Tag 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

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”

Ban Kumuang School located in rural Isaan, Thailand

Why are you trying to make me FAT?
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My belly is getting bigger. Not that it’s news worthy that an American is getting fatter, but never thought I’d gain weight as a result of eating rice, eggs, fruit and vegetables.

I always figured it was fast food and processed food that made people fat. I thought people got fat from slurping down soda, licking sugary ketchup off their fingers, wiping the fat from burgers off their lips, and pretending white bread with some injected vitamins has nutritional value. When these people couldn’t get enough fast food, they would then super size meals, call Domino’s Pizza, buy a Twinkie at the convenience store, or lose themselves in the isles of processed food found at the supermarket.

All my life people told me to eat healthy by saying no to processed food and yes to fresh and local. While volunteering Ban Kumuang School in rural Isaan for a month, I ate breakfast and lunch with the teachers, and dinner was at the home of the director and his wife. With no processed food in sight, I didn’t think twice about watching my waistline.

Within a couple of days of starting my job, the Thai teachers noticed the chicken feet and spoon-sized frogs left uneaten on my plate. I’m vegetarian, I explained. Then next day, and for the rest of the month, eggs became the substitute for meat. The omelets became like the endless soda machine at Taco Bell. I never felt a minute of hunger while staying in one of Thailand’s poorest provinces.

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Getting fat off eggs, vegetables, fruit and rice came as surprise. I told the Thai teacher, “In the U.S., food corporations and fast food restaurants treat me the same way you indulge me. They try to get me to stuff myself with product. You put omelets in front of me and say, ‘eat, eat, eat.’ Then when I’m full, you put more omelets in front of me and say, ‘eat some more.’ Food businesses are always trying to get me to eat more than my stomach can handle. The food and drink marketers use coupons, two for one specials, happy hours, super size, buffets, and sexy women to sell large quantities of merchandise to make a profit. You, on the other hand, push food and drink on me with the same intensity as the corporations, but you don’t make me pay. Why are you trying to make me fat?”

The teacher replies, “Thai hosts are happy when you get fatter. It means they are taking good care of you.”

Luckily, my weight gain was not the cause of someone trying to make a buck off my consumer-dulled mind. My weight gain is a testament to our Thai hosts’ generous hospitality.

Omelet Review located near Warinchamrap, Thailand

The Westerner Suffering from Mental and Sanitation Travel Sickness

Basically, if you’re a Westerner visiting Thailand and can’t laugh and smile while your vegetables are cut on a fly-infested cutting board, then you’re mentally going to have a hard time.

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Sure, we would like to drive 30 minutes to the nearest city and dine at a clean outdoor patio with misters or large fans. We would like to be waited on by an attractive server who keeps the soda water, ice cubes, and Johnny Walker flowing, while we eat an omelet with proper utensils and have the option to wash our hands with running water and soap instead of wiping them on our trousers and pretending their clean. Right now, time and money are working against us. We rely on Aidan and Robert to play the role of the attractive server.

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Despite our time and money limitations, we can afford some cheap beer, a cheap omelet and good conversation somewhere in the countryside near Warinchamrap. We get two out of three at this rural Thai restaurant, and to our surprise, we get more than good conversation and cheap beer.

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We got a four star omelet. I now know how dirty Cinderella felt when she put her warty, corned, fungus-filled peasant foot into the clean slipper. The omelet was my slipper. My dirty hands were like Cinderella’s feet. The moment when my fingers brought the omelet up to my lips and my tongue reached out and tasted the bursting flavor of peppers and egg, I felt like a princess.

The other day, I was reading Ancient Wisdom, Modern World by the Dalai Lama. Here I summarize the Dalai Lama’s words about health:

Sickness is a product of the environment. If you come from the West, the sickness tends to be mental and stress related. If you come from the East, the sickness tends to be water-borne and sanitation related.

I imagine a journal entry from a Westerner suffering from mental and sanitation sickness:

Dear Journal,
After eating the disease-riddled omelet, I got diarrhea. I attribute my discomfort to poor sanitation practices used at the restaurant. Squatting over a hole in the ground has made my thighs sore. I have come to agree that Western toilets are for out of shape, lazy people. Now I wish I was in better shape and hadn’t spent so much time at the beginning of the vacation sitting by the pool looking at the ocean.
Signed,
Suffering Sam

Dear Journal,
I’m still sick; I get depressed looking at my dirty self in the mirror. I came to Ubon to volunteer at a school. I teach kids about Christ through English Camps. When I look at myself, I no longer see Jesus in my face. I resemble the heathens he was trying to save. In all the pictures of Jesus I’ve never seen him dirty. (Maybe bloody, but that can’t be attributed to his personal hygiene). The only thing whiter than Jesus’s face is his robe. I’m no longer Christ-like. I’m dirty like the devil……..Save me, Jesus!!!!
Suffering Sam, the dirty sinner

The journal ends, but Sam’s story is only beginning. Like the diners who must drive to the café instead of taking a ten-minute Saturday morning walk, Sam is in too big of a hurry. Like the omelet eaters who cannot wait for their tomatoes to ripen in season, Sam can’t wait for Jesus to impress upon him that everything will be all right.

His fast-paced heart lets the anxiety of dirtiness grow big and tall in his life.  The grim reaper waltzes Sam’s depressed thoughts over to a gun. His dirty fingers smudge the white ivory grip. He can’t put the barrel in his mouth because he’s afraid of catching a cold from the last person who might have blown his or her head off. His Western mental sickness of being afraid of objects that don’t smell lemon fresh saved his life.

The gun fires but only takes off his ear.  Friends find him passed out from shock, lying on the ground, with one hole still suffering from sanitation sickness and a new hole suffering from mental sickness.

Ban Jaidee Guest House located in Trat, Thailand

I Took Production and Efficiency out to Breakfast
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At the Ban Jaidee Guest House, the rooms are simple and clean. The two women who run the guest house are pleasant and helpful, and the menu caters to foreign tastes. I’m checked into room #1 with a fan, a window, and spotless white sheets and towels. The bathroom is clean enough that I shower barefoot. The main foyer doubles as a living area and restaurant with comfortable seating, tables, a hammock, television and small tree.

The cheese omelet arrived with a cleverly disguised processed cheese design. Entertained by the fancy lattice, I overlooked the flaw. Sometimes I’m like a fish attracted to shiny lures.

About halfway through the omelet, my head starts to pound with my former boss’s voice. In her unmistakably raspy baritone of vocal gruffness, I hear, “Look at those ladies relaxing in the hammock, reading books, laughing at the television, and making the cats purr!!! Pure laziness!!!!!!!!!”

I put the fork down, don’t even take the time to finish chewing, swallow and start to analyze. My observations at a quick glance: There are two keys on the front desk. This represents two vacant rooms. Why isn’t one the women at the bus station harassing road weary travelers? Second, dining tables are not filled to capacity, why doesn’t one of the them go to the stationery store next to the guest house, purchase some construction paper and make a large sign to display in the window that reads, “Every omelet comes with pretty processed cheese design.”

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I used to be able to relax and enjoy a clean, friendly environment with delicious food, but the voices in my head started after I became the Revenue Audit Supervisor at UPS. I was trained to recognize ways to increase production and efficiency. With the incentives of bonuses, yearly pay raises, and job insecurity so ingrained into my being, I took production and efficiency home with me, and now I unsuspectingly take it to breakfast.

I suppose it’s like the Iraqi soldier on leave who comes back to Boise, Idaho, USA and has grown nervous around trash from his experience with IED’s in Baghdad. After kissing his or her family hello, the first thing the soldier wants to do is spend that fat war check on an omelet at Goldie’s Breakfast Bistro. Driving through the neighborhood, the soldier notices a pile of trash strewn along the sidewalk. The soldier’s heartbeat grows faster. Logically, the soldier knows on Monday mornings the trash is put out in front of the house for the garbage person. Logically, the soldier knows a dog probably went through the trash looking for scraps of food. Logically, the soldier knows in the USA statistically you are more likely to be struck by lighting than killed by a terrorist. The soldier’s heart beat grows faster faster faster faster faster faster faster faster faster.

When it comes to work, many people believe the means justify the end. This omelet has confirmed my suspicion that work that causes a dulling of the mind, disregard for people or creates physical pain is not worth the paycheck and the brainwashing. Maybe a person can walk away from a job, but it might be harder to outrun the years of training. My advice is to pick your job wisely, because it might affect your omelet experiences for the rest of your life.