Saturday, October 24, 2015

Big C hike and brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram

I caught up with a friend today. JZ, a first year graduate student at UCSD, visited Berkeley this past weekend for a conference, and wanted to get food with me like old times. In anticipation for the meal at the local gem Wat Mongkolratanaram, we hiked up the hills behind campus to the Big C.

In spring semester freshman and fall semester sophomore year, we had classes that preceded a meal together (breakfast and lunch, respectively) and got into the habit of shooting the breeze and whinging about school, the future, and impostor syndrome.

All of this, of course, said with the backdrop of the Berkeley hills, which look their best in a chilly morning mist or at dusk. Looking eastwards, you can nearly see to the UC Botanical Garden, a favorite place of mine. All of this land technically does belong to the university, but is Lawrence Berkeley National Lab property, I believe. Even so, I call it campus.
A clearing in the trees. There are two ways up the hill to the Big C and this one is the less 'strenuous' one. You can carry a conversation on this route, no problem.

The turkeys were out and about this morning and I caught them in a nice formation. Nowadays, I don't see a whole lot of turkeys on campus, but they often go downhill during the summer. Many of these guys have a tassel on their chests -- perhaps they are tagged for some kind of research?

Turkeys yet again. Hike the Big C and you're almost guaranteed to see them.

We made it to the Big C! A fairly good view of the UC Berkeley campus, with Sather Tower, the Campanile, close to the center. On a clear day, you can see the Dumbarton, the San Mateo, the Bay, and Golden Gate Bridges in one sweep. Not so today, but still some blue skies ahead.

The morning grey was dispersing by the time we headed downhill. The same flock of turkeys resumes its foraging. After making it downhill, JZ and I walked to the BART station and took the train one stop south to Ashby station. The temple is a quick (~5 minute) walk from the station in a residential neighborhood by a park and a library.

Yelp will describe Thai Temple (what I've mostly heard it called) better than I can. It is a Buddhist temple and a Thai cultural center that opens its backyard to hungry locals on Sundays for probably the best cookout I've had in a long time. Pay real American dollars for donation tokens (which can be traded back for $, and $1 = 1 token), which can be used to purchase food. My two-curry and rice plate cost 7 tokens, and it was substantial enough for two meals. I brought a plastic container anticipating leftovers.

The curries that I had: a chicken yellow curry and beef red curry, the latter of which I will probably dream about until I return to Thai Temple. JZ and I ate voraciously and stared at the food that everyone else (communal seating, of course) and I've decided that I will need to try whatever the beef noodle soup is when I return. Other dishes: mango rice, rolls, papaya salad, pad thai, etc. I think the best way to go about eating here is to go with a few friends, each buy a different meal, and share.

Even so, I'm still going to eat the basic UCB student pad thai from Thai Basil. Nothing's changing. Afterwards, we walked through a flea market and decided that the whole experience was very uniquely Berkeley, CA.

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