profit that implements a variety of family planning, AIDS education and community develpment projects, run by Mr Mechai who is world famous for the open manner in which he propagates condoms. To name this restaurant Cabbages and Condoms was just one more publicity stunt of Mr Mechai (and it worked at least in as far as gaining condoms a special entry in this dining guide). Take note, a regular diner wrote that the food is truly delicious!

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Try walking along Pham Ngu Lao in the evenings and they will get in your way, block your path and hound you... not once, not twice, but every few meters.

http://www.asiatour.com/thailand/e-02trav/et-tra16.htm
Jan Garanoz
Juhu Tara Road, Juhu,
Mumbai - 400049 India
Last updated: March 08, 2011