Landing in Bangkok just a couple weeks off from my Japan trip, I didn’t expect to have another tea problem. Bangkok totally caught me off guard with it this time! I had been to Bangkok a few times before. So I’m not a Bangkok newbie. I know my way well around the Chatuchak market, Pratunam, and Siam. Those are my playing grounds.
That being said, I just realized on my recent trip that I never actually venture far beyond Chatuchak and the Asiatique. It was like the farthest I went as far as Bangkok’s area. I stay in the centre where everything is modern and westernize. If you can still see a farang, then you know you are still in central. That’s what a Thai friend told me. So when you are staying around these areas, finding a Chinese tea will not be a problem. In the hotel or restaurant, you will find a tea bag side by side with the instant coffee. No wonder I didn’t realize that the tea was actually not a thing for the local. Once again, I’ve taken my Chinese tea for granted.
The revelation was connected to my Wang Lang’s adventure. Whenever I was sick, I like to have tea as a self-medication. Everything just feels a bit better after a cup of tea for me. Naturally, after my episode, I would like to have a cup of hot tea. I know for sure that the drink will help to ease my angry stomach.
I was staying at an Airbnb (my favorite type of accommodation when traveling lately) and when I booked it, I didn’t notice that the place was actually far from the central. It was near to the MRT line, so I thought that as long as there’s one nearby, then I’m good. I did find it a bit odd that my apartment has a complete fridge full of all sorts of drinks, but lacking in tea. The same story continued to the pantry. I could only found an instant coffee mix there. My thoughts were probably my host was running out of tea and forgot to buy some. Only later after hearing what my Thai friend told me, it all makes sense for me. There was no farang around where I stayed. So it means that I’m going local. And as a result, no Chinese tea because the local doesn’t really do tea – the big culture shock.
There’s one food stall in the building, so I went there. If they serve food and drink, they must have tea, right? With full of confidence, I ordered two iced teas to the owner lady. It took her around twenty minutes to prepare my drinks. I wondered why it took her so long to prepare my tea. Probably because she has to boil the water first? Or probably she needs to go and buy the tea leaves somewhere?
Finally, the ice teas were ready. The owner lady smilingly handed over two big cups of Thai milk tea. Oh dear, no wonder it took her ages to prepare it! It never crossed my mind that when I ordered an iced tea, it will be translated into a Thai milk tea.
Reading my confused face, the owner lady knew that there was something wrong with the drinks. I tried to explain it to her that what I want was actually only a simple tea – no milk. I’ll take it hot if it’s easier for her and also so I don’t have to wait for another twenty minutes. Graciously she offered to take back one of the Thai milk teas, saying that I won’t be able to finish all four drinks when the next batch of teas are ready. I totally didn’t mind actually, I could just keep all the drinks for later, but the owner lady insisted. So I returned a cup to her, which she stored it in the fridge for the next person.
The second tea batch didn’t take as long as the first batch to prepare. So I was hopeful. After paying for all three cups and thanking the lady owner off I go.
It’s a good thing that I didn’t try my tea again in front of her or else she will see me got confused all over again. The tea didn’t taste like my normal tea. It was smooth, thick, and taste very much like the Thai milk tea only less milk. So even without the milk, the Thai tea is still far from the Chinese tea I wanted…
Probably I will just bring a box of Lipton next time when I travel for safety measure.