Aug. 27. 2015
Essay
McKel Hill

McKel Hill

MS, RDN, LDN, Dietitian

As much as I loved traveling to Thailand, I’m so happy to be home in Nashville! Back in the kitchen developing tons of ideas and recipes inspired by my travels to share with you! If you’ve been following along with me on Instagram and Snapchat, then you know I spent the past couple of weeks bouncing around Thailand- starting in Bangkok, to Chiang Rai, to Koh Samui, then back to Bangkok. It was a packed full 2 weeks full of activities and trying to soak in everything Thailand has to offer… there’s no way to do that, but it was fun attempting to get a taste of what Thai living is like. There’s so much to say about cooking and what I experienced in Bangkok, I think it’ll deserve another medium to share it, for now here’s a taste! 

BANGKOK, THAILAND

NAVIGATING BANGKOK, WHILE LIVING WHOLE AND EATING WELL

First, so many of you have been emailing and asking about how I stayed healthy and ate healthy during traveling over 33 hours to get to and from (each way) Nashville to Thailand; my tip sheets were my lifesaver and I stuck with it and felt amazing the entire flight and during my stay in Thailand, minus the jet lag. It started with the airplane, I packed tons of healthy snacks like my ideas in the bundle, plus drank as much water as I possibly could since flying is incredibly dehydrating. We flew China Airlines mostly, which surprised me with their airplane food- seriously you guys, they had sliced lotus root with goji berries! In the states I wouldn’t touch our airplane food, but I definitely had a taste of theirs. As a whole, Thailand has incredibly healthy food and so many ways to live whole and well. Think about their geographic location, the tropics are abundant in fresh tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, rice, and other grains. Eating both gluten free and dairy free was very simple in Thailand, especially gluten free since Thai cuisine utilizes so much rice! White rice, black rice, and brown rice in the form of flour was a lifesaver when eating out and being served bread- they routinely had a gluten free bread ready to go made from a combination of white and brown rice flours…made to order which was heaven.

STAY.

We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, which is known as being the most historic hotel in Bangkok, as well as one of the most famous- it definitely lived up to the hype. I loved staying here, the staff was incredibly attentive and so accommodating to nutrition and healthy living. Their gym and swimming pools were a big bonus in my book. The first couple of days were a little jet lagged so I listened to my body, gave it rest and allowed it to adjust, then hopped back in my routine of hitting the gym in the morning. I always will squeeze in exercise even if it’s a quick 20 minute HIIT workout, the after affects are so worth it, feeling more energetic, more flexible, and “normal” especially combatting serious jet lag. The hotel had an amazing assortment of fresh fruit which I indulged in every single morning, plus fresh vegetable and fruit juices made to order, and young coconuts! I promise getting in exercise, sunshine, and healthy food is worth it from helping you sleep, improving digestion, and moving circulation and lymph around especially after long flights! We also stayed at a fun modern hotel called Le Meridien which was super close to the airport.

There were so many other hotels here in Bangkok, although I can’t speak to how those were. Bangkok, like all cities in Thailand always have budget friendly options which is great especially for those of you interested in backpacking around Thailand- I would definitely do this sometime to really get the nitty-gritty feel of local living.

 

EAT.

Eat as many coconuts as possible. Haha, that was my motto for Thailand, that and eating fruit in general. I started every morning with heaps of fruit, I’m talking multiple bowls of fruits and fresh vegetable juices, which are the “norm” at breakfast time. It was a beautiful, light, and energetic way to start my morning followed by eating something a bit more substantial like congee- white rice porridge and a side of poached eggs, etc. What I’ve noticed in Thai cuisine and culture in general, is they don’t consume much fat like we do here in the US…it was quite eye-opening. Their meals from a macronutrient standpoint, contain higher carbohydrates and protein eaten together at meals, which is the way to do it! The fat in their diet came from all healthy sources like coconut milk, nuts, and some seeds or oils and were used sparingly. Thai diet coupled with being active all day long and many other lifestyle factors can begin to explain why Thailand has about 50% less overweight adults and about 4 times less obese adults compared to the US adult population. Of course, like any cultures cuisines there’s junk food or fried foods and takeaways, but as a whole Thai cuisine utilizes fresh ingredients wherever possible and their quick cooking methods blew my mind- packed with flavor in little time!

Thai cooking style is probably one of my favorites for several reasons- the flavor combinations are always so well-rounded and intuitive. They taste every step of the way, don’t measure anything and just use their kitchen intuition to make food taste amazing- need a little saltiness? Add fish sauce. Need a little sweetness, they add a touch of sugar. Need a zing? Add lime juice. Simple. Straightforward. Delicious. Their flavor combinations were sublime, but the entire cooking process was so fun, creative, and relied heavily on the cooks confidence and intuition with building and layering flavors, something that was so close to my cooking style and philosophy. Their cooking methods were also relatively quick and simple, lots of boiling, quick sauteing, steaming, or high heat for stir-frying. Of course like all cuisines they have fried foods, but those were far and few for my taste, I stuck with fresh raw foods and stemmed options mostly. We had a cooking class one day and it was so much fun learning about Thai cooking methods and ingredients. Ingredients that aren’t familiar in my kitchen like taro, black sticky rice, galangal root, lotus root, fish sauce, thai chilis, and a Thai scented candle were wonderful to get to know and definitely had my head spinning with ideas! Everything we cooked in class we ate, so we made a spicy seafood salad which was surprisingly delicious since I’m picky with seafood- I like to eat it hot/warm not in a chilled salad. We had a beautiful coconut milk based green curry with mushroom, onion, and shrimp- it was by far my favorite. Dessert was a black sticky rice with coconut cream…out of this world and will definitely be hitting Nutrition Stripped soon if not in another project, with some tweaks!

Besides eating so much fresh fruit from carts at the markets, at the hotel, and at cooking class, we stopped by Sala Rattanakosin which had a beautiful coconut milk mushroom soup (Tom Kha with mushroom or shrimp). We also ate on one of the tallest buildings in Bangkok, Banyan Tree restaurant- I was terrified but the good food made it all okay ha! Muse Hotel had a great Italian restaurant, I know Italian in Thailand right? But it was so delicious and fresh, the chef even made a special gluten free bread for me and kept the dish entirely dairy-free!

SHOP.

The floral markets are something to see. Every city in Thailand has some sort of floral market whether it’s for Thai people to decorate their own homes, companies to purchase them for decorations, or most importantly in their culture to grace temples and serve as a piece of offering to Buddha. Water markets have a unique vibe to them, but not necessarily the best produce. The water market we went to had mostly animal proteins and fried foods, things that aren’t really on my radar. However, the local markets were AMAZING! They grace the streets around almost every corner, you can always ask a local or your hotel staff where the locals shop for food and go to that one, trust me! They have an abundance of fresh fruit like durian (which I LOVED), dragon fruit, bananas (the best bananas I’ve ever had in my life), guava, papaya, pineapple, coconut, coconut, and more coconut. Their vegetables were heavy on the greens, herbs, and potatoes.

DO.

Visit the temples! We spent an entire day exploring and soaking in the temples in Bangkok, to try to describe the temples is a challenge, they’re something that you can only experience first hand. The energy and positive vibes were floating around the temple ground like nothing I’ve ever experienced, everyone was so happy, positive, loving, compassionate, and you truly felt Thailand’s phrase come to life- the “land of smiles”. The attention to detail of the physical temples were beyond incredible, each colorful tile was strategically placed by hand over what would seem like centuries building 1 temple…and there were so many! If you want a little fun, go out at night, the streets were wild, rowdy, and definitely worth 1 nights experience…that’s all I could really take haha! I could’ve easily spent an entire week in Bangkok, exploring in more detail the story of the temples, visiting markets, shopping, and more; but I’ll be back.

In a nutshell, Bangkok felt more like a touristy-city vibe which was a great way to break into Thailand and get a sense of city-life. I’ll be covering a couple more locations here in Thailand soon and check out my YouTube channel soon, I plan on compiling footage of my time in Bangkok, if you’re interested! Next up, a sense of the outskirts, Chiang Rai. All nature, all the time.

OTHER BLOG POSTS YOU MAY ENJOY:

xx McKel

p.s. Speaking of YouTube, I admit I’ve seriously slacked off on those with just “life” happening, I’m getting back into them though, what would you like to see on YouTube!?

A huge thank you to @ThailandInsider with #ChooseMyThailand made this trip possible.
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