The Cycle of Rice

Rice is life here in Asia. It’s often the main staple and comprises nearly 70% of the calories consumed in some countries. In the west, we just see rice in a bag, but have you ever thought of how it grows or where it comes from? Oddly enough, I always think about it and today, on an unexpectedly long walk, I figured out how it was all done. Take a walk with me through the countryside outside of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam to see the cycle of rice!

Ta Van, near Sa Pa, northern Vietnam.

Even though rice is one of my least favorite foods, rice paddies are beautiful. I always say rice grass green is greener than any green you’ve ever seen! And here in Sa Pa, the rice terraces that curve along the mountainside are spectacular. They look like green carpets descending down from the misty mountains high above, their culms and blades swaying in the gentle breeze between the valley. But rice production isn’t about pretty pictures and scenic views, it’s a lot of hard work! In Vietnam, it is mostly manual labor and that means a lot of work for those involved. The country is the 2nd largest exporter of rice, just behind Thailand, and 7th in consumption. In 2017, forecasts say crops will yield over 44 million tons of paddy rice and there are over 1,600 varieties in the country.

So how does it grow? It needs a lot of water, so rice grows in a “flooded field,” and Vietnam has many areas suited for such a staple. Seeds must be planted, just like with any other crop and as it grows, roots will reach down into the earth and root below the water. Nutrients from the soil are delivered to the plant and eventually leaves emerge and grow. These young seedlings are harvested and separated and then transferred to the flooded fields. They are evenly spaced with enough room to grow to full size. These are the plants I often see growing throughout Asia, the bright green rice grass.

Can’t get enough of that green!

When the plant has matured, it will reach a height of about 3-4 feet. It produces a tiller, which is a reproductive stem. It keeps growing and will produce a flower head. At this point, the plant is in the reproductive stage. The flower head will produce up to 150 tiny flowers that will form seeds once pollinated. In the next 30 days, the rice seeds change color, some turning golden, the consistency of the grain itself changes (it hardens) and becomes ripe. The seeds can then be harvested for food and this process is what I witnessed today.

As we walked along the windy mountainous roads, we saw what ended up being the rice harvesting process. The bright green fields are all around, but some are turning golden. At one point, we saw some people further down the terraces, harvesting the rice from the flooded fields. They were working hard, bending, cutting, and carrying the loot up to the roadside.

Rice harvesting is hard work.

The golden crops were laying in neat piles along the dusty road, but we wondered how the flower, or the seed, is actually separated from the stem. Luckily, just around the bend, we saw a group of men and the mystery was solved. They had a portable machine that reminded me of a wood chipper. They put the stems in one end, the seeds came out one side, and the rest of the organic material shot out of the machine into a pile below. It actually more reminded me of a snow blower, but you won’t find snow in these parts!

Rice separation on the roadside.

Once the rice is separated, it is set to dry. This process takes time and  depends on the weather and conditions.

Rice drying after separation.

Once the rice is dry, it’s placed into a manually run machine that separates the husk from the grain. These husks are inedible coverings that protect the rice during growth. Often times, you see the husks being used for fuel (burning), but they also can be used as fertilizer or insulation material. I spoke to these two women for a bit and they said they will fill 8-10 bags of husked rice per day.

 

Separating the husk from the grain.

From a nutrition standpoint, this is where processing should end (aside from cleaning). Unfortunately, in Asia, rice goes off to the mill to be stripped of its nutrients to yield white rice. When I say “in Asia,” that’s very broad because Asia is huge, but everywhere I have been, this is the case. White rice rules, except in one little place, but more on that in a bit. The anatomy of a grain of rice is much more than the “white” part, or the endosperm. This is the carbohydrate and calorie provider of the food. The bran protects the seed, it serves as the outer shell, but it’s not the husk (that’s already been removed). The bran also contains fiber, B vitamins, and some minerals. The germ contains nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamin E, a bit of healthy fats, and B vitamins (just like the bran). And wow! If you want a seriously detailed breakdown, check out the FAO’s website.

Whole vs. Refined Grain

The thing is, when rice is milled, so many nutrients are removed. When looking at main staples of the diet, they are a huge source of calories and nutrients, but with milled rice, so much is lost. We (dietitians) often tell clients to incorporate more whole grains in the diet, but when these simple carbohydrates have been king for so long, it’s hard for people to accept the healthier version and make that shift. When malnourishment and nutrient deficiencies are rampant, it’s sad to know so much is wasted.

The rice terraces of Sa Pa are beautiful. It was so interesting to simply walk along the road and actually see all the stages of processing once the rice has been harvested. All in all, my fellow travel buddies and I ended up walking nearly 12 miles. We saw lots of green, lots of grass, lots of rice. And at the end of the day, what do you think was served with dinner? You guessed it, a bowl of shiny white rice, straight from the local fields. Did I have some? Well, it was “rice day,” so I had a bit (maybe 1/4 of a cup). Is it my favorite? No.

Rice is the centerpiece of many Vietnamese dishes. Dinner is served at My Tra Guest House.

The best rice I’ve had in Asia was in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Coincidentally, they don’t mill their rice as often there. It was hearty, healthy, and tasty. In Asia, I’m “riced out.” I’m not Asian, if I don’t eat rice at mealtime, I’m ok, but for locals, a meal without rice is not a meal at all. Hopefully one day, more people will incorporate whole grain rice into their lives. It’s a way to incorporate more nutrients into the diet and what do I always say? Eat a nutrient dense, varied diet!

Get lean or lose weight? Which do you choose?

I recently completed a webinar put on by Dietitian Central, a website that is certified to offer continuing education units for registered dietitians. Because I love sports nutrition, I’ve purchased credits to participate in the webinars of my choice. I don’t need anymore CEUs to renew my registration come 2018 as I’ve collected many over the last 4 years, but I enjoy learning and engaging my brain.

This webinar was conducted by Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, an RD practicing in the Dallas Ft. Worth area and although we don’t have to complete a test or questions at the end of the webinars, I always like to take notes.

Here are some of the take aways from this webinar. A lot of it is info I’m familiar with, but it never hurts to take these courses, and of course, I do learn new information.

So many of the clients I’ve worked with over the years have been for general weight loss. Athletes have different requirements, but anyone looking to lose body fat or change up their body composition can benefit from this information.

Our bodies are made up of four main components when looking at what makes up our weight: lean body mass, fat mass, water, and bones. A common goal of not only athletes, but many average gym goers, is to gain muscle and lose body fat. If your goal is simply to “lose weight,” can you be more specific? Do you want to lose body fat, or do you want to lose overall body mass (both fat and lean body mass, LBM)?

Would you rather have 5 pounds of muscle or 5 pounds of fat? Muscle makes up lean body mass.

A great way to know what our body composition looks like is to do a DXA scan or jump into a bodpod, but that’s not always accessible to most people. If your gym has an in body analysis device, you can use it, but always ensure to use the same machine at the same gym as there is variance between machines. While they are not 100% accurate, you can use your first reading as a baseline and go from there to monitor results.

Here’s a chart to see where you stand if you’re able to analyze your body composition:

Female Male
Essential Fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32%+ 25%+

As you can tell, I took this photo from somewhere else!

Athletes have more to factor in when considering diet and meal plans. They typically need to consume more calories than the average gym goer and often their particular sport will dictate what types and how much food should be eaten. If you’re an athlete, you may have a difficult time getting in all the calories you need and if you’re in the leaning out phase, restricting energy, losing weight can be difficult. Actually, losing weight can be difficult for anybody! When we restrict energy, our drive to eat is stronger. More ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger, is produced. When more ghrelin is produced, people may eat more, leading to weight gain, the opposite of the intended goal, weight loss. A common issue or reason for people to not stay within a calorie restricted diet necessary for weight loss is because they feel hungry. If this happens to you, there are some measures you can take. Ensure you’re getting adequate fiber in the diet. Fiber leads to a feeling of fullness and slows digestion. Some low calorie sources of fiber are in low carb vegetables. Adding some greens is a great way to not only get fiber, but other vital vitamins and minerals, so feel free to get some in with every meal. Another trick is to ensure adequate protein at mealtime and with snacks. It also digests slowly and has proven benefits when consumed over the course of a day.
On the flip side, leptin is the hormone that signal fullness. Eat slowly and pay attention to these cues to prevent over eating.
When it comes to energy expenditure, or simply, burning calories, there are four components.
RMR: Resting Metabolic Rate- the rate at which the body burns calories to sustain life. This is what you’d burn in a given day doing nothing. It costs calories to think and breathe. Our organs also burn a lot of calories.
TEF: Thermic effect of food: Eating food burns calories, but only to an extent. It comprises about 10% of calories burned per day and some foods burn more than others. Protein burns the most calories during digestion, about 30%, because of it’s complex process of metabolism. Carbohydrates about 5-10%, and fats, about 0-5%. To clarify, I looked this up on line and found a more specific breakdown for an example on bodybuilding.com actually, but it makes sense. The author writes, “If you eat 200 calories of protein, your body will use between 40-70 of them in digestion.” In that example, those numbers fall within that approximate 30% range.
EEE: Exercise Energy Expenditure: This accounts for how many calories are burned during exercise. This is the most variable component. The more we exercise, the more calories we burn.
NEAT: Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis: Energy expended through typically uncalculated movements and activity throughout the day. This can include walking up and down stairs, getting up to get something, even body posture contributes. Some people may expend more it they fidget often, tap their toe, bounce a leg, etc.

Something to think about: as we age, our RMR slows. Females can experience a 2% decline per decade and males, 3%.

Of the four components mentioned above, EEE is the most variable and depends on frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise. Furthermore, high intensity exercises will increase the amount of calories burned over the course of the day via EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. According to ACE, the American Council on Exercise, “EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function.” This process requires additional energy so the more intense your workout, the more calories you’ll burn in a day. (But you don’t need to do high intensity workouts every day, allow the body time to recover).

So, what’s the best way to change your body composition? Do you want to lose weight? Add lean muscle mass? First, determine how many calories you need by figuring out your RMR and basic activity level. I shared a link in another post about this very subject, refer back to it here:
If you want to lose weight, subtract about 400-500 calories, but to start, don’t take in less than 1,500 per day (women). If you hit a plateau in the future, you’ll need something to manipulate, and calories are one of those things. Also, it’s difficult to get all the nutrients you need on a lower calorie diet. If you want to gain body mass, eat a few more hundred calories per day and lift weights. Look at how much protein you need. A good calculation is 1.5 g/kg body weight (one kg=2.2 pounds). Ensure you distribute your protein intake over the course of the day. You also need fat and carbohydrates, but this ratio is better chosen with goals and preferences in mind. Carbohydrates provide energy and can fuel an athlete for optimal performance. Fat can play a tasty roll in a low carbohydrate diet, but that route is not for everyone. Either way, make sure fat comprises at least 20% of the calories in your diet. With a standard 2,000 calorie diet, if minimum fat intake is 20%, then 200 calories, or 22 g of fat would be a guideline and I’d even say that’s a bit low (but I’m an avocado and peanut butter lover, so I need my fats)!

PB and Avocado

A few tips for weight loss: eat small meals frequently, don’t skip meals, (not eating enough calories is not the optimal route to weight loss), after exercise, ensure you have a snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein to replenish glycogen and aid in muscle repair. Avoid refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and alcohol and also watch beverage intake. Drinks can be a source of added calories.

A few tips for weight gain: increase calories, eat small meals over the course of the day, make sure you eat breakfast, add some high calorie foods such as 2% milk, nut butters, high calorie protein supplements, have a pre and post workout snack, and you can even have something mid-workout to fuel you even more. Have a high calorie meal or shake before bed (I prefer casein shakes) and make sure you get quality calories!

Whatever your goals may be, whether it’s adding lean body mass, losing body fat, or training for optimal performance, you can achieve them. Monitor your workouts, calories in and out, and make sure to rest and recover!

Try Some Tempeh Today

I was inspired to do some research on tempeh when I was in Malaysia and Indonesia. While I’d had it in the states before, I’d only ever made some recipes I had found on line. It’s so common in Indonesia, so I was able to experience it in a variety of ways. Some of the best meals I had there included tempeh and the ones with peanut sauce, like gado gado were a double bonus (because I like peanut everything so much).

Tempeh Sate from a place called the Sate Bar on Gili Air in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal recipes to share with you as I’ve yet to be able to experiment on my own because I’ve been busy on the road, but I’ll link a few good ones in case you want to get adventurous.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian soy based food. It is naturally cultured with a controlled fermentation process where soybeans are pressed into a cake form. While you may be familiar with other soy based products like tofu, tempeh is unique because it is one of the few soy foods that does not have origins from Chinese cuisine.
Tempeh is used as a vegetarian based source of protein and a three ounce serving (about 85 g) provides 140 calories, 16 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber. Values may vary based on the brand, and you can find tempeh in the cold refrigerator section of your local grocer, next to the tofu. Not all grocers carry it, as it is still a largely foreign food.

Tempeh

This vegetarian delight incorporates the whole soy bean compared to tofu and thus it has a different texture and nutrient composition. It has more protein, fiber, and is higher in vitamins like manganese and copper. It is fermented with a mold called Rhizopus oligosporus and according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, when foods are fermented, some of their carbohydrates, alcohol, and other molecules are broken down. This process can make the food components more easily digested and better absorbed by the body. When conglycinin and glycinin, storage proteins found in soybeans, are broken down, the smaller peptides act as antioxidants, improve immune function, and lessen the inflammatory response. Because tempeh is made from soy beans, a plant based food, there are other health benefits as well. Plant based foods, including soybeans, tempeh, tofu, and other foods made from beans, can help reduce blood pressure. Some of the peptides in it “inhibit angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which more easily allows the cardiovascular system to regulate blood pressure.” It also helps protect the blood vessels from inflammatory and oxidative damage. In some studies, soy beans have been shown to be able to lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and there maybe other cardio protective properties.

My breakfast at the airport when I left Bali. Eggs, veggies, and tempeh, some of my favorite foods.

Some of the phytonutrients in soy may be able to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there is some research that suggests it may aid in cancer prevention. Some of this is controversial and “real life factors” come into play as opposed to being analyzed in controlled studies. Genistein is a phytonutrient in soy that may aid in not only slowing tumor formation, but in triggering the death of cancer cells. Certain factors related to lifecycle and metabolic factors, however, affect the anticancer benefits of soy. In some pre-menopausal women who have developed certain types of tumors, genistein and soy have not reduced cancer risk. It has been noted that in order to maximize the anti cancer benefits, plenty of other fruits and vegetables should be consumed on a regular basis. When consuming soy products, it is recommended that we choose whole food sources whenever possible. Highly processed versions differ greatly from the whole bean product which is known for its greater health benefits and tempeh, as mentioned, is a whole bean food.
When you buy tempeh at the grocery store, it may have a few gray and dark spots. That is completely normal. It shouldn’t, however, have any yellow, blue, or pink spots. If that’s the case, it has been over fermented. When you unwrap your tempeh, it should smell mushroom like and have a firm texture. It can be cooked in a variety of ways from steamed, to broiled, stir fried, and fried in oil, Indonesian style, which gives it a nice crunch. You can use it in place of meat in any dish and it pairs well with a good, spicy, or BBQ sauce. Next time you’re planning a meatless Monday meal, consider some tempeh. It’s so delicious and will add some food variety to your week!

I like the layout of the ingredients and photos in this gado gado recipe. Looks tasty! http://www.justasdelish.com/gado-gado/

I used to make something like a tempeh sloppy Joe. I have no idea now what the recipe was, but this looks pretty good and something like I’d make. http://makingthymeforhealth.com/bbq-tempeh-sandwiches-with-apple-slaw/

If you have any go to tempeh recipes, feel free to share!

Tantalizing Thai Food!

What’s your favorite cuisine? I have a few I like, mainly Ethiopian, Indian, and Thai. If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you may know that I’m currently traveling through South East Asia and have been since July, 2016. I was in Thailand longer than expected. I was initially living on an island in the Bay of Thailand for two months, and then left to do some exploring through Myanmar, Thailand’s neighbor to the west.

The best cashew chicken I ever had was on Ko Lanta. It was full of cashews and veggies!

Unfortunately, on my 3rd day in country, I got injured and had to return to Thailand for medical treatment. Diagnosis: torn ACL and a bucket handle tear of the meniscus, one of the most severe types of meniscus tears. The first few weeks after surgery were a bit rough, but things get better day by day and my situation was definitely enhanced when I found Hom Hostel. It’s a “cooking club” and everyday, I learned about new foods and typical Thai dishes are always served for breakfast. While I’m not here to write a travel review (I’ve already done that), I have to say, the hostel has the best kitchen I’ve seen since I left my home last year!

Pad ka prao gai, minced meat with basil and egg, served with rice at Hom.

Let me bring a little Thai food into your kitchen, it’s actually not so tantalizing! You can make Thai food at home or go to any Thai restaurant across the globe. There are so many dishes, ingredients, and flavors. The food history and flavor combinations are complex and food itself plays a big role in the culture here. Everywhere you go, there’s food. There are small “hole-in-the-wall” type places all over, in the evenings, the streets are lined with vendors, and it seems every nook and cranny in Bangkok is filled with someone selling something edible. You can find fresh cut fruit, watermelon, pineapple, guava, dragon fruit, papaya, and more, for the equivalent of .60 a bag, fresh juice, grilled meat on a stick, Thai iced tea, roasted grasshoppers and larvae, and complex traditional Thai dishes are commonly available at most markets.

Mangosteen

Rice, like in so many other Asian cultures, is the heart of most meals, but salads, curries, soups, and relishes are popular as well. Many people say it’s cheaper to eat out than to cook at home and often times, this is the case. Luckily, if you choose the right foods, you can keep it pretty healthy as well and street markets are the places to go! According to Chef David Thompson in his book, Thai Street Food, they gained popularity in the 1960s when many Thai people began leaving their villages and farms in search of better jobs in growing cities, namely Bangkok. Women were at the forefront of the Thai street food culture as men stayed home to work the farm, or headed off to the military or monastery.
Thai Food incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients. Most vendors did not and still do not have a refrigerator, but some now keep ice, especially those that sell fruit or fish. Chinese immigration had a large influence on Thai street food. Many Chinese went to Thailand to escape the poverty that plagued their towns and villages and they had to make a living in a new country. They began preparing and selling Chinese food: noodles, rice, congee, and different meats cooked in the quintessential Chinese 5 spice mix. Overall, Thai cuisine has many influences from all over Asia and Thailand itself is broken down into four gastronomic regions, Central, Northern, Southern, and Isan, or northeastern. While one could write a book on this subject, let’s get to some good stuff- some of the main ingredients of Thai cuisine.

Quintessential pad Thai on Ko Samui.

As mentioned above, rice is often the center of the dish, but it’s what goes around it, of course, that provides all the flavor. Flavors come from onions, shallots, garlic, galangal, a ginger-like root that gets smashed to release flavor while cooking, cilantro, lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, chilies, fish sauce, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Thai food has many salty, savory, and spicy components, but sweetness from various ingredients is often used. Coconut milk is common, and palm sugar, white sugar, and fruit juices are added to sweeten up main meals. The list of vegetables is endless, and many dishes are even garnished with flowers, brining us to yet another component of Thai food and snacks- presentation. Food always looks good, whether it’s served from a street vendor, a restaurant, or on display in the grocery store. Vegetable carving is very popular and most dishes are served with some type of edible decoration as a garnish.
If you haven’t tried Thai food before, give it a shot. There are many Thai restaurants all over the United States and while there are many dishes with very specific recipes, I’ve found some, such as cashew chicken are made differently where ever you go, so whether you try Thai food in Thailand or somewhere else, you’ll likely get a good combo of flavors. Stay tuned for some authentic, healthified Thai recipes soon!

I saw these tools at a market once, I should have bought one.

Have you had Thai food? What’s your favorite dish? Leave your comments and questions in the section below!

Food and Physical Fun in Kuala Lumpur

It has been my goal to not only keep up my blog posts, but to also focus on food and fitness while I travel. Today, I’m going to try to do just that while I share my day spent in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Every time I go somewhere new, it takes a bit to adjust. You have get accustomed to a new currency, new language, new customs, and new foods. That last one is always a struggle, the curious foodie in me wants to try everything, but the RD and injured Fitness minded person tries to hold off. I was in Thailand for over four months, so the desire to try everything lessened and I often cooked my own food or had my go-to decent meals and snacks. So far, I’m learning what I like here in Malaysia, as well. Thankfully, there are plenty of options and I can choose meals without rice and noodles. I’ve also seen a variety of juice and smoothie shops, and one even offered a whey protein add in. Cool drinks on hot days are quite refreshing, so happy they are an option.
It rained this morning and I was beyond disappointed. I don’t like rain. It just depresses me and has since I’ve been traveling. I ate breakfast in Chinatown and ordered grilled chicken with a side of sautéed cabbage and a fried egg.

Chinese food for breakfast!

I sat and mulled over how I’d plan my day considering the rain. Everything I wanted to see required me to mostly be outside. I had my iPad and notebook, so off to McDonald’s I went. They always have a reliable bathroom, cheap coffee, and I had to catch up on some work. I spent two hours (over one coffee) there and luckily, when I was ready to go, the rain stopped.
I’d wanted to hit up a gym while here, but the one that gives a free pass is quite far and may have cost me in transportation so I decided to add my own physical activity to the day and paid a visit to Bantu Caves. I saw them on the map and a google search proved they’d be quite an adventure, and a workout, with over 300 steps to reach the top. And as it turned out, there was another cave in the vicinity, so I did quite a bit of stairs.

The stairs go all the way to the top.

Thankfully, I fueled up with a banana smoothie made with plain yogurt and “chocolate powder” before I set off on the 11 km train ride out of the city.

Yep, I did all of that and more!

I felt so accomplished when I finished, not only did I make it up and down all the stairs, but I avoided the Indian sweet snacks and did my best to stay fully hydrated during the day. It’s hot here and humidity is a whopping 85%. I was feeling pretty ripe on that train ride back, but at least the AC was on!

You have no idea how much I love this stuff, but I had to pass! Gulab jamun!

When I got back to the city, the rain hadn’t started back up and I really wanted to go to the Petronas Towers. I scoped out the area and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll go up to the top and walk through the park.

This is my new pose- it shows I can now stand on one leg again!

By the time I left, my knee was getting sore so I sat and had some grilled chicken for a snack and made my way back to the hostel. It’s time to do some PT, but I’m tired of sweating! I did a lot today, walked over 6 miles, climbed a load of stairs, and managed to get some decent food in me.
I’ve found delicious chicken is available most places and chicken satay is a common meal, complete with a fairly decent sized serving of spicy peanut sauce. Cashew chicken was my go to in Thailand and here, it’s going to be chicken with peanut sauce. ?

Indonesian style dinner: Chicken, veggies, spicy peanut sauce, and a piece of delicious tempeh!

Knowing your healthy options is important. I tell this to my clients in the states as well. If you do not have time to prepare meals, or can’t, like me now because I’m bouncing around Asia and don’t have a kitchen available, it’s good to have some “go-to” meals that won’t break your calorie bank for the day. Although I’m a budget traveler, there are times I’ll spend an extra bit of money for a healthy meal. In Bangkok, I’d spend upwards of $6.00 for a salad at Gourmet Market. Having healthy meals actually makes me happy, so that’s one area where I’ll sometimes spend the money.
So, what about you? Do you want to try everything when you travel? What are your go-to meals and snacks and how do you incorporate physical activity on the road?

The Best Hostel in Bangkok!

Sawadee Ka from Hom Hostel and Cooking Club!

After spending my first three weeks post op in a hostel with no real cooking facilities, I really wanted a change.  In that 3 weeks I found my little grove, but the worst was over and I would soon be more mobile and able to walk.  One of the girls at that place told  me about Hom and how they have a cooking club.  I was so excited I came straight here to check it out for myself.

I was impressed!  It’s on the 5th floor of a building that’s home to a variety  of shops, fast food places, and a Thai food court.  The hostel is new, opened in October of 2016, and everything is fresh, clean, and well decorated.  The beds are large, even in the 8 and 10 person dorms and the mattresses are Marriott quality, so you always get a good night’s sleep.  Each bed has it’s own light and electric socket which is important these days so we can charge our devices while we recharge at night.  There are small lockers to lock up your valuables and you can purchase a key in case you don’t have your own (like me). To make things even more comfortable, you can rent a nice fluffy towel and there are laundry facilities so you can always have clean clothes.

Part of the kitchen.

But that’s the boring stuff!  The kitchen and rooftop garden is where it’s at!  This has to hands down be the best hostel kitchen ever.  What’s even better- the staff do a nightly cooking demo featuring various Thai dishes.  This meal is then saved and served for breakfast the next day. That is way better than any hostel breakfast I’ve ever had.  Sure beats the typical bread, butter, and jam offerings at most places.  So far, we’ve had green chicken curry, yellow chicken curry, and stir fried vegetables with tofu.  Yesterday we had a pad Thai cooking demo and free dinner.

Green Chicken Curry

I’ve only been here for a few days but I love it.  Not only that, but my ability to walk is improving day by day, so all around, things are getting better.  I’m going to leave a sign out in the morning offering a recipe I want to cook and if other guests want, they can pitch in.  I don’t mind doing all the work, I’m just happy to have a kitchen, make some healthy food, and if I can try new recipes to share with others, well that’s just a huge bonus.

So, if you’re ever in Bangkok, check out Hom Hostel and Cooking Club. Stay tuned.  I’ll be here for a while still and will post more.  Check out the recipes we made under my food and recipes tab!

Here is their website: http://www.homcookinghostel.com

Pop goes the ACL.

Wow! Yet AGAIN!!! I have not updated my blog in forever. I left Thailand on January 1st as planned to travel through Myanmar. I took a long boat from Thai immigration and wasn’t sure I’d make it across but I did, and I was so excited to be somewhere new. I spent the night in that southern port town across a small bay from Thailand and began my overland trek north. I’d wanted to go by boat, but now that the roads are finished, the ferries didn’t get enough passengers to keep running. Organizing the van trip was simple, the few hotels in town will provide information and the van will come pick you up and drop you off wherever you’re going to stay in the next town.

Stopping for gas…

I spent my first full day on a small van/bus. We covered about 120 miles and it “only” took 13 hours. I got in to my hotel around 2:00 am and slept in. When I ventured out the next day, I joined up with another traveler from the Netherlands. We took a long boat to a small island that had a path dotted with pagodas and temples. Just as we were finishing up at the last temple, I hopped off a short wall and heard a loud “POP.” I was done.

Along the pagoda path.

Fast forward about 200 miles and two days of travel on different busses to Bangkok for treatment. I registered at an international hospital (one of the best in the world) and met with the orthopedic doctor. After an MRI, I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and ACL.

I’m determined to continue my overland Myanmar journey once I’m better. I’m on a setback here in Bangkok, but one day, I’ll be able to walk again!

I made calls to my travel insurance provider, scheduled surgery, and recover now, for as long as it takes.
I’m bored in Bangkok. Laziness breeds laziness and I’m unmotivated to do any of my writing, blogs, and posts. Going out is taxing, and at best, I only care to do my PT.
Being stuck, immobile, with only one functioning leg, in a big city is no fun!
My next blog will be about my insurance fiasco!
To be continued…