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stop-bullying

Toronto

This final installment of my adventure so far is not so much a story of the next few weeks but more some observations and impressions of life in a small town in Thailand.

After my first week in Ban Phai Juy and I more or less settled in to a daily routine.  Every morning we'd head over to the cafe across the street for breakfast while we plan out the day.

The day usually consisted of visiting with her mother often with one or two trips to the market where we would either buy the ingredients for a meal or a prepared meal from one of the vendors.

In the evening we would go to one of the local restaurants for dinner and then maybe "hang out" with one of her friends over a few drinks.

Take-out

Buying a meal from a vendor here is a bit different than ordering a hamburger and fries in Canada.  Let's take a meal of noodles for example.  A "meal" of noodles may consist of three plastic bags filled as follows,
- the noodles
- your chosen protein which might be chicken, pork or shrimp that has been stir fried with garlic, green onion, chilis and basil
- soup stock
Sometimes you'll get a fourth bag with raw ingredients such as bean sprouts, fresh coriander or green onion.

Each of these plastic bags are filled with air like a balloon and tied off with an elastic to hold in the air.  Don't ask me why the ballon, they just all do it.  If you order three meals then you usually get nine bags but sometimes they will put them all together.

Once you get home you open the three bags and one by one pour them into a bowl and sprinkle on the contents of the fourth bag if you have one.

If you order Pad Thai take out from a vendor it is usually wrapped in a type of plastic coated newsprint with an elastic.  It's often eaten directly from the paper.

Buying fruit juice in the market is another experience in alternative packaging.  The vendor takes a small, clear plastic bag that has hand holds on each side like a mini grocery bag, in goes some ice, the fruit juice and a straw and there's your fruit juice.  Just hope you don't need to put it down before you're finished drinking it.

Ban Phai KFC

When we aren't eating meal-in-a-bag we often eat at a chicken stand I mentioned in the previous chapter that I have dubbed Ban Phai KFC because they have the best fried chicken and if franchised would put KFC out of business. During the day it's a street corner but in the evening they pull up a cart and unpack the cooking tools, tables and chairs.  Poof...instant sidewalk cafe.

A typical meal there would be a papaya salad and a large piece of chicken (breast and wing) each for Juy and I.  The whole meal with a couple of soft drinks would cost about $4 Canadian with tip.

I have to mention that one papaya salad would be enough but we have get two because Juy prefers the Lao version which to me smells like feet.  Being only about 200km from the border with Laos there is a very strong Lao influence in this part of the country.

The last time I was in Ban Phai there were no fast food restaurants but since then an actual KFC has opened in Ban Phai. Now without changing the colonel's recipe it would be very difficult for KFC to compete with any of the fried or BBQ chicken vendors so they have to offer something that most of the local vendors don't.  Juy doesn't typically like western food but she does like the mini drumbsticks at KFC.  So one day we stop by the KFC to get some mini drumsticks.  Guess what, no order counter.  We stand there looking confused for a second and one of the staff comes up and shows us to a table.  Yup, full table service at KFC.  Considering many KFCs in Canada only have the order counter it was especially odd for me.

7-Eleven

Yup, they have them in Thailand too.  The big convenience store chain in Thailand is Family Mart but for some reason the only convenience store chain in Ban Phai is 7-Eleven complete with the Slurpee machine and everything.  But even here there is a Thai twist to the usual 7-Eleven junk food.  Where we would have hot dog on a bun (maybe with chili) they have something similar to a hot dog but they normally get it sliced up in a bag with shredded cabbage.  They have a hot pinapple pie but they also have one with pork and one with red beans.  Generally their pastries are meat rather than fruit filled.  Quite often people will just come in for instant tom yum noodles.  And don't even get me started on the seafood or pork flavoured potato chips.  Then again, they might find our ketchup and dill pickle flavoured chips equally odd.

The Market

The market in Ban Phai is like any other local market in a small Thai town. At any time of day there is something going on in the market. The bulk of the action is during the day and early evening. The market will be at full steam by 5 or 6am and go until about 8 or 9pm. Over the course of the day vendors will pack up and leave while others will arrive and take their place. I still haven't figured how this chaos is managed, if at all.

We have even stopped by the market at 2am on our way home and although only a few vendors are still open we are still able to get one of the best Pad Thais I have ever had.

The Coffee Mug

The hotel room does not have a coffee maker and I do like to have coffee on those slow mornings when we're not in a hurry to go out. Luckily the instant coffee in Thailand is quite good and the hotel has a hot water pot in the lobby.  So all I need is a mug.

We went to a local hardware store and I search the myriad of cups on the shelves for a suitable mug. After about a minute or so I came across a mug that looked suitable and when I take a closer look it was a Toronto Maple Leafs mug. Here I am, in a small, rural Thai village, not a hockey rink anywhere within a thousand miles (likely more) and I find a Leaf's mug.

So now I have my coffee in a Leafs mug.

Biker Greg

Most of the people in Ban Phai get around on motorbikes and scooters.  In fact, most family's first vehicle is a motorbike.

I like to think of myself being a rather enlightened person but having Juy drive me around on the back of her motorbike is just a teensy bit emasculating. To remedy this Juy has been giving me driving lessons including the rules of the road in Thailand so that I can drive her around. And tonight I just had my first solo ride making me about as official a driver as anyone else in Ban Phai.