They often say that you won’t live anywhere better in the world as an expat than in Thailand, the Land of Smiles. Having now lived and worked here for over 15 years I have definitely seen many people come and go, such is the transient nature of the expat and especially international teachers. One thing that I have noticed is that people do usually return to Thailand, whether it is to visit friends, to holiday or to work again. I had no idea what was in store for me or what to expect from the Thai people, their culture and their kingdom when I first left for Thailand in 1999. I know that we will return, Thailand is our home, the place where I got married and also where my three children were born. It is of course going to be difficult to leave and let go of the many pleasures that we have become accustomed to and take for granted but we also realise that it is time to re-connect with another home, we like to think that we are becoming a global family.
My oldest son likes to compare new countries that he visits with Thailand, to observe what is similar and what is different. He is going to be in shock mid-November in the north west of England when the obvious differences hit him! What makes Thailand such an amazing place is how easy it is, especially for families. The Thai people are so welcoming and they love young children. I will miss speaking Thai with them and getting myself into trouble as I get lost beyond the second sentences of a conversation. I admire their appreciation and tolerance of a foreigner making the effort though, especially my local barber who I have had the same conversation with (in Thai) four times a year for the last eight years.
The Thai food is awesome of course but I have to say that one of my all time favourite discoveries on arriving in Thailand was Au Bon Pain. The chocolate croissants are to die for and the steak and swiss cheese sandwich is mega – I couldn’t believe it when I found out they delivered as well! I have had two of the sandwiches this week for old times sake and savored them as much as I did in the early bachelorhood days when they were part of the daily diet. Au Bon Pain always got my mothers blessing as well whenever she visited as she always said, “they making a piping hot cup of tea.”
The first place I ever drank a beer in Thailand was Khun John’s restaurant on the banks of Lake Mabprachan. The Friday football lads took me there after my first sub-tropical kick-about and I had no idea where I was – I knew I was almost dying of heat stroke though. The Heineken came in these huge bottles and seemed to be bottomless. All I can remember is that I was told not to eat or drink after midnight as I had an important medical the next day. The following Monday I got a note in my tray informing me I had failed the medical and had to attend another one that coming weekend. I didn’t go to Khun John’s after football that Friday! I have been many times since though as it is a family favourite eating place. Any Thai food you want, it is tasty, quick and good value. We went for the last time this week and coincidentally the waiter told us that Khun John has apparently sold up (after all these years) and it will become an Italian restaurant next month. I can’t imagine Thailand without Khun John’s it has been a constant in our lives.
I am looking forward to the UK village shop again and buying a daily newspaper and a bag of Walkers Crisps (I have got to stop saying chips… and candies… and cookies) but it is not going to be Janya Mart. There is something special about the Thai family shop that sells everything. It is sad that a lot have struggled to survive since Seven Eleven has swept across the country but there are still a number out there and I always make the effort to use them. Janya Mart is our local village shop and it is one of the best ways to connect with the local community and to use your Thai. It is set up (like all other Thai family shops) to focus on social interaction with benches and tables outside and always an array of tempting snacks to choose from – it is the hub of the community. You can buy a beer at anytime of the day, sit down on the bench and watch the Thai world go by. You can even drive your motorbike up to the shop and fill it up with petrol from a selection of bottles usually precariously placed on a wooden framed structure. Janya Mart has been a regular calling point for the last eight years and I will miss the interaction and constant smiling faces of both Janya and Nui who have witnessed our family grow and devour – God knows how many ice lollies! I have explained to them that we are leaving on Monday but I am not sure if they have really understood, I will pop in before we go, wai, thank them and say goodbye.
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