Possibly you are wondering about my vanishment. The short answer is that I’ve been in Thailand with my parents and Mr Pear. It is a beautiful, generous country, particularly if you know where to go–and, of course, give the land and its people due respect.
I love the mix of old and new in Thailand. I suspect, when faced with the assortment of modern architecture and ubiquity of smartphones in Thailand, some tourists may feel robbed of suitably picturesque backdrops for holiday snaps. It’s always funny when people are bewildered at being greeted by a country that is filled with living, breathing human beings getting on with their daily lives in a vibrant, diverse society that continues to change with the times. The stuff of picture-perfect postcards and lurid novels are mere moments in a whole day full of things.
As a foreigner-native, I try not to exoticise my own country. To readjust my inevitably Westernised lense, I actively thought of Thailand as an entire continuum of lived reality experienced by many people, rather than my own singular fantasy, a static image. I have no intention of treating Thailand as my playground.
We go to Thailand with the understanding that our friends and family there miss us and would like to spend some time with us, but we never expect the generous invitations we receive. We were (and are!) very grateful and deeply appreciative of the the time and effort our friends put into looking after us. As a family of four, we were able to travel around central, north east and northern Thailand in great comfort largely due to friends who welcomed us with endless grace, good humour, and incredible sense of hospitality. We tried our best to be helpful, punctual, and be as willing as possible to be charmed and entertained.
Of course we didn’t impose on these good people all the time. During the first week of our stay in Bangkok, we stayed at Feung Nakorn Balcony, a gem of a family-run hotel which has got consistently excellent reviews on several travel websites. Frequented by tourists within and without Thailand due to its proximity to several tourist sites in the central district of Bangkok, it offers comfortable rooms and excellent customer service. Free wifi was a perk and we took advantage of the on-site laundry service (we handed in the dirty linen before 10am and got it back before noon the next day). I appreciated the decor and general branding of the company, too – a little whimsical and vintage-inspired.
There’s also an interesting bit of local history behind the place.
‘Eh, was this a school?’ my mum asked as she went down the yellow and green stairs on the first morning there.
‘It must’ve been,’ said dad, ‘these colours are school colours.’
‘Then it was probably a very small one, perhaps a primary school,’ said mum. ‘I wonder why it was closed down.’
Later that evening, after spending an extremely hot and sweaty day exploring Bangkok’s temples, we got talking to a grandmother who kept a small shop further down Fueng Nakorn road. We went from purchasing some water, a cold Nescafe and two Yakults to settling down in front of the shop and chatting about the history of this particular bit of the road. Grandmother was proud of the fact that her family had owned the place for over 50 years; before her current business, she sewed school uniforms right in that shop, useful because there was a primary school nearby. It was only in recent years that this very school was turned into Feung Nakorn Balcony: her neighbour’s son had gone there, walking past Grandmother’s shop each school day.
The school closed because it couldn’t compete with the other institutions in the area. I think it’s pretty charming that the Feung Nakorn Balcony was able to retain the original structure, giving the old building new life. The old classrooms are definitely well-suited in size and layout to their new purpose while the balconies give the whole place an airy feel.
The food is also quite good. Breakfast was included in our package (8am – 10am) so we took full advantage of it. There’s always self-serve seasonal fruit, tea and coffee, toast, cereal and accoutrements laid out on a table. Sometimes you get to order from a breakfast set menu, while at other times it’s another self-serve affair from a series of tureens.
These are from the set menu. The fried eggs and minced pork stir fry was not at all spicy and had a nice bold flavour, well seasoned with oyster sauce. The runny yolks were perfect scooped up with toast. Mr. Pear’s omelette with minced pork came with Sriracha drizzled on top and a little bowl of nam pla prik, truly pleasing details. There was also rice congee with pork meatballs, which my dad enjoyed and recommended to me. If I remember correctly, muesli and yoghurt was also available, plus vegetarian options.
The second and third mornings brought us big warmed covered dishes to help ourselves from, to mix and match as we liked. I liked the details: the meat (ham, frankfurters) kept entirely separate from the vegetarian rice and noodles, with a little lemongrass added to the ham for subtle flavour. There were fried eggs available, each remaining runny in the middle despite being held at a certain temperature. The rice and noodles also retained a good texture. This time, though, everything was delicately flavoured, but you’re given a nice selection of condiments at the table to season your individual plate to taste.
Breakfast was so pleasing and the open-air dining room so relaxing that I would have liked to sample the dinner menu, but we were so busy that we always got back later than 8pm, which is last orders.
If I were to stay in the heart of Bangkok again, I’d definitely choose Feung Nakorn Balcony–and I’d stay for dinner this time.