An enjoyable part of traveling is not knowing what you’re getting yourself into, saying yes, and dealing with the result. Sometimes the result isn’t what you expected and hopefully the consequences aren’t too uncomfortable. And sometimes the results are exciting and delicious.
Our train to Bangkok from Chumphon (the southern port city that is the gateway to Koh Tao and other islands) was late. With time to spare, we walked to the station’s parking lot where some food vendors had set up their stalls. Though a small little market, there were still plenty of people out grabbing a meal or snack and listening to the evening’s broadcast of Bangkok’s protests blasting out of a tiny television.
If there were menus, nothing was written in English. The only non-Thai clientele were wearing backpacks. This place obviously didn’t cater to tourists usually. But the delicious smells emanating from the stalls frying up some vegetable/noodle/meat mixture and the promise of tasty concoctions available at any Thai market drew us in.
We walked up to one stall that looked okay and took a seat at a small table with plastic chairs and a plaid picnic table cloth. The older woman who ran the stall and cooked the food came up to us and asked us, “2?” Hungry and not wanting to stall too long and bother this woman with trying to communicate something too complex, we just said yes.
“I have no idea what we just ordered,” said Jevhon. Realizing that 9 times out of 10, Thai market stalls are filled with an overabundance of meat, and whatever we were going to get might include meat broth with strips of meat and meat ground into noodle shapes, we tried to communicate that we wanted something vegetables. Repeating “vegetable” a few times didn’t seem to work and my Thai must still be rusty because when I said “phak” (Thai for vegetable), she gave us the friendly but derisive laugh that means “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I went back to the table, shrugged, and we resolved to deal with whatever we would get.
After a few minutes of watching the woman combines vegetable, noodles, and broth, our hopeful bellies and blind trust in Thai cooking was rewarded with a scrumptious noodle scoop. A broth, thin but rich in sweet warmth, held rice noodles, tofu, veggies and little meat (which Jevhon scooped from her’s into mine). A few scoops of spicy vinegar and pickles and we had ourselves a soul comforting stew. Whether or not the cook understood our request, she served us up something delicious, and we felt good, having put our trust in the unknown of travel.