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Hua Lamphong Food Station


It was this dining experience that made it abundantly clear that despite
what people will tell you, language barriers can be a major stumbling block
in Bangkok. Or maybe it was cultural differences, I'm not sure. Despite
raves about this place, the experience was intimidating and mildly
exasperating. Thailand was tough because I think we overdid it on high end
cuisine geared towards foreigners and I hate to be that kind of tourist, but
being on our own with little guidance and command of the language, pointing
and smiling only gets you so far. We did street food, but the typical
makeshift street side dining was sort of out of bounds. Not that Hua
Lamphong was that sort of restaurant.

I knew getting there would be a little tricky, I didn't even bother
trying with taxis, already having experienced garbled, getting lost traumas.
With a restaurant sharing the same name as the train station, nowhere
nearby, it would just be asking for trouble. Instead we skytrained it,
knowing full well, it would be a meandering trek to the restaurant. How
winding and confusing in the pitch black, we didn't know. There weren't any
streetlights, or sidewalks (duh, that should've been a given by this point
in the trip) and lots of blind corners. I was scared to death we were going
to get run over head-on by either barreling car or motorbike. I was a little
alarmed when we finally found the place (no thanks to directions or maps I'd
read, it was totally on raw instinct) and discovered it was an open-air,
non-air conditioned affair. Our little journey had me dripping buckets. To
their credit, the fans did make it adequately breezy.

The concept of letting someone leisurely peruse a menu or having a
little breathing room while filling out the credit card slip have yet to be
adopted in Thailand. I think they are trying to provide good service, but
it's almost overboard service. I don't know if it was because we were there
in off season, but often we were one of the only customers and the waitstaff
to patron ratio is like eight to one. The menu Hua Lamphong Food Station is
quite large, and I couldn't even tell you about 1/10 of it because we
weren't allowed to glance at it for more than about 60 seconds. Perhaps the
idea is that they suggest items for you, but I like doing things on my own.
We rapidly picked out som tam, gai yang, a frog dish and something else that
I can't recall. We did not get the frog dish, but received a mixed mushroom
entre instead (it was surprisingly tasty for how simple it looked).
Everything we asked for was met with a blank faced stare. All the dishes
we'd mention seemed to be ignored, instead other items were called out to
us. I'm not sure if the waiter didn't like our choices or didn't understand
our mangled Thai. The biggest mistake James made was pointing at his watch
and trying to indicate that we needed more time. To me, watch-pointing would
seem universally to indicate hurry.

I had wanted to try Northern style Thai cooking so I was excited, but
the food almost started seemed inconsequential after the stressful ordering
and dining experience (there's always staff standing behind or next to you
watching all your moves). I will say the som tam (which was the Thai style,
not the Laotian rendition, which uses fermented fish sauce nam pla raa and
field crabs, which I only know from researching ahead of time–I didn't get
a chance to find it on the menu) was the spiciest, and quite possibly the
best I've ever had. I was mildly confused about how to eat the overflowing
plate of herbs that comes with assorted nam prik. Do you dip them and eat
them like crudites or mix them with the meal? I felt like a loser for
leaving so much herb behind. I also felt like a loser for being so lost,
like I was missing out on some ordering secret. It was a total white person
clientele and no one else seemed to be having problems, though from
eavesdropping I was able to deduce that each table appeared to have a
requisite Thai-speaking orderer that seemed to enjoy showing off to family
and friends. I'm not a fan of show boaters, but in this case a show off
companion might've been useful.

Hua Lamphong Food Station * 92/1 Sukhumvit 34,Bangkok,

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