A Final Morning in Nakhon Si Thammarat
We headed to a newly developed street for a breakfast of Hokkien (Fujian) Chinese dim sum, which differs in some ways from the Cantonese dim sum so familiar to those of us from the Bay Area. While we waited, we tried their signature soup of pork in a five spice broth with cabbage and mushrooms. The broth was delicious, and some of the meat, but the liver and stomach were not my favorite bits.
Among the dumplings, the shrimp har gow were quite good, with a firmer texture than what we get back home, and no bamboo shoots: just the shrimp. We had them both in the typical translucent tapioca-starch wrappers and ones with short thin black fibers, which translate to hair fungus. I couldn’t detect a difference in flavor, but the hair fungus wrapper certainly looked more dramatic. The shrimp and chive dumpling, siu mai, one shaped like a potsticker (but steamed), and char siu bao were all good, too. A ring of bitter melon stuffed with a pork meatball was a little firm and a little bitter for my taste, while the filled rice noodle with a dark sauce didn’t seem to have enough flavor.
From the fryer, we tried the pot stickers, the shrimp toast, and taro dumplings. The pot stickers were amazingly crispy, perhaps due to being fried in palm oil, but I still prefer pan-fried. The taro dumplings also were incredibly firm, a little too hard to easily share, but the filling was very delicious. The shrimp toast, on the other hand, was a disappointment: way too little shrimp. Importantly for me, I got lots of tea, my preferred source of caffeine. It was a little watered down, but I made it up in volume.
We stopped at the morning market to hand out pictures to vendors and gawk at the produce. Some stalls were closed or closing for the day, so there wasn’t a lot of reason to stay. I headed back to the hotel to finish packing. Picking up a bottle of water got me back a couple minutes late, but soon we were off.
Our first stop was Wat Wang Tawan Tok, a neighborhood temple featuring a weathered antique “kuti” or Thai monastic residence. At least it used to be a weathered antique: someone painted it! It no longer had the same charm, but under the relentless forces of heat and humidity, I predict that it will look weathered again soon.
A bit further down the road, we stopped at a workshop where we often can see a demonstration of yan lipao basket-making. Unfortunately, no one answered the phone here, so none of the weavers were working on site (they typically work at home). But we still could do a little shopping for our friends and family back home.
The Road to Songkhla
Suddenly it was after noon, so we stopped for a quick lunch of fried noodles with pork and Chinese vegetables (Pat See Ew). The sauce tends to be a bit sweet, but a splash of chilli-infused vinegar and a dash of ground dried chillies helped bring all the flavors into balance. I polished off my plate, and helped one of my fellow travelers with hers. Fruit and two kinds of sweet snacks completed the meal. It’s funny how a simple “one dish” meal can end up being so complicated.
About half way to Songkhla, we stopped at Wat Pha Kho (What Phra Ratchapraditsathan), a hilltop complex of buildings popular with pilgrims. There is an enormous reclining Buddha statue, as well as several smaller images in traditional seated poses. And many elephants. I especially liked the elephant with the praying mantis on its head. There was more to see here, but it was too hot to see everything. Air conditioning and ice water was very welcome.
We rolled up to the BP Samila Beach Hotel, which is one of the nicer hotels in which we stay. My view of the beach from the fifth floor is slightly obscured by the roof of the hotel restaurant, but that’s a minor complaint, more than balanced by the spacious room, strong air conditioning, and welcome fruit basket. To the left, I can see the pavilion where (if the tradition has continued since my last visit in 2006) local residents do early morning aerobics. It might be fun to join in.
Around sunset I ambled down to the beach for some photos. Tourists took turns photographing or posing with the famous mermaid statue. Heading South along the beach there were several guys fishing, one of whom had driven his motorcycle perilously close to the lapping waves. Alcohol may have been involved. A car, its engine left running, boomed out soft rock hits while local residents enjoyed the evening at various street vendor stalls near the beach. If only I spoke some Thai…
For dinner, we headed to the nearby Samila Sea Sport, a sea of spacious picnic-style tables. Overall, the food here was quite hot if you didn’t pick out the chillies. The fried fish topped with green mango salad and roasted cashews, and a salad of thinly sliced banana blossoms with a creamy coconut dressing and shrimp were stand-outs. The fish curry (dry curry or stir-fry?) with green peppercorns, and the hoa moke (fish mousse with mixed seafood, served in a young coconut) also were very tasty. A hot and sour soup with shrimp and a ceviche-like salad of nearly raw shrimp were good. The stir-fried ferns, however, had hard stems that detracted from the eating experience.
We headed into town for dessert at our favorite roti stand, but it was gone. Somehow, between Kasma’s last visit in 2008 and this year, they disappeared without a trace (at least neighboring businesses weren’t admitting to any new location). Serious bummer, but cardiologists back home might be breathing a sigh of relief.
Tomorrow we will spend much of the day on Koh Yoh (“gaw yaw” or Yo Island), which features a great museum and a great seafood restaurant. And lots of shopping.