Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Annie and Blue in Thailand

Sawadee! Hello from Thailand.  People like it when visitors want to learn more about their culture.  At the InterContinental Hotel in Hua Hin, Thailand, the hotel makes it easy. Hua Hin is about three hours south of the capital city of Bangkok. The drive was interesting. Have you ever wondered where salt comes from?  On the way we saw where farmers harvest salt so we asked our driver to stop. The fields are divided into large squares.  Using a small wind-driven pump like a little windmill the salt water is pumped up from the ground into the squares.  During the dry season from November to March the sun evaporates the water leaving the salt which they sweep up to be taken away where it is cleaned and packaged for sale. 

At the InterContinental Hotel they offer several cultural activities. One morning we got up early, at dawn and walked down to the beach where the hotel had prepared woven bamboo baskets that contained food.  After a few minutes a Buddhist monk walked by. We called to him and gave him the basket of food.  He gave us a blessing and continued on his morning walk. It is very common for Thai people to give food and money to the Buddhist monks especially when they are on their morning walk. It is called “making merit” which is basically doing good deeds in an attempt to become a better person. It also reminds us not to be selfish and to share. Buddhist monks live a very simple life. They are only allowed to receive and eat between dawn and noon.

The InterContinental also offers Thai cooking classes.  We love Thai food because it has a lot of fresh fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables so we decided that we would like to take a cooking class. But first we had to buy the ingredients. In the morning we went to the market with Chef Worawut. It wasn’t like any other market we had been to.  It was huge, crowded and had all sorts of things we had never seen before along with things we recognized. We saw fresh fish, dried fish, along with fruits and vegetables. We saw peppers in many colors and sizes. We were surprised to learn that the smaller the pepper the hotter the taste.  Thai food can be very hot if they add just a little of the tiny red peppers. We saw so many interesting things. They also sell ready-to-eat food and clothing, actually a little bit of everything.  The floor is usually wet because the fish are laid out on ice and the people who sell veggies are sprayed to keep them fresh and clean looking. Most of the Thai people shop every day because they want the ingredients to be fresh and because most people in Thailand have very small refrigerators. 

When we returned to the hotel we went to the restaurant where we learned to make Green Mango Prawn and Lemon Grass Salad, followed by a main course of Prawns with Tamarind Sauce.  Prawns are like huge shrimp. We love lemon grass flavor. It is common in Thai food.  Tamarinds are a fruit that looks like brown pea pods. Inside the fruit also looks like peas. When it is ripe it is sweet and makes great sauces and jams. For dessert we made Taro in Coconut Milk and Palm Sugar. Taro is a root. We told Chef Worawut we didn’t think we could buy taro in our area.  He said we could use potato instead. We think a cooking class is a good way to learn about other cultures.