As I mentioned on the blog in July, Melbourne Gastronome flew the coop in early August for a short holiday in the tropical climes of Thailand and Kuala Lumpur! My travel companion was the gorgeous KT, and we had a whale of a time.
We flew in to Krabi and started out in Railay. We stayed at Railay East, a beach lined with mangroves and dotted with funky little rasta-style bars, but it was only a five minute walk to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Railay West beach. Behold:
I thought I'd put up a post here on the blog showing some food/travel highlights. After a morning of swimming at Railay West beach and into limestone caves, a lunch back at our resort of gai yang (BBQ chicken) served with sticky rice, sweet chilli sauce and delicious som tam (papaya salad) went down a treat.
Thailand was my first opportunity to try out my new camera! A Canon G11, made possible by a voucher some friends gave me for my birthday and by advertising revenue from Melbourne Gastronome (a big thank you to those of you who've clicked on the ad, on the odd occasion I've had one in the right-hand column). :)
This soup was our favourite thing that we ate in Thailand. It was on our last night in Railay, at a restaurant called The Rock. The name of the dish is kang som goong (hot and sour curry soup with prawns), and it came served in a fresh coconut. It was SO sour and SO salty and SO spicy that each mouthful made us cry, but at the same time it was so addictive we couldn't stop consuming it. BEST SOUP EVER.
Gratuitous Som Tam/Pad Thai food porn.
After Railay, we headed down to Ko Lanta. The beaches there weren't as pretty, but the island was much more interesting than Railay because not everything there was geared towards supporting the tourism industry...
At the eco-friendly resort we stayed at on Lanta, the treehouse villas were set right into the jungle. I really liked the black tiles in the swimming pool.
We bought longanberries, mangosteens and rambutans from a stall just up the road. Love, love, love.
We met a lovely Kiwi/Californian couple, P&L, and joined them for dinner the following night at a little street stall they'd found in Klong Khong called Lay Sod. Turn out Lay Sod already has a write-up online:
At the polar extreme other end of the market, a typically Thai street stall. It has until recently had no name, just "Food and Drink" and is on the main road right in the centre of Klong Kong, almost opposite Palm Beach Tours. Now it has a sign called LAY SOD. The nice man who cooks has been here for the last two seasons as well as in the off season. He (Kuhn Chairote) doesn't speak a lot of English, but he tries hard and is so friendly. He always hails passers-by with “Hello! Thai food!” Lots of locals get their takeaways from him, so that should tell you something. The menu isn't extensive, but it is written in English and his cooking is quite possibly some of the best roadside stuff you will taste anywhere. He's thorough and professional (he even wears his chef's hat and apron) and honest. Don't try and be clever, ask for discounts or give him a hard time. Just go there and try the food. Delicious and cheap. But take insect repellent if it has been raining.
He wasn't wearing his chef's hat when we visited, but his yum nuer (beef salad) and tom yum with fresh king prawns, served in a Chinese hotpot, were exceptionally good.
We swam in the ocean every day we were in Thailand. I also slept about 8-9 hours per night, went 100% internet-free and read four novels in a week (a rarity these days, given that food blogging has largely replaced reading fiction for me!).
One morning we went up to Ban Saladan, the busiest part of the island, to check out the marketplace.
By the time we walked around the marketplace, these fish had been grilled and were smelling sensational.
Skewers! We should've tried one of these, but KT was determined to try durian.
Don't you just *love* looking around fresh markets when you're travelling overseas? I sure as hell do.
We bought some durian. I don't find the smell that bad, but I hate that overripe creamy taste.
The population of Ko Lanta is ninety percent Muslim, which gives it a different feel to the rest of Thailand. At the Muslim market in Lanta Old Town, we munched on gai yang skewers that were prepared Muslim-style - the sauce was thicker and tangier. Om nom nom.
Another great snack at the Muslim market was this parcel of rice wrapped in banana leaves, but I can't for the life of me remember what the pickled red vegetable was. Anyone care to venture an educated guess?
We both lost our hearts to Mayani, the daughter of our tuk tuk driver and our new best friend. What a cutie pie!
On our way home we had just under 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur. We were supposed to rendezvous with an American friend of mine who knows KL well (so I'd booked KT and me a room at the swank-o-rama Mandarin Oriental because that's where he was staying), but we'd got our wires crossed and it turned out he was leaving for the airport just as we were arriving.
Lucky that several blog readers had given me KL suggestions! In the end it was getting late and we improvised: I figured we may as well just jump into a cab and go to grab some hawker food at Jalan Alor.
I was transfixed by this stall. What were these delicious-looking char siu squares?? Many thanks to the twitterfolk who identified these for me as bakkwa, a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product similar to jerky.
WHY can we not get this in Melbourne?! [edited to add: I should clarify, where can we get this FRESH in Melbourne?] It's brilliant! KT and I each munched on a square.
More skewers than you can shake a stick at. We had one fish (steamed) and one pork belly (fried), with a choice of sauces.
I'd never had bak kut teh ("meat bone tea") before and fell in love with the spiced, rich, slightly sweet broth punctuated with different bits of pork.
BBQ stingray! I'd had BBQ stingray during my last visit to KL in 2006, and was determined to try it again. To me it tastes like a cross between white-fleshed fish and chicken. In sambal with a squeeze of fresh lime, it's fabulous.
After our meal, we went for a stroll then caught a cab to Traders Hotel for cocktails at Sky Bar on the 33rd floor. And damn good cocktails they were too.
The window seats had stunning views of the Petronas Twin Towers. I was shameless in playing the "we're only in KL for one night!" card in order to get us a window seat. The lovely, professional staff took great care of us.
We didn't have much time the next day before we needed to head out to the airport, so after an early morning swim in the hotel pool, we asked the concierge to direct us to the nearest mamak stall so we could have a proper mamak breakfast, KL style. Egg thosai and roti canai, awwww yeah.
One last watermelon juice! Thanks KT for a wonderful holiday. xox