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Thailand - The Magic Kingdom
 
     

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Food and Drink Thai food has become very popular in the West in recent years. Sure it's colorful, tasty, and it makes a change from Chinese. But in Thailand, the food is, well, shall we say of varying quality. And the Thais eat bugs, too. They have hawkers who go around the beer bars with silver trays full of beetles, crickets, big juicy grubs and all sorts of wierd stuff. Mind you, they do cook them properly. I once sat next to a pretty girl in a bar and quietly watched as she pulled the horns off a big black roasted bug before crunching here teeth into its head.

They love chicken's feet too. Eat 'em by the bucketful. If you stop at one of the little open air street cafes in Bangkok, and order a chicken noodle soup, expect to find a chicken foot in the soup. In fact, you should complain if you don't get one!

Generally speaking, the roadside hawkers and little open air cafes are safe to eat from, but the quality of the meat is generally pretty awful at this sort of place. The Thais will eat just about anything, and they're certainly not at all fussy about a bit of fat, skin, gristle, or bone. If you're particular about your meat, pay a bit extra and go to a proper restauant. Even then, the quality of the meat may not be too good.

Thais love hot food. They like to grind up lots of hot chili and they and often squeeze in a generous amount of fresh lemon. If you like your food absolutely blazing hot, lool out for Som Tham. The Thais are fond of the Lao version of this which is insanely hot.

A somewhat milder dish is Thom Yam. (literally boiled salad. This is usually mildly hot with lots of lemon added and is basically a thin soup and comes in several varieties - Thom Yam Goong (with prawns), Thom Yam Gai (with chicken), or with nua (beef), or pla (fish).

Thais love sweet things too, but for the most part Thai cakes and pastries tend to be rather bland for Western tastes. Hot frittered bananas are a nice thing to buy from hawkers.

   
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Thom Yam Pla

 

         
         
 

Thai beer is great. At least, I think so. Unfortunately, it's not that cheap. It is certainly cheaper than imported beer, or the Thai brewed Carlsberg and Heineken. My favorite is Bier Chang, which is one of the cheapest you can get. Bier Singh is another good one, but a lot of farangs say it upsets their stomache. Still, the Thai beer is generally pretty strong and good value.

The Thai liquor is great too. Most Thais where I lived, in a place called Banglamung, not far from Pattaya, drank Mekong, which is very cheap compared with imported liquor. Another one is Sangh Tip. Its a little bit more expensive, but a lot of farangs prefer it.

Try the Ya Dong. That means pickled medicine. Its basically the Thai word for moonshine. And its very popular and will, I warn you, blow your head off. But it won't make you go blind or anything. Personally, I love it, but its best not to overdo it.

If you're ever near Bangkok's main station in the evening, have a look at the gardens just in front of the station. You'll see a lot of hawkers sitting around on straw mats, and next to them will be baskets full of fruit and and other oddments. But in just about every case, look in the middle of the basket and you'll see a small whisky bottle with red liquid in it. This is Ya Dong. Just sit down on the mat, buy the bottle - its only a few baht, and you're guaranteed a really great time.

When you buy a drink in a bar, you don't normally pay each time you order. In the States, of course, you put a couple of bills on the bar and the waitress will just take what she needs each time you order. In Germany, they normally put a pen mark on your beermat each time you order. I never travelled that widely in Thailand, but certainly in Pattaya, the routine is that each time you order, they write a little bill and stick it in a tub. Each time you order, they put another little bill in the tub. When you leave, they just add it up.

 

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