THAILAND

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The journey begins – Thursday 3 January

9 Jan

Having left London at 10:05 GMT on the upstairs floor of the flying bar (aka Quantas 3502), I arrive in Bangkok 11 hours later.
Unfortunately the stopover in Bangkok airport (scheduled to be 5 hours) ends up being 6 hours.
Despite the great snacks in the waiting lounge (sticky rice cooked in banana leaves; banana, taro (dasheen) and pumpkin cooked in butter – yep, slightly weird but tasty, see below) this is an inauspicious start to my travels.

Sticky rice cooked in banana leaves

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky rice cooked in banana leaves

Banana, Taro and Pumpkin cooked in butter

Banana, Taro and Pumpkin cooked in butter

I finally arrive at ChiangMai at 11:00 pm (Thai time), 18 hours after I started – excited but exhausted.

Chiang Mai – Saturday 5 January 2013

9 Jan

Having finally propped my eyes open at 2pm, I was introduced to the terrible twosome, Bit and Bot. These are the sons of Khun Jar, who manages the house that I am staying at.
The twins Bit and Bot played as kids used to – their favourite game being to swirl straw hats on broom sticks. They either love each other or hate each other in the way that twins do.

Bit and Bot

Bit and Bot

Later that evening, I went for dinner to the “Spirit House”.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293917-d1494643-Reviews-The_Spirit_House_Restaurant_Bar-Chiang_Mai.html

Steve the owner is a great guy and a cool host who explains and describes each dish in great detail to his guests.
While I enjoyed the food there and have no doubt that Steve and his chefs are very good, I felt that the dishes that I had were made for foreign palates and therefore not as spicy as I would have liked. Therefore, I arranged with the Thai chef, Noom, to have a cooking class the next day, Sunday.

The Walking Street – Sunday 6 January

9 Jan

On Sunday, I visited the walking street – a street market which sells a variety of items –street food snacks, t-shirts, handbags, souvenirs… basically any touristy rubbish you might wish to buy, or food you may wish to eat.

Anything you may want to eat

Anything you may want to eat

Oddly, there are a couple of Buddhist temples dotted around the street – should you get tired, you can pray for escape from the evil gods of capitalism.

Some of the items that I found interesting were:

the recycled coke and beer cans which had been made into tuk tuks or motorcycles:

Recycle like you really mean it! Can made tuk-tuks

Recycle like you really mean it! Can made tuk-tuks

the eggs being cooked on a slow barbecue in banana boats:

Slow cooked eggs

Slow cooked eggs

the roast corn / sweet potatoes being lathered in a weirdly orange coloured butter and coated (sprinkled is just not the right word!) in salt:

Yuh salt!

Yuh salt!

and the fruit set out for immediate smoothies:

Fruit!

Fruit!

Following the trip to the street, I rushed home to meet Noom, the chef from the Spirit House, ready and waiting to cook

Thai cooking master class – Sunday 6 December 2013

10 Jan

When I arrived back at the house, I found Noom ready with all the ingredients laid out, to make 5 dishes: Red prawn curry, green chicken curry, Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut soup), Tom Yum (hot and sour soup) and Som Tam (green papaya salad.

Ingredients

We first started with the red curry paste for the prawn curry.
Although we had a lot of fun pounding the ingredients together and cooking, I would definitely recommend a relatively large mortar and pestle as the best way of keeping preparation time to a minimum and the ingredients inside the bowl! And by the way – it is quite possible to do this without the cleavage.

Making the red curry paste

Making the red curry paste

It is possible to do this without the cleavage - Malcolm, you are never getting my camera again!

It is possible to do this without the cleavage – Malcolm, you are never getting my camera again!

Below, I include the recipe for the red curry prawns:
Noom’s Red Curry Prawns
Ingredients:
Curry paste:
Dried long chillies – soaked, with the stems taken off – about 10 but use more or less, depending on how hot you like your curry
Garlic cloves – 3
Lemongrass – 1 stalk, with the hard outer stalk removed and cut up
Galangal – 2-3 slices about 2 mm thick and 2.5cm across
Onion – 1 small
Shrimp paste – 1 heaped teaspoon (almost a quenelle)

Curry:
Cooking oil – 2-3 tablespoons
Thick Thai coconut milk – 1 to 1.5 cups
Palm sugar – 1 good teaspoon
Fish sauce – a couple good dashes, according to your taste
Salt
Lime juice – of between 2 to 3 limes
Thai basil (a small handful) and lime leaves (3-4) to garnish
Method:
Curry Paste
Crush the onion, galangal, garlic and lemongrass in a mortar and pestle.
(OK – you can cheat and use a blender, but the effect is not quite the same)
When these are crushed to a fair extent, add the soaked dried chillies.
Keep pounding, using the weight of the pestle, until this is almost a paste.
Add the shrimp paste (I was surprised at how much we used) and continue crushing until you have a smooth paste.

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Making the curry:
Put some oil (2 – 3 tablespoons) into a frying pan, and heat at a fairly high heat.
When the oil has started heating (NOT SMOKING), add the paste and “cook out” – be careful not to burn. When the paste has started to change colour a bit to a deeper red, add some coconut milk, continue to cook. Add the rest of the coconut milk and bring to the boil.
Add the raw prawns and lime leaves at this stage. When these have begun to change colour, add the fish sauce and salt, palm sugar. Add these one at a time so that you can see the effect of each one and the rounded “mouth-full” effect of having them all. Finish with a little lime juice.
You should have all the sensations nicely rounded: hot, salt, sour and sweet.
Finish with Thai basil (also called holy basil or sweet basil).

Cooking hte red curry

Cooking the red curry

The finished dish

The finished dish

Notes:
1.) You could pre-season the prawns with a little soy, turmeric and ginger, and partially cook by flash frying them. This is a slightly fussy step but will add additional flavour.
2.) David Thompson in his amazing book, Thai Food, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thai-Food-David-Thompson/dp/1862055149) suggests the following spices as well: white peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise and a little grated nutmeg. You would need to toast and crush these. I have made and enjoyed the curry both ways – perhaps start off using the simple method and add additional ingredients as you become comfortable with the process.
3.) This could be made with chicken. In this case, I would definitely either season and flash fry before adding; or add the chicken in the middle of cooking out the paste. As this will need to cook for a longer time, you may wish to add stock, so the curry does not become too thick.
4.) If making with duck, it would make sense to either season and roast or boil the duck in a master stock (more on this later) beforehand; de-bone and shred the meat before adding to the red curry.

And here is the recipe for the Tom Kha Gai

Dtom Kha Ghai

Ingredients:

Chicken Breasts (cut up or shredded): 2-3

Shallots – 2 small

Lemongrass – 1 stalk, with the hard outer layer removed – cut up

Lime leaves – 2 to 3

Gallangal – 2 slices about 2 mm thick and 2.5cm across

Mushrooms – 6 to 8, depending on size; quartered

Fish Sauce (Nahm Pla) – to taste

Shrimp paste

Palm sugar – 1 teaspoon

Red chilli, sliced on the diagonal – 1 to 2

Garnish

Thai basil (a small handful)

Red chilli oil (Oil of Nham Prik Phao)

Method:

Simmer Onion, lemongrass, lime leaves and galangal in boiling water or stock.

Add chicken and shrimp paste and continue simmering until the chicken is partially cooked.

Add coconut milk to mixture and continue to simmer until chicken almost completely cooked.

If using shrimps, add them to the simmering stock now.

Add fish sauce, palm sugar and salt to taste.

Finish with Thai / Holy Basil and the oil of Nham Prik Phao.

Nahm Prik Pow

Nahm Prik Pow

The final meal

The final meal

After the meal, we went outside and sent a few paper lanterns to the moon.

The lantern

The lantern

Setting it off

Setting it off

On the way to the moon....

The Elephant Camp – Monday, 7 January

10 Jan

Malcolm dragged me to the Elephant Camp, where his neighbour Carol volunteers.  We had to get there in time for the 11:00 am Elephant show, which meant that I had to get my lazy (tired, I’d like to think!) tail out of bed in time to leave at 9:30.  Somehow, I managed to do this and despite my friend Malcolm’s driving, managed to get to the MaeTaeng Elephant Camp alive.

Maetaeng Elephant Camp

Maetaeng Elephant Camp

After downing a couple of Thai-style iced coffees, (not G&Ts, alas!), I attended the Elephant show.

The Elephant Show

The Elephant Show

I did not expect to enjoy the elephants – big heavy creatures that could crush me with a single footstep – but encouraged by a colleague and Malcolm’s insistence, I went. At the end of the trip, I rode on one, sponsored and bought a painting of another – I was hooked!

Elephant trunks, I discovered, have over 100,000 muscles, which is why they can paint pictures and sign their names.

Nimble elephant trunk

Nimble elephant trunk

Furthermore, an elephant’s age can be accurately calculated by multiplying the measurement of their teeth across, in both directions and multiplying by a factor. Not a chance of me putting my hand in their mouths to measure though!

Elephant Teeth

Elephant Teeth

Pregnancy (or gestation for an elephant) lasts almost two years (22 months to be precise) and they nurse their young for almost three years.
Elephants eat fruit, skin and all.
Oh, and just so you know, riding on them is not at all smooth and iced coffee before a trip threatens to return from whence it came!

Not a smooth ride

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Aroon Rai and the Mandarin Oriental

10 Jan

Yesterday evening we went to Aroon Rai (review: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293917-d1129357-Reviews-Aroon_Rai_Restaurant-Chiang_Mai.html)
The building was set up like a workers’ canteen, with plain tables and chairs and plastic tablecloths. This was good simple Northern Thai food. We ordered spring rolls, salt and garlic squid and deep fried, battered prawns to start. This was followed by (or at least in our heads it was “followed”) Khao Soi (crispy fried and curried egg noodles), pork and ginger curry and red curried pork.
The dishes arrived in a fairly random order, as always in Thailand. The noodles and ginger pork were nice but not amazing. The red curry was very good and pretty hot – not Thai hot but not the bland Phareng hot either. (More on that word later!)
Afterwards, we went to the Horn Bar at Chiang Mai’s Mandarin Oriental (also known as the Dhara Dhevi) for drinks.

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai/

The hotel itself was difficult to find and looked eerily like a temple or a Thai tomb, which seemed almost appropriate as it was as dead as a tomb. We had Singapore Slings, which I belatedly remembered that I don’t like because I cannot stand the taste of cherry brandy, and a big, fat G&T. The bar was lovely and the best of the snacks on offer were the spicy cashews with deep fried lime leaves and chilli.
We left the Mandarin nursing a bill which, for three drinks, was 50% larger than the three meals at Aroon Rai.
I feel no real need to rush back, although I will go to the equivalent in Bangkok to see whether they are all this dull.

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Last dinner in Chiang Mai – River Market Restauarnt

14 Jan

For my last night in Chiang Mai, I went to visit the River Market restaurant (http://therivermarket.com/blog/) .  Their menu can be found on the site.

I would rate this restaurant at 6 or 7 out of 10.  I would qualify this by saying that with some small tweaks, this could easily improve to 9 and perhaps if I had gone on a different day, I would, even now, have rated it as 9.

The Setting
Let’s start with the setting. The restaurant is along the Ping River and we apparently got the best table on the night we arrived. The chef spoke to us and said that he will only take reservations before 7 o’clock, which allows everyone a fair chance of getting a good (or in our case) a great table. We had amazing views of the bridge over the Ping river which was lit and we were far enough away not to be disturbed by traffic noises. The restaurant itself is brightly lit with large grass garden which leads down to the river.

The River Market Restaurant

The River Market Restaurant

The Ping River Bridge

The Ping River Bridge

The Service
The service was pretty slow, with starters being forgotten and brought with the mains – Now this is normal in Thailand – eating all the dishes when ready but the menu specifically requests that you say whether you would like the dishes to come in order or not. We requested that they do.

The Food
We had the Garlic Chicken Wings, Son-in-law Thai deviled eggs and Crispy Banana Flower salad to start. For the mains, we had crispy snapper and salt and pepper shrimp.

The crispy banana salad was excellent, with very crispy deep-fried banana flowers, which had a good taste of ripe banana without the sweetness. The dressing had a hint of molasses without the usually heavy taste that accompanies the black-strap variety. 9 out of 10.

Crispy Banana Salad

Crispy Banana Salad

The chicken wings were almost excellent. The skin was crispy, as it should be but often isn’t, without the heavy floured texture that you can sometimes get. The dressing that came with it was so delicious that we asked for more and then ate it with everything else. So why not perfect? To my mind, chicken wings should never be under-cooked. They shouldn’t even be ‘just’ cooked. That should be left for chicken breasts which will get tough and leathery with too much cooking. Wings, legs and thighs do most of the work keeping a chicken up and moving and therefore can be tougher. Like most tough meats, they improve when cooked a bit longer. The wings weren’t cooked long enough, which made them sort of sickening to eat. Cook them longer the dish would pretty much be close to a ten. An irritating 4 out of 10.

Son In Law Eggs, or ‘khai luuk kheuy’, refers to a salad made from deep-fried hard boiled eggs, which have been cut into halves or quarters, and topped with a sour & sweet tamarind sauce and fried shallots. I include what looks like a fairly decent recipe here:

http://www.realthairecipes.com/recipes/son-in-law-eggs/

I have seen these cooked so that the eggs are soft boiled and you get a creamy runny yoke. Since I am not a fan of eggs but Malcolm is, I recommended the son-in-law eggs to him. Now Malcolm found them tasty but couldn’t see how they were meant to be devilled as they were not at all hot, just slightly sweet. Devilled implies hot, which these definitely weren’t. What we had were straight-up seventies-style stuffed eggs with a sweetish tamarind sauce on top with stingy amounts of deep fried shallots. Malcolm liked them so I won’t complain about them too much. Let’s give them 7.5.

There was not too much to say about the mains – the snapper was very tasty and the dish had been twisted from the traditional version, in which the whole snapper is deep fried, including head and bones. I would have preferred the whole snapper but I could see why many wouldn’t. 8. The salt and pepper shrimp were decent but probably not peppery enough for our tastes. 7.

Now to the desserts. I had coconut and passion fruit ice-creams, which were both lovely and light – almost sorbet-y – 9. Despite my objections, Malcolm had the blueberry cheesecake. It was awful! The topping was brown in colour and hardly distinguishable from the base, which was soggy and of variable thickness. It was served with that nasty ready-whipped cream that comes out of a can. I had to stop myself from giggling and saying “I told you so!”. Disgusting – 0 (I’d really like to give them a negative rating but that would be wrong). This could easily be sorted by taking the cheesecake off of the dessert menu – better to stick to the ice-creams and have a simple but good dessert menu.
I know it may not sound like it but I liked this restaurant – there were a wide range of Thai dishes, not just the standard stuff and the dishes sounded really exciting – I wanted to try several. Let’s hope this was an off day.

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Bangkok – so much to see, so much to do

15 Jan

When I first arrived in Bangkok, the pilot in his welcome address, said that those visiting for the first time would love it as there is so much to see, so much to do. Having been here for a few days now, I would have to agree.
Shortly after arriving at the Siam Design Hotel – a pretty cool but self-conscious boutique hotel with an infinity pool on the 12th floor – I contacted Phumurng, a friend of Malcolm’s who is a student in Bangkok. He took me to a few of the recommended spots in Bangkok, Khao San road and Silom.

SIam @ Siam Design Hotel

SIam @ Siam Design Hotel

Khao San road
There isn’t much for me to say on this road. It is like a tackier, less interesting version of the walking street, with a number of unimpressive bars. We walked the length of the street and quickly moved off to Silom.

Silom
Silom is apparently the “Wall Street” of Bangkok during the day. During the night, there is a lot of buying and selling going on but nothing that you’d find on Wall Street! Again, there are a number shops and stalls selling clothes and a number of bars selling all sorts of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There are a number of bars which open onto the pavement and side-walk vendors selling food. Somehow it is not as tacky as Khao San although it does something similar.

Silom - Bangkok's Wall Street

Silom – Bangkok’s Wall Street

Nothing that you'd find on Wall Street

Nothing that you’d find on Wall Street

Nope, nothing at all

Nope, nothing at all

Siam Square
As Silom is not far from my hotel, we made our way back via Siam Square. There are a number of high rise malls at Siam Square, which is one stop away from my hotel. (There is in fact quite a lot of high rise everything in Bangkok including the train – Thailand has come out of recession a lot faster than the West and there is construction going on everywhere.)

View of building work from Siam sky train stop

View of building work from Siam sky train stop

We went in to the malls only to find that they were closing as it approached 10pm. All except for the Siam Centre mall, which was having an opening party – and what a party that was! The party was full of scantily dressed male models, who spray you with perfume…

Here come the boys...!!

Here come the boys…!!

a live band….

Siam Center (Re?) Opening

Siam Center (Re?) Opening

DJs and models teetering on very, very high shoes. These guys know how to do malls – there is every designer shop that you can think of, plus a lot more. It was a pretty good “free” party, so we took advantage and “vogued” with the best of them at the Mac make-up stage.

Phumurng

Phumurng

Vogue!

Vogue!

We left and headed back to the hotel – what a cool first night in BKK.

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Cabbages and Condoms

17 Jan

Having enjoyed my first night in BKK so much, how could I know it would get better?

On Saturday I met a friend (Khun Ooi) with whom the delightful Vaughan B kindly put me in touch.

First, she took me to JJ (Jatujuk) market.  This is a massive market that sells all the normal stuff plus fresh flowers – and great fruit (ok – they are not real).  What is special about this market is the range of goods sold – there are many great bargains to be had here – it is huge so you can do all your shopping at once.

Khun Ooi looking at flowers at JJ market

Khun Ooi looking at flowers at JJ market

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Fruit at JJ market (not really – they are plastic)

After the shopping experience, we went to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant for lunch.

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

Cabbages and Condoms restaurant

This restaurant has been set up by the PDA (Population and Community Development Association of Thailand). Their website is here: http://www.cabbagesandcondoms.com/index.php
Essentially, they operate a number of programs specifically targeting the poor of rural Thailand. The organisation was the first to, and remains active in, raising awareness of family planning. It was felt that condoms and their use should become as common as cabbage.
There are a number of statues and pieces made completely from condoms, including this one, which made me laugh my head off.

Did you, Tiger?

Did you, Tiger? (Love the Nike logo made of condoms)

The food was also very good. We had deep-fried soft shell crab in yellow curry (which while very tasty was slightly too greasy), stir fried vegetables and fish cakes.

Deep fried soft shell crab in yellow curry

Deep fried soft shell crab in yellow curry

Stir fried vegetables and Thai fish cakes (Tod Mun Pla)

Stir fried vegetables and Thai fish cakes (Tod Mun Pla)

This “Condoms and Cabbages” restaurant is in Sukhumvit.
In the evening, we returned to Sukhumvit, Soi 4, which I will talk about in my next post, along with the other “Sois”.

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The Sois of Sukhumvit

18 Jan

Sukhumvit is readily accessible by sky train, with the most convenient stop being Nana.  A main road runs through the area, with a number of smaller streets or “sois” running at right angles off of it.

Soi 5
I first went exploring Soi 5 – this, like most of the other streets, is quite busy with a lot of bars. There is Gulliver’s sports bar which serves “Pharang” food and shows premier league football. There are pool tables and fusball machines. The bar is pretty standard and I didn’t spend too much time there.

Inside Gulliver's Bar

Inside Gulliver’s Bar

A number of taxis run up and down this road and there are vendors along the side selling coconuts and advertising clubs (Insomnia / Insanity). The Bangkok taxis are multicoloured and look like sweets (candy). The green and yellow taxis are independently run (one man, one taxi). The single coloured taxis – pink, orange etc. – belong to cab companies who own a fleet.

Bangkok taxis and coconut vendor

Bangkok taxis and coconut vendor

Pharang

Before we go on, let me explain the word “Pharang / Ferang”. Wikipedia defines this as “a generic Thai word for someone of European ancestry, no matter where they may come from”. Wait, does this mean that I am not a Pharang? Alas no – anyone who is not Thai can be called a Pharang.

My favourite Sois are 4 and 11 – they are the busiest and most interesting.

Soi 4
There are a number of food vendors along the side of the street, selling barbecued chicken, insects, noodle soup and Som Tam (green papaya salad). There are also a number of inexpensive and good restaurants (such as Charlie’s) along the side of the roads. There are busy walking areas and lots of bars. Soi 4 is also called Soi Nana as it houses the well known Nana entertainment plaza, which is reputed to be full of Go-go bars. (As I discovered, saying that you’d like “to dance” will often mean that you are asking to get up on a table.)

It is busy outside the "dancing" clubs

It is busy outside the “dancing” clubs

Bars in Soi 4
The bars in Soi 4 (and this may be true of the area in general) are owned / run by women, with key elements of their role being to look after the girls in the bar and to ensure that the men behave.  As part of this they generally have a good relationship with the police (in the event that men do not behave well). Many of the bars in Soi 4 are inhabited almost exclusively by Pharang men and Thai women.

At the bar in Soi 5

At the bar in Soi 4

Soi 11
Soi 11 rapidly became my favourite street – there are a number of really good (and more up-market) restaurants along this street. If you walk to the end of the road, there is “Chilli Culture” restaurant, where I had red duck curry. They serve the duck curry with lychees, which works beautifully – the sweet, light flavour of the lychees acting as a counterpoint to the hot, rich flavour of the curry sauce and the fattiness of the duck.

Chilli Culture Thai Restaurant

Chilli Culture Thai Kitchen

If you follow the road to the left, rather than stopping off to eat, you get to Le Fenix hotel, which is home to the Nest Bar. The Nest Bar is on the top floor of the hotel and gives great views of Bangkok. However, the key feature of the bar is its “beach” – about half the floor area of the bar is covered with sand and hooded straw “beds”, with tables, where you can lie down and have a few drinks. This was probably my favourite bar in Bangkok.

Nest Bar

At the entrance to Nest Bar

Chillin' in one of the "nests"

Chillin’ in one of the “nests”

Following the “Nest” experience, we went back around to the main drag of Soi 11. All along the road, there are number of the mobile VW bars that I love.

Mobile Volkswagen Bar

Mobile Volkswagen Bar

Apparently, these are licensed bars that park along the side of the road. The VWs have been modified, so that the sides can open and form a sort of a roof, when propped up. A bartender stays inside and mixes drinks, while there is usually another person who works as the waiter. You can get beers, mixed drinks and cocktails at these bars.

Mixing drinks in the VW bar

Mixing drinks in the VW bar

A number of plastic chairs and tables are set up next to the van for the bar’s clientele.
We sat at the bar and insisted that they crank up the music (something to do with Rhianna and me both being from the Caribbean…). Soon a number of people, on hearing the cool (and loud-ish) music, joined us, including these ladies.

"Laydeez" in Soi 11

Who is the prettiest of them all?

Er, did I say ladies? I meant lady-boys…..

You gotta love Sukhumvit……

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Floating Market and the River Kwai

21 Jan

On my final day in Bangkok, I took a day trip to one of Bangkok’s floating markets and the River Kwae.  After a delayed start and near fight due to lack of communication (Aussie boy: I did not sign up for this tour – let me off the bus mate!), we got underway.

Floating Market: Dumnoen Saduak

There are a number of floating markets on the outskirts of Bangkok.  The one most often visited is the Dumnoen Saduak floating market, which is located about 110 km South West of Bangkok and is 1 to 2 hours drive outside of Bangkok in the Samut Sakhon province.

This market is quite touristy and there are apparently nicer markets, which you can get to by car, such as the Tha Kha market in the Samut Songhkram province: http://www.thai-blogs.com/2011/01/18/tha-kha-floating-market/ .  As I was short of time, I went to Dumnoen Saduak.

We stop at Sampang, where we take a long tailed boat (such as that used by James Bond in the man with the golden gun) to the market.  As the river canals can be quite shallow, these boats have engines attached to a long pole, which enables them to be easily lifted out of the water or even partially submerged, which makes manoeuvring the boat easier.

View from the long boat

View from the long boat

Along the way to the market, we passed several traditional houses along the side of the river.

Traditional Thai house

Traditional Thai house

There are also slow boats, which are paddled.  It is not uncommon to see very small Thai ladies deftly paddling boat loads of hefty Fareng through the canals around the market.

Long / Slow boat traffic

Long / Slow boat traffic

Bangkok was once known as the Venice of Thailand, until water pollution limited the commercial opportunities on the water.  The floating markets outside of Bangkok give some idea as to how trade was once carried out.  At the market, there are lots of vendors both dockside and in the water, selling a variety of foods (Mango sticky rice, Spring rolls, fried bananas, Noodles, fish etc.).

Deep fried bananas

Deep fried bananas

Selling Mango Sticky Rice at the floating market

Selling Mango Sticky Rice at the floating market

Kannom Krok - sweet rice "pancakes" served with sweet corn, pumpkin or.... spring onion?

Kannom Krok – sweet rice “pancakes” served with sweet corn, pumpkin or…. spring onion?

There are also a number of craft offerings, paintings and beautifully embroidered garments made from silk and cotton.  Unfortunately, there is also the same touristy rubbish that you see in many markets around Thailand.

After the market, we made our way to the River Kwae, via the craft market.

The craft market

Teak trees are commonly found in the North of Thailand and there is a large handicraft business based on the wood of these trees.  We stopped at the craft market to look at the various wooden carvings and furniture made of teak.

Carving teak

Carving teak

Mulberry trees are also found in North Thailand.  Chiang Mai is famous for Sa paper, which is made from the bark of the mulberry tree.  The bark is softened by soaking, pounded out until thin and then dried to produce paper.

Making Sa paper from Mulberry bark

Making Sa paper from Mulberry bark

Although this is nowadays more efficiently done by machine, the original process has been maintained at the craft market.

Mulberry trees are also instrumental in the production of silk as the silk worms feed on their leaves.

We left the craft market at about 11:00 to make our way to the Death Railway Museum and the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi province, which is approximately 130km NW of BKK.

The Death Railway Museum and Bridge over the River Kwai

We stopped at the Death Railway museum, the war graves cemetery at Kanchanaburi and then went on to the famous bridge over the Mae Klong River (Khwae Yai).

The film “The Bridge over the River Kwai” was loosely based on the building of the so-called death railway from Thailand to Burma.  The focus is on the building of the bridge over the Mae Klong river (Khwae Yai).

Bridge over Khwae Yai

Bridge over Khwae Yai

The railway was called the “death railway” because of the number of prisoners of war and other civilians that died building it.

The Death Railway

The Death Railway

The use and mistreatment of PoWs in this way was in contravention of the Geneva convention on treatment of prisoners of war, 27 July 1929: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/305?opendocument .

Note that this convention predates the United Nations and was instituted during the time of the League of Nations.  In particular, Article 2 of the general provisions of this 1929 document states that the prisoners of war “shall at all times be humanely treated and protected, particularly against acts of violence, from insults and from public curiosity”.

This was not honoured during the building of the railway, especially as the Japanese engineers in charge of building the railway came under greater and greater pressure to deliver.  While it has been alleged that much of the poor treatment came about as a result of this pressure and the fact that Japanese engineers (not professional army personnel) were in charge of the prisoners, what cannot be discounted is that there may have been cultural reasons for the poor treatment of the prisoners – it was alleged that the Japanese despised prisoners of war as they felt they should die rather than being captured.

Some of what made this work so difficult for the prisoners of war were poor facilities including medical, poor sanitation, limited medical equipment and inadequate amounts of food, particularly for Westerners, undertaking extremely difficult manual labour.  In addition, this work spanned both the dry and rainy seasons, with the heat and insects being extremely difficult for the prisoners of war.

I do not claim to be an historian and would welcome any comments which shed further light / clarify this.

Interesting points to note:

1.)    The prisoners were largely Dutch, Australian, English and American.  By far the greatest number of these prisoners were English.  However, a far greater number of Burmese and Malay civilians died.  This is supported by the following quotation from the Commonwealth Graves commission at Kanchanaburi and reproduced in Wikipedia: “The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre.”
http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2017100/KANCHANABURI%20WAR%20CEMETERY

War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

War Cemetery at Kanchanaburi

2.)    Many of the Japanese engineers were thought to have been trained by the British.  They make a point of saying that they did not need English / American help to build the bridge and that this is incorrectly portrayed in the movie.  They used an American engineering manual, issued to American troops.

3.)    The River is not the Kwai (pronounced: Kwhy) – Kwai means water buffalo – It is the Kwae Yai  (pronounced Kwey).  Kwae means river.

The next day, I left for Phuket.  There was much more to do in Bangkok than I had time to do and it is a city that I would definitely enjoy visiting again.

Phuket

22 Jan

I spent just under a week in Phuket.  Like Koh Samui, Phuket is really a beach destination.  I stayed at the newly opened Crowne Plaza at Panwa.

Infinity pool at the Crowne Plaza, Phuket

Infinity pool at the Crowne Plaza, Phuket

Most of my time in Phuket was spent on the beach, eating seafood (which as you might imagine is really very good) and taking a long boat “down the islands”.  I tended to sit at the front of the boat (bow), which really is the most exciting ride.

On the way to the islands just off of Phuket

On the way to the islands just off of Phuket, with Thasanee and her mother

View of the long boat from the island

View of the long boat from the island

While I was there, I met a Thai chef, Thasanee, with whom I worked, at Jean Georges’ “V” and “Rama” restaurants in London.  I hadn’t seen her since 2005 and this was a great coincidence. We took the opportunity to hang out and catch up on what we have been doing and the chefs we worked with.

Thasanee and her mother

Thasanee and her mother

We ate dinner at a casual open air seafood restaurant just outside of the aquarium.

Dockside seafood restaurant

Dockside seafood restaurant

One of my favourite dishes there was deep fried breaded butter fish with mango salad.  I include a recipe below:

Deep fried butter fish with mango salad

Mango salad

Mango salad

Mango salad ingredients:

2 pinches of salt

6 bird’s eye chillies (scuds) – green and red

3 tablespoons white sugar

9 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons palm sugar

4 tablespoons fish sauce

Dried shrimp – 2-3 T (if you are allergic to shrimp, just leave this ingredient out and adjust fish sauce)

Green mango – julienned

2 small tomatoes or 8-10 cherry tomatoes (chopped or quartered if using cherry tomatoes)

3 red shallots (small round shallots found in Thailand – they are slightly sweet)

2 T peanuts

Small bunch of coriander leaves

Fish ingredients:

Butter fish – 3 medium, filleted.

Seasoned flour

1-2 eggs

Dry breadcrumbs

Method:

Chop the shallots and chillies finely.  Lightly pound in mortar and pestle and add to the liquid ingredients, salt and sugars.  Mix well.

Lightly crush the dried shrimp and soak in the dressing made in step 1, until soft.  Some recipes suggest pounding the shrimp to a paste but I think it is nice to have integral pieces of shrimp.  They must be well softened though.

Mix the dressing with the julienned green mango and add the tomatoes.  Let sit for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, dip the fish fillets in seasoned flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs.  Deep fry until crisp on the outside, in hot oil at 180C.

Finish the salad with roasted peanuts and top with fresh coriander leaves.

Serve the salad with the deep fried fish.

Well, that’s the end of my Thailand journey for now.  My next post will be from Australia, as I am off to Melbourne to watch Serena!

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One Response to “THAILAND”

  1. Sam January 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    this is so cool and well worth the wait. Say hello to Malcolm. immerse and enjoy 🙂

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