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Thailand’s Famous Fresh Markets

Photo by Courtney Ridgel

By Courtney Ridgel

Thai food is famous around the world, and there is no better way to experience the real deal than to head to a local food market.  Here you’ll find just about everything under the sun and you’ll have the chance to dine out the way the locals do and enjoy the people-watching.  Thailand boasts dishes that are unique to each region so it is worth visiting multiple markets with a local guide who can help describe what you are seeing, smelling and sampling, and who can also translate and make suggestions for you (and let you know when to steer clear of things that may be too spicy or not properly cooked).

Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel

In Chiang Mai, Tien, explained the local specially encompasses a certain egg noodle soup (which was delicious) , but she also had me sample the local coffee, the best fried chicken that I have ever eaten in my life, fried pork rinds, fried water buffalo skin, a variety of fruit, a different noodle soup and as I was feeling bold, blood sausage soup, which I decided was not to my taste.  Pork dishes seem to be a particular favorite to the Thais.

Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel

In Bangkok, Well led me to a local market (hidden down a maze of back alleys between the tall buildings) where fresh vegetables and spices are brought in daily from the countryside.  Here we sampled tamarind, fresh ginger, turmeric, a variety of candies made from sesame seeds, peanuts and honey, and admired the fresh flowers used in decorations, wedding ceremonies and as offerings at temples.  (I confess that I steered clear of the very large fried cockroaches- I’ve tried crickets before and so far that has been the extent of my bravery on eating bugs.)  The space for this market was donated by the Royal Family so there was also a shrine set up in their honor.

Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel

If you find yourself drawn to food, we’d recommend our Bangkok’s Culinary Delights tour to sample more of Bangkok’s legendary street food.  I personally can’t wait to go back and try more of the savory soups and delicious grilled meats and fried fish I spotted.  If you want to learn to prepare these dishes yourself, we recommend taking a cooking class with Pantawan Cooking School in Chiang Mai, and Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok.

Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel
Photo by Courtney Ridgel

From the Ground: New Hoi An Foodie Tour

By Jay Austin

We are very excited to announce our new Hoi An Foodie Tour!  This half day cycling tour is really all about the people you meet along the way! Our guides are trained to interact on this tour with as many local people as possible to give our guests an authentic experience.   This tour is great for guests of all ages who wish to experience a truly special part of Hoi An.

What the itinerary for the Hoi An Foodie Tour looks like:

Your foodie tour guide will meet you at your hotel at 8am. Test and adjust your trail bike so you feel comfortable. When ready hop on your bicycle and set off.  As you cycle and walk the Hoi An neighborhood together, you will enjoy a variety of local Vietnamese snacks along the way to surprise and delight your taste buds, learn of the significance of each dish in the local culture, appreciate the ingredients, and spend time with the people and families who have a passion for creating the delicious food to be found here.

Vegan-friendly Dining in Southeast Asia

By Courtney Ridgel

Vegans Rejoice!  Chiang Mai, Saigon and Bangkok have been named among the top ten Vegan-Friendly Cities in Asia by PETA.  After seeing the article, we sent our team out to see if we agreed.   We asked our team about their favorite vegan meals and where to go:

Travelers can find a variety of fresh vegan dishes in Southeast Asia – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Joy & Chris, Thailand: “Our favorite vegan dishes are stir-fried mixed vegetables, Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with spicy sauce, Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu (ask for no egg and no meat), and Vegetarian Som Tam.  You can find these delicious local dishes almost anywhere!”

Lotus Rice (Com Sen) – rice and vegetables with cooked lotus seeds – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Michelle & Khoa, Southern Vietnam:   “The Loving Hut is a great place!  It closes at 9pm except for vegan/vegetarian days of the Buddhist calendar when it stays open a bit longer. It is a great location, but you will need a car or motorbike taxi to get there and English-speaking skills are limited so we recommend having your guide assist you.   The food is hot, delivered quickly and delicious, and the menu has a lot of variety.  For kids and less adventurous visitors, there are even options such as vegan burgers, pizza and Spaghetti Bolognese versions.   Some of the items we liked were the sea nuggets rolled with seaweed, the Vietnamese-style papaya salad, the Kumquat & coconut juice, and hot soya milk.”

‘Sea Nuggets’  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

We also recommend Hum Vegetarian, Cafe & Restaurant and 3 Lá Vegetarian and you can find dishes such as lotus rice, “vegan pork” in clay pot, and fresh “vegan beef” rolls dipped in pineapple and mushroom sauce.

Vietnamese-style Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du Viet)  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Remember, if you have dietary preferences, requirements or allergies – be sure to let our team and your guides know so that we can have translation cards made for you and so we can recommend the best restaurants for your needs.

Fresh vegan spring rolls with peanuts  – Photo credit: Michelle & Khoa Nguyen

Markets of Myanmar: A photo essay

Words and photos by Edna Kornberg

Fruit seller
Many exotic fruits are available.

The best way to know a country is through its people. Visiting the daily markets that each town has opens worlds. Myanmar was no exception.

Everything is sold from all types of foods (some of which Westerners would find extremely exotic, like fried ants!) to the basic vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. Colorful spices abound as well as a multitude of grains.

friend ants
Ready for a snack? How about some friend ants?

You could furnish a gourmet kitchen from all types and sizes of pots and pans, utensils, silverware, and drinkware.

The people (sellers as well as buyers) interact with each other as well as with the tourists which makes this a first class social event as well. It is a way of life that has been going on for decades even centuries.

The color and spirit and the din of everyone talking at the same time is infectious. The friendliness, warmth and humility of these people is contagious and so inviting.

Click here to view the photo gallery if not embedded below.

Ready to see Myanmar for yourself? Click here to have a Journeys Within regional specialist contact you, or call toll-free (877) 454-3672

Food Culture in Vietnam Part 2- Regional Specialties & Other Special Foods

By: Michelle Nguyen- Vietnam Director

In my previous blog we looked at how the Vietnamese see food as being able to heal.  Now we’ll move on to take, quite literally, a culinary tour of Vietnam looking at various weird and wonderful regional specialties.  While talking about these special regional foods, I’ll also mention a few foods that are only eaten at certain times of the year.

Vietnam Provinces

Bugs, grubs, crickets and scorpions: From the coconut worm to the bee larvae. Often people start to catch scorpions in the spring and summer. They are most popular in the Tinh Bien & Tri On, An Giang Provinces.

Bee Grubs- A regional delicacy

Suckling Pig (Sua Heo): Presented whole, this is offered at temples, pagodas and shrines or at special celebrations and is most commonly eaten with small sweetened bread rolls.

Turtle (Thit Ba Ba): A fleshy red meat with quite a strong flavour. This is found throughout Vietnam but more commonly eaten in the southern provinces.

Cat (Thit Meo): Is a special food in Thai Binh Province (the North of Viet Nam). It is said that if you eat cat meat you avoid bad luck. It is also believed to treat impotence, dizziness and tuberculosis. I guess I have just had one too many cats as pets and so for me this is a no-go.

Dog (Thit Cho):  People eat dog meat and drink beer/ wine when they gather together with their friends. However, under the view of everyone, especially people working, eating dog meat is considered to be “bad luck” so it is only eaten at the end of the month, from about 22 lunar onwards to avoid  “black destiny”. In my early years in Vietnam I used to teach primary children and the “food” lesson was always an interesting one, as there would always be a few children who would raise their hands to tell me this was their favourite food. I just had to put my culture aside and accept the one I was living in. My little animal friend will always be safe from me though!