Monday, February 27, 2012

What I Miss Most About Japan

Two-hour layover at Tokyo's Narita airport, I was reminded what I miss most about Japan: the robot toilets. Sound effects, heaters, odorizers, bidet-ish washings, some even automate the lid movement. Not all the toilets are this way, you have to look for the signs.
 Instructions! For a toilet!


On February 20th, me and a whole bunch of Russians boarded a plane out of Phuket and into Bangkok. My flight out of Bangkok was the next morning so, once again, I had one night in Bangkok (this would be the fourth time I've Bangkok'd en route elsewhere). After the poolside room I'd enjoyed in Phuket, my accommodations in Bangkok proved to have more personality as the view from my window can attest.
 There was even a TOP SECRET bar just next door.
After dinner at a nearby hole-in-the-wall restaurant which came recommended as authentic but was, frankly, mediocre I headed to Soi Cowboy- a place I'd visited once before.
February 2, 2008
February 20, 2012
In the photo above, you can see a club that was used in The Hangover 2; the Tilac Club is just over my shoulder. Soi Cowboy is infamous and well known but it's just one block. The streets adjacent and parallel are normal and dark then, bam! Soi Cowboy as bright as the Vegas strip.
Owing to the fact that I was in a somewhat foul mood, I decided I needed a diversion and what better way than having a drink in the Cockatoo Club which, as you can see in the picture below, is a ladyboy (aka katoi) club. The ladies on display along the street wear robes but inside they wear skimpy bikinis. Not typical of girly clubs, all the 'merchandise' has on bikini tops as well- likely owing to the scars I saw briefly exposed. I had one drink there. I ordered the "alcopop" which I thought would be an alcoholic popsicle of some sort (forget that I lacked logic in the "freezing" and "alcohol" concept) but was, sadly, a Bacardi Breezer. I'm sure a few are curious as to how 'ladyboy' these ladyboys were. Well, most of them appeared to be "in tact" but one came up to my table and showed me, without any prompting on my part or expressed interest that she had the same parts as me. I just nodded and took a sip of my Bacardi Breezer.
So it was about one and time to head back to my hotel but, first, I stopped at a streetside bar stand (shown below) to have a G&T. The bottle showed Tanqueray but who the heck knows.
I left Bangkok the next morning at 8:30, to Tokyo, to Seattle, to Denver, to Wyoming where the interstate beyond the airport road exit was closed due to high winds. Ah, home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Day Learning to Cook Thai Food

Before spending this last month in Thailand, I always claimed to like Thai food, although what I knew of it was really quite minimal. Spicy (but, hey, let's not go crazy: not Thai spicy), fresh, pungent. I knew a few dishes I liked, I knew the flavors I was fond of but I didn't really feel confident that I could ever cook Thai food (a tom ka gai seasoning packet once left me with cooking ennui). Now, a month here, I know I like Thai food and I didn't want to leave with knowing how to replicate some of my favorite dishes. Lucky for me, I ran across a trifold pamphlet for a local cooking course, Sabai Sabai, so I signed up for a one-day, four-dish, one-on-one session.

I arrived promptly at 9 on the morning of February 15th and immediately Ton whisked us off to the market to buy our day's supplies.
We didn't buy or use these tomatoes but I couldn't resist taking a picture of their pink perfection. 
The curry paste station. Alas, there is no way to differentiate the different curry pastes by sight alone (except green, of course).
The "number one spicy" pepper, to its left is number two, and on the right is number three which is what was used in my dishes. Ton taught me the rule of thumb that the smaller the pepper, the spicier it is.
Prepping all the ingredients and learning about various herbs and roots too. (Galangal! Kafir lime leaves! Cilantro root! Those are the flavors I've loved all along.) 
Pulverizing some "number three spicy" pepper with Thai garlic. Ton taught me to keep my hand over the mortar just so in order to avoid getting pepper juice spraying onto my face or, worse yet, into my eye. As it was, the juice on my hand burned for right about 24 hours. 
Thank you, Ton, for one of my favorite experiences in almost 9 months of traveling.

Tom Yum Goong (Shrimp), 2 servings

-600 ml water, bring to rapid boil

-5 kafir lime leaves (peeled from center stem, halving them)
-2 spicy chilis, smashed with broad side of knife
-5 cloves garlic, smashed (as above)
-tomato, quartered (firm, tart tomato)
-1/3 c. galangal root, sliced
-2 stalks lemongrass, sliced
-2 pieces of cilantro root, smashed and sliced into 2 to 3 pieces
-2 shallots, peeled and smashed

Boil for about 3 minutes until tomato skins begin to peel away.
(If making tom yum gai, add sliced chicken at this time.)

-1 c. mushrooms (quartered or halved, depending on size)

Boil until mushrooms begin to soften

-1 tsp sugar
-2 T. fish sauce
-2 tsp chili oil/paste
-juice of 1 lime (about 1 T.)
(stir, allow flavors to combine, taste and refine as necessary at this point)

-1 to 1.5 c of whole shrimp, allow to cook about halfway (approximately 45 seconds)

add (and immediately turn off heat):
-1/4 c of cilantro
-one large green onion, sliced


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Friends

Valentine's Day, 2012. I spent an early day at Ni Hairn beach, alternately hot and sleeping with wading in the water with hot and reading. Afterward, scooter-bound, I stopped at a roadside stand for a watermelon shake and grilled chicken. My plan was to sit and enjoy the just inland lake while I ate.
 While I sat and ate my chicken, I made some friends. Not a very chatty bunch, and not very clean, but....perhaps.....ideal.
 And my favorite little guy. He was so ugly (he was cute) that he got some chicken left overs.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thai Public Service Announcement

Saw this running one day. Pleased to come back across it later on my scooter so I could get a happy snap.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day Trip to Malaysia!

Tomorrow I am going to Kuala Lumpur. For two hours and 40 minutes.

I hope I can get some teh tarik.

(Thai tourist visas are only valid for 30 days, which I'll bust if I don't do a "visa run.")

BBQ Beat Down

It appears I'm in a Muay Thai/MMA/Crossfit mecca from my locale here in Phuket. And while this post is a bit delayed in coming, I feel it's still worth it in order to show exactly what I mean. Hence, the BBQ Beat Down from Tiger Muay Thai. They host the BBQ along with the Muay Thai and MMA bouts the last Saturday of every month.

(The BBQ portion of the Beat Down was fine but not necessarily photo or blog worthy.)
I found that I enjoyed the Muay Thai more than the MMA.
But, then again, I still found things I liked about the MMA rounds. *ahem*
Off topic, my best guess is that upwards of 80% of people at the Beat Down had tattoos. But this guy was unique in that his HEAD IS TATTOOED. Which leaves his only career option as an extra in prison movies, right? (Note that I took this picture surreptitiously and from a distance, although I was told he's quite nice.)
And further off-topic: this is how to tell if the place you're going to is hopping here in Phuket.....scooter convergance.