Monday, March 24, 2008

Survival Foods

For anyone who has routed through Thailand at any point, they likely know that the word "farang" means foreigner. The origin of the word stems from farang and foreigner sounding close enough to each other to the Thai but amusingly in the Thai language also means guava. So, in Thailand when I'm not blending in so effectively, I'm a fruit. Doug the Guava. I guess all things considered it could be worse because rarely do you ever hear a Thai use farang with disdain. Maybe farang are popular fruits here, like, say, Durian? That green spiky fruit is incredibly popular for many and reviled by many more thanks to a pungent smell that some say reminds them of sweet custardy onions, others say smells like rot. Personally I like Durian but there are enough people in this part of the world that don't like it that it has been banned from airplanes (in case you were interested in flying anywhere with one. I know I was..). In essence, Durian is like Britney Spears- you either love it or you hate it.. no in between.

Another interesting food that you can use to survive should you find yourself in downtown Bangkok with no food, all restaurants closed and no interest in feasting on the legions of dried cuttlefish available from street vendors, is a reedy water plant called the Lotus. A collage of leafy leaves, whitish flowers and green seed pods, you can pick off the seed pod and peel away all the fiber to expose seeds that taste like sweet peas once you peel 'em. There was a great seed pod smack in the center of Wat Pra Kao today that I chowed down on. Right in the middle of the temple complex where no food (durian, or cuttlefish for that matter) is available but man, was I hungry. Mmmm! Good eatin'. When I come back here again with dad you can believe that I'm gonna make a beeline for the same plant and make him sample this like Bear Grylls Survives Thailand.

Hopped a water taxi this morning up the Chao Praya River, and what a great deal that is- essentially 50 cent boat trip to dodge a 20 dollar cab ride. All you have to do is make sure you don't fall in and enjoy the ride. You can take the water taxi to the temples north of the hotel and on one side you can see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) while on the other bank is Wat Pra Keo (Golden Palace) and Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha). Wat Arun is a little more remote, but still highly accessible via another water taxi so when Dad and I come through here in a few weeks we'll be visiting this one:

I thought this sign was hilarious- some massage specialists trying to advertise, but how could anyone smile like that with themselves bent almost backward with a foot jammed in the spine?

Heading about a block inland, first stop was Wat Pho, home of a massive gold gilded Buddha:

After that, I headed down to Wat Pra Keo via Tuk Tuk (open air 3-wheeled scooter turned taxi that has the ability to weave in & out of traffic unlike a taxi). Wat Pra Keo is the Emperor's palace and is home to some of the most stunning temples in all of Southeast Asia:

One thing I wanted to try and had interesting results with was using my cameras "Smile Detector".. a new program that Sony has installed in their Cybershot models. Essentially, you set the camera to not take a picture until it detects a smile... and it works, believe it or not. So, I thought it would be interesting to see if it worked with statues too! After trying and trying, I was thoroughly impressed with my camera being smart enough to know I was screwing with it and trying to get it to take a pic of a statue. Ha! Silly man, I know what you are doing. But then, one statue for some reason pulled it off and the below image is proof. Given that this dude clearly isn't smiling and he's actually made of stone I don't know what made the camera take the pic.

Over the years, I have visited this one street vendor guy over and over when in Bangkok because I'm so impressed with his craft. In Seattle, I have a center collection fixture of mini flowers, plants, animals and insects that the guy hand makes out of rattan and coconut dry leaf, then colors and glues together. It's been six years since I was last in Bangkok, and I was wondering if he was still around.. he is.

Right next to this, a woman grinding some of the hottest chili's on the planet in a pestle. All you need to do is touch this stuff and it'll make your lips go numb, nose run and neck, scalp and forehead sweat for 45 minutes.

Wrapped up the day at the Oriental Hotel patio overlooking the Chao Praya River for dinner. Then back to the room to pack and prep for tomorrows flight to Kathmandu.

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