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Back from the Jungle

Okay, it's not exactly the Jungle. Maybe the jungle with a small "j". Jet's dad is developing a piece of land into a adventure/ecotourism destination.

He calls it Wiman (vee-mahn) in Thai, meaning Heaven. It's waywayway back in the backcountry, West Northwest of Bangkok.



But more on that later. I realized I haven't covered any food for Thailand yet, so I'll start with the most recent and work backwards. I'm lucky that my gracious host for the last week or so loves food and is a professional cook himself, so he knows where to find good food, and can translate and answer my questions.

At Wiman, there's a woman who cooked 2 hot meals per day for us. Very unassuming, but that lady can cook. We ate our meals on some tree stumps under a big tree, with some boards made into a table. That grin on my face is because this is the first meal dining al jungle-o. 100% kickass!


The first meal was comprised of fish steaks, simply fried, to be eaten with a fish sauce/chili/shallot dip, in back a chicken soup with sawtooth (also called culantro or rau ram), green beans with pork, fresh chili paste and hot basil. She's got great timing with the fish, as it was crispy on the outside, but still moist inside. Whether intentional or not, fish for this type of dish is often fried until it's tough as cardboard, and I think it's better this way. The cooked sawtooth in the soup mellows out that sometimes harsh flavor it can have and actually gets a little sweet. The pork and green beans was quite good, although I think it could benefit from parcooking the beans.


We also had this Burmese style chicken curry. Nicely spiced, and a bit lighter on the kefir lime, which works for me, as I think it is too prominent for my taste in some dishes. This was one of my favorites. Note that it's mostly the ends of the drumsticks and so on. Not much meat on the chickens.


I missed taking a shot of the first lunch but I remember there was a dish with pork and tiny eggplants, and tom yum soup with chicken. The second dinner in the jungle consisted of hot and sour fish soup (tom yum soup with fish), to the left is pork larb, the little bowl is salted, fermented fish paste, both to be eaten with the green beans, raw cabbage and blanched cabbage, and fish cake fritters. She adjusted the broth for the soup to be lighter in flavor to not overpower the fish. She apologized for the larb being too sour, but I enjoyed it. The fish paste is probably a bit too fishy for most people, but it's a lot like shiokara in Japan - fermented squid ...errr... innards. Not that that's going to convince anyone.


The other lunch consisted of an omelet with shallots and I think a touch of fish sauce. The other dishes are made with a type of venison in the area - the strips are seasoned with fish sauce and some soy, I think - very lean and well done, but a very light game flavor, almost like farmed boar. I thought the soup made with the bony parts was more successful since the meat was tender, and enhanced by the shallots and some galanga, I believe.


We headed back toward his house near the border, and I contemplated buying a house on the lake.


There are a few of these fishing villages where people live on the water. It's relatively recent that these houses are here, as this is actually a reservoir created by a dam about 27 years ago. The flooded area used to be inhabited, so people had to pick up and move whole villages, schools, temples, etc. Except these guys, I guess. I'm jealous - he lives on the lake and has satellite TV. I live in a regular apartment and I have cable. Damn.

Currently about 8:30pm, Sunday, November 20 in Bangkok

I'm only planning on being in Bangkok for 2 nights, so I decided to splurge and spend 440 baht per night on a room in a guesthouse - $11US. Really all I wanted was an electrical outlet so I could compose blog entries to cut down the time I'm paying for Internet access (30 baht/hour, or $0.75US/hour). This room is so much better - in better condition, newer everything, decent furniture, full bedding, and a private bathroom - the other room was 200 baht for an old bed, and having to share a bathroom with a whole floor. I'm ridiculous, because I got into trying to compare prices in baht - this place is more than twice as much as the first guesthouse, and I stayed there for 6 days. Lesson learned: don't be a cheapskate, pay the extra $6US.


They grow pot there? Looks green enough. I'm just saying.

Thai stick? Never heard of it...

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