After living in Thailand for nearly a year, our departure from this unique country is imminent. While we are eager to leave, we will never forget the kindness shown to us by so many people, the spectacular beauty of the places we’ve seen or the incredible flavors of the local foods. Obviously, the country has many issues with which it struggles – what country doesn’t? – but despite the fact that while we were here we witnessed a military coup, routinely saw people driving the wrong direction of traffic and continuously had to deal with poor repairs, people not showing up when they said they were or places of business randomly closing for no apparent reason. The heat frequently sapped all of our energy and motivation leaving us ‘hibernating’ directly under a small window air conditioner. On the other hand, we took advantage of the marina’s fitness room – it was air conditioned – and both of us got in better physical shape than we possibly ever had been.
There were a few restaurants near the marina where we parked Rutea and one of them quickly became our favorite. It’s owned by a small Thai woman named Phen (pronounced ‘Pen’) and the name of the place is Coconut. Phen does everything: She takes your order, cooks the food, serves it and washes the dishes. Her English is very good yet she always speaks in the third-person: “Phen no have.” or “Phen can make.” There are several long tables in this restaurant with no walls and cruisers from all over the world sit shoulder to shoulder, exchanging stories, offering experiences or talking of future destinations while enjoying very cold Thai beer. The menu is extensive but, even so, Phen does her shopping daily so the food is always remarkably fresh. Her Penang Curry has the bright, strong flavors of kaffir lime leaves, garlic, bird’s eye chilis, bunches of green peppercorns still on the stem plus a long list of spices. It’s one of our favorites and Phen will make it with chicken, pork or beef but if you’re lucky and she has fresh prawns, then that’s what we order. A large serving of that with a big bowl of steamed rice will set you back 150 Thai Baht (almost US$5.00) but it’s one of the most expensive items on the menu.
There are many things in Thailand that have made us giggle. For example, one time when we were shopping at one of the big department stores in a mega-shopping mall, I paid for some items with a credit card. Many years ago I read that it is unwise to actually sign the back of your credit card – if you do and your credit card get stolen, the thief has your signature as well. Because of that, I print on the signature line: Demand Photo ID. The clerk at this particular store compared my signature on the paper receipt to the back of my card and said, “No same.” I got my California driver’s license out and showed her that the signature on my license and the slip were in fact identical. She held her ground and repeated that the writing on the back of the credit card didn’t match what I had signed. She handed the slip back to me and I printed below my signature: Demand Photo ID and with this she was satisfied. It took great amounts of physical and emotional strength not to burst out laughing.
Today, for the first time in a year, we’ve sailed to a port which we haven’t visited before. My brother, Mark, is on board with us and we’re having a great time even if there are chores and repairs to be made. While Mark was here, our single-cylinder diesel genset blew out an exhaust elbow. Mark mentioned this in an email to a mutual friend, saying that I was struggling with genset issues. Unfortunately, AutoCorrect changed ‘genset’ to ‘gender’.
We leave for Sri Lanka in about a week.