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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 14.0167, 100.533
I should have started this blog over a month ago; that's how long I've been in Thailand now, since November 12, 2011. But I didn't know how to start a blog, so I asked one of my daughters (the one who writes her blog from Shenzhen, China) and she said to use TravelPod: "It's free and it's easy!" We will see.
Later on we can go back and fill in the gaps in this story, but I want to write about the markets in Thailand right now. When I arrived in Pathum Thani, on November 30, I had expected to be teaching at a secondary school here, but that didn't work out for many reasons. (Another story, but later.) I would not have ever picked Pathum Thani as a place to visit, much less live; it is like coming to see the USA and getting stuck in a poor area in Detroit. This town is very poor, and was hugely hit by the flooding, although no one will hear about it, as all the coverage was about the flooding in Bangkok, our southern, much richer neighbor. Pathum Thani is still not recovered from the deluge, although every day more of the huge piles of trash are carted away, and more businesses open up again, after months of being under water. In a way, I am very proud of the people of Pathum Thani; they don't complain, or I simply do not understand that they are complaining as I speak so little of the Thai language, although I have read of the people who either tried to, or succeeded, in committing suicide once the flooding destroyed their properties and livelihoods. I do think, however, that these people live(d) in the wealthier areas of Bangkok, and not here, where life seems very simple. You get up early, you work all day, you go home to eat and sleep, and start tomorrow the same way, all over again and again, not so very different from millions of people all over the world, only here there's not much money, your family works beside you, and nobody called this a disaster area or evacuated the people who were stranded for over 7 weeks. (Still another story.)
When I arrived, the market next door was not yet reopened; the waters were still receding. In fact, when the taxi from Bangkok brought me here, there were roads completely under water that we traversed; I remember thinking that if we floated away, how much of the luggage sitting in the trunk would get wet? And the taxi driver asking people standing beside the flooded roadways, "Can we get through?" And the people just beckoning him to go forward, and nodding their heads. We did make it, although it was touch and go in many places, and we had to avoid the people riding their bikes and scooters through the water, lifting their bare feet off the pedals at the deepest spots. But the hotel where I have been for 3 weeks now was mostly dried out; you could see how high the flooding was by the water marks on the cement barricade they built, maybe 4 feet high, maybe higher! We had to cross on sandbags simply to enter the building, but the floors were dry.
Every day I watched as the market came back, a few vendors at a time, until about 2 weeks ago it became a colorful, thriving, busy, noisy place, full of foods I can't identify, kitchenware, clothing, shoes, more foods, school supplies, electronics, shampoos, toilet paper, water, pet food, you name it, you can get it at one of Thailand's markets. Like in many of the countries in which I have traveled, dogs roam at will, and you will often have to step over a sleeping dog to push your way by. Or a cart might be blocking the passage, or so many people. But this is not a place for the retiring personality; if you wait, you will wait forever. It doesn't matter if you were there first, someone else will simply push in front of you to buy what they want or just to get by. The stalls are all bunched up together; nothing looks organized, although if you find a favorite vendor you can usually find them in the same area, day by day.
I do have my favorites. One lady used to sell young green coconuts, which I love. I drink the water first, and then eat the white part for breakfast the next morning. Heavenly elixir! But one day she didn't have any; she tried to get me to buy her watermelon, but I wanted my coconut. So you can just walk around, for blocks and blocks now, until you find another vendor who sells coconuts. I found another young woman who did not seem at all friendly, but her coconuts were 15Baht, about 40cents. So every day I seek her out; today her coconuts were selling for only 8 Baht, 24cents. What a deal! And they will hack them open for you with their huge sharp knives; how they don't cut themselves is a mystery. You can have a straw, and drink right there if you want; I wait until I get back to my room to enjoy the freshest, most wonderful drink you can imagine.
Another favorite of mine is the buffet salad lady where I go almost every day; you can pick from among so many items, but I like best their tomatoes, squash, carrots, beets, cabbage, lettuce, occasionally apple pieces, all put into a plastic bag and tied up in with a rubber band. You can get dressing too, but I like it just with the sesame seeds they also throw in the bag. All of this for 20 Baht, maybe 60 cents. A full meal!
This is getting long, and I haven't even described the rest of the meandering, intricate, winding passageways of this market, but I think this is enough for the first blog day.
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