We are sitting beneath the eaves of our hotel’s restaurant, watching the rain come own in great sheets, coating the jungle in a fine mist. Spices waft from the kitchen behind and fresh steaming plates of pad thai are placed in front of us. Clear glass noodles float in a sea of chicken, veggies, and unidentifiable tastes.
Earlier I took a walk through Ranong’s local market. At the front I stopped by the fruit stands. Fresh oranges, mangoes, asian pears, pomelo, and bright fuscia dragonfruit sat in tiered rows before the young girl, Yani, who minded the stall. We struck up a conversation, as best we could with two languages and a multitude of hand gestures. “What’s your name?” we asked one another. “How old are you?” She looked about fourteen but told me she was 24 and her friend (who had by now also joined us) was 22. She asked me where I was from and then said, “you are very beauuuu-tee-ful” and pointed to my pasty skin. “Kap-kun-ka” I replied and pointed back at her and said, “you are very beautiful, too.” She laughed and shook her head, tittering to her friend in Thai.
I wandered back farther into the market, passing stalls overflowing with curries and fried meats, fish balls, and small doughy patties and down a concrete sidewalk passing women sorting through mini red and green peppers, limes, and some kind of leafy greens. I stopped and knelt down next to an older woman who had small bundles of what looked like some kind of fan coral or urchin tightly wrapped in plastic in a tub by her feet. I held my camera up to her and mimed if I could take a picture of them. After a few more minutes of no common language and multiple hand gestures I took some more shots of the women who had grouped around us and then headed down into the bowels of the market.
When I finally emerged back into the open air I saw row upon row of women sitting amidst baskets full of all kinds of fish, prawn, squid and even three black-tipped reef shark juveniles. I greeted the women with a huge smile who was holding a large catfish, and got down on the fish’s level. I touched, prodded, and laughed along with the women at my responses to all the dead seafood and in turn got to share my first experience in a Thai fish market with some lovely, smiling women.
Tomorrow we are going to try to get into the refugee camp outside of Ranong. The language barrier down here compared to up in Bangkok is incredible and we had the brilliant idea to use google translate to try to get our questions understood in terms of where the camp was located and whether or not we could get there. Hopefully tomorrow we will have better luck. We were planning on trying to out to one of the islands near here for a few days but since the weather has been so bad we might just head up to Bangkok tomorrow night and then on up to Chiang Mai after that.