Nong Nouch Gardens
February 3, 2014
Haven’t written anything for a while, but feel quite inspired after a bit of sightseeing with friends.
We left at 9:00 a.m for Nong Nooch Gardens near Pattaya, Thailand. It is about 1-? hours drive from our condominium in Laem Mae Phim. Since it was Election Day in Thailand, we felt that there would be fewer cars on the roads, although, on Sundays, the roads are usually pretty easy and safe to navigate. Since Thailand has one of the highest accident rates (if not the highest) in Asia, we adhere to certain driving precautions. One such precaution is not to travel during peak traffic hours. Another precaution is not to travel after 6:00 p.m. when it is dusk here. Many vehicles do not have lights and the smaller vehicles seem to follow their own traffic rules on either side of the roads. So, it was essential to leave fairly early, be among the first at the Nong Nooch Gardens and return home before dusk. It was also important for us to leave as early as possible to avoid the deluge of Russian tourists who inundate Pattaya and all of the surrounding areas. I hope I don’t sound prejudiced, but I think the Russians are a little short of social graces, particularly on foreign territories.
Anyway, we arrived, safe and sound at the Garden Resort and after waiting in line for some time, were finally permitted to pay. To our surprise and delight, we received a 50% discount because we had Thai Driver’s Licenses! Hip, hip. We also received a 50% discount and a SMILE when we paid for the open bus tour of the gardens. We have experienced this on numerous occasions that with a Thai Driver’s License we have a discount at all public parks, resorts, etc. We have also avoided traffic fines (which can be for whatever the police decides your fine should be) when we show our Thai D.L.
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Since we had been to the gardens before, we were able to wind our way through the milling crowds, pay and hop on to an open bus for the tour. There are several gardens: French, European, Butterfly, Umbrella, Cactus, Orchid, Pottery, Bromeliads, and Blue Gardens, as well as Topiary trees, Floating oasis, and Stonehenge. Then not to miss is the Bridge walk or Skywalk (which I refer to as canopy walkways). The bus tour gave us an overview of the gardens and layouts. We had 2-3 stops on this tour to investigate so that later we could decide where we wanted to investigate the gardens further. Oh, not to forget the indoor, air- conditioned car exhibition.
As I mentioned earlier, February 2 was a national election day here in Thailand, so most of the public restaurants did not offer alcoholic drinks. In fact, alcoholic drinks were taboo on February 2 and 3. We were able to quench our thirst at any of the indoor and outdoor stands where cold and hot beverages were served, at inflated prices, I might add! No discount with our Thai D.L., which I tried, of course!
We traversed the gardens at length on the canopy walkways and the paths through the gardens on the ground. I might mention at this juncture, that the gardens had numerous statues of animals both in clay and wood. The animals always seemed to fit into the environment or setting of the gardens. Some were humorous, some were prehistoric, and some were enormous. We decided that this was the Thai rendition of a garden resort – both enjoyable and very creative. Even though we had been here before, we enjoyed our second viewing.
Hot, tired, hungry and, again, thirsty, we found our way back to the car park and our car, which was as hot as an oven. Where to eat? We had decided that eating at Nong Nooch Gardens with all those masses of people, would not be an enjoyable lunch, so we decided to try lunch at the Phoenix Golf Course, on which we have never played. Wow. A bit more upscale to the golf courses we are used to. Prices for the green fees are at least double to what we pay. Good to compare.
Restaurant was very luxurious, and the food was good but no better than anywhere else. After having eaten fried rice with chicken, prawns, pork or beef, and phat Thai with the same ingredients, I decided to be very adventuresome and go for a cheese and bacon sandwich. The bread is like many American types of bread, spongy and white. The cheese and bacon came with lettuce, tomato and a thick slice of onion. Thais love their onions, and you pretty much have onions in everything you eat here.
Trip home was relaxing. The heat always makes me sleepy, so I had a nice nap on the back seat. Arriving home, the big challenge for me was what to fix for dinner. Well, I had not eaten fried rice for lunch, so I decided we would have that for dinner. Here is the recipe from a magazine “Fine Cooking”. Try it; I’m sure you’ll like it.
Thai-Style Pineapple Fried Rice with Shrimp and cashews
Servers 2-4, depending on your appetite
? lb (250 g) extra large shrimp, (26-30 pieces), peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp oil (grapeseed, canola, etc.)
? medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sweet chili-garlic sauce (or just sweet chili sauce)
? to 1 Cup cooked rice – depending on how much rice you like
? C medium diced, fresh pineapple (if you use tinned pineapple, be careful your food doesn’t end up too sweet)
? Cup whole cashews, toasted (toast them gently in a dry pan on the stove, shaking the cashews regularly so they don’t burn)
? Cup raisins (optional) but good
? Cup +/- soy sauce
1/3 Cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Pat shrimp dry. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok over medium heat and add the shrimp. Cook until they are pink and opaque. Transfer shrimp to a plate and cover to keep warm.
Heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil in wok. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add rice and cook until heated through. Add the shrimp, pineapple, cashews, raisins, soy sauce, chili sauce, fish sauce and stir through until just heated. Season with salt and serve. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.