Thailand Power of Ten Update – 7 Nov
The local police.
The word police in a foreign country does bring up little beads of sweat on my brow if I think of what I have been through on these trips.
The most recent, etched in my mind vividly was in Cuba; probably the most aggressive and unwelcoming bunch that I have met. It was before the country had opened up to the west, so they were rather paranoid about anyone crossing their turf on foot at speed especially if you were from the “West”. Andy, Pete and I spent a few hard hours in interrogation and the threat of 18 months jail term hanging over our heads – yes, just for camping and maybe a few other lines we crossed. Restricted area… Us, no ways!
Then there is the Thailand Police; what an amazing institution. Always immaculately dressed, polite and friendly. Day in and day out as we trundle the roads we are greeted and saluted by the police. They send co-workers off to go and buy us cold water and give it to us along the way. Wherever we are and meet up with the force, they are there to help with a smile and pose for a picture and off we run again.
I have such respect for them and the way that they serve the public. Before we bid farewell to run off, they call us back and make sure that we have a number to call should there be any issues along the way. I know of some guys who could definitely take a leaf out of this book.
As the sun peaks over the surrounding hills and cranes its neck above the tree lined slopes, we are up and packing.
Andy makes us a quick cup of coffee, pack and head out.
We try and get about 15 kms under the belt before the relentless humid daily heat begins to sap every bit of moisture through our skin, with it slowly draining away the energy that seems to drain with the fluid, as one’s body dehydrates. You can feel your skin writhe, twist and buckle as the sun slowly poaches it through the river of sweat cascading down your face desperately trying to cool you. Every day we hit this mini wall and have to find some road food and when it comes, we need it quick- quick something to eat and wash it down with whatever we can find that is ice cold.
The best road food we have found for this is definitely the Chicken kebabs (I have mentioned them). Fleshy pieces of chicken with lots of fatty skin dunked in a lovely spicy marinade and quickly cooked over coals.
As you come plodding down the road, your stomach rolling over with hunger you suddenly get that incredible smell of chicken on the coals. You look up and there ahead you see clouds of smoke curling through the leaves of a tree. The gathering of people is another tell-tale sign usually of a crowd of bikes and scooters. The locals have also been drawn to the grill stand from all the surrounding fields. One has to get in there quickly; if you don’t it just vanishes as quickly as the smoke wisps away. You stop at the little stand, drop your gear and grab a few skewers and begin chomping and just keep the sticks for the audit at the end, pay and off you go.
Flavour freak out
We were given permission to spend the evening at a local junior school.
We arrived just as they were doing their P.E. lesson.
Some good laughs were had by all. We then posed for a few pics and just as we were finishing up a food cart arrived. One of the teachers called me over and pointed to the array of delights to offer. For the first time it was all sweet treats, big slabs of colourful items cut into bite size squares.
I decided to get us each a square of what looked like Malva pudding. I was passed 3 slices in a bag. It was strange, they were warm, but on close inspection actually looked like half was maybe Crème-caramel or something. Then looking at them again they looked like brandy pudding with nuts in them.
Hungry after the day’s run, I could not wait to try mine. I put my hand in the bag and carefully pulled out a slice and straight into the mouth. Just before I bit it, I got a smell of the delicacy, but it was not a sweet smell. I hesitated, but hunger got the better of me so I closed my mouth on a massive piece and then all went crazy. The sweet taste gave way to the flavour of pork cooking lard, the nuts turned into pieces of shredded meet. The egg type custard was more like warm congealed gelatine topped with a light cake topping of rice foam.
I still could not work this one out. All my years as a chef, my brain bank of stored flavour profiles, dish combinations and sensory profiles were lost – I chewed on but there was still a sweet undertone – Nothing was working for me on this one; when in doubt breathe out and swallow as not to taste too much.
“Andy, Pete you guys have to try this, it rocks!”
The new sleep deprivation tool
Okay so we have managed to get the better of the dogs, but now these far flung Temples have also taken to a liking of roosters, not one or 2, but trees full of the dam things.
All day Andy has been commenting on these roosters along the road that we have been seeing.
They perch 5 deep not in a tree, but in a waist height bush, fighting with these thin little branches trying to keep balance and then on top of all of this they then try force out this macho crow. In the process of forcing every ounce of energy into the crow they blast themselves out of the tree and hit the deck with a rather confused look, “What happened?”
But don’t worry this is the practice day session; we were soon to find out – so evening rolls in.
“The Sneak” found us a temple to overnight; in we run and there he is waiting, big smile – “Sorted guys.”
I took a quick scan around, there were the normal clan of dogs and some new recruits, the rooters and guess what, lots of guava bushes scattered around where we were to sleep. We pitched our tents and headed down the street for a quick meal.
Exhausted we crawled in. It was not 10 minutes after we had settled down and all was quiet that the first rooster headed for his perch, fought, flapped and clawed his way to the very top, about 1 metre in all. Then the next followed and so on they piled in until this little guava tree was a writhing mass of feathers, claws and beaks. (I wish Dr Seuss could have seen this for a story).
The tree settled and all was quiet. Then the scurry started in the next bush and so on it went, bush to bush until the whole of the village chicken population had migrated into a bush around us creating live art gyrating Christmas-like structures.
Then for no reason at 3:30, although the sun has no intention of rising, some clown of a rooster decides it is time; he cranes his neck out of the bunch and gives it a massive blast, blowing himself out of the pod. The rest follow suit trying to get their squawk in before they hit the deck and the whole lot comes tumbling down. Aroused to the fact that the sun might rise, every bush explodes into life as each tries to get his morning bugle of a crowing out before the pod collapses into a massive pile of feathers.
On realising it’s a false alarm, they all begin the clamber back into the tree to start all aver again as not to miss the prised accolade of he who falls out on queue when the sun finally rises.