Before moving on to Ko Phangan, I’d like to stop and write a few posts on my general observations about Thailand. Starting with – what else? – the food.
In just one sentence: “Thai food is un-freaking-real.”
I’ve been to quite a few countries in my day, but never before have I experienced anywhere with such amazing, such cheap, such diverse an assortment of flavors. I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m having a great time in Thailand – but even with all its amazing features, most of which I’ve yet to mention, the food is right at the top of the list.
Typically I consider eating to be one of the biggest hassles of travel. Finding or preparing meals is almost always time consuming, difficult, and/or expensive.
Take China for instance. Although eating in China is about as cheap as it gets, you never can be too sure what’ll end up in front of you: with no English in sight you’re about as likely to order a plate of fried chicken bones (it has happened!) as something, well, edible.
Or how about Italy, where the food is almost universally fabulous yet a single restaurant outing could easily cost you your whole afternoon (a true test of one’s patience).
Japanese food is both quick and consistent, yet eating out too often will quickly become very expensive (or intolerably repetitive if you stick to just the cheapo fast-food options).
The result is that when I travel, I often find myself either eating the same things over and over, living in a perpetual state of hunger, or searching endlessly for the nearest supermarket. Or a combination of all three.
But not here in Thailand. Here, the problem is the exact opposite: I can never seem to stop eating.
Not only is every streetcorner loaded with cafes, restaurants, and food carts, but the taste is always different, always delicious, and always astonishingly cheap. Even in restaurants there’s rarely a point in looking at the price: unless you’re going to a top-end hotel you’d be hard pressed to spend more than $3, maybe $4 if you go really nuts. With street food (which is often better than restaurants anyway) you can easily fill up for a dollar.
It just seems like here, whether I’m in the mood for shrimp Pad Thai, pineapple fried rice with crab, sweet Thai pancakes, a steaming bowl of Tom Yam, or a stir-fried fish and vegetable platter, the next gourmet meal is never more than a few steps away – any time day or night. In other words, eating is no longer a chore; it’s pure pleasure. Whenever I step outside I find 20 new things I’m dying to try – so I order whatever I see until I can’t cram one more bite. Even when combined with the half-dozen satays or fruit smoothies peppered in between, I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $15 in a day.
Oh that’s right – let’s not forget all the fruit juices and smoothies! Everywhere in Thailand seems to have an abundance of stalls covered with fresh fruit where they’ll whip up any kind of drink you can imagine. Just point at what you want and in the blender it goes. Cool, fresh, and best of all, no sugar added.
Plus no matter where you eat or what you order, it always seems to be ready in minutes; None of this American-style sitting around tapping your fingers for half an hour while the chef finishes up his phone call. You order, they make it, you get it. No tax, no tip: just the $1.50 it says on the menu.
I don’t think I’ll ever quite be satisfied eating in another country again 😛