As we accustom ourselves to the Thai pace of life (something right up our alley, it seems), it is necessary to introduce our loyal followers to the things which are normal here. We’ll start with the basics: shoes off inside. This sometimes includes stores, like this 7-11 knock-off, 7-day.
Thai restaurants. They’re everywhere. This includes people’s driveways, front porches, living rooms and motorbikes. Whether making noodle soup, pad thai, and barbecued unidentified meats and fishes or something more complicated with lengthy menu options, food service needs no brick and mortar. In lieu of disposable dishes, many foods are served in small plastic bags, sometimes wth toothpicks for spearing. This includes soups, beverages, salads, and noodles alike.
Motorbikes. They are everywhere and used for everything, from carrying your family of 5 to your mobile restaurant to stacked coops of chickens. Walking through the market one day, we saw a motorbike causing a stir trying to get through the narrow, crowded alleyway carrying, I kid you not, a wall. Also because of motorbike prevalence, behold the Thai gas station, also sometimes seen as a rack of refillable liquor bottles filled with gasoline with or without a cardboard sign.
Condiments. Instead of salt and pepper, restaurants set out sugar, spice, and vinegar. It’s delicious. And sometimes not very sanitary. Believe it or not, J and I have found ourselves adding spice to our food. Maybe we got too accustomed in Bangkok?
Thai toilets. It’s set into the ground and you squat over it. Instead of paper, use water! If you’re lucky there’s a high-powered sprayer like the kind you’d find on a kitchen sink for dishes. Sometimes it’s super high-powered and you end up embarrassingly wet. If not, there’s a basin of water and a complicated splashing technique and you’ll probably end up embarrassingly wet. To flush, dump in a few ladles of water from the basin. Often, there’s a hole in the bucket and you end up embarrassingly wet. If you are in a westernized establishment, the toilet seat may be either dirty or slanted – the first, from locals squatting on it, the second, to prevent locals from squatting.
Some pretty janky stuff passes as okay here. This means normal things, like patchy internet and driving on the highway with 12 people in the back of your truck. And rusty nails, garbage heaps, gaping holes in the sidewalk or road, or this, the bridge from our bungalow on Koh Chang to the beach. Needless to say, we waded.
And yet right up next to all those janky things, extremely ornate, well-kept, or strikingly beautiful things. All over the place. Beautiful intricate colorfully painted wats (temples), ornate metalwork on fencing, or, the funniest example, meticulously pruned highway meridians:
And this, the quintessential Thailand, our double-decker bus from Tak. Take special note of the lace seat covers and the lighting fixtures.
We’ve completed our tour north and now find ourselves in Chiang Mai, where J is luxuriating in real (non-instant) coffee. Last night, we discovered a new sport, Sepak Takraw, which looks something like volleyball except that you use your feet. Meaning lots of bicycle kicks. Just in case anyone kicks too high and pulls a muscle, there’s a nurse present. How do I know she’s a nurse?
We take off tomorrow for a three day jungle trek, which we negotiated and haggled to fit our budget. We will return in three days having learned all sorts of skills we will use for the rest of our lives, like which jungle bugs of South East Asia taste like lemon and how to shoot rats with sling shots. Also, we get to play with elephants.