Sunday morning after a breakfast of homemade buttermilk biscuits and French Press coffee, Tawn, Bob and I set off to Samut Songkhram province, some 90 km southwest of Krungthep, for a visit to Ajarn Yai.
You may recall that Ajarn Yai (literally, “Big Teacher”) is the retired director of the small elementary school where I volunteered as an English teacher back in 2006-2007. Because she was so welcoming both to me and my family and friends when they visited, I have stayed in touch with her. Every month or so she calls, eager to tell me that while she was out and about she saw a farang (foreigner) and thought of me. (The truth is, all of us white people really do look alike!)
One thing she really wants is to take a visit to the United States. As a young lady, she was accepted to study at a university in Michigan, but her parents felt it was too far to send a woman to study, so she instead attended school locally. She now has three Master’s Degrees, including one in Special Needs Education, and even in her retirement serves as a mediator for the local courts and also as part of an adult vocational needs training program in this rural province.
She still asks, though, when I’m going to take her to the United States to visit my family.
After a nice seafood lunch at a small, riverside restaurant, we drove to the community of Amphawa, where a popular weekend floating market is located nearby the birthplace of King Rama II. This market is supposed to be a nighttime market, but due to its popularity, by early afternoon the boats were out and tourists (almost exclusively Thai) were strolling along the crowded sides of the canal.
The area of the market has been expanded to the north, opening up more space for the overflowing crowds of tourists. Dozens of weathered buildings have been unshuttered, turned into restaurants, gift shops, homestays and boutiques. While this is good economically for the town, the crowds threaten to make the quality of life less pleasant and relaxed. Signs, both in English and Thai, have been put up warning people to be aware of pickpockets. Amphawa, at least this small section of it, may end up being a victim of its own success.
The heat was intense and muggy, no rainstorms in sight to offer so relief, so instead we ducked into one of these new cafes and enjoyed a shaved ice dessert. You could choose three “add-ins” from things like corn, Job’s tears, kidney beans, hearts of palm fruit, etc. These were topped with a mound of shave ice, a drizzle of flavored sugar syrup and, if you like, sweetened condensed milk.
Cool and sweet and tasty and refreshing…
After a bit more visiting we dropped Ajarn Yai off at her home and headed back up the highway to the Big Mango, glad to be in the air conditioning.