Bangkok is a Massaman

1 Aug

Just a few weeks ago on my usual walk in the old part of Bangkok city, the things I always do when I want to escape the hectic and busy life of Bangkok CBD, I stumbled upon an antique shop selling beautiful chandeliers and old European clocks on the street of Phra Sumen, just a few minutes from Khaosarn Road. I ended up spending hours talking and sharing coconut ice cream with the owner, the soft-spoken middle aged man whom I now call Uncle Somyot.

I asked him out of curiosity about his definition of Bangkok; he paused and think for a while before saying:

“Bangkok is like a big pot of curry, the Massaman curry actually”

Why is that?,I asked

“It’s because everyone can eat massaman curry,” Somyot said. “No matter where they are from, the taste of the massaman is to everyone’s liking, it’s not as spicy like other curries.” I thought about this rich-flavoured southern Thai dish for a second, and recalled the aromatic spice mixed, pounded together to make the orange curry paste, cooked with coconut milk, potatoes, roasted peanuts and meat and served with cucumber relish on the side. The curry does not taste as intense as other kinds of curry, and those who have tasted the Massaman would agree that it is easy to eat.

What a good metaphor, I said aloud. It really made sense now that I thought about it.

He gave me a big smile, for the first time after spending almost an hour together in his shop.


“Bangkok is changing, it is hard to trust anyone these days, what a pity,” Somyot said as he walked me out the door.

I have to disagree with you, but thank you for the ice cream and very interesting conversation.

He waved his hand and shook his head as if he’s disapproval on my remarks

“Come back again next time, you just missed those people, they come here all the time to chat, you’ll find them interesting.”

He named some famous representatives from a new political party whose office is a few minutes walk from his shop.

I’d like that. Thank you

I walked out of the shop with a smile on my face heading to the pier to catch a Chao Phraya Ferry home thinking I should bring him some presents next time I come by.


Note :

I went back to the same shop, two  months later, this time Uncle Somyot took me to lunch just opposite his shop, when I tried to ask him things, he said

” Eat First, talk later”

and I humbly followed his instruction.


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