Turkey-less in Thailand

Tonight we had Thanksgiving dinner with our Burmese friends in Mae Hong Son. It was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving (they hadn’t even heard of the holiday until we mentioned it last week), and they were honored to be involved. The menu was quite different from our Thanksgiving in India, as there are no turkeys to be had in these parts. Our main course was “snake” in banana leaves, which took the better part of the day to prepare. We also had a side of papaya pancakes and the full set of accoutrements (including lots of chilies, of course). For dessert we had a ridiculous cake we picked up from a new bakery in town. The sweet shop owners asked if we wanted any writing on the cake (they usually do birthday cakes), so we acquiesced to a “Happy Thanksgiving” flourish.

After our food was all prepared, our Burmese friends asked us if we were going to give a speech before dinner or if we had any traditions on this holiday. So we went upstairs, sat around in a circle, and talked about thanks. Lauren gave a brief history of Thanksgiving and then many of us around the circle talked about what we were thankful for. One of our Burmese friends was thankful that we introduced them to Thanksgiving and shared our holiday with them. We’re thankful that we were able to share Thanksgiving with our small but growing family, and our adopted family here in Mae Hong Son.

Our Burmese Thanksgiving spread
Special Mae Hong Son Thanksgiving dinner

Dessert
Our festive dessert

Tongue of the Dragon

On our return to Thailand, it was paramount to commence our tropical fruit indulgence. Courtesy of the Chiang Mai morning market, our bellies are the happy recipients of a coconut and a mango (in fruit shake form), three rose apples, a green mango (with chili/sugar of course), and a pink dragon fruit. The last one made a particularly lasting impression on us.

Preparing a fruit shakeEnjoying the fruit shake
This enormous fruit shake contained a full coconut (meat + water) and an entire mango

LL eating dragon fruit
This time we had dragon fruit with pink flesh rather than our standard white innards…

Pink tongues
…and we have the stains to prove it

Deli and Bread Connection

Rating:

In both of our guidebooks, Deli & Bread Connection is touted as having “the best sandwiches in Kauai.” So when we passed through Lihue as part of our helicopter-delay excursion, we had to stop by for lunch. We ordered two of their specials: a Lobsta’ Roll, and a Chicado (chicken salad with avocado). However, they were out of avocado, so no Chicado for us. Based on prominent signage, we made a game-time decision to choose a Vegi Burger with its “delicious patty.”

The Vegi Burger was good – the patty was nothing special, but the accoutrements were fresh and generous, and the bun was a nice freshly-baked sourdough. The Lobsta’ Roll was absolutely, ridiculously amazing. The lobster salad was very heavy on the lobster – local, mildly sweet, and in big lumps. It was complemented very well by the Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and red onions. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I savored every bite.

This morning we stopped by Deli & Bread Connection on our way to the airport to pick up provisions for the long flight home (something I highly recommend). This time they had avocado, so we repeated our original order from Wednesday. The Chicado was good (reminded me of a sandwich from Specialty’s), but it paled in comparison to the Lobsta’ Roll. As a consequence of our flight shuffling, Lauren and I were placed in window seats on consecutive rows, with couples seated adjacent to us. As you would expect, neither couple wanted to swap seats with us. However, as I was taking my first bite of the Lobsta’ Roll, my neighbor offered to trade his seat for the sandwich. What would you do in this situation?

Counter service
Order up!

Lobsta' Roll
Lobsta’ Roll – lobster salad, grilled with mushrooms, red onions, and melted Swiss cheese

Vegi Burger
The Vegi Burger – with mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato-basil pesto, and “the works”

Kenny and his sandwichLauren and her sandwich

Deli & Bread Connection
3-2600 Kaumualii Highway # 1648 (next to Macy’s)
Lihue, HI 96766
808-245-7115

Paradise Lost

Turns out it’s not just hype that Kauai is the wettest place on earth. During our week here, we’ve consistently had heavy rains overnight. However, they usually end around 6AM. Not today. It’s 10:30AM, we’re supposed to be at the airport, and instead we’re in the Hanalei plaza. The bridge that lies between us and aircraft has been closed since 1AM, when the water level spiked to nine feet.

Statistically the Hanalei bridge reopens when the waters recede to about four and a half feet. We monitored the water level this morning from our B&B. Since conditions were looking better (water had receded to almost five feet) we attempted our airport run at 8:30AM. Unfortunately, the weather has not decided to cooperate, with the rains kicking back into high gear. The cop at the bridge told us “it will be at least a few hours…or possibly all day. I’m stuck here as well.” For now we’re rebooked on an afternoon flight, which buys us three more hours, but I’m dubious that we’ll be able to leave the north shore at all today.

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Latest bridge status – notice the uptick from about 45 minutes ago just when things started to look promising


Live video footage from the scene of the storm

Lilikoi

Today’s new tropical fruit was the lilikoi – Hawaiian passion fruit, usually referring to the yellow variety. They are nuttier, more bitter, less fluorescent, and not as sweet or tart as their purple counterparts. I didn’t love them standalone, though they worked well with our yogurt this morning. We also tried our hand with a lilikoi-pineapple milkshake – it was not quite as successful as our longan experiment. We were worried about overpowering the lilikoi with pineapple, but we shouldn’t have fretted – two lilikoi stood up handily to half of a large pineapple.

Overall, I will stick to purple (a.k.a. black) passion fruit – the wrinklier, the better.

Closed lilikoi
They look a bit like lemons, much larger and less wrinkly than their purple counterparts

Open lilikoi
Inside however, they look quite similar

Lilikoi-pineapple smoothie
My smoothie model trying out our concoction

Papaya

I thought I hated papayas. They could be made tolerable if generously squirted with lime juice, as I learned in Pondicherry, but in general I never sought them out. My co-workers in Mae Hong Son would occasionally bring me a plate of chilled papaya on hot days in the office, and I enjoyed the Thai variety more than I did the Indian, but it was still not one of my favorites (green papayas were, of course, another story).

Kenny generally shared the same opinion of the fruit during our travels in Asia, so I was surprised on our first day here when he suggested that we try a Hawaiian papaya while we browsed the offerings at Moloa’a Sunrise Fruit Stand.

We were both pleasantly surprised the next morning, when we carved up the papaya for our oatmeal. It was sweeter and richer than the ones we had tried in Asia, and we were instantly hooked. Since then, we’ve had papaya on fruit plates, in smoothies, mixed into our yogurt or cereal in the mornings, and in a cucumber-papaya-lime-spring greens salad that we invented and enjoyed so much that we prepared it twice in one day.

The storekeeper at Banana Joe’s taught us how to choose a ripe papaya: just look for the ones that are mostly orange on the outside. When choosing, they prefer that you judge by color and refrain from squeezing to avoid bruising the goods.

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Hawaiian papaya

Papaya smoothie
Homemade papaya-banana-pineapple smoothie

Fruit plate
Kenny surprised me one afternoon with this beautiful fruit plate – lychees, grapefruit, banana, and papaya (with lime) – all local ingredients

Papaya salad
The salad that came out so good we made it twice in one day

Longan

I first encountered longans in 2007 on a trip through the Mekong Delta. Our guide picked them fresh from the trees for us to try. I remember them being lychee-like, but with thicker skin, much bigger pits, less flavor, and a very thin flesh. Overall, they were a lot of work for minimal payoff.

This week in Kauai, I’ve been keen to try any local tropical fruit on offer. On Tuesday that included longan, the special of the day at Banana Joe’s. It turns out that Hawaiian longan are notably different than their Vietnamese counterparts (or at least from the ones I tried). First, the pits are much smaller. Second, the skin is thinner (think lychee, but without the bumps). The result is a lot more flesh per-longan. They have the texture of a lychee with a taste that’s nuttier and less sweet. While a significant improvement from my first longan experience, they still weren’t a fruit I would gorge on directly. However, tonight we made a great discovery: longan-banana-soy milkshakes. The banana added just the right amount of sweetness and soy milk complemented the longan’s natural malty flavor. While it still won’t make my top 10 list of tropical fruits, in Kauai I’ve learned how to appreciate it and will likely make another milkshake the next time we visit!

Longan purchase from Banana Joe's

Bowl of longans
Hawaiian longans – thin skin, thick flesh

Eating a longan
Trying my first Hawaiian longan

Longan milkshake
Longan, banana, soy milkshake

Kaweonui Beach

Our intention this morning was to head out early to Pali Ke Kua (Hideaways) Beach, which had been recommended to us by a number of people. However, a leisurely breakfast resulted in us arriving at its teeny (and overfull) parking lot by 10:30. Fortunately there is no shortage of great beaches on the northern shore of Kauai, and we backtracked two miles through Princeville to check out Kaweonui Beach, also known as “Sealodge Beach” due to the access trail’s proximity to Sealodge Resort. After skirting the edge of the resort near Buliding A, we were able to found our way courtesy of some imposing signage.

Caution sign 

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View of the beach from the access trail

The trail was beautiful, with lots of shade and great views of the coast. We were also blessed with dry, sunny weather, so the trail was easy to navigate – much simpler than the path to Queen’s Bath.

When we arrived, we had the beach almost to ourselves. We set up shop under the ample shade, enjoyed a few games of Scrabble, and sunned ourselves on the large volcanic rocks. The sand was coarse and thick; the water was clear though the surf was too rough for snorkeling (which is supposedly “outstanding” during calm seas). We had read about numerous turtle sightings in the water, but to my dismay there were none to be found today. 

Overall I found Kaweonui Beach to be a peaceful, secluded, relaxing beach that feels worlds away from civilization, yet is easily accessible.

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About 2/3 of the petite beach

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View of the massive reef from the access trail

Self-portrait
Self-portrait

Queen’s Bath

While not technically a “beach,” Queen’s Bath is one of the most interesting aquatic sites we’ve checked out so far on this island. After a tricky hike down a narrow, muddy trail, we scampered over lava rocks for what felt like a long time (although it was likely a relatively short distance) until we arrived at the Bath – a calm, natural pool with lava rock walls and water that is constantly refilled by the wild tide just beyond its edge. The tides also wash in numerous sea creatures, making the pool an excellent spot for snorkeling – mask and snorkel only, no fins needed.

The trail to Queen's Bath
Ocean view from the Queen’s Bath trail

Waterfall on the trail
A nice water feature on the hike down

Shortly after we arrived at Queen’s Bath, some menacing rainclouds started moving our way, and a gentle shower began. We decided that there was no point in leaving, as the water inside the pool was still calm, visibility was good, and the fish were plentiful. Kenny moved a few of our belongings into a little cubby in the rocks for better cover, and we continued our snorkeling. It was fun to watch the ocean outside the pool get more turbulent as the rain picked up, and occasionally a big wave came over the edge of the pool, splashing us and carrying in sea creatures as unwitting passengers.

The Bath, with ominous rainclouds in the background
Ominous rainclouds overhead

Kenny lounging on the rocks
Kenny lounging on the rocks after the rain let up

Taking a bath
Kenny enjoying the bath

Queen’s Bath is a unique place, and should certainly make anyone’s list of spots to check out on a trip to Kauai. The trail, while a bit narrow, should not be a deterrent – if I can do it at 25 weeks pregnant, I can’t imagine it would pose a challenge for most.