August 20, 2015

Chicken without Borders

I ate barbequed chicken ass within 200 meters of the Thai-Burmese border.

Feel free to stop reading now, as I’ve totally spoiled the plot of this entry.

It all started at the Poonyamantra resort where our faculty orientation was being held. Following a light dinner, a few colleagues’ stomaches were still wanting more, so we set off to find a certain Chinese barbeque spot in the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sai. I didn’t know where the restaurant was before we got in the car, but since I’ve always been fascinated by Burma, and by land crossings, not to mention by grilled meats, this was the opportunity of a lifetime—just 3 days into my stay in Thailand.

Mae Sai at 10 PM is a quiet city. Birds lined up for hundreds of feet on telephone wires strung just in front of hotel facades and dentistry buildings. The buildings themselves hd a European flare, tall and narrow with triangular roofs and wooden frames. In the glow of street lights, we found our barbeque stand. Some of the experienced Thais chose what we would be eating, and then they volunteered to take us closer to the border for photos.

The border itself had the same strangely European style of the building facades—a little bit awkwardly vertical. As we got closer, the signs were translated from Thai to English, Chinese, and the wonderfully mysterious Burmese script.

The natural border is formed by a river, and the guards were just closing the traffic bridge. A foot path to the “Northern-most point in Thailand” was still open, so we braved a dark alleyway beneath the bridge for a photo op.

On the Thai side, we stood in a well-lit and comparatively vibrant scene. Just across the flowing brown water, though was a much different picture. The Burmese side of the footbridge border was mostly dark, with just one guard standing watch in the moonlit shadows a blocky colorless building. The Burmese side looked how I’d picture North Korea in terms of lack of flare, lack of color, and lack of people out and about on a Wednesday evening.
Where's the Y?

View across to Myanmar (a.k.a Burma)

Well, here we are

It's the Russian Roulette of meat!

The grilling process

We snapped a few shots of ourselves, the razor wire wrapped around the fences, a strange sign saying “Welcome to M anmar” with the “y” clearly missing. Note: Burma and Myanmar refer to the same country—the name you choose is very political, but I choose Burmese as the adjective because I think Myanmar as an adjective and noun is confusing.

So, back to the grilled meat we went. The type of barbeque is apparently particular to this city. It’s called “Ma-La” which is the name of a special spice mix used on the meat. The result is delicious, no matter what part of the animal you’re eating. I ate intestine, stomach, kidney, and few other things I didn’t know. By the third round of meat, it was my turn to pick, so I went up to the cart and surveyed the options. Knowing it’s better to eat first and ask later, I selected a few interesting looking skewers of meat.

I later found out that I had picked beef heart and chicken asshole. Who knew that beef heart could sound so appealing by contrast? In case you’re wondering about the texture of the ass, it was crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle. Not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. I managed to eat my share, and so did everyone else. There was a lot of variety, so the strange cuts weren’t a problem.

So, like I told you in the first sentence, I ate chicken ass 200 meters from the border. It was awesome.