Pla Plak, which is the town where we are spending our time during orientation, is a funny little town. If you asked me to guess the population, I wouldn’t know where to start. There is a wide boulevard with streetlights and a grossly ornamental entry arch. There are an impressive number of large, bureaucratic buildings, such as the high school where we are staying, a sizable police headquarters, a low-slung hospital, and a nice municipal soccer field. There is a small downtown with a variety of hardware and supply stores, and a corner where there is a small regular outdoor market. There are many, many restaurants, many featuring one woman cooking only a singular dish. But there really aren’t the concomitant number of visible neighborhoods to warrant these services. There is one clearly upscale and booming area though I am unsure of what drives this boomlet. I will get a set of photos and do a blog entry to give you an idea of what I mean. The little restaurants deserve their own entry as well. Anyhow, one thing that really brings out an unexpected crowd is the twice weekly “night market” which takes place on the outskirts each Monday and Wednesday. This is much like the system I remember in Southern France when I lived there in the 1980’s where each town in a given region seemed to have “dibs” on a certain day. Here, too, the vendors show up in trucks and vans and unpack a variety of goods, from clothing to dry goods to food, but the action doesn’t really get going until very late afternoon and continues into the dark. Some of the clothes are used, and some very much new and brands you would see in larger department stores. There are a few permanent “store stalls” with packaged food, but for the most part it is very hands on and particular. One woman sells only grilled fish she is barbequing on the spot. Lots of others are doing the same with chicken, or pork on a stick, or a sweet popcorn. Below is a little fried prawn item I bought the size and shape of a skull cap. It was tasty.
I did not try the crickets yet, since you had to buy a whole dish and I was unable to get anyone to go in with me and I wasn’t sure I could maw down the whole thing. I saw several other people buying them, and some bought them live from the nearby pen. I am not sure what the greens were.
The variety of meats and fish, and their presentation, were the most notably foreign to this westerner’s eye, from the braided…intestines?
to the lovely mother and daughter perched on their table, chopping bits of lung and head and liver.
The cooked meats on a stick are a complete mystery, though I have yet to try one I didn’t like. Ben had one he suddenly got weirded out by mid-eating. We think it was a frog.
So far though I have found everything wonderfully fresh, carefully handmade, and dadgum delicious, the deserts and sweets have left me a little underwhelmed. Many tend toward the styrofoamish and artificial as shown below. Ben suspects his mattress is made of a similar material!
Here Ben has found the one desert we all do love, a sort of crepe inspired wafer doused with chocolate or other sugary syrups.
The night market is jammed with people who stream in well into the dark, an army of mopeds, typically with three or sometimes more astride. It is quite a sight, and I didn't even take photos of the cowboy singer who was entertaining the crowds, or the old blind woman being wheeled about who was also singing in a surprisingly strong chant voice and earning quite a hefty sum from donations.
I have been thinking of a few other entries I want to share, including one documenting the variety of transport here and another one just on the shear loveliness and generosity of the locals. By the way, I did make one major purchase at the night market, spending almost 9 dollars on a pair of hippie pants. Our Thai dance teacher had similar ones and they are the ultimate heat beaters. My friends Sarah, a recent UT graduate in Psych and all around fascinating young woman, and Ben, out of Jackson, Wyoming, bought from the same seller and they gave us instant karate-master skills. Because we are Pharong and strange anyway, one can feel completely free to dress as bizarrely as one desires. I am still looking for an oversized hand made straw hat…