Back in charming little Trat town – one of those sleepy places that catches you unaware and infuses you with tranquility until you find yourself wishing you could stay for longer. If it weren’t the capital of the province where I do fieldwork, I might never have come here. Each time I come back, I find myself enchanted all over again.
Not only does Trat have a great food market (as the sign calls it, “Food Safety Street”) and places with good WiFi, but I’ve found a cozy little niche at the Basar Garden Guesthouse, which is my favorite guesthouse/hostel/hotel thus far. It’s basically my dream house – a large, airy teak house with batik curtains, straw mats, sundry eclectic decorations; an open kitchen and dining area on the ground floor, leading out to a colorful patio verdant with tropical plants.
The friendly owner, Pi Noi, always welcomes me enthusiastically even though I’ve really only spent a smattering of days here. She’s given me the biggest, nicest room for the price of one of the smaller rooms (though even the “expensive” room is only 350 baht). For my birthday last year, she surprised me with a delicious piece of cake she’d ordered from a friend for the occasion.
She seems simultaneously entertained, charmed, bemused, and annoyed by the rowdy, but harmless, group of roguish expats who tend to gather in the dining area in the late afternoon through the night. They drink heavily, and as the alcohol flows, so do dirty jokes, hearty laughter, in-depth discussions, and over-the-top compliments (“I have never seen a researcher so beautiful as you, Tarrrrrrra!” “Tarrrrra, tu parles français? Oui? Tu es belle!”). A good number of them are apparently pretty good musicians, and I’ve heard tell of jam sessions (but, sadly, have never been in town for one).
Another woman here, Meaw, can more than handle these cheeky expats. She’s a jolly, irreverent Thai woman who has lived in Europe and Costa Rica, and is here running the local uVolunteer program. I’ve also enjoyed chatting with the owner and cook of the Cool Corner Cafe just down the road, an artist originally from Bangkok. I’ve spent some hours there chugging away at data entry and proposals and papers, fueled by mango lassis and chai tea lattes. She even remembered my usual breakfast order this morning (delicious crepes with tropical fruit, yogurt, and honey), though I hadn’t been there in months! Also, she’s learning massage, and I got a great free massage from her after an afternoon of work.
So, I rather enjoy my time in Trat. Working on papers and proposals doesn’t seem quite so onerous in this serene atmosphere. For dinner, Meaw took me on her motorbike to pick up ahaan Issan (northeastern Thai food) from a stall outside one of the temples; while we waited, she took me on a mini-tour of the temple grounds in the late afternoon light. Then a group of us gathered at one of the tables in the patio, languidly munching away on the sticky rice and larb and fish and vegetables, lazily making conversation (during intervals from working on work-emails, for me) as an awesome playlist of music from the 1960s and 70s drifted out from the kitchen. Also drifting around us? Mosquitoes. I’d forgotten about those buggers.
This is possibly the last night I’ll spend in Trat for quite some time. I’m so glad I had a chance to experience this little corner of the world. And now, time to work away the night before I leave steady, good internet tomorrow…