Newsflash: It appears that backpacking badger has crossed yet another border and is currently semi-comatose and positively horizontal on the beaches in the Gulf of Thailand. In somewhat of a meteoric turnaround, she also appears to be eating her own bodyweight on a daily basis...
For the last 6 weeks or so I have found myself in the rather pleasing situation of being in absolute culinary-seventh-heaven-bliss, so here's why:
- Som tam (in Thailand) or tam maak hung (in Laos) is my new favourite thing. A delicious, spicy green papaya salad with a hint of sweetness and plenty of fire - I've had so many I'm almost as hardcore with the chillis as the locals. Almost.
- Fruit Shakes. Why oh why do we not have these back home? Admittedly it might have something to do with our Arctic summers... Fresh juice, a bit of sugar syrup, a mountain of ice and a blender... Flavour of the month is the sublime Lemon and Mint shake: tantalisingly refreshing and oh so cool.
- Sticky rice. No - this isn't rice that you've accidentally left boiling on the stove so it resembles white concrete mixture - it's a Lao speciality. Roll it into a ball with your fingers and dip into an assortment of delicious dishes. Yum.
- What do you get if you mix mint, coriander, onion, lime and deep fried tofu? (I'm off the meat at the moment - it's a long and boring story) The answer is the delectable Lao salad called Larb. My mouth is watering just thinking about it...
- My all-time favourite soup in the whole wide world ever: Tom Yam - aka hot and sour soup. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal (no - I don't know what that is either), lime juice, crushed chilli peppers and many many more ingredients combine to make this tangy, sweat-inducing slice of heaven.
Ok - I'm now going to stop with the M&S style food descriptions - it's making me way too hungry - and I only just ate...
I last sent a despatch from Lovely Laos - and I continued my journey south towards the beautiful French colonial town of Luang Prabang, which is a small slice of exotic luxury nestled alongside the Mekong. The night market there proved to be just too good to resist - and I walked away with a much heavier bag - and a much lighter wallet.
Next stop was Vang Vieng, which was a very bizarre cross between peaceful rural riverside Laos and hedonistic, crazed and drug-fuelled Ibiza. Yes - it does sound odd. We made the fatal mistake of tubing down the river stone cold sober, carelessly floating past the bars offering free shots, free food and ridiculously cheap buckets of alcohol. 'They'll be loads more later on' we nonchalantly thought, not realising that when people say they tube down the river in Vang Vieng, what they really mean is they tube for 10 metres and then sit at a bar for the rest of the afternoon getting absolutely blotto beyond all recognition. Needless to say we missed all of the action - but at least we enjoyed the gorgeous limestone scenery...
I now find myself on the beautiful, rugged and largely undeveloped East coast of Koh Phang Ngan in Thailand. Chilling out has been firmly on my agenda, although last week in some bizarre twist of fate I found myself being dragged to one of the 'legendary' full moon parties. Let's just say I don't think I'll be doing that again in a hurry...
Off to the Philippines next - where a underwater paradise of tropical reefs and psychedelic fish awaits! xx