Lovely sleepy seaside Cha am.
After the cold shower mentioned above, I took a walk along the seafront to view the extent of the place. It is purely a seaside resort, apparently much favoured by Thais from Bangkok at the weekend, although I saw little evidence of it last night, it really was very quiet.
I found a very pleasant bar and had a few bottles of the excellent Chang (elephant) beer which I prefer to the better known Singha (lion) brand whilst typing some of the above. There were several Thai people eating, and the lady in the bar asked if I wanted to eat. I was a bit peckish and agreed. When she asked me what I wanted, I adopted one of my traveller's stratagems, pointed at the man's plate and said, "One of those, please." There then followed the usual ritual along the lines that it would be too hot for a farang (literally wide eye, a European), and my assertion that I can do hot, so off she went to the roadside stall a few yards away. About five minutes later, the lady came along with the plate pictured (if I can master the technology to upload the photo) and it was absolutely gorgeous. Mixed seafood off the boats that day on rice with a fairly lively dipping sauce and a fried egg. I would happily have shelled out eight or nine quid at home for it in a Thai restaurant in London, yet it came to the princely sum of 25 baht, approximately 50 pence. Bargain.
Suitably refreshed I set off home. Fancying a last beer, I wandered into a little bar just round the corner from my hotel. Cue another of the strange and surreal things that seem to follow me. When I walked in, the place looked like a jumble sale that someone had thrown a hand grenade into. There were about ten Thai women of varying ages and two young Thai blokes who obviously harboured ambitions to be Thai ladies! They were as camp as a boy scout jamboree, and doubtless candidates to be Ka Toay (Lady Boys). On the floor were about four huge bin liners stuffed full of ladies clothes, with more items of female apparel strewn abvout everywhere, and some sort of impromptu fashion show taking place amidst gales of that infectious Thai laughter.
Apparently, one of the ladies was either moving shop or opening one for the season (which is just starting) and this was her stock. Seems like she had invited all her friends round to have a look. It really was an odd spectacle, yet another wierd thing to add to my already considerable collection.
Amidst this maelstrom of high-pitched hilarity, there was apparently some work going on. One young lady was busily preparing a papaya salad for the others at a table beside the bar, and it was here that I had my first Thai cooking lesson. Firstly, I learned how to julienne papaya damn nearly as finely as dental floss using nothing but a cleaver. Real Gordon Ramsay stuff from a teenage girl. Next, the actual preperation. In a vessel that looked like nothing so much as a large flowerpot and using an implement about the size of a rolling pin, she set about her task. It really was the biggest mortar and pestle I have ever seen.
Firstly, in went the garlic and a good handful of those fiery red chillis, which was it pounded into a pulp with some lime juice. Next the nam pla. If you don't know what nam pla is, it is a staple of Thai cuisine, basically fermented semi rotted fish / shrimp. I always have a bottle of it at home, it is essential. Next she produced a jar of something I did notrecognise. It was a light brownish paste, and led to another great Thai concept, sanuk. Sanuk is hard to define in Western terms, but as best I understand it it is a generic term meaning something like having fun. Virtually anything can be sanuk, and it often involves poking gentle fun at farang, although it is nevermalicious, that is not the Thai way. When I enquired what it was, she handed me the jar and mimed that I smell it, obviously expecting me to recoil as I did so. It subsequently transpired that it was a half way stage to nam pla which is a liquid. When I indicated that it was not too bad, she went a step further and offered me a spoon. Well, I have eaten all sorts of strange things and this wasn't going to put me off so, watched by an interested crowd temporarily ignoring the sartorial delights on offer, I took a decent spoonful. In fairness, whilst it was strong, it wasn't that bad, and I earned a little bit of kudos amongst my new found friends.
I sampled the resulting dish, which was excellent, and then she started all over again, well I suppose all that catwalking makes you hungry. This time, presumably because I had shown an interest, she invited me to make a batch, although she stopped short of giving me the cleaver, which was probably a good idea. Under her instruction as to quantities, I pounded and squeezed and mixed and produced my first truly authentic Thai dish. It was sampled and pronounced edible, although they might just have been being nice.
Off to bed then and a great nights sleep. Woke up this morning (is that a blues song coming on?) and decided on a relaxing day by the pool with a book, Joseph by Julian Rathbone, if you are interested. The weather was lovely, very hot but with a nice sea breeze keeping it bearable and I have got a bit of sun. I intend to come back in April browner than I have ever been!
Hopefully up to date now, so I will go to the wifi place nearby to upload this, although I fancy some more roadside grub first. I will post again as and when I can.
Posted by Fergyguitar at 08:23