How I found out that money laundering does not pay

MY ROUGH GUIDE THAILAND

Favourite meal

Not necessarily the best meal I've had in Thailand, but my favourite, is a plate of pad thai from a street stall in Chiang Mai that's been operating ever since my first visit 10 years ago. Once most of the shops on Tha Pae Road, the main drag, have closed, the chef and her bevy of helpers appear with a large trolley, out of which come folding tables and metal stools, a simple clay stove and all the other cooking paraphernalia. She begins her cookery performance under a single white light bulb dangling from a long lead - who knows where the electricity supply comes from - working the wok quickly and effortlessly, with the flames licking up towards her face. And what is pad thai? For those who haven't tasted it, it's the national dish (the name just means "Thai fry"), a very more-ish combination of noodles, egg, lemon juice, fish sauce, chilli powder, sugar, preserved turnip, peanuts, dried shrimp, beansprouts and spring onions, thrown and stirred together in 30 seconds flat. The trick is in the noodles, which are parboiled and doused in a secret recipe of oil and spices.

Biggest blunder

My first research trip to Thailand involved motorbiking along the remote north-western border with Burma, an area known for smuggling and random acts of banditry, and especially hairy at that time when skirmishes between the Burmese army and Karen freedom fighters were spilling over on to Thai territory. For inspiration (and consolation) I was reading What am I Doing Here, a collection of short stories by Bruce Chatwin, in which he describes, somewhat smugly, coming through an African coup and being the only foreign correspondent with any money, which he had hidden in his dirty laundry. What was good enough for Bruce, I decided, was good enough for me, dropping my traveller's cheques and sterling notes into a rancid sock - and promptly forgetting about them. Five days later, I ran out of Thai money, but not before I'd taken the opportunity to drop off my laundry bag for a service wash ...

Best temple

One of the most compelling destinations in Thailand is the Xanadu-like retreat of Wat Phu Tok in the isolated north-eastern corner of the country. Here, jutting steeply out of a plain by the Mek- hong River are two sandstone outcrops, one of which has been transformed into a meditation temple. Fifty or so monks have built their huts high on perches above the breathtaking red cliffs, linked by horizontal white wooden walkways, to give the temple seven levels representing the seven stages of enlightenment. The walkways are not for the fainthearted, but it's worth persevering to experience an echo of Buddhist heaven in the Himalayan forests.

Best journey

My first day of researching The Rough Guide to Thailand and I've missed out on reserving a second-class air-conditioned couchette, with full meal service, on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I settle myself on to the slatted wooden seats of third class on the daytime train and prepare myself for 13 hours of downtime, my only consolation being the prospect of planning my research in the north. The Thais around me smile and chat, and kids run around my feet, curious about this gawky, blond alien. At each station neatly decorated with pungent frangipani, hawkers pile onto the train, offering trays of skewered fish balls, sticky rice pudding and deep-fried crickets. Every time I pull another piece of clothing out of my rucksack to insert between the hard seat and my soft Western bottom, gales of laughter break across the carriage. By the time the train trundles up into the cool of the northern mountains, I'm relaxed and feel I've got a handle on the country again and what I'm doing here.

Every time I go to Ko Tao, the remotest island of the Samui archipelago, three hours in a leaky wooden tub from Ko Pha Ngan, a storm blows up. The only protection against seasickness I've found useful is staring at the horizon and reciting over and over the names of the England team, with Sir Alf Ramsey's revolutionary 4-4-2 formation, that won the 1966 World Cup.

Suggested Topics
News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes