“Vin, I can’t eat anymore. I’ll explode.”
“No eat more.”
The man has an unstoppable appetite, He is like a gastronomical Galatcus – his mouth ranging drifting around the food cosmos and stopping only to vacuum its every inhabitant. I tried by best to keep up with him but after every course of stuffing my face another would come. I guess if you’re 61 and still riding 30km, doing butterfly laps and yoga all daily then it’s normal to eat as much as Vin.
Several hours later once I had just recovered from the mornings tummy stretches I started packing to leave. As soon as Vin noticed he unloaded every morsel left in his beleaguered kitchen. Even as I was trying to walk out the door he has handing me fruit and insisting I have plateful more rice. I gave my stomach a big slap and he let out one of his lengthy chortles. He walked me to the lift and as the doors were closing he yelled out.
“Be a good man Nick.”
“I will Vin. Thank you for everything.”
“Be a good man and you will be happy.” The doors closed and that was that. How amazing it would have been to ride to Bangkok with Alan and Vin – sleeping in temples, eating like supermen and spending nothing.
Vin’s heading to Bangkok tomorrow. He wants to rejoin the protests in Bangkok and told Alan and I we could come.
“You will eat for free there.”
“Is it dangerous,” I asked.
“No, only at night.” He explained all the violence is perpetuated by government supporters, all of which are ideologically inauthentic and only act for the payment of 1000baht a day. Vin said he is proud of the Thai people for standing up to corruption.
“If we stop. The country will fail. We will be poor. . . Thaksin is like hitler.”
Many of the thousands of protesters live on the site through donations from people like Vin. They’re been there since October and Vin says they will stay until the government is ousted or there is war.
I was in Bangkok last night. I need to pass through to get to Eastern side and the Cambodian border but I didn’t fancy much riding in on the expressway so I got a train from near Vin’s house and another one the next morning to get to the city outskirts where it’s safe to ride again.
I figured because Bangkok is like the biggest city ever, I better do some research on where to eat. So for the first time on my trip I scrawled some blogs and found one about the best authentic street food around the area my hostel was in. The article was in Bangkok magazine, sounds reputable enough – I blindly followed it’s recommendations and strangely ended up in a kitsch restaurant not dissimilar to what we have in Sydney. It was packed full of pharangs. How can this possibly classify as street food? My foodie-sense wasn’t so much tingling as blearing like a dying goat but for some reason I ignored it and trusted BK magazine’s top pick – a shrimp and chicken pancake called goong grabuang.
Mayonnaise?! FUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!!! What the fuck kind of authentic street food is this? I tastes like a cheap Japanese snack that would bundle out of vending machine covered in plastic. I ate it as fast as I could and got out of there.
“Tao rai?” (how much)
119 BAHT FOR THAT CRAP?! FUCK THIS. FUCK FUCK FUCK.
I walked back to my hostel feeling incredibly dejected. It wasn’t because I had spent 119baht on an average meal but that I had wasted an opportunity to eat a good one. Food is what I get most excited about. Right now I’m in the epicentre of my idea of food paradise. Every time I feel even the slightest glimmer of hunger my mind races at the thought of what I could be eating. Entire hours are consumed by these obsessions. So naturally I take the endeavour of finding good food very seriously. My rules so far have been thus:
1. Only eat at stalls or restaurants with lots of people
2. Do not eat at restaurants full of foreigners
3. Only eat at the normal meal times so as to make the previous two rules more accurate
I have been extremely successful. Most of the things I have eaten have either been locally sourced, virgin to me, simply delicious or all of the above. The number of average meals I’ve had have been very low – usually confined to special circumstances – free hotel breakfasts, someone shouting me etc. Every time I eat something average I feel so sad because I know it could so easily have been something extraordinary. I’m only here for a limited time, there’s only so many meals I can have. Average meals of the world – please don’t waste my time – it’s precious beyond description.
On my way back to the hostel I was hassled by a stream of hawkers who wanted me to ride in their took-tooks or eat their fried rice and pad thai. After politely refusing a few thousand I stopped by one. He was yelling at me through a traffic cone.
“Hey you. You want fried rice? Noodle? Pad Thai”
“Sawadi Krap.” What you say as a man to greet people politely.
“Krap. Sit down. What you want? Pad Thai.”
“You offer me fried rice and Pad Thai only because I’m a pharang.”
He looked at me stupefied for a moment and then bowed slightly.
“haha pharang.” His laugh was weirdly toned – like he was sussing out whether I intended to be rude to him.
“Do you eat fried rice and pad thai every night?” I said it as friendly as I could. He smiled and shook his head. I smiled back and walked away. I don’t know why I stopped to say that, it certainly didn’t achieve anything. It was probably just a reaction to the thoughts I’d had following my average pancake thing. I’m sorry for that hawker if he was embarrassed. I’m sure he genuinely believed fried rice is the only thing I wanted to eat. His method of business is totally legit – tourists want fried rice and pad thai, and he’s good at getting them to eat it at his place – that’s just how it is. If most tourists were like me all the hawkers would be yelling out ‘hey you want some spicy fishy shit.’ Lots of tourists would hate that. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I’m obviously having some kind of identity crisis feeling disdain at the effect tourism while being a tourist myself.
I was really hot and dirty today. My lips had become blistered from the long sunny rides of the previous week and I hadn’t showered in a day so my daily grime, which is considerable, had doubled. I had just eaten a delicious and fiery lunch so, despite my afflictions I was feeling quite buoyed. I deined to sing a little as I rode. Soon after I was singing the loudest I’ve ever sung, really belting it out. As a justifiably shy singer It was a very foreign experience for me. The song was Lean on Me but I had replaced all the lean with rain and tweaked a few other words because instead of friends all I have is heat and dirt. Luckily it worked. All of a sudden a great storm blew over my head and like, a hung-over god, poured onto me furiously.
It was an incredible relief to suddenly be cool and have lips able to work without the fear of splitting and spilling blood. It was such a roaring downpour that no part of me was left unflooded. My socks soon resembled the dank basin of a swamp and my shirt an amorous eel sucking at my skin. All the while my tongue and gums were stinging from the chillies I’d just eaten. I didn’t mind the slightest for I was having quite the religious experience getting wet and singing.
Later that day when the rain subsided (no doubt at this stage everyone thought I was disgustingly sweaty). I was able to peel my old lips off. They came off like a desiccated snake shell. A few clean pulls and my lips were flexible and moist like a young lizard. I’ve never experienced this before, it was quite bizarre.
I stopped by in a service station today to ask for directions. Having just read Robinson Crusoe, I was ambitiously (but effectively I think) using the sun to navigate. When I told the manager I was heading to Nong Yai he asked me what I was going to do there, seemingly perplexed at why I would want to go to somewhere without a beach or temple.
What a fool he ended up being – Nong Yai is a lovely place. It’s tiny, about three streets by two, and surrounded by beautifully green hills – on one side tropical forests and the other rose apple orchids. The entire town can be viewed from the roof of the only hotel.
I guess I’m the only tourist who has come to Nong Yai in quite some time. No one here seems to suffer from the same tourism inspired gloom I witnessed just in Bangkok. On the contrary, like most small towns here, everyone has been so friendly I can hardly believe it. The hotel here, being rather luxurious, only had rooms for $25 and above. However seeing me joyfully soaked in rain and covered in a smorgasbord of dirt varieties, they gave me a room for half price. I’ve spent the afternoon watching the thunderstorm from out my window while devouring snacks from the city’s hyperactive bazaar. I will be going back this evening because the fish cakes, chive dumplings and deep-fried sardines I had for afternoon tea were all bloudy amazing. They’ve also got this great space at the back where you go once you’ve bought all your snacks. It’s just a few long tables hustling with locals but each one of them is covered in more fresh herbs you can name and about ten other saucey condiments you probably could.
So excited to hit that up. Yeeeeeeeiiiooooooowwwww