Wednesday, February 06, 2008

This is a photo of our cottage.

We’ve lived here for over two years now and although we cannot get phone service or satellite Internet, we’ve really fallen in love with the place. The seclusion and peacefulness can’t be beat and we’ve learned to live alongside all the creepy crawlies in and around our home. But even so, I try hard not to get too attached to it since our landlady has told us many times of her desire to move into the cottage once her father passes away.

Although I’ve grown accustomed to our way of life, I sometimes reflect on what it was like to sit on a Western toilet, have both hot and cold running water, stand under a luxurious shower or soak in a tub full of hot water and bubble bath suds. Our bathroom is furnished with the standard Asian squat toilet, a cold-water spigot that fills a huge plastic water basin, a washing machine hookup, and a jury-rigged system of PVC pipe, baskets and twine hanging from the rafters on which to place our soap, cleaning liquids and hang our bath towels.

On particularly chilly mornings, we heat water in a large pot on our single burner stove, and pour it into our water basin. Bathing consists of ladling water from the basin onto my head, taking soap from another improvised hanging basket and lathering up, followed by more ladling. It’s something akin to what I was used to doing when I went tent camping in the West.

Mam, demure woman that she is, has a unique way of bathing while enswathed in a wraparound dress. She douses herself and manages to clean her whole body without revealing any tantalizing tidbits of skin, much to my disappointment. Women are experts at devising methods to remove bras or change clothing without showing the least bit of skin. Who teaches them these tricks? Is the ability genetically imprinted, or do mothers pass these talents along to their offspring?

Our downstairs living space consists of our enclosed bathroom and small “L” shaped kitchen / living room / dining room. We purchased a small wooden table and two chairs at Tesco Lotus, which we use as a desk / dinner table / catchall, which also serves as a divider of sorts between the kitchen and um, living room / dining room. Mam bought a rather unique futon-like devise, which we use as a couch / chair / easy chair, and which further serves as a divider between the living room and um, dining room, if you will.

Our kitchen is a study in impromptu necessitation.

The one burner stove also has shelves below the for storage space. It is powered by a 15-kilogram propane tank that Mam consistently chides me for failing to turn off after I cook. Propane is not scented with “stink scent” here in Asia, like it is in the U.S., so you have to be careful or you’ll end up blowing your house to smithereens if the gas is left on.

When we first moved into our home, we had a spigot installed in our kitchen area so we would have water to wash dishes, but we had no sink. So Mr. Handyman went to work and constructed a wooden cabinet of sorts, from scrap wood found around the house, on which to place a big rubber basin for dishwashing. Wastewater goes right out the window…very convenient, but pretty smelly on a hot day.

The scrap wood around our house also came into use as shelving for our various condiments like oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, flour, vinegar, nam pla (fish sauce), and numerous bottles of noxious liquids and sauces used in Mam’s cooking.

Crammed between everything else is a large, red, folding table we bought which serves to hold our spice rack, small oven (about the size of a microwave), crock-pot, water boiler, and rice cooker.

Upstairs we have two “rooms” separated by a rattan wickerwork wall. One “room” is our bedroom, which contains our small twin-size bed, T.V., and Mam’s Buddha shrine. In the corners of our bedroom are strategically placed limes to ward off snakes (One of many of Mam’s many talismans). Our other room serves as my “office” with a desk and chair for my computer, as well as another folding table for my jigsaw puzzles.

On a really hot day it is too hot to stay upstairs even with the fan blowing directly on us, so we linger downstairs hoping to catch a breeze coming through the windows. All in all, everything pretty much balances out here at our humble abode, and I truly look forward to returning home at the end of the workday.


Hamid Restaurant is located just across the street from Lee Garden Hotel in central Hat Yai. During Mam’s and my monthly junket to Hat Yai, we decided to try this place. It’s a certified Halal Muslim restaurant (in accordance with or permitted under the Shari’ a or code of law based on the Koran) that came recommended to me by an acquaintance.

The place looks empty in this picture, but believe me; Hamid Restaurant does a very brisk business everyday and is a very popular restaurant for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The clientele who were present, while we patronized the establishment, were mostly Malaysian and Thai Muslims and one group of interestingly dressed individuals who appeared to be from the Middle East.

Once seated and given menus, Mam typically made her decision in about three minutes while it took me at least ten minutes to order. The menu was substantial, listing several types of beef, seafood, fish, appetizers, soups, noodles, chicken and vegetable selections, as well as deserts and beverages. Nice clear photos of the available dishes were scattered throughout the menu, with number coding and descriptions in English, Thaiglish, Thai, Arabic and Malay.

Thaiglish is my personal locution for English words written by a Thai person who doesn’t know how to spell English words. While living in China I called this phenomenon “Chinglish.”

I found myself torn between the “Serloin Steak,” and the “Chicken Gordon Blue.”

The curry dishes looked appetizing but I am a big coward when it comes to curry since I like it, but it doesn’t like me and tends to mess up my innards a bit. Stupidly I settled on the Chicken Gordon Blue (180 baht), fully knowing that it wouldn’t come to my table bearing ham, since Muslims don’t eat pork, believing the pig is a filthy animal.

I admit feeling a bit ashamed ordering such a dish in a Muslim restaurant, when there are so many other exotic treats to be had, but I’ve always feared ordering something I’m not familiar with and not liking it once served.

Mam was served quickly, her two dishes arriving within ten minutes of her ordering them, while my order didn’t arrive until she had finished eating. Her two choices were a small dish of mixed vegetables and tofu in brown sauce (50 baht), and a small dish of assorted seafood and vegetables (60 baht), along with a plate of white rice. I tried a bite of her mixed vegetable dish and it was absolutely delicious.

When my order finally arrived, it was surprisingly big. A large salad served up with a huge dollop of salad crème, alongside a generous heap of crisp shoestring fries and a huge chunk of deep-fried Chicken Gordon Blue.

I gobbled up the delicious fries and ate the salad before attacking the chicken (I’ve always eaten things one at a time, ever since I was a child). Upon slicing into it, I found the ham to be substituted by a hot dog and some thick creamy substance that I assumed represented the cheese.

Truth be told, I wasn’t impressed with the Muslim version of Chicken Cordon Bleu, although the salad and fries were delicious. But, that’s what you get when you order up American type food in a Muslim restaurant. Sort of like ordering a hamburger in a Chinese restaurant…it just isn’t the same.

Oh well, live and learn I suppose.

Mam and I have vowed to try a different restaurant every month while in Hat Yai to do our monthly shopping and visit the Internet café. I hope to provide more restaurant reviews in the near future!

See you next time!

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