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Posts from the ‘Thailand’ Category

Tropical Fruit Installment 14: Lychee

I’ve referenced the lychee in many of my fruit posts, but I realized that I had never shown you one. I do apologize. Lychee are not very common at Jakarta markets, although you do see pricey imported ones from Thailand in the grocery stores. So I figured, when in Thailand, buy some Thai lychees.

In the heart of Bangkok I spotted a lychee vendor and I knew I had to have a kilo.

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Tropical Fruit Installment 13: Santol

For my next two fruit installments, I’ve got some guests visiting from Thailand. Meet, santol.

I first spotted this fruit when I went to the market with my cooking class in Bangkok. I asked the instructor and he told me the Thai name which sounds nothing like the English name I found by Googling (I really do hope it’s the correct name). I didn’t get a chance to buy one then, so when I saw a fruit stand on Ko Phi Phi Don, I couldn’t resist.

The vendor asked if I wanted the fruit cut and since I had no idea which parts were edible, I said “yes.” She sat down on a stool in the back of the small, hot shop and she peeled the santol, with pieces falling on a giant jack fruit below. She cut slivers into the fruit so we could tear it off conveniently.

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Limestone Cliffs and Sandy Feet: Ko Phi Phi Don

I’ve been feeling old lately (OK, mom I know you are rolling your eyes), because it has been over a year now that I graduated from college. But, as it turns out, college never really ends. It just migrates to tropical party islands in Southeast Asia. Welcome to Ko Phi Phi Don.

After my stay in Bangkok, I flew to Phuket where I met up with my friend Chloe. We didn’t see very much of Phuket because we decided to catch one of the earlier morning ferries out to Ko Phi Phi Don. What we did see in Phuket was a commercial strip with bars and restaurants — a lot of Russian tourists come here because I saw plenty walking around and almost everywhere menus were available in good ol’ Cyrillic. I also caught a glimpse of Thailand’s famous bar girls. Our hostel had a sign on the door warning any men who brought back a bar girl that they would be immediately kicked out. The sign also made this very good point: “[This is] complete exploitation of the underprivileged. Don’t think for a second these young girls are enjoying themselves.” It reminded me of the Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign.

It became clear early on that Thailand is used to tourists in ways that Indonesia is not. Transport was easily arranged from Phuket out to Ko Phi Phi Don and everyone we encountered spoke decent English. The area around Ko Phi Phi gained widespread fame because of its beautiful beaches and cliffs and because Hollywood stopped by to make the movie The Beach (it’s so bad it’s funny). And rightfully so, the beaches had stunning views of rocks jutting out from the sea and the water was that perfect temperature you dream about when you dream about places like these.

Ko Phi Phi Don had a lively restaurant and bar scene. There were plenty of stalls that were catering to Western food cravings selling slices of pizza. I was surprised to see so many tattoo parlors where people were making decisions, some worse than others.

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Thailand Eats

To say I ate well in Thailand would be one of the biggest understatements I could make. Not only did I eat well, I tried a lot of dishes and everything I ate was delicious, fresh and flavorful.

I was introduced to Thai cuisine at an early age. Five minutes from my home in California there is a terrific Thai restaurant run by the friendliest family from Chang Mai, Thailand. I fell in love with curries, but whenever I bought pre-made curries at the supermarket or tried making my own, they never even tasted close. So I decided to treat myself to a cooking class at Silom Thai Cooking School in Bangkok so I could discover the secrets of making a curry and anything else I could pick up.

The 5-course class cost 1,000 baht ($32); the class was fun and you get to try a lot of food, but it’s not for people who are looking for an advanced Cordon Bleu experience, because a lot of the ingredients are pre-cut to speed up the process. The morning began with a visit to a market where there were bags of pre-made curries for sale (photo above), machines buzzing as they grated coconut, and men and women carefully inspecting tables piled high with seafood. We picked up key Thai ingredients including sweet basil, holy basil, lemon/lime basil, bird’s eye chilies, spur chilies, limes, kaffir limes, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai coriander, tamarind, galangal ginger and mung beans. Up first was tom yum goong, hot and sour prawn soup.

This was one of my favorite dishes. The soup combines prawns, straw mushrooms, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, water, tomato, coriander, green onion, Thai chili paste, coconut milk, and bird’s eye chilies, if you can take the heat.

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Two Nights in Bangkok

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Bangkok. My ideas had been colored by pop culture (see the 1980s gem below) so I thought the city might be seedy and somewhat run down.

What I found turned out to be the complete opposite.

I was traveling to Bangkok solo and when I arrived in the evening I quickly discovered that my smart phone didn’t work on the Thai network. So I was a going off of a hand drawn map trying to find the apartment of the PiA fellow who was kind enough to let me stay. I stopped to ask a parking attendant the direction. He didn’t speak much English so he pointed. A few minutes into my walk, he pulled up on his motorbike next to me, smiled and pointed telling me to turn down the street. After another five minutes I thought was on the right street so I stopped into a somewhat fancy restaurant to check. The entire staff took an interest. An English speaker was found, I was offered a seat and a cold bottle of water and after some debate, the parking attendant said he knew where I was trying to go and took me on his motorbike and then wouldn’t let me pay or tip him for his troubles. Turns out the streets had very similar names. It really is nice to have your “technology” stop working every now and again because I may have never discovered why Thailand has been dubbed “the land of a thousand smiles.”

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