DINING …. The MOVING FEAST

You can please your palate 24 hours a day just strolling along the pavements of practically every street in Thailand. The variety of al types of things to eat from the very familiar to the exotic offered by the food stalls and street vendors will surprise you.

p6Astonishing, yet fascinating, anybody, with a hearty appetite can have a virtual feast at every turn, all at minimal cost. The food enterprise is practical; the vehicle can be a mobile “rot khen” or merely two baskets on the end of a bamboo pole that can be carried around, or “haab reh.” A “shop” is hastily set up and remains stationary, while stools are brought in. Starting from appetizers, you may choose “look chin” or meatballs and other similar things fried or grilled on sticks, such as beef, chicken and pork. These typical BBQ’s cost a few bath with “nam chim” or sauce made from chilies and sugar. “Thod man kung” is included in this variety, made from parwn paste mixed with fresh coriander and then fried; the taste is finished by a dipping in sweet spicy sauce.

p7For those with a preference for Chinese food, the dumplings call “kui chai” (chive-like Chinese vegetable from where it got its name), these dumplings were later adapted to Thai taste with various fillings like prawn, bamboo shoot and taro. The typical E-sarn cuisine (from the northeast) is becoming popular around town. One which will be remembered most is “sai krok E-sarn” or northeastern sausage. With a mixture of minced pork, sticky rice, garlic and other spices stuffed into pig’s intestines and mixed with fresh vegetables, these are not to be missed. For your main course, “kuay tiew” is a delectable feast food for all locals. Many styles of noodles can be chosen from “Bamee nam” – a standard dish of yellow wheat noodles in stock with roast red pork and chopped chives thrown into noodles served dry or with soup and meatballs.

p8The bon vivant should try Thai style spicy dishes. “Khanom jeen” is one such exotic sample. The essentials of the dish are a generous helping of rice noodles with a mild curry sauce containing fish-paste balls. The dish is more appetizing eaten with fresh vegetables. Trade is always brisk at these stalls, characterized by great steaming vats of sauce and adjacent tables laden with bowls of vegetables. End tour meal with some sweets. Most farangs love to try “Khanom Thang Taek” – Thai style waffle filled with grated coconut, sugar and sesame.

p9Thang Taek is a slang expression meaning “skint’ but for this sweet, “aroy” (delicious) might be a better term. Cheap and filling, “Khao niao ping” is most often seen on the haab reh. The combination of sticky rice and coconut milk, stuffed with banana or taro, is wrapped in banana leaf and grilled. Wash it down with a choice of a myriad of juices-all for just a few baht.

p1p13.jpg

The Small-Island Charm of Si Chang

Just off the coast of Chonburi is a perfect island getaway – easy to reach, its sights can be toured in less than a day, leaving one enough time for the beach. Ko Si Chang’s main draw, however, is its sleepy vibe and small-town charm that other Thai islands lost long ago in the drive to attract tourists. Getting to Si Chang is easy thanks to regular mini-vans to the port of Sri Racha.

When you arrive, it’s worth taking a look around. Because of the many Japanese companies based in the area, businesses cater especially to Japanese expats – every second shop is a sushi bar and most signs are in Hiragana. Boats to Si Chang leave hourly and aren’t for the faint-hearted. At first glance, they seem rickety and most are overloaded with day-trippers carrying fishing gear. Sri Racha is close to the Laem Chabang deep sea port, so there’s a lot of shipping and the ferry boats often weave between the bigger vessels.

Jump ashore at Si Chang’s bustling pier and you’ll be offered (in the laid-back island way you’ll learn to appreciate) a Tuk-Tuk. These aren’t the cramped and view-blocking Bangkok versions, but large four-seaters with room to stretch out. It’s cheaper to take the same driver if you want to see the sights. If you’re just here for a beach break, the island’s best spot is the bay of Tham Phang, on the west coast. There is a nice stretch of sand and sheltered swimming with no annoying jet-skis. I like to spend the day sitting under the beach umbrellas eating fresh crabs or barbequed shrimps, but there are other attractions if you can get out of your deck-chair.

And it’s worth exploring Si Chang. Despite being small, the island plays its part in Thai history. Thailand is justly proud of having never been colonised, but Si Chang was briefly taken over by the French in 1893 during a struggle over control of Laos. Until then, the island had been a getaway for King Rama V the Great, who built his teakwood home here: the Manthatratanarote Royal Mansion. The small-island charm of Si Chang

After the Gallic incursion, the mansion was taken down and rebuilt in Bangkok where it’s now better known as Vimanmek Palace. But the lovely landscaped gardens are still intact and show it must have been a glorious place in its heyday with inviting bathingpools under the trees, made up like natural grottos. While only the foundations of the palace are still in place, the sturdy teak homes King Rama V the Great built for people to recuperate from illness still stand, with grand views of the Thai coast.

Take a walk out on the handsome wooden pier and you can see dozens of international ships at anchor. It seems little has changed since the 17th century when the island was called Amsterdam due to the huge number of vessels belonging to the Dutch East India Company. Do visit the sprawling Chinese temple on the hill known as San Chao Pho Khao Yai, with its colorful dragons, mystical murals and ancient statues. A cute cable car is there to take you up the hill.

Further above the temple is a replica of a Buddha Footprint in its own shrine. The view from the top will take your breath away, if there’s any left, as it’s an exhausting climb. Top tip: there is a back road to the top where your driver can drop you off. The relic was brought from India by Prince Damrong Rajanuphab in 1892 and is now a pilgrimage site.

When staying overnight, enjoy the sunset views from the Tham Phang point before visiting the old town to eat. There are seafood places by the roadside cooking freshly caught produce. There’s no nightlife on the island, other than watching the locals wandering round chatting in their pajamas. It seems a long way from partying Pattaya, down the coast. But this little slice of yesteryear offers the perfect break.

Essential massage tools

p4

In Thailand, where traditional Thai massage and countless other types of massage and spa therapies abound, finding one to give you that great rubdown is easy. Just remember, as wonderful as a good massage is, a good massage with the right massage oil, hot compress, hot stones, lotion, cream, gel or powder can make it a thousand times better.

p1To help you decide which type of medium you want your masseuse/masseur or therapist to use, some of the most common aides they use here are massage oils, creams, lotion and powder. A simple backrub already feels wonderful but using oil does not only make it feel better. Massage oils may offer physical benefits of their own, or simply enhance the experience with scent, sensation and ease.

Massaging with massage oil adds the benefit of moisturizing and toning the skin, as well as making it easier for your therapist’s hands to move and knead over muscles and skin. The scent you choose, the ingredients included and the way that you use the oil all give different benefits – from helping to heal old wounds to just plain making a massage more fun. Massage creams are generally used on people with sore muscles, an injury, or have muscle spasms. Herbal muscle creams with therapeutic properties stimulates healing and is great for a deep muscle massage. These creams contain essential oils and Capsicum which is a heat generating ingredient.

Many people prefer creams because they do not make the body feel greasy. For somebody with a highly sensitive skin, it is best to advise your therapist ahead so they do not use a cream that you will have allergic reaction to. A popular alternative to massage oils is the use of lotion. Massage lotions like oil, work well for deep tissue stimulation and non-slip massage. Most lotions are non-greasy and provide ideal glide protecting the skin from damage due to excessive friction during high-friction massages.

p2They help relieve muscular tension and stress without too much drag. As it is not quickly absorbed by the skin, lotion has the ability to condition the skin during massage. A very light massage using fingers, hands and arms over your powder-dusted body is like going back to the days when your sensitive baby-skin is caressed by the gentle touch of a mother’s hands. Powder massage is not designed to work your muscles as it is focused on the soft areas of the body like the back of the knee, elbow crooks, calves, palms, small of the back, etc., to stimulate nerve endings.