“They just love burning stuff down here.”
Mike (the restauranteur) had answered the question: “Why is there so much smoke in the air?”
Thailand does not have good air quality. Most of the time, it is rated ‘moderate’ as in ‘of moderate concern’ (think: a fully engaged house fire a few doors down). You pretty much have to go way south to get to clear skies and low particulate counts. It’s a smoky place. Where we are, the index is considered low/moderate. But low/moderate in Thailand is ridiculous to ‘usual’ or ‘common’ in BC where I live. If Beijing is 100 and Bangkok is 60, Hua Hin is 20 and our island has yet to register on the scale.
Today is a good day here and I would guess we have about three to five-mile visibility. Last night Sal and I went back to the Passport and it was smoky ride there and back. This morning, we awoke with irritated eyes. No biggy. A shower and a few eye drops and we were fine but it is NOT a healthy environment. I like Thailand for some odd reason but not nearly enough to live here for more than a month. And, given my age, probably never again.
To be fair, the pollution is not so much industrial as it is agricultural. Thais regularly burn their crop stubble after harvesting so as to ‘reinvigorate’ the soil much in the way that forest fires seem to accelerate re-growth once the fire is out. The smoke that is irritating us is organic in nature. That makes it somewhat better. But not good.
Plus, Mike is right. The little ‘shops’ and markets have open fires, the houses along the sois and alleyways have ‘burn’ pits and it would be hard to go more than a kilometre without seeing someone burning something. And it is not always organic when they do. Like I said, Thailand is a smokey place.
Last night’s dinner was just as good as the first one. Better, actually. The first meal (Monday) we went for the ‘speciality’ and it was great. Huge, but great. Last night, we went ‘local’ (pink/red curried squids that were fabulous) and deep-fried spring rolls. With more than enough food, Chang beer and a generous tip, the bill was C$12.00. But, more to the point, delicious. That Lek can cook!
“That’s a problem, actually. We can’t get good staff. We’ve tried three so-called chefs and none of them could do what Lek does even after instruction. Even tho we tell them to do it a certain way, they revert to their own style as soon as we leave the kitchen. It’s maddening. How was your curry, by the way?”
“Not too spicy? Every night she (a new hire) makes it spicier. Every night I have to go in and cut it back.”
“No. It was perfect.”
Mike took his worried face and his hunched-over form to the front of the restaurant and greeted another couple named Heineken or Bjornson or something with a ‘sen’ at the end. They grunted Mike a greeting in their Viking-esque, no-emotion-shown kind of way. He came back to us. I think Sal and I are like fireworks compared to his usual clientele. We’re a laugh a minute. OK, a laugh every twenty minutes but still better than all the Finns and Norwegians combined on a happy, boisterous night. In fact, it turns out that Monday night (our first visit) was a happy and boisterous night of Scandanavian hijinks and glee. Or so Mike said. Apparently, he had to turn some couples away.
But we were there. I didn’t see any hijinks. I didn’t hear laughter. I saw what looked like dead, fat, white people looking blank and not communicating. The food was great but the atmosphere was closer to funereal than part-tay. Still, maybe their humour is just really subtle, ya know? Maybe we were the joke?
“Hah! Hey, Ole’, did you see the expression on those two Canadians, eh? Hilarious!”