Articles by kitty

Back to Bangsaen

Thai retro cool

I am a huge fan of anything retro. I collect film cameras and I wear clothes my grandmother thinks are fashionable.

So I was ultimately crushed when I heard that there will be a Bangsaen Retro Festival this coming weekend (Feb 26-27), the very weekend I am on assignment to the opposite side of the country.

To help me cope, I’d like to share with fellow PocketCulturers about this interesting event, just in case you or someone you know will be in the country/town this weekend.

Bangsaen is a small beach town in the province of Chonburi, in the same province as the infamous Pattaya. Popular more among locals than tourists, Bangsaen is many locals’ first choice of a beach getaway as it is close to Bangkok and it doesn’t carry the same stigma as a scandalous destination as Pattaya.

The festival will take visitors back to Bangsaen’s glory days before the cluttered beaches and rows of concrete hotels. People are encouraged to dress up in 1960s fashion and there will be old school activities such as ballroom dancing by the beach and orchestra concerts, as well as exhibition of art and photographs and antique store booths available.

So if anyone is planning to head to Pattaya this weekend, take a detour to Bangsaen instead for something different and refreshing.

For more information and photos from last year’s event, check out Tourism Authority of Thailand‘s website (in Thai) or a writeup by Pattaya Daily News (in English).

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February 25, 2010 2 comments

The best of Thailand at Pattaya Floating Market

Ask any tourists what image they have of Pattaya and you’ll be met with something along the line of cheap beers and girls. And the city knows it. That’s why over the recent years Chonburi City (which Pattaya is a part of) has come up with a variety of attractions that you don’t need neon lights to enjoy. However, the newly built mega-malls, wax museum, ocean-view movie theater and theme park hotels are no match to what Pattaya’s Floating Market has to offer.

Floating markets are common in Thailand. Think Venice, but instead of the canals full of leisure gondolas, the Thai version is filled with wooden boats that double as floating shophouses, selling everything from a bowl of noodles to Thai desserts and souvenirs.

But what makes Pattaya’s one so special is that, despite being very commercialized where vendors are paid tenants and not your neighborhood cooking mamas, it does make a refreshing sight in this party beach town with its traditional Thai-style architecture, old-school waterside coffee shops, Thailand’s famous spicy boat noodles and rows of shacks offering snacks and gifts for locals and curious tourists.

The full name is Four Region Floating Market, which reflects the concept of bringing things from all corners of Thailand to one spot. Here you can try Northern spicy sausage from Chiang Mai, favorite som tum papaya salad from Northeast Isaan, arrays of curries from the South, and Central’s signature wicker handicrafts and funky hippie fashions.

Besides the goodies, there are also elephant shows, traditional performances, boat rides along its makeshift canals, and even a little extreme adventure on its rope obstacle course over the water.

The place is huge, you can easily waste away your afternoon, and money, here. And unlike other tourist attractions in Pattaya that aim to drain your wallet even before you set foot inside, the entrance to the floating market is absolutely free.

Pattaya Four Region Floating Market
451/304 Moo 12, Sukhumvit-Pattaya Road
Tel: (+66) 3870 6340

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December 1, 2009 2 comments

Morlam DJ: Thai folk music remixed

Morlam is the name of a style of Thai folk music. Though considered traditional, it is still quite popular in the north and northeast (Isan) regions of Thailand. Isan is home of the famous Som Tum spicy papaya salad just to give you a clue.

I’m going to be honest, Morlam does have a stigma among the urban locals. It is deemed to be music for the lower class, music of the simple lifestyle in the countryside. The music of baan nork (upcountry) people.

In the city, we have pop groups that are badly modeled after South Korean counterparts. Lame reality music shows that produce only pretty faces and not talents. With such bad quality, it makes you wonder why the “city music” should be considered “better” at all?

Good thing though that Maft Sai feels differently. A local club DJ in Bangkok, instead of spinning Akon and Madonna dance mixes like in most of the clubs in town, he takes Morlam and other forms of Thai folk music and mash them up with funky beats of jazz, reggae and soul. The result is ZudRangMa Records.

A party was held on Aug 14 to commemorate the launch of his second compilation, Thai Funk Vol. 2. Usual electronic clubbers were presented with a rather unique blend of Morlam, dub and funk, completely caught them by surprise.

Though his records cannot be downloaded online, those who are curious about what Morlam and “Morlam mixes” sound like, Maft Sai also runs a twice-a-month radio show on his website. There are also recorded sessions in case you’ve missed the previous episodes.

His psychedelic MySpace profile is also a good source to discover rare videos and tracks from the Thai past.

Want to know more about Maft Sai and his music? Check out the interview with BK Magazine, a free English weekly about Bangkok, at http://bk-magazine.com/feature/q-maft-sai

August 18, 2009 1 comment

The Real Phad Thai

“You’ve never been to Thailand until you’ve tried the Phad Thai in Khaosarn Road”

That tagline is often heard uttered from the mouths of resident backpackers in this strip of guesthouses. For many tourists, one of the first stops they make when visiting Bangkok is Khaosarn Road. This famous road in the old town Pranakorn has over the years turned into a backpacker mecca, and with its growing popularity, many new “adaptations” have also been born in order to better cater to this growing community of westerners.

One of said adaptations is the famed Phad Thai. Literally translated as “Thai stir-fried”, it is probably the most noticeable and one of the most well known Thai dishes out there – and also one of the most misunderstood.

As a Thai-born growing up watching American TV on cable, I am often annoyed at how a dish of Phad Thai is portrayed. An order of Phad Thai would come in that white Chinese takeaway box and is often eaten with a pair of chopsticks. Here, we don’t use chopsticks for anything other than a bowl of noodles, or any other dishes of a Chinese descent. Thais use a fork and a spoon with Phad Thai, which is served on a plate and not in a bowl.

That familiar tagline from Khaosarn may be true, if you consider Khaosarn Phad Thai something of its own legacy. Just because you stir-fry some noodles with crushed peanuts doesn’t mean you’re making Phad Thai. Khaosarn Phad Thai is lacking a lot of traditional components. Vendors need to cut corners in order to whip up a plate of Phad Thai en masse, and of course they need to give it the taste that would please Western palates. And the result is this stir-fried rice noodles in soy sauce with a handful of bean sprouts, a dab of peanut bits and shreds of pre-cooked eggs. Sacrilegious!

I am here to speak out for my Phad Thai, one of my favorite Thai dishes of all time. Next time you’re in your neighborhood “authentic” Thai restaurant and ordering the dish, here are a few things to look out for.

The flavor: A dish of Phad Thai is cooked with tamarind paste, rather than soy sauce. So if your Phad Thai is lacking that sweet tangy taste, then it is missing one of the most important elements of a Phad Thai.

The noodles: Thanks to the whole “fusion” trend, many are now using different types of noodles in Phad Thai, even spaghetti. The original noodles however are the “chand” noodles, which are flat, chewy, light-brownish noodles as opposed to white brittle rice noodles.

The meat: Usually prawns or shrimps are added into the mix, but chicken is also common. Pork or beef, not so much.

The essentials: Besides the obvious raw bean sprouts and crushed peanuts, the noodles should also be cooked with Chinese chive leaves (flat, dark green), sweetened pickled radish (light brown cubes), small dried shrimps (red, salty), dried tofu instead of the white Jell-O like ones found in Japanese miso soups, and eggs that appear to have been cooked along with the noodles and not separately.

Those are just the basics. I am not saying this should be the rules to go by when ordering the dish. If you like what they’re offering, and it tastes good and is clean, by all means go for it. But there’s one rule I need everyone to abide by though; if you ever come to Thailand, please don’t go to Khaosarn Road for Phad Thai.

Kitty lives in Bangkok. This is her first post for PocketCultures, and she will be writing regularly on life in Thailand. More here.

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