A Few More Of My Favorite Things
As Songkran approaches, it seems like a good time to once again count my blessings and give thanks for some of the little things that make life here in the Land of Smiles worth living. So here in no particular order are some of my favorite Thai things.
1. coffee: It’s hard to believe that before I moved to Thailand I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker. I have always adored the aroma. I have always savored the taste. Perhaps it is because I’ve never been much of a hot beverage person, and iced coffee wasn’t all that popular when I was growing up. Certainly living in this tropical climate hasn’t suddenly made me want to down a few cups of hot java (or anything else that is not dripping with icy condensation) anytime soon. But iced coffee? Ah that’s a whole other ballgame! I never knew before coming to Lampang that quite a bit of coffee is grown here in the North. I can only speak for Lampang, but it seems you can’t go a few hundred meters without a place serving espresso drinks. And I’m not talking about some fancy shrine to overpriced drinks like Starbucks. I’m talking small hole in the wall family run cafes that serve brewed to order espresso at reasonable prices. (I’m talking 30 – 40 baht). My beverage of choice at the moment is iced Mocha, not too sweet. Boy that does hit the spot, especially when it is served by a pretty girl with a smiling face.
It’s a small thing for sure, but it really gets my day off to a good start!
2. Thai pharmacies. Hey, you’ve got to love a country where you can just walk in off the street and buy pretty much what you need for medications without a prescription! Now of course I am not advocating self medicating without the advice of a physician, but it’s nice not have to keep making office visits just to get your prescription refilled! My pharmacy back in the U.S. always made me go back to a doctor to have a prescription renewed, which meant a hundred bucks or so for a pointless office visit. Here I just walk in and get what I need. No problem. Of course “controlled substances” are another kettle of fish altogether, but I think that’s true pretty much everywhere.
3. Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. While I’m on the subject of medical care, I must say a few good words for the doctors and staff at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. In an earlier submission, “How it all began”, I related how my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Pattarapong brought me back from the brink of death. In the two years since then, we’ve become good friends. I enjoy seeing him every three months for an office visit. In anyone’s book, 300 baht for an office examination is damned cheap! The entire office and nursing staff has always treated me with respect and efficiency. Let’s face it these two qualities are not always present in large Thai institutions! Last week while I was there, I inquired about the hospital’s Pain Clinic. (I have quite severe neck pain, resulted from a car accident which I have written about.) One of the nurses immediately contacted that department. Within five minutes I was being guided to the clinic. Within a hour I had been x-rayed, had an MRI, and received eight anti-inflammatory injections in my neck and shoulders. My doctor, an anesthesiologist, not only was competent, but seemed genuinely concerned for my well being. The grand total for all of this was just over 6,000 baht! I can only imagine how much this would have cost me back in Farangland!
4. My local department store: I spend lots of time (and money) in Big C. I like to buy my fruits and vegetables from small local markets. The produce is fresh, and generally less expensive. When it comes to meat however, I prefer it butchered daily in sanitary (or so one hopes!) conditions, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated! In three years I have never bought a piece of meat there that has made me or my family ill. If that costs a few more baht, than I’m more than willing to pay the price!
Over the past few years, we’ve bought quite a number of non food items there as well, including a washing machine, two TVs, a fan, a rice cooker, an electric kettle etc.. Without fail my wife and I have always been treated well by friendly and knowledgeable staff. Since there aren’t that many farangs in the area, the folks there definitely know my face by now! I think they are quite amused at my speaking non too perfect Thai, but at least they appreciate the effort. I think the same is true with the dozens of small vendors I’ve dealt with in Lampang. While occasional the organization of some of these small businesses leaves something to be desired, I’ve always been made to feel welcome, and have never been taken advantage of. (Believe me, my darling wife, who knows to the baht what things should cost would know!)
5. 7 Eleven! You can’t really talk about small shops without at least mentioning the ubiquitous 7-11. There have to be dozens of these throughout Lampang. I haven’t been to all of them, but I am making a small dent in the list! Amazingly enough I had never even seen a 7-11 until I came to Thailand. For some reason they didn’t exist in my part of New England. They were mythical places like the Quikie Mart. Here they seem to do a hell of a business. All the ones I’ve been into have all been clean, well stocked, and staffed by genuinely smiling young men and women. What I great place it is where you can not only get a coca cola slurpie, but also pay your electric, water, TOT and UBC bills!
6. VIP buses. For 1200 baht I can take a comfortable air conditioned bus roundtrip from Lampang to Bangkok. While relaxing in a seat that actually reclines back far enough to sleep in, I can catch up of some Thai music videos, enjoy a snack or two served by a bus attendant, or just snooze. Not a bad deal.
7. Mango season. Mango season is here at last! In my humble opinion Mangos have to be one of the things that the gods ate on Olympus. They are that delicious. The variety they have here in Thailand is far superior to what I used to get back in the U.S., so I eat a lot of them! I like the Thai way of slicing unripe green ones and dipping them into a mixture of salt, sugar and chili powder. My favorite way of eating them though is to throw some into a blender along with some yogurt and some fresh orange juice. A little lime juice isn’t a bad thing to add either. After pureeing, I pour the mixture into some mall stainless steel cups and place them in the freezer. After a long hard day (especially during the hot season) it’s great to pull a cup out and “gnaw” at it with a spoon. Another simple pleasure that’s easy and inexpensive to enjoy.
8. My Toyota Dealership. Perhaps that it’s because my family was in the automotive business for three generations, but I do appreciate a well run car dealership. The one I go to here in Lampang is far superior to any I ever saw back in the States. It is ultra modern, with all the latest equipment. It is clean as a whistle. The whole staff, from the guy who helps you park your car, to the service technicians, to the mechanics and even the girls who take my money are all first rate. Toyota should feel proud of them. I only wish that the rest of the country operated so well! I went in today for my 50,000 Kilometer service. It went as smooth as silk, and was reasonably priced. When you lay down close to a million baht on a vehicle, you want it to run well for a long, long time. With these folks help, I think it wiil.
9. Thai women: Yes I did talk about this the last time I listed some of my favorite things, but of course this deserves an encore. Apparently some folks out there questioned my assertion that there are hundreds and hundreds of lovely Thai girls here in Lampang. While beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, I must say that my own standards of beauty are pretty damned high! I still challenge anyone to spend a day here without agreeing that this area is privileged to some of the prettiest young ladies you will ever see anywhere! I‘ll actually wager money on this one folks! They aren’t the kind of girls who are shouting “Hansum man” either. They are simply fresh smiling faces who range from cute, to attractive, lovely and of course drop dead gorgeous. It’s hard not to smile your way around town. I often do, and I often receive one in turn. Perhaps it’s because I’m not leering. Perhaps it’s because I seem like a pleasant enough person who is harmless. I receive an especially large number of smiles from the girls when I’m out and about with my 18 month old son Sam, who is a handsome young man! Hey, a guy with a little baby must be harmless! I suppose some sick SOB might employ a baby as a “babe magnet” instead of a cute dog, but I am not that warped! I just enjoy exchanging some pleasant conversation while the girls make a fuss over my little guy. Well to be honest, plenty of little old ladies enjoy fussing over him as well.
Well that’s about it for today. There are of course dozens of other things that I love about my new home, but they’ll have to wait for another time.
It's mango season. I almost forgot! Time to go and get myself some mango and sticky rice. Now that is one thing I would really miss if I wasn't in Thailand.