We spent the weekend with friends and family, eating out with some, spending the day at other's homes, and even driving down to the coast. Each was pleasurable and exciting, in their own way. I got to know my grand neice better, spend time with Nee's brothers and family, and even walked in the water in the Gulf of Thailand. All this and then packing and running off to our short flight to Chiang Mai. However through it all, I realized I missed one thing. I missed my ordinary life back home.
Saturday, we spent the day with her brother, Sewitt, where we had a wonderful lunch of fried rice and other things fixed by his wife. We also ate some blueberry cheesecake he had made. Part of the day was also spent by me making bagels. I learned to appreciate the Iron Chefs. I was working with an unfamiliar kitchen, tools and ingredients. Traditional bagels are sweetened with barley malt which I have a jar currently sitting on one of my boxes on a ship halfway between Thailand and Los Angeles. Sewitt had honey. This honey was not your average honey but a black stick sweet mass that smelled and tasted wonderful. He said it was a special honey from up north. I added that to the bagel mix and ran it through his mixer. I usually let the bagels rise overnight in the fridge, but we were in a hurry, so we just let them do their thing in the laundry room for an hour or so. They rose beautifully, but I had added a bit too much water so they stuck to the pan they were rising on. I pulled them off as gently as possible and gave each a quick bath in boiling water with soda, another tradition. We baked them and, to my great pleasure, they came out beautifully.
They were a hit with the family. I call these Bangkok Honey bagels. The honey gave them this rich dark color. I think with a slower rise, they would be even better.
The next day, her girlfriends took us over to the coast for a day at the beach. The town, Pattaya, is very congested and busy and I was wondering where we would go. Her friend knew a restaurant by the water that has wonderful seafood. I was expecting something like Fisherman's Wharf with hight prices and poor quality but it was anything but that. We drove to the end of a narrow street, dodging motorcycles and such and ended up at a lovely restaurant built right over the water. Despite the heat, we were able to enjoy a meal of several different seafood including crabs and a fish freshly caught from the waters we were sitting above. If you want to make me happy, cook me fresh crab and fish.
Over the weekend, Nee's neice also rescued us from the heat by letting us move into her place which has airconditioning in the bedroom. She moved out of the bedroom and let us stay their for a couple of nights. Finally getting rest and relief, I realized that I was missing something. I could say I was homesick, yet I was happy here, despite the challenges of heat and traffic. Everyone treated me so very kindly and I knew I would miss them all once I left for Chiang Mai. Still, I was missing something. I was missing the ordinary.
My life in America was usually focused on work and family. With just Nee, we would spend evenings shopping or watching something we had recorded on the DVR, eating popcorn. Life was quiet, but simple. I wondered if I would ever have anything even resembling that life.
Two days ago, we flew to Chiang Mai. The flight was over before I knew it, and within minutes, I was in a sleepy little town without traffic and a balmy temperature. The weather was cool and comfortable and for the first time, my clothes didn't stick to my skin. We spent two nights at a bed and breakfast owned by the girlfriend of a friend of mine in Washington. In fact, he had been visiting there all the previous week and that night would be his last for a while. We all went out for Mexican food, of all things, and enjoyed the quiet night.
The next day we spent time looking for a place to stay. We found a place with two bedrooms and a kitchen and, after much thought, decided that was the way to go. Today we moved in and immediately had to go to the store for food and utensils. Chiang Mai has more foreigners than any place I have seen in Thailand and the nearby mall caters to them. In the past I would have probably turned my nose up at such a place, but today I was drawn to it like a magnet. We went in search of lunch and found a mix of Thai, Japanese and American food. The place I was unable to leave was Mike's Original Hamburger, Converting Vegetarians since 1979. I ordered my hamburger with mushrooms and relished every bite.
Sometimes when I seek the exotic, I realize I am still a simple person at heart, happy to eat my hamburger and French fries 8,000 miles from my birthplace.