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Lost in Thailand

Lost in Thailand

 

I’m off on a tangent here, but film is food for thought is it not?

Lost in Thailand is the surprise 2012 low budget Chinese comedy hit that rocked the Chinese film industry to its very core. The film grossed over 200 million dollars to become the highest grossing film in Chinese cinema’s history, yet went nearly unnoticed in the west due to a very limited release.

Lost in Thailand was shot in and around Chiang Mai where the film’s notoriety unexpectedly put Chiang Mai on the Chinese traveller’s radar. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists have been flocking to Chiang Mai since the film was released, stoking an unforeseen windfall for the local economy and changing the demographics of local tourism ever since.

As a resident of Chiang Mai I was well aware of the film’s impact on the city, but had not bothered to see the film, thinking it was just another farcical Asian pop comedy. But, with monsoon rains coming down in bucks last Sunday, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. To my great surprise the film was as clever as it was funny and entertaining!

Director, writer, and star Xu Zheng’s comedy drama scenario is nothing out of the ordinary per se, but the film’s spectacular success sits squarely with the director’s fresh limber contemporary take on film making that rejigs established elements of Chinese cinema. The film’s irresistibly likable characters, first rate production, spot on cinematography that frames the action in the lush scenery in and around Chiang Mai, and a happy ending brings the film full circle. This is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable road movie that delivers a light hearted escape from the hectic humdrum realities of day to day life in urban China or anywhere else for that matter.

Leave any lingering preconceptions you may harbor about Asian comedies behind, relax, and let the quirky twists and turns of the film work its charms.

In Mandarin; English subtitles available

See trailers You Tube.    Available On DVD, iTunes, Netflix

Something Fishy ?

Something Fishy ?

 

I recently read an article in the Bangkok Post entitled, Fishing for ethical business. The first sentence read “ Fresh, clean, and formaldehyde-free seafood….”.

Formaldehyde-free seafood? The article did not explain what that meant. I had some idea but a little research was a wake up call.

Fish is regularly touted to be an essential part of our diet, yet the source and handling of the fish is as important as the fish itself. The article went on to explain the importance of sustainable fishing, as opposed to commercial fishing that uses illegal fishing tools, destructive fishing practices and methods, slave labor, and the monopolies of Agro-industries that process and distribute fishing exports around the world.

Asia is the source of nearly 90% of fish sold worldwide, and nearly all fish is treated with formalin, a solution of formaldehyde and water, to preserve the fish before it is delivered to the exporter for processing and freezing. The use of formalin is unregulated throughout Asia. This process extends to fruits and vegetables as well.

How to Detect Formalin: Using a test kit is the surest way to detect formalin, but the consumer’s first line of defence is to use your nose. I am not a scientist but I have often noticed a slight chemical bleach like odor when purchasing supposedly fresh fish in supermarkets. Another indicator of formalin use is if the fish is stiff rather than flexible. Fact is almost all fish in supermarkets is not fresh at all, having been frozen for shipping and thawed for sale. Formalin use is illegal in the US and other western countries, but imported fish is not tested for formalin in the US, so beware!

Buying Fish: Ideally, only buy fish from a trusted fishmonger that sources exclusively from local or nearby waters and the fish is sold fresh and unadulterated. This may limit your choices, but buying ethically sustainable fish sourced locally makes logical as well as healthwise sense.

HOW TO REMOVE FORMALIN:

Fish: Submerge the fish in water for one hour. It will remove 60% formalin. If you submerge it in salt water for one hour, 90% formalin will be removed. If you submerge the fish in vinegar water mixture (90% vinegar, 10% water), 100% formalin removal can be guaranteed.

Fruits: If you suspect that the fruit has been dipped in formalin, you should submerge the fruit in water for at least 1 hour and rinsed. The formalin will have been removed and you can eat the fruit.

Vegetables: Vegetables can be ripened using formalin as well. You should submerge the vegetables in salt-water for at least 10 minutes and rinsed before cooking. It will remove most traces of formalin from the vegetables.

Lam Yai (Longen); Lamphun

Lam Yai (Longan); Lamphun

 

Setting off on a leisurely sojourn to Lamphun with my friend Surasak (Sam), leaving all the hustle and bustle and throngs of visitors in busy Chiang Mai behind us, gave pause, time slowing as the motorbike snaked along the banks of the Mae Ping river. The parched landscape dotted with lam yai orchards, dusty hues of the waning dry season, the intense heat of the sun beating down, all waxing into an almost transcendental passage back into another time and place as we rolled along towards Haripunchai. (Lamphun)

Lam Yai

Lam Yai

Lam yai (dragon’s eye), in the lychee, rambutan family of evergreens, originating from south China and introduced into South East Asia by Chinese merchants, and particularly prized in the north of Thailand where deep green orchards dot the landscape. The fruit has an earthy parchment like skin that when peeled reveals a milky sweet translucent fruit with a dark lacquer like seed, just visible in the center. The trees fruit twice a year; the main crop at the end of the dry season (April-June) and again the off season crop at the end of the wet season (November- January).

Lam Yai is Thailand’s largest fruit export and an integral part of Lamphun’s agricultural heritage. The fresh fruit is well worth tasting when visiting northern Thailand as it is available fresh only where it is grown. The exported fruit is canned or dried and available worldwide. 

Used in soups, sweet and sour savory dishes, salads, sweets, teas and traditional medicinal tonics. Lam yai is rich in vitamin c, iron, copper, manganese, and potassium. Rarely found fresh outside Asia, so be sure to try this deletable fruit if you happen to be visiting.

I have been to Lamphun many times over the years, yet with every visit the charms of northern Thailand’s oldest city  never fails to reveal new insights into its fascinating history. Founded by the Hariphunchai people of the Mon Kingdom in the Daravati period in the 6th century and later brought under the influence of the Lanna Kingdom’s King Mengri around 1280, who later founded Chiang Mai as the capital of the north, Lamphun really is a rare opportunity to experience the old world that once graced the north of Thailand.

Today Lamphun it is an unassuming sleepy town with all the attributes of its past woven seamlessly into the present. Friendly people, decorously tidy, with an eclectic and fascinating assemblage of architectural styles, and of course historical sights that attest to Lamphun’s luminous past.

Not to be missed, Wat Phra That, built in the 9th century, Wat Kukut in the8th century, and the Haripunchai National Museum for an impressive overview of Lamphun’s ancient relics and artifacts.

Lam Yai Orchard  PT 2007

Lam Yai Orchard PT 2007

Be sure to to take a leisurely walk about around the moated historic district where you will find local crafts, Lamphun’s unique hand loomed silk weavings, local agricultural products including lam yai, and of course a place to enjoy some amazing local northern Thai cuisine.

I have read over and over again that a day trip to Lamphun is more than enough to take in the sights, but I would recommend an overnight, or even a couple of days, to let yourself slow down to Lamphun time and really absorb the charm of this lovely gem of the north.

Getting there:

Lamphun is 26 kilometers south of Chiang Mai. If you don’t have transport you can catch a blue songtaew (blue truck with benches) east of the old city across the iron bridge (saphan lek) that spans the Ping river. You will see the blue songtaews to your right as you exit the bridge. The fare is 20 baht each way. Transport around Lamphun is readily available on arrival.

Kenji Ekuan's Kikkoman Bottle Design

Kenji Ekuan’s Kikkoman Bottle Design

Kenji Ekuan’s 1957 design for Kikkoman’s soy sauce bottle is as globally familiar as as the Coca Cola bottle. But there is a fascinating story behind its design that embodies Kenji Ekuan’s philosophy that “everything has a soul” and “making objects means imbuing it with its own spirit.” along with the idea of “democratization” of goods and beauty accessible to everyone.

I have included a link to Simon Usborne’s enlightening article in The INDEPENDENT. (click here)

A fascinating read that speaks volumes about the pleasures in cooking and eating with a Zen sense of pure experience.

 

 

 

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