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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Thailand by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in Thailand
by Robin Esrock / Published April 1 2008
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Robin cooks up the curry on Khao San, elephants, and the dangers of bad news.
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We thought we'd switch it up a little this episode.  Me bashing punching bags and Julia cooking curries would have been a little too predictable. Change the beats and soon enough you get Julia surrounded by panting half naked men and me clutching a large knife, an empty wine glass, and chewing thermonuclear chillies.   
I love to travel, and I love to eat.   Favourite destinations for food:   Malaysia, India, Argentina (meat meat meat) but number one is Thailand.  Cooking is an art form here, every taste should include sweet, sour, spicy and salty, and I just love the sweet and spicy in life!

Esrock Serves it UpKhao San Road, Vegas for Backpackers, has grown since I was last here a couple years ago. I remember arriving late at night, completely overwhelmed by the colour and people and smells and loud music.  Well, there's more neon today, but my favourite bars are still here, crowded with backpackers from around the world.  Ladyboys still serve evil Chang beer at the Central, Burmese women peddle wooden frogs, and charming men want to sell you suits.   Booze buckets are as strong as ever, and the 50c street pad thai still delicious.    But you can only stick on Khao San for a few nights before it either drives you insane or grabs hold and never lets go.  It's off to Chiang Mai.

Despite the famous beauty of the islands in the south, I've always preferred northern Thailand.   Something about the jungle, the culture, the chill of it all.   The cooking schools were fantastic, as you can see in the show, and I passed the green curry, pad tai, cucumber relish and even hot and sour soup with flying colours.   Yummy.    The story has done pretty well for me, I managed to sell it while we were still on the road.    It was a delicious one after all.

After 7 hectic weeks on the road, we had a couple days off and the crew took the opportunity to give each other some space.  Some went south, I went further north to the sleepy backpacker town of Pai.  It was a brilliant recompression. Surrounded by gorgeous landscape, I hired a scooter and spent 4 days zipping around, discussing life with travellers and locals, catching up on some sleep, even teaching some kids at a local school.  I was shocked when I heard that just a few weeks later, one of the guys I met in Pai, a Canadian, was shot dead by a drunk local cop.   A tragic, unfortunate incident, and my heart goes out to his family, girlfriend (who was also shot), and the tight backpacking community in Pai.    The inevitable fallout followed.  Travel MUST be dangerous because look what happened!    Well, it's not.  Shit happens at home, and shit happens abroad.  For every one tragedy the media attacks, there are hundreds of thousands of happy stories they don't.   Don't let the bad stories scare you from realizing your dreams of travel.  And on the slight chance you find yourself in a situation, smile, and walk away.    It's just not worth it.  

Finally, the elephants.   The Nature Park was inspiring in every sense of the word, funded and operated through the efforts of volunteers and the remarkable woman who founded it.  I could have gladly stayed there a week.   And the story about Max wrote itself.   You can read it in the articles section.    One more thing, Julia and I both picked up ear infections from our water fight in the dung-drenched river water


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