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Feasting Off the Beaten Track in Thailand

Experiencing something for the first time is one of the best sensations in life, and even though Thailand is a well-known destination it offers so much more to see and taste when veering off the usual routes. 

Oyster farmer Pa Louise Lung Thom showing oysters of various ages.

Oyster farmer Pa Louise Lung Thom showing oysters of various ages.

A banana leaf being folded for preparing a Thai banana cake.

A banana leaf being folded for preparing a Thai banana cake.

Bananas for sale in Chanthaboon Old Town.

Bananas for sale in Chanthaboon Old Town.

The sunset over bustling Bangkok.

The sunset over bustling Bangkok.

Southeast Asia is one of the most popular holiday destinations with its vibrant culture, iconic street food, world-renowned beaches and value for money attracting visitors from all over the world. But these destinations offer so much more outside of the popular.

The Southern Tourism Corridor is a cooperation among Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established in 2007, with Myanmar invited to join in 2018. Some of the provinces included are Rayong and Chanthaburi in Thailand, Kampot in Cambodia and Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam, and I was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to explore the Corridor from a gastronomic perspective.

“When in Rayong, do not miss Khrua Ban Ban, the restaurant of Masterchef Thailand's finalist Jumlong Sriraksa. He will make sure you order his signature dish, Volcano Eggs”

Tha Chalaep is a small town in the Chantaburi province of Thailand. Boarding a boat in town you will get to one of the local oyster farms owned by Pa Louise Lung Thom, known as Uncle Thom. The trip offers a fascinating glimpse into his life as an oyster farmer, with the visit culminating in a feast of fresh oysters, cooked crab, fried whole fish, fish cakes, tom yum soup and many more local dishes. 

Not far from Tha Chalaep is Chanthaburi, the capital of the province. Start your visit at the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, one of the biggest churches in Thailand. There is a short walk from there to the three-centuries-old Old Town Chanthaboon Waterfront, steeped in history as an important trade center and international port. Enjoy a slow walk in the narrow kilometer-long lane offering picturesque views of historic homes. The community is well-known for its street food - enjoy their freshly baked madeleines, sweets, iced coffees and durian ice cream as you wander its historical streets.

Market visits are mandatory when in Thailand, and the Charoensuk Market is a must-do. It offers a vast selection of fresh products, seafood and ingredients, and you can join locals as they do their daily shopping for cooking at home. Some stalls also offer freshly-cooked traditional meals that can be purchased and enjoyed at home for those who are too busy to cook. 

From Chanthaburi we traveled to the Rayong province, which offers a more peaceful beach experience than other popular beach destinations in Thailand. The Rayong province is well-known for its seasonal tropical fruit of rambutan, mangosteen and the world-famous durian, as well as salak that is grown all year round. The people of the province produce a variety of seafood products, and the very important fish sauce, as well as shrimp paste and many dried-fish products. A visit to the Ban Phe Market located near the fishing boat port offers a vast array of dried seafood products produced in the area. This market is an obligated stop before taking a boat to Ko Samet or Samet Island. 

Not to be missed in Rayong is Jumlong Sriraksa's restaurant, Khrua Ban Ban. The Masterchef Thailand's finalist dishes up some of the best food we had on the trip and makes sure you order his signature dish, Volcano Eggs. He did not want to share the recipe but it was the fluffiest souffle seafood omelet I ever tasted, almost engulfed in flames as it was brought to the table - what a delight to see and enjoy!

This trip was made possible thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The Rot Fai Train Market in Bangkok.

The Rot Fai Train Market in Bangkok.

Fish under the drying process in the sun at Ban Thale Noi, in the Rayong province.

Fish under the drying process in the sun at Ban Thale Noi, in the Rayong province.

Beautiful fresh lemongrass at Ban Phe Market.

Beautiful fresh lemongrass at Ban Phe Market.

Salak farmer at Suan Lung Pichai, in the Rayong province.

Salak farmer at Suan Lung Pichai, in the Rayong province.

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Photographer, Stylist
Baking, Cooking
Photographer, Videographer and Food Stylist, Hein van Tonder is a native South African with a combination of local, continental and global creative experiences.
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