Eat, Drink and Be Merry – Thai Style

I have decided to devote an entire post to the Thai cuisine because it was some of the best food I have ever had in my life. I also needed a way to justify the obscene amount of photos I took of food while there. Seriously guys, I have more food photos than beach photos.  As soon as we got settled in our hostel, we decided we needed some refueling. Having only just arrived, and not being very familiar with the area, we decided to stick close to the hostel. Literally, we could see the hostel from the patio of the restaurant. It was a small restaurant called Sala Bua, and there was only one other patron. I’d only had Thai food once or twice before, so the whole menu was pretty new to me. I opted for a traditional Thai dish. And by traditional, I mean I’d heard of it before. I ordered the shrimp pad thai, and it did not disappoint. It was like heaven in my mouth. I can’t remember what Joe ordered (I was too busy having a relationship with my meal to pay attention to him), but I know we both enjoyed our food so much that we intended to go back. Multiple times. Unfortunately, it was not to be. But we’ll always have the memories of our first Thai meal… For dinner on our first evening, we asked our very friendly hostel manager to recommend a seafood restaurant. She had her husband (also the hostel taxi driver) take us to a place in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, our driver got lost on more than one occasion, and at one point I was pretty sure we were headed somewhere the likes of which horror films are made. We eventually reached an open air restaurant located on a waterfront of some sort. It was really dark, so it’s pretty hard to say whether it was the ocean or just a really big pond. I like to pretend is was on the ocean, and it’s usually best to just go with it. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, and we finally narrowed it down to lobster and jumbo prawns. It was the kind of restaurant where you get to pick your food out from the tank. After much debate, we selected a worthy opponent and marked it for death. And it was…wait for it… A. May. Zing. We couldn’t believe how much tasty food we’d gotten so cheap. Then the bill came and we realized we’d made some pretty egregious calculation errors. Let’s just say neither one of us should be trusted to do math without adult supervision.
On day two, we met Joe’s parents at their hotel, the Andaman Seaview, and ate lunch there. I can’t remember the name of the dish I ordered, but I enjoyed it so much that in three days I tried all three versions of it. And all were delectable. All four of us liked the food there so much, that we ate there several times during our stay. I also had a cocktail in a dragon fruit. It was actually kind of weird, but it looked super awesome, so I felt pretty good about it on the whole. And it was the first of many cocktails inside of fruit to be consumed that week. That night we had dinner at the restaurant next door to our hostel. The food was good, but it was  probably the least memorable meal from our trip. Although I do recall that you could order “Amerigan Fried Rice,” whatever that might be…
Day three included lunch at the Andaman Seaview again, with the second variation of day two’s delightful dish. That evening, thanks to some skillful internet searching on the part of Joe’s dad, we enjoyed dinner at the After Beach Bar, a reggae themed restaurant on a hilltop overlooking Kata Beach. We arrived shortly before sunset and enjoyed a round of beverages (mine a Mai Tai in a pineapple) while taking in the sunset and waiting for our food. I ordered a shrimp dish of some fashion, which was kind of a trend for the duration of our trip. But really, how often can you get shrimp dishes that cheap? I had to take advantage of it. I did, however, object to Joe’s mom’s dinner that evening – a fish with the head still on. She claims it was delicious, but I just can’t eat anything that is still looking at me.

On day four we had lunch at – you guessed it! The Andaman Seaview. For dinner we headed up to the Kata Beach area once again, to a restaurant called Lucky Tom’s, which is apparently quite popular with tourists. It was a tiny place, and they had it packed to the gills. There were lots of interesting sounding dishes on the menu, but I went with a trusty shrimp dish. Joe and his dad were a little more adventurous. They ordered a curry that was served in a coconut and stir fried shark. I tried a little of each. I wasn’t a huge fan of the curry, but the shark was exquisite. I have never had meat that melted in my mouth like the shark did. I recommend going to Lucky Tom’s for this dish alone. Although everything we ordered that night was delicious. After dinner, Joe and I decided to check out a bar we’d passed earlier that day called Dino Bar. We’d been told that sometimes they have a small elephant wandering out front, and apparently we hadn’t had our fill of elephants yet.  We were in luck, and were able to pet and feed the little guy. Then we headed to the bar for a couple of drinks whose colors were so unnatural that it should have been off-putting, but really it made hanging out at a bar where the staff dressed like Fred Flintsone that much more fun. I thought it was a fun, kitschy little place and wanted to eat dinner there one night, but Joe informed me I was wrong and dinner there was not going to happen.  C’est la vie.

On day five we took the boat cruise from hell out to Phi Phi Island where we had the worst food of the entire trip, and probably some of the worst food I’ve ever had. All I can tell you about the boat cruises out to Phi Phi are – don’t do it! Totally not worth the time or money. That night, Joe and I had dinner at the Karon Hut. The food was amazing, but the service was awful! One table ordered, ate and left before anyone even came to talk to us! It took a good 30 minutes for us to even get drinks. Seriously. We almost walked out. Joe was ready to, but I really wanted my cocktail in a pineapple that I’d ordered. Fortunately, he’s pretty good at dealing with my irrational nature. All in all, the day was kind of a wash.

The last couple of days of our trip were a national Thai holiday – Buddha’s birthday. And apparently you aren’t allowed to purchase alcohol on those days. We had no idea, because we had no problem getting served on day five, until we tried to go to 7-11 and buy a couple of beers to take down to the beach. Apparently restaurants make concessions for foreigners since Buddha’s not our guy. But all of the bars were closed. So we ended up going back to our hostel, where the hostel managed gave us some beer that we had to keep concealed in case the cops came by. Since we couldn’t leave the hostel area, we ended up hanging out on the patio with some awesome tourists from Holland and taught them how to play redneck poker.

On our last day (still Buddha’s bday), we had lunch at Sofia Restaurant and Cafe where we tried our luck ordering beer. They served it to us, but they put it in little, dixie-style coffee cups and we had to hide the bottles under the table. Please, try not to be jealous of how classy we are. For food, we ordered some great curry, spring rolls and *gasp* another shrimp dish. Although we were very tempted to order the Swedish Breakfast, which apparently consists of “2 Aspirins served with a glass of water.” Sounds mouthwatering… For our last Thai meal, we headed to a restaurant that we’d passed by several times and kept saying, “We should stop here sometime.” So we finally did. The restaurant was called 2Gether (Anyone else having U+Me= Us (Calculus) flashbacks right now?) and owned by a really friendly Swedish guy. As it was low season, the restaurant was pretty slow, so he came out and joined our table for a bit. We had a lovely conversation and he recommended some great dishes. I decided to end it with the same dish I started with – shrimp pad thai. The owner sent out some complimentary spring rolls that were almost as delicious as the ones my Vietnamese neighbor used to make when I was a kid, and that’s a pretty big feat. Hers are the best spring rolls I’ve ever had. Somehow, the guys managed to have enough room for dessert. But neither of them ordered anything that was up my ally, so while they looked delicious, I have no idea whether they actually were or not. The whole trip was super amazing and went by way too quickly. I can’t wait to go back for a lot of reasons, but the food is one of the biggest. However, I’m a little concerned that authentic Thai food may have ruined me for American style Thai food. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks when I head home…

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A Thai Holiday

Sorry, guys. This post is loooooong overdue. It’s either because I’ve had so many fun and exciting things going on while my time here comes to an end or because I’m supremely lazy. I’ll let you try and work that one out. Let me start off by saying that I will be devoting two posts to my trip to Thailand (no, you won’t have to wait two months for the follow-up). This post will be dedicated to all of the fantastically awesome things Joe and I did while in Thailand (spoiler alert – I pet a tiger!!!) and the follow up will be all about the delicious things I put in and around my mouth.  Our journey began, like any other good vacation, with an inordinate amount of travel. It took a 3 hour bus ride, a 1 hour subway ride, and two plane flights sandwiched around a 4-hour layover at 1 a.m. in Bangkok airport. I can’t tell you much about Bangkok, but I definitely do not recommend hanging out at their airport in the wee hours of the morning. Somehow we managed to make the 20-hour journey to Phuket on zero sleep, in one piece and without a single argument. Those of you that know me are aware of what a gigantic feat that is. Our taxi driver was waiting for us just outside the airport with a sign reading my name – just like in the movies – and I was pretty stoked to cross that off of my bucket list. Once we got back to our hostel (which only cost about $14/night and included a TV, fridge and private bathroom), we decided to forgo a nap and soldier on because we were in freaking THAILAND! Who’s got time to sleep when there are picturesque beaches to be seen and Thai massages to be had?!?! First order of business was food. As soon as we’d refueled, we thought we’d get our stay started off on a relaxing note with an hour-long Thai massage. That cost $16. And was the best massage I’ve ever had in my life. Then it was on to those fish tanks where you stick your feet in and they eat the dead skin off of your feet. It sounds really gross, but mostly it just tickles. A lot. I was only able to endure about 10 minutes, and I’m not sure how much softer my feet were, in the end. But for $1.50, it was worth the experience. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the beach and the area near the hostel. We ate dinner at an amazing seafood restaurant recommended by our ever-so-helpful hostel manager and then headed home to hit the hay.

On day two, Joe’s parent’s arrived. After a much needed lie-in and some lunch, we headed off to their hotel to meet them. Their hotel was just a little nicer than ours, and we ended up spending a bit of time there over the course of the week. They had amazing food, and a super amazing pool. You know, the kind with a bar built into the pool? I’d always wanted to have a drink at one of those. Bucket list check #2. This was my first time meeting his parents in person (although we’d previously had many lovely skype conversations). They were very kind and a lot of fun and reminded me of my own parents in many ways, which was nice because I REALLY miss my parents. They were tired from their journey, so Joe and I let them rest while we headed to the Phuket Aquarium. I don’t know how apparent this has become yet, but I will go to any aquarium. Any time, any place, anywhere. I’m there. This was hands-down the saddest little aquarium I’ve ever seen. Granted, half of it was under construction, but still… At least they had a turtle and a ray, so I left happy. And entry was only $3. Can’t really complain about that. Although I think I just did… Afterwards, we met up with Joe’s folks for dinner and then spent the evening on the beach enjoying a few drinks.
Day three was jam-packed with activities. We started out with my birthday present from Joe – an elephant ride. Bucket list check #3. It’s was super awesome/scary and our guide was hilarious. Except for when he directed the elephant so that I was within about 8 inches of the biggest, scariest, most evil spider I have ever seen. Not cool, tour guide. NOT COOL! I swear it was THIS BIG! (Which is about the equivalent of my hand, in case you were wondering.) Aside from that awful moment, it was an amazing experience with beautiful scenery. Joe was even brave enough to get off the seat and straddle the elephant’s neck. They asked me if I wanted to do the same, but I politely declined. I’d already used up my allotted bravery points for that day. By the way – Joe has officially thrown down the gauntlet on awesome birthday presents. But I’m really excited to see what y’all will do next year in an effort to top him. I have high expectations, people. High expectations.  If anyone needs any ideas, swimming with dolphins is still on my bucket list… But I digress. After my super mega epic birthday present, we headed to the Big Buddha which sits on a local hill top. And where women are not allowed to show their shoulders. I knew this, and had brought a light sweater to cover my slutty shoulders but someone who shall remain nameless (Joe), left it in the car. Fortunately they had large scarves that you can wrap around your shoulders in case you are unprepared, as many women were. We were all wandering around with the same patterned scarf, which started to feel like a scarlet letter marking our Western ignominy (thank you, Mr. Alves’  junior year English). They weren’t finished building it yet, so there wasn’t a lot to see. We wrapped it up there pretty quickly and made our way to Chalong Temple. It was stunning. The buildings were so intricately detailed and ornate. I took approximately 1 million pictures, which made it very difficult to narrow down for the blog. Also, we saw a rainbow that formed a complete circle and is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. After the temple, we headed back to the hotel for lunch and an afternoon lounging by the pool. After dinner that evening, Joe and I decided to check out the local bar scene. It was severely lacking in patronage, as we went during off season. But that was fine with us because it meant the bartenders were extremely attentive. They keep games at the bar, which I’m not sure if is more for their entertainment or the customer’s, but they offered us a selection and we settled upon Connect 4. We played 25 games and the final count was 22:3. Guess who won? Poor Joe. Everyone at the bar was rooting for him by the end. On his 3rd win, he decided to quit while he was ahead (sort of).
Day four was pretty low-key. It consisted mostly of shopping, eating and lounging poolside. That night I got a pedicure. For $10. But day five was a hell of a day. We decided to book a day trip out to Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee) Island, which is where they filmed the movie The Beach and everyone had assured us we needed to visit it. Joe and I “lucked out” with seats on the very back of the boat. Where we were very nearly thrown off and killed. By they time we arrived at our first destination, we were drenched. Towels and all. I will say that the bays at which we stopped were some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I didn’t even know they made water that color in real life. However, the beauty was overshadowed by the unpleasantness of the ride (which had only just begun) and the number of other boats impeding the view of the breathtaking scenery.  And this was during low season. I can’t even begin to imagine how crowded it must get during peak tourist season. We were able to get off the boat and snorkel at our first stop, but there was only one kind of fish to see and not a whole lot else going on. We then made out way to Monkey Island, where you get to throw food at monkeys that live on the island from the boat. Which at first seems kinda cool, but then seems a little sad. If people stopped coming there, would these monkeys even know how to fend for themselves anymore? After that, we launched into what I refer to as “the worst hour of my entire life.” And I saw the remake of Footloose, people. The water was so rough and choppy that it felt like a roller coaster and I had whiplash the next day (no joke). We got out at Phi Phi Island and only had about an hour to eat the buffet lunch that was included in the package (and was terrible) and to do a little souvenir shopping. The island was so crowded with people and souvenir stalls, that any potential beauty that may be there was lost on me. The silver lining was a gentlemen with a monkey in a diaper that would let you hold the monkey for a couple of bucks. Which I did. Bucket list check #4. The tour guides were unable to take us to our last destination because the water was too rough, so they took us to an alternate. It was a tiny beach covered in chairs that we had to pay $5  to sit in and where I used the most disgusting bathroom I have ever encountered in my life. The best part of the day was getting back to the hostel, taking a very long shower and changing into not soaking wet clothes. Needless to say, I do not recommend the day trip to Phi Phi Island. After dinner that evening, Joe and I headed to a Bar/Restaurant we’d walked by a few times and had heard sometimes had an elephant wandering around out front. We’d never seen said elephant, but decided to give it another go. Great success! The tiny elephant was out front and we got to feed it bananas. Bucket list check #5. Also, it was called Dino Bar and the staff dressed like Fred Flintstone and I thought it would be a fun place to have dinner but then Joe informed me it was tacky. So we only had drinks there.
Day six was also pretty jam-packed. Their was a lot of last minute souveniring to do, and I had been wanting to pet a tiger all week.  We went to the Phuket Zoo, which is where said tiger petting occurs. Phuket Zoo is one of the most depressing places I have ever been. I have never seen such unhappy, poorly cared for animals. Do not go there. Unless you need to pet a tiger. It’s hard to resist the eye of the tiger. Petting the tiger was AMAZING. It was everything I had not to yell, “KITTAY!” But I had no desire to be mauled, so I resisted the urge. Until later. I didn’t want to leave, but there was a line. So they made me. I also got to hold a couple of parrots while I was there, one of which played dead in my hands, so that was pretty cool. But on the whole, the place is terrible. After the zoo we stopped by the Phuket Butterfly and Insect Garden, which was super cool. They have feeding stations all over where you can watch butterflies. And if you sit really still, the butterflies will just come land on you. They had a really cool chrysalis display, which had the chrysalises of different kinds of butterflies. I had no idea how different they all looked! There was also a really cool black and white butterfly. Next we headed to Old Town Phuket because I was one a mission for fabric. I knew my mother and sister would disown me if I came home without any. And I wanted some for myself, so I made it happen. When we got back, we decided to squeeze in another Thai massage. Still amazing. And dirt cheap. We met Joe’s parents for one last Thai dinner before we had to go back and pack for our early flight out.
Overall, the trip was amazing. We picked a great place to stay. It was nice, cheap and the staff was amazing. I ate some of the best food I’ve ever had. I did amazing things with one of my favorite people and met some great new people. Oh, and I went to Thailand, which means bucket list check #6 and crossing off the number one thing on my bucket list. Epic vacation, y’all!

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