Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oh, the shame!

I failed to make it back from Hat Yai to Songkhla without yet another sudden downpour: this time I was close to the big Carrefour mall I had noticed, so ducked in to check it out. They had a poor excuse for a food court, where most of the action seemed to be focussed on the glass-enclosed kareoke booths or what seemed to be pokie machines for small kids. Nonetheless, I managed to stick it out there for several hours, looking at the various shops. But they had a particular food item I succumbed to, one that is not exactly a native of Thailand but is hardly ever to be found in New Zealand.

Yes, they had a Mr Donut stall, and it was soooo good! I had several, along with this violently orange "orange juice" which was terribly sweet. But it gets worse, in at least two ways. Which shall I mention first? The fact that, the next day, when I had a few hours to kill between arriving in town and my train north, I went back and had a second dose? This time with the extra large "orange juice". And then went and had KFC? Two cultural observations can be made about that experience which means it was a worthy one to engage in: here, they not only provide knives and forks, but people actually use them. Second, they serve up the Pepsi in real glasses. Yeah, stetching for justification here! But the night before, after my first encounter with Mr Donut, I kept coming back to the Sante Fe restuarant, which featured a dining area in the shape of a mock up of a train carriage. Ultimately, I could not resist, and spent more than I've been spending on a couple of nights in a hotel to get a handful of chips, some inedible salad and a New Zealand eye fillet steak which had been beaten out of all recognition and then smothered in sauce so that its taste was completely masked.

So, that's what my visit to Hat Yai did to me. As for Songkhla, I still have not seen its waterfront. After my steak, I did get off the bus quite a bit earlier than I intended, so went exploring - found about a million kareoke bars, some just open front shops, some a lot more elaborate. But all efforts to get to the waterfront were thwarted by locked gates. I did have one interesting encounter. I had been walking for quite some time in the heat, my hair felt like it was plastered to my head, my skin is not reacting well to the heat. Nonetheles, I was walking past a building of uncertain useage when a woman with no teeth launched herself at me, got her arm twisted around mine, and started patting me down - she seemed particularly interested in my belly, rubbing it as if some sort of genie was to appear. (Unlike the Thai herbal seller, whose pitch was "you are very fat, you need these", it seemed to strike her as an appropriate size.) Although she had no English, her gestures made it pretty clear that certain things would be available to me, if only I would go inside with her.

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