The more I travel the more I’m aware how impossible it is to paint any country with broad stroke descriptions. Each region has its own uniqueness and beauty, reflective of a God who is complex and imaginative. That couldn’t have been more apparent in the contrast between the busyness of Chiang Mai and the quiet of Samut Songkhram, our next stop on this Thailand trip.
Several hours west of Bangkok, the relaxed fishing town of Samut Songkhram sits on the banks of the Mae Klong River. This is where city folks come just to be and to enjoy. Thirty-six kilometers of canals connect the Mae Klong with Tha Chin River, and a maze of 200 smaller canals connect the larger canals.
We took a longtail boat up the river, weaving past rows of lamphu trees and islands of water hyacinths sprawled across the river. Most of the homes lining the banks have stairs that lead right down into the water. Early morning fruit and vegetable vendors row up and down the canals. A homeowner might wave them to their steps to buy a kilo of mangoes or fresh limes.
We arrived at the home of a lovely couple that own two homes, one with a large shaded terrace where we were welcomed. They were friendly and talkative, and we chatted back and forth just as fast as our guide could translate.
We were surprised to find out we were in for a four-course meal, complete with an open air cooking demonstration of some of the area’s regional dishes. On the menu: deep-fried fish with freshly made sweet and sour sauce, mackerel cooked in a red coconut sauce, spicy chicken soup, and what’s turned out to be one of my favorites here in Thailand, sautéed morning glory greens and garlic.
They gave us more than great food and full stomachs. Watching coconut milk bubble and palm sugar sprinkled into pots, hearing fish sizzle, and smelling the lemongrass and ginger-like galanga was a reminder that people give out of who they are and what they love and enjoy. To accept their food is to accept them, to study their food is to understand them better, and to partake in their food is to partake in the irreplaceable, unique and complex flavor they bring to the world they inhabit.
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