Black Chicken, Watermelon Toothpaste, & Outer Space: 10 Travel Photos

Here are ten things that I learned on my summer vacation to Thailand:

1. In Mae Salong, I discovered that there is such a thing as black chicken. The color is natural from the breed, and it tastes like the regular chicken does here: fresh and delicious without all the hormones and stuff pumped into it.

2. Mae Salong has a large Chinese immigrant population -- one of the few places in Thailand where Mandarin is spoken. It used to be a major grower of opium (located in the Golden Triangle), but now the fields are filled with oolong tea leaves. What I didn't know is how much oolong tea leaves resemble ficus leaves (albeit ridged).

3. In Bangkok and everywhere else in Thailand, I learned that 7-11's are ubiquitous. The company, which was bought out by a Japanese firm in 1991, has 6,000 stores in this country -- half of which are in Bangkok. The company plans to have over 50,000 outlets here within the next decade.

4. In Mae Hong Son, we realized that the concept for the new Make A Shake on Lincoln Road, which creates shakes using various candies, has been in Thailand for years.

5. In a little-known town in Nan province, we stayed with three sisters and ate whatever they cooked up. It was here I learned how difficult net fishing is. Sure looks easy enough - toss a circular net with weights attached to the bottom into a pond, then slowly pull it out by an attached rope, dredging up whatever fish get ensnared. I went with one of our hosts, Ginda, to give it a try, but ended up providing only comic relief. When she netted a frog, it was like finding caviar -- Ginda knocked the poor fella out with about a dozen whacks to the noggin. The regular fish are gutted and cleaned before being thrown into a wok with hot oil, but the frog was chopped up, innards, eyeballs and all, and tossed in. It was then mixed with fiery tom yam paste, garlic, ginger, and basil. I was loathe to taste it, but managed to select the pieces that looked most like the leg. This was the basis for our dinner that night:

6. I saw and tasted my first rose apple, or mountain apple (champoo) in Sukhothai, although they are popular throughout the country. Tastes a little like a regular apple, but softer and sweeter.

7. Saw chicken heads at stands all over Bangkok and elsewhere. I didn't try any. Nor did I partake in any fried cockroaches or crickets, the former sold live in plastic bags at some markets (which I first saw in Phitsanulok).

8. My wife picked up this tube of Colgate while in China, which is watermelon-flavored even though it doesn't say so and the image on the tube isn't of that fruit. I didn't know toothpaste could taste so good; turns out it is sold in the States as a children's flavor.

9. On a stopover in Helsinki, Finland, I found out that very large white asparagus is in season. I also tasted white clover honey that is totally white, and discovered that lingonberry comes in powder form and tastes great over yogurt. Also: Bagel & reindeer is a popular sandwich at the airport (and slices of reindeer salami look just like Hebrew National beef salami).

10. Finally, I learned that flying over Southern Greenland can make you feel like an astronaut looking down on the moon.

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