Daily Archives: March 10, 2005

Eating Pork on a Hot Plate

Left to right: Don, Suthee (webmaster of www.ethaimusic.com) and Nattawud (webmaster of www.thailandlife.com)

This afternoon, a good friend of mine, who used to be one of my students many years ago (makes me feel old saying that) came to visit. His nickname is Don. I don’t see him that often as he is at college in Nakhon Pathom learning to be a policeman. He has already done the two year prep course and the first year of the real course. However, he still has another three years of studying before he becomes a police officer.

Six years seems a long time to train to be a policeman, so I asked him about the newspaper reports that said 600 traffic policemen in Bangkok recently failed a test on traffic laws. Apparently they won’t be allowed to issue any more tickets until they resit the test! But Don sneered and just said that they were mere non-commissioned policemen. He made it sound like that he wouldn’t associate with them when he became a police officer. (To spot the difference you apparently need to look for the star on their shoulder to know that they are commissioned officers.) Done says that when he finishes his course he will become a detective. I told him that maybe one day he would probably arrest Nattawud! Everyone agreed.

As we were all getting a bit hungry, we decided to go out to eat. Our destination was Sompong next to Tesco Lotus Srinakarin. This is a “moo ga ta buffet”. Basically, that means pork in a pan. I prefer to call it “hotplate”. What you do here is cook for yourself on a hot plate! A very simple idea that is extremely poplar here in Thailand.

What you do is choose a table where you first order your drinks. They then bring out a charcoal stove with a hot plate on top. This has a trough around it full of water. This is for boiling your vegetables and seafood. While this is heating up you go and get your selection of meat and vegetables. It is a buffet so you can keep coming back as many times as you like.

Once you have chosen your meat, you then make a selection of the sauces. Actually, this is what makes or breaks a “moo ga ta” restaurant. There are now many of these places around Samut Prakan. But people go to the ones that serve their favourite sauces. If a restaurant has a secret recipe that everyone likes then they will be very popular. The place where we went must have had at least a hundred tables and it was packed! I have been to others but this is my favourite.

By this time the hot plate is really hot and you go back to start cooking. It is all very simple. Meat goes on top and the vegetables go in the water. You can also help yourself to fried rice, fried noodles, som tam, fruit and a large selection of other food in the buffet.

I brought some friends here from the UK the other month. I asked if they had anything like this in England and whether they thought it would be popular. They said they had never seen anything like it, but they were sure that the health inspectors would close any establishment that tried to operate a place like this.

I know you have to be careful with food hygiene but I think Western laws sometimes go a bit too far. OK yes, it is a warm climate and the meat is all on display. And yes I use the same chopsticks to place the meat and vegetables on the hotplate and then pick up the cooked food to put it in my mouth. But I have been coming here for many months and I have never had a problem with upset stomach.

Anyway, the whole experience is really worth it if you are ever in Thailand. The best thing is the price. It is all you can eat for only 69 baht – which is only US$1.80!

A Life Upcountry

Ive been asked on a variety of occasions “Don’t you get bored of living upcountry?, as if I lived in the sticks. To this day I have had to answer “Yes, at times” but at the end of the day I still prefer it to the ‘City of tuk-tuks and traffic jams’. Plus I manage to save here without having to work my guts off, like in Bangkok . Moreover, as i’ve been in here Thailand for so long, I am not really one for going out at nights anymore, which is one of the major attractions for a lot of other Farang in the Big Mango.

Nothing more than the folks upcountry enjoy is a ‘party’. Not just a party like in the western sense of the word, here it means ‘wedding party’,’ordination party’, ‘promotion party’ ‘retirement party’ or even a ‘funeral party’ etc. Not as in West where the attendents will spend the night sipping fruit punch and complaining about the train system, the bus that arrived 3 minutes late yesterday morning or about an exhausting 35 hour working week, the Thais really do go to enjoy themselves and forget about much more serious problems than their Farang counterparts.

The evening usually begins quietly but very soon everyone is up there bopping away to a few scadly dressed singers and drinking as much alcohol as is humanely possible before having a quick punch up or a pulling of hair before retiring to bed. Waking in the morning, they have forgotten about any absurdities they caused the night before.

Then second best are the temple fairs where everything from grasshoppers to guava juice is on sale and not forgetting dozens of ‘Khanom Jeen’ (Rice noodles in curry sauce blaa blaa) stalls, which are a fave at every fair. There are lots of stalls ready to replenish you of your 10 baht coins with the aim of popping a few balloons with a set of rickety old darts that have been bent back and forth as far as possible thus making your aim an impossible one, you might as well just close your eyes. Then the village teenagers can enjoy a replay of Terminator 2 on a massive movie screen, ceratinly better for them than having to take their sweethearts to Major Cineplex in Bangkok at 120 baht a shot.

Talking about temples, ive been asked curiously before by a couple of Farang girls enquiring into what elder monks and laymen talk about, hoping for me to reply “Oooh, meditation, the Dhamma, impermanance” have been disappointed to here me inform them “Just about the same as any other Thai guy, Man United’s win at Arsenal, the price of amulets, and the latest price on the weekends Thai Boxing fixtures”. I have to admit that I am often taken aback by a few of the monks at the local temple near my school and wonder on just how monkly some of them are.

At the shop near the temple I often get chatting to them about the latest chit-chat while they enjoy a Red Bull or a Carabao Daeng with a couple of cigarettes. Once on asking one of them about what he was going to do in the evening, brought forth from under his robe a stash of DVDs and replied “Oh, I got some new DVDs in the market this morning…hey, have you seen this one?” Then I remember the story of when I was in Pathumthani, the abbot of “Kintaforkottathename Temple’ had struck it lucky that day and won 10,000 baht on the underground lottery!

Well, election time has past again to the grave disappointment of the locals. Each year the locals rub their hands at the thought of free munch-ups set up by one of the many candidates, loads of t-shirts bearing the candidates’ names, a couple of bottles of fish sauce for the women and rice whiskey for the men, of course he wasn’t buying votes. they were just a kind present from the candidate’s brother, gotta problem with that?. As the govt has clamped down on ‘vote buying’ of late, the sneaky politicians have scathed up other ways to get around this law. Instead of handing out 100 baht notes to all the vendors in the market, go instead walking around all afternoon spending lavishly at all their stalls at the delights of the old women. On leaving them with stacks of market goods piled in their arms, bawl out “You know who to vote for!”

For many of those Farang out there who have lived in Thailand for a while (and all the Thais) will have known that my home province of Suphanburi is a thorough stronghold of one political party led by a native family of Suphanburi, i mean the whole family is involved somehow or another. The last election was again a joke for those of the other parties hoping to dislodge this very popular party here of at least one seat in the province. For the twentieth year in a row their hopes were thwarted again. I mean in one of the districts the Democrat party candidate got a pathetic something like, 98 votes, the Mahachon party mustered up 329 votes, the Thai Rak Thai candidate got a slightly more repspectable 2,715 votes and the daughter of the party’s leader Mr Banharn acquired a mind-boggling 19,786 votes, ya wanna go up against her next time round?!

Watching the news on the day of the results I remember a couple of news presenters even having a rare laugh at the results from my province, with “Well, that’s all the results in so far from Banharnburi….oops, I meant to say Suphanburi”.

Compared to Bangkok, a life upcountry is a trifle more laid-back to say the least that one often wonders what to do in his spare time but drink. A couple of dear friends of mine in the capital have asked before “You got any friends in Suphan (male ones)? To which i have hated to reply “Well, yes, but i try to stay clear away from them as much as possible”. Coming here at first after a longish stint in Bangkok, I was soon out there every evening playing a whopping 3-4 sets of tennis, but as every sport fad goes, it didn’t last long.

Then after that, it wasn’t too long before I found another another circle of friends who did nothing but sit outside at one of them’s small bar near the school. My new friends however did nought else but chat about girls, bikes and football. Since my own football team has did nothing but miraculously escape relegation from the Premier League for the past 25 years, I try to stay off the topic. After a couple of months of this new daily routine and getting told off by my fiancee, I had to find something else to occupy my time and that’s how I started my posts at thailandlife etc.. At the weekends I used to do my washing just as a pastime, but after being called ‘stingy Farang’ a few times I finally conceded and have sent my laundry off to be washed and ironed ever since at 300 baht a month.

As for the Farang guys around town, they are just as bad as the Thai guys, probably even worse in that they can be witnessed gulping down thier countless bottles of Beer Chang beginning at midday as they ‘have nothing else to do’! I do go and see them once in a while just to be socialable but i have to admit we don’t have that much in common, i mean most of them are either retired or looking to start a business here (been saying this for the past 10 years) and are at least twice the age and weight of myself. Some of the locals have been quick to point out to me that a some of them change their Thai wives as often as I do neck-ties. For yous who have read a lot of my blogs will realize that some of my views don’t fall on ears of their kind that well.

Suphanburi may well be the only provincial town in the country that doesn’t have motorbike-taxis! and so the likes of myself have to make do with motorized-samlors or the songthaews that whiz around town at 5 baht a shot. I hate getting into the things though as the drivers with a Beer Chang can in-hand, have struck up a tendency to set off again before you have actually got into the darned vehicle.


In the sticks = in the middle of the countryside surrounded by a herd of buffaloes.
Work ones guts off = work real hard
The Big Mango = Bangkok
Scadily dressed = wearing as little as can get away with
Rickety = about to fall apart
Spending lavishly = spending lots of cash just to show off (often when it’s not yours)
Muster up = struggle to acquire
A trifle = a little
A longish stint = quite a long time
Stingy Farang = one of those white guys who on coming to Thailand with stacks of cash, can still be seen wailing at the vendors for the minutest of discounts.
Gulping down = drinking (with enthusiasm)