Sawasdee ka!

Phang Nga Bay Thailand

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was single. I had extra time to meditate, run a muck, and most importantly, save money. I was able to save so much money that on one particular occasion, I decided to do something crazy. Go to Asia!. I had always wanted to go, but was unsure of where. I didn’t really want to go to any big cities and narrowed it down to a location with great beaches. I love the beach, well really a beach town atmosphere. Everyone is chill and relax. What better spot to choose than Phuket Thailand.

patong beach

Ihad actually been watching the show “Lost” at the time. One of the characters Jack went to Phuket to get away from life for a while. Not that I needed to escape, but an escape was needed. I was totally enthralled and captivated. Obsessed really. Then I saw by chance, the movie, “The Beach”, with DiCaprio. BOOM! I spent the next 12 hours googling anything and everything I could find out about Phuket. Like How cheaply I could get there, where to stay, what to eat, how to eat it, and when could I leave.

I decided on Patong beach because  I was on a budget. I only had $5500 to last 3 weeks. It cost $1400 for a round trip ticket, which was 15 hours long, ughh.. I found a place that looked reasonable in Patong called Summer Breeze. It was $70 a day. Which was great due to the location. It was right off of Bangla road which was directly next to all the night clubs, the beach and the restaurants. I have to say after 5 days I was fully immersed and knew the area well. I found a nearby apartment rental, usually rented by savvy tourists or locals. It was $25 a night, and just as nice as my current accomodations. The Summer Breeze owner was annoyed but I think he understood why I had to leave. I was solo on this trip and needed to make my moula last.

The flight was horrible. When I arrived in the Land Of Smiles, I literally kissed the ground, which got me some crazy looks from guys with rifles. I quickly hailed a cab and got out of there. On the cab ride which was at about 8 pm, I asked the Thai cabbie to pull over at the closest store so I could buy a six pack of Singha Beer. He laughed at me, but obliged. The beer was ok but I can tell you that after my trip I decided that Tiger beer was the best in the area.

I was fortunate enough to make some friends the first day there. A group of Australian guys checked in. They seemed a bit rowdy. Perfect!. We chatted for a bit over drinks at happy hour in the hotel lobby. After they found out I was solo they pretty much invited me to go just about everywhere with them. I also met some other friendly people. A welsh bloke and of course another American who was also from Massachusetts where I reside (figures right!)

aussie-boys

Sadly the food at the touristy areas were not that great. I had to venture out on my own to find the really awesome food finds. On my journey wandering around the streets of Patong I met a woman who tried to strike up a conversation with me. I at the time thought she was “offering herself” to me and politely said no and walked away. She followed and said in English with a heavy Thai accent, “I’m not a go go girl”. I apologized and we chatted for a while. She apparently was on vacation herself from Bangkok. I asked her if she knew where I could find authentic Thai food that the locals eat. She was happy to show me and invited me for a tour of the area. I spent a few days with her giving me a food tour of the area. I felt/feel very lucky to have met this girl. I would never have seen the things I saw if it wasn’t for her kindness. She never asked me for a single Baht the whole time and even bought me lunch on one occasion.

On our food trek I was a bit weary of eating a lot of seafood as it didn’t always appear fresh. I did have a few Thai specialties on numerous occasion however. Everyday for lunch after my morning massage and mandatory 2 hours at the beach, I had a bowl of Thai chicken soup. It was so fresh. The fresh beans, basil and sprouts are served separately from the rich chicken broth soup filled with scallions and chicken. By the way the establishment I was served at was not actually a restaurant per say. It was a garage converted into a little soup kitchen. An old woman armed with a ladel who spoke no English was superb at pointing and smiling. We created a bond in the 3 weeks I was there. I think. The soup also cost about $1 U.S. dollar. I always left a tip.

chix soup

Thai chicken Soup

Another amazing dish I ate, which I make often at home for my wife and I is a rice and chicken dish, lightly curried and served with various vegetables topped with a fried egg. Sometimes the egg was like in the pic below but most times it was lightly scrambled with a hot sauce and some basil added then fried. YUM! This dish is made all over in various styles and flavors.

egg

Thai Curried Chicken & Rice with a spicy fried Egg

When I was feeling dangerous I had some seafood. I liked this dish below. It’s named translates to Thai fish ball soup with shrimp. It was very light with a nice broth filled with vermicelli. The fish balls were some local white fish with a light curry, coriander, fish sauce and of course shrimp, which seemed to be poached in a water-rice wine vinegar mix.

fish bowl soup

Thai Fish Ball Soup with Shrimp

One of the highlights from my amazing trip was when I journeyed to Phi-Phi Island (pronounced pee-pee). Sounds like a place you may not want to go to huh? Not! It has to be one of earths treasures and definitely worth the trip. Remember the scene from “The Beach” when they swim into a cave and come up inside a secluded beach cove? Yeah that totally is real. Breathtaking spot. Sadly I had to swim so no camera footage. But here’s a photo I stole from the web, the others are mine. shhhhh….

Emerald cave

The Name of this hidden gem is the “Emerald Cave”. It was in all actuality one of the islands on the way to the Phi Phi islands. Its name in Thai is Koh Muk. Phi Phi island is actually two islands, phi phi Don and Phi Phi Ley. I stopped at Maya bay as part of a tour for a 3 hour swim and lunch. This is another famous beach also in the Movie “The Beach”.

Phi Phi LeyThe Beach

Why all the fuss over Phi Phi island? It’s really the main reason why most come to Phuket. It’s beauty is endless and it’s people are charming. If you’re a beach goer, this is your ultimate bucket list location. Now if this isn’t enough, there is another main attraction, however you could easily spend months just on the series of islands on and around Koh Phi Phi. James Bond Island. Yes his heralded spot that the film, “The Man With The Golden Gun” was filmed. The terrain is what makes this place so notable. Like spikes, rocky mountains jut out of the Phang Nga Bay which lies in the Andaman Sea. Another truly breath taking spot. Most of the island is covered with deciduous limestone shrubland and evergreen trees. Most of the region is restricted due to erosion. There are only a few spots that are accessable by a tour.

Bond Island peir

Bond Island Peir view 2Bond Rock

Also part of this tour was a visit to the Monkey caves in Phang Nga. Inside this cave that is surrounded by hundreds of monkeys, and yes they bite, is pure mystical beauty. Statues were built inside the cave along with other trinkets.

statue1statue2

stat3cave-statue

monkey

statueface

Finally My tour ended at the

floating fishing village. It was purchased originally by two muslims in order to build a mosk. Now it’s primarily a tourist pit stop going back to Phuket from the various island tours.

fv1

coconuts

fishing village

coron-souvenirs

I can tell you that this was the best trip i have ever been on. If you have the

opportunity to make it to Phuket, go. Don’t consider or ponder, just go.Lastly I have to say, looking back on this trip it was kind of game changer for me and the biggest experience in my life up till that point. I shortly there after met my wife, Richelle and we now have beautiful twins living in Dover Ma. Things could be worse. One other take away is the food. Yes this is a food blog and not a travel blog. I bet you forgot for a moment. My favorite food experiences were the ones off the beaten path. I ate what the people of the region ate. My favorite thing to nibble on was the Thai chicken, beef and veg skewers found just about everywhere. On Bangla road the vendors where out all night. I could probably build a small hut out of all the skewers I went through in my time their.

street food1

Here is a great recipe which I found after many searches and experiments. This is very authentic to what the street vendors marinated their protein in:

Thai Street style Chicken Skewers

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Your favorite Asian peanut sauce for serving

PREPARATION

Slice the chicken lengthwise into 3/8-inch wide strips. (This is easier if the chicken is partially frozen first.) Place the strips in a resealable plastic bag. In a jar, combine the cilantro, coconut milk, lime juice, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, curry paste, cumin, and pepper and blend until smooth. Pour over the chicken strips and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade. Thread the chicken strips onto bamboo skewers. When ready to cook,  grill till done. They grill very quickly so make sure the flame is low.  Serve immediately with the peanut sauce.

สวัสดี (bye)

-Mark

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