Two American Girls Cause Food Shortage in Thailand

Guys, this title is no joke. Basically we ate in Thailand and found things to do between meals. And sometimes the thing to do between eating meals was eat snacks. 

Our first meal was a place we'd go back to multiple times. As we had walked in the wrong direction to our hotel we passed a little open-air shop that was emanating a delicious smell out into the street; when we saw it was full of only locals we knew that would be our first meal in Thailand. And it did not disappoint. After returning from dropping our bags off we were whisked to a metal table with a fan overhead and were very quickly brought what is quite possibly the best beef noodle soup I've ever had. The broth had been cooking all day and then simply tossed in some beef, a handful of veggies, and vermicelli noodles. As we are the smell continued to waft into our noses and the heat of the soup combined with the scorching outside temperature and humidity made us sweat. In the four times that we went back for this soup, we did not see any westerners, and the only thing that changed each time was the type of noodles we got. I'm salivating just reminiscing about it, and hope I can figure out what it was and how to make it.

Later that night did not disappoint either, as we walked out from our favorite lady-man massage place and found the street full of food options that had popped up as the sun went down. I found a woman cooking pad thai and Katie found some basil chicken, and we chopstick-shoveled our food in our mouths and walked down the street. As we continued to walk down the street we started to compile a list of things we needed to try: the fried chicken, the chicken and pork satay, the whole fried fish. Basically, we used our noses and saw where the locals were eating to determine where and what we'd eat. 

Per the suggestion of a friend, we tried the food court at one of the many high-end malls in Bangkok: Siam Paragon. First we were taken back by the sheer size of the mall, then by the stores in it. We did not expect a mall full of Valentino, Pucci, Prada and other high end designers, not to mention the car floor which had the likes of Porsche and Maserati. But we were really there to eat, and that we did. We found the food court, deposited money on food court cards, and went to town. Between the two of us we ordered at least four full meals. While some of them were tasty, others disappointed a little. And none of them compared to what we had found on the street, though a brief reprieve from the heat was nice. We also tried durian ice cream (the only way I'd suggest trying durian, though I wouldn't even recommend that), and found a gourmet supermarket that we knew we'd be back to. 

Another memorable meal happened the night before we left for Bali, when we met an expat and Thai at an outdoor restaurant. Besides drinking a bit too much, we also are quite a lot because Tick, the Thai guy, kept ordering more food for us to try. First we had a spicy lemongrass and chicken soup that was delicious and HOT. That was followed by some deliciously marinated meat and rice. This was a pivotal meal, as we learned to eat the way locals do: grab some rice in your hand, roll it into a tight ball, and then use that to soak up the delicious sauce that was used in cooking. 

After Bali and before Cambodia we had more eating time in Bangkok and that's just what we did. The last two memorable dishes were once again street food. We finally tried the fried chicken from the guy outside of our massage place and wow was it tasty - definitely gives the south a run for its money! And the final wow came from a snack when we weren't even hungry. We were strolling through our neighborhood market, both tired and not hungry, when we walked passed a cart that had the most delicious smell wafting into the air. It literally stopped us in our tracks. Once we went over we looked and saw what looked like fried green tofu - we didn't care what it was, we were trying it. She put some in a bowl, poured a soy sauce with chilis over it, and handed it to us with two toothpicks. We went to town, no breathing, just eating. It wasn't until later that we learned that these were choice dumplings, and our attempts at finding chive dumpling lady again proved futile. 

Needless to say, Katie and I did a good job of eating all the Thai food, and I can't say either of us regret it even if it causes us to gain a few pounds. 

Bikes, Beer, Temples, and Bugs

Are you noticing a trend here? Bikes and beer have become a common thing...

For our first full day in Cambodia we took the advice from some travelers we met in Bali and booked a sunrise and bike tour of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples with Grasshopper Tours (highly recommend them). I'm a morning person, so the 5am pickup was no issue, but I've got to hand it to Katie for getting up AND functioning without coffee for 4-5 hours. 

We were picked up at our hotel by a van that had our guide, our bikes, and three other travelers - a Brit, and two Americans. It sure is a small world - one of the Americans, Bridget, has a background in environmental science and works for Conservation International; the other American recently retired from the World Bank where he worked as a forester, and is a Duke (Nic School back before it was the Nic School) alum. We haven't seen many Americans on our trip, and I definitely didn't expect to run into two people who have similar backgrounds to mine. 

That aside, we arrived at the temples and our guide set us up with a view over the 190 meter wide moat separating us from the towers of Angkor Wat. We sat, we ate croissants, and we waited for the sun - it seemed to take forever and we thought it was too overcast. Then suddenly, just above the highest tower of Angkor Wat, there was a fluorescent orange-red glow. 

Once some of the crowds had cleared from sunrise, we walked across the roadway that traverses the moat and entered Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument. Our guide was unbelievably knowledgeable and told us the meanings of all the etchings in the stone, as well as the history of the temple. Angkor Wat was built by the Khmer king, Suryavarman II and was built in the early 12th century. The temple was originally dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, and later became a Buddhist temple. What differentiates Angkor Wat from other temples in the area is that is has been in almost constant use since it was built, and therefore was not overcome by nature. (I highly suggest researching more on both the history of Angkor Wat and of the Khmer empire - I plan to, as it has been extremely interesting to learn about).

Once we were all appropriately covered (shoulders and knees), we climbed up the 70 degree angle wooden stairs to the highest tower of Angkor Wat. It was nice to have the wooden stairs, as the originals were at an 85 degree angle and each stair would fit a 5 year old's foot. The view from up here was amazing - we could see every corner of Angkor Wat and the surrounding moat, as well as other temples in the area. The intricacies of the etchings and the shrines were simply stunning. After 20 minutes (the limit) we climbed down the treacherous stairs, managing to not fall and cause a domino effect, and made our way out the backside of the temple where we were whisked away to breakfast.

Our van pulled up in a wooded area where there was a breakfast picnic set up on the Siem Reap River. After a delicious meal, we grabbed our bikes (which were much better than any of the bikes we've had previously on this trip with working brakes and all!) and started on the trail.

One thing that was so great about tis tour is the mountain biking - we were going through small trails in the forest, over roots and ducking under tree branches. After a bit of this we turned to bike along the Angkor Wat moat where patches of sand would make you really work to keep your bike steady and moving. Before we knew it, we had arrived at the next stop - Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom, also known as the Great City, is just that. Angkor Thom was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, when Angkor Wat was attacked, and was the last capital of the Khmer empire. It covers 9 square kilometers, and is surrounded by stone walls and a large moat. The entrance to Angkor Thom is simply breathtaking - a causeway with 54 demons and 54 gods representing the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, and a massive gate with faces staring out in every direction. 

For this portion of the tour, we biked through the gates and up a forested path to travel along the walls of the city, with the moat to our left and the ruins to our right. We stopped at one of the guard stands on a corner of the wall to learn more about the city and the Khmer empire.

A short bike ride along roads in the city then brought us to Prasat Bayon, a stunning temple that I actually preferred over Angkor Wat. Bayon was the state temple for King Jayavarman VII. It is in more of a state of ruin than Angkor Wat, but the faces (216 of them!) glaring down on you from all 54 towers, and the stories depicting everyday life carved in the stone walls are impeccable. These 11,000 figures included those of war, fishing, feasts, king processions, and markets.

Just outside of Bayon we sat for water and fresh fruit. Our picnic table was situated directly next to a monastery where monks were praying, washing, and blessing those who had come with ailments or bad luck. Refreshments inhaled, we hopped back on our bikes for more biking in the Cambodian forests. These forest trails took us directly to our next stop - Ta Prohm, or the Lara Croft Temple. This Buddhist temple was built in 1186 by King Jayavarman VII. Compared to the previous temples we saw, the uniqueness here lied in the power of nature to adapt and overtake what was man-made. The Cambodian forest has literally started to take over the temple, with moss on walls, doorways blocked, and trees growing out of and around the temple. 

A quick bike ride from here, past several Cambodian weddings, and we were at our late lunch of traditional Khmer dishes - chicken amok, beef amok, fried noodles, fish, and a vegetarian stir fry. It was all delicious, especially with a cold Cambodian beer! 

A quick post-ride shower to remove the layer of sweat and red dust, and a relaxing, pool-side margarita gave us the energy to grab a tuk-tuk to Pub Street. We walked around, went to the Night Market where we made several bargains, and got a quick foot massage to work up our appetites. Side note: I do not know how I will survive without $6 massages. 

Lucky for us, just around the corner from the massage place was a sidewalk restaurant, and as we walked by and smelled the food be cooked right there we knew where we'd have dinner. Two beers each, fried morning glory, two pieces of amazing grilled chicken, and two BBQ skewers later, we paid a whopping $7.50 total and headed to the street for the dessert that we weren't looking forward to: bugs. 

Just outside this "restaurant", was a street cart selling fried delicacies such as crickets, spiders, and water beetles. We both decided the only thing we could do would be the crickets, as the other options looked slimy, and the spiders apparently "pop" in your thank you. One dollar for a 2-cup sized scoop of crickets - we opted to give her $1 for 4 crickets, and as quickly as possible popped one in our mouths. Surprisingly, not bad - the spices she had used to fry them were delicious and they were crunchy with no "popping" or gooeyness. We both actually chose to eat our second one, though I think two cups would've been pushing it. 

A couple of beers to wash down the crickets at the aptly named bar, Angkor What?, and we were ready to call it a (15+ hour) day.

Bali Belly

Besides the questionable food we ate our last night in Indonesia, food on Bali and Lembongan has not disappointed. 

Our first night in Ubud, after mildly recovering from our hangovers, set the bar high with Indonesian fried chicken and a delicious and light coconut curry. However, our best meals were without a doubt those cooked at our homestay with Ketut and his family. Each morning our breakfast consisted of fresh cut fruit (papaya, banana, and watermelon), delicious Balinese coffee, the best omelette I've ever had (tomato, onion, and spices), and a Balinese pancake, served to us on our front porch. I wish I had learned how to make a Balinese pancake, as they are thin and light, and beyond delicious. Ketut's family also offered to cook us a traditional Balinese BBQ, and we took him up on the offer. Our feast included tofu in peanut sauce, delicious veggies, and chicken and pork satay that his son's carefully grilled on a little fire. The chicken satay was blended with coconut, giving it a slightly sweet flavor, and the pork satay had a fabulous glaze on it. Dinner was followed with a sweet black rice pudding topped with shaved coconut. We ate and ate, and then ate some more. Ubud was also full of fresh fruits, veggies, and juices - after our feasting in Bangkok on everything but veggies, we happily ordered green juices most everywhere we went. 

Outside of Ubud, our favorite meal was our first in Lembongan. We both ordered the grilled snapper. When the entire fish came out we both cleaned those bones off while drinking our beers. 

Despite the delicious seafood and the food from Ketut's, I'd say that our two favorite Indonesian dishes (they happen to also be the most common) were Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng - fried rice and fried noodles, two things you can never go wrong with.

Adventures in Catpoocino

Our first full day in Ubud! We woke up and Ketut's wife made us the most delicious breakfast ever - an omelette, a Balinese pancake (think banana, coconut goodness), fresh fruit, and Balinese coffee. All served to us on our front porch, surrounded by lush greenery and the family temple. 

In traditional Balinese culture, an extended family lives together. When each son marries, his new wife moves into the family compound (which means sisters move out of the compound). Twenty-six people live within Ketut's compound - we've met his wife and two sons, seen some of his brothers and their families. But I do know that his family built every structure on this compound, including their magnificent temple, and they've lived here for at least 150 years. When Ketut was explaining all of this to us over breakfast he put it this way: "What's more important than your family? We go live our lives and then we come back home and have dinner and talk with family every night - they will always be there". We also learned that if anyone in the family were to stop practicing their religion (Hindu), or stop participating in traditional Balinese culture, they would be kicked out and not allowed to live on the property. 

During our amazing breakfast we met two other women staying with Ketut and fam - Angela who is from Arizona, and Amani who is Canadian but currently living and working in Doha, Qatar. We opted to spend our day with Amani and had a fabulous tour of rice fields and a coffee plantation by Medhe (Ketut's second son). The rice fields are simply stunning with the vibrant green terraces interlaces with durian, papaya, and Palm trees set against a beautiful blue sky. We learned that it takes about 6 months for the rice to grow to a point where it can be harvested. We also saw some beautiful lotus flowers and got to meet a local and very talented artist. 

After the rice fields we went to a coffee farm where we got to see many different plants - cinnamon, ginger, coffee, cacao, pineapple, and more. We also got to see and feed coffee to luwaks. Luwaks are Asian Palm civets (look it up). The luwak eats the coffee but is unable to digest the coffee bean so it poops it out and then the coffee beans are taken from their shell, roasted, and ground. We naturally had to try the poop coffee (and others, too, including ginger coffee, lemongrass tea, ginseng coffee, and more). The luwak coffee was quite delicious, and you could taste the difference when you drank it side by side with regular Balinese coffee. 

Katie, Amani, and I then headed into downtown Ubud for some food and a little shopping before yoga. Indonesian food has yet to disappoint - their ingredients are so fresh and everything is delicious and has a light feeling to it. We wandered our way through shops and made it to Yoga Barn for a vinyasa class. Practicing outside in the upstairs studio was lovely, with the sounds of birds, the breeze, occasionally a motorbike; there were even lizards "practicing" on the ceiling with us. 

Sweaty practice done, we grabbed coconuts and juices for more shop meandering before making our way to the Ubud Palace for a traditional Legong and Barong Dance. The dancing included music played on drums, and an instrument similar to a xylophone. The first thing I noticed was how much eye movement and hand movement were an integral part to the entire dance; at some points, the dancers were completely still except for their arms, hands, head, and eyes. The dance we saw told the story of the battle between the virtue and the vice. 

We departed the dance a little bit early to make it back home for a BBQ with Amani, Angela, and Ketut's family. Ketut's wife is an amazing cook - we ate traditional Balinese food and a lot of it! There was tofu and tempeh in peanut sauce, Balinese rice, vegetables, and skewered and grilled coconut chicken and pork satay. We were stuffed, but still had dessert - a delicious black rice pudding. 

From rice fields to catpoocinos to yoga and a family BBQ, we definitely can't complain about our first full day in Ubud!


Unsurprisingly, after a late night in Bangkok followed by an early morning flight, I've gotten behind on blog posts. We arrived at the Bali airport feeling terrible...tired, hungover, hungry. I had booked us an AirBnB homestay in Ubud with Ketut Mendra. If you have never used AirBnB I 100% recommend it. If you are ever coming to Bali I 100% recommend staying with Ketut and his family. 

Ketut's first son, Wayan, picked us up. A little history on the Balinese naming system - they often name their kids one, two, three, etc. Ketut is four, and Wayan is....? You guessed it, one. Anyways, that means there are multiple people with the same name. 

Despite the rough state that we were in, Katie and I couldn't help but be talkative and feel full of life when we met Wayan. He is so joyful, funny, and answered all of our questions about Balinese culture and island life. One thing that was tough - the driving and the roads! The roads are quite windy once you leave the city, and technically they drive on the opposite side of the road, except we realized that it's more of a "drive wherever if it works for you" type of driving. Literally, sometimes we'd have motorbikes coming straight at us. 

Once we arrived in Ubud (Payogan is actually the little village where we are staying) we were shown to our room and were blown away by its beauty and the niceness of Ketut. Our room is the perfect little studio - marble floors, a small sink and fridge in one corner, a raised living/eating area with a beautifully carved coffee table and cushions for seating on the floor, two twin beds and more amazing furniture. The room is surrounded on three sides by windows, and a sliding wood and frosted glass door leads to our outdoor bathroom. We even have a front porch where we leave our shoes when we enter our room (as is customary in Bali when you enter inside a house, temple, or store). Ketut immediately realized we needed a nap so that's what we did. To give you an idea of just how special this family is, the minute our door closed Katie started to cry - the beauty of our room, of Bali, of Ketut and his family was simply overwhelming.

Post nap, we walked into town for some food! We didn't know what to expect of Balinese food and were pleasantly surprised. Fresh ginger iced tea, a salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and avocado, a very light coconut chicken curry, and Indonesian fried chicken (that was also light, somehow). The freshness of the food was amazing and we are sure this will be a nice change from the heavy (but delicious) Thai food.

The only way to fully describe Bali is magical. The Balinese people, the scenery, the way of life, the food - it is all so magical and indescribable.

Feed Me and Rub Me

Oof that flight was rough...for everyone else on the plane. I very quickly passed out into a sleep-deprived, Benadryl-induced, drool-included slumber. My apologies to the two men in my row. 

Doesn't matter to me though, because I made it to Bangkok and met up with Katie. First impressions of Bangkok (and Thailand) are that it is a big, bustling city but still has greenery, public transportation is good and clean, and people are BEYOND friendly and helpful. 

We took the train from the airport to Ratchaprarop Station and then walked to our hotel. Unsurprisingly, we walked the wrong way (past a street stall selling something that smelled amazing), but a nice guy at a tailor shop asked us where we were going and pointed us in the right direction. We checked in at our hotel (Hotel de Bangkok) and were greeted with a welcome drink and AC! We took some time to decompress and then headed out into the streets with no plan in mind besides street food. And street food we got. We started by going back to that street stall where we were quickly ushered to a little metal table. We didn't even order anything, food just showed up. I can't actually tell you what it was called, but it was a beef broth with noodles, beef, and some vegetables. It was DELICIOUS. All for 70 Baht. One USD is approximately 32 Baht).

We then decided to just walk around and see what else Bangkok had to offer. We ended up meandering through a market while the likes of Lady Gaga and Tove Lo were blasting in the air. My guess is that they don't realize what Tove Lo is saying in "Talking Body". Next on our to do list was hydration so naturally we had to have fresh coconut water. The teenager that we got them from tried to cut Katie's open and drastically failed. His mom stepped in, and let me tell you, I would not mess with her when she has a butcher's knife in her hand! 

Coconut waters in hand, we wandered further down a street. By this point we had eaten and hydrated, and my feet were hurting and swollen from all the flying - so next on the list was obviously a massage. 

200 Baht later, with the softest feet ever, and feeling relaxed, we wandered back onto the street. I was shocked that it was already dark out! However, that meant that there were more and different street carts out with food. For someone who can be indecisive, having so many options can be tough. That is, until I saw a lady making pad Thai. Wowza was it good. Katie got garlic chicken and we ate while we walked back to our hotel for an early night to hopefully deal with some of our jet lag. 

Two takeaways: (1) the food is amazing and the smells are indescribable (in a good way); (2) we will likely get massages daily. Given these, I'm pretty sure the title of this post will be all-encompassing for our time in Thailand.

Schnitzel, apfelwein, and Haagen Dazs for the win.

Well, jet lag and eating too much have already taken their toll. I'm back at the Frankfurt airport sooner than planned, trying my best to keep my eyes open and not throw up. 

I managed to sleep a bit on my flight here, but sleeping 5 hours on a plane is not equal to sleeping 5 hours in a bed. Didn't matter, I had the whole day in Frankfurt and was not going to let it go to waste (except that it's Sunday and some things are closed on Sunday, so I was limited in what I could do).

I did what any tourist would do - I bought a train ticket and headed into the center of the city, promptly found an open coffee shop, and drank coffee while I tried to keep my eyes open and figure out what to do with the day. Then I headed out on my adventure. It took me to the Alte Opera, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange,  Römerberg, some churches, Eiserner Steg, and across the Main river. To be honest, there were no wow factors. Much of Frankfurt is a new-old city, by which I mean buildings that were destroyed in WWII were rebuilt to look as though they were the originals. Still pretty though, and definitely different from what you get in the U.S. 

Fear not though, Frankfurt did offer a wow factor, just in the form of food. By the time I crossed the river I was ravenous, which was well planned because the local pubs were on this side of the river. I found one, called Atschel, and knew I was in for a treat when I was the only foreigner in there. Two glasses of apfelwein and the Frankfurt schnitzel later, I was beyond full (of the best schnitzel I've ever had) and realized I had no euros (thanks, jet lag). The waitress completely trusted me to walk 3-4 blocks to an ATM. Good thing, otherwise I'd still be there cleaning dishes. 
I decided to continue walking around the city to make room for my favorite thing - ice cream. This city has ice cream places every where, and I'm not talking about shitty frozen yogurt places. I'm talking about the real deal! Some of said ice cream places were Haagen Dazs (which is my favorite), so naturally it had to happen. Well I was in for a treat with quite the menu, sit down service, and a nice cafe feel while I ate my Belgian dark chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream. 

Unfortunately it put me over the edge which is why I'm back at the airport early, hoping I stay awake until my 9pm flight. Next stop is Bangkok and meeting up with Katie! But first, sleep on the plane. 

P.S. I can most likely assure you that my blog posts will get shorter and/or less frequent once I'm done with the bulk of this sitting in airports thing. Also, crappy connection is making it so I'm not sure that all the pics are uploaded - check Instagram (@dash319 and #danawanders) for the food pics at least.