Thailand travel 30: Magical mystery Phuket Town outdoor market lunch
Phuket Town, I read in my Lonely Planet, is a colorful blend of curtural influences cobbled together by tentative compromise and cooperation. These days “proof of the island’s historical soul.” It says one can wander down streets clogged with Sinio-Portuguese architecture housing arty coffee shops, galleries, wonderful inexpensive restaurants and hip little guesthouses. Also down alleyways Chinese Taoist shrines and incense smoke.
Who could resist? I book for what is meant to be my last two days into a place called the Rommanee Boutique Classic Guesthouse. The link shows a street view and I think I would like that. Final two days. Sit at my window with my laptop and enjoy what looks like a very cool street view.
Well Soi Rommanee is pretty cool in that there are revived old buildings with trendy little shops downstairs (an ice cream boutique across the narrow one-way and a card — The Postcard — and “stuff” shop almost next door) but my view is out back. A parking lot. A disappointment. Have to go downstairs and outdoors to enjoy the vibe. Which I would have most of the time, anyway…
And the downtown is cool to roam night and day. And I do it a lot, relishing my final days of “freedom” which is what traveling typically feels like to me. Funny. Not like I am not free at home. But traveling, I am free from most commitments, I guess.
Freedom’s just another word…
And there is freedom of seeing so much and doing so much when it doesn’t feel like doing but like “being” in a novel place.
Not that it’s all rose-colored specs. Night one, roaming the darkened streets (arrived in the dark so had no landmarks to speak of), jump about six feet and almost do myself in to avoid a rat the size of a small dog that scurried across my path. And the cantaloupe drink I order at a cafe with dreadful musak is synthetic to the N-th degree and the green mango salad hot in a way only bad Thai food is hot.
And I buy a new umbrella for sun and rain in Phuket Town and it’s faulty and I see a better, cheaper one round the corner. But will the woman return my money? Not on your nelly. (She does exchange the umbrella.)
And I note complaints in my journal about the taxi drivers’ constant bugging.
But I only remember these things thanks to the journal.The negatives dissolve…
Sudden collages and sights…
Because wandering is a treat for sudden collages and sights and colors and scenes.
I come upon the grand Blue Elephant Royal Thai Cuisine cooking school that I saw online and emailed to find out about their lessons, but they didn’t get back. It is grand. It has branches, the guy at the desk tells me, in Brussels, Bangkok, Dubai and several other cities. They have brands. It’s a big-time business.
I snap a few pics and move on.
To the market. The outdoor market. Another visual treat.
Speak to a man cooking — who knows what? He ignores me till I engage him in conversation and indicate I would like to eat something. He declines my request for advice. Probably knows better from experience with travelers.
“Hot,” he says when I point to something. I like Thai hot, I tell him, having learned that Thai hot, at any place worth the name Thai, is spicy. I have it on rice (40 Baht.)
He indicates to a rough outdoor table behind him where locals are sitting over plastic plates. I take my seat. People engage. “Hot,” one says. But it’s not, it’s tasty, and I am not a hot fiend…
The chef brings me some soup. Weedy things in it. It takes hot and sourish. Pleasant sourish. The woman across from me who has some English says what I am eating is hot and sour tamarind leaf soup (Isaan Style) and it’s cooked with a whole fish in it for flavor.
She has in a bag some of the big bean things I have seen at several markets. Like Jack and the Beanstalk in size. Broad. Have spotted them hanging off branches in forests.
I establish the beans, which my lunch companion tells me are good for headaches or she could mean good for giving you a headache — or alternatively, they are hallucinogens , I cannot work out which — are a local delicacy when in season, like now.
She says I can try and eat the plump almond-shaped beans raw.
Hallucinogens, headache aids or what?
I try only two, not knowing if I will get a headache, trip out, or seeing I don’t have a headache, get some other type of high.
I establish from Wikipedia they are: Parkia speciosa (petai, bitter bean, twisted cluster bean, stinker or stink bean) is a plant of the genus Parkia in the family Fabaceae. It bears long, flat edible beans with bright green seeds the size and shape of plump almonds which have a rather peculiar smell, similar to (but stronger than) that of the Shiitake mushroom, characterized by some as being similar to natural gas.
Enjoyment of food. The opener of doors; the common language; the magical conviviality ingredient.
© Wanda Hennig 2016, story and photos.