Has it been too long? (Two years! How!?) Can I still blog? Is that ok? I think that I will, either way. ‘Cause we went to Asia and it was great.

My parents and I met in Hong Kong (I got there first, which was a little weird. Tried to check into our Airbnb and wound up accidentally taking the subway to the middle of Kowloon– so I popped right up into the crazy, hot, smelly, neon-spangled heart of Hong Kong, after maybe 20 hours of travel. Tried to get in a taxi and they kept making me get out. I thought I was too sweaty, but turns out I was just on the wrong side of the water and the taxis are zero-percent keen to cross. Finally found my way and met the owner’s (whose name was Sweetie) non-English speaking mom on the corner and got let into the apartment.) I rested for a bit and got braved-up and went out on my own to buy groceries (having cold beer and chips for dad when he gets off an international flight wins major points) then went out for a walk to dinner at Yardbird, a super trendy little yakitori place. I felt like maybe I should eat at some mega legit place with roasted poultry and pig bits swaying in the window, but sometimes you are a tired white girl and you need a little slice of Portland on the other side of the world. It was good. Very charming, and actually a pretty different take on trendy– grilled weird chicken bits (had “inner thigh” and “oyster”) and Korean-ish sides in a sparse room. Then my parents arrived (hallelujah) and we walked around more and went to the weirdest Italian restaurant in the world, staffed entirely by seniors. (Toothless seniors, at that.) I got a glass of red wine, filled up to the tippity top. Whoo!

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The next day we went to Lamma Island, just a short ferry ride away. So much mellower and truly tropical feeling (I liked it better. Hong Kong is a little intense.) Kicked off the island day with some streetside steamed dim sum, as you do. So good. Shu mai (my favorite), steamed pork buns (surprisingly made with normal pork-colored pork, rather than the hot pink norm), and some sticky rice. First HK Dim Sum! Then we did a hikeabout from the main port town to some sandy beaches with a nice view of the cement plant, up an over some rugged-ish land, where there was a lady selling frozen pineapple (and a sad hiker in spiked heels, who’d bough two slices of cold fruit and looked like she was seriously considering sliding them into her shoes.) At the end of the day: lunch at one of the many, many seafood places. Picked the one with the least scary tanks of lobster and dug in. Steamed garlic shrimp, fried squids, fried rice. Best part was sitting next to a big table of drunk middle aged French ladies who were giggling their heads off.

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Now that we’re gone, I wish we’d eaten some more legit classic HK food, but lord, was it overwhelming there. So crowded, and in a really unfriendly way (in my maybe-too-sensitive opinion, at least.) I was having a mild existential crisis the whole time we were there– something about being amidst such a mass of people made me start to feel very weird about my existence and individuality. And it made me kind of tired, so we wound up eating at slightly more upscale restaurants rather than the the glowingly bright-lit, big, old school places slinging soup n’ congee by the gallon. We ate at a “softly open” Korean place (it’d been open for months, but they were still booze-less, so you had to go around the corner for beer from the bodega) which was very good, as well as Ho Lee Fook, which has gotten some big time nods in NYT and Saveur. Good spicy fancified Chinese-ish food. Ok so, Hong Kong. Cool. Crazy. Onward.

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Then we went to Bangkok, and my existential angst immediately lifted. Yay! We landed at the rinky dink old airport, where there was one “restaurant”: a semi-modern coffee stand, with card tables sprawling out around it, topped with teetering towers of plastic boxes filled with Thai food. Curries and rice, fried tidbits– I got little spring rolls stuffed with crunchy vegetables and shredded pork, with spicy, funky sauce tucked in alongside. Hugely reminded my of weird little airports in Indonesia, where there are dozens of dudes waiting around, hoping to get a gig driving you around (for super cheap) or convince you to hire his brother’s boat or go to his mom’s restaurant for dinner. I love those guys. (Stuart’s Thailand advice was never to say no to any of those guys. That’s why I like Stuart.)

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We arrived in the early afternoon and got settled in at our weird/swank apartment (lots of British flag throw pillows, fake flowers, and a giant sparkly Audrey Hepburn portrait–but also a pool ten stories above the city) and headed out toward a bar recommended by everyone cool called WTF. Lived up to the hype, despite the dumb name. Super cozy, and not just a displaced cool American bar. Great cocktails with Thai vibes, cool old movie posters, friendly people. I had a cardamom/lemongrass G & T. Two thumbs up, especially when its 99% humidity. Then we walked to dinner at Soi 38, a little alley filled with the true wonders of the street food world. We got there close to sunset, and it as it got darker, it just got more and more magical, with scooters zipping through the eaters, tables getting full, runners rushing back and forth from booths along the street with steaming dishes, people pointing and yelling for the things they wanted. We started at one end with a killer plate of roasted pork with mustard greens and rice, something I’ve never had at a Thai restaurant. Savory, pork fat-heavy broth ladled over the whole thing, making every bite salty and smoky. Funky chili sauce to douse it with, and Singha over ice on the side. (In those extra-flimsy plastic cups that seem especially indigenous to Asia.) So good.

We moved on down half a block to a little place fronted by a big old lady thwacking away at green papaya for plate after plate of som tam, green papaya salad, my favorite Thai dish. (I get it from the Thai place around the corner at home a lot. I told the lady there I was going to Thailand and she said I should try and eat som tam every day– I think I managed to do her proud.) The range of flavors in Thai food seems so much wider than what’s in our regular repertoire– aside from salty and sweet there’s bitter and astringent and most of all funky. The fish sauce. !! Magic. So we sat down and had spicy som tam with box after box of sticky rice, some peanuty chicken skewers from the next joint over, and some instant noodles with crispy pork skin.

Everything so beautifully plated, seemingly on accident– little perfectly organic piles of chopped herbs, chilies, noodles… And all for so little money. Dinner and many beers for maybe, seriously, maybe, $20. We went back on another night and had a whole fish caked in salt, roasted rotisserie style over hot coals. The fish had come highly recommended by a table neighbor the first night (we bonded when we all had to pick up our tables, food and beer and all, and chairs, and hustle out of the way for an oncoming car– the dining room was, in fact, a driveway) and she did not lead us astray– the fish was bright and perfectly cooked, with a belly full of lime leaves and lemongrass, served with rice noodles and herbs to make little lettuce wraps. Bowls full of chunky spicy sauces came along with, and bliss/mouth-on-fire followed.

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We had so many outstanding meals in Thailand– tiny bowls of green curry with roti at a old-school Muslim/Thai place (we kept ordering more and more, as each serving was about 3/4 of a cup and it was really really tasty), actually good pad Thai (so often so gross at home), and many many street snacks. For a girl that runs on snacks (AKA: me) the limitless street snack potential in Bangkok is delightful. Weird little pastry puffs filled with sweet lime green paste (color of limes, flavor of…sugar), grilled sausages made with pork and so many chilies, fried tofu served in a bag with a dollop of sweet hot sauce to shake around over it all. Everything very straightforwardly delicious, seemingly tuned right in to my lil’ taste buds. For breakfast we had Thai bologna (aka: super-spicy bologna) and fried eggs from the 7-11. I would be so happy if we had this stuff here, mostly the street food. The whole time we were eating dinner(s) on Soi 38 I was thinking oh how totally nuts Seattle people would be about it if there could somehow be a little makeshift alley full of very cheap, very good food.

Also, we rode the canal ferries a bunch, which were SO COOL. Jam-everloving-packed full of people, and absolutely no real rules or regulations about how to get on or off or pay. Two guys (in sparkly jelly sandals and socks, I will note) run up and down the sides collecting tickets money and hustling people from dock to boat, boat to dock. So many things in Bangkok seemed to just run so smoothly, without people really worrying at all about them running smoothly. Like the truly snarly traffic– at first it seems like a big mess, but really, everyone is just calmly squirreling along, making their way. If only we could do that here. Unregulated booze and food on the street– and (look!) no one is getting sick and no babies are getting drunk.

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(Also we went to an elephant sanctuary and fed the baby elephants bananas. I thought it would be stupid but it was really cute.)

One day we hired a driver to go up an hour north to Ayutthaya, a much mellower city that has a lot of history. More important than the history: we had lunch at a restaurant on stilts. Spicy deep-fried soft shell crab, spicy sauteed prawns, and yum woon sen, the spicy cellophane noodle dish– all killer, but we later regretted not partaking in the Mekhong whiskey everyone else was tucking in to, with bottles of booze and soda water and buckets of ice on rolling carts at each table. Also, as we were leaving a pickup pulled up with the back packed with plastic barrels– the driver hopped out, pulled a net out of the backseat, and started yanking out live, floppy, big ol’ fish from the barrels and throwing them in the restaurant’s tanks! We spent a great day driving around the northern city with our super smart driver, who told us lots of jokes and history tidbits and made us go see temples. (It was hot and we got temple-d out, but didn’t want to offend him, so at the last three or so we got out, got cold Cokes, and sort of walked just out of sight of the car and hid out in the shade as long as seemed appropriate.) We also went and poked around a very legit market, on the recommendation of an ex-local, now Seattleite friend (who also recommended the great lunch spot)– I got startled by the live eels and toads then needed some more snacks.1625002716250028

It was an extra-good trip and we were sad to leave. It’s always fun being out in faraway lands as our little familia. Hong Kong made me a little queasy, but Bangkok made up for it and then some. Lively and friendly (everyone smiled back at my doofy tourist smiley face!) and hot and colorful. And full of snacks. Would go back in a second. Till then, I guess the Thai place around the corner will do.

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