Sunday, 14 July 2013


Local markets are fascinating places in Thailand. These are groups of small stalls that are intended for Thai consumers with little money to spend. The items are often parceled into small servings to reduce cost. For many of these items the price is fixed or the price is at least commonly known. Stall owners are not used to dealing with foreigners and probably couldn’t explain in English what a lot of their wares are.

The market running along the top road of Thongsala that starts at the large bar on the corner of the main road is very much a local market.

I have been down the stalls many times over the years and I have purchased the odd vegetable or bag of bean sprouts. The other day I was with a Thai friend. We were strolling down the line of stalls, killing time. I spotted something strange in a plastic bag. It looked like, no it couldn’t be, yes it was…

A rat.

My Thai friend asked the stall holder, and yes it was a rat. In fact a whole stack of grilled rats. They are very common on the island and for those old skool Koh Phanganers living in the jungle and using a handmade rifle grilled rat makes a good meal with a bit of rice and no doubt a liberal amount of chilli.

Getting over the initial shock, it makes sense to me to eat ‘bushmeat’ in Koh Phangan. The animals are straight from the jungle and not carriers of disease; also, one hopes, not rubbish scavengers. There is apparently a rodent bigger than a rat found not only in Koh Phangan but all over Thailand that is something of a delicacy.

The picture above is of turtles in the market place in Thongsala. Turtles are meant to be protected animals as their numbers have declined sharply. Many people fear certain species could soon go extinct. I was surprised to see turtles in the market. Maybe I shouldn’t be since turtle soup is a Chinese favourite.

I have never seen deer meat. I presume the injunction to not kill the royal animal generally prevents open sale of the meat.

I have seen locals chowing down on giant lizard and I’m sure snake is also sometimes on the menu.

It might all sound a bit grim but until fairly recently Koh Phangan was a remote part of the Kingdom that did a bit of trade in coconut and squid but whose inhabitants were mostly self-sufficient. They lived off the land and the sea. That is real island life.

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