Author Archives: The Guide

Moo Kata – Thai barbecue

Thai barbecueThai people love barbecue, and there is hardly any city in the country, no matter the seize, without at least one barbecue restaurant.  Correctly pronounced, Thai barbecue is called moo gatha, though in Latin letters it is mostly written as moo kata. Thai barbecue always comes along with a big buffet, which offers not only fresh raw meat and fish, but often also Thai spicy salads called yam (for some kinds of yam see here and here), sushi, curries, noodles, rice dishes, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, french fries, somtam, and various kinds of dipping sauces, Thai barbecueas well as sweets. Beside normal meat, they offer all kinds of intestines and organs, such as liver, kidney, heart and stomach. Every table has a metal tray with slits, which is placed over hot coals. While the meat is placed on the metal tray, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms and some fish are placed in the rim, which is filled with boiling water. One have to pay a fixed price (usually around 130 baht, equals around 4 US dollars) and can eat as much as one can. The only rule is, that you need to eat what you have token to your table. If you cannot, you will have to pay a fine.

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Cemepedak – Another smelly, delicious Southeast Asian Fruit

cemepedakAt my trip to Krabi, I discovered a new very tasty fruit, which strongly reminded me of the delicious but smelly durian fruit. Thai people call this fruit jampata, but the fruit is generally known as cemepedak or its scientific name artocarpus integer. The cempedak is native to Southeast Asia and grows wild, as well as domesticated over an area spanning from the Malay Peninsula over Indonesia to the island of New Guinea. Beside Southeast Asia, the fruit is also grown and eaten in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The tree belongs to the same family as the jackfruit, though its fruits taste, as I already mentioned, is more reminiscent of the durian fruit. Its smell and its kinship with the jackfruit also led  to the name “Ugly cousin” of the jackfruit. Like the Durian, the fruit has a high fat content, a strong rotten odor and a very sweet and cemepedakcreamy taste. The fruit is high in vitamin A, which is very good for our eye’s health. It also contains lots of vitamin C and a high percentage of fiber, which helps to maintain digestive tract health. In Malaysia, the roots of the tree are also used as a traditional herbal medicine for women who just gave birth. The bark of the tree contains various components with anti-cancer and anti-malaria properties. The cemepedak tree grows up to 20 meters and its wood is of high quality and an ideal building material for houses, boats and furniture.

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Rat Na – Delicious Thai Chinese Noodle Dish

Today I had one of my favorite noodle dishes called rat na, in Thai usually pronounced as lat na (daily Thai language pronounce the r as a l) or gwai tiaw (noodle) lat na.  In rat na noodlescontrast to other noodle dishes, which are usually just offered at noodle stalls, this noodle dish is offered at almost every Thai restaurant. The dish consists of wide rice noodles, a meat, seafood, tofu or mushrooms and Chinese broccoli leaves (kha naa). The whole thing is cooked in a thick slimy sauce made of either manioc starch (man sapa lang), sticky rice starch or cornstarch plus added fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Like with every noodle dish in Thailand, there is a set of cups filled with chillies in vinegar, dried chillies and sugar, to add some additional ingredients as one wishes. I especially like to eat this dish when I have some digestive problems or stomach aches, as the thick slimy sauce is ideal to settle one’s stomach.

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Spicy Thai Squid Salad, Green Curry and Thai sausages

For today’s dinner we enjoyed a Thai Spicy Salad, which is called yam plaa mueg, some noodles with green chicken curry (spagetti gaeng kiaw waan) and some Thai sausage Spicy squid salad(naem) with pieces of ginger, onions, chili, peanuts and salad. The first meal, the yam, is a typical Thai dish with a refreshing sweet and sour taste. It’s dressing is made usually of lime juice, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, garlic and chili. The salad itself usually contains tomato, fresh onions, coriander plus a seafood or meat (in our meal it was obviously squid). The green curry’s paste is made of green Thai chilies, onions, garlic, lemongrass, coriander, galangal or ginger, ground cumin, shrimp paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, brown sugar and lime juice. The curry itself usually contains kaffir leaves, pepper, fresh basil, coconut oil, Thai eggplant plus a meat or seafood. Usually this curry is eaten with jasmine rice, but in my case it was a own modern creation with spaghetti. It’s a good idea to eat a yam and a curry (gaeng) together, as the fresh yam has a cooling and refreshing taste, whereas the curry make you feel hot.

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Hokkien noodles and Thai Ice Tea

Today it was time again for some noodles. I chose Hokkien noodles on oil and garlic with pork, in Thai called gwai tiaw hog gian muu haeng . Additionally we ordered some fried Hokkien noodlesshrimps called gung thod. Noodles called gwai tiaw in Thai are popular allover the country, but the Hokkien noodles are unique to cities of Chinese descendants like Phuket. The noodles were served with a soup, which tasted strongly of shrimps. For a drink, I had a Thai Ice Tea, called cha yen. This drink is made of a special orange Thai tea powder. The powder is made of Thai tea leaves or other black tea leaves, crushed tamarind and star anise powder, which gives the tea its orange coloring. Alternatively there are some cheaper varieties made of tea leave powder and artificial coloring. After the tea is brewed, sugar is added and the tea is poured into a glass filled with ice. Finally some condensed milk (nom khon) is added to give the tea a creamy taste.

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Chong Thong market

Yesterday evening we visited a small but interesting local market called talad chong thong. This market lies between the Chalong Circle and Phuket Town on chao faa tawan oog. It’s a real Thai market, with fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, meat and even some cloths. As it is mangosteen season, we bought two kilos of mangkut, one of my favorite fruits. We also bought barbecued sticky rices (see first picture below), some grilled chicken some salaa or salak and observed some other interesting stuff. There was a man selling sugarcane juice (see third picture below), some sweets called khai tao (forth picture below), which is made from sticky rice flour (paeng kaaw niaw) and coconut flour (paeng ma phraw), fresh orange juice (fifth picture), some sweet potato, some jackfruits (kanun, sixth picture) and various fishes and meats.

Sticky rice Phuket market Sugarcane juice Thai Sweets          Orange juice

 Phuket market (14 of 21)         Phuket market

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Local Thai markets

In this section, I’m going to introduce you some interesting local markets of Phuket and Southern Thailand. Local Thai markets usually offer a wide range of things, from fruits and vegetables over fresh or cooked/grilled sea food and meat to clothes, copied music and Phuket marketmovie CD’s/DVD’s (recently even copies in blue-ray quality). Not seldom, pets like parrots and small puppies can also be found. Thai markets are usually dirt cheap, one of the main reasons, Thai people prefer them over supermarkets. Local markets are hold daily or at the weekend. Sometimes temporary markets within or near a Buddhist temple complex are hold during Buddhist holidays. At this markets, the shop owner will give a certain amount of money to the temple, which is considered good karma (tum bun). Business and religious merit are hence combined at those places. The usual markets, which are hold regularly near a village are called talad nut.

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Tonkah Hill of Phuket Town

Tonkah Hill-47Today it was time again, to visit the monkeys of Phuket Town. Phuket Town has basically two small hills, namely the Tonkah Hill or Khao To Sae and the Khao Rang. While the Khao Rang has several restaurants, including a restaurant on the top of the hill, the Khao To Sae is a health park (suan sukaphap) for joggers and Tonkah Hillnature lovers. The street to the top is mostly closed to motorbike and cars, so the only way to get to the top is by foot. At the beginning of the way up is a big shrine house, where three tutelary spirits are venerated: to sae kaaw (the white to sae), to sae daeng (the red to sae), to sae dam (the black to sae). As I mentioned in other posts, Tonkah Hill-50Thai people believe that every place is inhabited by sometimes more or less powerful spirits. Those spirits must be appeased by offerings and prayers or the spirits would cause harm and bad luck to people crossing their territory. Nearly every house in Thailand has a spirit Tonkah Hill-24shrine for those purposes. But the reason we came here wasn’t to worship some spirits, we came here to see the monkeys. Because the Phuketians feed those monkeys everyday, their population have grown quite big, and it’s almost impossible, not to see them. The monkeys of Khao To Sae are big-tail macaque, which can be easily recognized by their short tail. On the way up we passed a Thai jogger. When he saw my camera, he asked me to Tonkah Hill 4make a picture of him. He was obviously very proud of his Thai Boxer physic. The way to the top is maybe about 2 km and there are various platforms and view points to rest and enjoy the amazing view over the island. It’s possible to see as far as Phi Phi Island, which is reached within two hours by boat. As we wanted to see monkeys in action, we also brought some bananas with us. The monkeys were eager to get them and one of the bigger ones even started to touch my girlfriends butt to get her attention.

Tonkah Hil          Tonkah Hill-45

Tonkah HillOn the way to the top I stopped at a view point to make some pictures (see picture left). Arriving at the top, I tried to make some picture of Phuket Town, but it was cloudy and late, so the light wasn’t ideal. Also Phuket Town doesn’t look so beautiful from far, as the small sino-portuguise buildings of the Town cannot really be recognized. Instead of the pretty traditional buildings, it’s easier to spot the big Towers and Hotels. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to be on a hill or mountain and watch the wide skyline and our beautiful ocean. After resting some time, we got hungry and walked back, down into the town to get some food at a local night market.

Tonkah Hill          Tonkah Hill-35

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Santol – Another Delicious Southeast-Asian Fruit

santolNot long ago, I discovered a new fruit at the local fresh market here in Phuket. Thai people call this fruit gra thon, but worldwide the fruit is more common under the name santol, the Filipino word for the fruit. The santol (Sandoricum koetjape) belongs to the same family as the Langsat and is  native to Thailand, Indochina and the Peninsular Malaysia, though it was brought early to India, Indonesia, the Philippines, as well as Moluccas and Mauritius. Later it spread to Latin America and allover the tropical world. With a pretty sour taste and a low flesh to waste ratio, this fruit is seldom seen in supermarkets, though it can be found at almost every local fresh market here in Southernsantol Thailand. The santol trees are magnificent trees which can grow up to 50 meters and produce unbelievable 20’000 fruits per year. Beside there huge fruit produce, those trees are ideal shade provider, as they have an extensive canopy. The fruits contains a high amount of ascorbic acid, as well as plenty of iron and vitamins, especially vitamin C. The flesh of the fruit tastes really delicious, like a mixture between apple, lemon plus sugar. The roots of the santol trees are used in traditional medicine as an astringent and a tonic. The leaves are used as a stomachic and the powdered bark is used to cure ringworm and rushes. Several parts of the tree are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies showed that the extract of the tree’s bark even have strong anti-cancer properties.

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A trip to the National Park Kaw Sok

way to kaw sokLast Saturday my girlfriend and me decided to visit the famous national park Kaw Sok. Just north of Phuket lies the province of Phang Nga. The province is famous for its tourist hotspot Kaw Lak, from which trips to the Similan and Surin islands, world-class diving destinations, are hold during the high season. But the province is also close to the amazing beautiful national park Kaw Sok (sometimes also written “Khao Sok”), which lies itself in the province of Surat Thani. We traveled there with my Kawa Er-6n, first to the city of Phang Nga and then just over the province’s border to the national park Kaw Sok. After we crossed the Sarasin bridge – the way to kaw sokbridge connecting Phuket to the mainland – and headed towards Phang Nga on the highway Nr. 4, the rubber tree farms were more and more replaced by natural forests and after one hour driving only, we saw the first limestone mountains of Phang Nga province (see canoepicture above). At Phang Nga we left highway Nr. 4 to take the highway Nr. 4118 to Kaw Sok (see picture right). After 3 hours driving through the amazing natural landscape of Phang Nga we finally arrived at our place at Kaw Sok National Park. Kaw Sok has dimension of 739 km2 , but together with two other national parks called Kaeng Krung and Phang Nga, as well two wild sanctuaries called Khlong Saen and Khlong Nakha, the park forms a forest complex of about 4000 km2. Not only is its forest area huge, Kaw Sok is also one of the oldest and most diverse forest areas on our planet (according to some source, it’s even more diverse than the Amazon rainforest). tree house

The place we stayed was called “Tree house”, because there are real trees going through all those rooms and the main building. The owners are a Thai couple, quiet and very friendly people. The man is specialized in bird’s photography and has a huge 10’000 dollar lens on his camera. The pictures of the birds are amazingly sharp and detailed, and are presented on the tables and walls of the main building and restaurant. As it was low season, and I told the owner that I permanently live in Thailand, she gave me the superior 2000 baht room for just 1000 baht a night, an offer which I gladly accepted. The room was great, but the main reason I chose canoe at kaw sokthe tree house resort wasn’t the room, but the various trips and activities for affordable prices, which were offered at the resort. We started with the 2-3 hour canoe tour, for which we were just in time. The guide picked us up with his truck and drove us approximately 30 min upwards the Sok river. We left the car and entered a small plastic canoe, just made for at most 3 people. The landscape we drove through blew our minds. As far as we could see there was pristine rainforest and the area was spotted with limestone rock formations covered with trees and bushes. Our guide tried to find snakes at the river bank, but because the river was high, this was a rather difficult task. At least we found one, though it was too far away to really identify. According to the guide, in the dry season it should be easy to spot snakes sunbathing on the riverbank. After floating a while downstream, I couldn’t resist any longer but to jump in cobalt blue tarantulathe cooling water. Unfortunately the guide didn’t tell me where to go out until it was almost too late. With quite an effort, I managed to swim back towards the river movements and to finally reach the exit point. We drove back, took a shower and relaxed for nearly an hour, until it was time to go out again for the night safari tour. Here we spotted many insects, though the guide couldn’t tell the scientific names in English for the most part. At least we could identify one species, the cobalt blue tarantula (see picture left), a medium seized tarantula native to Thailand and Myanmar. Another highlight of the night trip was a family of civets up in the tree. They starred at us with big eyes, while they were eating the fruits of the tree (as I don’t have a zoom lens, I couldn’t make any pictures of them). We also discovered another quite big spider, a smaller spider, some caterpillars, a grasshopper, a tree frog (probably the common tree frog) and a pretty interesting insect (specifications are more than welcomed, just leave a comment if you know more).

spider Thailand          spider Thailand

caterpillar Thailand          grasshopper

 Insect ThailandAfter about 2 hours (the guide wanted to stay longer, but my girlfriend was afraid of nocturnal ghosts) we walked back to our tree hut to get some sleep. For just 500 baht for the night safari, and 700 baht for the canoe tour, I was more than pleased for what I had seen.

We woke up 7 am to get some breakfast, before going on our trekking day trip. Our guide was a young Thai man, who worked for a scientific institution before. Though he never studied in an university, he knew a lot about wildlife, plants and medicine. Beside that he was a talented reader of tracks. After just a centipedewhile we spotted the first monkeys, precisely long tailed macaques or crab-eating macaques, on the other site of the river. It was a family of about 10-20 animals. We also heard the loud shouts of gibbons regularly, but were too far away to see them. During our trip we also spotted  a centipede (family Polydesmidae, see picture right) and two forest lizards, maybe an Ayeyarwady Forest Lizard (family agamidae, left picture) and a Vietnamese Forest Lizard (family agamidae, right picture).

lizardlizardAt lunch time we rested at a place near the river and treated our leech bites. Leeches are everywhere in the wet rainforest and they loved to hide between my toes. To stop the bleeding our guide gave us some leaves, which he picked up from the surrounding trees and directed us to put those on our wounds. We did so and the bleeding seemed to stop. As it was very humid and hot, I jumped in the quite still water and enjoyed the cooling water for a while before heading away from the river into the forest again.

leechOn our way through the forest, our guide found tracks and ondors of monkeys, wild boars, elephants and even a track of a bigger cat (leopard or tiger). On the way back, our guide showed us a palm with fruits (Salacca wallichiana, see picture below) which looked like the famous salak fruits (Salacca zalacca), but far less sweet than them. As I really love Salak (Thai: salaa), I asked him, if we could eat those fruits. He agreed but warned us: The fruit would taste extremely sour. As I love sour things, I didn’t care, removed the snakeskin-like peel and bit into it. The taste “was” indeed extremely sour and I didn’t manage to eat the whole fruit. As weragam didn’t see any other animals, expect from some butterflies, our guide tried to entertain us with another demonstration. He showed us how to make a fire with only two bamboo sticks. All we needed for that was some dry bamboo, which was abundant around here. We cut the bamboo in two halves and than produced some fine bamboo shavings from the dry inside of the tube, which were then placed inside the half-pipe. We made a small hole from the outside of the tube and carved a slim bamboo stick. This bamboo stick was now hold into the small hole and moved quickly backwards and forwards. It was just a demonstration “how to do”, so the guide didn’t continue after a while, and we didn’t actually make a fire. As we were very tried from the walk and looked forward to go back anyway, we didn’t bother.

ragam-00197          make a fire-00240

 On the next morning, we jumped on our bike again and drove back, this time we choose the way over Kaw Lak, instead of Phang Nga. As it is durian season in July, we saw lots of durian and mangosteen street shops. One local variation of durian was called thurian baan, a quite small fruit compared to the famous mo thong thurian, which can be bought in the supermarkets everywhere. The fruits were dirt cheap, 20 baht for a kilo of mangosteen and about 30 baht per kilo thurian. We packed as many fruits as possible, and drove back to Phuket.

In conclusion: The night safari was surprisingly interesting and we discovered in fact more animals in 2 hours than we did on our whole day trip next day. The canoe tour was great as well, due to the amazing landscape around the river Sok. But the raining season isn’t the ideal season for Kaw Sok adventures. First of all, many animals hide themselves when it’s raining and secondly, many trekking trails are closed anyway, due to inundation. The ideal season to explore national parks in Southern Thailand is from January to March, when it hardly rains. Nevertheless, at least the prices usually go down during the raining season and advanced booking is usually not necessary. Also trails, restaurants and resort are very quiet at this time.

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