THAILAND: Overtourism

Thailand’s economy is deeply built on tourism, with around 40 million tourist visits a year in 2018 / 2019 – easily in the top 10 most visited countries in the world. However, with that comes the problems of overtourism – ecological damage, economic disparity, commercialization of local culture, and lack of access to local sites for locals. None of this unique to Thailand, but by being a pretty large country that is also so dependant on tourism, the scale of the problem is eye-opening.

However, the massive economic hit from the global tourism shutdown in 2020 definitely contributed to the current protests in Thailand and ongoing unrest and economic hardship. The Thai government is currently looking at ways to reform the tourism industry once things start to really reopen – especially focusing on small numbers of wealthy tourists, at least initially. The tourism industry is naturally desperate to get back on its feet in any way possible, so Thailand may be facing the same overtourism issues all over again in a few years.

THAILAND: Even more snacks

Straight from the source – I put a big order in with Thai Snack Online, I’ll have to split it into two posts. They’ve got a really good selection, and the shipping to Canada was pretty fast and reasonable (though Canadian border services stopped it – thankfully they didn’t pinch any of my treats!)

Tamarind House Crispy Banana with Passionfruit – No actual tamarind in these – that’s the brand name. Dried banana chips with a bit of passionfruit jam in between them. These are delicious, they’re not too sweet but still feel like a great treat. I’d definitely re-order these.

Mama chicken instant noodles – Mama is the brand of instant noodles in Thailand – so much so that “Mama” has become a generic term, kind of like “Kleenex”. They’re good thin noodles, with a slightly spicy chicken broth. I added in some veggies and meat, but nothing else for flavourings.

Lays Cheese Burger chips – I love when a brand that sells really different flavours in other countries – Lays, KitKat, Fanta, etc. Thailand has cheeseburger chips! They smell really good, smokey and cheesy. They’re really tasty too, tastes like onion and well…a burger!

Sunsnack Sunflower Kernel Corn Cheese – I thought they would be something lie pretzel bites but these are actually sunflower seeds! They’ve got a savoury-sweet coating with a nutty flavour, and a mild cheese flavour. Really addictive.

Heart Beat Lime Soda candy – Heart-shaped hard candies with a sherbet filling. The hard candy tastes like lime, but in a tart, distinctly realistic way. The sherbet is also tart and slightly fizzy, it really does taste like a club soda with lime juice, but in candy format. I love these.

THAILAND: Papaya Salad by Elisa Macellari

I picked up at the library Papaya Salad, by Thai-Italian artist Elisa Macellari – a beautiful graphic novel about her great-uncle’s life during WWII – growing up in rural Thailand, joining the military diplomatic corps in order to see the world, ending up at the Thai embassy in Italy, then Berlin, and being taken as a POW by American forces (as Thailand had sided with Japan in WWII), meeting his wife and his eventual return to Thailand. It’s beautifully drawn, and shot through with love and longing and the confusion of an individual drawn along by larger forces.

THAILAND: Koi tuna

Koi is a type of ceviche from Isaan in northern Thailand and Laos. I’ve also seen it described as a “raw larb“. The ingredients differ – beef, fish, snail, shrimp, sometimes even red ants – but it needs to be raw, and it’s prepared with lime juice and herbs and spices.

I’m using the koi recipe from Night + Market by Kris Yenbamroong – it calls for sushi-grade salmon or tuna. I do love raw tuna, so I grabbed some sashimi and went to town.

This recipe is very easy, put the tuna in a bowl and mix in hot chilies, cilantro, lemongrass, mint, onion, fish sauce, toasted rice powder, and a generous dose of lime juice. You don’t let it cure too long in the lime, though; the rawness of this dish is important. It’s really tasty, fresh and sharp and strong flavours all mixing together.

There have been some issues with the meat sources for koi in Isaan, with flukes that can cause liver cancer being found in the fish and snails that often go into this dish – so much so that liver cancer makes up 50% of cancers in the region. However, that’s more on the sourcing of the meat rather than the dish itself!

THAILAND: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a subtle movie, with long shots and deep silences, mixed in with sharp stylistic changes and magical realism.

Uncle Boonmee is a farmer in northern Thailand, slowly dying of kidney disease. In his last days, his sister-in-law Jen and her son Toong come to visit to give him comfort and arrange his affairs. Boonmee’s dead wife (Jen’s sister) reappears as a ghost, who quietly joins back into the family, including helping with the mundane, like draining Boonmee’s kidney, and giving him comfort at his own approaching death. The past emerges in hints of other lives, as well as the return of Boonmee’s son, who has lost himself to the forest and become an ape spirit.

And yet for all the supernatural elements, it’s really an ambiguous and almost meditative movie about facing death and grieving.


I stopped by the great little Thai hole-in-the-wall (literally, you order in through a window) – Social Thai. It’s consistently rated as one of Ottawa’s best Thai restaurants. Got there just at golden hour, perfect for a little outdoors snack.

I tried the som tum – a salad of shredded green (unripe) papaya, with other veggies, cilantro, crushed peanuts, fish sauce, lime, and chilies. It’s lovely and refreshing – and wonderfully spicy. They don’t softball you here on heat, it was great – I broke a sweat. Glad I had a cold beer to go with the salad!


Let’s start with a short intro video about Muay Thai, including a bit of history and how the fights work:

I’d also strongly recommend this beautiful documentary with Wisarut Wat Suksiriwararak, a former fighter and now coach in northern Thailand. His concern for the future of the sport comes from its overpopularity – the commercialization of it is starting to divorce Muay Thai from its traditional and historical roots.

Muay Thai really became internationally famous in the 80s with the fight between Muay Thai champion Changpuek Kietsongrit vs. American kickboxer Rick Roufus. Somewhat unfairly, many of the normal Muay Thai moves like elbows and grappling were not allowed in the fight, while all kickboxing moves were allowed. Despite this, the American, who had been bragging beforehand, had to be taken out of the ring in a stretcher.

And if you’re interested in a bit of a Muay Thai workout at home – here’s a great one with Ajahn Suchart, former Northern Thailand Champion, who moved to Canada in the late 80s to start teaching here. It’s a hell of a workout, I was feeling it in my abs the next day!

THAILAND: More snacks

Poked around Ottawa’s Chinatown (which has a lot of Southeast Asian stores and restaurants) for more Thai snacks, picked up some goodies from Lim Bangkok Grocery and Kowloon Market.

Real Basil Seed Drink – Word of the day: the term for seed that make a gooey gel coating when soaked is “mucilaginous” – and that includes basil seeds. It’s a fun texture, especially when used in desserts or drinks. I’ve got two different flavours of a Thai basil seed drink. Passion Fruit is somewhat sweet but has a good realistic passion fruit taste. Lychee is more intense and sweeter, with lychee flavour tasting a bit artificial.

Tao Kae Noi Mala – I love mala flavoured things; I go ape for the combo of Sichuan pepper and chilies! Let’s see how it is… the dried seaweed is hotter than the Sriracha flavour (but not as hot as Spicy). There’s a smokiness to it, but it tastes more like mala potato chip flavour than actual mala seasoning – I’m not getting much Sichuan pepper. It’s still really tasty, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was meant to be mala in a blind test.

Wai Wai instant noodles – Wai Wai is a popular instant noodle brand in two places that don’t have a huge connection to each other – Thailand and Nepal. It’s thin seasoned instant noodles with a mild broth. It’s a good starting base, I boosted mine with some veggies, peanuts, green onion, Thai chili basil sauce, and a dash of Thai fish sauce, which really made it into a great meal.

Madam Pum Ruam Mitt – A package of nearly-instant ruam mitt – a cold dessert of green, pink, and white tapioca noodles and pearls in a sweet coconut broth with jackfruit chips. Takes a little bit of prep – about 10 minutes cooking time, but it’s tasty and very sweet. Great textures, especially if you cook the noodles a little al dente, and the colours are really fun.