Hua Hin: "Sweet and Spicy with a Spoon"
June 30, 2003
Dear Family and Friends,
Hua Hin, my favorite beach-resort, lies on the east coast of the western peninsula of Thailand, just south of Bangkok. "Just south" is what it looks like on the map; it takes three hours by express bus.
Before boarding the bus for my long ride south, I bought some sweet and sour crunchy fish, boiled rice and watermelon. A large portion of sweet watermelon, cantaloupe, or pineapple costs 10 Baht.
Breakfast on the street includes fresh squeezed orange juice, chicken and rice in a lovely broth, aromatic coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
It is quite common to eat on the street. Food stalls are everywhere, crowding sidewalks, alleys, and marketplaces. Propane gas stoves power these little kitchens, and each stall has a specialty item or two.
For good reason, Thais love to eat, day and night. Food is plentiful, inexpensive and just delicious. All meals can be consumed at little tables next to the kitchens. Or the meals can be take out. I don't think Thais cook very much at home.
Despite copious amounts of food consumed, Thais are 95% trim-slim. I mean very slim. What is the secret? Several small meals during the day, very little beef, emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit with small portions of chicken, pork, fish, seafood in an inexhaustible number of creative concoctions. A little rice or noodles. No dairy products. No bakery products.
Thais do have a sweet tooth. On my canal ride in Bangkok, I tried one dessert -- crushed peanuts, honey, and spices, wrapped in an edible leaf. Four of these juicy little creatures on a stick. Better than peanut M&M's.
Jeff and I had dinner together at a street kitchen. Jeff had his usual omelet with mussels. I had Phad Thai Gai - chicken and noodles. We shared a spicy salad. Watermelon.
Speaking of Phad Thai and sweet tooth, the next time you are having dinner at your favorite local Thai restaurant, don't be afraid to add just a little chili sauce AND sprinkle some sugar on top, the way Thais eat. Also, no chopsticks. Thais eat with a fork in the left hand that pushes the food on to a spoon in the right hand. Trust me on this.
Here in Hua Hin I eat dinner at one spot where I have befriended Ja, a sweet Thai lady, and her brother, Jimmy who cook and manage the small restaurant.
I invited Ja for lunch a couple of times. She took me to visit the Temple at Monkey Mountain. (Yes, lots of monkeys just roam around. They try to steal your water bottle or camera. Hold on tight or hide the water in your daypack.) We also visited another very large temple that is under construction. As they say in Thailand, Ja and I are "just friends."
For the past week I have done next to nothing. Beach, sand, and warm calm sea, TV, Wimbledon, reading on the porch of my hotel each morning, shopping and eating.
One evening I treated myself to a delicious dinner of a creative mixed salad and a whole steamed juicy sea bass (and I do mean whole ... head to tail on the plate ... just beautiful) with a generous amount of a spicy lemon sauce, lime really, jasmine Thai rice and a Chang Beer.
And, since I set aside my reluctance and apprehension, I am planning a trip to Vietnam. I am just waiting for my visa. I expect to travel from the south to the north for about three weeks.
My next letter will be from Saigon ... oops ... I mean Ho Chi Minh City.