June 7, 2016

Bread, Finally.

I’m sitting in a French-style café called Faim de Loup (hunger of the wolf, I guess) on Koh Lanta (Lanta Island). It’s a large island off the coast of Southern Thailand. It’s considered the laid-back island by comparison to other islands that prioritize partying. I’m not much of a partier, so this seemed like the right choice for an anniversary trip with my husband. The café serves freshly baked bread, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and baguettes. I feel like I’m getting a really special treat after my rice-based diet of the past year. Living in a somewhat un-touristy area of Thailand like Chiang Rai means that you don’t get much (good) bread. Vacationing in a tourist area offers a lot more variation in food, and wow did that ham and cheese sandwich go down easily!

From where I sit, I can see a line of motorbikes and motor-scooters. If you’ve never seen a motor-scooter like the ones that are absolutely everywhere in Thailand, it’s a fairly small machine that has a motor, two wheels, and a seat big enough for two (sometimes three) adults. The Thai motorbikes and scooters are often very gendered. The guys bikes, which I guess are motorcycles, are big, usually black or a very loud color, and have very angular shapes which seem to imitate muscles. The girl bikes, on the other hand are a little childish looking for my taste. They are often pink or pastel and decorated with cartoon characters and have weird slogans like “jeans lover” on them. The speedometer is often huge and in the center of the handlebars. The gauge goes up to 180 kilometer per hour, but I’ve never gone more than 80, and I don’t like going much over 40 on these rickety machines. Alan and I own one in Chiang Rai, a 135 cc Yamaha boy bike, so we are very used to riding motorbikes. The scooter we rented here is girly and only 115 cc, so it feels tiny and toy-ish by comparison. Especially on the steep island roads, it feels like we’ll never get to the top. We do of course.

Back at the café, I’m nearly finished with my “Americano” coffee. In less touristy places, I have to be very specific about my order. Americano, no sugar, no brown sugar, and please add a little milk. Thais love to make coffee super sweet using sugars, syrups, and even sweetened condensed milk. The result is a desert-like drink. Of course it’s delicious, but my teeth and waistline can’t handle it. However, in places frequented by westerners, like this café, my Americano automatically came out unsweetened and with a little carafe of milk to add as I please. It’s a luxury to be catered to in this way.

I’m nursing a shoulder sunburn, which has be sitting in the shade of the café, wearing a sports bra (and regular shirt, of course!) that doesn’t interfere with the burn. I’ve got bare feet under the table, because many businesses in Thailand ask you to leave your shoes at the door. It helps keep them cleaner, I suppose.
The bathroom at this café is good, though today the sink isn’t working--par for the course in Thailand. If the basic requirements for a restaurant bathroom in the US were: toilet paper, toilet seat, working sink, soap, and a hand dryer; in Thailand, you can pretty much count on having maybe two of those. If more of those requirements are met, you’ve found yourself a good bathroom. If I could change one thing about Thailand that I thought would make it a safer place, I would add soap to every bathroom. In a land where diarrhea is super common among locals and tourists, at least a thorough hand wash (especially by food prep workers) might prevent some transmission.

Bathrooms not withstanding, vacationing on a tropical Thai island is a pretty cool experience. Having a breakfast in Thailand that consists of unsweetened coffee and fresh bread—what a treat!