Thursday, October 18, 2012

The unicycle, the helmet, and the flying chicken ...

One of the best things about staying in a city with people who actually live there, is that you get to experience things that are off the beaten tourist track.
So when my highschool buddy Carolyn and I stayed with our mutual former classmate Ian in Bangkok earlier this year, we got to some fantastic places that don't feature on the usual tourism brochures.
Not for us the one-size-fit-all Thai show theme nights, complete with dancing shows. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Instead we experienced the best and most basic of Bangkok's drinking establishments (more on that later).
We ate at basic food courts and the most exclusive restaurants, enjoyed real Thai massages and beauty therapies, and perhaps most memorably of all, dined at a local institution: Suan Aharn Kraton, or The Flying Chicken.
Where else but Bangkok, can you dine at a restaurant where a waiter impails a pre-roasted chook onto a spring-loaded catapault? Once there, he douses the unfortunate bird with alcohol, sets it alight, then sends it flying into the air and across the restaurant, over the heads of diners towards a waiter on a unicycle.
(Stay with me readers, because the best is yet to come.)
As the chicken sails through the air - bringing new meaning to the words 'fast food' - the unicycle-riding waiter cycles towards the chicken and ceremoniously catches it on a spike carried in his teeth. Or in his hands. Or on a spiky helmet worn on his head. Or on a plate. Or even all of the above. Occasionally, he'll piggyback a child on his shoulders as well.
And then the chicken is delivered to your table, with a flower adorning where the head should be, all the better to be devoured.
Yes it's cheesy and just a little bit weird, but can you honestly say you've ever eaten at a restaurant like this before?
Outside and inside the restaurant, glittering (pretend) chickens sit wisely, as if casting judgement or granting blessings on diners.
Bored, beautifully-dressed waitresses swat at mosquitos and other insects with tennis-racquet-like bug-killers, while you eat.
Waiters and waitresses take it in turns to sing, or you can book private karaoke rooms for your own singing sessions, and enjoy a pre or post-dinner massage if the mood should take you.
Then there's the audience-participation part of the evening, where diners are invited to take part.
Presumably bearing in mind the possibility of dropping and spoilage, diners are offered foil-wrapped potatoes to catch instead of chickens.
Perhaps wisely, Carolyn and I weren't offered the chance to ride the unicycle. (Though I'm told those fit and silly enough to take the challenge would be welcome to).
Carolyn is brave enough to go first, and is fitted into a shiny helmet, complete with spike. All the better to catch a potato with.
The potato is catapaulted across the room and she skilfully catches it on the spike - and is rewarded with her very own plastic chicken for her troubles.
I can't help it. I'm jealous.
I want one of those chickens.
My friends chant.
"Bronnie, Bronnie, Bronnie..."
Peer-pressure mounts and I give in, hoping the thought of footage will never appear on YouTube at some stage in the future.
It's too late to worry about looking silly. I'm already in the helmet and my friends are videoing and photographing to their great delight!
When the time comes, I get a helping hand from Unicycle Man. Read: He pushes my head towards the potato so it unceremoniously lands on the spike on my helmet.
The restaurant erupts into cheers. I feel like I've just won Miss Australia. Or perhaps Miss Flying Chicken.
My prize? A rather scary looking fake chicken which emits a horrible farting noise and which the kids fight over endlessly when I eventually get it home.
And what does the chicken, listed on the menu as Fly Chicken, taste like? It's just like a roast chook, except a little dryer.
I suspect it's been a boiled first, all the better to not fall apart as it is impaled on a spike, shot across a crowded room and impaled on another spike.
But I digress.
The rest of the food on the menu at the Flying Chicken is typically Thai, but not as good as we've had at other restaurants, where a weird-arse show doesn't come with the meal.
And let's face it, you don't really come to a restaurant like this for the food.
It's yummy though, and like most Thai food, cheap.
We wash it down with some Chang beer and water, and share a table of assorted delights including seafood, vegetables, and one of our favourites, stir-fried morning glory. (It sounds rude, but it's actually water spinach fried with garlic and chilli).
Just another night in Bangkok really.

The place to go for 'flied food'

The Flying Chicken Restaurant

Our unfortunate chicken

Some of the other yummy food we enjoyed with the fly chicken

Yes, I just caught a potato on my head ...

My prize!

Readers, do you enjoy trying different restaurants when you're on holiday?


Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh my god I would love to dine there! It looks like so much fun!!! :D

Mrs BC said...

Oh please please please show us the YouTube clip! This is the funniest holiday story ever! How big is that potato! No wonder you needed a helmet.

Glow said...

I cannot describe how jealous I am that I did not know about this restaurant when I was there.

Redcliffe Style said...

What an excellent way to experience the country. It sounds like such a fun trip. Rachel x

Jules said...

Oh how funny, I can just imagine you catching that thing with a thud. Well done. Thanks for linking with BAM