The morning time here is calm and sweet. Two-story shacks line the damp roadways after a night full of rain. The houses are all different colors and most seem to have a business of some sort on the ground floor and a family residence on the second floor. People hurry to pull their laundry lines into the windows as the rain breaks out. Hundreds of tangled electrical wires twist and turn with seemingly no organization on second-floor phone poles. Potted plants, fern trees, blooming water lily ponds and orchids decorate the doorways of everyone’s homes and businesses, and scrap metal and Buddha statuettes adorn their front decks and some of them have a faux lawn-carpet to leave their shoes at the front door.
Women carry babies in little rolling baskets, school kids walk with huge backpacks to class, and fathers drive with their children packed onto their motorbikes. I saw one bike with a mom, a dad and 3 little kids squished onto it…no helmets! Women were scrubbing their morning dishes and using straw brooms and squeegees to clean off the streets in front of their restaurants. Children were helping wringing laundry from out of tubs. Business owners rolled down their awnings and some used plastic-wrap and tarp to extend their awnings in case of rain. I even walked past a few women bathing their little naked babies in huge metal basins on the streets!
The taxis are hot sparkly pink, lime green, and gold and busses are bright pink or blue with wooden-plank flooring. Masked men and women drive the busses and take tokens from passengers as they board the bus. The busses have a giant shifter stick that the drivers reach over their heads to pull upon, and they drive on the opposite side of the road as we do back home. I’m literally going to get back and have no idea of how to drive after being to all these places! There is an engine radiator in the front of the bus that’s covered in a layer of towels. The driver is constantly patting it to feel the heat, then pouring water on it to cool it down.
I’ve never had better Tom Yum soup in my life as a place directly across the street from my hostel. I walked in and an older man was laying shirtless on a cot in the back of the open-air restaurant as his wife cooked and cleaned. He put on a shirt and told me they were open as he seated me looking out toward the street. The woman was chopping everything freshly, throwing lemon grass, seeds, hot peppers, ginger, funky looking long white mushrooms, and thin strips of green Thai leaves into the boiling water. It was served with fresh prawns on top, feet, faces and tails still attached. There was a huge fluffy white cat taking an afternoon snooze atop my table while I ate. They live closer to nature here. A very simple life.
There are so many street vendors and so many foods that it’s crazy to think how any manage to get any business. People are roasting purple corn-on-the-cob and tossing toasted peanuts with their hands in cast-iron skillets. Some are wrapping and frying fresh spring rolls, cracking eggs and stir-frying rice and noodles in massive woks. Mounds of exotic fruits like lychee and rhambutans and “Asian bananas,” are being stacked. Fresh cane, pomegranate or passion fruit juice is being squeezed all over. Delicious smells of barbecued meat skewers catches your nose at every corner. Fresh coconut ice cream is being scooped from huge chilled bins. People push fruit-carts back and forth while whistling at clients and cutting fruits into unique shapes by whacking a small machetes into the fruit in their bare hand!
In the evening, I walked through the streets as people had taken to their homes. They all have tvs that they’re constantly watching. Really, if you look into any house at all times of the day, there is always someone lying with a crinked neck on a cot, watching dubbed American movies. I glanced into a few houses as I walked through the streets back to my hostel and entire families (mom, dad, grandparents and kiddos) all ate with their fingers while sitting in a circle on the floor around big bowls of food. The men and children wore these little white diaper-looking things and the women wore minimal clothing as well as they sat on the cool tiles around their meal. They all have minimal furniture (no chairs!!) but most houses are quite cluttered with old clocks and other trinkets. Families smiled and laughed as they picked at their favorite foods on the floor with their fingers.
Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato