A Taste of Thailand

A Taste of Thailand

About once a year I undoubtedly crave the unsettling anticipation you might get walking a small mountain road in the Andes or jumping off a cliff into the warm bath water of the Caribbean Sea. It’s the idea of the great unknown, new perspective, and reminder that the world is bigger than your cubicle; it’s travel and this year’s hunger for adventure took me across the Pacific to Thailand.

Why Thai?
In Thailand there is something for everyone. The Northern historical city of Chaing Mai is the place for a more isolated, traditional Thai experience with a laid-back atmosphere, temples, and animal sanctuaries. Bangkok is bustling with people, parties, and excitement until well into the early morning. The Southern islands have pristine beaches, clear, teal waters, plus some of the best diving in the world. Getting around either by domestic plane or overnight train is fairly stress-free, allowing travelers a guest pass to any of the country’s top destinations.

Don’t forget your dollar will likely go a long way. The Thai baht is worth 35.69 which roughly translates to $3 to every 100 baht. For thrifting travelers it’s very easy to live comfortably on about $10 - 15 a day.

When should I go?
The price of round trip airfare will depend on the time of year. If you’re on a budget it’s best to visit in the summer (March – May). Tickets will be significantly cheaper because temperatures can reach up to 100 degrees or more. Luckily, April 13 is also the Songkran Festival (or Thai New Year) so water fights are common on the days preceding, or leading up to April. April travelers should expect to get wet! To avoid the heat, the peak time to visit Thailand is the cool season between November – late February.

What should I eat?
Everything! The street food is common with the locals but not always for the faint of heart (or belly). Dinner from a mom and pop restaurant should run about $40 – 80 baht and for a pricier meal $200 – 400 baht. Here are some regional favorites:

Northern: Influence: Laos, Burma, Myanmar
- Somtam (papya salad): Crunchy green papaya is combined in a stone bowl with lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, dried shrimp, cherry tomatoes and roasted peanuts. Try the recipe: here.
- Khao Soi (noodle soup): A flavorful curry noodle soup traditionally served with thin egg noodles, chicken, pork or beef. Get the best Khao Soi in Seattle at Little Uncle.

Central Region: Influence: China, Cambodia
- Kaeng Khieo Wan (green curry): coconut curry with fresh spicy green chilies and fragrant Thai basil. Commonly served with chicken or fish meatballs.
- Phanaeng (panang curry): creamy coconut curry with red curry paste has a likeness to gravy served with beef, chicken, or pork. Traditionally, panang isn’t served with veggies or seafood.
- Tom Yam and Tom Kha (soup): Hot and sour soup. Both are known for strong flavors of lemongrass. Tom Kah comes with rich coconut milk and chicken. Try the recipe for Tom Kha: here.
- Khai Yat Sai (omelet): Thin cooked egg omelet stuffed full with hearty ground pork, tomato, and onion.

Southern Islands and Andaman Coast: Influence: Malaysia, Indonesia
- Kaeng Matsaman (massaman curry): Indian style curry with dried spices like cloves, cardamom, and coriander. Usually served with carrots, potatoes, and stewed beef.
- Kaeng Leuang (yellow curry): Mild curry with fish, green squash, pineapple, green beans and green papaya. We love the version at Thai-U-Up Food Truck.

What is there to do?
- Visit a temple: You can’t walk more than a few blocks without running into one of these grand history-laden Thai beauties. Stop in and show gratitude for your spiritual local.

- Shop till you drop: From the floating markets of rural Thailand to the Bangkok’s shock-inducing 300k square foot shopping center, MBK, you can find the perfect for knock-off brands and trinkets to bring home.

- Interact with the elephants: Visit a sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park or Elephant Rescue and Education Center to engage with the elephants and learn more about the treacherous animal tourism trade. As travelers, it is up to us to help spread the word and prevent maltreatment of the wild animals we share this planet with.

- Safari in a national park: Thai National parks like Khoa Yai, Kui Buri, and Khoa Sok offer hiking, kayaking, waterfalls, beautiful viewpoints, and animals. Look closely and see bears, boars, gaurs, tapirs, gibbons, deer, marbled cats, wild elephants and perhaps even a tiger.

- Learn to scuba dive: Open your eyes to a whole new world under the sea. Padi Certification classes usually take 3 days but well worth it to experience the bright coral, exotic fish, and big ticket animals like turtles, sharks, manta rays, sea snakes, and more.

- Relax: Grab a young coconut or fresh mango smoothie and jump in the hammock outside your bungalow. There’s a lot to do in Thailand no matter where you are. Don’t leave without making sure to spend a quiet afternoon savoring one of the finest offerings on Thailand's table.

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