Monthly Archives: September 2008

Mr Stumpy goes to Phuket

Mr. Stumpy

Part One – July/ August 2006

Thursday is pool competition night for the Khao Lak tsunami volunteers. It’s the start of my second stint helping out with reconstruction along the 50km strip of towns and villages that were hardest hit by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Tonight, I’m getting to meet all of the hundred or so volunteers currently in town, who are variously labouring on building sites, making furniture and toys, planting trees and teaching English in schools. I’m also getting to meet all the local street dogs. They join in most social gatherings around here but are guaranteed to make an appearance when food is involved.

They seem a well-fed and happy lot. All except for one. There’s a very ribby adolescent dog with half his tail missing wandering among the crowd. Someone gives him an inadvertent kick while trying to get to the bar and he whimpers. Next thing he blunders into another dog, which promptly nips him. I wince in sympathy. Another dog person, Claire, sees my responses and fills me in: “That’s Gecko or Stumpy. He breaks my heart. We think he got run over a while back and that’s why half his tail is missing. He’s probably got brain damage too. He won’t eat properly. I don’t know what to do. Some vets were supposed to come up from Phang Nga to get the dogs sorted but they never showed.”

That’s a pity for Stumpy, who really is a bit of a sad case. It’s also a pity for Stumpy’s mama, Mama. She is heavy with another impending litter of pups and she looks like she’s had a few already.

However, the wheel of fortune also turns for dogs. After I finish my stint here, I’m scheduled to spend some time with the Soi Dog Foundation down in Phuket. When I ring them next day to see if they can help, John Dalley, from the Foundation, says if I can get the dog down there, he’ll organize a vet to treat him and they will work out a long-term plan for him after that. The Soi Dog Foundation sterilizes and immunizes all the street dogs it treats, and then usually returns them to wherever they came from. For those dogs that can’t be returned to the streets or left at a temple, they have a small shelter in Phuket City. Needless to say, it’s bursting at the seams, with both former street dogs and surrendered pets. However, they can usually find room for just one more.

(left) Mr Stumpy in the TVC Office (right): Mr Stumpy has his 1st taste of truckin’

John adds that if I can’t get a truck organized, dogs are permitted on the Surat Thani – Phuket bus. I resolve that, one way or another, I am going to get Mr Stumpy down to Phuket, even if it means making a whole busload of people squirm at the sight of an obviously heat-addled farang with a not very wholesome looking dog in tow.

The authorities probably didn’t have dogs like Mr Stumpy in mind when they decided pets were permitted on buses. The feeling that an alternative form of transport would be preferable is reinforced next morning, when I’m sitting on the footpath drinking an iced coffee and tickling Mr Stumpy’s belly. The Surat Thani – Phuket bus pulls up right next to us. A couple of dozen softly smiling faces look down on us. The kind of soft, slightly nervous smiles that tell me they’re probably worrying about what I’m about to catch. I’m sure they wouldn’t complain about sharing a bus with with Mr Stumpy and me, because Thai people never seem to complain about anything much. However, I’m also sure they wouldn’t be thrilled about it either.

All this planning assumes Mr Stumpy is going to last until I’ve got the free time to get down to Phuket. On Friday night, after a beer or two, I’m meandering through town when I see a dog lying on the median divide in the middle of the highway. At first glance I think it’s a stiff and gird myself for the task of scooping up the remains. Then I see that it’s alive and just lying down. Of course, it’s Mr Stumpy. So pick him up and carry him to the side of the road. A couple of waiters are standing out the front of their empty restaurant and watching our unsteady progress. One comes over shaking his head sadly: “He do that all the time.” Most Thais love animals but part company with we farang with their greater willingness to let things take their course. Deciding you are going to do what it takes to save one unlucky dog among millions probably seems just a little irrational to them.

Thanks to some friends from up the hill in Khao Sok, we have a truck on Monday to take Mr Stumpy to the vet in Phuket. That’s at least one thing that has gone better than expected. However, things don’t go so well when I grab Mr Stumpy out from under the computers in the Tsunami Volunteer Centre office and put a collar on him. It’s a bit too much of a new experience for a dog that has never been owned by anyone. He scuttles off like a crab, trying to get loose of the collar. I get that sinking feeling as I trot down the road in hot pursuit and wonder if it would be better to do things Thai-style and leave him to take his chances here with the local pack and the highway traffic. Maybe he will go berserk in the truck and wind up in a bigger mess than he is already.

Instead, he takes to riding in the truck like a duck to water.

(left): Tiger (right): The Shelter, Phuket Town

At Dr John’s veterinary surgery in Thalang we get to see how good things are for Khao Lak’s street dogs. Out the front, Ina from the Soi Dog Foundation is plucking maggots from a dog they have just named Lucky. He is almost entirely bald with mange. Lucky was unlucky enough to live in the middle of an expensive condominium complex, where ex-pats must have been coolly regarding him over their gin and tonics for a couple of months and muttering: “What a revolting dog! Someone really should do something about it.”

Ina gathers quite an audience from passers by and people coming into the surgery. Several people comment that Mr Stumpy doesn’t look too bad compared to Lucky and one or two other dogs that have come in today. One adds that if he’s the worst case in Khao Lak, it must be a pretty good place.

Back in Khao Lak that evening, Anne-Marie, a Swedish ex-pat who lives in Thailand half the year, enlightens me about how Mr Stumpy actually lost his tail. “No he wasn’t hit by a car. He was set upon right outside my house by all the other dogs at 3 in the morning. It sounded like they were going to kill him. They’re all nice during the day but after midnight they turn into wolves. Please, can you have that dog put down? He’s going to be bottom of the pile wherever he goes. Can you guarantee him a safe home behind a fence?” I wish I could. There’s absolutely no chance of being able to take him home to Australia with me so from now on it’s in other people’s hands whether he has a safe home or not.

When I raise the possibility of putting Mr Stumpy down with Gill Dalley, from Soi-Dog Foundation, she says it’s simply not an option. “This is Thailand. We usually can’t get vets to put down desperately ill dogs, there’s no way we could find one to put down a healthy dog.” Plus, the shelter has a special wimps enclosure. Even if the shelter becomes Mr Stumpy’s permanent home, Gill assures me he will be have a decent life. Besides, Dr John, the vet who is treating Mr Stumpy, says that apart from a minor toe infection, there’s not a thing wrong with him.

Eating Vegetarian in Thailand

The annual Vegetarian Festival has already started here in Thailand. It happens every year in the tenth Thai lunar month on the first new moon after the equinox. This year it is celebrated between 29th September and 8th October 2008. Most people make the mistake in thinking that this is a festival only celebrated in Phuket. Although it is true that their version is certainly livelier, it is actually celebrated in many places around Thailand wherever there are large Chinese communities. Samut Prakan is no exception. All through the town we have had large yellow banners hung across the roads for the past week. I actually got quite excited about it as for the first time I decided to take part myself. For the past few days I have been preparing myself. It is notthat easy as the Chinese version of “jay” is more vegan than vegetarian as you are not allowed any animal products. So, this not only means fish, but also milk and eggs. Just to complicate it, you cannot eat strong smelling produce such as garlic and onions.

At school, about 15% of our students and teachers have signed up for vegetarian meals. However, not everyone has Chinese ancestors. There are people like myself who are doing it as a kind of purification of the body and mind. Personally I think it is a great form of detox not eating animal products for ten days. I am also going to try and quit coffee and beer as these are a stimulant. However, I am not sure how well I will survive. Some teachers have already admitted to me that they will probably only do it for three days. But, I want to do this properly and I have given it a lot of thought. The first day was relatively easy. I couldn’t have my normal breakfast so I had a kind of breakfast cereal with a non-dairy creamer. This left me hungry after a few hours but luckily lunch at school starts at 11.30 a.m. To keep me going in the morning, I did like the students and had a carton of soy bean milk. Most of the junior students had “tom yum gai” this morning. The vegetarians had a similar dish though instead of chicken they had tofu and mushrooms. The senior students had a noodle dish. Again, the vegetarians had tofu and mushrooms instead of the meat. It wasn’t too exciting but was certainly filling. For a while at least.

For my preparation I went to Big C to see what I could eat. A large section of the supermarket had shelves stacked with food that we can safely eat during the vegetarian festival. It is easy to spot as there are always yellow flags with the word “jay” written in Thai in red letters. In the picture above, you can see some of the things I bought. These include soy bean milk and mama noodles. There were even cup noodles of tom yum with mushrooms and tofu. I also bought plenty of vegetables as I will be doing some cooking myself. For the first time I bought some tofu but I am not sure what to do with it yet! However, after visiting Racha Market in Paknam earlier this evening, I think I will be eating out every night. There were so many stalls with yellow flags and such a variety. It actually made me quite excited to browse what was on offer. Tonight I had a fried noodle with vegetable dish together with some tofu that looked so much like roasted beef and vegetarian spring rolls. I have already planned what I am going to eat tomorrow night. I will be taking some pictures of the food on offer at the market and will be sharing these with you later in the week. I just need to sort out breakfast and then I think I can seriously make it through the ten days. I have also discovered a good vegetarian restaurant around the corner from the school. So, if the school lunch isn’t too exciting then I could go out and grab something nearby.

Click here for part two.

We have a discussion over at about what you can eat during the Vegetarian Festival. I will also be posting there some of the pictures I take every day.

Samut Songkram’s Floating Markets

Ask any one of the literally thousands of travel agents in Bangkok for advice on visiting a floating market and sure enough they’ll point you in the direction of the extremely well-known one in Damnoern Saduak, Ratchaburi province. Damnoen Saduak floating market has been transformed into a tourist sightseeing fad with almost as many foreign tourists as locals.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to say that Damnoern Saduak isn’t worth going to, I suppose it is; but if you want to get off this very beaten touristy track and experience a more authentic floating market, then head for Samut Songkhram province instead.
Amphawa floating market, open from 3pm til 9 at night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday is a must-go for those who enjoy the genuine charm of life on the river. You will be able to bustle with vendors both on and off the river and sample the culinary delights of popular Amphawa river munchies. So, if you are feeling a bit hungry after the trip from Bangkok, you’ll be able to tuck into a fancy mix of grilled prawn, squid and octopus. Then there is also Amphawa’s speciality of Omelet with Mussel.

Along the river is a Walking Street where visitors can sit back and relax with a hot cup of traditionally made coffee and take in the delights of a market, which hasn’t changed for decades. Unlike Damnoern Saduak with its approximately 5,000 tourists a day, at Amphawa you’ll hardly being see any white-faces! The only tourists you’ll probably be seeing snapping pictures will be just Bangkokians.

Another market, just down the road from Amphawa, you ought not to miss if you get the chance is Tha Kha Floating Market. The market is on every Saturday and Sunday between 8am-11am but the days when it really gets going are on the waxing and waning moon days of the lunar calendar. Tha Kha specializes in fruits and vegetables which are grown and sold by the actual vendors, so you can be sure of getting the best possible prices. So, if you are a fan of the likes of deliciously fresh mangosteen, pomelo or sugar apple you will certainly not be disappointed.

If you don’t have your own transport, to get to either Amphawa or Tha Kha, you ought first to get a bus to Samut Songkram Town from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. There are also three trains daily between Bangkok and Samut Songkram which depart from Wong Wian Yai train station on the Thonburi side of the capital.

If you are planning to stay the night at Amphawa and really experience traditional river life, then a stay at Fon Home Stay is really recommended. Friendly Ms. Fon offers rooms in her lovely Thai house and also arranges boat trips. For more information, visit her website at

Dates of Tha Kha Floating Market 2008:

September : 1 , 6 , 11 , 16 , 21 , 26
October :1 , 6 , 11 , 16 , 21 , 26 , 30
November ; 4 , 9 , 14 , 19 , 24 , 29
December ; 4 , 9 , 14 , 19 , 24 , 28

Old Patong: The Further Adventures Of Dutch Jeff

Dutch Jeff lumbered into Thai Garden Restaurant early saturday morning.

The big man dwarfed his little Honda 70CC step thru motorbike. Parking it on the north side of the building, he hoisted off his little son “Jep-noi”, immediately Jep-Noi ran over to Crazy Daves table, where David hadn’t noticed the little guy, until he pee’d under the table and ran off towards the beach while Dutch Jeff mooched a free drink from Texas Larrys bottle of Hon Yoke rum.

Jeff, a true dutchman liked anything free. He sat down at the same table as Texas Larry and began a strange tale. It seemed that Dutch Jeff had actually found employment in Phuket town!!!

Having a job for an expat was strange, outside of the hand full of expat bar/restaurant owners, I knew of NO expat anywhere on Phuket island that actually…worked!

It seems that the big man got a job as an “extra” in the new movie being filmed over the hill in Phuket town! Word soon scrambled over the coconut telegraph and all expats in Phuket made their way to the hiring office for extras, which was IN Thai Garden Restaurant the next day.

Locals, expats,movie star wanna be’s all showed up, stood in line and many were hired on the spot as fill-ins/extras for the new movie “The Killing Fields” soon to be filmed using the old Phuket-Portugese building in Phuket town that looked similar to parts of Cambodia!

The guy next door from the Paradise Dive Shop got a bit part in the movie as a US Army soldier, a few others got similar parts, but Dutch Jeff actually got the part of the Russian Ambassador, a SPEAKING part in the new movie!!

Having a speaking part in the movie meant that Dutch Jeff was PAID MORE for his part and most importantly to Dutch Jeff, it meant he got to eat FREE FOOD DAILY with the “real” actors of the movie, while most of the bit players were on their own!

At the end of each day, Jeff would return to Thai Garden Restaurant and hold court and lord his high pay speaking movie star job over the lesser bit-part/extra players as Jeff would routinely and with great detail, brag about everything that happened or every free steak he ate that day!

Diver Mike, from next doors Paradise Dive Shop would often come into Thai Garden Restaurant in full US Army costume. He’d pick my brains on how to “look like a real solider”,etc and I’d always add a few “suggestions” so he could have his uniform looking strack and Army-like! The guy looked EXACTLY like JFK killer Lee Harvey Oswald and many of us would call him Oswald and Diver Mike would grin and take it as a compliment.

Diver Mike had recently returned from commercial diving in the Middle East while his partner at the dive shop, Mike “Shady” Brady ran the shop. It appears various “contracts” etc by the Irish Diver vs Oswald didn’t pan out the way Oswald thought it would be and in turn he immediately tuned in Mike “Shady” Brady to the immigration, it seems Shady hadn’t bothered to get a Visa/work permit in about 4 years.

Anyway, Dutch Jeff would hold court the rest of the evening,going into night and often brought a “real” actor or two to frequent Thai Garden Restaurant. He always referred to the star, Sam Waterston as that skinny guy!

I’ve searched the movie in IMDB but can find NO MENTION of Dutch Jeff or the part of the Russian Ambassador! But, just watch the movie and notice the big bald Russian Ambassador, a few scenes anyway, I think they cut all of his speaking parts and you can see Dutch Jeff in all his glory near the end of the movie when the fall of Pnom Penn shows them burning documents and throwing out a washing machine! The mystery lives on…

In Old Patong, there was always a mystery, some solved, mostly unsolved and gone into legend!

How to cook… Stir-fried Pork with Chili and Holy Basil

One of the most popular dishes at roadside food vendors is stir-fried minced pork with chilies and holy basi. In Thai this is called “grapao moo sap”. There are three versions: minced pork, chicken or beef. It is served on plain rice and often topped with a fried egg. Though usually you have to ask for this (say “kai dao”) and you will have to pay 5 baht extra. Without the fried egg, you might still be able to find this dish for 25 baht. As you can see in the picture below, the main ingredients are holy basil, chopped garlic, bird eye chili (prik kee noo) and minced pork in the center. What is not pictured are the longer red spur chili (prik chee faa daeng). These are not so hot and are added towards the end mainly as decoration.

The cooking process is quite simple. To start with you need a mortar and pestle. Pound the chopped chili and garlic together to make a smooth paste. Meanwhile, heat up your wok with a couple of table spoons of oil. Fry the chili and garlic paste until fragrant and then add the minced pork. Keep stirring. Season with oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and stock. When doing stir-fried dishes, you can add water or some kind of stock to stop it from drying out. At the last moment, add a handful of the holy basil leaves and the sliced spur chilies. Give it a good stir and then turn off the heat.

We will have another dish for you next week at Feel free to send us your suggestions for what you would like to see us cook. If you are missing our Friday Lunch Menu where we bought street food every week, the archives are now up-to-date at We have also added Thai for each menu item. Don’t forget our Thai Food Forums where you can ask questions about buying and cooking Thai food.