Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand 2012: Part 2

“Prachuap Khiri Khan.” The very name fires the imagination! Its utterance rhythmic, musical, skipping off the palate. Its resonance mysterious, sensual, like an intimate phrase of endearment in an exotic tongue. But it’s just a fishing town in southern Thailand. And I’m a man overboard, floundering in nostalgia.

Travelling is so subjective. Take no notice of me. I don’t do travel advice. This is simply a personal piece I’m banging out to preserve memories I want to hold on to. Disingenuous? Of course. Who could make such a claim of a piece that is to be posted to the web? Do you need more proof that I cannot be trusted?

We had no reason to suspect we would be charmed as we were. TripAdvisor ‘experts’, including a Thai lady resident in Bangkok, had cautioned against spending more than a day or two in PKK. Someone else suggested a day trip from Hua Hin would suffice. “Nice, but quiet and nothing to do” sums up the advice. Knowing that we generally like to take things slower than most, we planned on 3 or 4 days.

But we quickly adapted to PKK time, which is, shall we say, unhurried, and before we knew it we were 4 days in. We ended up staying for 7, and would have extended further if we hadn’t had that bloody 14 day visa deadline hanging over our heads.

A couple of easy days to begin with set up a rather lazy pattern. We would rise late, go downstairs to the airy and extremely pleasant hotel sitting area, and sip coffee gazing out at the always beautiful bay across the road. Sometimes a few of the tables were occupied by other guests, but often we had the area to ourselves. Wunderbar!

Late breakfast coffee in the sitting area of the Prachuap Beach Hotel

We’d put off confronting the glare and heat outside as long as we could contain our guilt. The delightful owner of our hotel, Tum (“like the sound of a drum”) was always up for a chat, innocently abetting our avoidance tactics. Eventually, we’d venture out in search of a late breakfast.

Forget Western notions of breakfasty fare. As with other SE Asian cultures, Thais eat the same sort of things for breakfast as they have for lunch and dinner. We were hoping to track down banana pancakes or something egg-based, but nothing doing. Few of the seafront restaurants in PKK are ready for business before lunchtime, so our choice was limited.

A short but hot and sweaty walk along the seafront took us to a modest little place selling traditional Thai food. A steady stream of locals dropped in on motorbikes to take away plastic bags of curries and noodles (yes, noodles, not rice) to their workplaces. There were a few tables for those who wished to eat at the premises.

The pots you see on the countertop contained the curries, which began the day hot, just cooked, and gradually cooled. A very basic operation, but read on…

The owners and staff spoke little English, but were welcoming of the two uncertain farangs gawking about trying to nut out how the ordering worked. Simple enough: point to what you wanted, and the stout cheery lady in charge would ladle it out on top of a bowl of noodles. Weirdly, we thought, the locals were selecting three or more curries and mixing them together. We decided to maintain the integrity of the dish and select just one: green chicken curry (yes, unadventurous, but it seemed reasonable to start with the familiar – which didn’t actually look all that familiar). It took a while for the serving lady to accept that we didn’t want to mix and match.

We sat down with our bowls, upon which pickled vegetables, condiments, sprouted peas and a huge plate of herbs and fresh greens were brought to the table. Everything was so fresh! And our green chicken curries with tiny round eggplants were superb! Bursting with aromatics, zinging with enough chilli to bring out a sweat while allowing the tantalising and perfectly balanced flavours full expression! One of the best meals we were to have in Thailand as it transpired. Total cost: 60 baht ($2) – for both of us.

We were on a high! PKK was delivering, Thailand was delivering, and this was only the start. How quickly the mood can change when travelling!

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