The sound of the metal spoon clanks against the bowl as I slurp the last of my leftover hot and sour soup on this hot, summer night. It’s no tomato or watermelon gazpacho to cool the body down, but it was the last of it and I feel semi-accomplished. Except for this blank canvas, with words slowly starting to fill the page, delayed by constant backspaces as I write and write.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written. Thoughts have been marinating and emotions are stirred up after listening to podcasts over the last two days about the recent passing of Jonathan Gold. It’s starting to sink in after a week and half since his death that he is no longer here.

Tonight after work, I found myself driving past home. His voice through my car speakers, talking about Thai town almost 20 years ago, almost really did lead me there. But instead, I pulled off to a small street just off Wilshire Blvd., popped my earphones in continuously listening to the podcast, and walk over to The Wiltern. It’s now past 8pm with the sun down and the darkness has started to show. The marquee on the bottom reads: RIP Jonathan Gold.

Wiltern.png

After snapping a few photos to remember the moments of how Los Angeles is honoring him, I walked back to my car and drove home. I delayed going inside, there’s just something so intimate about listening to things in cars, be it music or podcasts. As the segment on the show closed up, the harmonica and drum beats to Neil Young’s Heart of Gold played and it was then, that the tears finally released.

What Jonathan Gold did for the city and for the people who reside in it is immeasurable. He shined a light on places people wouldn’t think twice about going to or even driving to. But this is LA, a sprawling city that requires you to dig deep into its soul to find what it’s really about. His writing and reviews gave a voice to those who wanted to share with the world what their culture was about through food. It’s the binder that connects us and he was certainly the belly of Los Angeles.

Thank you J. Gold for gracing us with your talents, opening up our eyes, our hearts, and our bellies. It was an honor to read and listen to your work and get to know you through it. Being able to meet you and cross paths a few times over at none other than food festivals, was nothing I’ll ever forget. Thanks for making me fall in love with the unique city of LA again and again, we surely did luck out with you as our LA Gold.

  Aug 2010 - 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off, Los Angeles

Aug 2010 - 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off, Los Angeles

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AuthorLinda I

Last post on Thailand of this collection, I promise.  I've got heaps of other stuff I'd like to share with you all that I'm excited for! It seems that people are starting to think about their next destination and planning for their trips, so with that in mind, I found it only appropriate to conclude this. 

Everything that you've heard of Thailand is probably true:

  • It's hot and muggy.  The humidity is something that you'll have to get used to if you're not accustomed to such environments.  If you're planning a trip to this wonderful Southeast Asian country, know that there aren't 4 seasons and rather 3.  Between the hot (March - June), the wet (aka monsoon season from June - October), and the "cool" (from November - February) season, your best bet is to head there around the cool season and escape the winter if you're in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The people are insanely friendly.  Thailand is nicknamed The Land of Smiles and it doesn't fall short of anything but that.  Though long-ongoing political situations cause tensions in the country, people there are just trying to live their lives and enjoy it.  They bring in over 25 million visitors a year from an array of countries (even with 'I (heart) Farang' stickers welcoming foreigners).  From large expat communities to people on holidays/vacations, it's quite easy to navigate around the cities as signs can often be found with English translations.
  • Beauty is bountiful.  If you do a Google search of 'paradise' or have in your mind of what it looks like, you can find it in Thailand.  White sand beaches, tall palm trees, hammocks, drinking coconuts on the warm sand with clear waters, it's there for you waiting in the south.  But it's also a diverse landscape and you can find mountainous green terrain, hill tribes bordering Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, rice paddies, ancient temples, and old cities.  And if you're a metropolitan type of person, there's that too. Beauty is found in so many forms, from the food to both the traditional and modern cultures that continue to be preserved and ever-evolving.

So, you convinced yet? My goal, as an avid traveler, is always to inspire people to go beyond their comfort zone and TRAVEL.  There's so much that we can learn and take away from when we look beyond ourselves and our own everyday life.  And while there are ideal times to go, it's always best to just go and experience it, than to not go at all.

  Eating fresh and local: it's a way of life here.

Eating fresh and local: it's a way of life here.

  Fresh lychees devoured by yours truly.  No shortage of tropical fruits or sun here!

Fresh lychees devoured by yours truly.  No shortage of tropical fruits or sun here!

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AuthorLinda I
Categoriestravel

The backlog of photos sure can tell you of the many places that I’ve been to and the sights that I’ve seen.  They can describe to you the hustle and the bustle of the big cities, the frogs ribbit-ing away in the countryside, and the food I’ve eaten.  Getting through these has been a slow marathon warm-up and while it pretty much looms over my head most of the time, I know there are many more things I want to share.

Through visual snaps, it’s easy to get a sense of “how was/were your trip(s)?” or at least to see a glimpse into it.  But sorting through the hundreds of photos, connecting them into collages in a thoughtful way (whether there is an immediate and apparent relationship between the photos or not to the readers), the sense of cohesion binds them together just a tad bit more.  And when you add the words, it almost becomes a narrative…as if I could be sitting across from you in a café or restaurant and telling about the adventurous tales of these travels. 

  Moo nam thok, a spicy meat salad

Moo nam thok, a spicy meat salad

When it’s cold, I miss Thailand.  When it’s hot, it reminds me of Thailand.  When I’m hungry, I miss Thailand.  Often, I find myself wishing it were a hop, skip, and a jump away but it IS across the Pacific and travel time does go into the double digits (oh when is teleporting going to be an option?!).

It’s been wonderful having the opportunity to go to the motherland every few years.  I truly believe that the trips as a child and into my continued adulthood, it has helped shaped who I am and taught me an understanding of where my parents came from and how they came to be who they are today through their experiences. 

In countries like Thailand, where it’s easy to live well for most of us because the dollar/the Euro/your currency will likely stretch far, it’s tempting to want to eat at the trendiest and hippest restaurants.  But when you realize that it’s how the locals live and how they, on an everyday basis, eat the street food, you can’t help but want to find out why. 

It’s through the street food that the culture emerges: Thai women straining out the rice noodles from the boiling pot of water, the fruit cutters chopping away at the pineapples and guavas and mangoes and wrapping the fish sauce + salt + sugar + chili mix that comes with it, and the man that puts the plate of bean sprouts and chives to accompany your Pad Thai at your tiny tables with colorful, plastic stools. 

  Still one of my favorite dishes, Pad Thai

Still one of my favorite dishes, Pad Thai

  Thai sausage (sai oua) with sticky rice

Thai sausage (sai oua) with sticky rice

Thai food, while it often uses many, many ingredients, can also be enjoyed in more simplified forms, like sausages that come from the Isaan region in Eastern Thailand simply served with a side of sticky rice.  And what I enjoy is that each vendor, each little metallic cart, usually just specializes in one or two dishes.  They do it ‘til they get it right to their standards, and when I find someone who cooks it exceptionally well, that’s what keeps me going back for more.  But hey, there’s just too many to just stick with a few so I continue my endless hunt of great eats.  

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AuthorLinda I
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Thai cooking can oftentimes seems a bit daunting.  There's a lot of ingredients that go into a dish but if you stand your ground, you'll begin to understand and see how it all comes together.  In most dishes, if not all, there are the 4 flavor profiles that are used and can always be adjusted accordingly to your taste.  These 4 flavors (shall we name them the Fantastic Four or Four Flava Flaves?) are sweet (sugar), sour (vinegar w/jalapeños or fresh lime), salty (fish sauce), and spicy (chili).  You'll also find that Thai food owes a lot of its unique properties to the fresh herbs that are used such as the ones below:  

 Is this guy going out to the garden to cut down some fresh herbs? Why yes, I particularly think so! The trays on the right include: chives, green onions, cilantro w/root (or coriander on where you're from), Thai sweet basil, kaffir lime leaves, mint, holy basil, Chinese celery, Thai eggplant, shallots, galangal, chili, lemongrass, lime, kaffir lime (the bumpy textured round one), baby corn, tomatoes, Asian green beans (the extra long ones), onions, and mushrooms.

Is this guy going out to the garden to cut down some fresh herbs? Why yes, I particularly think so! The trays on the right include: chives, green onions, cilantro w/root (or coriander on where you're from), Thai sweet basil, kaffir lime leaves, mint, holy basil, Chinese celery, Thai eggplant, shallots, galangal, chili, lemongrass, lime, kaffir lime (the bumpy textured round one), baby corn, tomatoes, Asian green beans (the extra long ones), onions, and mushrooms.

 Chopping up fresh ingredients to make a paste for a Burmese influenced traditional northern Thai dish called Khao Soi.

Chopping up fresh ingredients to make a paste for a Burmese influenced traditional northern Thai dish called Khao Soi.

 Voila! My first time trying Khao Soi and I instantly fell in love with this regional dish.  Coconut milk, curry, and noodles...what more could I ask for? On the right is, of course, Pad Thai because no cooking class is complete without making this.

Voila! My first time trying Khao Soi and I instantly fell in love with this regional dish.  Coconut milk, curry, and noodles...what more could I ask for? On the right is, of course, Pad Thai because no cooking class is complete without making this.

 The  Smart Cook  school in Chiang Mai where we rode our bikes from the train station to the building.  You even get to hop in the garden to see the herbs being grown there. 

The Smart Cook school in Chiang Mai where we rode our bikes from the train station to the building.  You even get to hop in the garden to see the herbs being grown there. 

What looks like the exterior in the picture above of the cooking school is actually an open space where students can learn and pick up some important skills, technique, and knowledge about Thai cuisine.  When traveling in Thailand, you'll often find that cooks and their kitchens are outside.  Eating "street food" is quite popular and can be incredibly delicious! Most street vendors will dedicate their cart and craft towards making one dish or similar dishes that don't require larger spaces and more supplies than what they need.  No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without sitting on a colorful plastic stool, perched over a bowl of hot noodles all the while sweating in the heat and humidity the country has to offer.  So don't be afraid to rub elbows with the locals, share tables, and smirk because you've just had an amazing meal all less than a daytime matinee.

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AuthorLinda I

When the days are hot and humid as they have been the last few weeks, my mind drifts off and is reminiscent of Thailand.  Sure, the weather sometimes can be quite sticky, but if you choose the right time to go, it'll definitely make your experience a lot more pleasant.  Aim to go around November - January as it's cooler and drier during that period of the year.

Thailand is a great place to start if you're wanting to travel Southeast Asia as it's very tourist friendly for those that don't speak the language.  And, well, who can deny the beauty of the country? It offers a multitude of vacations, from the hustling and bustling metropolis city of Bangkok filled with endless shopping, to the lush green mountainous region of Chiang Mai in the north, to island hopping in the southern part of Thailand.  

Below are some snapshots from Haad Yuan beach on Koh Phangan (Ko Pha Ngan) as well as from the other side at Phang-nga (the names sure can get confusing..).  Grab a coconut and enjoy!

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AuthorLinda I