Jan 292010

Kuraburi (January 29, 2010)

The Greenview’s breakfast buffet was a bit boring, but congee with pork meatballs was available upon request, and I was able to mix in a raw egg from the omelet bar (cooked by the hot soup). With some crushed dried chillies, it made a pretty solid meal. That, hot tea, and fresh fruit would have to tide me over until our mid-morning snack.

Takua Pa (January 29, 2010)

Not far South of Kuraburi, we parked adjacent to the market in Takua Pa. Amidst the stalls selling chicken, fish, and ingredients, we found excellent fried chicken and refreshing fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice. Just across the street, numerous shops sold cover-ups suitable for snorkelers (to protect sunburned legs). Just past 11:00, we drove around the corner to the local roti shop for a decadent early lunch of crispy griddle-fried bread.

Southern-style roti is made with a rubbery wheat dough stretched into a thin circle, folded loosely into a square, fried on a griddle with oil and palm butter, and served in a variety of styles. (After removing a plain roti from the griddle, the chef usually places her her hands on either side of the package and claps, hard, forcing the dough to make like an accordion. I’m not sure of the purpose of this; perhaps it adds loft to the roti and keeps the layers from sticking together?) Plain roti can be enjoyed dipped in massaman chicken curry, or drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and sprinkled with granulated sugar. We also got roti filled with vegetables, with bananas (made texturally interesting with the addition of raisins and cashews), and with egg. Seemingly endless plates arrived at our table while we greedily ate as though we had not already had two breakfasts. As we slid into carbohydrate coma, we had a light palate cleanser of pomelo with a sugar-salt-chilli dip, and an odd little yellow fruit with a large seed and unfamiliar flavor. We then retired to the vans for the not-so-long drive to Krabi.

Stretching Roti Dough

Adjusting the griddle temperature

Banana roti on the griddle

Banana roti ready for eating

Plain roti ready for dipping

Vegetable roti (might be some chicken in here)

Refreshing cucumber salad

Krabi (January 29, 2010)

Krabi town is a jumping off point for numerous beautiful islands, accommodations, and activities for a wide range of budgets. We will be in town for one night before and after our stay on Ko Poda (Poda island). But before checking in, and having a lavish dinner, we had to do a little shopping.

My first errand was to find a DTAC shop and negotiate a change to my mobile phone data plan. I was not clear on how they would automatically renew my plan because I did not give them my credit card number. Apparently, I need to purchase credits for my account. Okay, that’s the first question. The second question is, how can I arrange to have a different data plan next month (since I’m only here 10 days) without first losing my credits for this month. Not possible? Hmmm, well at least I have the customer service number and can call at the last minute before losing all my bars tomorrow morning. The second stop was for snorkel pants. The best option seemed to be a pair of rayon pants with a loud tie-dye print. Having drawstrings at the waist and each ankle provides a reasonable chance of working, and hopefully the shades-of-blue pattern will not alarm the fish.

When we arrived at the Krabi Maritime Park & Spa, there was no welcome drink for us, the wi-fi was broken, the bellhops did not seem grateful for tips, our building didn’t seem to have any cold water (making showers painfully hot), and the karaoke bar appeared to be undergoing renovations. Is this place going downhill? At least the rooms are still very nice, and we did get a late delivery of a fruit basket.

For our last major meal of the day, we dined at Ruen Mai. When Kasma called at noon, she protested “You can’t be full. You have to squeeze us in.” And indeed, a prime table in the center of the garden restaurant was set for us. This clout stems from a relationship that goes back many years, but also from other travelers recently bringing in pages from her web site recommending Ruen Mai, which dishes to order, and even which waitstaff to request. We were fortunate not to have to bring printouts; we just had to eat.

We began with a Yum Sadet salad containing a diverse range of ingredients, from herbs (sliced lemongrass, shallots, and ginger) to seafood (thin slices of dried cuttlefish or squid, and two prawns on top), with the bright flavor of juicy lime segments (cut to include the peel for maximum flavor), and mellow roasted cashews. Oh, and chopped chillies. It was served with leaves for wrapping, but is equally great off the plate. A choo chee curry fish was made with a smaller, bonier fish than usual, but the sauce was excellent. The restaurant’s relatively mild crab with yellow curry was one of the highlights of my earlier Southern trips, so it was a pleasure to be able to have it again. We also had a leafy green vegetable cooked in coconut milk, useful for soothing a seared palate.

Most of the searing came by way of the last dish, a kua kling of beef. Looking like darkly cooked ground beef with strips of kaffir lime and sprigs of green peppercorns, you could be forgiven for not immediately recognizing that this was the hottest dish of the night. If you look very, very closely, though, you can see innumerable flecks of red against the dark beef, remnants of the huge number of chillies pulverized with a mortar and pestle to craft this bombshell. The heat builds gradually but steadily and mercilessly: sales of steamed rice and cold beer were good at our table. For dessert, we had slices of not-quite-perfectly-ripe mango, but they had the desired soothing effect.

Tomorrow morning we depart for another four-day snorkeling adventure, leaving all non-essentials here at the hotel. And that means another night of planning and repacking.

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