Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Years Eve Celebratory Khantoke Dinner

On New Years Eve, our traveling band of photographers was staying at the lovely Phowadol Resort and Spa in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The resort rolled out the red carpet for the holiday celebration, putting on a traditional Khantoke dinner for the guests. A Khantoke dinner is enjoyed while sitting on bolstered cushions on the ground, spreading the meal on the sometimes elaborately carved Khantoke table. Our particular celebration was complete with carnival games for the kids, traditional dance performances, musical acts (enough with The Carpenters covers already!), prize giveaways, and heaps and heaps of food. And by heaps, I mean heaps. The entire perimeter of a lawn the size of 1/2 a football field was lined with food stations. Any kind of curry you could fathom, soups, dim sum, salads, desserts, carving stations... I think the food service staff outnumbered guests by a 2:1.

I was a bit in foodie heaven, as you can imagine. I managed to NOT stuff myself silly for once, even though I did a fair amount of sampling (quality - not quantity...). My favorite dish of the night was probably a wickedly spicy green papaya salad, freshly-prepared to order. The spices and ingredients were pounded in a huge mortar and pestle before being combined with the thinly-grated papaya. Mmm mmm good.


As fun as the celebration was (even though I turned in well before the clock struck twelve), the meal was also the probable downfall of our group. The very next day, my colleagues started going down with nasty intestinal upset. Use your imagination - it was not pretty. One after the next in a paralyzing domino affect, my classmates were becoming debilitated before my eyes. Something at dinner the night before was the likely culprit, although we never did really determine what the offending dish was exactly - there was just too much variety from the meal to be able to pinpoint any one thing. The timing couldn't have been worse - we were boarding a longboat for a three-day cruise down the heart of the jungle on the Mekong River, hundreds of miles from anything.

I hovered on the edges and waited my turn - it seemed inevitable it would come. Thankfully for me, it never did. I managed to dodge the biggest bullet of the trip. Got a cold a week later, but that was nothing in comparison. And thankfully, the illness swept through the ranks relatively quickly. After about three days, people were bouncing back - weak, but bouncing back.

Let's hear it for antibiotics!

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