Pretty much the instant we arrived on the island of Koh Samui, we fell into a pleasant state of near-suspended animation. Major decisions included whether to nap through the afternoon or get up for happy hour at the swim-up bar, and where best to catch the sunset (answer: from the end of the infinity pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand).
Somehow after a few days we finally mustered up the gumption to get out of the pool, put on actual clothes, and walk up to the resort lobby to rent a scooter. And for about ten US dollars, we were free to explore the island of Koh Samui on two wheels for the next twenty-four hours.
We sped counter-clockwise around the top of the island, toward the tiny town of Bo Phut. I clung like a barnacle behind Michael on the scooter, at once exhilarated by the rush of cool air on my face, and terrified by the unpredictability of the other drivers on the road.
We waited out a sudden downpour in a big, open-sided restaurant near the road, where a little boy sold us Orange Fanta, handed us straws, politely positioned a fan to blow over us, then danced delightedly a few feet away from our table until his mother spoke a few words from behind the counter and he stopped dancing, but still sat grinning at us.
When the deluge stopped, we continued on to Fisherman’s Village in Bo Phut, where we cruised slowly up and down narrow streets awash with standing rainwater. Shopkeepers swept puddles from their entryways out into the streets.
Fisherman’s Village was a place where nobody seemed to be in much of a hurry. There were funky little shops, beachside restaurants, a few pedestrians hopping around the puddles, and a motorcycle ice cream cart slowly making its way up the road while children emerged from storefronts.
We parked the bike and sat down in a restaurant called the Karma Sutra. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that we sank down in the Karma Sutra. The open-fronted restaurant was filled with low, cushy chairs around coffee tables, a big daybed, and piles of cushions. The ambience was a mix of casual ex-pat hippy and opium den. A big dog lay on the concrete floor, looking as if he would be sound asleep for a long while yet. Fans stirred the heavy air a bit. The man behind the bar came over with a menu, then returned to slowly polishing glassware. The menu offered a melange of French and Thai options.
Our yellow curry with chicken arrived in due course, along with a plate of steamed rice. Chicken, green beans, and carrots cut into decorative flowers all floated in a sea of saffron colored coconut milk. There were also some mysterious, round green things in the mix. I poked at one of these with a fork. “What do you think these are?” I wondered aloud. Michael just shrugged. This would not be the last time I speculated about an unfamiliar ingredient in Thailand, able to narrow it down only to a broad classification such as fruit, vegetable or animal. This one was appeared to be vegetable. I speared one and nibbled at its striated green skin, then took a bite. I still had no idea what it was, but it was mild and good. Later, I found out that these were Thai baby eggplant. The chicken was suffused with the flavor of the yellow curry. The green beans and carrots still retained their snap.
Portion sizes in Thailand are notably smaller than at home. One reason for this is the Thai custom of ordering several dishes with a range of flavors and textures, to share amongst everyone at the table. Another reason is simply that American portions are huge by any reasonable standard. Maybe the heat was a factor, and maybe it was also the rich, full flavors of everything we ate, but I found that my appetite quickly adjusted. One dish of curry fed the two of us quite satisfactorily—without leftovers, but also without the sensation of overstuffed regret. Our lunch was leisurely, each slow bite savored.
“Do you want anything else?” Michael asked when our plates were clean.
“Nope,” I answered after thinking for a moment. “Not a thing.”
Next installment: Exploring Bang Rak Market