29.11.2008 26 °C
Does your fishmonger sit amid a heap of gasping fish in the gutter on the High Street? This one does in Sukhothai.
Stomach churners lurk around every corner here; barbecued frogs on sticks - like lollipops; numerous varieties of intestines and insects - fried, dried or boiled. In Luang Prabang, Laos, racks of rice cakes dry in the sun and the traffic fumes on the sidewalks in front of boutique hotels.
Sometimes we eat from the street vendors - but daren't look behind the stalls. Sometimes we eat in restaurants - but daren't look in the kitchen. The food tastes great - just don't look too closely.
Do-it-yourself Lao hotpots, (known as Thai hotpots across the border), are terrific; take a heap of fresh vegetables, fish and meat, and a clay urn of red hot charcoal in the middle of the table, and you boil and barbecue yourself a fabulous meal for about $5.
The French influence is palpable here in Laos; baquettes and croissants as good as any in Paris. But there is food everywhere for everyone. Steaming bowls of noodles with vegetables and pork for $1 in the street market, while at the other end of town the bourgeois dine on filet mignon and canard a'l'orange at $30 per plat.
We've eaten the lot - from the gutter to the stars - and, touch teak, haven't suffered the consequences. Our plan to lose weight through Delhi-belly is unravelling.
"Food on the move" could mean the squirming frogs, crabs, fish and fowl in the street markets, but it also applies to the constant parade of natives with baskets, buckets and trays of food on every boat, bus and train. We stock up for every journey then wonder why as a smorgasbord of local delicacies pass by.
Food is as ubiquitous as Buddha and as we write this on the bank of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang we are shaded by trees laden with oranges, papaya, coconuts and bananas. Maybe we will just stay here!