A trip to a notoriously graphic forensic science museum wouldn't top the to-do list of many visitors to Bangkok. However, fed up with shopping malls and temples, I find myself yearning for something off the beaten track. Instead, I found a celebration of severed limbs in what could only be described as the lair of a mad scientist.
To call it stomach churning would prove to be a grand understatement. But even after watching the sallow faces shuffle in and out, curiosity won the battle and I ventured inside Thailand's oldest hospital to check out Siriraj Medical Museum.
Forty baht ($1.25), gains access to six different sections. The most grotesque are Forensic Pathology and the Parasitology section home to various creepy crawlies.
I start out with tapeworms and flesh-eating bacteria spotting what appears to be spaghetti. Having had fettuccine alfredo for lunch, this worries me. Inching my way up to the exhibit, I rejoice in discovering that it's nothing close to linguine, but recoil upon discovering the truth - tapeworms. A painstaking recreation of a man's rectum, overflowing with enough infectious parasites to start a game called tug of war.
After that disgusting display, I make my way to the Forensic Pathology section and breeze through the displays of livers damaged by alcohol and the lungs of a pack-a-day smoker. Scary stuff, but no worse than the graphic images on any cigarette pack in Australia.
I make it past the body parts floating in jars, but the winding corridor of dead foetuses makes me shudder. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a group of students ogling a glass display in the corner. Resting his forehead on the stained glass is the naked body of a dirty and decaying man. Unable to translate the small plaque, I ask one of the students for more information.
"Si Quey is a famous man, but not for good reason," says Ann, a first year law student at Bangkok University. "Over 50 years ago, he was executed for rape, murder and cannibalism." During his reign of terror on suburban Bangkok, he killed six children and ate their hearts and livers.
Si Quey's name is still used to frighten children into behaving themselves. Although his mummified body is preserved in petroleum jelly and long dead, a cold shiver runs down my spine - it's time to go.
Looking to stimulate the senses, I leave the hospital and head for the throbbing heartbeat of this modern-day metropolis - Silom Road, the financial centre of the capital by day and a raucous party district after dark.
Food stalls line busy side streets, with more than just Pad Thai on offer. Thailand is a haven for foodies and depending where you are standing, the distance between Italian and a Syrian kebab may only be a few steps. As the intoxicating aroma of Tom Yam wafts over me, I find my appetite stirring into life once again.
After dark this area becomes a maze of food, with vendors setting up shop on the busy pavements. Giant woks splutter with oil and do little to conceal the dancing flames below. I hear the bell of an approaching food cart, but what I see shocks me. It's a bountiful buffet of bugs, deep fried to perfection. Stir-fried water beetles, locust kebabs and many more delicacies sure to make your skin crawl. With vegetarianism as an excuse, I choose not to chow down on a cockroach kebab.
I ask around for an infamous restaurant named Cabbages and Condoms.
After wandering aimlessly, I take a side street to find one of Asia's more bizarrely themed restaurants which, unlike Modern Toilet in Taiwan or The Lockup in Tokyo, isn't just another money-making scheme.
The restaurant is funded by the Population and Community Development Association with a large percentage of profit helping the rural poor. There are safe-sex-themed T-shirts, latex insignia and novelty keychains for sale in the gift shop.
The courtyard hosts traditional Thai musicians each evening while Christmas lights hang in the trees and there are candles on the tables. The menu reflects the Isaan region of Thailand, the poorest region and where most of the funds are directed.
Those who like it spicy are in for a treat, as Isaan is home to the papaya salad where chillis aren't so much used as a spice, but as a main ingredient. I order a light and refreshing bowl of mushroom soup instead.
I can smell the aroma of fresh coriander and crushed lemongrass from a few tables away and my appetite returns in spades.
First-timers can be spotted laughing at condom chandeliers but many come back time after time for authentic regional cuisine. Like all good restaurants, the food quickly takes centre stage, although the restaurant's choice of after-dinner mint substitution almost always results in a giggle.I start out with tapeworms and flesh-eating bacteria spotting what appears to be spaghetti.
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