It’s no secret that these past few days have been the hottest that Thailand has seen for decades. I can barely drag myself back home before I want to plop myself onto my couch and go to sleep. That is, after I carefully dry out the sweat-drenched handkerchief I have taken to carrying around with me for when I inevitably start melting on the Skytrain platform. I have bought an assortment of handkerchiefs for just this very purpose, in different colors to suit my varying moods. My transformation into elderly Japanese man is nearly complete.
Many people say that global warming is to blame for hot spells like these. Yet, as with everything else — people who congratulate themselves for having not read A Song of Ice and Fire, for example, like illiteracy is a badge of honor — there are a handful of naysayers who seek to buck the conventional wisdom. These are the people who insist that what we are experiencing on a global scale is a normal blip in the sequence of things, and we are not slowly broiling ourselves to death. English-speakers liken them to ostriches with their heads in the sand. Thais have a term for them too: they are frogs in coconuts.
The term is old-fashioned, but it still applies. The coconuts may have changed, but they are still there, air-conditioned, sprawling, outfitted with many Starbucks and Burger Kings for your particular convenience. They are our shelters from the cruel concrete world. They also, somehow, harbor decent “street food” dishes, even though you have not trawled through winding alleyways or braved potential carbon monoxide poisoning for them. When it’s this hot outside, one need not suffer so much for a good bowl of noodles (as long as you’re willing to pay for it). Here are three places where the coconut yields some good-enough flesh.
1. Bamee Sawang
This outpost of the famous streetside bamee vendor on Rama IV Road is probably the most popular noodle place located in Emporium’s newishly-refurbished Food Hall (Sukhumvit 24, BTS Phrom Phong). It’s almost the same thing, but without the fluorescent green lighting or the elderly Thai man who insists on reminding you (over and over again) that alcohol is not allowed on the premises.
2. Peninsula Plaza
Despite the relentlessly “fancy” surroundings — like the sitting room of your favorite stuffed doll-collecting widowed aunt — Peninsula Plaza (153 Rajadamri Road, BTS Rajadamri) has long served some of the most popular bowls of “boat noodles” in the city. Incongruously called “Provence”, the specialties here are actually upscale versions of Thai street food, like Thai-Chinese-style porpia sod (“spring rolls” wrapped in white flour dough and slathered in a sweet sauce) and deep-fried wontons. The boat noodles — so called because they were first served from the boats that plied Bangkok’s canals in the 1940s and seasoned with a dash of pork or beef blood mixed with salt — are by far the most famous, considered an oasis of flavor in an otherwise timid menu.
3. Nuer Koo
Even I was skeptical about this place, since there is another fancy beef noodle place that my family is fanatically loyal to. But if I don’t feel like trekking to this other place, and want to take the Skytrain with my collection of multi-colored handkerchiefs, then Nuer Koo at Paragon (4th floor, Rama I Road, BTS Siam) is my most likely destination. They too offer wagyu and “Japanese kobe” beef noodles, as well as kurobuta pork for non-beef eaters. Not surprisingly, this kind of imported beef noodle bowl costs a pretty penny, but then again, no one said the luxuries of the coconut would be free.