Phuket (again): Airport Surprise

17 Jun

We celebrated Tom’s birthday this past weekend at Khao Lak, a beach town in Thailand north of Phuket.

Birthday lobster (unrelated to the post, but great photo, no?)

Our flight back was in the evening, so we decided to get a light dinner at the airport. Phuket Airport is a small airport, and dining options were looking pretty grim — a pub, some cafe with tired-looking sandwiches, a Subway. And then there was the restaurant upstairs.

Now, if you’ve traveled much, you’ve probably learned to avoid The Airport Restaurant. I’m not talking about the chain outlets like Chili’s or Wolfgang Puck’s, or the upscale establishments that have been popping up in the larger hubs like morels. I’m talking about the slightly dingy eatery that was probably the only place to get a meal when the airport was first built in, say, the ’70s, and usually features previously frozen “specials” of dubious age and quality. So let’s just say I wasn’t expecting much when we walked into the official Thai Airways restaurant.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an extensive menu of Thai specialties — by which I mean, stuff you don’t see on the takeaway menu at your local Thai joint — and just surprised when the food arrived:

Does this count as an all-day breakfast?

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but Tom’s dinner (that blurry thing in the back) is tom yum soup with some of the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen. My dinner is called khanom chin, and apparently it’s standard breakfast food. There were rice noodles (more like spaghetti than the pad thai noodles I’m familiar with), a properly spicy coconut curry, long beans, cucumber, fresh pineapple, hard-boiled egg, fried chilis, bean sprouts, jicama, and a pile of fresh herbs that included Thai basil and a bunch of stuff I didn’t recognize. I did wish it came with instructions, because I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to assemble the noodles, curry, and assorted garnishes, but I managed to figure out something that tasted quite good. In fact, I’d say this was up there with some of the better Thai meals I’ve had — and definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in an airport.

The restaurant is run by Thai Airways, which makes me wonder if the in-flight meals are of the same quality. In which case, I’m flying Thai from now on.

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