I said goodbye to Thailand exactly 2 weeks ago today. My plane took off at 5:40am from a rainy Bangkok, as I cursed my middle row seat in the giant Boeing 777 feeling sorry that I could not watch Bangkok shrink and disappear as we made our ascent and pierced the gray clouds. Hours later I was in Tokyo, a forgotten layover, drowsy and excited for my arrival in the States. I decided to forgo sleeping aids, and the 9.5 hour flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles became nearly unbearable after hour 6. No sleep, not enough light to read, movies all watched or uninteresting, an insatiable thirst, drowsiness mixed with an insomniac’s alertness that would not surrender me to sleep; I was ready to get off of that plane when we reached American soil.
Still, I cried when we landed. I thought I was ready to leave Thailand, but my heart sank when the wheels hit the tar mat, and I was aware that I had left something very special behind in the Land of Smiles. I quickly assured myself that I was bringing something equally precious back with me. The monsoon-like rains began two days before my departure, Thailand’s goodbye to a lonely traveler.
Since I last wrote, I took a private cooking class at my favorite restaurant in Pai Charlie & Lek. My favorite dish from the class was the Papaya Pad Thai, however mine was not nearly as delicious as Lek’s. I revisited Tacomepai organic farm, recovered from my motorbike accident and I spent my final days shopping and eating in Northern Thailand’s beautiful Chiang Mai. My favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai is called Cha Tea House. It’s 100% vegetarian and the most unique Thai food I’ve tasted. My favorites were the Massaman curry with pineapple, apple and fat cloves of cardamom, magical Tom Yum Soup and black sticky rice with mango. The cook, Mau, is a small woman with an infectious smile. The menu only has 8 or so dishes (all for 40 baht, about $1.35), which makes the food all the more comforting and delicious. Eating at Cha Tea House is like having an incredible meal in the home of a friend.
Back in America I spent 6 days in Atlanta recovering from near debilitating jetlag. I didn’t allow my sleepiness to prevent me from impressing my family with my new found Thai cooking skills. I made Pineapple Basil Fried Rice, Black sticky rice with coconut milk and Papaya Pad Thai. Atlanta is hotter than Thailand, and I had the family blender at my finger tips, so everyday I’d experiment with cooling smoothie creations. It wasn’t until I had lunch at Rosa Mexicano with my mother, that I got the idea to make Agua Fresca. At Rosa Mexicano I ordered the Honeydew Agua Fresca; just honeydew melon blended with water and a bit of simple syrup added, this simple concoction was terrific. The next day, after a 3 mile hike with my mom and dogs in the north Atlanta woods, I made my version of Agua Fresca using my favorite summer flavors, watermelon, pineapple and Thai basil; no added sugar necessary.
What I’ve learned from this summer spent on the other side of the world is that I am capable of fulfilling my wildest dreams. I am the creator of my universe. Life is good, life is delicious; if you know how to make it that way.
Summer isn’t over yet, but what has been the highlight of yours so far?
2 cups watermelon, diced
1 1/2 cups pineapple, diced
1/2 cup Thai basil, torn into to tiny pieces
In a blender mix all of the ingredients until combined and liquefied. Pour into a cheesecloth over a large pitcher and strain Serve strained agua fresca immediately with ice and basil garnish, or chill in refrigerator.