Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Chicken claws: they're not just for breakfast anymore!
Well, Phuket (we now pronounce it, eeewwww) was not our cup of chowder. Two days was all it took to determine it is Thailand's answer to South Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Cancun wrapped up into one convenient, over-priced, crowded package. We did see plenty of large, leathery, old European tourists in speedos and other inappropriate attire, as well as at least four McDonald's in a twenty minute walk along the beach road. And... our pal Bernie from George Town was right where he said he'd be! We did have a nice afternoon chat with him while standing shoulder-deep in the Andaman Sea, so it wasn't all bad, but we did move the next morning. Since we enjoyed our extended stay in George Town, we decided to head toward Malaysia via Hat Yai (I've mentioned it before) for a couple of days.
There's really not much to do in Hat Yai besides plan an exit strategy to somewhere else, so we took the local bus to Songkhla, a nice, little city on the coast with some interesting sculptures, for the afternoon. After walking the shore picking up some really neat shells and taking photos of the sculptures, we decided to join the hordes of school children and locals in their quest for lunch from the food vendors lining the sidewalk. Lots of people were ordering what looked like salad with some kind of sea life (abalone maybe?) from one lady, so we went to investigate. I asked what it was, and she replied, "chicken foot," NOT what we wanted. The next tray had actual pieces of chicken meat, so I (thought I) ordered two salads with chicken, and we sat down on the grass to wait for lunch. When she handed me the first tray, it was... the chicken foot salad. Thinking it must have been my fault for ordering the wrong item, I accepted the tray with thanks (you'd be proud, Mom) and pointed at the chicken meat before she made the second one. Colin and I sat there looking at this tray of food in front of us, wondering what we're going to do with it. I have no earthly idea how exactly one prepares chicken feet to acquire such a ghastly appearance, but imagine floppy, irregularly shaped pieces of a pure, white substance with the texture of scaly chicken foot skin that looks like it's been soaking in a tub of lye for hours. Now imagine trying to put that between your lips. Our mantra is, if millions of people eat it, it can't be that bad...WE STAND CORRECTED. So Colin (not me) tried it. He managed to get it in his mouth, bit down and found something hard, either a claw or a piece of bone that somehow remained un-gelatinated by the cooking process. A horrible gagging sound emanated from Colin's mouth at the same time our lady turned to give us the second tray of food. I really thought he was going to spew, but he managed to keep the contents of his mouth between his lips until the nice lady turned back around and then he spat it into a tissue. I was impressed by his efforts but determined that no way, no how was I going to make the same mistake. The surrounding salad itself was quite tasty. After this and a nice walk back into town, we hopped the bus back to Hat Yai. That night, we went to the local market for dinner to have one of our favorite local meals, khao mok kai, which is a Muslim-Thai chicken and turmeric rice dish. It always comes with a bowl of clear soup with some vegetables in it. Well, when Colin put his spoon to the soup bowl, he asked, "is that what I think it is and if so, please remove it before I see it in its entirety." It was what he thought is was, another chicken foot, lurking at the bottom of the bowl under a piece of winter melon. If anyone had ever told me that there would be a day in our lives in which we'd have chicken feet in two meals in one day, I'd have said, "get outta here," (or something much less polite). Anyway, Colin survived, and I'm just glad to be old enough to ignore the two bite rule we had in our house growing up.
The next day, we took a minibus back to Georgetown. I am going to be really disgusted when we get back to the states and see gigantic SUVs with one person inside after this trip. Our minibus was a 4-row minivan with 10 adults and 3 kids plus luggage inside. The kids were well-behaved throughout, but unfortunately, the little boy sitting in his mother's lap next to me shot back two boxes of milk at the beginning of the journey and then happily bounced around for awhile. I knew the state of events was getting ready to change for the worse when he got very quiet and laid his head against the seat back in front of him. When he started gagging, I moved my bag to my lap (off the floor), and his mom gave him a towel to throw up in. Colin had an empty plastic grocery bag and handed that over to the boy, who promptly hooked one handle over each ear like a horse's feedbag (now why didn't I think to do that in my younger days when I was Barfarella?). We thought it was ingenious until he started holding it up to his mouth and breathing into it. He was on the right side of natural selection that day and survived the remainder of the drive.
Anyway, we made it back home to George Town (they even gave us our old room back!!!!) and will be here until Monday. Then we go to the east coast to Kota Bharu and the Perhentian Islands for awhile. There are more photos on smugmug, including some from the end of the Chinese New Year celebration in George Town. We thought it was the year of the tiger, not the year of Tigger (see photo)!