Stepping off the plane at Bangkok airport after a 15 hour flight from JFK left me well exhausted but there is nothing like the smell of South East Asia. Then the humidity smacked me on the face but still I inched a little closer to the excitement of nothing but adventure before me. I spent four days in Bangkok before heading to Phuket for a journey with the Sailing Collective out on the Andaman Sea. And then travelled North to Chiang Mai post sailing to discover delicious pork curries and Hong Tong. Here is a photo series and a few words on my inspiring time in Thailand.
Thailand is a hyper-sensorial place where I was magnetically allured to the rich colours of the food, the street life and the thai silk water. Travelling through the towns and cities, each with their own locational flavour profiles meant that I could exercise my taste buds in ways that prodded a multitude of new ideas for me to try in the kitchen. Thai dishes are a complex curation of the four flavours; sweet, sour, salty and spice. And I got to discover these flavours through tasting the variations that each street had to offer. My mind was on a journey piecing together the puzzle of how certain dishes came to be and it was a whirlwind experience! Green curry in Bangkok (green, spicy, light broth) compared to green curry in Phuket (yellow-green in colour,thick and heavy on coconut cream). The sweetness of stir-frys in the South compared to the saltiness in the North. And not to mention the brilliant food fusions at the border from neighbouring countries. Thailand created a strong nostalgia of home for me, where I found many similarities to Vietnamese cooking and culture. I was completely enthralled and in my element.
What was important for me to see, smell and taste before cooking on the water was the colourful nature of Thai people enlaced in the depths of piquant spices, the freshest herbs and ripe vegetables. I admired the kitchen of street vendors with no more than two or three items on their menu. This for me was Thai cooking in a Thai kitchen. It's where I learnt how and why by watching the finesse of food venders tossing their noodles, throwing together stir-frys or chopping at the speed of a hundred miles an hour. My eyes were locked on bubbling golden chicken drumsticks and perfectly yellow whisked eggs and it had me wanting to cook just like that. Fleshed out, raw and open on the street, no one hid their secret techniques or their herbs and spices and no one measured a thing. It was purely years of practice in cooking tasty food.
I also enjoyed seeing the communal sensibility of people from all walks of life picking up their 40baht bowl of noodles and dining on the same table, passing back and fourth the fish sauce, chillies and garnishing herbs. It was enough proof to me that food in this country is the binding matter where good food is not necessarily expensive food and where good food is available for everyone.
I've travelled to Thailand many times before but every time I return there is another brightly saturated adventure to be had. This time I found Thailand to be bursting at the seams with wonderful history, a mess of exhausted capitalism and a rainbow of people with incredible sense for colour.