This issue’s column does not centre around one specific theme, but rather a few strange phenomena that get me thinking, or feed my mind when I have insomnia. I do tend to notice small things, or see things from a different perspective, so perhaps it is just me, or maybe some of you may have also considered the following to be strange or thought-provoking:
When I first came to Thailand, I noticed a dish on a menu called ‘No Name’. At first, I assumed that this particular restaurant did not know the English name for the dish, but then I started seeing it on several other menus too, and discovered that ‘No Name’ comes in both vegetable and chicken variety. You would think that by the stage a dish’s popularity made it appear on many menus, that a name would have evolved – but no, ‘No Name’ continues to appear on menu after menu, with no one having the courage to just NAME IT! Why do you suppose that is?
I love the fact that in Thailand you don’t get stray dogs, but rather Soi dogs – dogs that belong to the Soi, or neighbourhood, and get taken care of by several households or businesses. These dogs, usually a ‘pavement special’ of no particular breed, are of a laid-back nature, and visit all the households or businesses in their Soi throughout the day, be it for a snack, or just a bit of company. Now this in itself is not so strange, but what is strange is that you seldom, no make that NEVER see any evidence left on the pavements. Where do these dogs do their business, as you never find yourself dodging ‘landmines’ on the pavements? In South Africa, doggy-doo is a topic of major contention and heated debates arise in local newspapers complaining about people not cleaning up after their dogs. However, here on Samui, where Soi dogs are an acceptable norm, there is no evidence of this problem? Ask anyone this question, “What happens to all the Soi dog doggie-doo?” and you will always get the answer, “Oh, I’ve never thought of that, and actually, I just don’t know!”
On the topic of animals, have you noticed how many cats have bizarre twisted tails? The first time I saw this, I assumed that cat had been in an accident, and had broken its tail. On closer inspection I found that the tail actually separated at the end into two parts, and each part created a spiral. I started noticing more and more cats with various degrees of twisted, kinked or spiralled tails. Doing some research, we discovered that Siamese cats (originally from Thailand) have for centuries had this strange condition and several folk legends have arisen around these kinked-tail cats, which are considered good luck.
Samui’s traffic police have become more diligent in stopping scooter riders who are not wearing helmets, which I think is fantastic, and I applaud the recent rise in the spot fine to 500 Baht. What I do find strange however, is that they fine the rider, and then let them drive off again without the helmet. Also strange, is that only the driver needs to wear a helmet, and not the passenger, or in some cases several passengers; as if passengers are somehow immune to smashing their heads in a crash.
I understand that food differs from country to country, and Thailand has some rather unusual gourmet varieties. To me, corn is a savoury food, usually eaten with salt and butter, deliciously grilled on a BBQ. Although this grilled version is available here, corn is often eaten as a dessert, sweetened and sprinkled over ice-cream of as a flavour variety in yoghurt. It all seems topsy-turvy as I have seen corn flavoured yoghurt, and blueberry and lemon flavoured Pringles chips – sounds like something from an Alice in Wonderland tea party!
One of the great things about travelling or moving to a new culture is exploring the differences from your home town. Don’t only notice the obvious differences, but take time to notice and ponder things that most people wouldn’t even consider – they often make for interesting dinner conversation.