Friday, January 26, 2007

Hua Hin

We boarded a train again from Phetchaburi to Hua Hin. Once aboard, we were somewhat relieved to see other farang heading our way. As we neared the city, we began to feel the ocean air. The hotel that we had hoped to stay in was within walking distance of the train station. Because it was full, we ended up staying at a guest house which had a deck over the water for only 250 baht. The room was tiny, but it was a large improvement over the one in Phetchaburi.

All of the shops in Hua Hin were set up for older tourists with restaurants featuring egg and bacon breakfasts for 140 baht. Other restaurants sold Italian and German foods making us wonder who would choose to eat pizza in Thailand. The streets were also lined with souvenir shops, mini marts, and tailors.

After settling in, we took a walk along the beach immediately spotting tiny crabs scurrying across the sand.

Later, I discovered piles of moving snail shells which turned out to be hermit crabs. A Thai woman selling mangoes asked if we had them at home as she saw us taking pictures.

What we were really doing while walking was killing time until the night market. We had read in advance about soy milk in bowls served with Chinese doughnuts. Two bowls with one order of doughnuts was only 15 baht and Eric and I will now measure all that we spend against it.

After that, we had our first bowl of johk (porridge or congee) which contained balls of ground pork and had a raw egg cracked over the top. Every bite was soothing and delicious.

The next day we woke up before the rest of the city to take a taxi to Khao Sam Roi Yat, a nearby national park. Our driver dropped us off warning that we could walk up and down over a hill or we could take a boat. We chose to walk which provided spectacular views of the water below.

The main attraction at the park is Tham Phraya Nakhon, a two room cave housing a royal saalaa. To get there, we hiked up steep, rocky steps while being chased by two children hoping we would pay them to be our guides. We were amazed by how smooth the rocks and tree roots had become as a result of footwear on the path. As we came over the hill, our journey seemed worth it as we overlooked the peaceful cave entrance. Suddenly, behind us we heard a troop of school kids and moved aside for them to pass. As we waited, we realized that there were probably 300 kids all saying hello to us so we joined them on the walk into the cave.

When we returned to the town that night, we visited the great night market again for dinner. This time we decided to buy grilled squid on a stick which we had been eyeing for a while. It was not quite as fabulous as we had hoped but we did not want to join the other tourists at a fancier seafood restaurant. We also could not help but have another bowl of soy milk with doughnuts to end our visit to Hua Hin.

Monday, January 22, 2007


As of today, we have taken every form of transportation that we have seen so far in Thailand: bus, train, taxi, tuk tuk, saamlor (3-wheeled pedicab), songtow (a pickup truck converted to a bus with two rows of bench), and one of these motorcycles with carts in front instead of the front wheel.

Our favorite mode of transportation is train. Trains in Thailand are very cheap, but they are also very slow (slower than buses) and are almost always late. Our first long train trip was from Bangkok to Phetchaburi. We rode 3rd class with fans all the way. The seats are benches and not very comfortable, but in third class you can open the windows (no AC) and its a great way to see the country. At every stop, different vendors get on and off. They walk down the aisles selling water, soda, beer, fresh fruit, grilled meats and sausages, sweets, little packaged meals, and comic books. Once we even saw a vendor selling watches, and another time we bought hot coffee and Chinese doughnuts. Train food is almost as exciting as street food.

On our trip to Phetchaburi, there was a little kid, probably 3 or 4 years old, who kept wandering up and down the train car. I think his dad was asleep most of the time (the conductor poked him in the nipple, then shook him, then slapped his face to wake him up to punch his ticket). The kid was clearly a handful. People had to keep sending him back and keep him from crossing between cars. At one point, he crossed paths with a corn vendor and pointed excitedly at a bag of 4 ears of corn. The vendor bent down so the kid could take what he wanted assuming his parents were near by to pay. Everyone sort of gave the vendor a look like "No! Don't give it to him!" but it was too late. The corn vendor was being comically dragged backwards by the little boy pulling on the bag of corn. Apparently either the kid won the fight, or someone paid for his corn, because he returned a while later with a piece of corn in one hand, a big grin on his face, and no pants on.

He then tried to share the remaining 3 ears of corn with some little girls on the train, and they were justifiably weirded out by drooling, pantsless corn-kid. Corn-kid entertained us for the whole ride and before we knew it, we were in Phetburi.

When Lyndsay and I were forced to travel 2nd class with air conditioning up north to Phitsanulok, we were sad.

No food vendors, just this boring meal.

Actually, it wasn't that bad, and it was complimentary. Also, no little kids and dirty windows made us realize 3rd class is the way to go. However, I did get to eat my cocoa pod on that train, which somewhat made up for the freezing cold aircon and lack of entertainment.

The seeds (cocoa beans) are surrounded by a sweet fleshy aril that has a tangy sweet taste a little like the mangosteen. The texture is not nearly as heavenly, however. There isn't much flesh on each bean, but they are nice to suck on, and a whole pod split between the two of us was enough to make us start to get sick of them by the end. In case its not clear from the description, this tastes nothing like chocolate--the beans must be roasted and processed and then sweetened to make chocolate. The beans were a pretty purple color in this state and they were quite bitter tasting.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


One of the foods Lyndsay and I were most excited about in Thailand was noodles, or Khuaytiaw, in Thai. Our first bowl of noodles was at Bangkok's Chatachuk market. The type of noodles we had are commonly called "boat noodles" because they used to be served from boats when the canal systems were a more commonly used mode of transportation.

Noodle places offer a choice of noodles, usually sen yai (wide fresh rice noodles), sen lek (medium sized rice noodles), or sen mii (angel-hair sized rice noodles). We chose sen yai, but later realized they would have been best with sen lek. The broth is slightly sweet and tastes like it is seasoned with star anise and maybe cinnamon or cloves. It also features a hearty dose of pork blood (which I have fallen in love with), making the broth a deep reddish brown. The portions at this place were small but the pork, meatballs, and morning glory in it were all good and the broth was amazing.

Our second bowl of noodles was on Katie's soi (a small side street in Thailand).

Lyndsay and I both chose sen lek this time. These noodles had meatballs and rare beef (briefly swished in boiling broth to cook it). The broth had some pork blood, but these were no boat noodles. Most noodle places offer four condiments: phrik pod (powdered chili), nam plaa (fish sauce), sugar, and sliced chilies in vinegar. I added some sugar, fish sauce, and chili to mine.

Bowl number three was in Phetchaburi.

I got mine with sen mii and sweet marinated pork and Lyndsay got sen lek with a whole chicken thigh. The meat was very good because it was pre-cooked and marinated, but the broth was much more bland than other places. They served us cups of weak iced tea though! While we were eating a guy came to our table with what I soon recognized as a cut open cocoa pod. He offered us some and then came back later with a whole one and gave it to me! There will be more on the cocoa pod in the train post. Back to noodles.

The next bowl of noodles was in Hua Hin and was my favorite so far. Unfortunately we learned a hard lesson and forgot our camera, so no pictures of this bowl. In case you are so inspired by my description that you want to attempt to find the same noodle stand, it was the first one on the right side of Th. Dechaunuchit as you are going toward the beach in the last block of the street. This bowl featured fried fish cakes (mmm from Eric), fried tofu (mmm from Lyndsay), meatballs, and chicken. Tiny dried shrimp and fried shallots were sprinkled on top. They had very generous portions for only 25 Baht a bowl. Our only criticism was that the sen lek was a little undercooked, but it could have been because we were her first customers of the day and the water was not yet at its hottest.

We then made our way up north to Phitsanulok and had some noodles there for breakfast. This bowl looked like it would be best with sen yai, so we ordered and sat down.

She brought us fat noodles with fish pieces, especially delicious fish balls, some weird crunchy/chewy curly sea-creature-like thing, morning glory, and a mystery vegetable. It came with small bowls of a vinegary chili sauce which we dipped our fish pieces in. I thought the broth was a bit bland so I added sugar, fish sauce, and some of the dipping sauce. Lyndsay just stuck with the phrik pod. This was a pretty good bowl of noodles overall.

That's all for now! Sluuuuurp!


Although our trusty Lonely Planet warned us that this was not a great place to stay the night, we decided to find a hotel and check in so we could see Khao Luang Cave in the morning. We got off the train and got a lot of stares on our trek to our hotel. Now we know why everyone at the train station said "Phetchaburi?" It wasn't because they couldn't understand our poor thai accents, its because farang (foreigners) don't go there often. Although not entirely unfriendly, Phetchaburi was not set up for farang tourists very well. The Petchaburi Hotel was only 250 Baht per night, but it was right next to a freeway on-ramp, the fan was extremly loud, it was a very drab room, and there was a bird feather on the bathroom floor. This was a big shock for our first night on our own, and neither of us said anything to the other in fear of seeming weak. Now we know that this place was really a dump.
The next morning we had to walk all the way back to the train station to catch a tuk tuk (small three-wheeled taxi things) to Khao Luong Cave.

We were very glad we paid the 60 Baht for a tuk tuk, because our driver had to navigate through a troop of monkeys and nearly hit a few in the process. The cave was awesome, but unexpectedly expensive. Our tour guide told us we had to pay him 200 Baht as a donation to the temple on the grounds, and 100 Baht to the snack shack as a tip for him. This seemed a bit shady, but what could we have done? The cave contained nearly 300 Buddahs and was very exciting. There was even a fat Chinese-style Buddah to which our tour guide said "same same" to as he patted his own belly.

This dog played with another dog on top of the hundred-year old ruins. We also saw him pee on a stone Buddah in the cave.

Khao Luong was pretty great, but it was a very short tour. I would recomend that you try and do Phetchaburi as a day trip if you're thinking of visiting.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


We managed to take a taxi to Eric's friend Katie's mansion. She lives in a tiny room within a hotel but her section of it is called EBN Mansion.

The first thing we did was shower. The shower heads in Thailand are above the toilet so everything gets wet. Katie also immediately told us not to flush down any toilet paper anywhere in Asia.

There is food everywhere in Bangkok. Our favorite thing is the fruit vendors. There are small stands selling pineapple, watermelon, green mango, papaya, green guava, and other fruits. You point to your fruit and they chop it up for you, place it in a bag with a wooden skewer. This only costs 10 baht (1 dollar equals about 35 baht). Americans would be so much healtier if we had these fruit stands. Oh, also corn is a snack for kids here. It is also eaten with sweets like ice cream. KFC sells corn cups with ice cream in them.

Oh, another interesting food here is ice cream in a bun. Instead of a cone, small scoops are handed out by street vendors in hot dog buns. We have yet to try this snack.

Eric and I have been waiting to eat mangosteens, the queen of fruit, and now we have.

They are delicious. They have soft white segments which are the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. The flavor is difficult to describe but we think they deserve the title.

Enough about the exciting food. While we were in Bangkok we visited several temples (wat). Wat Pho had a enormous reclining buddah that filled the room.

Wat Saket (the golden mount) had a wonderful view of the city.

We also went to the Golden Palace, the old king's palace, which included an emerald buddah and beautiful mosaic buildings.

Before leaving Bangkok, we also took a day trip to Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand. We rented bikes and biked around the city. They were made of brick rather than mosaic and one of the best ones had a buddah head surrounded by tree roots.

Eric really liked how many of the old ruins were separated from the busy streets by only a sidewalk. Here are some other pictures of Ayuthaya.

From there, we took a train south and now we are in Hua Hin, touristy but nice beach town. We will write more about the train ride later.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thailand, ho!


I am starting this blog for many reasons.

1. To detail my trip to Thailand for my friends and family.
2. To help others who are planning a trip to Southeast Asia.
While I have found a few websites on backpacking in Thailand, I have not been able to find many personal blogs of people who share my interests. I am going there to experience life in another country and to eat, rather than to lay out on the beach. If you have any website recommendations, feel free to let me know.
3. To create a blog that will continue as other members of the Okay Noodle team travel outside of the San Gabriel Valley. We are all sad when we have an amazing meal away from home and cannot share it with you.
4. I could not help myself.

I promise to try my best to make this blog user friendly so that you can easily browse the entries that interest you. While I am away this will basically be a combination of my two blogs-- Okay Noodle and my personal one.

Stay tuned!