Enjoying Craft Beer in Surat Thani

*Originally seen on Tar Heel Voyager

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One of the most difficult adjustments this traveler had to make when living in Thailand was the severe lack of diversity in beer options, or, at the very least, easy access to those options.  It can be quite difficult to dig yourself out of a pile of nothing but Chang, Leo, and Singha beers, but rest easy as a true craft beer scene is beginning to emerge in the Land of Smiles.  The options are still severely lacking but it is becoming a bit simpler to satiate your hops craving.

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New Places in Surat: Mouth2Mouth

The first time I heard about Mouth2Mouth, I actually couldn’t believe my ears. A place in Surat where you can get good draft beer? Nice wine? A large selection of imported bottled beers and ciders? In Surat?! Two years ago when I moved to Surat if you had told me that there would soon be a place in town to get all those things, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, times are a changin’ here in Southern Thailand and it seems like things are getting a little bit more modern and westernized every day.

You’ll find Mouth2Mouth on Amphur Rd. If you drive down Amphur from Talad Mai, it is just past the Chalokrat intersection and Good Health restaurant on the right. The whole place has a really modern feel to it, with fake grass outside and cute patio furniture. Inside you’ll find glass walls, a sleek bar, and modern decor and fixtures.

Some drinks are priced a bit high, such as imported bottled beers and ciders at 150-250 baht for a small bottle, but you’re paying for something that you can’t get at almost any other bar in Surat. Other items are more reasonably priced, such as a pitcher of Carlsberg for 100 baht, a pint of Hitachino for 150 baht, and wine for 100 baht and up per glass. One of my personal favorites is the Hoegaarden Rosée on draft for 150 for a pint or 250 for a liter.

If you want to read more about this new bar, you can follow them at facebook.com/Mouth2Mouth. As far as places in Surat go, they definitely have an unbeatable selection of draft beer, bottled beers and ciders, and wine. You’ll surely come across other fellow expats and English teachers here splurging on a taste of home.

 

 

 

 

New Places in Surat: Jam Bar & Restaurant

Within the past six months or so, a few notable watering holes have sprung up around town. When I moved here just over two years ago, a good beer was hard to find in Surat. Heineken or Carlsberg weren’t too hard to come across in nicer places around town, but when it came to finding anything a step up from those at a bar or restaurant, there weren’t even a handful of options. Now though, a few new bars have joined the ranks in Surat and they’ve both quickly become two of the most popular spots in town to hang out and get a good drink.

The most recently opened establishment is Jam Bar & Restaurant. If you drive down Chon Kasem from the river, you’ll find it just past the Karunrat intersection on the left. The place has a nice ambiance and the vintage decor combined with the two-level open air setup make for a nice place to grab a few drinks with friends. The best thing about Jam though is that the drinks are tasty AND reasonably priced AND  made with good quality liquor. Most cocktails will only set you back 90 baht and they also have wine for 80 baht a glass. A few of us think that the strawberry margarita might be the best mixed drink in town and I can definitely recommend the white russian.

Their food menu is almost completely Thai dishes and while it’s a little bit pricey, everything I’ve tried has been good. The cashew chicken and fried shrimp are both nice. The food menu is not translated into English, but a few of the waiters and waitresses speak some English and can help you out.

With great cocktails, reasonable prices, and a relaxed atmosphere, Jam has quickly become quite popular among teachers and expats in Surat. If you haven’t been, go check it out!

Mai Sai Nam Tan

I’ve been trying to make an effort to reduce the amount of sugar I get in my diet and it’s no real easy task in this part of the world. “Mai sai nam tan,” is the way to ask for something without sugar. This is a good phrase to know when ordering drinks such as fruit smoothies. Thai people are usually a bit bewildered by this request because to them everything is better with more sugar.

I’ve gone as far as making my own yogurt at home now, which is actually much easier than one would think. The yogurt here is absolutely loaded with sugar. My homemade yogurt contains no sugar and although it’s not quite as sweet, it’s definitely healthier.

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself actually having what feels like sugar withdrawals. I’ve been craving it a lot and coupled with my reduced caffeine intake, I’m getting quite a few headaches. Halloween day at school was not easy!

Sad School Snacks..

It’s really a wonder that Thailand doesn’t have an obesity problem, or at the very least an issue with diabetes.

When people think of Asian cuisine, when compared to the west, a lot of people assume that the diet is much healthier. In some ways it is because the portion sizes are much smaller and there’s no dairy. I could go on about the lack of properly cooked vegetables in a majority of Thai dishes but that’s not the issue here.

The issue is the deplorable snacks offered to students in school. Just a quick browse of the snack options in the cafeteria today and this is what I’ve found: about 5 different kinds of cake with a rainbow assortment of icings, hotdogs with mayonnaise, fried chicken, donuts, some sort of processed meatballs, hot dogs, fried pork fat, fried chicken sandwiches with mayonnaise, muffins, pork donuts (donuts with pork inside of them), sticky rice with pork, instant noodles, about 10 different kinds of ice cream, chocolate milk, and iced tea. There’re actually mangos available today, but fruit is a rare option. There’s also milk and yogurt available but what 10 year old is buying that when they can buy chocolate milk?

The fact is, you can’t give children in a school all of these unhealthy options and expect them to make the healthy decision. That’s not how kids work. I’m all for not policing what people do as adults but as a school, only to provide unhealthy options to children, is really unacceptable.

What did I see 8 year old kids eating this morning at 7:40AM? Ice cream and cake! There isn’t even the option to buy juice! I’m still bewildered by this concept everyday. As a teacher, if I want to buy a healthy snack, 9 times out of 10, I can’t.

Health Benefits of Fruit Found in Thailand

There is no shortage of fruit in Thailand, and each have numerous health benefits. You might be missing bread, cheese, wine, and salsa but you can (try to) trade in those cravings for something much, much better for you. These are my top 5. I love fruit. I love Thailand.

Papaya was called “the fruit of angels” by Christopher Columbus. He might not have got all things right, but I’m on his side on this one. Papaya is also known for having papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. It’s strongest when the fruit is unripe. Som Tom with marinated pork or barbequed chicken… Genius.

Mangoes are said to be great for clearing skin, helping with digestion, boosting the immune system, and lowering your cholesterol. They are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Also, if you juice a green mango, drinking it with water and a sweetener, you can apparently remedy heat stroke. I would argue that eating it with sweet sticky rice makes it a little less than half as healthy.

Bananas – Do you teach Anuban? Do you need a seratonin booster? Eat some bananas. Are you hitting the gym after school? Need energy before and muscle cramp relief after? Eat some bananas. Got the runs? Did I just say that? Eat some bananas.

Mangosteens, the Queen of Fruits. Get these things while they’re hot. I’m not sure what that yellow stuff growing on them is all about, though. She’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries, containing some of the most potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds in nature.

Coconuts can kill you if one decides to fall on your head. We should all remember this. Coconuts can also save you from being dehydrated as well as help you take the Cosby kids to the pool.

Cafe Review, Part 2

Here are a few more Café reviews.

Orange Café

Orange Café is located on Don Nok, just past Karun Rat if you’re coming from the river. It’s a comfortable café inside, with some tasty drinks. They’re quite expensive compared to other places, but they have a pretty full food menu, which isn’t very common with a lot of cafes in Surat.

The internet there is problematic. Admittedly, I’ve only been there three times, but it’s because every time I’ve been there the internet has been difficult to work with. They can reset the router, but that didn’t work very well.

It’s not open too late, but it’s a pretty convenient location. Oh, and if you like French fries, they give you a big portion.

 

My Cup

My Cup is a very popular location among English teachers in Surat. It’s very close to the intersection of Karun Rat and Don Nok. It’s large and they have good desserts. The upstairs area is pretty comfortable and we’ve had groups of people meet there before. They’re open until 1030pm also. They also have real salads (though they come with salad cream) that are pretty good.

Now that I’ve gotten the positives out of the way…  The drinks there are not very good. The coffee tastes burned and bitter (both to me and my coffee taster), the green tea is the worst one I’ve had in town, and on top of that, they’re expensive The place is full of mosquitoes, and the internet doesn’t work in the majority of the areas. The back area of the bottom floor has uncomfortable seating.

Don’t get me wrong, many people like it, and it’s a good meeting place for a group of people. I just don’t like it as a place to hang out by myself and work on the internet and drink a decent beverage.

 

Coffee Heart

Coffee Heart is located on Luk Sua Rd., the small little road that connects Karun Rat to Don Nok between Amphur and Chonkasem. I like this place quite a bit. It’s really cozy and comfortable, and the internet worked well there. They have a separate room to the side, along with outside seating. The coffee there was pretty good, though the drinks were on the pricier end of the spectrum.

It’s easy to miss this place because it’s so out of the way. But if you live in the Big House and take the back way home (avoiding Amphur Rd.), you’ll pass it often.

 

And some good news about Impression(s), it will be taken over by a group of brothers, some of whom work at Thida.

Surat Favorites – Night Market Fruit Juice

Several times a week, I stop by the night market near SE and pick up a fresh fruit juice. There are 2 ladies at the night market that sell fruit shakes and juices and you can find both of them towards the middle of the night market. They are easy to spot – just look for the big heaps of fruit, blenders, and juicing machines. I prefer the lady that is closer to SE, becasue she knows my order and if it is crowded I don’t even have to say anything, she just whips up a yummy fruit juice when it is my turn.

fruit juice

My standard order is fruit juice, no sugar, no sugar water, no salt. Just fruit juice and ice. She then digs through her cooler and pulls out pieces of fresh fruit to push through her juicing machine. Usually she ends up juicing 1 carrot, 1 tomato, part of a beet and some pineapple, apple, canteloupe, and farang. She then adds in some freshly squeezed orange juice, scoop of ice, and stirs everything together. This tasty concoction goes for 30 baht or around $1, which isn’t bad for freshly juiced fruit, especially considering it would cost way more than that at a store back home. Plus, it’s really healthy!

If you want to order this, a fruit shake, or something of the sort, here is some Thai to help you out:
ow – I want
nam – liquid
po la mai – fruit
rooahm – mixed
mi si – do not put
namtan – sugar
bahn – blended

“I would like a mixed fruit juice with no sugar.” – ow nam po la mai rooahm mi si namtan
“I would like a mixed fruit shake.” – ow po la mai rooahm bahn
“I would like a banana, pineapple fruit shake.” ow glooi (banana) zaparow (pineapple) bahn

Enjoy!

Street Food

I found myself standing in front of many a street food stall holding one finger up and smiling. It seems to work, but if you want to call some of these things by their names, this might help!

Coconut Roasties (available at the Night Market by Super English) – ka-nom krok

Deep-Fried Dough (a breakfast favorite) – bah-torng-goh

Steamed Buns (cross the bridge heading north, make your first right, stop at the lady just a bit up on the left. just do it.) – sah-lah-bow

Mixed Nuts (protein on the go!) – gai sahm yahng

If you’re eating something you like, say “a-roy mahk.” It means “That was delicious!”

Cafe Review, part 1

One of the only negatives of living way out in the jungle is that we don’t have internet to our house. That means we spend a lot of time in town at coffee shops using the internet when we have to.

I’ll review some of the coffee shops we go to based on a few different criteria – beverages (including pricing), comfort/atmosphere, and internet quality. Since we’re in Surat, just assume that all places have extremely friendly staff unless otherwise noted. These are all mostly subjective, but feedback is always welcome.

IMPRESSION(S)

This is a favorite of Thida teachers not just because of its convenient location between the two Thidas, but because the owner New is really friendly and speaks English fluently due to his time living in the US. He’ll go out of his way to make you whatever you want if he has the ingredients. The fruit smoothies, teas, and other milk drinks are really tasty. According to my official coffee taster, his is one of the best in town and I agree.

It’s spacious and comfortable, especially the big couches in the back. The only thing is that it’s pretty bright and feels a little sterile. The internet is nice and fast.

The negatives are that he charges you if you plug your computer in – maybe due to an agreement he has with the hotel he rents it from. Also, it closes pretty early – 7pm weeknights and 4pm weekends. Still, it’s probably my favorite place in town.
Ask for David’s Special if you like a blended Oreo drink with caramel.

**NEWS FLASH** – He will be closing his doors at the end of Feb 2014. 😦

CAFE BLYTHE

Cafe Blythe is located right near the market on Karun Rat between Don Nok and Wat Pho. It’s on Rat Bum Rung Soi 1.
The coffee there is really good also, as confirmed by my coffee taster. It’s a little more expensive than average, though. It’s a small location, but is really nicely decorated and has a separate room to the side if you need even more quiet than it already offers. The owners are extremely friendly and Boat speaks English really well also. The internet quality is also good enough to not notice any problems.

It’s open until 7pm as well, which is early enough to prevent us from going here during the week. Yes, it’s named after the dolls.

NINE COFFEE

Nine Coffee is located on Chalokrat, in the opposite direction to the stadium and Big House from Amphur Rd. It’s open until 9pm, which is really good if you have to get some work done. The drinks there are OK, but the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. They’re a little expensive as well, as evidenced by the prices of the food. The desserts there are tasty, however. The interior is large and comfortable, and it also has a nice outdoor area which many coffee shops around here lack. The seats inside are large and soft. The internet quality is generally pretty good as well. Despite the average coffee, we go there often, mainly because the internet is dependable and they’re open relatively late.

COFFEE MILK

This is a new cafe that is attached to the “Under the Bridge” Isaan restaurant on the far side of the river. It’s owned by the same people, who are really friendly. The drinks are alright – nothing special. The coffee is average, so I usually get the iced green tea latte. Unfortunately they don’t make hot green tea lattes for some reason.

The internet is hit or miss, but they are more than happy to reset the router for you, and it works fine afterwards. Being attached to the Isaan restaurant, I’ve seen people eat meals in there, which is a plus. It also seems to be a work in progress, so hopefully there will be some seating on the riverside patio soon, though the view certainly doesn’t hurt right now.

They’re also open pretty late – 10pm – so it’s really useful for people on the far side of the bridge that need to get work done.

Obviously, this is all just one man’s opinion. But it helps to have a catalogue of cafes to visit, in case you need one. Let me know what you guys think. I’ll post about 4 more next time.