After many years of almost weeping from jealousy while watching inspiring footage of Rick Stein sampling street food in Thai markets, I finally made it there myself. Sadly, the experience was rather ...difficult. I did manage to thoroughly enjoy the food that I had, and explored what was on offer as much as possible, under the circumstances. A combination of frequent rain (it was not supposed to be rainy season), all my money being nicked from my room (my insurance wouldn't pay up) and - worst of all - a truly terrible tropical skin infection, conspired to make enjoying anything a challenge. The best bit was the food, of course, but I was so ill from the skin thing that I couldn't even face the fried insects that I'd normally be dying to try.
So, for once I won't bore you with a long story about the beautiful places I stayed in (e.g. beach shack on Ko Chang island), the elephant ride, the warm sea and the mountains covered in lush tropical greenery, or other colourful descriptions about every part of the adventure. I'll just stick up the food photos below and succinctly annotate.
The skin thing, by the way, was finally diagnosed in the UK 3 weeks after my return as the moving larvae of dog hookworm. Lovely. You pick it up from damp tropical beaches.
Ko Samet Island
First meal in Thailand was lunch at a beach restaurant, of squid salad so hot with chili my eyes were streaming. "Yes!", I thought, "This is what I was after". That evening we went to a restaurant that doubled as a tattoo parlour and contained a moped. This was the kitchen, where the lady made a delicious tasty prawn dish in literally about two minutes. Fresh ingredients, oil, spices and pastes, wok, heat, finito.
Resulting dish - fast food Thai style
There were food sellers that walked up and down the beaches carrying their wares or ingredients on each end of bendy bamboo sticks. This guy was making spicy papaya salad, with shredded green papaya, roasted peanuts, fresh chilies and garlic, dried shrimps, green 'snake' beans, palm sugar, limes, tomato and a mix of oil and ginger. Wonderful!
On the other end of the papaya salad makers' bamboo are full-on barbecues with marinated chicken cooking over them
Barbecued chicken served with sweet chili sauce
Another beach food-seller. This time, dried barbecued squid and hard-boiled eggs. Really tasty snack!
Ko Samet greengrocers
Deep fried morning glory, with seafood salad
Spicy squid dish
Selection of bugs. Want to try them now, but couldn't stomach them at the time due to feel under the weather - I really wasn't myself!
I did manage to eat a chicken foot before I was too ill, but it wasn't crispy how I like them; flacid fat horrible batter with barely cooked boney old foot inside. Bugs would have been a better option!
Ko Chang Island
The best restaurant at Lonely Beach:
Lovely stash of ingredients in the open kitchen. The kitchen and grill were at the front, tables and chairs behind.
Pickled crab in papaya salad, with squid, prawns and morning glory in a spicy sauce.
By 'pickled' I think they mean 'put in salt water for a few seconds'. I attempted pickled crab a couple times, but would never choose it again. It's just really hard-shelled raw crab with no trace of any meat! Impossible to get a taste for these inedible little bastards, pretending to be food. Everything else served with them was great, though.
Photo taken just before the elephant sprayed me with water from her nose. Nice.
Brilliant Bang Bao fishing village, all built on stilts
I had a day of looking at numerous temples, crossing the river by ferry and searching out food stalls. Had a good time at the beautiful Flower Market - which also contains a food market.
Garlic stalls that put France to shame
Dried fish stall
Thai roti is like a cross between an english pancake and a Caribbean roti. It was fried in loads of ghee and very nice too.
My last meal in Thailand; street food. Fantastic, extremely hot fish dish. The big chunks of white fish (no idea what species) were so tough, I had to get out my swiss army knife to eat it. I don't know how locals managed with the bendy plastic cutlery or chop sticks. Really enjoyed it though.