“Travelling through food makes you understand places deeper and learn about the history and people at the same time,” said “Kartun” Nattanan Kulrapeekorn, the talented show host of a travel show “Tasty Journey” for whom travelling is not just work but also a door to various experiences.
STORY: SURANGRAT KANBUBPHA
Kartun talked about the beginning of her journey that in fact, she was not an avid traveller to begin with, but the reason why she has visited so many places in the world is that she wanted to know and understand the world around her. She’s always been a foodie, so she felt presenting food stories to like-minded people was something that would suit her best.
“When I was young, I was a TV show host and news reporter. After graduation, I became a show host in many travel programmes. People started to notice that I’m a foodie, and they would say whatever I eat looks delicious. I am a real foodie and I can eat anything, except pets like dogs, cats and rabbits. I am a very simple person and I would eat whatever, so I was given a chance to be the show host of Taste Journey,” she said of the starting point four years ago. The show has now become synonymous with her. She feels lucky to be part of the show, because she gets to travel the world, and meet a lot of people from different places. She still keeps in touch with many of them. It seems like her personal life and professional life have blended into one.
“Travelling gives me so many friends, and more importantly, it has helped me understand people more. The more I work, the nicer I’ve become. I’ve always been nice and decent — it’s not that I was an evil person — but after joining the show, I’ve met a lot of people and seen more of the world. I’ve become more open-minded and forgiving. I’ve come to realise that I am not the centre of anything. Now I hardly have any of my own individual way of thinking left. When I work, I don’t think about my nationality or where I’m from. I don’t compare the experience to what I’ve been through. This helps me understand the world as well as myself. It’s like I’ve become enlightened through travelling.” The foodie said travelling, and enjoying food along the way, has made her life flavourful. The cherry on top is getting to try local cuisine prepared by local people, just for her.
“I’ve eaten a lot of strange food, but the strangest would be a turtle dish in the Philippines. At first I was reluctant whether to eat it or not because I didn’t really want to, but the locals had prepared it just for me, as it was a special dish for them. I didn’t want to disappoint them, and the turtle was already dead. It’s not like I was going to make a habit out of eating turtles — it was more of a once in a lifetime thing. I tried a few bites just to prove to them that I was willing to eat their food.”
Speaking of that particular dish, she said she couldn’t really tell whether it was delicious. In her show, she leaves her personal preferences and expectations behind, so she’s never felt surprised by the taste of the food. However, she’s more surprised by the fact that food is a universal language. Having visited many countries, she has discovered that everyone speaks the same food language.
“I usually speak Thai and English, but now I speak food as well. When I visited the Philippines and Indonesia, I could read the menu and tell which dishes contain rice, because the words are rather close to what we call it in Thai. Sometimes I could tell it comes with banana leaf. The more I work, the more I’ve picked up food-related and cooking-related words. Some people ask me if I could speak their language because it seems like I understand the meaning. I actually just learn bits and pieces along the way. One time, I was in Cambodia and the videographer asked the guide that he wanted the local to grill the food here. The guide told the local, and I could understand because the word was kind of similar to Thai language. These little things are stored in my memory,” said the food lover of new skills learned during her job.
When asked how many countries she had visited, she shook her head and said she couldn’t really remember because she never really counted. In Asia, she has visited almost every country, except those in Central Asia. She’s also been to Europe, North America, and Africa, and she would love to visit South America and the Caribbean. Among the countries she has visited, she has fallen in love with two particular countries.
“I’ve been to Bhutan 17 times over the past two years. The first time was a work trip, and I fell in love with the people. They were so genuine and they always said they would never lie because they practice Buddhism, and it’s really true. I also like their approach to tourism — they focus on quality more than quantity. If you visit Bhutan, you have to pay about 250 US dollars per day (for services like accommodation, food and local guide). They love their country and don’t want an influx of tourists to change the way they live. I keep going back to Bhutan, and every time I go, I always pray to the buddha to let me go back there again. Another country I love is Iceland, which I’ve visited five times already, and not for work. The first time was in high school, when I was an exchange student and lived with a host family there. After that, I would always save up to visit Iceland. One time, I took a month off work to spend time there. I bought a monthly bus ticket and I would go out to take videos and photos every day. Iceland is such an incredible country — it’s beautiful in a lonely kind of way, like a mini utopia. It’s quiet and the weather is great. I don’t think there’s a place quite like it in this world.”
Although she has travelled to many places, she doesn’t really want to call herself a traveller, because she feels that she has not had that much experience. She’s more of an explorer, as that’s what she enjoys doing — exploring food and ways of life in each place.
“I think when you visit a place and really get to know it, you remember it much better. Some people visit so many countries in one trip and they only remember bits and pieces. The way I travel, I remember so many things. I can even recall long conversations because I really live in the moment. If possible, I want everyone to try travelling through food. Make food your destination and let it take you to explore the places in that city. You will find beautiful surprises, just like I have,” said the foodie.