Wow – today I have eaten at least my own weight in food. Due to a misunderstanding on my part, breakfast today consisted of the following stages:
- Herbal tea and fruit platter (guava, rose-apple, dragonfruit, papaya and watermelon) with some thai speciality rice flour and mango/taro tubes rolled in banana leaves, and fresh papaya juice on the side – a perfect breakfast, I naively thought.
- Then out came the latte coffee and poached eggs with sauteed potatoes. Blimey, I thought – but OK, that’s all good, some eggs would go down a treat, not to mention a caffeine fix.
- But then it got silly… The waitress next brought out a huge bowl of freshly made vegetable and rice soup (a thai breakfast speciality) and the penny dropped. When I’d been given my breakfast menu preference card the day before, I was under the impression I should tick all the things I liked so they knew what to choose from over the next three days. But no, it appeared that it was just for this morning, and everything on that list was gradually appearing on the table.
- So next (and finally, thank goodness) was some toast and homemade banana and pineapple jams. They must have thought I was a real greedy guts to order all that lot. Plus, as many of you will already know about me, I can’t leave food on a plate – everything must go. I certainly had my work cut out this morning, but managed to demolish all but the dregs of the soup.
After lying down for quite some time to digest, I then successfully found my way through the maze of nameless, narrow paths to Alisa and Landry’s home, thanks to their inspired directions, including gems such as ‘Look out for the house with the lotus flower on top’ and ‘Go straight on at the mushroom farm’. Some pictures of sights seen on the way below:
Grand entrance to the temple compound, close to the hotel.
One of the temple buildings.
Their house is wonderful – they designed it themselves, and everything within it is carefully chosen by them both, giving it a very personal, intimate yet very functional feel. It must be the first house to be designed from the starting point of a very cool (literally) retro fan – apparently they invested in the fan, and the house was designed to accommodate it as a centre-point – it is indeed a fine fan, and gives the living space a rather colonial feel.
Note the pride-of-place fan in the foreground.
The house has also been designed to work sympathetically with the landscape and minimise its environmental impact. The toilet is composting, the shower is external to the main house and solar powered, almost all the timber is reclaimed and the furniture either second-hand or beautifully hand-made by Landry.
Alisa and Landry’s funky yet functional outdoor shower, which I sampled to cool off on arrival (yes, the sweatiness situation is that desperate…) – ideal for the nosy neighbour who likes to keep clean.
Downstairs is the kitchen and a dark room, where Landry processes his amazing photography (Landry is a graphic designer and Alisa is a freelance journalist – very inspiring people), and they sleep on a mezzanine level above the main living space. In short, it is a wonderful space that I felt lucky to be welcomed into. Outside there is a small pond and numerous fruit trees – banana, coconut and papaya to name a few. Their neighbours are three-generations of the same family in one house, and grandma makes thai desserts for a living. How Alisa and Landry can cope with the unbearably divine scent of caramelised coconut wafting through their house without staging frequent midnight feast burglaries beats me.
Alisa then took me to the island’s weekend market, which is a big deal and attracts a large number of thai tourists from ‘the other side’ to sample the array of gorgeous foodstuffs – it felt like a thai version of a well-to-do farmers’ market in the UK. I sampled all of the tasters on offer, despite my huge breakfast, and it was great having Alisa with me, who was able to interpret and explain exactly what I was eating – there’s no way I would have had a clue otherwise, especially when eating things as outlandish as sea urchin and butterfly pea-flower infused blue jelly (?!). I’ve added photos of some of the market wares below:
At first glance I thought these were potatoes, but they turned out to be a deliciously sweet fruit when peeled, a bit like lychees.
Tangy-sweet dried mango.
Select your own live eels for cooking…
Apparently the thais love their eggs and see them as the ultimate comfort food – here we have fresh chicken and duck eggs, salted eggs (cooked then stored in salt until the insides become dessicated and salty – used a lot in cooking) and ‘thousand year old eggs’ (the pink ones), which are marinaded and buried in ashes for a lengthy period (but perhaps not quite 1000 years?!) until they turn blueish inside.
Unbelievably, I then found stomach space to sit and eat a lunch of noodle soup, iced tea and coconut ice-cream at the market with Alisa and Landry (seriously, I have missed my vocation in life – I could have earnt a fortune in eating competitions, as I’ve said before). It was great to feel part of the local community, who all sit on the floor on reed matting round low tables (it’s very important to take shoes off before stepping on the mat, I learnt today, oops – feet are considered very dirty in Thai culture), chatting in family groups. All the chefs in the lunch area of the market are local to the island, and each one cooks their own speciality on their own little mobile kitchen set-up, with their kids acting as waiters.
A corridor of fragrant aromas to choose from…
Alisa discusses the finer points of her fermented tofu noodle soup with the chef.
More much-needed digestion back at the hotel in the afternoon, and I decided I would forgo an evening meal, and just snack on the left-over jack-fruit I had from yesterday. However, Alisa and Landry had other plans. They took me on a wonderful cycle ride through the forest to the north-western corner of the island, where there are great views across the river of Bangkok main city, and we timed it perfectly to see both the sun setting behind sky-scrapers and the beginnings of a dramatic lightning storm in the distance. Another stop-off to cycle through a temple grounds to a viewpoint of the industrial docks, lit up with coloured lights that defied their daytime ugliness, and we ended the evening at a great local restaurant. I left the ordering to those two, and experienced the delights of ‘one thousand year old eggs’, papaya and pork salad, lemon-beef and pork omelette – all local rarities that were a true sensation for my western taste-buds. There’s no way I would have experienced such a culinary treat had I fumbled through the menu myself.
Photos from the bike ride below:
A beautiful hibiscus plant with fancy, dangly appendage, seen just outside Alisa and Landry’s house at the side of the path – sometimes called Chinese lantern hibiscus.
I love the way the duckweed in the irrigation channels adds to the intense green-ness of the landscape, making it seem like the entrance to another, mystical fairy-land (I often associate the colour green with fairies for some reason).
Landry decides against a dip in the river – I stuck my feet in and it was warm like a bath, weird.
Alisa (and very neat bump) with the sun setting behind the Bangkok city skyline behind.
Giraffe cranes at the docks.
And finally, a very cool tree frog (as big as my hand) seen on a wall on the way home in the dark.