Chumpon Groupon: Meat the Betels in Thailand…

Betel nut fixin's in Thailand

Betel nut fixin’s in Thailand

The backpackers are already here. There goes the neighborhood. This isn’t their destination, of course, but that doesn’t matter. The tourists congregate in Chumpon, en route to tourist enclaves elsewhere. Chumpon is merely a crossroads, the first major one in true south Thailand, the one that connects to Koh Tao and on to Kohs Pha Ngan and Samui to the east in the Gulf of Thailand, or west to Ranong along the Burmese border and points south, like the mega-resort at Phuket and the backpacker enclaves at Krabi, Phi Phi, and elsewhere.

Thai-Chinese Gold Shops

Thai-Chinese Gold Shops

There are all the usual local yokels who want to be Johnny F*cking English, too, of course, but that’s par for the Thai course; if you want something pure then you don’t come here in the first place. Still this could be weird. When the illiterate peasants cleaning my room and cooking my meals refuse to speak Thai to me, preferring their own Pidgin English, then we’re not going to last long here. This is not the type of authenticity I crave. The town has few obvious charms, either, the beach miles away and the mountains even farther…

So I take off walking, determined to achieve escape velocity if nothing else, with no direction shown, so stop in the market, always an inspiration, all the aisles and aisles of fruits and vegs and meat and eggs all in neat orderly rows, pigs’ heads smiling and chicken wings flapping, then I finally find gold, betel nut all split, dressed, and ready for a date. I couldn’t give a fig, making lemonade with limes, two baht a chew amounts to less than a dime…

Pig Heads in Chumpon, Thailand

Pig Heads in Chumpon, Thailand

It’ll get you drunk,” the man says. “I hope so,” say I, not believing it, having chewed the precious nut before with only small and gradual effect, more red sp*t than good sh*t, but he’s right sure enough within one minute of the first mastication my mouth goes numb and the brain soon follows, with physical impairment soon to come, zigzagging down the street at ten in the morning considering taking a seat to let it pass but that would be no fun, would it?

So that’s the five-minute buzz par excellence get it on and get it over with no fuss or bother blow your mind then go on with your day like nothing ever happened no hangover or other ill effect, and that’s the big thrill pretty much, that and the fishy hot sauce perfect for dipping sticky rice and not bad with noodles, either, but not much more than that going on, what with martial law and coups d’etat and all that nonsense, they finally easing up on the restrictions just in time for the weekend, oh yeah, this IS Thailand, after all, and that means entertainment…

Good Morning, Thailand...

Good Morning, Thailand…

Two nights and one full day is plenty in this town with too many foreigners and too few attractions, just betel nut and a train with awkward schedules, that means getting up early to go anywhere knowing if I miss it it’s a long wait to everywhere, but that doesn’t happen when the station is an easy quarter-hour walk away, so it’ll be an all-day affair on the train, nothing wrong with that, next stop Phattalung…

June 2014

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