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August 2007 Archives

August 9, 2007

Fasting in Thailand

After leaving Krabi, we went straight to Ko Samui, a fairly large island on the east side of Thailand. This area is known as the Gulf of Thailand, and it is considered to be monsoon-safe (at least more than the west coast at the Indian Ocean).

Ko Samui is actually a very touristic place. It has been massively overdeveloped since the first tourists arrived here in the 70ies, and some parts of it are hard to tell apart from what you would expect in Phuket or Bangkok (i.e. western food restaurants, girlie bars, english pubs etc.). The reason we came here, however, was a SPA resort at the beach that offered detox fasting in a beautiful setting at reasonable prices. Since neither Rahel nor I have fasted before, we thought to give it a try. If we had to go through the horror of not eating for days, at least we could do it at a nice place right at the beach!

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There's not much to tell about the fast, other than it went 3.5 days (which is the fastest you can do, some people do 7 days or more), and that it is not intended to lose weight, but to detoxify the body. While most people just believe anything that some nutrition "expert" tells them, we were, and still are, more skeptical - but the absence of alcohol, coffee and cigarettes can't be too bad for our body, and that food restriction has a positive effect on longevity is no secret either, even by scientific standards. Each day started with some early morning meditation, then some detox drinks, liver flush drinks, broth soup and so on (i.e. liquids only).

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What's quite mean is that you take all your drinks in a restaurant that serves the most delicious food at the same time to the guests who are not fasting. What a torture! What's worse, the restaurant is supposed to be one of the best restaurants around, according to a UK food guide (and also according to our nose). The price of a healthy lifestyle...

After the fast, we stayed two more days to relax and revive and then slowly travelled to Bangkok by boat and train. We are now in Bangkok where we will stay until Sunday. Another long train ride will then bring us to the northern city of Chiang Mai, where we plan to take a Thai cooking course.

Since we didn't take any picture of us during the fast (why would we?), here's a picture of Rahel in her natural habitat (taken near the Perhentian Islands back in Malaysia):

August 11, 2007

Bangkok

Bangkok - you love it or hate it. We certainly don't love it. But in full fairness to the city, we should say that we have only been here for three days, and that's of course much too short to judge a city, especially when you are "just a tourist". But one is "just a tourist" everywhere except in one's hometown, and having seen a lot of cities this one is definitely our top pick for a "no go".

Unless, of course, you like: pollution, traffic jam, sex tourism, noise, dirt, ugly smells, touts ("hey you where you go?"). Clearly, every city has its share of the just mentioned annoyances, but take each one at its maximum level, put them all together, and you got Bangkok. Arguably, the food is quite good and the people are generally friendly, but again, unless you live at McDonalds road in Kentucky, that's true of almost anywhere in the world.

Even the Lonely Planet, who is usually quite good at pointing out the many nice things about any place, babbles something about an "ultramodern backdrop of skyscrapers canyons"... pfft! I have yet to see a single skyscraper that doesn't make me feel like I am watching "The streets of San Francisco" in the 70ies. The pollution is horrible, but some people are quick at pointing out that the air quality is better than in Beijing - a small comfort since Beijing has the strongest air pollution i the world and might even have to "postpone" some of its Olympic events.

For the culturally interested, Bangkok offers dozens of temples and palaces, but most places are incredibly crowded. One of the highlights of our daytrip today was to see the giant reclining Buddha, a 46m long and 15m high golden Buddha statue with a beautiful smile.

Like in every Buddha temple, you had to take off your shoes, but you also had to take care where you put them:

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Often, non-thais were only allowed to go through specially designated "foreigners" doors. A slight but sad trace of racism that we have never encountered anywhere in the past few months.

On the funny side of things, we went to the cinema yesterday - cinemas are extremely comfortable in Bangkok. We watched Ratatouille from Pixar and warmly recommend it to anyone who loves movies like Monsters Inc. It's a story about a cooking rat in Paris. There's a short movie right before the real movie about an attempted alien abduction - we haven't laughed so hard in ages. Surprisingly, the thai national anthem is played before every show, and everyone has to stand up. A new cinematic experience for us!

August 17, 2007

Un-fasting in Thailand

We are in Chiang Mai, and this is so much better than Bangkok - in fact, it is our best Thai experience so far. The people are nice and the food is excellent, but... alright, let's skip that part :-)

What needs mentioning about the food, however, is that we are preparing the food ourselves. That's because we are taking a 5 day course in the Thai Cookery School, and the food we cook is excellent (nothing to be modest about - although that is probably because the recipes and the teachers are excellent).

Just today, we have finished the 5 day course, and here's what we cooked (and ate):

Thai Hot And Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yam Gi), Thai Style Fish Cakes (Tord Man Plaa), Fried Noodles (Phad Thai), Spicy Minced Chicken Salad (Larb Gai), Water Chestnuts With Sugar Syrup And Coconut Milk (Tab Tim Grob), Panaeng Curry With Pork (Gaeng Panaeng Muu), Chiang Mai Curry With Chicken (Gaeng Hanglay Gai), Fried Fish With Chilli And Basil, (Pla Nin Laad Prik Bai Horapa), Sweet And Sour Vegetables (Phad Prio Wan Phak), Spicy Glass Noodle Salad (Yam Wun Sen), Black Sticky Rice Pudding (Khao Neow Dam Piak), Chicken In Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Kha Gai), Red Curry With Fish (Gaeng Phed Plaa), Fried Mixed Mushrooms With Baby Corn (Phad Hed Ruam Khao Pod Orn), Fried, Big Noodles With Thick Sauce (Raad Nah Muu), Papaya Salad And Sticky Rice (Som Tam), Steamed Banana Cake (Khanom Kluay), Yellow Curry With Chicken (Gaeng Garee Gai), Steamed Fish In Banana Leaves (Hor Neung Plaa), Chicken With Cashew Nuts (Gai Phad Med Mamuang), Fried Big Noodles With Sweet Soy Sauce (Phad Siewe), Spicy Prawn Salad North-Eastern Style (Plaah Goong), Bananas in Coconut Milk (Kluay Buad Chee), Clear Soup With Minced Pork (Tom Jued), Spring Rolls (Paw Pia Tord), Roast Duck Curry (Gaeng Phed Ped Yang), Fried Chicken With Ginger (Gai Phad King), Chicken In Pandanus Leaves (Gai Hor Bai Toey) and Mango With Sticky Rice (Khaaw Neaw Mamuang).

Yeah, and all of that in 5 days... Our stomachs almost burst! But it was definitely worth it. We're now Thai cooking experts. This course also helped us to deal with the traumatic post-fasting syndromes. No more nightmares about detox drinks!

Apart from cooking, we learnt a lot of useful things such as making curry pastes, tons of stuff about the thai ingredients and the local markets, etc. etc. I will upload some pics tomorrow.

We will explore the city and the surrounding terrirow on, and next friday, we will most likely rent a car and slowly drive back to Bangkok (the trains are quite dirty in Thailand), where a flight will take us to Delhi first. Another flight will then take us to Zurich (via Dubai). Our current plan is to stay in Zurich for two months, and then go back to traveling in India and New Zealand, as planned.

August 22, 2007

Talking about food...

Here is something I wanted to try for a long time: dry roasted crickets.

I actually liked it quite a lot. Rahel wasn't too fond of it, but she still had 2 pieces. On the market, they also sell dry roasted mealworms, but that just doesn't look right...

We promised to upload some pics from the cookery school - here they are.

Rahel preparing the chicken in coconut milk soup,

me preparing the steamed banana cake,

and one of the teachers explaining the nits and bits of Thai market shopping

August 26, 2007

Good Bye Southeast Asia

We left Chiang Mai with the impression that this was the best place in Thailand that we've visited. After the cooking course, we spent some time to explore the city (temples, forests, markets, restaurants etc.). We rented a scooter for 150 baht a day (about 6 Swiss Francs) and enjoyed the craziness of Thai traffic (quite simple really: anything goes, and the bigger vehicle is the winner).

With a couple of days left in Thailand, we decided to rent a car in Chiang Mai and slowly drive back to Bangkok. This would give us a chance to explore some parts of the country that take a long time to get to by public transport. First, we drove up to the highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon (2565 meters). It was still quite warm up there, and the vegetation seemed pretty similar to what we've seen in the lower parts of Thailand. As a national park, this place would be worth staying for a longer time.

Next, we drove to eastern Thailand and visited Khon Kaen, apparently a booming University town, but it felt more like a sleepy village. We didn't feel the city was worth staying longer, but the drive to the city was excellent - a scenic road through hilly jungle and farmland. In the evening, we continued our trip to Khao Yai, Thailand's second largest national park. A UN world heritage natural site, the park offered an amazing scenery of plant and animal wildlife. Too bad we could only stay for a short time before we had to continue our trip to Bangkok.

Driving into Bangkok with your own car is an adventure of an entirely different kind. We've always looked at the Bangkok traffic in horror, but being part of it is even worse. Still, we managed to find our hotel in one go.

In a few hours, we will be at the airport and should be back in Zurich tomorrow. I am not sure what's going to happen to this blog in the next two months, but we will definitely continue writing latest once we are in India.

August 29, 2007

Home

Back in Switzerland. It's raining, and it's getting cold. Glad we spent summer 2007 in the tropics.

At the airport in Delhi, I lost my wallet, and someone found it and brought it back to me. In Thailand, we met a guy from San Francisco who forgot his bag with the wallet, iPod and other valuables, in a tuk tuk (a loud, stinky motorbike with three wheels that serves as a taxi) - the next morning, he went back to the club and to his surprise, the tuk tuk driver had brought back the bag, nothing was missing.

I thought these were two typical stories: you go abroad and think that everyone's out to get you (because that's what supposedly happened to a friend of a friend...). However, most often, nothing happens, not only because you are very careful, but because most people are simply honest and friendly. Just today, I forgot to pick my money at an ATM in Zurich (in Asia, the money comes first and then the card, here it is the opposite) - to my surprise, someone ran after me to bring me my money.

The world is a good place.

About August 2007

This page contains all entries posted to p < 0.05 in August 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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