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Have you ever appeared on a billboard? — work, fun and food in Phitsanulok

Posted Apr 23 2013 6:20pm

Organizing my photos and writing about our trip is wearing me out, as I'm sure it's testing the patience of my readers, but my husband has requested I keep going to preserve our memories. Today I'm covering one of my favorite places on the trip, and also some interesting Thai food in a unique restaurant.

Our three day jaunt to Phitsanulok had two main purposes — my husband gave a conference talk to professors from five universities, and we got to visit the historic town of Sukhothai, where a UNESCO site preserves the ancient Thai capital, documenting the first period of Siamese art and the creation of the first Thai state. (You can read the long description of Sukhothai, here.) There was a third purpose as well which was to shop for gifts. This post will cover day two of our visit.

On our second day in Phitsanulok, (I wrote about our first day here ) rather than visit museums as had been planned for me, I chose to attend Ken's talk at the university. After a simple lunch of vegetables and rice provided by the university, we were off to the conference room.  Do you see the photo above? It's an image of the billboard with Ken's photo that greeted us as we approached the entrance to the college campus. Seriously, if it had been my photo up there I might have jumped out of the car and run away.

Professors and teachers are revered in Thailand, and even as the professor's wife, I was given great respect and attention. Students wanted to bring me snacks and beverages and carry my purse — it was a little unnerving as I like to keep a low profile and it wasn't easy to do. However, one of the snacks I was given was a local treat of fried bananas made from a type banana that grows in the area, and they're so tasty that I was grateful to be the recipient of such a unique treat. They are unusual, small bananas that are finger-sized and very firm and chewy. They are addictive, and though I wasn't planning to, I ate the whole boxfull.

The bananas also can be found dried, and we bought boxes to bring home for our kids and for us. If you ever find yourself in Phitsanulok, look for the fried bananas!

The dried bananas are not really like anything I can describe —  firm and chewy. I'm not sure if the fried ones are made from fresh or dried bananas, but I think dried. The Thai name is bang krathum which translates to "sun-dried banana."

After the lecture, we were taken to see the King Naresuan Shrine and Wang Chan Palace Ruin. Phitsanulok was the birthplace of King Naresuan the Great of Ayuthaya (reign : 1590 - 1605). The shrine commemorates his life. Inside the small white building you see in the photo is a statue of the King and an altar.

The statue of the King is a little hard to see clearly because of the lighting, but you can observe the flowers and other offerings brought by people who have come to ask for favors or good luck. While we were there a woman came in with so many large plants she had trouble fitting them on the altar. The Thai people regard the monarchy with great reverance.

After returning to the hotel and resting a bit, Ken and I went back to visit the temple near our hotel . After spending time at the temple, we browsed the open-air market next to the temple and bought an embroidered dress for our granddaughter. It was a completely impractical white dress, but so cute, and at only $6, I couldn't resist.

We went to dinner at a very beautiful restaurant where the cooking is unusual rather than typical Thai — for the meat eaters. (I would have photographed the display but I didn't want to feature all the meat.)

For the vegans, it was rice and veggies. Please don't take this as a complaint because I'm always thrilled to receive vegan food, but it was interesting that no alternative to meat, like tofu for instance, was available.

In addition to the vegetables, we also had two soups. I don't remember what this one was.

The little round balls are mushrooms, in case you were wondering.

The soup you see above was galangal soup. Galangal, in case you aren't familiar with it, is similar to gingerroot in appearance. It is harder than gingerroot and has peppery overtones.  The soup was really good but many, if not most, of the things in it were not edible — things like hard slices of galangal and kaffir lime leaves — so mainly it was the liquid that was consumed.

This was an interesting dish. You make a little pocket with a betel leaf and fill it with chopped gingerroot, chopped limes, chopped peanuts and sauce and pop it into your mouth. We had special sauce without fish. Eating the leaves was a challenge for me because I am neurotic about not eating raw food I can't peel when traveling in other countries, but I'm happy to say I didn't get even a tinge of stomach woes on our trip. Maybe because ginger is good for digestion.

For dessert there was one of the icy-fruity things I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn't so fond of. I think the frozen part was flavored with pandan — a tropical plant that is used a lot in Thai cooking. The leaves give a sweet taste to foods. Pandan tea is a popular drink, as are bottled pandan beverages.

The restaurant building itself was quite wonderful. It was a converted traditional Thai house of multiple large rooms, both indoors and out.

By the time we finished dinner we were all exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel to rest up for our last day in Phitsanulok.

In case you are interested in more about Thailand Thailand post #1
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