Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nan Notes and On the Road to Phayao

We spent a couple of days in Nan. The hotel there was perfect, as I reported in the last entry. We took one short ride about (40 miles - 60 km total) out and back on Rte 1169 but we spent a lot of time goofing off, reading, doing Photoshop stuff, but mostly trying to stay off the bike for a while. (BTW, the Blogger caption bug seems to be fixed so clicking on any photo will display it at full size. Click the back button on your browser to return to the blog.)

Nan River on Rte 1169
Later that day I waited until dusk and then went out on the hotel grounds to take some pictures of the great flowers surrounding the place. One of them appears in my previous entry. Here are a few more.

I don't know what's with this flower thing I'm into lately. I love capturing the fine detail of these blooms and will continue to post pictures of them. As you've no doubt gathered, Thailand is bursting with floral delights at this time of year -- people's yards and the roadsides are vibrant with colorful, and to me exotic, flowers, trees and shrubs. I can't resist them.

We left Nan at about 9:30 on November 16th and drove north to the city of Phayao via Route 1091 and 1251. The trip wasn't especially exciting but we did enjoy some lovely scenery along the way. Route 1091 was especially nice and I have a few photos that can better tell the story.

Hilly farm country along Rte 1091
Wildflower - Rte 1091

It was a relatively short ride ( 3 hrs 45 minutes ride time for a total of 112 miles - 180 km) made slightly longer by the fact that we missed two turns on the poorly marked highway. The weather was perfect: no wind, temperature about 90 degrees, very light traffic. We stopped for a noodle lunch in the small town of Chiang Muan. I show a couple of these roadside meals in the photo below. The lunch on the left we had in the even smaller town of Santisuk on  the day trip we made out of Nan. It's made with pork, (koi teou moo nam tok)  and was served with fresh Thai basil, one of my favorite seasonings. In the other one, you can see a chunk of congealed blood which I mentioned before as being an important  ingredient for these flavorful soups. It also has heaps of duck meat on top of a thick sauce and homemade noodles (koi teou ped). Both dishes were yummy and at 25 baht per serving (less than $1), cheap too. And you can see in both photos the holy trinity (actually four) of add-ons, called kreung prung, that are always present to season noodle dishes to your particular taste. Nut is very discerning about adding just the right amount of each of these to round out the flavor: ground chili, sugar, and two choices of items pickled in vinegar to add a sour component to play against the sweetness of the sugar. Often she will add nam pla (fish sauce) if more salt is needed.

Koi Teou Moo Nam Tok (pork noodles)   ---   Koi Teow Ped (duck noodles)

If not for the lake, Phayao wouldn't be a fabulous place to stay. The lake draws tourists and that means if you want to stay in a place with a lake view it will cost you relatively more than if you don't. The lakeside is lined with pricier places so we took a room near the market in a slightly run down hotel but at only 280 baht, we made do with the super thin towels and dingy paint. Next day we headed out to find a road that skirted the less populated west side of the lake. What we found was special, very special.