We start in Phuket Town which is an hour or so from the beaches but a quick hop from the airport. It's a laid back kind of place with plenty of history. Above is the On On Hotel. It was a star in 'The Beach' as a ratty hostel right at the start of the movie- I think Shawn was secretly hoping we had stayed here instead [yes he was!].
As always we hit the ground eating. Just off Ranong Road where we stayed we turn to find a corner store selling Thai and Chinese dishes. It wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but we were tired after the flight and it was well, there.
They had the usual Thai condiment set - chilli, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce.
We chose some humble starters for our food adventure. Rice topped with pork (or choice of chicken or shrimp) with basil, 35B.
Mixed boiled noodle with soup, 35B. It had a mix of noodles, pork, seafood and chicken in a plainish Chinese broth. We also chugged a few large Beer Chang for 50B each.
As we sit eating and sipping our Beer Chang, a fruit and veg market sets up right near us. Large plastic bags full of cucumbers, long eggplants, apple eggplants, and limes are thrown around, while stacks of nubby pumpkins are set up. Piles of snake beans, pea eggplants, herbs, snake beans, ginger flowers and gourds are artfully arranged.
The loading up went on for a long time - it seems the produce market sets up after the other shops have closed for the day, a dual purpose selling space we've seen before in Indonesia. We can't quite figure out why a fruit and veggie market is setting up this close to midnight, perhaps it's wholesale, or perhaps people like to shop outside the heat of the day. Such mysteries are the joy of travel.
Late night snacks from the 7 Eleven - Bento octopus strips with a chilli kick, very Japanese influenced as were a lot of the snacks. Crunchy biscuit sticks like little pastry french fries and Thai Coconut rolls. Most of these snacks were around 6B each (about 25 cents).
The next day we check out unbelievably early for us (about 8.00am) and set off to find breakfast. We went about two doors down and found this place doing a brisk early morning trade.
It's always a good idea to get into these bain marie type stalls early - the food is fresh and tasty and is guaranteed to not have been sitting in the heat of the day.
What a wide selection - whole fish, pre poached eggs, omlettes in two flavours, pork stuffed bitter melons, soups and curries.
You just point and choose, then either eat in or take away.
Alison goes with some spicy crunchy fried strips of fish with a side of bamboo strips and scrambled googie eggs.
Shawn's stomach dictates it must have pork and a boiled egg, lemongrass chicken and the best dish of all, softly cooked pumpkin with a scattering of eggy omlette on top. Shawn becomes obsessed with anything pumpkin related (Alison is cooking pumpkin red curry as we write this).
This dish is a steamed egg custard with minced pork. The friendly lady at the front adds crunchy onions and garlic to the top.
The watery residue was like a little porky broth at the bottom, livened up with some vinegar and chilli it was great. While Alison thought it's mild taste was perfect for breakfast, it made Shawn gag.
Side dish of crunchy cucumber, fresh green beans cut into finger lengths and lettuce.
A big old bowl of chilli, fish sauce and vinegar to liven up your breakfast.
Sweet iced tea to start the day. We watched the vendor making the next batch and lost count of how many tablespoons of sugar she piled in.
The place was buzzing all morning while people got a quick takeaway breakfast.
Along Ranong Road is the wet and dry market. The morning rush had ended and the place was a little slow.
There were still a few punters grabbing an early morning snack or perhaps a first lunch.
The markets are a David Thompson dream come true, every fresh Thai ingredient you could hope for and then a few more we couldn't identify. This pile of wood or mouse ear mushrooms is ready to slip into a soup.
Great nubby golden pumpkins.
Tiny pea eggplants that pop and crunch in a curry.
Winged beans, chopped in one inch pieces and eaten raw with Kanom Jin.
The biggest stack of fresh kaffir lime leaves short of the tree itself.
Loads of fresh greens, fungus, herbs and eggplants.
Piles of spicy red and green chillis ready to torment us.
Mystery wrapped articles - perhaps pickled greens, or maybe a salted egg lies inside?
This ferny frond herb we saw all over the place. It had a musty smell but a sweet taste when eaten with curry and noodles, I really liked it. I love the way it's artfully wrapped in a bamboo leaf.
One of the galangal family - either greater or lesser, it depends on it's mood.
Tiny fingers of krachai, or Chinese keys, used like ginger as a flavouring for seafood.
I can't pick what these green pods are, but we saw them in a few places. They aren't stink beans - any readers have a clue?
Tops Thai aunties at work.
Banana flowers, chop until you get to the tender inner part and eat with kanom jin.
Pre-peeled shallots and garlic and bags of pre-blended paste.
Mounds of red chilli paste.
Sliced and shredded vegetables, ready to cook.
Making a smooth pile of shrimp paste to attract the customers.
Tiny dried anchovies.
Coloured eggs, or do they come from pink chickens?
The tiniest dried shrimp ever.
More dried shrimps, anchovies or sprats in lots of different colours and shapes.
More piles of smelly, wonderful shrimp paste. The shrimp paste aisle was easly detected from afar.
Chickens with legs akimber. They seemed to be painted with a yellow colouring.
These turtles were outside the markets. Friends, not food.
Slippery eels in a bucket. Food, not friends.
Packaged takeaway food options, sweet custards and sponge cake and sugar balls at the back. The custard sponge at 12B was sweet and morning tea perfect.
One shop had the happiest, most garish birthday cakes ever. I think the cake decorator had ingested something special before making this one. Adriano Zumbo eat your heart out.
Tiny little green mangos to eat in a salad or with a salty chilli mix, if preferred.
We wandered the streets of the old town in Phuket, quiet on a Saturday morning. This street seller had some delicious papaya for just a few baht.
We always end up somewhere unexpected (read lost) when we wander around town. We passed this print shop with two big old German industrial printing presses. They used letter blocks, great to see in this digital age, and chugged along in a really satisfying way. The owner was very proud of how solid they were. Shawn had blokey engineering machine joy watching them and bonded with the owner in a James May moment.
We stopped at this place and sat for a quiet ice coffee. They make real coffee with the real deal in this part of Thailand - you only get Nescafe if you ask for it. The coffee is made using the 'sock' method, which we guess has made it's way up from Malaysia, the border is not far away. We've had sock coffee at Kampong Boy in Hurstville, Sydney.
For a Saturday, there were only a few food options open. So we have a mission to find lunch elsewhere and make it to Krabi for dinner.