Ko Lanta means “to decompress” in Thai. Ok, that’s not actually true. But if you’re looking to relax, there may be no better place than Ko Lanta.

Lanta is an island off the coast of mainland Krabi, Thailand in the Andaman Sea. It’s a place where scooters outnumber cars, clocks have seemingly disappeared, and shoes are always optional. It’s like a real-life Jimmy Buffet song, but more exotic.

I was blown away by the island’s hospitality, the endless beaches to explore, and the ‘come as you are’ attitude. The only thing that didn’t knock my socks off was the food. Don’t get me wrong, the food certainly wasn’t bad. But so much of it seemed to be prepared to please the tourist palette. For example, at the majority of restaurants the menu was thick and laminated and included everything from pad thai and lasagna to veggie burgers and fish tacos. The food in Bangkok was so good! So, in fairness, the bar was set very, very high.  

What Lanta lacked in cuisine, it made up for in total and utter relaxation. Something we could all use a bit more of, am I right? If you can’t hop on the next flight to Thailand, here’s the next best thing. Follow these steps and you too can be as cool as a cucumber floating in a seaside mojito.  

Before we get started, set the mood with this Feeling Krabi Spotify playlist. It’s full of songs that evoke the Island-spirit, many heard playing at the local beach bars. One bar had a thing for 90s American Country, hence the Alan Jackson hit.

Are you listening? Perfect. You’ve already completed Step 1.

STEP 1 | GOOD TUNES ON REPEAT

My personal favorite is the Thai hit, Do Do Do by Job 2 Do. It was a nightly staple and I’ve caught myself humming the tune countless times. Fair warning, it’s an earworm.

STEP 2 | TAKE CAT NAPS

Like the Spanish siesta, every afternoon in Ko Lanta the island would get very still. The lunch bustle winded down and local workers retreated home to escape the hottest part of the day. I’m not a big napper, but I followed the locals’ lead, both human and feline, and most days enjoyed a leisurely cat nap.

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I woke up feeling recharged, refreshed, and ready for an evening of beach volleyball, another daily tradition on the island.

STEP 3 | NO WIFI, GET HIGH

It’s the unofficial official slogan of Ko Lanta, especially at my frequented hangout, Blue Wave Bar. Seeing as I’m still working remotely for my office in Portland I had to stay connected (Side note: I’m totally awed by wifi accessibility. I stayed in a bungalow with holes in the wall and no hot water, yet had 5G high-speed internet!) but there were plenty of nights that I left my phone behind and enjoyed digi-free life for a few hours.

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As for sampling the island herb? I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination.

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STEP 4 | PLAN YOUR DAY AROUND SUNSET

In a place where punctuality and set schedules are obsolete, Lantians(?) certainly make sunset a priority. Nearly all the bars have a sunset special, like 2-for-1s or 40% off, from 4-7pm. And during this time, it seems 90% of the island’s occupants are on the beach with eyes on the horizon. A peaceful, thoughtful way to close out a day, only made better with newfound friends. (Another side note: I met the best people on Lanta. Fun, adventurous, interesting, kind, beautiful people.)

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Even since I’ve left, Alec, one of said newfound friends, has been keeping the tradition alive by sending me sunset updates. Amazing.

STEP 5 | GET A BEACH MASSAGE

A one-hour massage. On the beach. For $10. How could one decline?

My massage was…intimate, to say the least. No, no, it’s not what you’re thinking! Although Thailand has a wrap for giving “special” massages, there was nothing sexual about this experience. It’s just that, at one point I had both of my legs wrapped around the woman’s body while she was up on her knees pushing both hands into my pelvis. Fast-forward 20 minutes and my head’s in her lap and she’s pulling on my ears.

It was very different than any massage I’ve had in the U.S., but it was clear that this woman is master of her craft.

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There you have it! The Lanta Guide to Relaxation. Follow these five simple steps and let the stress melt away. And in case you need a reminder after a stressful Monday meeting or a brutal rush hour commute, feel free to save this handy dandy pocket guide ;) 

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And for fun, here are a few of my favorite photos from Krabi, including some foooooooood.

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AuthorMolly Streuli
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I arrived in Bangkok at 1am. The heat and humidity felt like a big, warm hug. I was over the chilly, wet PNW rain. The cab dropped me off at my Airbnb around 2am. And at 2am, the street was quiet, eerily so, with no real sign of life around, apart from the occasional 7/11 customer a few blocks up.

At this point I was feeling pretty confident that I made a bad booking mistake.

But the next morning, jet-lagged and popping out of bed at 5am, the street made a complete transformation. I walked downstairs and out the door and was welcomed by a street lined with pots of stewing curries, various street dogs making the rounds, and scooters zipping up and down the alleys. Vibrant in every sense of the word.   

I spent the first day walking, observing, and absorbing. Everything felt new. Like who had any idea this whole new world existed? Clearly, millions of people, but it’s one of those things you likely just have to experience for yourself.

This SE Asian journey has me excited for a million and one reasons, and towards the top of that list is the food. Food is sustenance and art. It keeps people fueled and inspired. And it helps to shape and define cultures. So, here are three great meals I enjoyed in Bangkok.

1. FEAST WITH JI AT BANG NAMPUNG FLOATING MARKET

A couple years ago I did a bike tour through Airbnb in Barcelona. It exceeded my expectations—it was small and casual, but really informative and fun—so I decided to book another ‘Experience’ in Bangkok: A food market tour.

It was supposed to be me, eight other guests, plus the guide. It ended up being me and the guide, Ji. Evidently, everyone else was dealing with food poisoning. Not the greatest omen pre-culinary experience, huh? 

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We headed to Bang Nampung floating market. Before we even got to the market Ji was stopping at street stands and ordering little bites for me to try: jackfruit, plus a roasted jackfruit nut. And little rice flour / green onion pastries called khanom khrok.

At the market we moseyed our way from stand to stand to try grilled chicken livers, egg pastries with big chunks of mussels and shrimp, rose apple, salty dried mango, fermented shrimp, Miang kham flavor bombs, Sprite popsicles, and crispy rice cakes with caramel sauce, just to name a few.

Eventually, we sat down to have a “meal,” because that was totally necessary. We split a bowl of tom yum noodle soup, some fried sausage / kaffir lime balls, and a huge crepe filled with cheese, spices, corn, and a slew of seafood—Ji says it’s a traditional Vietnamese dish although it seems like something you order at the Minnesota State Fair.

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I didn’t eat for the rest of the day or for half of the following day.  

Eating with a local is hard to beat. They know the must-haves, the things to skip, and they’re not going to get had by the local vendors. Plus, Ji was an amazing bank of knowledge, beyond just food. She essentially gave me itineraries for the next couple of days—which I adhered to more or less—and had a blast.  

The incredible assortment of dishes and the local insight made this one of my favorite meals, err, feasts(!), in Bangkok.

2. IMPROMPTU NEW YEAR’S EVE POTLUCK

For New Year’s Eve, I planned on going down to Khao San Road, also known as "the centre of the backpacking universe.” I watched a YouTube video of the 2018 New Year party and it looked like a shit show, but I figured I’d maybe meet some like-minded, or at least fun, people there.  

Before I headed that direction I stopped by the neighborhood “bar.” Really less of a bar and more of a third-world convenience store with a cooler and a couple of picnic tables. But the beer was cold and the people were friendly. 

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Very friendly, it turns out. After sitting there for a few minutes, the local crew asked me to sit with them. They didn’t speak any English so we relied heavily on Google Translate. As I was sitting there, I noticed that every five or ten minutes, with each bottle of Leo there’d be another snack or plate of food on the table. First, a super dark, super spicy soup. Next, some bright pink, puffed shrimp chips. And then big fried chunks of fatty pork belly.

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I was loving the drinking snacks, but I hadn’t seen anything yet. An hour or so went by, the rum made an appearance, and more people started stopping by, all with dishes to share. Like a potluck. 

There was a whole grilled fish served with a couple different sweet and sour relish-like mixtures. Another grilled fish, with very spicy chilies and mystery pods on top. And a tiny wood-burning oven full of a family-recipe tom yum soup.

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Every time a new dish came to the table, I was encouraged to take the first bite, everyone eager to see my reaction. I loved everything, except for maybe the mystery pods that were lethally spicy.  

Happily, I never made it to Khao San Road.

This meal was such a testament to the welcoming, come-as-you-are, genuinely kind Thai culture. And an amazing way to ring in the New Year.

3. SPICY CURRY IN A HOME-Y SETTING

On my last day in Bangkok I went to the Baan Silpin “Artists House” on the west side of the river. A Ji recommendation, of course. A very cool community art space, which can only be accessed by canal or by meandering through a series of alleyways. I chose the latter. When I arrived an artist was working on a temple painting. They also had local art for sale and supposedly do a live, artsy puppet show at 2pm every day. After checking out the space and sitting along the catfish-filled river for a while, I needed a little lunch before my trek back. 

There was one restaurant nearby, but it was packed with tourists. I kept walking and ducked into a friendly-looking alley and came across a home with a hand-painted sign reading “Restaurant.” I walked in and was greeted by three sweet, cheerful women. They sat me down in what appeared to be their living room and brought me a menu. (Rereading this now sounds a little creepy which it 110% was not!)

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The eldest of the three ladies came and sat right across from me and was thrilled when I told her I was from America. She loves America. Her English was great, in comparison to my non-existent Thai. But there was certainly a language barrier, so we stumbled through conversation with a lot of laughs, awkward pauses, and smiles.

Eventually I ordered a spicy seafood curry and the woman left without saying much—maybe she was the chef too? While I waited for my meal alone I tuned into the Thai crime drama playing on the back wall. I don’t like crime dramas in the U.S. and now it’s confirmed that I also don’t much care for them in Thailand.

But soon the food came and everything was right in the world. Shrimp, squid, big button mushrooms, chilies, and a bundle of aromatics, all in a spicy, warm coconut sauce, so clearly cooked with love. Perfection.

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I think I ate it all in like 12 minutes. And when I was done, another woman—not one of the first three to greet me—came in and offered me a platter of tiny fruits. I mean, come on!  

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I paid (a whopping $4) and left. The warmth from the hosts was special, something to strive for. And something that will stick with me for a long time.

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AuthorMolly Streuli
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There's something especially fun about eating outdoors. Maybe it feels loosely like a picnic? Maybe because nearly all food comes from the outdoors and you've got those farm-to-table feels going on? Or maybe because in more cases than not, outdoor meals are accompanied by a cold beer or glass of vino? I'll place my bet on the latter.

This summer I had the pleasure of living with two of my great Portland friends. And with that came an excellent backyard full of foliage, a hammock, neglected garden beds, and patio furniture. One of my favorite things to do was make a simple, tasty meal and enjoy it on the patio. 

Here's a small sampling of my patio provisions. 

1. Egg, veggie scramble topped with homemade Nappa cabbage kimchi. 

2. Another egg scramble with spinach, avocado, and Hard Times Soilent Green hot sauce alongside a toasted everything bagel. 

3. Mixed greens with seared tuna, turmeric roasted cauliflower, egg, quinoa, and chia seeds.

4. Bon Appetite's berry tahini yogurt cake. Made special for 4th of July. 

5. Cheesy grits topped with shrimp and kale in a vinegary, green onion sauce. 

6. Whole wheat toast with some sort of yogurt-y sauce (or maybe it was a goat cheese spread?) and a fried egg. 

In a few short weeks I'll be moving out of this lovely home. There's a lot I'll miss, including quiet meals in the backyard. But new adventures (and patios) await! 

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AuthorMolly Streuli

Is it just me, or do tacos seem to be having a moment right now? Everyday I see a new taco meme, t-shirt, or greeting card. But I guess it’s for good reason. Tacos are hella delicious. 

I’m typically a fish taco fan. The salty fresh fish, paired with the crunchy cabbage and spicy sauce. A seriously ballin’ combo.

But every once in a while I’ll mix it up and go for the classic carnitas. Although carnitas can be amazing, I’m usually left feeling like I just ate a pulled pork sandwich but subbed the bun for a tortilla. Don’t get me wrong, pulled pork doused in tangy sauce, topped with crunchy slaw or sour pickles is nothing I would turn my nose up at. It’s just that carnitas should be different than pulled pork. Carnitas should be fatty and tender. Carnitas should be seasoned with a fairly heavy hand. Carnitas should have that dark, crispy char on the edges.

Carnitas should look like this.

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Los Pepitos Locos on 42nd Ave isn’t the best Mexican restaurant in Portland. I don’t even know that I’d put it in the top ten. But goddammit, they make killer carnitas. 

Keep in mind, I ate about half the meat out of this taco before I decided to take a photo. It was served on two white corn tortillas with, what seemed like, a half pound of pork nestled inside. The toppings were simple: cilantro and raw onion. Which is really all you need when the meat is done so well.

I did add a splash of both their red and green sauces. I'd give them both a 6/10. Nothing that'll blow your mind, but still tasty. 

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To round out the meal I also ordered a fish taco. Similar to the carnitas, they didn't skimp on the protein. The fish was plentiful and well seasoned, but overall it was missing a little something. I think a zesty, cabbage crunch would do the trick.

And to wash it all down I enjoyed a tall, cool michelada. Perfectly spiced and super refreshing on a muggy Portland afternoon. 

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Los Pepitos Locos. I think I like you. 

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AuthorMolly Streuli

By car, Missoula, Montana is eight hours from Portland. It’s a nice drive, full of mountain ranges, vast open spaces, and desert tumbleweeds. In March, my mom and I made the eight-hour trip to visit uncle Geno, and his wife, Pam.

I’ve always loved a good country bar. They were a dime a dozen in Wisconsin, but in Portland it’s harder than you’d think to find a casual, no frills, down-and-dirty, bar. Or saloon, as they apparently call them in Montana.  

The Oxford Saloon is place where you could spend all night heavily drinking cheap beer AND where you want to find yourself after said night. We came for breakfast. The countertop seating, canned corned beef, and ornery employees worked in perfect harmony. 

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They ended up losing our order, but that allowed us just enough time to have one more bloody.

Saloon stop #2 was just outside of Missoula, in Lolo, MT. If you look up “country bar” in the dictionary, you’ll likely see a photo of The Jack Saloon.

To get there you drive down an unmarked dirt road for nearly fifteen minutes. Everything in the bar, including the bar itself, is constructed from a massive log. The drinks were cheap, the bartenders were country girls to the core, and they had shake-a-day. Enough said.

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If you find yourself in Missoula, I’d recommend a saloon stop or two. A local bar is always a great way to navigate a new city. And Missoula is no exception.

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AuthorMolly Streuli