The Moments Between Storms – Siam Summer

I now know why they call it the rainy season. There had been the occasional storm that came through our neighborhood that would cool things off and water the trees, but it would only last a couple of hours at most, and we could go back to our lives afterwards. Ever since I have made it to the coast, the rain has come a little more consistently and has stuck around a little bit longer. One nice things about it is I am no longer complaining about the heat, but I am also stuck inside waiting for things to change so I can go back to enjoying life. I had spent too much of the last couple of months doing that, and I did not want to continue this routine into my vacation.

But that is essentially what life is about. We continue with our routine while sitting at the edge of what could happen, waiting for that moment when things calm down and we can grab a little something from our existence.It might be a world wide pandemic that causes us to hide in our houses, but if we are honest with ourselves, there are a lot of those storms that keep us in our homes. It might be that work has kept us too busy, or the maintenance of our possessions prevents us from venturing out into the world. Sometimes it is something so simple as being so accustomed to the little world that we have made for ourselves that we do not want to see what else there is out there for us. But eventually we tire of those things are have to go out for a change or scenery and create a new memory.

Luckily for us, the rain did stop in the afternoon, and we were able to get some pool time before joining our friends for dinner. Now Rayong is not known for its big restaurants and fancy beaches. In fact, it has been barely surviving as a resort town only booming when it gets the overflow from Koh Samet. Add on to the fact that the island has been closed since March and Covid has kept people in their homes, it has not been kind to the establishments out here. A walk down the beach will highlight the many resorts and restaurants that have gone under during the crisis and the rainy season is allowing the jungle to take back what originally was its possession.

There are a few places that were able to weather the storm. One of these was Ken’s. This open aired seaside bar is owned by no other than Ken. He is a friendly guy that hangs out by the shore and points out his establishment to people who happen to walk by. I know that this is a technique that is every large city in the world as restaurants try to compete with each other, but with Ken it feels natural and he makes you want to come back and enjoy a meal there.

And this is what we did. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. It was the atmosphere that kept us there and will have us coming back for more. Ken and his staff coming set up a couple of tables on the beach right next to the surf so we could let its gentle cadence entertain us during our meal. Because it was that sweet spot in between the closing of Thailand, and the opening of it back up to tourists, we were able to have the beach virtually to ourselves. It was the perfect way to enjoy an evening meal.

And it was right when we were packing up to go home for the evening that the rains started to return. It was only a drizzle until we found the shelter of our patio and that was when the rains really started to come down. We had found that perfect time to enjoy the moment, and took full advantage of it while we could.

 

Those Aren’t Mints – Siam Summer

There is a famous restaurant in Bangkok called Cabbages and Condoms. I have never been there but I have heard of it. It is a non-profit organization raising money for women’s health and hoping to increase the importance of this issue in southeast Asia. I have been told that the food is really good and it is worthy of the cause by going there. I was therefore surprised when the place I was staying at in Pattaya, the Birds and Bees, was associated with this organization and had another one of these restaurants in the establishment. I, of course, wanted to dine here, not only because the food was supposed to be good, but the money raised went to a good cause as well. There was the added bonus that I could continue my lazy start to this road trip by not having to leave the resort grounds by eating here.

The food is really good by the way. It boasts of a big menu with many items to choose from, most of which are Thai, but there are enough western selections there as well. I will admit that one of the meals I had here was a hamburger since it has been January since I have had one, but the other meals were from the Thai variety. And though I have had better Thai dishes, these were by far not bad at all and the presentation was always spectacular.

I enjoyed the pineapple fried rice for lunch and it came in a carved out pineapple husk. It is a common thing to see in Thailand, but it was the first time that I got to enjoy it this way, and I would say that it is the best way to eat pineapple fried rice. I also had the khao soi, another one of my favorite discoveries since I moved to Thailand. It was good and spicy and the curry boasted the peanut flavor that brings me back to it time and time again, but it still can’t beat the khao soi that is made in northern Thailand. I have no idea why the best khao soi comes from this region and the further south you get in Thailand the worse it gets, but that is the case for a lot of foods around the world. It was still a good representation of the dish, and I could not complain about the meals we had while dining there.

It did not come home that we were dining at a place called Cabbages and Condoms until we got the bill. It came with a little extra that I thought we strawberry mints, but true to the name of the restaurant, they weren’t mints. The fine people at this establishment always wish to leave you with a little extra for your evening to make sure it is a safe one, and it is a nice gesture.

It was then that I really started to recognize how much they played up to the theme of this restaurant. They had condoms under glass at the tables. They had a picture of the Mona Lisa holding a condom explaining that this was the reason for her smile. They had a condom tree. And my favorite, they had dummies with clothes made out of condoms. Finding this out at the end of the meal made the experience just that much better.

The bottom line is that Cabbages and Condoms is a great restaurant. They have good food in a friendly environment, and if you are at the one in Pattaya, you get to dine directly over the beach. The money they collect goes to a great cause especially in cities where the focus of women’s health really needs to happen such a Pattaya. So if you ever have a chance to enjoy a meal here, I highly recommend it because it will be an experience you will never forget.

The Best Laid Plans – Siam Summer

Waiting for sandwiches outside of Holey Bakery

Yes, she is smiling.

How do I know?

She told me so.

She is smiling even though I made a mistake for lunch. There is an amazing bakery and sandwich shop in downtown Bangkok that is a little off the  beaten path, but during the year I have lived here, it has become one of my favorite places to visit. It is called Holey Bakery and they make maybe the best Cubano sandwich. It is kind of a pain in the butt to get to from our house in Samakorn, so I really only eat here while I am staying downtown. One of the things that I really wanted to do on this trip was having lunch there, and even though it still took a fifteen minutes cab ride to get there, I still made the effort to go there. Sadly, when we got there, their dining room was closed and they were only serving take out food. Considering there are no real locations around it that I know of to picnic, we were left no option but to order the food and head back to the little apartment we are renting. So we grabbed another cab, and returned back to where we started from. It made the trip feel like it was all for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. We still got sandwiches and had a great lunch, but it was not the same experience as dining at Holey Bakery. I guess I should have expected such things during this age of Covid, and I should not be disappointed when things do not go the way I hope for. It is just life right now and at least I am allowed to go out on these expeditions in the hope for a great sandwich.

A more traditional version of pad thai

And for every thing that does not go my way, there is another experience that goes better than I expected. We have been going out to eat almost every night since we have been on this little vacation, and it has been nice to enjoy a meal delivered to you again. Yes, the restaurants are quiet because of the social distancing and they are still not allowed to serve a drink while you dine, but it is still great to have that option.

Most of the food we have gone out to eat has been from various parts of the world, sushi, Mexican, and Italian, but considering we are in Bangkok, it seemed only appropriate to go to a Thai restaurant. I know that many people would consider that counterproductive considering Thailand is known for its street food, and anything I could find in a Thai restaurant could also be found from a vendor. There is some truth to that. Many small carts will serve pad thai, curries, and grilled chicken strips, but it will never compete with the food and service we were able to get at a restaurant. And we found a great one, Soul Food, just off of Sukhimvit on Thong Lor. It is a tiny place on the right side of the street, but once you find it, it is really worth the journey.

A great northern Thai treat, khao soi

We enjoyed the tamarind ribs for an appetizer before diving deep into a pad thai platter, and some khao soi. The pad thai was better than anything that could be served at a street vendor. They wrapped the noodles and spices in an omelet that exploded with flavor with each bite.

But the real treat was the khao soi. This is a traditional northern dish which I am not aware if any place outside of Thailand actually prepares it. I was really excited to see it on the menu. Even better than that, my dish could easily compete with the recipes that they make in Chaing Mai. It was definitely the best version of this dish I have found in Bangkok, and should be one of the reason that people visiting Bangkok should hunt down this place.

It just proved that in this new time that the world is going through, we don’t always know what we are going to get when we leave the house. But we should not let that discourage us. It is just an adjustment that we will have to make. Sometimes we will be disappointed by what we find, and sometimes we will run into something that was unexpected. The point is to continue to live life and not let the small things drag us down. If everybody takes on this attitude as we wade back into the waters of society, it make it a happier place for everybody involved.

I Guess I’ll Go Shopping – Siam Summer

Even the stuffed animals have been given masks

Quarantine is and was hard.

It is a simple fact that many of us around the world had to face over the last couple of months. There is a certain amount of loneliness to it even though you may have the company of certain individuals. It becomes hard to have new conversations when nothing happens and you can escape to your screens, but even then, that becomes a chore. The four walls start to close in around you, and you wonder if you will ever escape your home.

It is hard, but there is one thing to keep in mind, you are not alone in this situation. Everybody has been locked inside their homes for the last couple of months, and they are feeling the same things that you are. It is a wonderful feeling when things open up again, and you want to rush out and experience everything again. You vow to yourself that you will never take anything for granted again, but even when you make it out of your house, the things you have hoped to see have changed.

Social distancing at a Thai restaurant in Central World

There is still a distance between people. Some of the services you had loved so much are still not available. Stores and restaurants are half filled, and are not open for the same amount of time as they were in the past. You might even struggle to find a day when the place you want to go is opened at all, and some of your favorite places have shut down altogether. But you can’t stay in your house anymore, and you must experience something in your life, so you probably did what I did. You put on your mask and head out to the only places that are starting up again, the malls.

A simulation of a shopping street in Terminal 21

I know a lot of people travel around the world to experience the various shopping places that can be found in the larger cities. It is one of the things that attracts them to travel in the first place. And there are some great experiences that can be had in markets, but the big malls are usually places I like to avoid. I do not believe that you can find the little things that are unique to each corner of the world, and it is just another location where the bigger corporations are able to push their wares. But in time of Covid, it is the only place that is open, and as I have already explained, I needed to get out and experience life a bit.

We will come together again some day

It ended up going to two of the larger malls in downtown Bangkok, Terminal 21 and Central World, and it might have been because it was a Wednesday, and there is still a lot of concern about gathering in places, both of them were relatively empty. It was still fun to walk around the places and watch what people were out and about on this cloudy day in Bangkok. It was also a great time to stretch my legs and see a couple of the corners of this city that I would probably never have gone to. I did get to experience some fun artwork and got a really good meal at Din Tai Fung out of it.

The Tokyo floor in Terminal 21

But most importantly, it gave me hope that there is more than four walls to my life. It is great to know that there is a world out there, and though people might be cautious about jumping into opening up with two feet, it is nice to know that things are safe enough to slowly bring us back to being the social beings that we know we are. As we move closer to a solution to this world-wide problem, I hope we can take those moments of sanity and venture out to enjoy the things that we all enjoy. I know that the parks, and pubs, and tourist attractions are scheduled to open again soon, but for now, I will take what is offered for me.

Even if that is shopping.