December 1, 2015 - Sticky Rice, Star Meat, Flying Foxes, and a River Cruise
Today was a travel day - a long bus ride as we headed to the north of Thailand, but our darling tour guide, Yo, broke up the trip with many interesting stops - both planned and unplanned.
Our first stop was a roadside stand where we sampled flavored sticky rice paste that was steamed in hollow tubes of bamboo. The flavored rice is stuffed into the tubes and roasted over a grill. Colored paper wrappers identify the various flavors. Yummy!
The next stop was not quite so appetizing! A bit further down the road, Yo suddenly got very excited and asked our driver to make a U-turn and stop in front of another roadside shack. Here we would finally learned what "star meat" is. Spell star backwards and you'll see why we were a little (a lot) reluctant to try it. Hanging from hooks were some skinned chickens, and laid out on the grill were several very large rats.
This same stop included an up close encounter with a cobra. The rats eat the rice plants and the cobras eat the rats, so they are tolerated by the farmers. The owner of this stand showed us the cobra and the homemade traps he used to capture the snakes and the rats.
We learned a lot about rice farming as we rode past many rice paddies, and I have a new respect for this food! Although our drive was long today, it was filled with unexpected sights like this dragon built beside a temple along the modern highway.
Our next stop was at a small jungle temple that maintained a flying fox (fruit bat) sanctuary behind it. Dozens of the large bats were handing from the trees and flying all around us. Fascinating!
Lunch was a special treat today! We took a leisurely cruise on a converted rice barge down a tree-lined river, past little houses, complete with gardens, floating on bamboo rafts - the homes of fishermen. Along the way, we passed by the ever present temples and unexpected little decorative touches floating in the river.
The crew prepared a nice lunch feast for us as we cruised. The final dish? Can you guess? To read about our special cultural experience, click this link: "We're Going to Eat WHAT??!!
For the rest of the ride we enjoyed an excellent movie, "The Railway Man," the true story of one of the British soldiers who was a prisoner of war in the very spot we had visited yesterday (and filmed in that spot, so we all recognized the setting immediately.). We are staying tonight for just one night in the small city of Pitsanulok and continue north tomorrow. Rob and I spent the lovely evening walking along the riverfront of the city.