The Hiatus, Hiatus in Cocktails & Coconuts

Passionfruit Mojito at Almost Famous, Pai

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Six weeks and roughly 12 cocktails later (and a month of processing). Not too shabby.

The hiatus was technically a vacation, after all, and there were plenty of cold beers and coconuts to partake in for the sake of sheer enjoyment and to break the glistening heat.

Generally speaking, cocktails were much, much sweeter than what I was used to, though that was often balanced out by being mixed with freshly squeezed juice and those gorgeous, tropical fruits. I could see myself returning and gloriously pulling off a raw diet of rambutans, mangosteens, dragonfruit, passionfruit, papaya, pineapple (and baby pineapple!), lychees, longans, watermelon, coconuts and even some durian to keep things exciting. Cocktail prices in Thailand and Cambodia ranged from $1-4, on average (and were nearly always in USD in Cambodia, as is the favored currency, with riels typically being used as change for a dollar).

 Fresh coconut, Ecstatic Pizza in Siem Reap. Not quite a cocktail. Yet.

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Spellcheck doesn’t want me to use this word, but I’m going there: That scintillating-ly tart passionfruit mojito above was exactly what I wanted for dinner on some of the excruciatingly sweaty days of bike riding around cities, temples and markets. A refreshing mojito is already tempting any time of day, but when you tell me I can add legitimately fresh passionfruit, pineapple, or rambutans? I’m there.

Volkswagen bar, Sukhumvit 11

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In regards to alcohol content of these cocktails I reached for, similar to your odds with guesthouses and hotels, it was a coin toss of the great, the moderate and the shabby. The booze-factor was often incredibly high (especially the ones poured in seedy Sihanoukville) and sometimes, incredibly low. It was a game of chance. Frequently, a restaurant’s bar would offer a ridiculously long cocktail list, and thanks to a combination of language comprehension, my own pronunciation (Northwest meets Long Island), availability and that ridiculous listing, I would often be presented with an entirely different drink than I thought I’d ordered. It’s all part of the adventure.

Another element to consider: You’ll see a lot of familiar, gigantic brand name liquors, like Absolut and Jack Daniels of all things, mixed in the good (say yes to trying Mekong and Sam Sang Som) and the bad of local rice whiskeys (go easy!) and other spirits. Surprisingly, most of the cocktail specials being touted around, such as Buy 2-Get 1’s on Khao San Road and happy hour buckets in both countries didn’t usually skimp on the booze. Why? A drunk customer is a buying customer. And lots of booze or not, it’s a nice way to indulge as night falls.

Angkor mug & white wine at an Italian restaurant on Street 184, Phnom Penh

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Side note: We ate a crazy amount of bruschetta and Italian pastas in Cambodia. Who knew?

I certainly had my share of brisk caipiranhas and tart margaritas, but it was that mojito that seemed to call most often. That fruit!

Three Mojito Highlights: 

  1. As seen above, the passionfruit variety at Almost Famous in Pai, which made me consider returning for a bucket it was so juicy and delicious. The popular spot is also home to a weekly pub trivia night.
  2. A short, traditional mojito at the tiny C Bar, also in Pai, packed with crushed ice, white rum and fresh mint.
  3. And the most unusual and memorable of the bunch, a Khmer Green Peppercorn mojito from Siem Reap’s Banana Leaf bar. When your world-tripping and cocktail-appreciating friend makes a point to recommend a spicy cocktail in the city you’ve just arrived in, you take her up on it (and it was no surprise that her favorite snack, salty popcorn, arrived at the table as we sat down).

Khmer Green Peppercorn Mojito at Banana Leaf, Siem Reap

The green peppercorn mojito was both one of the more expensive and memorable cocktails of the hiatus and one that would so go for over $10 in the US. I’d never seen fresh green peppercorns before until they were in my Pad Kee Mao at Chiang Mai on SE Hawthorne (for the record, in my top three, more traditional, vegan-friendly Thai restaurants in Portland. So damn flavorful). I’d also never found myself pointedly asking where a restaurant sourced an ingredient before, and there you go. Recently, I was momentarily fooled by ‘pea eggplants’ at Hong Phat, but I never did find those fresh green peppercorns in town. I remained intrigued, and once I started seeing them in actual Thai dishes and markets, and even more so in Cambodia, the land of peppercorn, it was a mixed blessing. On one hand, I was ecstatic and in flavor heaven, on the other, I was quickly experiencing pangs of agony about not being able to take this fresh produce back across international borders with me when I returned (not to mention ALL THE FRUIT). I did stock up a wee, rational bit on dried black and white peppercorns from Orussey Market in Phnom Penh, but how I long to spend a few years cooking with it every day…but I digress.

The flavor of green peppercorn is piercing with fascinating heat, and worked so well in this unique mojito found at the base of Siem Reap’s Pub Street. Til we meet again.

As for coffee, the highlights were the hill tribe-grown and locally roasted beans around Chiang Mai and Pai, the individually brewed, Khmer-style cups we drank on Koh Rong, with the aroma of roasted coconut going into every sip, and the visit to Feel Good Cafe on our final day in Phnom Penh. While I was drinking coffee much less often than I would back in Portland, I would seek out locally grown and roasted coffee in most cities, because I do enjoy it and reveled in the thought of coffee — and tea — being grown not much further than where I was standing. That said, I did drink a lot, lot, lot of instant coffee and Lipton tea.  It’s everywhere.

And fresh juice, well, there are few things more dreamy *and* refreshing than juicy papayas and coconuts.

Hiatus, Hiatus in Cocktails & Coconuts (and Coffee, Juice, Tea & Beer)

presented in near chronological order from the digital archives…

How it all began: dehydrated & wine sipping on our first flight from Portland to Tokyo

Bangkok, Thailand

Caipirinha while avoiding a downpour, off of Khao San Road

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First, there was the caipirinha kick.

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aka the cocktail I seem to mistakenly think I can pull off remotely pronouncing.

Fresh papaya smoothie, May Kaidee’s Vegetarian Restaurant

Jetlagged & wifi seeking with the first of many super sweet mojitos to come, Apache Bar

Coconuts: quickly preferable to coffee in the early hours

Rooftop drinks, Dang Derm Hotel

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Iced green tea, Yoddoi Coffee & Tea

After four days without while away at Bamboo Nest, one week in… 

(at Connect Cafe)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Two firsts: awful house tortilla chips/enjoyable margarita, El Diablo’s

For the record, not my call, but you quickly learn to embrace compromise while traveling with a partner. Personally, I consider every dish that wasn’t curry a waste of time but I adore the unexpected experiences and Mexican cuisine search, all the same.

Mojito & Margaret Atwood while awaiting my dental work, the bar at Mo Rooms

Papaya shake, plastic cup, Yummy Restaurant

Soy latte #1, at the great Blue Diamond Breakfast Club

Tip: Try and see what brand of soymilk is being used (check the coolers) or inquire about it, because more than one contain lactose in SE Asia.

Continuing orange coverage at Kasalong Gardens Juice Bar, where I rented a small, quiet room for the week

Something something papaya, I’m sure

Fresh oranges (which hey, are green) on the steps leading up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep 

Americano at Double Click in Chiang Mai’s Nimmanhemin quarter

Simultaneously a drink and a workout

Soy chai at the Tea Tree Cafe (also home to vegetarian & vegan food)

Avocado juice with my buffet lunch at the Chiang Mai Vegetarian Society

Outside the Warorot Market

Afternoon mojito special at the Terrace Bar, Parasol Hotel

One hiatus motto: When the sweat drips down off your face, grab a coconut!

Another mobile bar setup 

Present from J. Legume’s trip to Bangkok during our week apart

Black coffee & pineapple, Gap’s House (veganizing their provided breakfast set)

Pai, Thailand

The rare glass of (quite…juicy?) red, following dinner at Good Life

I had fond memories of the fresh food and hippie-library-esque atmosphere at Good Life: Health Restaurant & Bookstore up in Pai, and J. Legume quickly felt the same way, insisting we eat there for two meals in a row. She fell in super like with their (housemade) tofu bagel sandwiches, while I went for stir fries; and we both tried cup after cup of house tea. Make sure to catch the menu note about requesting ‘no fish sauce & oyster sauce’ on the menu, even when ordering vegetarian.

Sour Bloody juice, Good Life

Cold Leo & surreal views outside Pai Chao Kha Guesthouse

We spent a few nights at this charmingly decorated set of bungalows sitting on top of a mountain (where we escaped the development on the river below), and I would seriously love to recommend it…to anyone who can handle a hard bed. It remains the one bed I’ve ever slept on that caused me to throw my back out. Alas, the vegetarian Thai congee with ginger and mushrooms the owners cooked for our breakfast remains something special to remember, as was seeing J. Legume ride two massive backpacker packs on a motorbike up the mountain. The rest is a funny story to tell another time.

Fantastic sweet, sour & minty Passionfruit mojito, Almost Famous

Art in Chai: regretfully, I think they may be closing or renovating, because they were never open during this stay

Fresh fruit smoothie at the seriously darling Fruit Factory

The entire vibe of Pai is actually ‘happy hour’

It’s quite the artist community.

Inside C Bar, easily my favorite bar downtown

The most well-balanced and crushed iced-packed classic mojito of the hiatus, C Bar

As the Night Market closes, downtown Pai

Spotted at Curry Shack (MY FAVORITE, ALL CAPS-WORTHY, SPOT TO EAT IN PAI and worth all of those damn curves)

Pleasant Masala Chai, at yet another visit to Good Life

J. Legume & coconut milk chai

Iced Americano at another outdoor cafe in Pai, awaiting our minibus and the 762 curves below

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Once more

Fruit shakes-to-be at the Sunday Walking Street

Longans, Grass Jelly & Coconut Drinks

A tired night in at Gap’s House 

We were stoked to grabbed a room again at this serene, family-owned guesthouse since it’s all first come, first served. I had been scouting where to stay once J. Legume returned during my solo time in Chiang Mai, and with to Gap’s nightly vegetarian buffet, I felt the pull, and there we stayed, that very next week, returning again after a few days up in Pai (and an even worse ride down the mountain).

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Khmer martini, Angkor pint & taro chips, Shinta Mani Resort

Another book, another mojito, another hiatus motto realized

Complimentary brunch at Shinta Mani: soy milk, guava juice & black coffee

In case you’re wondering, that’s a little spot of Marmite on my (first) plate of fruit & bread.

Australian Ginger Beer, Peace Cafe

If you’re going to be in Siem Reap, I have two musts: take some time and get to know vegetarian amok and green papaya salad at the Peace Cafe cooking class, and dine at Chamkar.

Angkor appreciation

Unexpected Pacific sighting at the grocery store.

Americano, Shinta Mani

Whispers of Summer, for those in-room mimosas

Sihanoukville/Otres Beach, Cambodia

Puppies & beer at Penguin Pablo

After a full day of bussing from Siem Reap, we made a rare, advance booking at this set of bungalows in between the Otres beaches based on the fact that Agoda showed it as having a) a penguin theme and b) circular beds. And then we arrived to witness a tiny litters of puppies AND kittens playing around, and met the friendly, Italian owner, Stefano. It’s always good to see good people running guesthouses. Of course, we then broke our budget and stayed just one more night before heading to the islands. And when an Italian tells you that the only pasta he eats besides his own is at a certain restaurant, you head there for dinner.

Wine & pasta, Carpe Diem

In case you’ve ever wondered what Italian hippies are like, let me tell you: really sweet and quite amazing cooks. This dinner started our delicious Penne Arrabiata tour of southern Cambodia.

The view from Long Beach, in between Otres 1 & 2

BYO-S(oymilk)

10am breakfast, awaiting pizza, Papa Pippo

Before this trip, J. Legume insisted she did not like coconuts. What a goof.

Koh Rong Samloem island, Cambodia

To the first of our island stays…

Hot days & cold cans of local lager

The bar at Robinson Bungalows

Keep in mind that prices, which are nearly always in USD, are pricier once you hit Sihanoukville, and even higher on the islands, where nearly everything but the coconuts and fish is imported from the mainland.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Serendipity Beach

aka seedy central of beach tourists, disgusting sexpats and obnoxious partiers…If you want some quiet, head to Otres or the islands. The secret’s out — even a Tuk Tuk driver tried to get a higher fare ($4-5) for showing me the ‘new’ Otres beaches.

Case in point

Back to breakfast at Papa Pippo, Otres 1

A serious girl and her Bloody Mary, hold the Worcestershire

Refreshing and absolutely strong house margarita, Maybe Later

Koh Rong island, Cambodia

Crazy sweet lime juice, Coco’s 

Plastic cups of Buy 1-Get 1 cocktails & hot chips, Monkey Island

The bar menu

Vietnamese coffee, Monkey Island

Coconut break outside our room at the Paradise Bungalows

Not pictured: all the lovely cups of coconutty Khmer brew, solid cocktails and cans of Angkor we sipped both at the restaurant and on our bamboo balcony during our stay there.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Bar menu, Holy Cow

Soothing garlic-lemongrass-ginger tea blend, Holy Cow

Sharing another pint in downtown Sihanoukville

Yet again, Bamboo Bar Vegetarian Restaurant

Frankly, Sihanoukville’s first vegetarian restaurant was a pretty ‘meh’ experience for me, while I’ll go into some more next time around.

Another local lager

Rest stop refreshments on the bus to Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Americano date, Diamond Palace 

Water in our apartment rental…because you can’t get around it in SE Asia

Sigh.

The ‘kitchen’ of our swell apartment rental for the week

Fanta wheel, Dreamland

Lychee Fanta. So good!

These fries? Cute in concept and similar to Trader Joe’s veggie sticks, but I’ll quickly come clear: I just couldn’t bring myself to try the sauce packet.

Coffee cart & smiling baristas

Now this…

…is my kind of relaxing

 Bubble tea, City Mall

Americano at Java Café  & Gallery

Specials at K’NYAY

Halloween + passionfruit soda + J. Legume, Cafe Soleil

Mano Green Tea, Par-Tea-Time

I was oddly excited to tell my sister about specifying your level of sugar at bubble tea joints in SE Asia later than night in our Skype session, but she quickly put me in my place when describing her day and mentioning how she’d ordered one that very way earlier in NYC. Womp womp.

Mekong & coke, while watching J. Legume have part of her head shaved across the street

Watermelon-cayenne juice, ARTillery

Phnom Penh stout, Tuk Tuk

Silly short-term dream come true.

Chips & salsa run

Grapefruit margarita, Cocina Cartel

Someone’s been to Chipotle.

One more dragonfruit for breakfast

Lemon soda & iced tea, Khmer style

Lychee-strawberry cocktail, River Crown’s rooftop bar

Sharky’s for pool & more beer

One last night fall in Phnom Penh

Scene II

Picking up some coffee on our final morning

The contemporary Feel Good Cafe was roasting a custom blend of Thai, Laotian & Cambodian beans when we visited.

If it was on this list, we tried to make it there.

Ristretto, Feel Good Cafe

Interior

Day by day

City life

And one last round of iced tea and early day ramen, Mi Chay

When it comes to dining, Mi Chay and The Vegetarian were my probably favorite spots in Phnom Penh, though I truly did enjoy nearly every single meal experience we sat down to or grabbed to go (what a luxury when traveling!)

More on that to come, yadda yadda, and calm down, as you can see, I visisted K’NYAY.

Fries & Angkor, FCC at the PP airport

Bangkok, Thailand

Sharing a grape whiskey bucket with our friend Chelsea off of Sukumvit 11

Soy cappuccino, Ethos

Coconut club

Obligatory final day Thai iced tea 

Fun fact: It’s actually common to see the well-known ‘Thai iced teas’ served with lime juice and/or condensed milk.

Soy Presso spotting, 7-11

“Jay” soymilk, still labeled for October’s Vegetarian Festival

I’m a broken record, really, but I’m working on a piece with over a hundred damn photos from the festival happenings. In a word, it was…amazing.

Buy 2, get 1 mojitos with Chelsea & J. Legume, Sakul House 

Our dear friend Chelsea was a few days into her own lengthy escapades and I believe is currently in Indian, so consider me jealous but thrilled that our paths crossed like this.

Thai Whiskey Lemongrass cocktail, 11-Gallery

Finale

And that, my friends, is every single refreshment that I managed to get a half-way decent photo of. I’m sure that many a mojito and cold can did not make that cut.

Til next time…and finally, my culinary adventures, vegan-style, through Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia, including the 2013 Vegetarian Festival and everything I could possibly have to say about eating vegan in Cambodia. I’ve actually written three entire pages of notes, which is certainly progress !

If you’re so inclined to catch up on our posts so far:

2 thoughts on “The Hiatus, Hiatus in Cocktails & Coconuts

  1. Whoa! I’ve got to say that, out of everything, the strawberry lychee cocktail sounds the most tempting- even sitting at my desk in 24 degree weather. Like J. Legume, I do not like to drink coconuts; maybe I’ll need to travel to find out that I do? Loved this trip down refreshment lane.

  2. Pingback: Asia Scenic Goes Vegan: My Day at One of Chiang Mai’s Thai Cooking Schools | Get Sconed!

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