April 17, 2007

Taken for a ride on a tuktuk

from inside the tuktuk

Ahh the Thais, they're quite the colorful characters. We met all sorts. Though I did not feel from them the genuine warmth that exuded from the Hanoi locals, they were mostly a nice enough bunch peppered with the occasional crude dude.

Such as the taxi driver who wouldn't take us up the driveway of our hotel, shooing us all off with both hands when we refused to budge. Adamant, I reminded him that we were paying him x amount of money (his was the only taxi we allowed ourselves to ride unmetered) so the least he could do was take us up to the lobby instead of leaving us at the curb. He responded to this with a loud demonic laugh "mwahahaha...EJECT!!!" as he jabbed at an invisible button on his dashboard. I stared at him incredulous from my position at shotgun. Is he doing what I think he's doing? His eyes then grew wide and he shouted with all the force he could muster "BOOM!!!", accompanying this imaginary explosion with his arms. Holymotherof! He is! The nerrrrve! :-O We were so shocked, we stormed out of his cab and for dramatic effect, I slammed the door. As we walked up the steep driveway, we burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter. We had been launched from a taxi!

While that turned out to be funny in retrospect, this one wasn't. We wanted to go to Somboon Seafood restaurant and we decided to take a tuktuk for the sake of the experience. Because there were six of us and only about 3 fit comfortable in each, we hailed 2 of them. I told the first driver where we wanted to go and even showed the Thai name of the restaurant and it's address. He knew the place, he said, but didn't we want to go to a nearer branch? I insisted on the one at Surawong because it was near Patpong which we planned to walk to after dinner. After arguing with him, he finally agreed to take us there. I climbed into the second tuktuk and told the driver to follow the first. Riding the tuktuk is actually really fun and it brought back memories of my pedicab riding days in Dumaguete.

About 5 minutes later, the first driver stops his tuktuk in the middle of the road and walks over to us, again insisting to take us to the nearer one. At this point, I am starting to get annoyed and I threaten to abandonthe tuktuks for a taxi if he doesn't take us where we want to go. He mumbles something incoherent and climbs back on his seat and we continue on. We arrive at the restaurant and before I could even step out of the tuktuk, a menu was shoved into my hands by a waiter. Okayyyy, a little too eager are we?

The guidebook described Somboon as a bright and modern restaurant and there was nothing modern about this one. The sign above read Somboondee. Grrrrrrrr. Ok it takes a lot to get me mad, but oooohhhh was I pissed off. They deliberately ignored our instructions and took us for fools by bringing us to this impostor of a place. Turns out, these drivers get a cut when they take unknowing tourists there. Madre mia.

fried crab with black pepper

There was an angry exchange of words between me and the waiter/manager and between me and the tuktuk drivers. We paid the tuktuk drivers half of the agreed amount and told them they should be thankful we were paying them anything at all. Undaunted, we walked out of there determined to find someone who would take us to the real thing.

Thankfully, the first taxi that pulled up alongside us did. All six of us squeezed in and we vented our frustration all the way to our destination. I knew immediately we were at the right place when we arrived. The big glass windows of Somboon offered us a of the bright and clean interiors and no one was dragging us in by our hair.
curried crab - their signature dish

Boy, can I just say the food in Somboon was worth fighting for! No wonder every single person I asked recommendations from listed this. It's become such an institution in Bangkok and is so sought-after that they've created a knock-off version.

They gave us picture menus which facilitated the ordering process. We tried not to overdo it, but everything looked and sounded so good. Within minutes our table was crowded with plates of super fresh and gorgeous-looking seafood. A cart was wheeled up to our table and here they set up a mini bar for our drinks and ice. The waitstaff was very friendly and accomodating. It was already 10:00 and yet the place still had a good crowd.

My favorite: the deep fried fish in sweetened fish sauce
Somboon is a no-frills Chinese-Thai seafood restaurant. Your first sign that there will be Chinese flavors are the chopsticks on the table because the Thais do not use chopsticks. I will not even attempt to describe the food because I couldn't do it justice. Even the pictures (only the steamed prawns with garlic is not pictured) fail to capture the freshness and scrumptiousness of these gifts from the sea. Everything was superb! And from the mouthful mmmms and ohmygods from around the table, it was obvious everyone agreed.

But my most favorite of all was the fried fish! It was crispy on the outside and super soft and juicy on the inside. The sauce with which it was glazed and on which it lay was sweetened fish sauce or naam pla. It was just the most delightful sauce and I couldn't get enough of it. Good thing this dish came last because as soon as I tried it, I practically forgot about the other food.

Oyster Omelette

morning glory

It was unanimous that this was the best meal we had in Bangkok!

<-- look for this sign!

Take note of the Fake Somboon Scam warning in the restaurant's website.


Katrina said...

Wow, that's a lot of food on that table! YUM! I just realized a great advantage you had over me: you went to Bangkok with a group (while there would just be the two of us going), which meant you could try many more dishes! With Asian food, ordering "family style" is always the ideal.

That scam is just terrible. That's the problem with going to popular tourist destinations -- all the traps. But I admire you for not getting defeated and being able to argue, despite the language barrier. English is not widely spoken in Thailand at all. How'd you manage to argue with them?

christine said...

You're right, it would be a challenge trying all the different foods when there aren't enough of you to finish everything. But just do it one dish at a time, and start with the ones that call out to you the loudest. :)

I argued with them in broken english and lots of hand gestures and sign language. I swear, the way I was speaking was actually pretty funny, my sentences were devoid of any articles, prepositions and conjunctions. "We want go Somboon Patpong!! No! Not near one, only in Patpong! We no pay you!"

Mila Tan said...

Your sentences sort of sound like my dad's friends when they are trying to explain (shouting of course) their pov in english.

What I find really horrible was the taxi driver ejecting you. Gad! The Thai Tourism Authority should make sure things like that don't happen.

I figure my thailand trips have been relatively stress free since I go with thai friends everywhere, they choose where we eat, how to get there. And even my farang friends speak thai, so we just sit back and let them yack away at the taxi drivers, etc.

joey said...

Nens! Oh the frustration! I can just imagine! But then, with the "eject" guy, despite my inis, I was trying hard not to laugh at the image that made!

But seriously...terrible, terrible. I mean, i understand tourist traps like being taken to all those "souvenier" shops on tour...but dear lord, these taxis and tuktuks not taking where you pay them to...too much.

At least you ended your night with what looks to be an super duper amazing meal! I was salivating! And we do get to go together one day I will definitely take the cooking class with you!

christine said...

Mila, haha, our "ejection" was indeed horrible but it makes for some funny recounts later. When I travel, I prefer to go around the way the locals do when I can, because it's during times ilke these that you meet the most interesting of characters! :) I secretly enjoyed both incidents hehe.

Jo, the meal blew my mind seriously. When you go, you have to make sure to put Somboon on your list! And yes, we should do the cooking classes, there were so many I was reading about from the hotel booklet. Lots of restaurants do it there now!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

All that yummy food makes my tummy rumble! I'd love to go to Thailand...

Susan said...

I'm sorry to hear about the scam. It's so unfortunate.

christine said...

Hi Rosa! It's making my tummy rumble just remembering it! :) If you ever get a chance to go, make sure you visit this restaurant.

Susan, while it was unfortunate,it was actually quite amusing in retrospect. And it's always nice to have such tales to bring home with you. It also made us appreciate the food even more when we got to the real place! :)

canDIshhh said...

Everything looks WONDERFUL and mouthwatering!! Now, I'm really excited to go to Bangkok later this year!!

christine said...

Candisshhh, please do yourself a favor and make a trip to Somboon. It's a must in Bangkok!

grumpyurbanslacker said...

hey gypsy,

that "EJECT" tuktuk driver obviously didn't attend any of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's seminars:D LOL

I think that's the main (actually, ONLY) disadvantage of BKK over MNL, that not everyone is conversant in English.

Somboon is indeed fantastic! Food makes up for the lack of ambiance.

christine said...

Hi GUS! The "eject guy" was the taxi driver not the tuktuk driver and NO he obviously didn't haha! I still laugh whenever I remember his maniacal laugh and the crazed expression on his face.

Oh my, you know Somboon too! Seems everyone who's been to Bangkok has tried and loved it! I just saw Lori's (dessertcomesfirst) post on it and we had almost exactly the same orders! :)

lia said...

hi christine, thanks so very much for sharing your travel experiences. i always check your blog for tips on where to go, what to do, and what to eat in a city. what you write is truly invaluable.

when i visited bangkok last month, i also went to somboon seafood and it was really good! loved their black pepper crabs! our relatives in bangkok who've been staying there for 3 yrs already are raring to to try it out too.

are you going to kuala lumpur soon? ;)

christine said...

Hi Lia, thank you for the nice message. I'm so happy to know my posts were useful to you. Somboon is such a hit with everyone who tries it! I don't have any plans of going to KL soon. Id been there before for work so it's not in my immediate future, unless work sends me there again. Are you going?

ness said...

i love this blog! all about travel. and food. yum!

had a bad experience with the tuktuks, too. here it is.


christine said...

Hi Ness! Oh no, sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the tuktuks also. It's part of the whole adventure though. :) I'll check out your story, thanks for sending the link!

Miss Bangkok Hotels said...

Wow Thai food is wonderful taste and Tuk-Tuk taxi is such a amazing!!!! Thank you for your post.