Sunday, 24 March 2013

All You Can Eat

But first there were some tourist matters to attend to. And, true to our normal glutinous form, we started with the food based ones.

A quick aside – the area around the gym houses numerous restaurants, most of which serve variants of the same menu.

If you go to one of the cafes attached to a swish hotel, Signature for example, the kitchen will probably look more ‘westernised’ (read “cleaner”) and it’ll set you back about £6 for two main courses with rice and a couple of soft drinks.

At the other end of the scale lie Tony and JaJas.

Do a quick “where to eat near Tiger/Dragon” google search, and you’ll find endless posts about these two venues.

To be fair, they’re fairly indistinguishable, Tony’s is maybe a bit bigger, but both look like someone’s garage (probably best not to snoop in the kitchen here).  Tony will also arrange scooters, accommodation, visa runs and massage for you, whilst JaJas advertises trips to the gun range.

But the main draw is the price. For that same £6 you’ll probably get a starter, three mains with rice and some beer*. It’s no mystery why both places are packed to the brim with fight types every every evening.

*skip the wine. Unless it’s in one of the swish hotels, and costing about £25 a bottle, it’ll taste like communion vino.

Anyway, bar the offerings of the local minimart (and no-one can knock seaweed Pringles and almond Magnums) that’s pretty much it in terms of the street’s culinary range. And so the first night we ventured out, we checked out Chalong night market.

Night markets are pretty common fare in South East Asia (well, in the places I’ve been so far anyway) and house a peculiar melange of edible treats and counterfeit retail.

As the traffic in Chalong appeared nothing short of chaotic to our untrained eyes (general protocol is for everyone to keep driving at each other, with no discernible right of way for certain vehicle types or access points) we wimped out on the scooter option and took a taxi, which came in at about £16 for the round trip.

And since we were enjoying a rare period where neither of us were ravenously hungry, we opted to take on the clothing side of the market first.

Lady Gaga might have landed herself in governmental hot water when she tweeted "I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex," but she knew what she was talking about. 

From A to Z, or Armani to Zenith as the case may be, every manufacturer is out on display. Vans, Nike, Ray Ban, North Face, Yves San Laurent, Mac, Louis Vuitton, all piled uber-high and ready for the bartering (ignore the first quote entirely, a “oh, get you, that’s hilarious” chuckle to yourself will bring about an immediate 50% discount, after which you can start negotiations). The level of fakery is quite diverse, with some items bearing little to no resemblance to the brand at all (unless Chanel have branched out into glitter-laden, multi-colour lettered t-shirts recently).

The market is also stuffed to groaning point with Chang Beer and Redbull type vests (or “singlets” as they are referred to in these parts). Andy had quickly realised that his armpits needed to be liberated in such temperatures, and invested in a couple of local favourites, whilst I indulged my Southern nature and picked up a Jack Daniels one.

Roughly £6 in, we’d snagged ourselves a summer wardrobe and were ready to cross over to the eating side.

You know when you go to an All You Can Eat buffet, a certain degree of logic and planning comes into its own? It’s a similar case here. The night market is huge, and is packed back to back with meat, sweets, snacks, fruits…and fried insects. 

With stalls charging anything from 10TBH upwards (20p), it’s unlikely that you’ll run out of wonga, but entirely probable you’ll morph into a crazed, overstuffed and stimulated stupor before you’ve eaten everything you fancy.

Here’s how it panned out for us:

Dish 1: Fried Shrimp

Dish 2: Fish Cakes

Dish 3: Two Tone Donut

Dish 4: Chicken Pastry

Dish 5: Banana And Coconut Sweet Thing

After this point, it all becomes blurry. 

Rather like the waking up scene in 'The Hangover 2,' I believe it involved some spiral potato crisps, something Andy had but I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole and a mix and match bag of vegetable stuff. Maybe some dimsum. 

Anyway, by this point we were both too hyper and sticky to properly keep any kind of notes.

Sensing some kind of insulin-based meltdown was imminent (witness our inability to even focus the iphone) we ducked into our taxi and headed home. With a couple of armfuls of snacking swag for later of course. 

Who says we're not grown up about these things?

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