Here are ten things that I learned on my summer vacation to Thailand:
1. In Mae Salong
, I discovered that there is such a thing as black chicken. The color is natural from the breed, and it tastes like the regular chicken does here: fresh and delicious without all the hormones and stuff pumped into it.
2. Mae Salong has a large Chinese immigrant population -- one of the few places in Thailand where Mandarin is spoken. It used to be a major grower of opium (located in the Golden Triangle), but now the fields are filled with oolong tea leaves. What I didn't know is how much oolong tea leaves resemble ficus leaves (albeit ridged).
3. In Bangkok and everywhere else in Thailand, I learned that 7-11's are ubiquitous. The company, which was bought out by a Japanese firm in 1991, has 6,000 stores in this country -- half of which are in Bangkok. The company plans to have over 50,000 outlets here within the next decade.
4. In Mae Hong Son
, we realized that the concept for the new Make A Shake
on Lincoln Road, which creates shakes using various candies, has been in Thailand for years.
5. In a little-known town in Nan
province, we stayed with three sisters and ate whatever they cooked up. It was here I learned how difficult net fishing is. Sure looks easy enough - toss a circular net with weights attached to the bottom into a pond, then slowly pull it out by an attached rope, dredging up whatever fish get ensnared. I went with one of our hosts, Ginda, to give it a try, but ended up providing only comic relief. When she netted a frog, it was like finding caviar -- Ginda knocked the poor fella out with about a dozen whacks to the noggin. The regular fish are gutted and cleaned before being thrown into a wok with hot oil, but the frog was chopped up, innards, eyeballs and all, and tossed in. It was then mixed with fiery tom yam paste, garlic, ginger, and basil. I was loathe to taste it, but managed to select the pieces that looked most like the leg. This was the basis for our dinner that night: