I have just returned from wonderful bicycling trip with SpiceRoads Cycle Tours. We covered a little less than 500 miles in 8 days of cycling starting outside Bangkok and concluding in Phuket. As great as the cycling was, and it was great, the food was even better. Thailand is a foodie’s paradise.
I arrived a few days early to adjust to the 12 hour time difference. Recognizing this as a great opportunity for a little food adventure I immediately started to search for the perfect Pad Thai. In my first full day in Bangkok, I ate three Pad Thais. I started again on the second. After my fourth Pad Thai, I realized they were all excellent and that perhaps I should expand my horizons. I switched to Thai curries.
It was during my first red curry that I realized that Thai waiters could not be trusted. They are honest but answer from a different food context than an American. If the waiter tells you it is not spicy then the dish is a 3-5 on a spiciness scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hottest. If the waiter tells you a little or not much then it is 6-7 on the scale. If the waiter tells you it is a spicy dish then you should have an emergency response team on standby before tasting the dish.
Regardless of the spiciness level, it is always good to have a Thai beer on hand to pair with the food. I found that I liked Singha best of all the Thai beers. Tiger was a close second but it originates in Singapore. Still, it is better than ordering a non-Asian beer. I also enjoyed Chang and many of my fellow cyclists rated it as best especially when eating spicy foods. Beer taste is a subjective matter so I suggest you try them all.
The bicycle tour started on my third day in Thailand. With the start of the tour, the guides ordered the meals for the group and we ate family style. Each lunch and dinner included multiple dishes to share giving us a chance to sample the many delights of Thai cooking. If the food had not been so good, I might have more photos but who wants to take photos when the table has 5-6 dishes that need your attention. You will have to trust my written descriptions.
Many meals included Tom Yam Goong with its unique combination of spicy hot and sour. If you can then imagine the smells of lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots with chilies and fish sauce providing a nice kick. The soup’s substance comes from jumbo shrimp and mushrooms. Noodle soup, which must come in at least 10 variations, was also a welcome dish at many meals. Som tam, or spicy papaya salad, with shredded green papaya and a healthy dose of spices, was a great companion dish to what might be called main dishes. We also enjoyed dishes that are known in the West such as Pad Thai, chicken with cashew nuts, Geng Kheaw Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken), fried rice, and Massaman curry but they tasted so much better in Thailand. Each meal ended with a selection of fresh fruits.
Touring Thailand by bicycle with Thai guides meant that we stopped at many small cafes and restaurants which would normally be passed by tourists. One of my favorites was a café in Takua Pa. The iced coffee was perhaps the best I have tasted. I drank a second glass to confirm that my initial opinion was correct. The woman who operated the café had lost her daughters and husband in the tsunami when they had gone to the coast for work. The café has marks to show how high the water reached during flooding.
I am already starting to think about another bicycling trip to Thailand, or possibly Vietnam, with SpiceRoads. Maybe for the next trip I should travel to the North of Thailand to see if the food is as good as what I sampled in the towns between Bangkok and Phuket.