Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Anthony Bourdain would have been proud

with one comment

After my second session of Muay Thai yesterday, Bang, the trainer I’ve been working with, invited me over for dinner at the gym. Apparently he and the other trainers eat and sleep there, calling it their home. Of course, I accepted and agreed to meet them later that night. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along a handful of Chang and Singha beers and showed up promptly at 7:30. In the middle of the training mat we had just trained on earlier that day, there was a small bamboo mat, and Jimmy, Samat, and Bang were running around bringing a number of fragrant, colorful dishes out from the kitchen and setting them onto the mat. The front desk receptionist and another elderly man both joined us on the mat as we sat cross-legged for the family style meal, and I swear, it was straight out of a No Reservations episode.

Before Choam (the receptionist) and I started scooping rice onto the men’s plates, a black wasp about the size of my thumb flew straight into my head and got stuck in my hair. Not wanting to cause a scene, I tried to brush it off with my hand. Bang decided to take matters into his own hands (literally) and grabbed it and threw it across the courtyard. It never bothered me again.
We proceeded to dig into the 7 traditional dishes Bang prepared all by himself. I asked him how long it took him to cook everything, and astonishingly, he replied “half hour.” Over the course of an hour, we ate: a dish of beef in yellow curry, bittermelon and vegetables in red curry, minced pork with fried holy basil, garlic, and chilies (my new favorite), a fried whole fish, soup with melon and chicken similar to one my mom makes, spicy garlic and pepper fish, and an egg omelet. No surprise, but it was by far the best Thai meal I’ve ever had. Although my hosts spoke minimal English and my command of Thai is pathetic, I’m pretty sure they knew how much I enjoyed the meal seeing that I finished the entire heap of food on my plate. What surprised me, though, was the fact that they throw out leftovers instead of keeping it for the next day. I tried to say that it seemed like such a waste, but my Thai-English dictionary failed me, and I had to use hand gestures to try to discourage them from throwing away the food. They laughed and said, “Tomorrow buy again.” For people who are not making a lot money, they sure were okay with throwing away good food. It was really hard for me to understand.

After dinner, Jimmy, Samat, and Bang wanted to play poker, so I sat with my beer and observed. Watching them play a version I’d never seen before, I had a hard time making sense of the game no matter how intently I watched and followed their motions. They played for another hour before we decided to head down to Chalok Baan Kao to check out what Bang called a “free hill concert by Esan people.” We hopped on their motorbikes and rode up to what would have been considered a carnival or a fair in the States. It seemed like the entire population of Koh Tao was at this fair, minus any tourists or foreigners. There was a group performing and dancers on the stage, but the guys wanted to go straight to the games section of the fairground. That’s when I realized that Thai men are gamblers. Bang refused to leave the table where he was spending thousands and thousands of baht. After an hour, he had us hold his spot so he could run to the ATM for more money. From what I could tell, the game he was playing was no different from a Roulette table in Vegas. I was shocked at how nonchalantly he was willing to drop his week’s earnings on what I consider a game of luck. As much as I wanted to discourage him, I knew he was a grown man (31, actually), and it was up to him on how he wanted to spend his money. After a little while longer, I knew it was time for me to go, so I asked Jimmy’s friend to take me back to Sairee Village. They probably thought I was square for turning in early, but really, I just didn’t want to spend any more money losing on these games and was in a serious food coma from the feast.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I accepted Bang’s invitation to hang out with him and his “family.” I’m grateful that they accepted me, a stranger, into their home for dinner and am so appreciative of the effort they made to make sure I was comfortable and entertained throughout the night. I just wish I spoke Thai so that I could fully express the gratitude I feel, but I guess I’ll just have to count on the faith that they already know. I plan on bringing Nate into the gym to introduce him to the guys once he arrives in Koh Tao, as I’m positive he’ll want to do some training during his time here. Until then, I’m going to try and score those recipes from Bang so I can give the dishes a try in my own kitchen at home.

Written by winniewongsf

November 15, 2009 at 6:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. What an awesome experience you are WOMAN-thony Bourdain


    November 20, 2009 at 7:56 am

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