Hello, world! And welcome to my first posting. Here I am in Chiang Mai, that ancient Lanna city of lore, one of the most â€œrenownedâ€ tourist destinations in Asia. But today, itâ€™s nothinâ€™ but hot and ugly, already 90 degrees in the shade. The other day, my flip-flops melted in the sun. Itâ€™s that sweltering time of year when forests catch fire and farmers burn their fields. This is our third hot season here in a row â€“ youâ€™d think weâ€™d be smart enough to leave, but weâ€™re not.
Our fifth-floor condo has a big wrap-around porch with views of Doi Suthep Mountain a mile away. We canâ€™t see it today. (And we canâ€™t hear a thing over the shrill whistles of a hundred cicadas.) The smoky air swaddles everything in white. Tonight, the sun will set in a surreal tint of red and the air will turn orange like Mars.
Itâ€™s too hot to eat.
Passionfruit. If youâ€™ve ever tasted this tart little exquisite fruit â€” it makes your heart race and your mouth pucker â€” youâ€™ll know thereâ€™s no better name for it. When itâ€™s not in season, we buy all-natural Thai passionfruit juice in 750 ml cartons for the equivalent of $1.15. Pour it into a popsicle tray and a few hours later, voila! The only appropriate end to a hazy day.
But Iâ€™m in luck. The fruit is back in season, and Queen Sirikitâ€™s store has bins full of it, packaged into one-kilogram bags for 30 baht (75 cents) each.
Now, I love passionfruit but Iâ€™ve always struggled with extracting the juice from all those little seeds. Slice a fruit in half and youâ€™ll discover oodles of little black seeds encased in a slimy, stringy yellow goop. Thatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s the exotic pith that makes passionfruit what it is. Well, Iâ€™ve learned a new trick: Place a metal colander over a pot. Slice each fruit in half, spoon the guts into the colander and slowly pour just-boiled water over the top. This miraculously loosens the slime from the seeds, and the pungent juice will run into the pot.
We drink our passionfruit over ice and Myersâ€™s rum (which we picked up in a Singapore duty-free shop earlier this month), and a sprig of mint from the pot on the porch. I sip my drink (Jerry gulps his) out on the back patio as the bats make their evening loop across the sky. And suddenly, Chiang Mai isnâ€™t quite so bad.