Trang to Bang Saphan

Arrived at the Bang Saphan station around 10:30pm after a ten hour train ride (which was surprisingly easy, pretty views and nice breeze in the car—lots of ladies offering up snacks through the window at stations.) Rushed off to see what we needed to do to get our bikes, but easy-peasy, there they were.

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Rode to our place in the dark, got barked at by lots of dogs. We arrived and realized the hotel lady had sent the car for us, which was very sweet. She’s kind of a nut, super smiley and sweet. We went up to room showered and promptly fell asleep.

We had breakfast downstairs: eggs, toast, and octopus hot dogs. Thought breakfast was over but then a crazy fruit parade arrived: papaya, mango, pineapple, dragon fruit…so delicious but so much fruit! It was nuts. Sat at the beach for a while after breakfast (Stu body surfed, much to the awe of the little German kid sitting on the beach with his mom) and then rested in the room. Packed up and went to leave, but our sweet hotel lady offered to make us lunch. Wound up with big plates of rice and spicy stuff: super, super good. She wouldn’t let us pay— “I made it for you!” —and walked us to the end of the road. Really really sweet.

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Biked 25km, some on the highway and some on pretty rural roads, to Ban Krut. Took a pretty road alongside a canal that was alongside the sea—neat colorful fishing boats moored in the canal and very small-time, sweet farms along the other side of the road.  Arrived at our spot, The Seascape.

Settled in to our little place, which is run by an old swede and his Thai wife. Swede’s son Martin is there daily, super big, blocky Swedish dude with a ridiculously square head and a wacky assortment of tattoos: jaggy biker cross that looks like an eight grader did it, Chang elephants (of course), and a big #1. He splits his time between Thailand and Sweden where he works in a DHL warehouse. (Later spotted him zooming around on a scooter with some babe who was staying at the hotel.)

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We had one full rest day in Ban Krut, and we rented a scooter and went up to a pretty temple and zoomed around. Had a good lunch at a beautifully landscaped resort full of old people, I got a massage in an oddball little spot across from a 711, and Stuart napped. The massage was great: tiny little toad-y Thai lady bent me around and stretched me out. Later Stuart and I went to the beach and swam a bit, before taking the scooter down the beach for dinner at a neat little seaside shack. Had some great pork belly sauteed with greens, and some weird noodles in gravy. (Gravy, turns out to not be a good bet in Asia.) Drank a couple big beers and zipped home to bed.

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Ban Krut to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Set off in the morning and biked to Prachuap Khiri Khan. It was supposed to be a shortish day (65km) but we took back roads to avoid the unpleasant highway which made it longer. We wound up biking through a national park—Google showed a road, which it was for a while, but then turned to a path, to singletrack, to a vague trail, to a tunnel of thorns. Stuart was super patient and helpful—he could tell I was crumbling. I was so hungry and tired and frustrated—and I felt like a dumb whiny kid, which just made me more and more angry and frustrated. Stuart holds it together and kind of goes into dad mode which is necessary and I appreciate—but it also makes me (irrationally) angry. I want to do things on my own but also want to flop down and cry (not unlike a two year-old.) Really, I’m not mad at Stuart, but just mad in a general way and he’s the only thing around to be mad at. I tried to pull it together and be cheerful-ish. Felt much better after some noodle soup in a tiny town and I enjoyed the rest of the ride into town.

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Checked into our very nice, $21 hotel (the “De Boutique”) and napped. Walked downstairs and had a great dinner next door: fried fish bits with crispy garlic and spicy green curry with seafood. Yum. Walked around and then down to the water, where we were surprised to find a little bit of a scene, then got a dessert: fried roti with banana and egg inside, topped with condensed milk and sugar. Super yummy. The condensed milk thing here is nuts—it’s in coffee, tea, on top of everything. Whoever thought to market that stuff to Asia was a genius.

Some photos from walking around at night:

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Prachuap Khiri Khan to Sam Roi Yot

Woke up biked toward another beach town. We had a pretty day on quiet roads. A little scary highway time in the morning, but not too bad. Stopped and had crazy spicy dry fried chili chicken at a shack full of puppies, seriously, puppies squirming around all over the place. Shortly after the puppy breakfast we got off the highway and had fun on little roads. Google again directed us right off the road, and we wound up carrying the bikes along the beach and walking through a shrimp farm, which was exciting for everyone involved. Passed through the Sam Roi Yot park—big limestone formations and zillions of monkeys. I got a flat tire, the first of the trip—I had biked through something super thorny and had dozens of thorns all over my front tire. Stuart quickly patched it and we had some nice concerned onlookers who checked in on us.

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Made it to a hotel on the north side of the park. Very nice, but once we showered and laid down, a beach party immediately started. We’d seen them setting up—big stage and all. So loud! So we bailed. No hotel staff to be found and we hadn’t paid yet, so after a confusing conversation with a Thai housekeeper, a Dutch guy, and a Thai lady, we left some cash and biked away from the noise. Wound up at some weird place called Sweet Honey, way back off the beach. Was totally fine but super odd, with stuffed animals all over the place. Swam in their pool (which had a strange optical illusion, looked about 6 inches deep) and walked down to the beach for dinner. Had sautéed greens with fish bits and great squid with curry, then headed back to the good ol’ Sweet Honey.

Sam Roi Yot to Hua Hin

Started off the day biking on the highway for a bit, but it was early and not too busy. Stopped for breakfast in a little town: fried dough bits and barely boiled eggs broken into juice glasses. Kind of intense and weird but served by very nice ladies. We’ve gone sugar-native: we both mixed about two tablespoons into our tiny glasses of instant coffee.

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Short day of riding, and we arrived in Hua Hin around 10am. Went and bought our train tickets for the trip to Bangkok the next day and went to hotel, the Evergreen. Very odd. Off in a residential part of the town and totally catered toward golfers. Scottish golf crap everywhere. But we got a nice big room.

We went and had tom yum soup nearby—whoa, so much offal! Seriously, like ten different unidentifiable bits floating around in there. But great broth. Dessert of shaved ice with pink syrup and condensed milk over lychee (I think) and bits of white toast. Weirdly good. We are totally addicted to sugar after having sweet drinks all day every day for a few weeks—that dessert would have made us both gag at the beginning of this trip, so sickly sweet, now we’re lapping it up.

We walked along the beach then stopped to have drinks at a very fancy resort—really, we just wanted to have a reason to sit there. Strange beach here: long and shallow and the water looked nice, but inexplicably, one was swimming. Odd. We went back to the hotel and watched bad cop shows and read.

The east coast of Thailand did not turn out to be that cool in the end. Very chill, but full of odd tourists (fat old Europeans, mostly) and not super nice beaches, kind of shallow and grimy. But the biking was nice, small roads and pretty scenery. I think we’re both a little bummed to have missed out on great beach time, maybe in Krabi or the Adaman islands, but oh well. So it goes.

We went to get massages before dinner—boy, they really whap on you. I could hear Stuart making whimpery OW sounds from a few feet away. But feels pretty good on a tired body. Afterward we walked to a nearby famous seafood place for diner, which was situated out on a pier way high over the water. Got beers and ice, and a total feast: red curry mousse (tofu?) and shrimp steamed in a coconut, fried squid (so good), a whole fish with red sauce and pork, and some Chinese broccoli with salted fish. Pretty delicious and fun.

Hua Hin to Bangkok

Up at 4:30am to catch the train. Biked through the quiet city and arrived early at the pretty train station. We got cargo tickets situated and sat to wait for train. They said the train was late and likely our bikes wouldn’t fit—but then it was right on time and the bikes went on. Fair enough. Had breakfast in our nice seats (congee!) and settled in for the short trip to the city.

Arrived in Bangkok around midday to the crazy huge train station. Had a little snack (fish balls on a stick!) and headed out into the chaos. WOW. Biking through Bangkok. So scary and exciting and awful and cool. Incredibly hot, and just chock-a-everloving-block with cars and scooters and people and little food carts and giant buses. We had about a five mile ride to our hotel—couldn’t believe we made it in one piece. Wanted to cry for about half of it but I made it, and I felt glad about being brave lil’ biker girl. Stuart sort of took a new tactic of just smiling at me and giving me thumbs up, rather than stopping and checking in, which was actually better. If he didn’t give me a chance to say “HATE THIS” and crumble than I just couldn’t. Have to get where you’re going, and there’s really no other way to do it than to just ride the dumb bike.

Made it to our hotel, the Cabochon Residence, which is super nice. Kind of decrepit at the edges, but sweet staff and a nice, comfortable level of fanciness. Room wasn’t ready yet, so we set out to find some bike boxes. First we went to Sora, a little shop I’d emailed with. Trendy and sweet, but the boxes were a little small, so we tried another bike shop, which turned out to be this huge weird Cannondale shop. Staffed by one Thai lady with perfectly British-accented English. She said we could some get the boxes in an hour, so we went to a nearby mall and had lunch at a wacky Japanese place, then went back to the shop, where we got the boxes and a bunch of packing supplies. They must get bike tourers fairly often, they were totally set up for it with rolls of tape and foam. Walked back to the hotel with the big boxes, and Stuart got to work packing up. I went up to the rooftop pool and read and swam. Lucky me!

After a rest, we headed to WTF, the great little bar I’d been to with my parents when we were here last year. Still great, but a kind of icky Scottish bartender who was deeply braggy (he is from the MOST beautiful village in the UK AND he’s super good at muay Thai…) and that kind of killed it. Then we walked to Soi 38, the amazing street food alley we’d loved last time—so sad to find it basically shuttered. Apparently the main building that let vendors set up in front was sold to get torn down and become condos. Bummer. Last time it was such a vibrant, exhilarating scene. But we still had some great pork and greens over rice and some larb and papaya salad, plus a beer. Got a mango & sticky rice to go and headed home.

Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel—amazing breakfast. Fried fish and rice and broth (I love the bowl of broth thing with some of the meals we’ve had) plus a buffet of great bread and yogurt and fruit. Headed to the big Chatuchak Weekend Market on the skytrain. What a scene—so many people and so much stuff for sale. Walked around for a couple hours, sweating like crazy. Bought more packing stuff, some bags (those big plaid bags you see people lugging around in Asia—I’ve always wanted one) and some plastic wrap. Had a great lunch: I had pork soup and Stuart had fried rice with squid. Got back on the skytrain and went to the Siam Paragon, a giant, crazy high-end mall to see a movie. Wandered around semi-lost in the futuristic mall, then finally found the movie theater. Super fancy, multiple lounges to wait in and plush chairs and enormously high ceilings. Got some Pellegrinos and a bucket of popcorn and saw Hail, Caesar! which was funny.

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Wandered around afterward looking at shops (and Maseratis) then had some coffees in a little restaurant set up in the middle of a big mezzanine. Fancy and odd. Had an interesting and semi-confusing-to-me talk about our place in the world and privilege and money. I am so tired, it’s hard for me to keep up. Feels like all of the tiredness from all the biking and heat and feeling ill has piled up and I’m just beyond tuckered. My brain feels a little toasted. Went back to the hotel and napped and then asked one of the nice reception dude for a restaurant recommendation. Walked toward the two he mentioned and went to the first one—it smelled so weird and awful we got up and left, which we felt a little bad about. Then we went to the second place. In between, I managed to have a total meltdown. I tried to explain, but it’s not a rational feeling—I said I wanted our last night, last meal on the trip to be great, but really, I was just exhausted and all out off good body chemicals to help myself manage my feelings. Running on empty. But Stuart sweetly shepherded me into the restaurant and we sat down and got some drinks, and he ordered dinner. Had amazing red curry with huge chunks of crab, wing bean salad with prawns, and this weirdly incredible braised cabbage with fish sauce. My favorite dish. It was so good, so simple and salty and killer. I never would have ordered it, but I’m so glad Stuart did. More mango and sticky rice for dessert—best thing in the world.

Walked back to the hotel and watched TV, had a beer we’d grabbed at a 711. Watched a great home renovation show, “Dream House.” An architect remodeled a Chinese family’s 300 sq foot, century+ old house—made it into EIGHT little stories with hidden bathrooms and little tucked away spaces. Pretty incredible.

Slept well and woke up rested. Another killer breakfast and then we went to the Jim Thompson house. Neat place—American guy fell in love with Thailand after WWII and moved here, wound up becoming a silk exporter and kind of reviving the silk industry. Loved Thai architecture, so he bought a bunch of old wooden houses and stuck them together. Neat tour of the space and all the antiques. I’d been with my parents, and mentioned it to Stuarts relatives who lived in SE Asia in the 50s & 60s—turns out they were friends with him, and had been to the house in Malaysia that he disappeared from! (Thompson disappeared without a trace in 1967 while visiting the Cameron Highland in Malaysia.)

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Back to the hotel to pack up, feeling sad to leave. Had lunch at the hotel: grilled chicken and pork collar and sticky rice, then got in our giant van cab and headed off. Saw multiple Rolls Royces in traffic, so weird. Accidentally paid the driver twice (had paid at the hotel, and not noticed)—oh well. Checked the bikes without much trouble and went through security. Wandered around the airport with lots of time to kill, had some beers and snacks and waited for the flight.

I felt much better after a good sleep, though I feel really awful about being a baby a lot on the trip. I think I got into a bit of a downward spiral—feeling tired and mopey, then feeling bad about feeling tired, then feeling bad about being/feeling bad, onward and downward. I felt like I was not graceful at many moments when I would have liked to be graceful. It was just hard. Hot and tiring. I’m not super good at riding a bike and I got scared sometimes in traffic or on sandy roads. Felt like my brain was a little melted after a couple weeks, just kind of zapped by many piled on hours of tiredness and frustration and sweatiness. We should have taken more rest days, but it felt a little rushed, and we both didn’t want to miss out on anything up ahead.

I do get why Stuart loves touring though. By the end, thinking about a normal trip seemed so strange—what would you do all day? It’s really neat to have a thing to do, and that you get to see new stuff every minute. It’s definitely a game of riding the highs and lows—you never get quite as low as I did on this trip on a regular vacation, but a shower and a snack never feel quite as magical either. I’m looking forward to going on another one, and I think I’ll be so much more well prepared—I’ll know what to expect and how to handle it, and I think I’ll know my limits better too. There were lots of times I wished I’d bucked up, for sure, but also a fair amount of times I wish I’d spoken up and said I needed to rest or even just stop for the day. In all, fun trip, and great being with Stuart. He’s a good one. He was incredibly patient and took good care of me the whole time. I think we learned a lot about each other, and how to manage ourselves and our relationship under trying circumstances. Now on to planning the next adventure!

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.

So, I went to Turkey! A long time ago! And I didn’t blog about it! But now I am! Hurrah.

And so now it is a nostalgia blog.

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Things in Turkey that tasted really good:

Turkish breakfast! I want this in my life on the daily. So many bits and bots. Ok: tiny bowl of olives, some weird bologna-pink meat, a super-plain flat omelet, this soft a-little-less-salty-than-feta sheep’s cheese–always cut into triangles, maybe some normal-ish Swiss-ish cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes, a never-ending bread basket, honey, and jam. Covering all yer morning bases. My favorite little mish-mash: bread, white cheese, honey, pepper. GOOD GOD. Fueled for the day. Or the next 45 minutes, till we stop for a coffee and a pastry.

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Balik Ekmek, fish sammie. Literally “fish bread.” Best bought from dude on boat. The older the dude and the grungier the boat the better. Bonus points if he has toddler-sized plastic stools for you to sit on and a dog to eat your scraps. There are tons of boats rigged up with grills, making sandwiches out of crusty bread, questionable Bosporus fish (you know how hippies say to eat raw honey to get over allergies? I think I’m going to start eating trash fish from wherever I am to acclimate myself), raw onions, and tomatoes. Add lemon and salt to taste. Yeah! Kickass. Don’t think about it too much. (I think we also ate lamb intestines on the street. It looked really good–I swear, it did–and I was starving so I made us all sit down to dinner and we all pointed at the really yummy looking lamb bits. Got in a bit over our heads on the cool-tourist front there.)

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Grilled anchovies at our favorite underground-ish fish bar/restaurant. We went twice; the dude seemed elated to see us again, and it seemed we’d earned his approval as good eaters so he gave us all the insider intel. Fish “ravioli,” which were not ravioli at all, but deep-fried fish-cubes with spicy runny yogurt on top. Angler fish, which made mom feel barfy but I kind of liked. Fish cakes, smooshed around skewers and grilled as well as smooshed into balls and fried. Fish. They dig them some seafood there; all bridges are packed with dudes fishing, filling grimy old plastic buckets (no real buckets, all re-purposed yogurt tubs, water jugs, etc) with shiny squirmy fish.

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Famous Kanlica yogurt. Has a weird skin that you mix in, and can (should) be ordered with a giant (seriously, giant) scoop of powdered sugar on top. The powdered sugar gets half mixed in and half turns into sweet, dusty lumps. Dusty lumps sounds awful, but, yeah. Really good.

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Yogurt sauces in general. Whizzed with beets, topped with olive oil. Purslane stirred in, garlic whisked in. (Sometimes I really want to leave blogs un-spell-checked; that was “garlic wished in.”)

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Simits–street bagels. White bread, in a ring, covered in sesame seeds. Cost like… a quarter a pop. Staves off desperate hunger (aka tears, emancipation from parents, divorces, and world wars) like nobody’s business. Galled Gevrek in Izmir, the land of my dad’s youth. He remembered eating them as a kid and Googled them like mad and never could find them, because he was spelling it wrong. Ha ha. Pretty good; definitely not as good as a bagel though. Sorry Turkey.

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Tea. Called cay (chai) and served everywhere, all the time, always in little tulip glasses with a red-daubed saucer. Always exactly the same–if you do it differently you are exiled to Croatia. The tea is lovely, yes. And you sure can drink a lot more of it than coffee. And it really lends itself to hanging out more than an espresso does. But, lord, that first regular drip coffee back in the U S of A was fantastic. (Though if we had the same amount of 50-cent tea stops, I would live a significantly mellower life, hanging out on the corner with my tea-homies.)

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Pistachio everything. Chocolate bars (or chocolate sticks–really skinny chocolate bars) filled with ’em, pistachio baklava-ish things, lots of pistachio ice cream. (Which is my favorite, by the way, should anyone reading this want to buy me ice cream.) Only disappoint was a bodega ice cream cone, the ice cream in which was chemically altered so it would not ever melt, come hell or high water or a giant heat wave. Which really just took the fun out of it. And made my tongue feel weird.

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One night we went to a super cute sidewalky restaurant, only to discover that they had no alcohol. No Efes (the one and only beer of the entire nation–tasted like Rainier. Tasted like home) but we were starving as per usual so we stuck with it. I ordered semi-blindly and was rewarded with a giant bowl of the tiniest, most adorable American Girl Doll-sized dumplings (each had a two-milligram speck of meat inside) doused with yogurt and splashed with hot chili oil over the top. Hell yeah. Bowl o’ dumplings; I can roll with that.

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Kumru, the most best carb-iest beach meal there ever was. This little town Alacati (Where we actually were not? We got confused on the bus and went to another town which I do not know the name of. And M&D were just rolling with it, and wanted to head on home after a long beach day at the unknown town, but I nearly cried because I wanted to see the old stone houses in Alacati very badly and they felt bad so we went there in the end. And it WAS great, so I felt a little vindicated, but still a little bad about dragging my poor parents around in the sun. But we had wine and cake, so yeah. It all worked out.) Anyway, the kumru. Little pointy-ended baguette (with sesame seeds) with a thick slice of white cheese, ever so slightly melted, salami, sausage, and tomato. That is all. Wrapped in paper. Ideally served with a yogurt drink, extra-ideally on the shores of the Aegean sea.

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And finally, the strawberries and cherries from the tiny produce/cigarette vendors. Tiny soft strawberries, like ones from your yard (if you are the type of person who tends your yard and not me who had a lovely planter box for one week till I got bored and it all died), not like the big hard boring strawberries from the store. Handle-with-care and eat-now berries. Sweet moment with the truly ancient greengrocer as he very slowly picked out each strawberry to compile me the best half-kilo of of berries there ever was.

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Yum. Good stuff. Thanks Mom and Dad; the best travel companions on earth.

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Spring has finally arrived. I think. Not today, today is gray and damp and could very well be November. But. It was here, the sun, turning Seattle into an entirely different city; a shiny city full of people who own t-shirts and shorts and do things like smile. When the sun finally came, I swear, a darkness lifted not just from the city but from every single Seattleite’s soul. We are better people in the sunshine. We sing along  in the car and take on big hikes in the afternoon, we go to the beach (which we all forgot even existed in our lake- and sea-bound town) and bask in the still not-so-warm but we’ll-take-what-we-can-get-warm-enough sunlight. We stop needing to eat scones and muffins to distract ourselves from the gloom. We start coming back to life. Spring, thank God!

Mt. Si Hike with Madeline:

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4 miles, 4,000 ft = many many snacks.

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Dear Madeline.

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Rainier view, hiker chicks’ reward.

Madison Beach with Logie:

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Sweet Log.

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Cheap Uwajimaya deli sushi. I eat so much of this, statistically I am bound to get horrible food poisoning one day. But, till then, who cares!

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And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven, but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here.

Wendell Berry (my man)

(Turkey post soon! Grilled anchovies. Doner kebabs. Unidentified lamb bits.)

Bar Sajor, new Matt Dillon joint down the street from my office. I want to live in there. Have had: tuna on smashed avocado, beautiful buttermilk salmon with nettles, hutterite beans, paté, lots of flatbread, greens, and other really good stuff that I can’t remember. It’s beautiful in there, I want to just live behind the bar. Also in Pioneer Square, which has been deemed hip and is indeed charming in a seedy, diamond-in-the-rough way.

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Kedai Makan, Malaysian street food, at Montana, the ginger beer bar. So spicy and sweet, the nasi goreng was appropriately caramelized with a runny egg on top. Made me miss Indonesia and Rus, nanny extraordinaire and nasi goreng master. I also had a beet juice cocktail so I’m basically juicing so therefore super healthy. And I also have to say that I tried their famous pickle-back, a shot of whiskey and a shot of pickle juice, and I didn’t barf and maybe even kind of sort of liked it.

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I’ve actually been, like, feeding myself, if you can believe it. I have two free afternoons now so I try to have a leisurely lunch and be mellow. Tortilla with broccoli rabe (of which I ate 2 lbs in 2 days) and knock-off eggs in camica because Fat Hen closed for a couple weeks and I was going to die without it. I also just read Wildwood, which is a illustrated young adult book by the Decemberist guy, and yes it is so Portlandia, but also yes, it was so good. I woke up early to read before yoga and that is saying something because yoga is at SIX THIRTY.

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And here is my sweet kitchen table in my hobbit/treefort house. It gets nice sun. And now that tree is blooming so there is some extra niceness.

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I love being home. At home there are cinnamon raisin English Muffins from the co-op and giant bricks of cheddar cheese and really good leftovers. And my mom and dad. And my best friend-family. And Mikey’s Gyros. And I get to be a lazy hobo girl who lives a life not unlike the life of a house cat.

The Fridge. Holds everything good and serves as a family scrapbook. Photobooth strip from Berlin, Dutch clogs, BsAs subway pass, Dad’s souvenir yamaka…. Inside: always leftovers that Mom makes into a kickass lunch. If Dad and I don’t pound it first. She kindly leaves us post-its telling us to keep our paws off.

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We’ve adopted the Italian’s Xmas Eve: fish. Or, shellfish. Crab and clams and mussels, and Camie’s keeping cake. (Aka two-bottles-of-sherry-in-this-cake.) A warmup for the real thing: prime rib and scalloped potatoes and pumpkin bourbon cheesecake… it’s a good thing we go for a hike on Christmas.

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