My first foray into roadside food, shortly after I arrived, was at a stand selling fish and rice. The Thai’s shook their head when I pointed to it, “very, very spicy”, they said. I like spicy, I replied cavalierly. I have learned that when a Thai tells you a food is spicy, you should listen and take heed. I bit into the fish and my eyes immediately teared up and my nose started to run. They were watching me with interest. I smiled, nodded my head in approval, and kept eating. I didn’t know food could get that hot and not burn your mouth off. My whole face felt like it was on fire and then it went numb. My stomach churned and a horrifying image of what this food would feel like coming out, if my body rejected it, flashed through my mind. I have been blessed with a stomach of iron and sometimes that makes me cocky, but imagining the worst case scenario was enough to make me abandon my pride, my fish dish, and definitely my cockiness. I hurried back to my bunk, stopping only to buy (and drink) 3 litres of water to dilute and pacify my unseasoned belly. Fortunately, the food exited my body remarkably well. But I was well aware I had eaten some serious spice… I was well aware. I have since enjoyed experimenting with all manner of local delicacies, but with prudence. The night markets have everything you could possibly imagine. I love the dried, roasted, flattened calamari that is dipped in a spicy, sweet peanut sauce. The food in Thailand is legendary and does not disappoint. It is generally awesome and super cheap.
From Kanchanaburi, I took the bus to the fabled, fallen kingdom of Ayutthaya, which is to Thailand what Rome is to Italy, but not as old. Founded in 1351, the heart of the city is on a 4km-wide River island and ruins are scattered everywhere. By 1685, in the days when Thailand was called Siam, Ayatthuya had a population of over a million people, roughly double the size of London at the time, living mainly on houseboats. The city was sacked by the Burmese in 1737.
I rented a bicycle for the day (for approx $2) and peddled to the multitude of temples, ruins, and Buddha’s in every form; gold, headless, reclining, even in a tree. People pay homage and worship the iconic Buddha leaving everything from food, drink, fancy clothes, flowers and small bejewelled statues as offerings.
In one royal temple ruin, some Thai people were making two intricate, completely live plant offerings that were incredible works of art. They were on the second day of what would take them three days to construct.
On my trusty bike (which turned out to be not so trusty, as I got a flat tire and had to walk back at the end of the day). I rode far away from any tourists; I came upon a peaceful arbored garden beside a small temple where white-clad Thai’s were fillings plates of food for themselves from several large pots. When they saw me, they motioned me in and gave me a plate. I sat eating quietly with them, drinking in the purity of the experience. I want to learn more about this gentle culture and thier Buddhist practices. I think when I get to Chang Mai, I’m going to do a meditation retreat.