Two girls shook their heads. ‘Wegetarian - no chicken?' asked one.
'No meat,' I replied. They were looking at me with gently rippling frowns on their faces.
'No pork, no beef, no seafood, no fish,' I added.
I grinned the sort of grin that a drunk makes - you know, with lips that hang loosely around a slobbering mouth. 'Especially no chicken, and no frogs or grasshoppers or scorpions.’
I must explain. These girls come from Isaan (a poor rural part of north Thailand) - they eat anything that Buddha provides.
They lost interest. Went clubbing instead at Inferno on Walking Street - dragged me along to foot the drinks bill. It was noisy; I had to turn off my hearing aid, but the scenery was – well it was – bloody magnificent. I pulled in my stomach, and had a few more slobbering beers, and watched the scenery gyrate. At one point a bottle of whisky materialised on our table...
...the next morning – approaching midday - I was not really surprised to wake up to see a new girlfriend sitting on the couch watching TV – one of the trio who ‘takes care of customer’. I’ve now moved past the groaning stage; worn out the T-shirt.
She swivelled round. Looked quizzically at me. ‘We go lunch?’ asked she who has no name that I could remember.
Keep it simple, Steve. ‘Lunch?’
Sheila nodded. Her eyes looked tired. Red hue. ‘We go together.’
My remaining brain cell clicked into gear. ‘Ehh? Ahh … okay.’
While Dawn cleaned the apartment, I worked hard to get out of bed and take a shower. Back to normality an hour later, Kor - just remembered - and me set off back to her place so she could change her bikini-style (only joking) dress. I hung around outside to breathe some oxygen, watch the cats stalk, admired the parked motorbikes, counted the leaves on a shrub, and...
...thirty-five short minutes later, according to my Sekonda, we were on our way. Walked up the road to Big C and took a tuk-tuk bus. Seven minutes to the restaurant. There was a crowd surrounding a long wooden bench creaking with soup tureens and dishes. I cottoned on to the process; point at a dish and a server would put a portion on a plate, and give it to me to take to a table. The choice in front of me was limited – altogether twenty seven dishes and fourteen soup tureens – but my finger wasn’t long enough, so I chose the six nearest.
I found a spare table – the restaurant had a huge seating area mostly filled by chattering Thai families who were spooning mouthfuls of food with relish - and Kor joined me carrying a few more plates and some spoons; a guy put bowls of rice and a bottle of water – coke for Kor – on our table and we dug in.
I stabbed at a piece of reconstituted tofu, shoveled into my cavern, and chewed.
‘This tastes like chicken,’ I said. ‘Bloody chicken.’
I should have guessed. All vegetarian ha, ha – but hang on, this is Thailand; meat, fish and seafood are in every meal.
Kor smiled. ‘Arroy mahk mahk’ (very good taste).
And so it went on. Beef flavoured tofu, pork flavoured tofu, fish flavoured tofu. Fearing grasshopper tofu, I stuck to the cooked vegetables. Strangely there was no salad dishes – all cooked food.
And not cheap.
Lunch – including a chicken take-away for the other bargirls - plus obligatory clothes shopping, and small money sent back home to Mama and Papa (now that I was new boyfriend – seems like I made some sort of rash commitment the previous night) knocked me back forty quid.
Was it tasty? Yes and no. Maybe I chose the wrong dishes. Put it this way. It was an experience...