Sunday, January 08, 2006

Vegetarian Voyages

Being veggie here is interesting. This morning I left the guest house in search of something to eat for breakfast. I tried some delicious but unsubstantial rice pancakes stuffed with ground coconut and something spicey. At the next stall I attempted to explain that I was veggie in Thai. A friendly woman who spoke English said that there wasn't anything, but that she thought there was somewhere else, but she wasn't sure if it was open and it was far away, so she put me on the back of her moped and drove me about a kilometre east. Sure enough it was closed, so she proceeded to drive me a couple of kilometres south to the edge of the town. I was getting rather nervous about what she was up to at this point, but she was really friendly and unthreatening, so I went with it. She then drove me through a military base to a tourist attraction - a german-built palace. She then drove a bit further north and we tried another roadside food place which didn't have anything. She then said that she needed to go home and pick up her car to drive me back to the centre of town because I was too heavy for the moped. At this point I got quite seriously suspicious - the bike was fine. I'd managed to keep track of where we were using the sun and a few temples and knew that I was within walking distance of the centre of town, so I hopped off the moped at a junction and set off. But before I left the lady gave me a bag of something she'd bought earlier that was veggie - very sweet soy milk with strange black beans and transparent vegetables.

After the five minute walk back to the guesthouse I decided to give up on my hunt for a nice breakfast and settled for the 50 Baht American breakfast at the guest house - toast, marmalade, fried egg, pineapple, papaya and watermelon.

I set off south under the cloudless sky through much the same terrain as yesterday - nothing particularly beautiful or spectacular. The highlight of the morning's ride was noticing a sign in English at the side of the road saying vegetarian food. It was only about 10.30 but I was hungry and amazed to see this sign, so I went into the courtyard where some rather surprised and excited ladies produced an extremely delicious meal of white rice, delicious fresh crispy stir fried vegetables, amazing mushrooms, and a strange really delicious meat-like substance, tofu perhaps. I couldn't believe that it wasn't meat and left it at the side, but they noticed me doing that and assured me that it was vegetarian - they were all vegetarian. I think the place was some sort of buddhist temple. In the end they wouldn't even let me pay, and sent me off with four delicious papaya. They said that their son was coming to Scotland in may and gave me his email address, so I'll offer him a place to stay if he needs it.

The other culinary highlight of the morning was fried bananas from an old lady at a roadside stall. The bananas are tiny here - less than two inches long - but really tasty.

I'm now at a rather grim beach resort full of fat sunbathers and Burger Kings, so I think I'm going to attempt another 40km this afternoon to a national park further down the coast. I'm slightly concerned about finding it and getting accommodation, but I'm sure it will be fine.

Last night I met a German guy at the night market while we were both getting some food. He's cycling around the south of Thailand too. We got a couple of beers from the 7/11 and drank them on the street and watched the world go bye and chatted. He's been to Thailand eight times since 1999 and speaks and reads a lot of Thai. He tought me a bit about the language. There's over 40 letters, each of which has a meaning on its own, as well as a meaning when combined with other letters to make a word. I've started trying to recognise words in Thai script. After cycling past the millions of roadside signs for all the tourist condominiums and hotels I can now recognise the word for hotel pretty quickly.

Well I'd better get going if I'm going to make it to this beach at the national park before dark...

No comments: