Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 13, 2009 - Koh Yang, Phang Nga Province, Thailand

Sea Eagles feeding on carrion tossed by a passing tour boat.

As we motorsailed north from Ao Chalong into Phang Nga Bay a marvelous thing happened - it started to rain. Now usually a daysail in the rain wouldn't thrill us so much, but we haven't had a drop of rain since leaving Singapore a month and a half ago, and our deck and canvas are badly in need of a wash. As long as the rain lasted, we cleaned. But it was only a passing shower, so Mata'irea is still dirtier than we'd like.

Motorsailing along the coast of Koh Phanak we were approached by a longtail. The fishermen onboard held up a handful of giant prawns that were so fresh their legs were still moving. We waved them over and Sten put the engine into idle as they pulled along side. They were asking 400 baht (about $12) for about two pounds of these super fresh gigantic prawns. We couldn't eat that much, and we couldn't come up with 400 baht in small bills. I brought up the small bills we did have and then asked if they drank beer (I had to check first, this is a deeply muslim part of Thailand, so I didn't want to insult anyone by shoving alcohol in their faces). This question brought out big smiles. So up Sten came with 2 ice cold VBs, which led to even bigger smiles. We quickly concluded our negotiations and came away with over a pound of wriggling light pink shrimp for 120 baht (around $4).

We found an anchorage behind Koh Hong, and dropped anchor. Completely blind to the gorgeous scenery around us, we poured over the cookbooks, trying to find a recipe worthy of these big beautiful shrimp (unlike the farm raised shrimp from Thailand that we find in grocery stores back home, which are black tigers, these were wild, white shrimp). We agreed that cooking them in their shells, heads on was the way to go, as that would make them even more flavorful. After settling on a recipe, we looked up an realized that we were being perhaps a little unappreciative of our spectacular surroundings, so we set out in the dinghy to explore the lagoon and adjacent hong.

Upon returning to the boat we discovered that there was about 2 knots of current cranking through our anchorage, so we upped anchor and went looking for a better place to spend the night. We tucked into a little bay, just south of Koh Yang, a horseshoe shaped island, one end of which is anchored by a giant phallic symbol. All around us, improbably shaped limestone karsts thrust up out of milky green water towards the sky. Over the years, the rain has eroded the limestone, which is shot through with sections of black, grey, white, peach and burnt sienna, so the pillars look like candles that have been burning for too long in a drafty room.

The karst at Koh Yang is just to the left of the open hatch cover.

Those are some long antennae - and a messy galley!

While I showered, Sten got started making dinner. First he made a dipping sauce out of garlic, chili, fish sauce and lime juice. Then he deveined and cleaned the shrimp and coated them in a mixture of salt, pepper and cornstarch. Finally, he cut up some scallions and pepper to stir fry with the shrimp. While Sten grabbed a shower, I tossed together a cucumber salad and some rice. Then I gave him back the galley, and stood back to watch as he sauteed the shrimp. The end result was delicious - a meal worthy of the freshest shrimp that either of us is every likely to eat. I was impressed by the tom yum soup Sten made us for last night, but tonight's dinner blew me away. Those cooking classes are already paying dividends!

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