Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in Chicago and Ready to get in the Kitchen


Well I am back. Sigh...

I just returned from two and a half weeks on the other side of the world. Two and a half weeks spent hiking ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples in Cambodia, riding around in tuk-tuks and eating some serious street food in crazy Bangkok, and tooling around 30 meters underwater with stingrays and schools of giant barracuda while scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand.

Oh and did I mention the food? I am not sure if you know this or not, (my guess is yes) but I LOVE thai food. I learned on this trip that I also love khmer (cambodian) food, which I had never had before. There are a lot of similarities between the two, so it came no surprise to me that I would be a pretty happy camper for the duration of our stay. And boy was my tummy a happy camper.

There were so many amazing meals its hard to pick just a few. Between the traditional khmer food in Cambodia, stir-fried red ants in Siem Reap (not my favorite, but interesting to say the least), chinatown's finest street food in bangkok, and life-changing green curry on the beach in Koh Tao, the food was incredible.

Plus I got to eat pad thai for breakfast without feeling guilty.

We had a personal 'chef' cook a meal just for us in a tiny village 100 kilometers outside of the city while staying overnight in a open-air stilted hut (by chef I mean an adorable teeny cambodian woman originally from the village we were staying in).

This quiet, giggly girl cooked in near-darkness as the sun set, before the car-battery generator kicked in, with merely a wok, some pre-steamed rice, and a fire.

We had fried ginger with pork, coconut curry soup, amazing fresh cut fried potatoes, and delicious fruit plates filled with mangos, rambutons, and bannanas for dessert.

It was some of the best food we had on this trip.

Plus this was our view during every meal, so you know, that helped.

The meals matched the solitude and quiet of the distant and more un-touristed temples that we pretty much had all to ourselves that weekend.

It was one thing seeing the enormous and beautiful Angkor Wat temples with upwards of a thousand other people talking too loud and snapping almost constant pictures, but it was truly another to witness a simple yet gorgeous temple with only the sounds of roosters crowing in the background.

We headed on to Bangkok and engaged in some serious street food. We headed straight for chinatown and promptly got lost. After not eating for almost 8 hours while wandering down unfamiliar streets and hovering around street food vendors trying to figure out how and what to order, we finally found our way and scored ourselves some interesting and delicious food.

Bird's nest soup, stir-fried noodles with chicken, soy sauce, and chilies, and a fried mussels and oysters egg-pancake-thingy were all successfully ordered by pointing at someone's plate and holding up the number two with our fingers.

Bangkok was such a crazy, HOT city filled at the time with much turmoil from the red-shirt protestors, camped out by the thousands in the center of the city. We luckily left before things started erring on the violent side, but it was an amazing and humbling experience to see that many people so dedicated to a change. Many of them had been living and sleeping there for weeks, sacrificing jobs and family, to try and restore a democratic government.

Our last stop was in Koh Tao, Thailand. We ate breakfast on the beach every morning, grilled fresh fish while watching the amazing sunsets, and were treated to what was the best curry I have ever had in my entire life.

I didn't really take many pictures of the food on while on the island, I was usually too excited to dig in than to get my camera out and snap some photos. Thats okay though, the visions of those meals will dance around my head at night like sugarplums for many years to come.

Plus I was too busy taking pictures of the live fish not on my plate.

We spent 6 days scuba diving on the island, coming home with our beginner and advanced certification (up to 30 meters), logging 10 dives, and seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes and marine life I have ever seen.

We were only supposed to do the beginner course, but with the prospect of spending 2 more days diving, and enticed by a night dive and shipwreck dive, we just couldn't pass it up.

We are hooked and have already started plotting our next diving adventures.

One last stop at burger king (yeah I know, I caved) in South Korea, we were on our way back to cold chicago, and back to reality. I got a little depressed when we left Thailand and the temperature was 40 degrees Celsius and as we landed our captain told us the current temperature was 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jet lag is still killing me right now, but I am so looking forward to getting back into the kitchen this weekend to try and recreate some of the best food memories of the trip, so I can relive these experiences at the drop of a hat, and the switch of a gas burner.

3 comments:

Hungry Dog said...

Sounds like an amazing trip! Your photos are amazing, especially that sunset...I'd love to be there right now. I would totally eat pad thai for breakfast.

Welcome back!

Rian said...

I can't wait until you come home so I can see ALL your pics!! They look amazing!

Cooper Powell said...

my relatives on my mom's side of the family tried to make me eat it. i think i had the same problem at the time i heard it was bird spit. but for the sake of health, I am now taking it regularly.

btw, i don't buy the super-expensive kind like old people do. the ready-to-drink kind at the stores are pretty affordable. (e.g. www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm)

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