For the most part, we associate a view or a scene with our experience of travel, and sometimes a funny (or even unpleasant) incident, but a food story also belongs to that special place. This is even more the case when ALL the different items sampled have not only magically tickled our taste buds but were also kind to our gut, allowing us to remain in good form and not fall sick, which is one of the things we are usually apprehensive about when travelling. So my two days in Phuket were all about a gastronomic rollercoaster ride, leading from one high to another, and leaving me still wanting more.
The variety of street food—trom traditional home made delicacies, to freshly squeezed juices, shakes and smoothies, to piping hot satay and other fried or barbecued delights—is heady to say the least, and very easily available as one saunters across the length and breadth of this town. Coffee bars and ice-cream parlours offer a much needed respite when one wants to take a break from pigging out, while still pigging out! The flavours are mild but may be 'spiced up' at request, and almost every vendor checks first how one wants one's dish. The presentation is artistic while remaining simple, and the prices, and of course the quality, are reasonable and uniform, so one need not go back and forth checking out different outlets (and yes, I do this a LOT!) in an attempt to economize.
The ubiquitously famous raw papaya salad and the phad thai come in a choice of 'sides' (meat/veg/seafood), a sprinkling of fiery sauces and chopped up chillies, and a few slices of the 'regular' greens, namely cucumber, carrot, tomato and lettuce. So, when I spotted the orchid on my phad thai I did not hesitate to come across as a slightly ignorant foreigner when I enquired if that too was to be consumed along with my food. Credit goes to the person serving me for not breaking down in a fit of laughter...
The weather being what it is in Phuket even in the colder months of December and January—hot and muggy—it is indeed refreshing to simply have a bowl of greens with basic carbs, and the stir fried veggies with just the correct portion of rice was a feast for the gods on a clammy afternoon as I wandered around in the bustling market in the old part of town. Keeping the tummy light is recommended if nothing else but to be able to have a taste of nearly everything that is on offer if one is hard pressed for time. Maybe that is why, even though I was fully satiated on the morning of my departure, a small part of me wanted to leave with a favourite memory, and that for me has always been a tryst with the special cuppa—a quiet place and a good brew. Music, low chatter, and plenty of atmosphere, are the bonuses that complete any trip.
And this too I found in good measure in an understated hostel cafe on the main road leading to the bus station. Done up in the bright red and green of the Christmas spirit, it instantly put a smile on my face when my heart was already feeling heavy with nostalgia. The perfectly crisp herbed toast and cheesy eggs, along with a zesty dip, lip smacking spreads and a munchy assortment of greens and microgreens, would be my one and only meal for the day till I reached home later that evening.
The picture of the tender frothy heart finding its way to my stomach is that of an amazing coconut latte- a specialty of this particular restaurant I believe (although coconut coffees are found elsewhere too)- and it brought to mind the eternal swish of the palms dragging me down into the most blissful state of nirvana. Do remember, 'Holly's' is the name. Bon appetit!