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Disclaimer: I entered into a tentative agreement with the online wine retailer Wine Chateau under which they sponsor two of my posts per month. Wine Chateau has no influence on the topic I select for the post or its content. Opinions expressed are all mine.
Nina and I have been traveling in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for about 6 weeks now. We are currently on one of the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Phangang or Ko Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. We are feeling the exhaustion of 6 weeks on the road, thousands of kilometers travelled on poor roads in sleeper busses (with beds!), normal day busses of all ages and makes, minivans and trains as well as on foot. Being in a totally different place every three to four days is very taxing. We have made many experiences, but I want to focus on wine for a bit, in line with my blog…this post will actually not be about wine very much, simply because of the circumstances in these three countries.
In all three countries, beer seems to reign supreme: most of you probably know the Thai megabrands of Chang and Singha. In Laos, Lao Beer dominates the market, with a Leo here and there and Nongkham, which I enjoyed most. In Cambodia, the national champion is Angkor, but there is also Cambodia Beer and Kingdom…the latest newcomer is apparently “Ganz Berg”, a beer that advertises as “German Premium Beer”, yet I have no clue what it is, and its advertised website is not active.
Finding wine can be difficult, and if you find it it is clearly a luxury product that is heavily taxed. In the wine market, Chile, Australia and France seem to dominate. That is a bit odd, if you try to pair them with local foods, which should be rather difficult. But on second thought, wine is usually consumed with Western foods, not local foods, thus further making it difficult for wine to be embraced and incorporated into local culture. The only wine “product” we have tried so far was “Spy”, a wine cooler produced by a Thai company. They come in the craziest colors and flavors, the best having been the shiny blue “Kamikaze” which tasted like lemonade. Still kind of depressing…
There are developments and changes, but it is happening slowly. In Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, wine buffets are apparently all the rage. We saw several places offering pretty much an all you can drink buffet which, however, was limited to their housewine only, lasting for two to three hours each night and costing around $10. Which tempted us, but somehow it never happened due to other plans. As I mentioned a while ago, there are also wineries in Thailand now, and I will have the good fortune of visiting the well renown GranMonte estate before we leave Thailand. I will definitely write about that visit in the future…
Globalization is taking hold more and more. Besides the different global wine countries present, we have been able to find German Franziskaner Weissbier (a German wheat beer Nina likes) and our beloved Savanna Dry (a South African cide), just to name a few.
This is my last post from our trip and I want to close with some random impressions:
The soft drink Fanta comes in all sorts of flavors and colors. We saw: red (strawberry), pink (lychee), green (tastes like chewing gum), purple (grape), blue (no clue).
Easily the best and most affordable food of the three countries is available in Thailand.
Chiang Mai rightly lays claim to a great coffee culture, Pakse in southern Laos tries but doesn’t deliver.
Lao kids are the best.
- After traveling in Laos, Cambodia seems like a rich country. After entering Thailand, Cambodia seems like a poor country.
We had the best French baguette of our whole trip on Koh Samui, in a bakery run by a young Frenchman from Marseille. Divine.
You will find most French tourists in Laos and on the southern Thai islands. Most Dutch tourists by far are concentrated in Cambodia.
Upon return to the US we will have to buy a wok, so Nina can make use of the Thai cooking school skills she acquired. Also, we will need a professional blender, so she can make her beloved banana shakes.
There are more 7/11s in Thailand than in Canada.
Lay’s produces an insane variety of potato chips, from Nori Seaweed flavor to lobster or “American cheesy paprika” or shrimp ginger curry flavor to Sweet Basil Chili (our favorite).
Visit Laos sooner rather than later. It is rapidly developing and I fear might lose some of its charm in the near future.
After a few weeks, haggling becomes exhausting.
- Pyjamas are an acceptable piece of clothing for women in Cambodia.
Showers are often just attached to the bathroom wall without seperating structures, so your toilet seat is frequently wet.
Quail eggs are an everyday staple in Thailand. You can buy 10 fried quail eggs as a snack at street vendors for $1.
McDonalds, Burger King and KFC in Thailand offer delivery services.
I don’t know why my wordpress reader didn’t give me your post–I finally found it on facebook. (I care, so I sought out news…)
Glad to hear that you two have had an unforgettable adventure while you’re still young enough not to come undone by it. How wonderful!
I’ll be expecting pictures of Nina wokking.
It happens to me all the time, Tracy…thanks for checking in! :) The trip really has been a great adventure and learning experience…
Sounds like such a cool (although exhausting) experience! Can’t wait to read more about your travels. Be safe!
Totally worth the exhaustion. And we have been recuperating well…:)
Fabulous post and trip, Oliver (although certainly exhausting at the same time)!
I loved your bullet point list of South East Asia facts! :-)
And by the way, I very much like Franziskaner too (although I like Augustiner even better!)
Enjoy the rest of your trip!
The random facts I collect throughout trips is what I like the most…thank you, Stefano! I am not even sure I gave heard of Augustiner, but then again, I am not a Weizenbier drinker. Will need to ask Nina about it.
Augustiner is big in Munich and their pavilion is the most sought after at the Oktoberfest! :-) But I know you are not much into Bavarian beers… ;-)
Haha, got me…I have never been to the Oktoberfest…
Live and learn, through you that is :) Thank you for sharing your randomness. Many times those are the most fun.
Thanks, Ernest! Awesome fun and learning it is…
Come to the Philippines! Our wine selections are not as broad as the US but it’s starting to grow and I think we have more than Laos and Cambodia! =D The wine is taxed as well, although I’m not told, not as heavily as Taiwan.
Gigi, I wish we dould have gone. But that is another trip. Happy to hear though that wine is available that easily in the Philippines! Drink up! ;)
What a fantastic experience! I enjoyed reading about your impressions. Thanks!
Food and drink makes a fine organizing principle for a trip. We had a good time in Paris once sampling baguettes (we had a list of locally top-rated bakeries). It took discipline to just taste, not eat the whole thing!
Oh my God, Margaret, I have no clue how you kept that discipline! I wouldn’t have been able to just taste…what a fun experience.
Fascinating . . . not sure I will ever get to that corner of the world, so I will live vicariously through your journeys. Lychee Fanta? I’d try it. Maybe it would taste like fizzy Gewürztraminer? Safe travels, Oliver. Prost!
Thanks! I didn’t even make the Gewuerztraminer connection!!
Very interesting update, Oliver! I’m eagerly waiting your impressions of the winery visit. And yes, I agree, wine never was the part of the local culture there, so it will take time to develop one…
I am preally excited about that visit, too. The location just looks stunning.