Category Archives: Thailand

SE Asia Omelet Zine featuring eateries in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos now available

In 2010, Bangkok Books began distributing You Can’t Hide an Elephant in an Omelet as an e-book.  Tara Blackmore from Broken Pencil has this to say about the book:  “What a neat concept this book offers: essays and stories about omelettes and cuisine from around the world. This particular issue offers experiences from Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

Part restaurant review, part tour guide, this book offers pure entertainment in eloquent language that can be enjoyed by just about everyone.

Written like a memoir (the good kind), the book offers a glimpse into foreign food production, consumption and a healthy dose of social interaction and culture shock as well. It’s an objective look at travel and all it entails, offering tips and advice on how to get by. It also gives descriptions of local cuisine that can either repulse you or attract you, so reading it while hungry is a bad idea.

This book is well worth the money. Rich with well-worded descriptions and beautiful photos, this zine will satisfy the reader who has either travel-curiosity or no idea what to make for dinner (which, of course, would be omelettes).”

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN WANTING TO READ A CLEVERLY WRITTEN BOOK ABOUT EATING OMELETS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA HERE’S YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

Click on one of the below links to purchase a copy:

Ipad
Android
Kindle
Bangkok Books

Front Cover
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Sample Page
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Back Cover
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Klong Khood Homestay located on Ko Chang, Thailand

Slow to the Pace of a Turtle with a Broken Leg

People who spend time with infants know what it is like to go without a good night’s rest. Imagine 65 years of being woken up throughout the night — not by one’s child, but by one’s own snoring and snorting and gasping for breath.

65 years without a decent night’s sleep! That’s the story told by our new friend over omelets at the Klong Khood Homestay on the island of Ko Chang, Thailand. Enthusiastic about finally being able to find out the endings to his dreams, Daniel hurries to his bungalow mid-omelet and mid-conversation to return with the miracle machine.

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While he demonstrates his nighttime breathing device, I realize that after a few months in Thailand, my eating has slowed to the pace of a turtle with a broken leg. I now enjoy hearing the details of strangers’ sleeping habits between bites of omelet.

Financially successful Western individuals and people in traditional societies understand the pleasure of dining slowly. Take for example fine dining in the United States: a couple can finish a bottle of wine, rub one another’s thighs with their feet, and take the time to learn the name of the dairy in Idaho where the goat cheese was made.

In America, too many people spend their lives eating at the pace of a jackrabbit running from a kid with a bb gun. When life finally slows down to the point that you can enjoy it, your body aches and you find you can’t ride into the sunset with a walker. By American standards, slow and inattentive service is considered a hindrance to the enjoyment of one’s meal. In Thailand, it’s the opposite. Restaurants in Thailand do not embrace the idea of high turnover. Thai people do not tip, so the servers will make the same wage whether they serve one table or 20 in the span of a shift. After taking your order and serving your food, servers won’t approach your table again unless you get their attention. They never hand you the bill until you ask for it. You have no excuse not to chew your food 25 times per bite, have a New York Times style conversation, and get frisky.

Long after swallowing the last bite of omelet and rice, I’m still sitting at the table, talking with Daniel. Having gained one another’s trust over breakfast conversation about snoring, Amy and I load up on his rented motorcycle and join him for a hike to one of the many waterfalls on the island of Ko Chang.

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I’m looking forward to the day when American culture will allow the average restaurant patron to plop an artificial leg on the table that can inspire a two-hour conversation without the server blinking an eye.

Many Americans look forward to retirement as a time in their lives when they can finally slow down and enjoy life. Slow down young, and getting old simply means a long-awaited diner discount.

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Scandinavian Bakery located in Chiang Rai, Thailand

I Bet Republicans Eat Omelets Too

At the Scandinavian Bakery in Chiang Rai, Thailand, the omelet is very fluffy and a special treat. Omelets in Thailand tend to be heavy with grease, but this one is heavy with broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes.

Although fluffiness is a quality that I appreciate in omelets and cats, I feel a dull ache in my belly when I encounter headlines, politicians, and campaigns that are more fluff than substance. A Bangkok Post headline reads that John McCain has decided to run for president.

The upcoming presidential election will be interesting. It’s the first time my vote will be guided by insight from the omelet experience.

The next day, I’m sitting at an Internet shop talking to my Mom. Using Skype, I have plenty of time to talk. I mention that John McCain’s running for president. Here’s how our conversation goes:

Me: John McCain’s running for president.

Mom: Did you notice how the leftist media probably made a joke about McCain’s puffy cheeks?

Me: I actually didn’t read the article.

Mom: Well, you ought to read the article. I bet the media also slipped in that the Republicans look at Bush like he’s an ugly redheaded stepchild who poisoned the well.

Me: I agree, sometimes John Stewart and Bill Maher seem a little wild. But, come on, the entire media can’t be left wing. Prove it!

Mom: Do a Google search! Type in a presidential candidate’s name plus omelet. You’ll find there are no direct references to Republican candidates and omelets.

Me: Maybe all Republicans don’t like omelets like Green Party members don’t like Humvees.

Mom: Give me a break. Everyone, to some degree, likes eggs or egg substitutes. Every continent that’s not covered in ice has egg lovin’ people. The leftist media leaves out the fact that Republicans eat omelets because Republicans are made out to be subhuman.

Me: I’ll do a Google search. Talk to you in a couple of days.

I immediately search for presidential candidates and omelets. Here are my results:

CNN Crossfire
Feb 7, 2000
Can Hillary Clinton Beat Rudy Giuliani and Make It to the U.S. Senate?
Hillary Clinton: I make a mean tossed salad and a great omelet.

Chicago Tribune
July 24, 2005
Obama finding himself flush with media attention
Reporter David Mendell writes, “Barack Obama began his day just after 6 a.m. by munching a green pepper egg-white omelet that aides had fetched from a 24-hour diner because the hotel restaurant had not yet opened.”

ABC News
May 4, 2007
Bringin’ Home the Bacon, Vegan-Style
Jennifer Duck reports that Dennis Kucinich offers vegan omelets at his presidential fundraiser.

I found the above omelet info about Democratic candidates on the first page of the Google search. Despite Google searches on Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, I found no such positive omelet remarks for those three Republican candidates. I am afraid to admit my mom might be right about the media.

I do believe in a fair and balanced media. To do my part, I am going to e-mail the candidates and allow them to use Earthworm Envy as a forum to discuss their love or hate of omelets. As each candidate responds to my omelet questions, I will dedicate a new post to his/her omelet views.

Tree House on Ko Chang, Thailand

Enjoy a Fruity Drink
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At the Tree House, we ordered an omelet and settled in with pillows, hammocks and a picturesque view of the ocean. Our omelet was beautiful. The egg rose and dipped like gentle waves crashing onto a sandy beach. However, the inside of the omelet was the opposite of beauty and grace. I felt like a kid who’s wooed by the calmness of the water, then jumps into the waves, crashing through the gentleness to find a world of violence and suffocation, scared and being pulled out to sea. Every bite of omelet brought me closer to revisiting the memories of my near death drowning. I couldn’t handle the taste of the omelet. The omelet was filled with an unexpected salty tomato sauce with small bits of cooked vegetable. It made my taste buds cry and my lungs panic.

Sometimes all a person can do is toss the omelet, enjoy a fruity drink and write an omelet review.
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Tree House
Ko Chang, Thailand

Blue Diamond located in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Cozy as a Campfire
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How many people do you know who are drawn to a microwave, much less sit around a microwave singing, playing guitar or telling stories? Consider sitting around a campfire and waiting for the coals to heat a kettle of water. Compare it to heating up a cup of water in a solar powered microwave. Both could be sustainable forms to heat water, but the quality of living greatly differs. With crackle and flames, campfires draw in people. Soon you might have several people enjoying the fire as the water heats up. They tell stories, create friendships, and plan their next Rucksack Wandering adventure.

While farming in Thailand, I worked with two types of farmers: an economic sustainable farmer and a social sustainable farmer. I discovered people’s omelet recommendations reflect their preferred type of sustainable farming. When asked where to eat an omelet, the farmers’ answers differed like a harvest moon and a milk moon – in completely different seasons. The economic sustainable farmer recommended a restaurant at the mall. The farmer likes to visit the mall because the mall is a wasteland of cheap electrical appliances waiting to be unwrapped, which will set free the harnessed power of solar energy. While at the mall, it’s best to buy for your farm and stomach in the same trip, even if that means a deep-fried omelet for lunch at KFC.

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The social sustainable farmer suggested I eat an omelet at the Blue Diamond in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A person eats at the Blue Diamond because of the many choices of organic fruits and vegetables and baked breads. By asking the question, “how will my actions better my life and community,” the answers direct me towards the Blue Diamond.

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When making my omelet choice, I chose lifestyle over profit. I tried the Blue Diamond because I enjoy eating healthy and local. While waiting for my omelet, I read the paper, had a conversation, and took in the smells of bread coming out of the oven. The omelet came with fresh avocado and was infused with a pleasant blend of herbs. The quality of the food, the pace of the service, and the fresh fruit reminded me of life on the farm. To sum it up, the omelet at the Blue Diamond was as cozy as a campfire.

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Some thoughts that didn’t make it into the omelet review:

As consumers become more green, organic, sustainable, livable, whatever catch phrase is being used at the moment, people will read more quotes like the ones below, both found in the February/March 2007 issue of Plenty.

From the article Truckin’ Awesome by Philip Armour: “Forget the environment and political reasons—which are convincing. Just look it from the pocket book. I used to get six miles to the gallon. With biofuel, I get seven. So I’m taking home more money at the end of the week.”

From the article The Farmer in the High-Rise by Alisa Opar:
“He compares the vertical farm to the hybrid car, which now everybody is producing. They aren’t doing it for the sake of the environment; they’re doing it to make money.”

This sort of outlook will hopefully give us more time to prevent the impending global warming disaster but will not help us prepare for the next disaster brewing due to the short sights of an economic outlook towards life.

These thoughts were developed when I visited Pun Pun and Panya Project.
Pun Pun
The Panya Project

Valentine’s Day (short film)

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click on photo to watch: Valentine’s Day

To make your travel experience more meaningful, try volunteering at a school. The kids will LOVE you for it. We found our volunteer gig through helpx.net. Thanks, Aidan, for starring in our video.

If you’re interested in reading more about our month at Ban Kumuang School, check out:
First Environment, Then Education
Why are you trying to make me FAT? (omelet review)

First Environment, Then Education

Throughout Thailand, I’ve seen a lot of streets, villages and schools littered with garbage. In the United States, I’ve seen students trash their schools knowing that it’s the janitors’ jobs to clean up after them. I’ve seen adults trash the environment thinking the government or some environmental group will clean up after them. It seems people don’t realize it’s EVERYONE’s responsibility to care for our environment.

At Ban Kumuang School in rural Isaan, Thailand, the students work together each morning to clean the school. While volunteering at the school for a month, I loved watching the students start their school day by caring for their environment with their friends.

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In the United States, children repeat
the pledge of allegiance
at the beginning of each school day.

However, unconditional love for one’s country
is not sufficient
to guide one’s education.

We need to learn from the example set
by the faculty and children at Ban Kumuang School.

The environment should be a person’s moral compass
to determine how to properly use one’s education.

It is education without regard for the environment
that has created
some of the 20th century’s most heinous crimes.

It is the educated
who created the atom bomb,
weapons to sell to third world countries,
the U.S. freeway system and oil addiction!

When the U.S. becomes
NOT the largest arms exporter
BUT the largest exporter of green technology,

then the U.S. can rightfully claim to be a country of educated people.

Not Lost in Cambodia

For those of you who haven’t heard the word, we’re not lost in Cambodia. Actually, we’re lost in California and slowly making our way back to Idaho for the summer. Even though we’re no longer in SE Asia, we’ll be adding more SE Asia omelet reviews and short films to earthwormenvy.com, then turning our attention to Pacific Northwest omelets and adventures. SE Asia omelet reviews will be available in book or zine form mid-summer.

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Not lost in Cambodia
Boiseans work, document six-month trip to Southeast Asia

By Jeanne Huff – Idaho Statesman
Edition Date: 04/15/07

A little more than six months ago, Boiseans Brandon Follett, 31, and Amy Johnson, 30, set out on a journey to Southeast Asia. They chose a destination they didn’t know much about. Neither knew the language well, although Johnson studied some guidebooks for often-used phrases and numbers so they could keep track of how much things cost.

Before their trip, the two had produced and sold videos to Current TV and had published poems, articles and reviews for a variety of publications. While on the road, they continued selling videos and publishing articles. They also worked their way through southeast Asia as volunteer farmers, English teachers and construction laborers.

Follett and Johnson are spending their last weeks abroad in an ocean-side bungalow in Ko Chang. They’re due to return to Boise on May 7.

I recently chatted with Follett and Johnson via Skype (a cool way to phone overseas on a dime) and then followed up with these questions via e-mail. What follows is an edited version of our phone and e-mail conversations.

What made you decide to go to Thailand? Why for so long?

Amy: Brandon wanted to go to Thailand to explore a culture that wasn’t as Western-influenced.

Brandon: And Amy can be talked into going pretty much anywhere. (Laughs.)

Amy: The first month everything is new and fun. After three months, the place starts to feel like home.

Things that caught our attention when we first arrived start to feel like everyday. The fish eyeballs on the table no longer freak me out. I no longer wonder why everyone’s wearing yellow shirts on Mondays, and we actually have two yellow shirts each to wear in honor of the king.

In the restrooms, I no longer bother looking for soap or toilet paper, and riding on the back of a motorcycle feels safe and comfortable.

How have you kept yourselves going there? How do you make ends meet, stay alive? Where do you stay?

B&A (e-mail): We volunteer to stay alive. It’s a way to meet people and keep ourselves entertained, to give some sort of meaning to our travels, and it’s also a way to support ourselves since we’re traveling on very little savings.

We found some volunteer farm gigs though World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and a volunteer English teaching job through helpx.net.

We get around by public transportation. Mostly buses and one overnight train ride. Thailand has a good bus and train system. During our one month volunteer teaching (job), the director of the school let us use his motorcycle.

Brandon: We rented a motorcycle for a few days in Cambodia.

Amy: We usually stay at the cheapest guest house we can find that still fits our minimum standards of cleanliness. We made a short film about our first guest house experience — “Guy Guesthouse, Trat, Thailand,” it’s on our Web site.

Brandon: I find volunteering more rewarding than sitting in a swimming pool looking at the ocean from a hotel.

Tell us a little about your filmmaking in Thailand, your blogging, your omelet reviews.

Amy: We started our filmmaking and omelet reviews last summer while still living in Boise in preparation for documenting our world travels, which began in June 2006 when we left Boise to live in Moscow, Idaho, for five months. We started writing omelet reviews as something fun to do on Sunday mornings while exploring rural Idaho, and it’s turning into a genre of its own. All of our omelet reviews are on our Web site. We posted our first guest omelet review last week, and we know of a few other travelers currently writing omelet reviews to add to our collection.

An Omelet in Phnom Penh” has been published by Gumption magazine and Tales of Asia Web site. “Kraft-inspired Omelet” was published in Gumption magazine.

B&A (e-mail): In Thailand, everything is new to us here, so there are lots of interesting things to film, like cockfighting and a barber shop named after JFK. People back home seem more interested in films about eating bugs in Thailand than picking huckleberries in Idaho.

However, The Discovery Channel is interested in both the bug film and the huckleberry film for the “Show us Your World” series. We’re waiting to hear final word from them on when our short films will be aired.

Our blogs are mainly our omelet reviews and short films. Some poems and other travel stories are also mixed in. We don’t update on a daily basis, but we’re continually writing and editing, so we add new posts when we have something that’s quality.

Our “Honda Dream” travel story about renting a motorcycle in Cambodia (was) published on GoNomad Web site in March.

Haggard and Halloo published the poems “I’m still Poor, Eating like a Yuppie who shops at the Boise Co-op,” and “Cockfight.”

What do you like the most about Thailand?

B&A (e-mail): Combined businesses/residences — a restaurant/small store/laundry/etc. in front and the family living area in back or upstairs. We’ve seen many examples of this all over the country.

We like the direction some of the farmers are going with sustainable agriculture.

We like the respect that people show to their elders and how families take care of each other. “Mai pen rai” attitude, which translates to something between never mind and no worries. It’s about not getting upset about anything, rather an acceptance of whatever comes along, knowing that it, too, will soon pass.

What is hardest about living there?

Amy: The visa/immigration regulations.

Brandon: Remembering not to use the local water.

Amy: Remembering not to point the bottoms of my feet at people because I’m used to sitting with my feet out in front of me, but in Buddhism the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body and shouldn’t be pointed at other people. The head is the highest and you shouldn’t touch people on the head.

Buying deodorant. All of it is advertised as “whitening.” Thai people spend a lot of money on whitening products. We find it ironic because we know people back home who spend a lot of time and money on skin-darkening products.

What do you do for fun there?

B&A (e-mail): We play rummy. We’ve been playing for the past few years. Current score: Amy 45,930, Brandon 44,090. We talk to other travelers. Make films and write omelet reviews. Play music. Read books.

Is it hard communicating when you basically don’t know the language?

Amy: Sometimes. Only if we’re in a hurry. If we have a lot of time and patience, then it’s easy. Example: when we ended up at the police station because the name of the police station was the same name as the road our hotel was on.

We’ve learned to write things down in the Thai language to try to make ourselves understood. We carry around the Thai word for vegetable fried rice, and that usually serves us well. I know the numbers and enough Thai to try to negotiate lower fares for tuk-tuk (taxi) rides and things that we buy at the markets.

That’s another fun part about Thailand travel — in many places, the prices are not set, and it’s part of the culture to discuss between buyer and seller to establish a price.

What is the most interesting food experience you’ve had?

Amy: Many places have English menus. I once tried to order from the menu by pointing to a picture that looked good. I only tried that once because it didn’t work very well for me.

Brandon: Most interesting food experience: Disco dancing shrimp that crawl off your plate toward the water. This is the most interesting eating experience because usually I have someone else kill the creatures that I eat.

There’s nothing more psychologically interesting than letting the little shrimp get within an inch of freedom then snatch it up and kill it with a swift chomp by the molars. I do not swallow the shrimp whole because that seems a little inhumane to let them be slowly digested alive.

I eat fried insects whenever I get the chance. We made a film about eating bugs called “An Afternoon Snack” that the Discovery Channel is interested in and almost made Amy’s aunt hurl.

Amy: I am not as adventuresome when it comes to eating insects. I was able to eat some fried ants when I wrapped them up in a leaf and made the effort to not think about what I was eating, then they were actually quite flavorful.

The disco shrimps were a bit more challenging. They jump off the plate and wiggle around on the mat (we’re sitting cross-legged on bamboo mats to eat), and they jump off the spoon if you’re not quick. I was able to eat two small ones to satisfy my dinner mates, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch the chicken foot that Brandon put on my plate when I wasn’t looking.

Any advice for others who might want to travel to an exotic land, spend very little money and not know the language or much about where they’re going?

Amy: Don’t do it. (Laughs.) Know yourself well and do what fulfills you, not necessarily what’s listed in the Lonely Planet as the top 10. Make your own top 10. Do your best to learn the language, even if it’s difficult. At the very least, know how to say hello and thank you, and knowing the numbers is very helpful, too.

English is becoming a world language, but don’t expect everyone to speak English.

Above all, travel with respect for the people and the environment of the place you are visiting. Try to see beyond your own culture. You’ll see many different practices and customs, recognize them as different from what you know but not necessarily better or worse. Withhold judgment and take the opportunity to learn about other ways of being. Call home and e-mail travel updates and reports.

Brandon: Don’t go as a tourist.

To offer story ideas or comments, contact Jeanne Huff at jhuff@idahostatesman.com or 377-6483.

An Afternoon Snack (short film update)

UPDATE: This video will appear on the Travel Channel in the pilot of “What’s Your Trip?” hosted by Anthony Bourdain. It will air Monday, May 21st, 2007 at 8PM and 11PM.

Original music by Brandon Follett, singing with a pig.  Check out his other music projects.  weirdosmusic.com

This video was filmed in the rural, low-income, rice-growing region of Thailand known as Isaan, where few foreign travelers venture. We went there two weeks into our Thailand travels in order to volunteer on an organic farm.

Before traveling to Thailand, a Thai friend in the States warned me about our plans to volunteer on a farm in Prakonchai, Thailand. She wrinkled her nose at the thought, saying that the people of northwestern Thailand talked funny and ate gross food, such as fermented fish. She said this region was like the Texas of Thailand.

For ten days, we stayed near Prakonchai, working on the farm and living with a Canadian man, his Isaan wife, and their two children. Our farm work included cutting rice, raking straw from the rice fields, and scooping up water buffalo manure to mix into compost. Since we don’t speak Thai, we couldn’t tell if the people spoke standard Thai or not, but they do speak their own local language in addition to Thai. The food was good, but it was definitely different from the meals we’d eaten at Thai restaurants in the U.S.

One afternoon, our hosts took us with them to the local market. The fruits and vegetable stalls were piled high with various shapes and colors we’d never seen before. The meat section was fresher, bloodier, and included a lot more animal heads than we were accustomed to seeing. We were also fascinated to see all sorts of fried insects for sale, with the vendors sitting nonchalantly behind their neatly organized displays of fried bugs. Our hosts’ five-year-old daughter loved the tasty snacks and munched her way through a bag of fried insects while her parents did their shopping.

Brandon also purchased a variety bag of bugs and enjoyed their flavor and crunch. He wanted to share his delight on camera, so we filmed “An Afternoon Snack.” The film was made in a moment of pure Follettry.

Special thanks to Stacy McBain for giving the English language the word “Follettry.” How have we managed for so long without it?

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Momma, I’m Scared (short film)

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click on photo to watch

A short film about a young man traveling through SE Asia scared of strangers.

Enjoy original music by Brandon Follett, now available in ringtones that are sure to put a smile on your face.
From Momma, I’m Scared, “Bludgeon your brains, poke you in the butt, those are the words Momma said to me”