Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand      Last Updated: 23-Nov-01 

Go directly to Meals

This part of the trip is primarily intended as relaxation and recreation in the tropics before we return to California.

A slight confusion about which hotel we would be staying at was resolved after our first night at the Baan Thai Beach Hotel (which was right in the restaurant center of Patong Beach) and a move to the Baan Sukothai Hotel (right in the Disco and Night Market area). The first hotel was under reconstruction and one had to walk through a construction site to get to the pool. The bungalow we reside in in the second hotel is luckily very shielded from all the noise on the streets around. Hotel rooms are in high buildings around the perimeter of the hotel, and the bungalows are in a garden/pond setting in the center. There is a meandering pool the color of a watery latté, and we cross several bridges to reach our bungalow. We have a suite, and it is very comfortable; the pool is just a few steps outside of the door, and it is great for soaking off the salt after diving. The breakfast was better in the first hotel, but we have more Japanese breakfast options in the second.

Baan Sukothai pool  Our bungalow 

Patong Beach is a pure tourist town, with hotels, restaurants, bars, and lots of tchoschke shopping. While not as insistent as the kids of Angkor, a stroll down the street does get many calls of "buy a {shirt / mask / scarf / DVD (bootleg) / ring / laser pointer / suitcase / watch (Rolex! $15!) / video game (bootleg) / rubber rat (for Diane?) / massage / Van Gogh painting (painted right here, and signed by Vincent himself) / lunch}." We found a wonderful batik store with modern original artwork on clothing - P8K Painter Shop - just north of Phuket Cabana Resort.

Work in progress  Boot for brushes  Scott and shopkeeper 

We had a wonderful experience at the Hide Away Herbal Aromatic Spa. Scott had a Steam Sauna with Lemongrass, Camphor, Kafir Lime Leaves, and Prai (a ginger-like root, rhymes with "I") and cold bath, followed by a massage with lemongrass oil (to keep the mosquitos away). Roswitha enjoyed a cold bath, followed by a Prai/Aloe Vera wrap, a Mandarin scented bath and a massage with Prai oil.

Food in Phuket is truly international, since tourists seem to come from all over the world. The largest number of tourists seem to come from Germany/Austria, France, Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, Japan, Israel, Australia, etc. This means that most shops seem to advertise that they speak numerous languages, as do the touts, restaurants and hotels. You can also find some very interesting menus where Thai food, is listed next to Indian, Chinese, Austrian, and Japanese. We found a Thai run Mexican restaurant which then was topped by an Austrian run Mexican Restaurant (while the former one took a very creative approach to Mexican food, neither one was any good). Of course there also are the Grill-Huette, Spatz Café, and Schlawiner Restaurant. Unfortunately, we have not yet found any spicy Thai, Indian, or Mexican food.

Austrian Management! 
Refined beans  First on the Austrian Specialties - Italian food followed by Hungarian 

Scott went diving for two days. Roswitha joined the boat on the first day (snorkeling), and nursed her sunburn at the hotel the next day (and also read and worked on these webpages).

The first day's diving was at Bungalow Bay on Racha Yai island, just South of Phuket. We were aboard the well-organized Greta, run by Calypso Diving. The dives themselves were a little on the boring side, with very little in the way of exciting sea life (although both Scott (diving) and Roswitha (snorkeling) got to see jelly fish and poofish). This was the first time for Scott to use the underwater housing for the little Olympus digital camera. A review of photos in the evening showed that the delay in exposure is a detriment to underwater photography as well - if the subject or photographer are moving (the typical situation with a pufferfish or a water current), then the focus is off. Overall, the yield is better than the Nikonos (manual film camera), but it will still take much more care, and more selective choice of subjects. The second dive did land us in a large school of small barracuda. Scott's dive buddies were great in pointing out the few interesting subjects, so credit must also go to them. UW photography tends to burn air faster than just diving (because of less concentration on breathing), which can shorten dive time. At one point, Albrecht offered his spare regulator to Scott so that Scott could use his air. "Wow! That's, that's selfish!" It effectively increased the dive time by about 15 minutes, so that everyone could have a longer dive. Still, much appreciated - Danke, Albrecht.

A giant step for Scott  Albrecht swimming with the fishes  Barracuda 
Fan Coral  Sea Cucumber  Moorish Idol 
Lion Fish  Scorpion Fish - fatally poisonous if stepped on  No fish 

The second day was on Dive Asia'sboat - a little less organized, and worse food, but still a very adequate dive boat. The first two dives were at Racha Noi (West side and then at Banana Bay on the North side). The dive group included John from Amsterdam/NJ, Brendan from New Zealand/Ireland, and the dive master who seemed to want to cover as much ground and poke as many things as possible. Although the conditions were pleasant, the dives were basically boring. Sandy bottom, a few coral heads, and several big rocks, along with the normal fish assortment were the collection to be seen. A perfect day, but we still did not see any bananafish, even at Banana Bay. The third dive was back at Racha Yai's Bungalow Bay, so Scott sat it out and snorkeled (and saw a pair of giant clams). The final dive was a night dive in the same place. Most fish sleep at night, and a whole other set of creatures check in for the night shift. Sea Urchins come out of their holes and litter the bottom. Lionfish, normally shy, are out, and sea cucumbers stretch out and hunt. Sleeping fish can be found in the most surprising places. If lucky, one can also see octopii and squid, although we did not. In fact, it was probably the most boring night dive Scott has ever done. Someone pointed out, "That's a moray." A few crabs. Yawn. The crowd on board was fun, though.

More fan coral  See cucumber  Staghorn coral 
Giant clam and soft coral  Black spotted puffer 
Moray at night  That's a moray  Sleeping Parrotfish 

Scott went for a famous Thai foot massage. As it started, the woman said that it is OK to say, "Ha-ha." For the most part, it was not all that ticklish, but as she was running the wooden poker on the sides of my toes, I had to say, "Ha-ha." Overall, the massage was unexceptional. Pleasant, but nothing to write home about. Oops, I did it again.

The Hideaway also runs a cooking school, taught by Air (Sirikarn Duangchitra), the wife of the owner. This is done at their Kata Beach location, South of Patong, so we went early and enjoyed lunch on the terrace of Mom Tri's Boathouse. (Of course, you can look at the meals section for details.) Kata Beach is much quieter than the hustle of Patong, and the day was quite nice. We rushed through lunch and then hunted for a taxi or tuk-tuk to get to the Hideaway, which is at the other end of the beach. We arrived just in time and got checked in to the class, which actually was scheduled for an hour later (Roswitha got the schedules mixed up - sounds like a case of "Brain on Vacation"). We were the only two students in the class.

Air had prepared a menu which included two fish-containing dishes, but she quickly changed it when she learned of Scott's allergy. She said that she is also allergic to shrimp and crab. Her kitchen is open-air, sitting under a thatched roof, and we were joined by her poodle Jimbo and two or three cats. Two Mynah birds came in and were raiding a pot of cooking oil. Chickens clucked outside, and various staff of the spa wandered through as well. The recipes were relatively simple, and did not require much preparation besides slicing or crushing. (We did learn that lemongrass is best when crushed with a flat slap of the knife.)

Open-air Kitchen  Fresh Ingredients 
Thief! Mynah in Oil  Cooking Manfalang Sod Sai Kai  Peeling Mango 

We cooked/prepared:

Manfalang Sod Sai Kai - Chicken-stuffed potato dumplings - pretty easy, except for forming the egg-shaped potato balls

Yam Nuea - Thai beef salad - Fresh!

Het Tom Kha - Mushroom coconut soup - simple and yummy

Gaeng ped fuctong Kai - Pumpkin curry with chicken (with rice from the bottomless rice cooker) - almost, but not hot enough

Kao-niow Mamung - Sticky Rice with coconut milk and mango

Manfalang Sod Sai Kai  Yam Nuea 
Het Tom Kha  Gaeng ped fuctong Kai 
Kao-niow Mamung 

Air explained each of the ingredients, what they add to the food, and alternate uses for each (such as mosquito repellent for Lemon Grass). The primary ingredients of Thai cooking flavors are Lemon Grass (cut large on the base for fragrance and flavor - but not to eat, slice fine to eat), Galangal (a hot/bitter root similar in some ways to Ginger, but smells and tasts more like an evergreen), Ginger (Thais use young ginger, Chinese use old), Basil (three different types - hot, sweet, and medium), Kaffir Lime (both leaves (chopped coarse or fine, as for lemon grass) and fruit), Fish Sauce, coconut milk, and, of course, chiles (two main types - "red" (the big, milder one), and "hot" (the thin, 2" one)). We got to (had to?) eat each dish we prepared, but since we made more than the two of us could taste, the extra was eaten by the spa staff. I asked if they would complain about the fact that we used Soy Sauce instead of Fish Sauce, but she said that they would likely say that it was not hot enough. So, we added lots of Red Savina Habanero to the curry. I hope that they liked it.

We asked her if they cooked hotter in the North of Thailand or in the South. She said that the North East was hottest.

The next day, we went to Mom Tri's Boathouse for another cooking class, this time with the restaurant's executive chef, Tummanoon Punchun. A major contrast to the prior class, this one had about a dozen Farangs, and took place in an air-conditioned function room. The class is held on Saturday (appetizers & salads) and Sunday (main dishes & desserts), but we only took the first day since we were flying out that afternoon. Bee Choo - our Penang friend - had stayed at the Boathouse a few weeks before, and had taken the class. The chef had a cook table at the front, and we sat facing him at two long tables. There was another table to the side where we got to do some hands-on stuff. He started off by walking us through the main ingredients described above. He also showed us green peppercorns (so now we need to raid Norma's tree) and fresh tumeric root (which we'd never seen before).

Tumeric root 
Hands in the seafood goo  Chef Tummanoon frying Tod man pla  Pandanus leaf baskets 

Tod man pla - Deep-fried fish cake - gooey, sticky finger fun, until fried

Hor mok talay - Steamed seafood curry mousse - the best part was building baskets for the mouse from Pandanus leaves (anyone got some handy?) - these were used to form and steam the mousse

Yam makhua yao - Spicy grilled eggplant salad - the one Scott almost was able to eat, except for the small amount of cooked prawns, shrimp powder, and fish sauce

Pha pla muk - Spicy poached squid salad with mint dressing

Tod man pla  Steamed seafood curry mousse 
Everything we cooked, plus rice  Scott's lunch 

Although more class-room style with only some hands-on work, the class worked well with the simple style of Thai food preparation. Tummanoon also had us (OK, them) taste the food which he was preparing at key points. After each dish was done, the class (sans Scott) ate a sample. Once all was done, we sat down to a lunch composed of the morning's efforts. The kitchen made special versions for the hungry Scott - Marinated chicken in the Pandanus baskets, Grilled eggplant salad with chicken, and vegetarian springrolls. Of course, Scott neglected to mention that he wanted it spicy, so these took no risk (no doubt assuming that if the guy can't eat fish, he must not like spice).

We asked him if they cooked hotter in the North of Thailand or in the South. He said that the South was hottest.

Phuket Meals:

11 Nov.

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