Tawn Makes Pineapple Fried Rice

The evening after Andy and Sugi’s wedding, the newlyweds were off at a family dinner so Tawn and I invited Andy W and Kenny over to our condo for dinner. Sugi’s family had sent us home the night before with a pair of very ripe Maui Gold pineapples, so Tawn offered to make pineapple fried rice.


Chef Tawn busy in the kitchen. We had to buy a few items such as the raisins, the pack of which I carried with me back to Kansas City to leave with my sister’s family, since the friend we’re staying with in San Francisco doesn’t like raisins.


Dinner started with a fresh mango and pineapple smoothie. Healthy treat to whet the appetite.


Filling the hollowed-out pineapple with the fried rice. The top shell is placed over the rice and then it is baked in the over until fragrant.

A short video of Tawn removing the top of the pineapple!


The finished product! It was really tasty.


For dessert: green tea ice cream.


Cold Jasmine Rice in Hot Weather

Thailand’s hot season, which felt hotter than normal this year but according to the weather service was not, is just winding up. One of the few positives to the hot season is that many restaurants serve a seasonal specialty known as khao chae (ข้าวแช่). Tawn and I joined a few friends to sample this delicacy.


We dined at Lai Rote, a old-timey restaurant located on Sukhumvit Soi 39 across from Samitivej Hospital. It is a traditional Central Thai restaurant and its name means “many flavors.”


Making khao chae is a three-day process. The rice is parboiled, which leaves it with a “toothier” texture than is typical for jasmine rice. It is then soaked with jasmine petals in a container that has lit jasmine candles floating in it. The delicate floral flavor permeates the rice. Finally, the rice is served in ice water, a cool treat during hot season.


The side dishses are the real attraction, though. They vary depending on the house’s specialties but what you see above is pretty typical. It includes (working clockwise) elaborately carved green mangoes, cucumbers, grachai (fingerroot), hua hom yat sai (fried stuffed red onion), prik yuan sod sai (young banana peppers stuffed with pork and wrapped in a crispy, eggy shroud), muu wan (sweet dried shredded beef), plaa wan (sweet dried shredded fish), pad hua chai po (thin strands of dried pickled radishes stir-fried with egg), and luk kapi pad (fried fermented shrimp paste balls).

Unlike most Thai food, the khao chae side dishes are quite bland and not spicy at all. It derives from so-called “palace cuisine,” the types of elaborate food traditionally served in the Thai royal palace. In addition to the khao chae, we ordered some other dishes:


khao tang na tang – Fried rice cracker with a minced pork and peanut topping.


khanom pang na gung – little toasts with shrimp pate and sesame seeds served with plum sauce.


yam tua pluu – a spicy salad of wing beans and toasted shallots with a peanut and roasted chili dressing.


For dessert, I had a less-common dish called khao maow grob. It features grains known as meang lak (hydrated lemon basil seeds) served with syrup and crushed ice, topped with toasted rice grains coated with palm sugar.


Here’s a close up of the palm sugar coated toasted rice grains. Just like very crunch Rice Krispies. One of the more interesting Thai desserts I’ve had.

The meal was a refreshing break from our hot weather. Thankfully, by the time I’ve gotten around to writing this, rainy season has started to arrive and the heat is breaking.


Caramel Rice Flan

One recipe that caught my eye a week or so ago while browsing the New York Times’s website was Caramel Rice Flan.  This egg-enhanced rice pudding is made with risotto rice, giving it a nicer “toothy” feel when you eat it.  The best part is the homemade caramel which lines the bottom of the souffle dish, subsequently becoming the sauce for the flan when it is flipped upside down and unmolded onto a serving dish.  I decided to try the recipe for dinner last Friday at Ko and Per’s place, where Tawn and his girlfriends gathered to watch the royal wedding.


The recipe takes about an hour of active time to prepare and then around two hours to bake.  After that, it needs at least six hours in the refrigerator so it really is a “make today for tomorrow” sort of dessert.  Ingredients include arborio rice (one of the types you use for risotto), milk, cinnamon sticks, ground cardamom, lemon zest, cardamom pods, cream, eggs, egg yolks, salt, and sugar. 

The recipe said it serves 8-10 but looking at it, it appeared to be a big recipe so I cut it in half.


The recipe is moderately complex, requiring several saucepans, a few bowls, and a strainer.  Helpful to have everything prepared in advance and maybe even an extra pair of hands along the way.  The first step is to simmer the rice in boiling water for about 15 minutes to start cooking it.

You then drain the rice, then add it to a medium saucepan with most of the milk, the cinnamon, and ground cardamom, bringing it to a boil and then lowering the temperature and simmering it for 30 minutes, cooking until the rice is very tender.


Any unabsorbed milk is poured off and then the rice is put in the bowl and lemon jest is stirred in.


You then make the custard, cooking the rest of the milk, the cream, and the cardamom pods.  While that is coming to a simmer, in a separate bowl you whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and part of the sugar.


When the milk comes to a simmer, you temper the eggs by adding the milk and cream mixture to it a little at a time, whisking constantly.  This keeps the eggs from scrambling.


You then strain the mixture back into the pan, discarding the cardamom and any bits of egg that scrambled.  Next, stir in the rice.


This was the point where I felt like too many things were going on at one time and the recipe would be easier if a second set of hands was helping.  That way elements of the dish could come together simultaneously.

The next step was to make the caramel, heating the remaining sugar and a little water in a saucepan until it boils and starts to caramelize.  I think I had the heat too high because it burned a bit, leaving the caramel with a slightly bitter taste.  Must remember to be gentle when making caramel, something I have little experience doing.


The caramel is poured into the buttered souffle dish and quickly swirled around the sides before it starts to cool.  This was easier said than done!  Then, pour the rice and custard mixture on top.


The souffle dish is placed in the middle of a baking pan and boiling water is filled about halfway up the side of the pan.  This water bath helps the custard cook more evenly, instead of the outsides cooking too fast and the inside still being uncooked.  Cover the pan with foil, making some small slits in the corners of the foil for steam to escape.


Pop it into a 300-degree oven for about 2 hours, checking after 90 minutes.  Try to use a better bending technique than I did as I was just begging for a strained back. 

Since I had a half recipe I failed to anticipate that the cooking time would be less.  When I checked at about 1 hour, 40 minutes the flan was a bit more solid than desired.


Remove and allow to cool.  At this point when I shook the dish it didn’t jiggle very much.  The idea would be just a little jiggling in the center when it comes out of the oven, as it will continue to cook for several more minutes.  Once cool, cover the flan with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. 

The real moment of truth was how well it would unmold.  You set the souffle dish in a larger pot with hot water in it for about 20 minutes, letting the caramel melt again and then loosening the edges of the flan.  Invert it onto a serving dish.  Expecting a potential disaster (after all, the recipe warns of this possibility), I decided to film it for posterity.

And the result is….


Quite pleasant to look at, actually.  Not quite as beautiful as the picture illustrating the Times’ article, but they probably had a better set-up for photography. 


The texture was like a pretty thick rice pudding, a little eggy but not overly so.  The caramel was burned, there was no getting around the bitter flavor.  I attribute it to making a half-recipe, which is so little that in even my smallest saucepan, overheating was a risk.  Next time, maybe I’ll add a dollop of butter at the end to tame it a bit.

All in all, though, it was a nice dessert.  I’m going to try it again soon at the full recipe and see how it turns out.


Great Eats in Bangkok Volume 2 – Khanom Krug

As I promised, my “Great Eats in Bangkok” series is in fact becomming a series and not just a single video.  Using my new wireless microphone that plugs into a Kodak Zi8, the audio quality is a bit better than the first time I shot the footage for this episode.  I’ll have to keep playing around with the equipment in order to learn to master it, but hopefully each successive volume of the series will get better.

Photo courtesy yang1815

In this volume we explore one of my favorite Thai desserts, something called khanom krug.  “Khanom” is the broad term used for snacks and nibbly type of desserts and “krug” refers to the half-sphere shape in which these tasty treats are made.  You can loosely describe khanom krug as “rice flour and coconut milk pancakes”, although that description fails to capture what makes them so special and worth seeking out.

Here’s the 3-minute video.

Photo courtesy yang1815

The interesting thing about khanom krug is how it is composed of two batters, both made with rice flour and coconut milk.  One batter is a little saltier and the other is a little sweeter.  The sweet batter is poured into the indentations in the pan, filling them about 2/3 of the way.  Then a few seconds later the saltier batter is added.  Savory fillings such as corn, taro, or free onions can be added (but just as often, are not) and then the whole thing is covered and allowed to bake and steam for several minutes.

Once the khanom are fairly firm, but still a little molten in the middle, the halves are scooped out and paired together for serving.  You have to be careful of a few things when eating them: first, they will be incredibly hot and the interior will decimate your tastebuds like lava flowing through a forest.  Second, don’t let the vendor put the container of them in a bag.  Steam is the enemy of these khanom and they will lose their crisp exterior very quickly.  Third, solve that problem by eating them right away!

I hope you enjoyed the video.  A third one is being edited now and the first volume, focusing on rice noodles called guaytiaw, is here.


Food in Bangkok – Khao Mok Gai on Convent

Flipping through Khun Chawadee’s book Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls, I got an itching to try the Khao Mok Gai vendor on Soi Convent.  Khao Mok Gai, which alludes to a mountain of rice burying chicken, is the Thai take on chicken biryani.  Doubtlessly Indian in origin, the dish traces its more recent roots to the predominately Muslim south of Thailand.  It is a dish that is simultaneously simple and complex, one that rarely fails to satisfy.


The vendor in question has long been a fixture on the sidewalk along Soi Convent, just off Silom Road.  Just down from the Starbucks and in front of an Irish Pub, the khao mok gai vendor’s cart perches on the edge of the curb with a half-dozen folding tables and plastic stools set out beneath umbrellas.


The menu is rudimentary.  The khao mok gai comes in three ways: regular for 30 baht (US$1), rice special (extra rice) for 35 baht, chicken special (extra chicken) for 45 baht, or double-double for 50 baht.


The dish is not fancy – a piece of chicken with a heaping pile of turmeric-stained rice.  Fried shallots and cucumber slices garnish and a dish of sweet chili sauce is on the side.  The rice is tasty and the chicken flavorful, though.


Don’t skip the soup, which comes on the side.  Made with bits of chicken, herbs, and fried shallots, they serve this plain or spicy and its rich flavor hits the spot.

Like all street vendor places worth their salt, this cart gets very busy at lunchtime and they make their day’s wages or so. Don’t dilly-dally.  Eat your food, pay your tab, and get moving!

For an alternate (and Xangan) version of biryani, check out this video I made about a visit to the kitchen of Dr. Zakiah back in 2009!


Tawn Cooks: Pineapple Fried Rice

The only gifts we’ve ever had appear on our doorstep are pineapples, and both have been left by givers unknown in the past month.  About three weeks ago we returned home to discover a medium-sized pineapple, a variety that is very juicy but also a bit tart, sitting on our doormat.  No card, no message, no hint of who left it.

No wanting to waste a perfectly good pineapple, Tawn decided he would make pineapple fried rice.  While you don’t see it much in my blog, Tawn actually cooks and is quite proficient.  When we lived in the United States and he was going to school, he prepared a lot of our dinners.  Since we’ve moved to Thailand, I do most of the dinner preparation so you have precious few opportunities to see his culinary skill.  Let me use this opportunity to fix that.


Iron Chef Tawn, armed and ready to cook.


Today’s challenge ingredient: pineapple.


First off, fry some Chinese sausage.  Once starting to brown, add some crispy pork and fry for another few minutes.


Add the pineapple and fry for a few minutes until it begins to brown slightly.


Add rice.  We like using whole-grain rice cooked the night before.


Mix rice into other ingredients on high heat.  Add turmeric.  You can add other spices if you wish to customize the flavor.


Once almost finished, add some raisins.  We added some pine nuts, too.


Finished dish, carefully plated to look like a pineapple.  Very tasty weekday evening treat.  This week’s champion: Iron Chef Tawn!


Sunday Date Brunch

This is going to be the final word on dates for the time being.  I invited two couples, Doug and Bee and Ken and Chai, over for Sunday brunch.  Since I had been on such a roll this week with date-themed recipes, it became something like an Iron Chef challenge.  This meal’s challenge ingredient: dates.  In all humility, it turned out pretty darn good.  Let me share the menu with you.


An amuse bouche of sedai dates stuffed with a little French chèvre (soft goat cheese) and a sliver of almond.  What a tasty combination!  The orange rind, which I should have salted, was more for presentation than flavor.  Had it been salted, I think it would have been a nice contrast and would have really stimulated the appetite.


Two of our four guests – Doug and Bee.  Doug is a fellow American who lives in our neighborhood.  Credit goes to Tawn for the elegantly understated table setting.


Two types of flatbreads.  Both were brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.  The one of the left has freshly chopped rosemary.  The one of the right has za’atar, a Middle Easter spice mixture that contains oregano, thyme, basil, savory, and sesame seeds.


Greek style salad with fresh romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and Feta cheese.  Served with a homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing.  (The dressing recipe is here)


The main course was the Moroccan style braised chicken.  This picture doesn’t quite flatter the dish, which I thought was the standout of the meal.  Wednesday’s Moroccan Pork Chop dinner (my blog entry about it and the original recipe I followed) was the starting point.  Based on what I learned from that recipe, I repurposed it for chicken.  Zakiah suggested a recipe for tamarind-date sauce (thank you – what a great idea!) and I extrapolated from that and braised the chicken instead of just pan frying it. 

The chicken was brined for four hours in a mixture of buttermilk, salt, and cayenne pepper.  While it was brining, I created a tamarind-date sauce.  This was a learning experience as I haven’t worked with tamarind paste before.

Tamarind paste comes from the flesh of the ripe fruit of the tropical Tamarind tree.  The flesh is very sour with just a hint of sweetness.  Mashing the paste in a little warm water, you can extract a thick liquid with which you cook.  A little goes a long way!  To make the sauce, I sauteed an onion with the same spices I used for the chicken.  Once the onion was soft I blended it with chopped dates and the tamarind water.  Then I thinned this mixture with broth and cooked it down for a few minutes.

While the sauce reduced, I rinsed, patted dry, and dredged the chicken pieces with a spice mixture, then pan fried them a few pieces at a time.  Once all the pieces had formed a nice crust, I returned them to the pot and added the tamarind-date sauce, covered the pot and cooked for an hour at low heat until the chicken was tender and cooked through.  The nice thing about this recipe was that it could be prepared the day before then reheated.  Tender, flavorful, and convenient.


To accompany the chicken, I made another batch of the Moroccan style rice.  (Recipe I started with but I modified it a lot as I don’t cook with a microwave.)  I was out of apricots so used dates, raisins, and dried mango to accompany the rice.  Interestingly, this batch turned out much softer and mushier than the one I made Wednesday.  I used the same type of rice and proportion of rice to liquid as before, but the rice was from a new bag.  All I can figure is that this bag of rice was younger and didn’t need as much liquid.  Still, plenty tasty!


For dessert, we has two items.  The first was a date nute bread (recipe) from Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa series of cookbooks.  This is a quick bread similar to banana bread or zucchini bread.  I think I overcooked it a little as it was dry.  Tawn, however, likes his food drier than I do, so he thought it was perfect!  Toasted, I think it would make no difference.  On the side is a tub of butter whipped with a little honey and orange zest.


The final dish was a Greek Yoghurt Panna Cotta with dried apricots reconstituted in a white wine and honey sauce.  (Recipe) This turned out very nice as the panna cotta is not overly sweet and has a nice tanginess from the yoghurt.  Of course, by this point we were stuffed, and smaller servings would have been fine!

All in all, the brunch was a success.  Pleasant company and conversation, most importantly, and the food turned out nicely, too!

Cooking with Dates – Moroccan Rice and Pork Chops

Now that we had a nice box of dates as a gift from Tawn’s boss, the only question was, what to do with them?  Okay, the premise is a bit misleading.  I always have some dates on hand and add them to my oatmeal every morning.  And I’m certainly not going to use the expensive, plump fresh dates for cooking – they’re perfect for snacking or stuffing with candied almonds or goat cheese.  But the receipt of the dates did get me thinking about ways to incorporate dates into my cooking beyond the oatmeal, so I was inspired to try some Moroccan-themed recipes.

Before anyone accuses me of not being authentic, or of using pork in a recipe ostensibly from a Muslim country, let me acknowledge the disconnects.  These recipes were more “loosely inspired by the cuisine of Morocco” than anything else.


I didn’t strictly follow a recipe – no surprise there – but used one as a guide.  I prepared jasmine rice, since it was handy, in a rice cooker with a mixture of half water and half chicken broth, adding a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods, and some cloves. 

While it was cooking, I fried a small onion, finely diced, with cumin, tumeric, ground cinnamon, paprika, and chili powder until fragrant, then added chopped pine nuts, slivered almonds, chopped dried apricots, chopped dates (you were wondering when I’d get to that, weren’t you?) and the zest of half a lemon. 

After the rice was finished, I pulled out the cardamom and cloves, then stirred in the onion, spice, and fruit mixture.  I added a little salt and pepper to taste and garnished with some green onions.  If I had had some coriander (cilantro) I would have added that, too.


The pork chops (you could use chicken, too) were marinated in a brine of 2 cups buttermilk, 1 tbsp of salt, and a generous dash of cayenne pepper.  After two hours, I rinsed the buttermilk off, patted the meat dry with towels, and then coated it with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, ground coriander seed, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. 

Fried the chops for a few minutes to get a crust, and then moved the pan to the oven until the internal temperature reached 160 F.  While the pork chops rested on a plate, tented loosely with foil, I made a sauce from the drippings, using chicken stock, raisins, green onions, and a little corn starch as a thickener.

This was a tremendously tasty meal and I’ll have to experiment with it further and see what other things I can do with the basic idea.  Chicken is next on my list, maybe for a brunch this Sunday.


Ride finds combines and, eventually, Hell

Sorry for the delay in writing.  My computer’s hard drive, which I swear I’ve been cleaning up and organizing all along, nonetheless reached 95% capacity and until I offloaded some of the contents onto DVDs and external drives, I was unable to edit the video I wanted to attach to this entry.  I finally had some time to do that and am ready to write this post.  For some reason, I just can’t allow myself to post too out of order so various events from this week will trickle out over the next few days.

Ride Area Overview Last Sunday morning, Stuart, Markus and I went riding in Minburi.  There was a 70km ride scheduled with the Thai Cycling Club in an area south of the city, but those rides move really slow and make lots of stops.  Not wanting to be beholden to a hundred other people, we opted to set out on our own.

This was Stuart’s second ride with me and his first as a proud owner of a new bicycle.  The previous day he had rented a bicycle from Spiceroads, a company that does very good bicycle tours.  He was so dissatisfied with the quality of the rental bike that when he met me at the bicycle shop for a little browsing he had, unbeknownst to me, already decided to buy.  And I thought I’d have to cajole him a little!

The ride site was, as usual, the rice paddies and surrounding countryside in Minburi and Nong Chuk, northeast of the city although still within the Khrungthep province, pictured right.  It took about an hour to get there, since we were looking for a well-placed wat (temple) at which we could park.

We did find a quiet country wat and pulled in and took the bikes off the rack.  I asked a dek wat – literally a “temple child” or assistant to the monks, who in this case is a man in his fifties – whether it would be okay to park there for a few hours.  He said it would and when I asked whether he had ever had any farang bicycle riders come through the wat, he surprised me by saying that it happens a few times a month.  He also kindly suggested I move my car to a spot that would be in the shade when I returned and asked me to make sure the doors were locked.

We set out along the northern of the two roads that border khlong San Saeb, the same canal that the canal taxi boats run along inside the city.  From there we headed down some small soi that led through vaguely residential areas.  These roads are familiar territory as I’ve been down them several times before.  We worked our way to “the invisible lake”, below, a rather sizeable body of water that doesn’t appear on either my road atlas of the greater Khrungthep area or on Google Maps, although the satellite view does show it.


The lake is on private property, which is probably why it doesn’t appear on the maps, but there is no fence so Markus suggested that we try to ride around it.  I’m always a little hesitant to leave public roads and venture onto private property.  While Thais in general aren’t the shotgun-toting type, I’m a big believer in property rights and respecting them. 

We headed out and found the path pretty rough and, about a quarter way around (a little past the promontory you see in the picture) the paths became impassable and because of some reverse irrigation, very muddy.  Actually, the gears and brakes of my bike were clogged with mud and straw making it necessary to do some dirty cleaning.

P1050921 Along the way, we encountered some cows.  Taking care to not spook them, as getting gored by a cow is not my idea of fun, I stopped to take a few pictures of a trio of calves who were resting nearby, left.

They were really cute.  When Tawn saw this picture he announced that he wanted to adopt them.

We continued, leaving the lake and more developed areas behind for the open rice fields of Nong Chuk.  Before you know it, the trees and scattered houses (many no more than shacks) gave way to a view of endless green meeting the big sky a long and hazy way off.


In the midst of this we stopped to investigate a park that is under construction, below.  Being built by the local Buddhists in a largely Muslim corner of the province, it will eventually become a wat but for the time being will be a park honoring a revered monk.  Much of the compound is being built in a basin that looks like it might have been intended as an irrigation lake.  Speaking with the construction foreman, I discovered he was proficient at English so I asked a few questions, answered a few questions, and enjoyed the ice water his wife offered us.


Below, architectural detail of the statue that is being constructed in the picture above.  While I originally assumed it would be an image of Buddha, as is the white one in the saffron colored robe, it turns out it will depict a revered monk.



P1050929 In front of the statue was a platform that had been set up with offerings, above.  It seems that there had been a ceremony the previous day (or maybe earlier that morning) to dedicate the whole affair. 

The flower arrangements were amazing, depicting many traditional forms and mythical creatures.  The main one, pictured right, has a bull on top (a nod to Brahmanism) with the creatures depicting the Chinese zodiac around the base. 

This was the centerpiece of the offerings, a white cloth suspended overhead on a network of white strings that connected all the offerings to the new statue. 

These strings are used in Buddhism, during various ceremonies, to literally connect participants to a venerated object like an image of the Buddha, in essence combining their collective prayers.  Sort of a Buddhist prayer daisy-chain.

In the picture below, the image of Buddha is shown in a traditional seated posture with a multi-headed naga, or mythological deity in serpent form, forming a protective hood over him. 

P1050932 As the story goes, the naga Muscalinda protected Siddhartha Gautama as he meditated under the bodhi tree.  After forty-nine days the heavens clouded over and it rained for seven days.  Muscalinda sheltered Gautama from the elements as he attained enlightenment, becoming the supreme Buddha (or “Awakened One”) of our age.  How’s that for a little Buddhist history you may not have known?

In any case, the detail of this arrangement is incredible.  The heads of the naga are made of rolled leaves, the mouths lined with small purple flowers and the teeth made of jasmine.  Only the tongues are not natural, made using red ribbon.

I’m fascinated at how there are so many elements of Buddhist mythology that trace back to Hinduism.  No surprise of course, as Buddhism was born in a Hindu society and Gautama’s family would surely have been Hindu.  But the liberal borrowing of creatures and stories is interesting.

We continued our ride and stopped for a bowl of noodles at a small nondescript restaurant at the intersection of two equally nondescript roads.  Despite the unremarkable restaurant, the bowl of pork noodles was really tasty and at twenty baht would almost be worth a ride all the way back out there!

Heading north, I wondered about Wat Peuchamongkol, a temple I’ve been to on two previous rides with Spiceroads.  It is a temple that has an amusement park-like depiction of heaven and hell.  While I had the name written down, like the lake this temple didn’t appear on any maps.

Rather serendipitously we ran into it about fifteen minutes later, a stroke of luck and nothing more.  I watched the bikes while Markus and Stuart went to hell and then, on my recommendation, heaven.  Afterwards, we stopped at the vendors in the car park – this is something of a tourist attraction – and had cold drinks.  Stuart fed the fish in the khlong to earn some merit.

P1050940 This being summer break, the temple had plenty of naen – novices – running around.  It is common for young men in Thailand to spend a period of time in the monkhood before their early twenties.  This is done in order to earn merit for your parents, enabling them to be reborn in a better position – defined as being closer to enlightenment – in their next lives. 

Traditionally, this is done during the rainy season when the monks would return from their wanderings to gather at the temples so as to avoid treading on newly-planted rice in the fields.  In modern times, it is common to do it during school break, sort of a religious summer camp.

There were ten or so novices, four of whom are pictured right, playing around by the vendors, considering which treats they’d like to buy.  While their heads and eyebrows were shaved and they’re undoubtedly receiving some religious instruction, they were behaving every bit like young boys: loud, rowdy, and aggressive.  One of them had a small metal object in his hands and when I asked him what it was, he responded with the Thai word borrowed from English, la-zuh

Sure enough, it was a small laser pointer.  The boys all laughed as he projected a red spot on a fellow novice’s forehead, another interesting if unintentional allusion to the Hindu roots of Buddhism.

Riding in the countryside provides an unlimited number of opportunities to appreciate the blessings of my life.  One was this couple paddling by the temple in their canoe, their stomachs distended, a possible symptom of hepatitis B.


It was a little past noon and the sun was hot and high.  Even trying to drink a lot of water and reapply the sunscreen, it was getting uncomfortable, so we headed back towards the car which was still ten kilometers away.  Along the way, even though according to the map we were still inside the province (although near the edge) we passed this “Welcome to Bangkok” sign, below.  There’s quite a bit of growth on the sign that looks like moss.  The sign does face north…


P3300069 On the final stretch, we noticed a large amount of smoke rising from the fields to the east of us.  We turned down into a small housing development – a single soi with shoulder-to-shoulder one bedroom single story houses – until we found the fire trucks.  One of the locals explained that there was a grass fire behind the houses and the firemen were trying to fight it from there.  One of the trucks left and we passed them later as they tried to find another path to the fire.

As we spoke with the residents, a small crowd of children gathered.  The boys are always more outgoing than the girls, so when Markus pulled out his camera they ran up to pose for a picture, above.  I made multiple copies of the photo today and will mail the copies to them, in care of the neighbor in the picture who gave me his address.

This is always the best part of exploring outside of Khrungthep.  There are so many friendly people who are excited and curious about strangers: Where are you from?  How long have you been here?  How do you like Thailand?

I’ve never met a people who are more genuinely flattered that people choose to visit their country.  The jaded natives of Khrungthep and tourist towns aside, Thais are generally very proud that their country is such a popular destination.  I wish Americans were a bit more welcoming of visitors.  The xenophobic streak that seems to be on the rise in the U.S. will only be detrimental to the country’s future.

Lest this descend into politics, let me conclude with a video of the rice harvesting we saw.  This is the end of the primary rice growing season in Thailand and we saw a lot of combines while we were riding.  Here’s a short bit about that: