Culinary Travel and Antarctica

Greetings from Thailand!

By the time you read this, I’ll have just made it back to my little refuge on the island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand. I had some great food last week when I was in Melbourne (and some even better wine), but the whole trip back I was salivating thinking about the food on the island,

Like most Canadians, I was introduced to Thai food at places like Toronto’s Young Thailand, Calgary’s Thai Sa-On, and Sawasdee in Vancouver, the spots that made pad Thai as comfortable as previous exotic imports like bibimbap, teriyaki, and spaghetti.

But on my first trips here, specifically to southern Thailand, I realized that, like those other imports, pad Thai was just the most portable combination of foreign and familiar, and that one of the most exciting things about going to the place where it was from was trying everything else.

What’s sometimes called culinary travel gets to the very heart of what’s best about travel: discovering what unites us by experiencing what’s different.

Take sataw. They’re a kind of bean you can get here in the south of Thailand, and the main ingredient in popular dishes like sataw pad kapi goong. That’s something you’re not likely to see on a menu back home.

It’s a shrimp dish – those are big around here – served beside or on a bed of sataw. The English translation of sataw is “stink beans.” This might be the very reason some travellers wouldn’t order it, and the exact reason I think you should.

Shows like Survivor, Fear Factor, and even the first few seasons of Anthony Bourdain, have tried to convince us that people in different parts of the world eat unpleasant things. I’m here to tell you they don’t.

One of my proudest discoveries from travelling around 100+ countries and regions too numerous to count is that the human palate is the same wherever you go. People don’t eat disgusting things. (Well, maybe except Icelanders, but they’re a special case.)

If something sounds or seems gross to us, that’s our brains talking, not our palates. And our brains are precisely what we’re looking to exercise and expand by travelling.

Durian fruit is an excellent example. You can’t get it fresh in North America, and fresh is the only way to eat it. If you go to the right places, they’ll cut it up for you, and give you gloves so that the famous smell – not unlike body odour, to be frank – doesn’t get on you.

But the thing is that it doesn’t taste the way it smells, not even a little. It’s sweet and meaty and thoroughly delicious. There aren’t a lot of things in the world that smell bad and taste good. Why pass up the chance to try something so rare?

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to like everything. I certainly don’t. And allergies and religious considerations necessarily come into play as well.

But as a rule, at least for myself, I try not to let my pre-travel preconceptions make my decisions for me. And whether it’s French cheeses, German cabbages, Moroccan lamb brains, or Senegalese fish heads…I always taste first, and ask questions later.

As I mentioned a few newsletters back regarding our Lyon & Burgundy program, we don’t really do culinary travel per se, but we do make a very concerted effort to include high-quality culinary experiences on our trips, with the occasional ‘peak culinary experience’ where we can find them.

After all, good food, good company & good times harmonize together very well, and that is the ideal we are after.

So you are looking for a very fine food experience on a trip, that Lyon & Burgundy program is a very good opportunity, as is our LiveAway here in Thailand on the island of Koh Samui (where they make a mean gaeng som, or sour curry), or for our Yoga/Wellness on my home island of Koh Phangan.

Clearly I’ve got food on the mind as I’ve made it this far and have said nothing about our newest trip release, a very much once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica at the end of January 2025.

Antarctica is another one that shows up again and again in our New Member Questionnaire responses, and I’m excited to put a group together to do some proper frontier-travel to the ‘Last Continent. I’ve had the privilege of going to Antarctica twice and it is unquestionably among my top travel memories, for the experience of feeling so small in the face of Nature’s great might.

I should add that the cold and the seas are not for everyone, and that makes it a program for the relatively more intrepid among us. It is an adventure through and through and well worth a peek at the itinerary below.

Enough rambling, my stomach is rumbling and it’s time to sign off – thanks for all the great feedback last week on Australia and do get in touch should you have any comments or questions about any of our programs.


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