31 January 2008

did I mention the food?

Am utterly besotted with Thai food. Arrived in Chiang Mai on Sunday, where I fell in love with the grilled catfish which looks as appealing as dried catfood but is super delish. Am also v partial to mango sticky rice - in fact, any kind of sticky rice (esp banana). Have been sampling all kinds of street eats such as papaya salad with shrimp, rice noodle soup and fried sweet potato and banana and have even ventured into the realm of unidentifiable meat on a stick, though I draw the line at barbecued whole frogs! So far my digestive tract has held up remarkably well.

The food affair got a little heated yesterday as I whisked myself off to a cooking school - a tax deduction I guess, ha! - and learnt how to get the wok flaming. Also learnt to make curry paste and made (and ate) pad thai, fish cakes with a sweet-sour dipping sauce, all manner of curries and the much loved mango sticky rice. Round eggplant goes straight into the category of amazing foods I can't believe I've never tried til now (which also includes roasted salted broad beans - legumes pretending to be potato chips!). Was all pretty simple but loads of fun, though they had to roll me out the door ;) Will upload photos of me at flame once I start downloading pics.

Also did loads of wat wandering in Chiang Mai, had a marathon chat with a monk and exercised uber restraint at various craft markets including the very chilled 'Sunday Walking Street' - where the road is blocked to traffic, divided in two and people walk on the left - except when the national anthem is played and everyone stops! Also saw my first elephant walking down the street in CM!

I hooked up with a Canadian girl in the sawngthaew (little red taxi truck) from the airport and we did most of our sightseeing in CM together. We also met some Melbourne lads and joined them for a scooter ride into the hills of Mae Rim to see a rather opulent wat. The boys (yes, boys! I feel so old!) are pedalling through northern Thailand and biked the summit of the country's highest peak (just shy of 3000 metres). Which made me realise how soft my travelling style is. But their two-wheeled slog is a cooked breakfast compared to
a kiwi lass I met who is travelling solo for eight months on her motorbike through south east Asia, Mongolia and Russia! I have met quite a few lone gals gadding about on extended trips while all the boys seem to stick together. Funny.

Today I got a bus up through the clouds to Pai, a hippy village north of Chiang Mai with thatched bungalows on the river, roosters and rice paddies. Tomorrow I'll head out of town to dip my toes in the hot springs and check out some waterfalls and a Chinese village. (Pai is close to both the Chinese and Burmese borders.) After Pai, I'll head further north east and perhaps do a hilltribe trek (the ones out of Chiang Rai are co-run with communities). I wonder what I'll eat there?!

Til then. x

27 January 2008

hot and bothered in kl

I'm in KL. It's about thirty thousand degrees. Or more. Last night I met up with Ren and J - friends from Brissie who are on the sad end of a Thailand beach holiday: aka they fly home tomorrow :(

What's cool about KL...
Dim sum and gigantic Tiger beer in Jalan Alor (a happy coincidence has me staying right behind the famed hawker food strip)
Donning headscarves in searing heat to see a mosque from the inside
The Islamic Arts Museum which I fled to escape the heat but which inspired with some really beautiful fabrics, ceramics, seals, metalwork etc from Asiatic cultures
Groovy kaftans at Little India night market
Food prep in Chinatown (except the stuff with the live chickens)
Dragging your toes through the grass where the old colonialists used to play cricket
Finally sitting down (preferably in shopping malls and/or taxis with air conditioning)
Taxi drivers who use the meter and then tell you the fare is 'whatever you want'
Bananas (very sweet)

Not so cool...
The heat
The headaches (see above)
Touts and dodgy taxi drivers
Strange beverages named Kickapoo Joy Drink
Petronas Towers... we snagged our free tickets to go up 41 floors to the skybridge but first had to sit through a propaganda reel which informed us that the opulent towers - headquarters of a devious oil company which apparently featured in some Connery/Jolie action flick I was disinclined to see - 'inspire Malaysia's young people to believe that anything's possible'. We suddenly felt like Bart et al watching Burns and Smithers give us the good oil about Springfield Nuclear Power Plant during a school-based screening of a corporate video. The three of us being marketeers in current or previous lives sacked their agency on the spot.

Fly to Chang Mai tomorrow (up in four and a bit hours... oh dear!)


23 January 2008


Counting down to take-off for KL (tomorrow) via Gold Coast (this arvy). Should be arranging global roaming for my phone but am trying to use up the last of my time in a rather cushy net cafe in downtown Melb... will try to post more on arrival.


04 January 2008

enter ye, the rural abyss

Happy oh-8. Apologies for lack of comms. Am over the grumps and been swallowed whole by the rural abyss (aka Bingi, aka south Gippsland). Since departing the boat pre-xmas, have been incapable of completing any task more involved than selecting the most appropriate drink for the level of heat (scorcher = g&t; melting = gin cubes; dribbling in a deckchair = pass me the icebucket, I think I’ll wear it as a helmet).

The brain fug has made it difficult to deal with pressing must-dos, eg, organising the trip to Laos, etc. Scored a breakthrough today though: rescheduled flight home so that I can join Pelican’s Bass Strait crossing in April. I’ll need my two months of swigging 20-cent beers from the backs of elephants to work up to the cooking frenzy required to fill 20 bellies across one of the most treacherous pieces of water in the world. But wait, there’s more. The recipients of my food-love will be paddling their way across the strait in kayaks, eg, unforgivingly ravenous at all hours, godly and otherwise.

Insane? Well, denial is a wonderful thing and here’s a quick segue to this week’s discoveries, titled Things to Love About the Rural Abyss.

1. After showering the video store with wanton custom, my late fees are now graciously waived when I’m unable to separate limbs from couch in time to duly return my stash. God love ‘em country folk.

2. Bulk billing is alive and well, which I discovered when updating my vaccinations. (The doctor, though, is endearingly old-school: “STDs, you don’t need to know about that muck, do you. It’s only people who go to Bali who do THAT sort of thing.”)

3. Country markets. It’s like finding everything you love about the city (coffee, fresh produce, glittery curios, guitar bands, etc) in a grassy corner on a Sunday morning for next to nix while pocketing already-underpriced retro finds for gratis (“Oh, you can take those love, I don’t want them.”). At Kongwak I found a cute vintage top, Nepalese woollen socks (eventually it will get cold here, maybe tomorrow?), some retro fabric patches (eg, Guiding is fun!), and a Michael Hutchence biography (swoon, young self, swoon).

4. My old relics have discovered broadband.

All up, big ticks for the country. (As I write, I’m watching rough-and-tumble between two kinds of rosellas; try that view on from your city apartment!). Will upload pics from Two Bays and the abyss when am over current slump.