Usually as soon as the calendar hits the 1st of December, I start Youtubing Christmas playlists… Who am I kidding, I start doing it mid-November!
To be honest, I wasn’t feeling very festive last year, because it was my first Christmas in Thailand. I guess I either miss snow, cold yet sunny Lithuanian winters, or the appalling British weather. Apart from the snowless winter, I am very jolly and I hope you are too. If not – just stick to your 5-a-day (and by that I mean mulled wine!).
For our last Christmas in the UK, Auste and I decided to make gifts for our friends and family ourselves, and I have to say it was definitely worth it. We had so much fun looking for crafting materials, recipes and spare boxes from work, and the result did give a magical festive feeling. We made Oreo biscotti as one of the gifts and they turned out excellent. If you follow the recipe, they should come out very moreish. Hence, make more if you’re making these crunchies for both your friends, and yourself to enjoy. Two days later they no longer existed in our place…
So surprise your friends and try the recipe below. If you’re an average Joe, you should really have every ingredient and would only need to buy the Oreos or vanilla extract.
Makes 40+ biscotti
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
20 Oreo cookies, chopped (trust me, 20 is NOT too much)
100g white chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
3 Oreo cookies, cookie part only, finely crushed
Icing sugar (about 3 tablespoons)
1) Preheat oven to 180 C (350 degrees F). Line baking tray with baking paper.
2) Using a fork mix butter, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and baking powder in a bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs.
3) Slowly (to avoid lumps) add flour and mix until smooth, then stir in chopped Oreos.
4) Divide the dough in half, shape into 2 logs on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
5) Remove the biscotti logs from oven and cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 C (325 degrees F).
6) When they cool down, slice the logs into 2 cm slices leaving small gaps between them. Bake for an additional 25 mins until golden (or less for softer biscotti). Remove and cool completely.
It’s Saturday and we’re both not working. That doesn’t happen very often, so we planned a day trip to Ko Kret – a man-made island in the Chaophraya river. We didn’t want to get on any organised boat trips (as we like exploring places at our own pace) nor did we want to hire a longtail boat (since that’s a bit of a rip-off), so we looked into the options for getting there by public transport. Wiki travel has a good detailed article about ways to get into the island.
We left home around 6:30am, got the BTS to Saphan Taksin and around 7:30 we were already on the Chaophraya Express, heading for Nonthaburi. An hour later our 15-baht trip ended and we had to say goodbye to the nice breeze coming from the river. Wiki site read there’s supposedly a bus going to Pak Kret, so we decided to give it a shot. We simply followed the main road walking away from the river and just a few minutes later we saw a bus stop – with our bus no 32 approaching!
Now, I’m not a big fan of GPS and prefer old-school maps whenever possible, but finding a good detailed map in Thailand is quite a challenge and Google maps doesn’t show half the street names… And yet with a combination of tracking our whereabouts on Google maps with my barely working phone and looking at street names around us we managed to get off exactly where we needed to. A short walk to Wat Sanam Nuea and we saw a ferry approaching the shore – it seemed that we had perfect timing with transport:)
It was 9:30am and we were finally on Koh Kret. We glanced at the map of the island and it looked pretty tiny, so we decided not to get the bicycles and just walk instead. We looked around the first temple, fed the giant fish at the pier and took the footpath circling the island. We walked into a lovely market with stall after stall selling food, drinks, plants and souvenirs on both sides of the footpath. There were also plenty of Thai restaurants with tables on the riverside – offering plenty of meat and seafood dishes. We were looking for a coffee shop as we wanted to sit down at one of those lovely riverside tables, but there were only restaurants. We were getting hungry, so in the end we stopped for a chicken green curry (the curry sauce minus the chicken). For most non-vegetarians it’s difficult to believe that sometimes there’s literally nothing to eat. To our joy they gave us a full plate of veggies as a side dish – the typical mix of beansprouts, pickled and fresh cabbage, and green beans. If only they sold this as a dish on its own – we would buy it!
We then continued along the footpath. After a while we started thinking that the whole island is a never ending market, but then it suddenly ended. No more noise and rush, just a few peaceful houses along the path and sooo much greenery. And of course, the heat. We didn’t notice it that much before as the market was all under a roof, but just a few minutes without shade and we started sweating. If you’ve ever been to a greenhouse on a hot sunny day – you know the feeling.
We were still hoping to find a coffee shop. Soon we realised that the island was bigger than we thought. Bicycles and motorcycle taxis were passing us from time to time and there was nothing but the jungle and a few old houses around us. I started joking that we will probably reach Chitbeer (a micro-brewery on the other side of the island) before we find any coffee shops. We were getting hungry and tired, and the heat was getting unbearable.
And then we found a shade in an area covered in trees, large enough to keep the temperature down a bit. And a bench. And a stand selling cold drinks. And we had some sandwiches with us. Perfect!
When we started walking again, we found an information board with the map of the island and it turned out we had walked half of the way already! So the island wasn’t that large after all. It was lunchtime and we still hadn’t found any coffee shops. But we did find a friendly iced tea vendor with two cute little girls, which he tried to encourage to talk in English (unsuccessfully though, as the little ones were too shy to say anything to us, they just said bye:) ).
We kept walking and we soon reached the corner of the island with another pier and another temple. What we didn’t know was that Chitbeer was just round the corner waiting for us… and so our 4-hour search for breakfast coffee turned into afternoon beers instead.
Oh, but the beers…! Thai beers that have TASTE – we didn’t know such a thing existed! We tried 6 different types and 4 of them were gorgeous. And even the two that we didn’t like that much tasted way better than the watery Chang we had to get used to while living here. It was a shame to leave as you can’t buy any of their beers to take home, but we simply couldn’t drink anymore, so it was time to head home.
Ironically, next door to Chitbeer there was the most perfect coffee shop we could ask for. Lovely atmosphere, ridiculously low prices and really good coffee from locally grown beans. And even though coffee right after having a beer adventure is the last thing you could think of, we stopped for coffee. Watching the owners roasting the coffee beans on a little stove while we were sipping our lattes from the pretty clay pots (I guess made in the pottery village nearby) was the perfect way to end our day. They also do DIY sets where you get to roast the beans, then grind them and make some coffee for yourself. We’ve got to try it next time (yes, there will be next time, we just have to come back for the beer again:) ).
What’s strange is that while the whole island reminds of a small Thai village, there’s this modern hip corner with Chitbeer and the coffee shop that makes you feel as if you’re in the centre of Bangkok.
What a lovely place for a day out. We were a bit tired though (the heat and the beer…) so on the way back we traded the bus/boat combo for the 25 baht aircon van to Mo Chit BTS.
Sharing our love for travel, food and other things good