IT’S a before and after thingy you do when you get to visit Phuket. You pucker up and give the island a big kiss upon your arrival for an exciting adventure awaits you.

Then you’ll find out soon enough that the puckered up lips seem to be a permanent feature, most especially if you’re a foodie. If you love Thai cuisine, nothing can be more authentic than having it in Thailand—in the restaurants or the streets. And if you know the Thais eat, then you’d better arm yourself with a remedy for that “hot lips” of yours.

The Thai’s love their food showered with chili. For the regular diners like me, it’s a sure way to achieve the surgery-free, collagen-free pouting lips many have been dreaming to have (wouldn’t that use up that pricey lipstick to soon?).

But with the heavy foot traffic of tourists in their country, the Thais have learned to ask what the level of spice the diners want to have in their food, or they let the diners add the spice themselves after serving. However, hot is relative and I have to be reminded of that time and again whenever I dine in this amazing land.

I remember eating in a fast food place once and “medium spice” was still too hot for my taste—and sugar, my only known remedy, was nowhere in sight. The Tom Yang noodle soup took ages to finish while I envied the petite lady feasting on the same dish (plus two teaspoonfuls of chili powder) with gusto and was done in minutes.

In Phuket, Yashee showed me the Yin and the Yang of Thai dining. She prepared a spicy Thai dish, Penang Curry, pork with kafir, galangal, and Penang curry paste, served with the natural “coolers” (read: counter the burning sensation of the chili)— chilled raw string beans, cucumber and eggplant. It was a wonderful meal filled with moments of “extra rice, please”.

But these natural remedies are not available all the time when dining around Phuket so I had to request “not hot” preparation and spice it according to my taste. With Yashee as dining partner and culinary guide, it was one fun food tour around the island.

Cheap Ass restaurant, a roadside eatery, was where we had the perfect hot noodle soup for a rainy day. Was it the resto’s name, the Radna with chicken or the “power menu” that made the place memorable, or was it all of the above?

Another nice place to dine in is at Muslim Chow, most especially if you know Arun, the owner and cook. He makes everyone feel at home. Lock Then in Phuket Town is “where the local working crowd eat” and where I got to try Mee Hon, stir fried Thai-Chinese noodles, Crispy pork dumpling and the Thai style Chicken Satay. The food here was nothing exceptional but worth the try.

Now it’s time to pucker up again and give Phuket another big kiss upon leaving and say ‘til the next visit. In a big island such as Phuket, dining is always a case of “so many restaurants, so little time” and you know you’ll be back soon. I know I will. Kiss-kiss Phuket!