Thailand: A Snack Retrospective

March 10, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Snack Retrospectives, Tastes, Thailand  |  10 comments

Whenever we travel, Jess C likes to play a game I call, “that’s disgusting, eat it,” where she scours the shelves of mini marts and buys the most repugnant snacks available, and then makes us eat them. And I figured since she was inflicting this little game on me, I would inflict it on you.

The absolute winner for most disgusting snack of the country was Alaska Cool Crab chips. Eating them was a little bit like consuming very old dried crab mixed with a menthol cigarette. Yummy.

So below is every revolting snack we tried in Thailand, plus a few we actually enjoyed. If you’re eating something while reading, I suggest you wait until you have fully digested to view.

Crab Menthol Chips. Complete with synthetic minty burning aftertaste.

Strawberry cake. In a bag.

Sesame Seaweed Carada Nuggets. We still don't know what a Carada is.

Dried Pea Sticks. The pea on the bag was happier than we were.

Mediterranean Crab Curry chips. Crab Curry is HUGE in Cannes.

Jackfruit Cake. Yup.

Seaweed chips. Delicious. Who knew??

Some kind of Meat Barbecue flavored chip. Meat flavored.

Korean Chicken flavored Drumsticks. Better than they sound. A little.

Lobster BBQ. They had ridges.

AFTERNOON BEER!!!!!

Mystery Chips. We think they were lime.

Bakery Balls. Cream puffy goodness.

Crispy Vanilla Flavor Snacks

Curly Things. Apparently potato in origin.

Squid Chips. SQUID CHIPS.

They didn’t put that in the brochure

March 9, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Koh Yao Noi, Thailand  |  8 comments

It is sometimes the case that the pictures and descriptions of accommodations in guidebooks or on websites are, shall we say, different, than the reality you encounter when you arrive. For example, a hostel might fail to mention that it’s located over a restaurant that emits an especially fishy odor. Or that an “attached” bathroom is actually attached about twenty feet below your bungalow, which is mounted on stilts. But so far, these marketing omissions have been largely trivial, or even kinda fun (for example, the “attached” bathroom was attached to the stilts holding up our tree house bungalow!)

Other times, they fail to mention the apparently routine presence of COBRAS.

It went something like this: Jess M and I were sitting in the restaurant at Sabai Corner Bungalows, on the island of Koh Yao Noi in Thailand. It was just getting dark, when a nice German couple also staying at Sabai said that they’d just seen a very large snake on the path right outside the restaurant. A handyman came out from the kitchen and started looking around with a flashlight. A few moments later, yup, snake. A big one. Four to five feet long, we estimate. One of the servers then brought him a big stick, and he proceeded to pummel the snake to death. Or, near death, at first anyway. Before the serpent expired, there was time for a young German boy to come running up and nearly into the still moving snake. A second beating finished it off. Afterward, the ladies in the kitchen talked a mile a minute. While the discussion was in Thai, we were able to repeatedly discern the word “cobra.”

At the time, we didn’t have presence of mind to take pictures of the snake, dead or alive, as we were too busy having heebee-geebeez and trying not to think about how many other snakes might be lurking about in the bushes. Especially since we were staying in a tree house bungalow, with windows that could only be closed by shuttering them (something one is loathe to do in tropical heat), and that wasn’t wildlife proof in any event, even if the windows did close. See picture below of the tree frog who also shared our bungalow. We named him Delmar.

It was then that we started to notice that there was an unusual amount of cobra and snake-related art adorning our resort. (Perhaps we’d been distracted from it up to that point by the prevalence of penis art, which they also failed to mention in the guide book).

It seems that they knew something about this snake business all along.

Fortunately, we encountered no additional reptiles (save for the ever-present geckos, which are most welcome because they eat mosquitos) during our brief visit to Koh Yao Noi, which was quite lovely all in all. CLICK HERE for some pictures of our tree house bungalow and of the island.

Finally. Someone feels the same way about peeing that I do.

March 8, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |   |  No Comments

If we’re being honest, Heaven might be a bit of an oversell. But they aren’t the worst we’ve seen, and there’s no door on the men’s room so you can get quite a show. If you’re into that sort of thing.

And suddenly, we’re surrounded by penises

March 7, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Koh Yao Noi, Thailand  |  10 comments

When traveling, and everything you look at is new and largely unfamiliar, it can be hard to really take in everything you see. There’s so much. Which may explain why it took us some time to notice the… unique… artwork at our bungalow on Koh Yao Noi (near Phuket). Not too long after we’d arrived, we were sitting down in the lovely (family friendly) restaurant, drinking coffee and waiting for our breakfast fried rice. Suddenly, while idly looking about, my brain finally registered what my eyes had been seeing for the past half hour:

That’s right. Penises. Lots of them. Carved into all the structural poles in the restaurant.

penis1

penis3

After several minutes of watching us giggle and point like little school girls, the manager of the place came over and explained that they are carved by a local artist, and are considered to be symbols of luck. Given the size, we’re not sure we’re ready to be quite so lucky.

O Joy, O Joy

March 6, 2011  |  by jess c  |  Koh Jum, Places we love, Thailand  |  14 comments

If you’re like us, then you’ve probably spent a good many hours dreaming about idyllic tropical islands, with soft white sand beaches, clear turquoise water, and shady trees whose leaves are gently rustled by the dreamy afternoon breeze. Yeah, we know. A little cliché perhaps, but what can we say, it’s been the nagging daydream for many years.

Well, less than a month into our trip, we found that paradise. Or at least as close to it as either of us has ever been (so far!). The island is Koh Jum (pronounced Koh Jam), and it’s on the Andaman coast of Thailand, situated halfway between Krabi Town on the mainland and the island of Koh Lanta.

To get there, we boarded the Koh Lanta-Krabi Ferry, which “stops” midway on its journey to offload the passengers headed for Koh Jum. Since Koh Jum doesn’t have a pier that can accommodate anything much larger than a small motor boat, the ferry instead stops about a thousand meters off the island’s shore, where it is met by a flotilla of Farang-laden long tail boats (the ubiquitous sea-vessel of choice in the Andamans, see picture above), which sidle up alongside the ferry for the transfer.

KohJumBeach

Beach in front of Joy Bungalow, Koh Jum, Thailand

After the passengers boarding the ferry from Koh Jum managed to squeeze past us on the tiny deck, we handed out packs to the boatmen and, not yet having anything resembling sea legs, practically threw ourselves the five foot drop into the narrow longtail and headed for shore. Approaching the island, we could barely make out any structures on the land. Only a few sagging volleyball nets indicated human occupation. Ten minutes later, we were deposited on the nearly deserted Long Beach, right in front of Joy Bungalows.

The Rough Guide to Thailand’s Beaches & Islands describes Joy Bungalows as “not necessarily the friendliest” place to stay on Koh Jum. We beg to differ.

Mon

Mon, with delicious coffee and condensed milk. Dii maak maak!

The resort is composed of fifteen or so simple wooden bungalows scattered among a garden compound hiding just a few meters behind the beach-front tree line, which shades the various hammocks and tree swings thoughtfully provided. At the center of the compound is a large restaurant/center of community activity. Near the reception desk two tables spill over, one with various board games, and the other with book-exchange books representing at least a dozen languages. The tinseled “Merry Christmas” banner still hangs overhead. A poster announcing a 1963 appearance of The Doors at LA’s Whiskey-a-Go-Go incongruously stares out from behind the bar. While only the restaurant is wired for electricity, free WiFi is nonetheless available most days. At night, you return to your bungalow by the light of paraffin lamps, which only adds to the peaceful vibe of the place.

JoyRestaurant

The restaurant and community hub at Joy Bungalows.

The resort is run by a soft-spoken man whose name, we’re told, is simply “boss”––fitting perhaps for his function, but not his demeanor. In the kitchen a group of about eight ladies turn out consistently tasty, sometimes downright exceptional, food (both the red curry prawn and the pizza margharita are to die for). Out front, Mon (pictured above), who incidentally has what must be the worlds largest collection of pants memorializing Bob Marley, and Sak (pictured below) greet you in a wonderful manner that makes you feel that they’re welcoming you back––old friends long absent and much missed.

Sak

Sak. A jokester and skillful fruit-carver. He carved this lovely fruit bouquet for us on our last night at Joy. There's a candle inside the pineapple.

The warmth of the people at Joy is something more than mere hospitality. There’s a gentleness, an easy strength and confidence of character, that you quickly come to understand is indicative not only in Thai culture generally, but of the people of Koh Jum especially. Everyone we met was endearingly proud of their home, but never competitively so. While we were sometimes asked where we’d come from, we were never asked what we did for a living, or why we’d chosen to visit Koh Jum. It was enough that we’d come, and they residents of the island were more than happy to share their island with us for as long as we wanted to stay. The reason for being there is self-evident.

KohJumSunset

I mean, c'mon. Does it get any better than this? (That's Koh Phi Phi that the sun is setting over)

And so we spent our time on Koh Jum relaxing and swimming, reading on the giant tree swing, exploring the island, and mostly navigating the borders where language and shared experience meet with our new friends. Which was time enough to be accepted, earnestly, as part of the Joy Bungalow family. We know, it’s easy to suspect that this feeling was simply part of the “island vacation” package. Part of the experience offered by clever resort staff. It wasn’t. Neither Koh Jum nor the people we met there had anything to prove, nor any need to impress.

The only question we were asked often was how soon we’d be coming back. And we know, like the handful of other Koh Jum devotees who return year after year, that when we do return (sooner rather than later) we’ll be welcomed home to a chorus of “My friend! My friend!” sung by faces that smile more easily and honestly than we thought possible.

Roman

Roman: boatman, bartender, snorkeling guide, and world-class smiler.

For more pictures from Koh Jum, CLICK HERE.

Waterproof camera, yay!

March 4, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |  6 comments

We weren’t so sure that bringing the underwater camera case that triples the size of Jess C’s tiny tiny camera was a good idea, but it turns out it’s been hours of entertainment.







Going Bamboo

March 4, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |  3 comments

It’s amazing how fast you adjust to things. One minute you’re living your cushy American life, and the next you’re taking cold showers, “flushing” your toilet with a cup of water, and using DEET as night cream. Turns out mosquito nets actually are the fort you always wanted as a kid, that two squares of toilet paper can be plenty, and it’s super efficient when your shower is your bathroom and your laundry room (it’s easiest to shower and launder simultaneously).

It’s going on two days since we’ve put on shoes.  I’d say we’ve adjusted.

Gen-u-ine Diamantes

March 2, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |   |  7 comments

Diamantes is from some small island we couldn’t make out somewhere in Southern Greece. As it turns out he’s 40, but he could have just as easily been 55. He is, to be kind, weathered. He travels light, a pair of cut off fisherman pants and two shirts. He comes to Ko Jum every year for three months. He doesn’t like to move, doesn’t want to see other islands.

We first met him on Valentines Day at what turned out to be some sort of traditional Sea Gypsy show and Farang dance party (Farang is Thai for Whitie) at Bo Daeng, a couple of bungalows down the beach. He sat down with us and proceeded to conscientiously roll a joint, which, as it turns out, is his main occupation here on Ko Jum––rolling and smoking joints. He is not a man of many words, which we think is not due to a language barrier, a significant barrier to be sure, but more that his vocabulary is mostly made up of grunts and moans.

We showed him Caligula, the massive beetle that decided to join us for our card game, and he told us that the bug was nothing. He likes bugs. He likes snakes. He likes to pet them. In fact he handles cobras sometimes. When we asked him if he fished, with a long guttural mmmmmmm (the kind your mama warned you about) he shook his head no. No, he did Judo. If we told him we had just killed a bull with our bare hands, he would no doubt mention that he killed bull once, as a very small boy, but no more. Only women and children kill bulls with their bare hands in Greece, the men are too busy wrestling tigers or something equally as impressive.

When we came to Thailand a few years ago, we discovered fairly early on that if you show any interest in something, a pair of earrings, a hammock, the guy that does henna tattoos on the beach, it was yours. You bought it, or eventually would. We called it “cupping.” So if the lady comes down the beach selling earrings, and if they somehow ended up in your hand, either because you put them there or she did, that was it. You cupped it. You bought it.

Somehow, and through no action on my part, I seemed to have cupped Diamantes.

His favorite beach on the island is the one in front of our bungalows, and he comes here every day, even though the hotel he chooses to stay at year after year is a 30-minute walk down the beach and he could just stay at our place and have this beach at his front door. He runs here in the morning, very, very fast of course – good to be strong man. He’s been lurking about, winking and staring, and generally making things uncomfortable. Until today. Today I was sitting alone reading on the beach, when he brought out the big guns. It went something like this:

Mmmmmmmmm amiga, I like you. You beautiful. I like you smile. I want to hang you, and ­–”

“Wait, I’m sorry, hang me? “

“MMMMMMmmmmm, yesssssss, hang you and kiss you. Mmmmmmm, you come to my hotel and have lunch with me. I want to hang you and kissssss you…”

And so it went. Now at first I admit I thought this was some kind of kinky Greek thing, but I think he actually was saying he wants to hug me and, well, then, you know. I told him I thought him hanging me would not be the best plan at this point in our relationship, but somehow I don’t think he’s finished yet. Only little wimpy boys and grandmas give up that easily.

Hello world. Meet my underwear.

March 1, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |   |  1 Comment

It’s amazing how quickly you cease to become self-conscious of hanging your underwear out in public. Back home at the laundromat, they were quickly pulled from the dryer and shoved it into the laundry bag to be folded later, in private.

Here, not so much.

Here, they’re part of the décor. Fluttering in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags.

Welcome to camp laundry.

Happy Valentines Day

February 28, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Thailand  |   |  1 Comment

Meet Caligula. He joined us for dinner on Valentines Day. We thought about dealing him into our card game, but he seemed perfectly content to just sit and occupy half of the table and hang out.

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