Here is a thing about Thailand. Except for flip-flopped families piled on motorcycles together, urban Thailand is mostly just so *normal*. Half a block down from our Surat Thani overnight resort, there is a Tesco/Lotus shopping plaza. In the shopping plaza is a Boots, a KFC, a Dunkin’ Donuts, an Auntie Anne’s Pretzel….it is the Nittany Mall moved to Hanley and with a psychedelic take on the typography.
But here’s the real thing. It is totally *not* normal, in every way they feel like. The woman serving us at the checkout stand at the Tesco was wearing al amira…..and a Santa hat. Next to the acres of Fanta there is a whole aisle full of flavored cuttlefish snacks. Instead of melon and grapes in the store-brand party platter, they have dragonfruit and mangosteen. Contrast the selective Westernization of Thailand, where it feels like that they had a real understanding of what they have chosen not to adopt, with Japan, where no matter how enthusiastically it looks like they do adopt things, it always seems like they hilariously missed the point, or with the Philippines, where it seems like they tried but that what they do copy is an offbrand imitation.
Anyway. Lunch was two nice ladies at a street storefront with some kind of gourd curry and overwhelming delight when we tried speaking some Thai. Danny and I went for a boiling herbal ball auto-yoga massage by the 100-pound gentle beast in the hotel spa, and in the evening we met our guides for the trip, Tom and Noom.