Much like some people are born in the wrong body, likewise some Thursdays are really meant to be Fridays. Sadly, there is no “day reassignment surgery” option. When we woke up Thursday morning, Tawn asked three times whether it was Friday. Sadly for him, the answer didn’t change.
But despite Thursday having to stay a Thursday all day long, it went pretty well.
For me, Tuesday and Thursday mornings are Thai classes with my tutor, Khru Kitiya. We meet at Bitter Brown, a small coffee shop and restaurant near the Asoke BTS station. Things are quiet there in the morning and we’ve been meeting there for the better part of two years – so long that the staff monitors my learning progress – so we usually have a comfortable space in which to study free from distraction. Class ends around noon or shortly after, at whatever point that the din of the lunch crowd makes it difficult for me to hear the subtle final consonants of the Thai words.
For the past several months, I’ve been using a well-known Thai book from the mid-1950s, Lai Chiwit (Many Lives), as my textbook. Written by a former Prime Minister and prolific author, M.R. Kukrit Pramoj (1911-1995), the book is a collection of short stories that chronicle life in Thailand in that time. Written in elegant prose, the stories not only give me a window into the past – a past which heavily influences modern Thai culture – but also give me the pleasure of exploring the beauty of the Thai language.
Right, the cover of the 1996 English language version of the book, translated by Meredith Borthwick and published by Silkworm Books.
Thai really is a very elegant language in which to write, at once both graceful and playful. Needless to say, I’m having a tough time wading through it since the more formal and prosaic language which Khun Kukrit used is more elegant to the ear than it is clear to the farang! But Khru Kitiya is infinitely patient and while there are days (Thursday) where we manage to wade through only two paragraphs, there are many more days in which the progress is measured in pages, plural, rather than fractions of one.
Interesting trivia: Pictured left is Khun Kukrit, whose “M.R.” (Mom Ratchawong) designation indicates he was the son of a prince, was a technical advisor and played the role of the prime minister in the 1963 film, “The Ugly American” starring Marlon Brando.
When Tawn returned home from work he suggested that we eat somewhere nearby. There is a local seafood restaurant on Thong Lor between sois 5 and 7 called Niyom Gotchana and it is the most unassuming place you’d imagine.
The storefront is open air, floors and walls are finished in an antiseptic look of white tiles, and the lighting comes from dozens of “cool white” florescent tubes which give the place the sterile charm of a county examiner’s office.
Right: Easy Thai – can anyone guess what is said in the blue field of the sign? Actually, if you know the English word, you should be able to work out what all of the Thai characters represent like a code-buster would.
That said, the seafood is fresh, of good quality, and inexpensive. Out in front of the shop are two baskets covered with damp blankets, each containing live crabs. A few had slipped out of one or the other of their bindings but, lacking the right evolutionary tools, could not undo their other binding and climb to freedom. So they sat there snapping and awaiting their fate. Ending up as a plate of curry or salt and pepper crab really is a pretty noble fate, if you ask me.
I was pretty punchy, having spent all afternoon staring at the computer screen, so after ordering the food I sat there making conversation with Tawn and playing with my utensils. Tawn was kind of punchy, too.
The food at Niyom is tasty, but they just have no sense of presentation. Each dish that came out looked quite “blah”, not helped by the icy blue cast of the lights. Tawn’s expression above was the actual response to the flat look of the otherwise tasty stir-fry of tofu, bean sprouts and onion sprouts. The dish was fine; it just looked lackluster.
Even our tod man goong, the fried shrimp cakes that were very fresh, moist, and not at all oily, looked kind of ho-hum. Now, I’m not one to complain, because the prices were good and the food was tasty. But I was hoping to bring back inspiring pictures that would make your mouths water.
We opted for fish instead of crab for the simple reason that neither of us wanted to do the work of picking apart a crab. Instead, we smartly ordered crab fried rice, letting the kitchen do the work for us. The fish was tasty, steamed and then served with soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and peppers. But the fish’s mouth was, once again, not pretty.
I have no idea why we ordered so much food – maybe because we secretly still hoped it wasn’t Thursday evening but was in fact Friday. After eating our fill the staff boxed up the leftovers and we walked back home, made the bed, and fell asleep waiting for the real Friday to arrive.
I remember watching “Lai Chiwit” as a soap opera on Channel 3 when I was young. The story was horribly tragic. Everyone should learn how to swim!
Hats off to you for learning Thai! I think one or both of you should go back to the kitchen and help them plate those dishes. I love the pics of you and Tawn – lol.
That local restaurant looks and sounds like the restaurants Bill and I frequent. We’re both a little wary of a restaurant that obviously spent a lot of money on decor as we’re almost always disappointed in the food. We jokingly seek out places with bad lighting and shabby furniture in the hope that they spent all of their time, energy and money on the food. It’s a little sad how true it can be. We still have a little hope for the trendy-looking restaurants in the area though…
That fish looks delicious, that’s my favorite way to eat fish with soy sauce, ginger and scallions. Bill’s mom makes it for me whenever she finds a good-priced fish. She said I’m the first white girl she’s ever met who actually likes fish. I thought it was odd given where I grew up…
You are killing me…what I wouldn’t give for some real Thai food!
I’m getting more hungry by the minute as I’m catching up on my reading!Ah…so that’s where you got the new profile photo!