Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sights and Beaches of Phuket

The Sights and Beaches of Phuket

            A lot of pictures this time guys, and not so much on the writing.  There just isn’t much to say besides relax and enjoy the view or in this case the show

Chinese Temple

            Um yeah, I’m at a loss for words.  I didn’t expect the temple to be quite so busy.  The Buddhist temples I visited in Japan were nothing like this.  Most of them just felt more natural, dark unpainted wood, more low key ornamentation, and less bling.  At the end of the day it felt like a place of worship and frankly I don’t know what that place felt like.  If I had to say anything I would say a festival or parade ground, to each their own I guess.

Temple at Nara for comparison

Saphan Hin Mining Monument

            Honestly I was expecting something better and this was a little underwhelming.  I didn’t even know what it was until I got on the internet.  It is a monument to the first Iron ore dredging done by an Australian back in 1909, which radically changed the islands economy.

Beaches of Phuket

Path to the beach

Made me want to cry


Phuket Bay

            It was a nice walk through the trees and then along the beach, even with the trash littered about.  It was fairly secluded with only a few people fishing or sorting seashells.  Also I don’t think this is the main beach near Phuket City given how few people were there.  Now if you’re thinking like me (which your probably not) then all of this would remind you of Black Lagoon.  And I don’t mean the 1954 horror movie classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but the Manga written by Rei Hiroe.  The above picture is almost right out of the show.  If you’re curious then go look at my Anime Science blog.

Wildlife of Phuket

            I’m a biology teacher of course this was going to happen.

AnimalsSand Crab

            Sand crab is the nonscientific term for any number of species of crab that live in the intertidal zone on various beaches around the world.  The genus this little guy is in genus Ocypode, otherwise known as ghost crabs.  Ghost crabs are interesting little buggers beyond the fact that they blend in well with sand as seen above.  They are actually classified as semi terrestrial organisms that breathe air, through moist gills, which why you see them running to and from the surf.  They cannot effectively breathe underwater and will eventually drown if kept underwater indefinitely.  (Well shit, learn something new every day I guess).  The crabs are primarily nocturnal, feeding on small animals, and animal remains.  Near as I can figure the species of ghost crab pictured above is Ocypode nobilii classified in 1902.

Some kind of Bird (Just don’t ask me what species)

Here lizard, Lizard



            FYI- The coconut is technically a drupe, not a nut.  A nut has a dry fruit with one or two seeds, and a drupe has a fleshy outer covering (all of the white stuff inside the coconut), surrounding the seed.  Also they can be used for just about everything, food, housing, medicine, writing, and even toothbrushes.

Duran fruit (and one thing I did not get to try while I was in Thailand)

                   Due to the rather distinctive smell it is banned on mass transit

                   I was also told that there are two basic varieties, one that tastes really good and one that well it’s not so good.  I never got to try it so I can’t confirm that yet.

Hey I just thought they looked nice and I wanted to play with the macro settings


Cool Statue

Thai Buddhist Temple (or at least the map says it is)

            I ran into a small problem while exploring the temple, and it can be summed up in one word shoes.  I know that Asia in general has the whole take your shoes off before you go inside somewhere important thing.  Not surprisingly I haven’t really seen that too much in Mongolia yet.  (Probably because your feet would froze off during a majority of the year.)  Anyway in Japan it was always easy to tell, because there would be a shoe rack near the entrance, in Thailand not so much.  Thus I had a Thai woman pointing and speaking sharply in Thai at me for a moment which I think meant one of two things.
            1- Take your shoes off you dumbass American
            2- Can’t you see we are closed for a festival you dumb ass American

            My vote is on number 1.

This reminds me of Ghandi for some reason

Looks very familiar to the guardian dogs found around temples in Japan


            If it’s anything like its Japanese counterpart it is a guardian beast for the temple.

More Chinese Temple bling

Suanchalermprakait 72 (don’t ask me how to pronounce it)

            This park was built in 2004 to commemorate the queens 72nd birthday.  It also happens to be one of the coolest places in Phuket City itself, and it is not listed on the map.  The maps in Thailand leave a lot to be desired with some places left off, or just not very good at helping you maneuver through the city.  There could be many reasons for this, including that I might actually be bad at reading maps, but I think that it’s so you are forced to take a taxi, which in Phuket is the tuk-tuk.

            The tuk tuk is an automotive abomination, first created by Japanese and exported to Thailand in 1934. It is a Frankenstein’s monster combining a motorcycle and a taxi, into a death trap.  Seriously I get an image of an expensive ER visit just by looking at it.  Not to mention how they constantly zip in and out of traffic.  The worst part is the drivers, they will jump at the sight of a westerner.

“Do you need taxi, take tuk tuk,”
“No, I’m just walking around,”
“Is far, let me take you,”
“No, I’ll just walk,”
“Is faster,”

            “No god dam it, I don’t need a #$#$%$^^&$##!#&&* tuk tuk,” Well that is what I’m thinking anyway.  The best advice is to avoid eye contact and walk by real fast.  I’m sorry but they annoy the crap out of me.   Anyway back to the park


            Yes I like dragons, they are cool, and in Thailand they think people are crunchy and taste good with oyster sauce.

            It’s a little run down but it was still a very nice find, and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Phuket city.

Patong Beach

            Patong is on the other side of the island a good 30-40 min bus ride from Phuket, and if Phuket is where the Thai live, Patong is the where the tourists flock to.  That’s not to say that there are no tourists in Phuket, there are, it’s just that Patong is a major tourist area.  This shows in the quantity and quality of the beach.  (Note I may have just gone to the wrong part of Phuket)

Karma and Milk


Ah Karma, the lovely Buddhist and Hindu principle, where your previous actions influence the future.  (Yes it’s highly simplified, but I’m not a religious scholar)  Now normally this refers to past lives and future lives, but in my case it happened a bit sooner.

Exhibit 1

Boomer’s rented house

Hey Boomer your rented house in California is worse than my apartment in Mongolia.

One hour later

Dam it….. I just had to go and open my big mouth.

Exhibit 2

You remember last week when I said it was unseasonably warm, well yeah its back to a Mongolian winter.  I've got negative temperatures again, right now it’s -9F with the wind chill and it will drop down to -18F later tonight.  That’s on top of the snow we got last night about half an inch I think.


In other news I have been drinking my way through the various nondairy milk substitutes, also known as plant milk.  Now just to clarify milk is a white liquid produced in the mammary glands of mammals for the purpose of feeding the newborn offspring.  It’s a side benefit that people (including me) find it extremely tasty and delicious.  The milk itself has four main components, in various percentages depending on the animal that produced it.

Water- The main component, and needed for normal metabolic function.  It is also the only source of water for newborns.

Lipids- Provides a large amount of energy for the developing infant.  Lowest in horses, and the highest in seals.  The amount of lipids is important in making certain kinds of cheeses

Carbohydrates- A source of energy

Proteins- Needed for muscle growth and development

Minerals- Needed for bone growth and development, and normal metabolic function

Dairy Animals in order of production

Cows- Most produced milk in the world. (Love it)

Sheep- Twice the fat of cow’s milk and used mainly for cheese making. (It's ok)

Goat- Used mostly for cheese.  (It's not bad)

Buffalo- Used mostly for cheese. (ah mozzarella)

Camel- Found mostly in arid countries as a good source of water.  (It's not legal to produce it for sale in the USA, but when in Mongolia....)

Horse- A natural laxative, with a high sugar content.  It is more of a Central Asian thing, and it is typically fermented.  (When in Mongolia.....)

Reindeer- From what I could find it is a Nordic thing and is mainly used to make cheese, with an extremely low yield per day, about a cup and a half.  (Um, this one might take a while)

Pig- People have tried but, their is no technology available and closest match is a breast milk pump.  Also female pigs are extremely aggressive to outsiders when suckling.  (You think maybe the pig is telling us something)

Plant Milk

Plant milk or milk substitute, is a manufactured food product.  It normally involves soaking the grain, nut, or seed in question, mashing it up, and then filtering out the chunks.  Also extra minerals and nutrients are added to fortify the newly made milk to raise its nutritional content.  This does not include any flavoring added to adjust the taste.  So the next time a health food nut at the grocery store gets snippy with you for drinking animal milk, you can call them a hypocrite when they extol the benefits of non-processed soy milk. (Pictures only for stuff you might not have seen before)

Soy- The vanilla flavored soy milk is the way to go as I think it tastes a little better

Almond- A bit richer and better flavored than soy, normal or Vanilla is fine

Oat- Rich, but very sweet

Hazelnut- Similar to Almond milk

Rice- Thin, but not an unpleasant taste

Hemp- Surprisingly good especially the chocolate flavor, and no i did not see any magic dragons or purple dinosaurs

Coconut- It’s been a while since I have had it, but I remember it being watery and sweet.  I've also never had it as a milk substitute

Now I figured I by this point I had just about all of them, but I was wrong.  There are number I still need to try, for scientific purposes only.  I’ll take regular milk any day of the week.  (Pictures for stuff you might not have seen before)

Barley milk

Spelt milk- This is actually an ancient form of wheat that fell out of favor in early 1900s as bread wheat became more popular.

Lupin milk- It is a relative of the soybean

Pea milk- I’m probably wrong but I get the feeling it tastes like old mushy boiled split peas

Peanut milk- Hmm sounds tasty

Cashew milk

Walnut milk

Quinoa milk- For those of you who don’t know Quinoa is a grain native to the Andes Mountains and grown by the Inca’s.  Quinoa cultivation was banned after the Spanish took over due to the grains use in Religious celebrations.  It has recently been become more popular in the developed world, causing local prices to spike, thus creating a food security issue as it becomes priced out of the range of the local population.  It is still a major benefit to the local farmers however due to increases revenue.  Further complicating the issue is that only three countries currently produce Quinoa, Peru, Bolivia, and a small amount in Ecuador.  This is partially due to unique growing conditions, but also the fact that they are not releasing the seeds to major western countries, and removing their current monopoly.  While that has to grind the gears of someone at Monsanto, and whole food shoppers, I’m actually OK with it.

Sesame seed milk

Sunflower seed milk

PS- Hilarious and I’ve seen some like them

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thailand- Hotels, Phuket, and The night market

Stop number 1- Phueket

Pearl Hotel

            My hotel was a crap hole, there I said it.  If you want to know what I really think watch an episode of the AVGN, and you’ll get the idea.  Now the lobby looks nice enough and the staff are helpful.

            The ceilings in the hallways are a little low, but I can live with that.  The panels coming off the walls not so much.  The room itself isn't too bad, the paint needs a little touching up, but the AC works.  The electricity leaves a little to be desired as the plugs like to sputter out after a period of time, so I have to constantly rotate plugs to charge the iPad and camera.  Now I can live with everything mentioned so far, the bathroom not so much.  It was riddled with mold, now anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a neat freak, but it was pretty nasty.  I was too stunned to take pictures but it looked something like this, and yes part of the ceiling was missing.

            The hotel does have free WiFi for guest but it only works in the cafe on the first floor.  When you can connect it works fairly well, it’s just hard to connect at times.  One final note for as bad as I've made it out to be, there is a wedding party there.  No I didn't walk through it this time and it wasn't my fault the last time it happened either Dave.

            Now for the part Kelvin has been eagerly awaiting what the food is like.  The food at the cafe is actually pretty good.  Breakfast is a free buffet, and it’s not bad.  A bunch of weird stuff that is probably some kind of Thai or Asian food.  It would look good for a lunch or dinner but not breakfast.  On the western side there is fruit, cereal (a go to food for me), toast, plus eggs bacon, and sausage.  Now as is typical for any place outside the United States the eggs were runny, and the meat was barely cooked.  We can go back and forth all day on this, but I don’t think the rest of the world knows how to cook eggs, bacon, and sausage.  On the plus side the milk tastes normal, well compared to some of the brands of Mongolian milk.  The dinner food served at the cafe is pretty good to, and while some might say a little pricey compared to the night market it’s not bad.  I ate like a full three courses and drinks (soda) for 400 to 500 Bhat (12-15 USD).  The variety was good to, Thai, Chinese, other Asian food I didn't recognize, and a few western dishes.  Thai cuisine is very good, but spicy, very spicy, and I like spicy food.

Night Market

            If you are feeling more adventurous there is the night market.  It took a little doing and a little daring to figure out what stalls to eat at.  A good rule of thumb is to pick ones that a number of locals are eating at, and one that might have an English menu, or at least a menu with pictures.  A sense of adventure is also needed, because I have no idea what half of the stuff is.  Like I tell Kelvin though, try and anything once, and hey as long as it tastes good, who cares what it is.  I've also been lucky since my only bought of food poisoning since moving to Mongolia is my own fault for not washing and cooking the eggs enough.  Anyway here we go.

Dish 1

            If you are like me, then my first thought was rocky mountain sausage, but it’s really deep fried chicken neck.  This actually makes sense as everything else at the stall was fried chicken something.

Dish 2

            Fried bird wing.  I’m a scientist not a chef, if they don’t have feathers I can’t tell what type of bird it is.  At this stage I only care if tastes good.

Dish 3

            It’s some kind of desert thing with maybe egg that looks like lemon curd, but sure didn't taste like it, and I had to go back for more.  On a side note I bought one to eat the next day and woke up to ants swarming all over it.

Dish 4

            Stir fried beef with oyster sauce, salty, spicy, and oh so good.  I could eat this all the time.

Dish 5

            Stir fried vegetables, yes real fresh vegetables that aren't frozen, out of a can or well if you've been to Mongolia you know.

Dish 6

            It wasn't this but it was very close to this.  It is some kind of coconut filled pastry, sweeter than, but not quite as tasty as the earlier egg thingy I had.

            After experiencing the night market, I now know why Asian dishes are so small, so you can go back for multiple dishes.  Yes, everything pictured above was for dinner on the same night.  I can completely understand why Anthony Bourdain does it now, traveling to other countries and trying their food would be an awesome job.  Now I’m bad with names so what should my travel book/ show slogan be, Have passport will travel, Why..... Why not...., Try anything once....., That crazy American.... Come on this could totally be a second career.  Plus if I need a costar or co-writer Kelvin would fit the bill since he actually understand food and can tell me what the hell I just ate.

Kelvin- Do you have any idea what you are eating
Me- No but it tastes good
Kelvin- you do realize that it is ………
Me- Really, I thought it would be crunchier
Kelvin- Ugh…. Where is the seafood


            My first impression of Phuket is old colonial meets Central American banana republic.  Now this could be a little harsh, or maybe I had different expectations, but it was more run down for a lack of a better term than I expected.  That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s not, it’s just different and Phuket has its nicer areas to.

Phuket 1

Phuket 2

Phuket 3

Um I guess they don’t have OSHA or electrical codes or something

Canal in Phuket

Clock tower

Gate on the main street

The king is everywhere

            The Thai people really love their king, and I mean really love their king.  He has his picture plastered everywhere in Thailand, from Phuket to Chiang Mai.  More on the royals later though.

            Some kind of Buddhist statue marker thingy, or at least that’s what I thought until I did some research.

            As it turns out it is called a spirit house, and contrary to my initial thoughts it has very little if anything to do with Buddhism.  From what I was able to discover (and it wasn't just Wikipedia this time), the role of the spirit house is to appease spirits that would otherwise cause trouble for the household.  The location of the house is usually in the corner of the property and the shadow of the house can never fall on it.  The color is normally red because the spirits like red, but if another color is chosen it is based on the day the owner of the house was born.  Now before all of this can happen a Brahmin priest or monk is consulted, showing at least some connection to Hinduism.  It is also a pretty popular practice as you can see it from the rural areas of Chiang Mai all the way to Bangkok.

PS- Hopefully I can finish all of Thailand before my next trip.