Elephants are such an important part of the Palong Hill Tribe culture. I had groups of them walking past my hotel window every morning, a sight which instantly made me transform into an enthralled big kid. The baby ones were particularly adorable little rascals. Elephants are such gorgeous gentle giants, with apparent emotions for each other, which we as humans can immediately recognize. The mothers looked out for their young and the groups of youngsters were playful and mischievous with one another. They had an important role in the chefs spectacular entrance on this episode – one of the most poignant moments of our entire “No Kitchen Required” adventure. This episode begins with a mountainous, majestic and balmy back drop surrounded by flooded rice paddies. The nature of the Palong Hill people mirrored the nature of the elephants– strong yet humble presence, quiet and sincere.
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Thai food in general is absolutely delicious. The crew and I ate like kings for literally $1/per meal! I threw all my dietary disciplines out the window, in favour of pork buns, steamed dumplings and Phad Thai – deeeelish. Interestingly, based on the food sampled at the welcome dinner, the dishes the chefs cooked were very different to the traditional green and red curries that we tend to stereotype as Thai cuisine.
I wasn’t too keen on the snakes and bats because they were prepared in a very traditional way, i.e. their bones were crushed up along with their meat — this was rather unusual to swallow. Madison was very brave about his bat bite, for which he received a rabies shot. Michael struggled to grind the snake meat through his grinder because of the ‘sinewy’ texture of this protein combined with its bones. Kayne had me in stitches describing how he mastered the technique of catching his meat during his candid adventures of frog hunting. It was impressive to see all three of them make such substantial dishes from such tiny and typically ‘unmeaty’ creatures – none of which were particularly appetizing to me at first sight, although the chefs creations were tasty.
The native challenge really threw us into the thick of the The Palong Hill Tribe way of life. Clean water is so essential to our daily existence, but in the West, we never really think too much about how water gets to us. The Palong had to collect their water everyday from a nearby stream and carry heavy buckets of it back home using traditional Hop Nams – a process which must have been a pain in the neck, or back even – quite literally! It was so inspiring to see them making good use of bamboo, in so many different forms. Whether it was for shelter, transportation or even consumption. Bamboo has always been a fundamental part of their lives. This reminded me of my parents own heritage, particularly my mothers, back in Malaysia. Shooting the opening to the show whilst floating down the Ping River on a bamboo raft, was an epic moment for me.