here are two articles. please let me know what you think! i have done some revisions, so i hope sombody goes back and rereads. i know i have several times, and find something else to change each time!
There are days when I get off the bus and decide to walk home and save the twenty baht I normally pay a motorbike taxi to take me to the house. This walk begins on the busiest road in Thailand and ends at the gate to the house in a ‘suburb’ of Pattaya. I walk down one street a ways, turn left, walk to the next street, Soi Country Club, and turn right. From there I walk down a ways and turn right again, past the pool and I’m home at 210/80.
In making this journey several times a week, I have had time to observe the different streets and think about Thai streets in general. A normal street with a combination of residents, business, and what have you is called a ‘soi’. Many of them are numbered. For example, in the bar district of Pattaya, Soi 7 has several very nice very friendly bars. There is also Soi Post Office where the post office is, Soi Diana where somebody named Diana probably did something of note, and Soi Country Club.
Now I have explored Soi Country Club by running along it and have never seen so much as a sign to indicate the actual presence of a country club along this road. There are however, a rather high number of metal work shops. I see and hear people making metal fencing at all hours in open garage type shops. So if we were to adhere to the theory that a road should be named after something of note, Soi Country Club, as far as I can tell, should actually be ‘Soi Metal Shop’. The street to the south where I begin walking should thus be named ‘Soi Hair Salon’ (I think it’s actually some long name like Sukumvit something or other). But here we also face a problem. If we used this theory to name streets in cities in Thailand, then probably 80 percent of the streets would be named ‘Soi 7-11’. We would be lost all of the time instead of only part of the time.
Borrowing a phrase from Dave Barry, there are ‘eighty billion skillion’ 7-11s in any given city in Thailand. ‘Across from 7-11’ can mean about a third of the shops in any given town. A colleague commented today ‘Bangkok probably has more 7-11s than all of North America’, another chuckled in agreement. But there are not only 7-11s. There are the ‘wannabe’ shops such as; Family Mart, 108 Shop, and your typical mom and pop shop with a store on the ground floor and living quarters on the floors above.
When I read the ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebook in preparation of making the move to Thailand I, with relief, found that in Ban Phe, my original destination, there is a 7-11 across from the train station. This calmed me because at the time I was concerned for my mortal health. Not only for the adjustments of heat, the potential for disease, and being in a new place, but more importantly ‘Slurpee Withdrawal’. ‘Slurpee Withdrawal’ is the ailment brought on by the cessation of Slurpee drinking. Symptoms include late night cravings for cold drinks, fits over there being no other slurpers around for the infamous ‘slurpee run’, and finding oneself at the nearest 7-1 with no recollection of how one got there (though college cars may grow accustom to the route after as little as a month) or why one is there. We must remember that I am a recent college graduate, and any college student can attest to this being a serious mental and physical condition. Sleep deprivation and time disorientation are also common ailments. Many students suffer from this type of ailment for more than just finals week and being released into the real world may be traumatic.
Anyhow I have found that in Thailand ‘Slurpee Withdrawal’ is not a concern so much as the opposite given that every other street corner has a 7-11. I was standing on Soi Buakhow this past weekend in search of something interesting. All I could see were 7-11 signs. They intrude everywhere, like flies, or like stray dogs, if you live in Thailand. One can complete their business at a shop and simply cross the street to a plastic cupful of nearly frozen sugary goodness.
THAT WAS THE FIRST AND NOW THE SECOND:
The neighborhood near where I live has all the Thai necessities. A laundry shop, a message parlour, a pharmacy, a repair shop, food stands, carts, and several shops. At the laundry place one can leave clothes and pay a small sum to have them returned in one day’s time smelling fresh and looking rather professional. The nice ladies will also take care of any mending. I had a skirt hem come unstitched and in one day I had the skirt back nicely hemmed for merely 20 baht (about 50 cents). Next door is the Thai massage place advertising the typical full body, foot, and Thai oil massage. I have not been to this parlour but know the Thai massage is like no other and will leave one feeling rejuvenated. After a two day’s journey to get here, a massage was absolutely necessary. Further on is a pharmacy nestled nicely behind a rice and chicken soup stand. A typical Thai pharmacy carries just about anything one could need for all sorts of ailments; except large size bandages for things such as motorbike tailpipe burns. Pharmacies here sell many drugs that in the West require a prescription. It is possible to get fairly potent drugs here over the counter for a fraction of the price. Allergy drugs are one example.
Across the street is a bike repair shop where the guys are constantly shining and checking the wheel balance on any number of new and raggedy bikes out front. Repair shops such as this can be found with much frequency throughout the city. On the corner is a distribution center, from what I can tell. Large trucks rumble up full of milk and yogurt, unload onto the pavement, and carts come up and replenish their stock. This milk and yogurt is sold in the afternoons at school for the students during their afternoon break. I have no idea how often or how much is delivered to this center, but there is always somebody sitting on one of the ornately carved benches outside. There is also a stand that sells drinks here, many of which come in a bag filled with ice. Coffee, tea, and many flavoured sugary juices are typical for these sorts of stands.
There are two other fixed food places. One is a soup stand selling chicken flavoured soup with noodles or rice or some sort of meat in a suspicious looking ball. I am honestly not terribly fond of soup in general and soup with suspicious meat is beyond my abilities of consumption. The other place has fried things such as fried rice, fried pork with garlic and pepper (obviously a favorite of mine), and fried seafood. Here the proprietors are a man and wife. She does the cooking, and he drives a motorbike taxi and a baht bus. He makes morning trips to the bus stop to drop off my housemate. Every night a Som Tom cart, a fruit cart, a fried squid cart, and a truck overflowing with oversized stinky durians park for a few hours. The Som Tom cart lady knows that I don’t like dried shrimp on my spicy papaya salad and that I go running every night. She looked concerned one night because I didn’t go, I said ‘I am feeling ill’ and she made a sad face, patted her belly to say ‘stomach ache’, then smiled. The people are indeed wonderful.
Later in the evening after these carts have gone, a ‘stuff on a stick cart’ appears, makes his rounds through the street honking his horn to alert people inside houses that he’s here, and stays until about ten at night. This cart has pork, beef, various parts of chicken, and other meats on a stick that is grilled right in front of you, smeared with butter, and seasoned. It is fantastic. This cart also carries kow neow ping, quite possibly one of the seven wonders of the culinary world (right above the Slurpee of course). Basically sticky rice molded into a square that is grilled and smeared with the same butter and seasoning. I just started drooling. There are several shops. One has drinks, phone cards, and water. Another has nearly everything one could possibly imagine or need including all sorts of soap, snacks, roach spray, ice, alcohol, and even pasta. I am pretty sure I’m the sole purchaser of this pasta and may soon buy her out. I usually stop at the market to get some fresh tomatoes to fry slightly with butter, garlic, and Thai chilies. Across the street is…you guessed it, a 7-11. Yes, to get to the house, one drives down Soi Country Club to the 7-11 and across the street, turns right. Oh how the world seeps irony.