A piece of cake is great way to start the day. Despite having the opportunity to go to the café round the corner from Helen’s in Phitsanulok I have always resisted (for cost reasons usually), but the time had come and I treated myself to a rather small slice of mandarin flavoured (and coloured) sponge cake. The café strikes me as one that would be quite at home in East London; not on a busy street by the river in a fairly sleep town in central Thailand. The chic interior and photography equipment and brick based decoration (see photos) contrasted significantly with the open planned (and reasonably scruffy looking) tire and pipe shop across the road.
Helen and a few of the others had been planning to go through to Sukothai, as was I, so we had decided to join forces. However, just before getting the bus it transpired that Helen’s companions had bailed on her. She had been planning to go to Sukothai Historical Park, and as a history student from Oxford University (!) I didn’t want to deprive her of the experience. As such I offered to accompany her instead, after all it is a very fascinating and beautiful place to spend time. Over the course of our journey on the ‘gangster’ (Helen’s words, not mine) Thai bus we managed to work out a plan with Nick, an ETA who lives in Sukothai. Instead of Helen and I going alone we would meet Nick and Mr. Chan, one of the English teachers from his college, and all go together. The bus ride whizzed by. This was largely due to kipping en route, but somehow I managed to avoid Helen taking any embarrassing sleeping photos of me because my ‘spidey sense’ (or something) woke me up just as she was sneaking her camera out of her bag. Cheeky.
After slipping in some mud, falling up the curb, my bag pulling me face first into the concrete and grazing my arm slightly (only to be laughed at by Nick and Helen- It must have looked funny) we jumped into Mr. Chan’s pick-up truck. We swung by their place and had some corn that had just been picked by Mrs. Chan’s students and got into two separate trucks to go for lunch (the students came too). We arrived at a semi-indoor/semi-outdoor restaurant where we feasted on delicious Thai food including Thai Green Curry, mixed, roasted, cashew nuts and mixed vegetables in a mouthwatering soup. It was lovely to be surrounded by (some of) the Chan family, Mrs. Chan’s mature students who I already knew, and to be between two lovely ETAs- Helen and Nick! The group was extremely pleasant company and we made jokes together almost constantly as we ate. The jokes were interspersed by slow, educational English conversations with the students to allow them to practice in a safe and informal environment.
Being foreign English teachers, and being under the wing of Mr. Chan we were allowed to enter the park for free! The perks. Helen, Nick and I were let loose on the park when the others sat in a little restaurant shack together. As it was my second time at the park it felt weirdly homely, especially knowing that I would be back in another two days time. Helen seemed really impressed by the park. We were all slightly/ very taken back by a large group of Southern European tourists who were scantily clad, riding around on bikes, playing loud music and filming themselves dancing around beside various ancient Thai temples and relics; it felt more that a little inappropriate considering the religious surroundings, not to mention multitudes of Buddha statues. When we had exhausted the park for Helen’s 1st, my 2nd and Nick’s 3rd time we headed back to meet the others and were treated to quite unusual ice/jelly/condensed milk/ toukmaria deserts (that looked slightly like pink frog spawn).
Khing (a.k.a. “little Chan”) attends Saturday school every week until 4pm. In quite quite succession we headed from the Old City to the new city to meet some of the staff at his school, pick him up, drop Helen at the bus station and nift straight over to Dr Suwat’s. He is another English teacher at Sukothai Technical College who had invited us all over for dinner, and more importantly a long and loud session of Karaoke. I had been warned that Dr. Suwat had a nice dog and a very scary dog. The former amicably pottered up to us to say hello and I heard the latter before I saw him; thankfully he was in a cage. Khing, as a rather sensitive 10-year-old boy, was terrified of the larger and more aggressive dog. Nick and I combined forces so that I would cover both of Khing’s ears and Nick would walk on the right hand side so that he couldn’t see the dog or hear him! It worked surprisingly well.
Dr. Suwat immediately endeared me. He had a winning smile, a strong and friendly handshake and wore a rather snazzy Hawaiian style shirt with quite snug black ¾ length jeans. As many Thai people do he has a covered, open-air kitchen which he had made full use of. There was so much food and it looked incredible, he had also pushed the boat out to make nice vegetarian food as there were two present. We assembled everything on a table on his roof terrace above his house, but almost immediately the afternoon rain started to fall so we had to move it down one level to a slightly lower, covered seating area. I must say I do enjoy keeping the company of this particular 10 year old. He is a hilarious lad and adores both food (probably more than anything in the world) and dancing. Although he appreciates singing he is not a fan of grasping the microphone himself, probably a wise choice as I was electrocuted by it a number of times. In the UK I have only to my memory done Karaoke once, Thailand has multiplied this number dramatically. My repertoire of songs is rapidly expanding, although I can’t quite sing in Thai yet. Luckily Dr. Suwat and the others were amazing and when they sung it was quite charming.
I’ll just say that some of the herbal remedies here are amazingly effective, in fact, unbelievably so. I tried some of Mrs. Chan’s, rubbing a little onto my temples, my forehead and then (regrettably) under each of my eyes. Within a minute my whole face felt cold and was stinging, my eyes watering and the rest of the company laughing slightly madly. I know now not to do this again, unless it is an emergency and I have to be wide awake but do not need the use of my eyes! What a night. It just feels so lovely to have been accepted into the family and social circle of such a lovely Thai family.