If you want to experience real Thai life then you must MUST go on this trip!!
Everything ran like clockwork (I was so worried that van's wouldn't turn up on time, that we would miss the flight etc......I guess it's always like that when you organise things for other people) and we arrived on time at Phuket Airport where we were met by our van and truck (The truck was for the bags......no I don't mean us!!). Three hours later we arrived in a small town called Kuraburi where we met up with our translators Tu and Kelly (Kelly runs Andaman Discoveries) and then travelled down to the pier to get our boats over to the Island of Tung Nang Dam. (When I think about it we must have provided much amusement to the locals - 11 farangs with large bags wobbling around trying to get into these little boats......Happily no-one fell in!!). A 20 minute boat ride through the mangroves brought us to our destination and to the bridge that the BWG donated money to have built after the Tsunami (It was lovely to hear about the difference the bridge had made to the lives of the villagers - we saw what was left of the old one......there was no way I would have set foot on it!!!).
Tung Nang Dam Island is absolutely beautiful - there is not a hotel, bar or other tourist in sight (well, apart from the ones that came with us). We were split into two groups and I was lucky enough to be one of the ones staying in a traditional Thai house which was owned by Noi and her family. We were introduced to the family and then shown to our rooms......well, I'm not sure I can actually call it a room.......I may be done under the Trade description act!!. We were in a sort of long corridor blocked off from the rest of the upstairs by curtains - 'C' and I shared one double mattress which was separated from 'A' by a mosquito net which was separated from 'A' & 'C' by another mosquito net. If we didn't know each other well at the beginning of the evening we sure as hell did by the end!!! After getting settled we headed down to the beach where some of the more enthusiastic of us did yoga and the rest of us admired the sunset. (I was rather taken with these - they are lovely aren't they.......I know they are from a crabs bottom but I don't care!! I think they will be making an appearance in a drawing or two).
After the sunset we headed back to Noi's house to help prepare the dinner - that was an experience in itself!! One of the dishes we were having was fish in a coconut curry sauce so we had to make the coconut milk (no namby pamby tins for us.....ooooh nooo). So out comes this old wooden contraption called a 'Rabbit' - the only way I can describe it is to say that it is like a very small bench with two short legs at the back and two long ones at the front and wedged in at the front is a piece of round metal with lots of teeth (hence the name). Well, you sit on it (Guess who slid off the first time she tried and ended up on the kitchen floor with her legs in the air.....very dignified!!), hold the coconut at the front and then in a kneading motion use the metal bit to remove the coconut from the husk (Mum of the house made it look easy......it wasn't!!). Anyway, once that is done the coconut flesh is steeped in water and, ta daaa, you have coconut milk. The other thing I made was Morning Glory - that was much easier and involved picking off leaves, chopping garlic, chopping chilli and then frying it altogether.....that I could do!!! (nae toher a baw) (erm...sorry.....family phrase which means no bother at all!!).
What an amazing evening we had. The food was absolutely divine - we spread mats out on the floor, all the dishes were put in the middle of the mat, rice was dished out and we sat in a circle trying all the different things. (My fav was the morning glory...I would say that wouldn't I!!). After dinner we helped wash up and then brought out our photographs. (One of the things we were asked to bring with us was photographs of our family, where we grew up and other things that might be of interest). It was great - I have never seen people so interested in photographs before and it was great to be able to share them. I took a couple of Straiton, where I grew up, some of my family (Mum they all thought you looked incredibly young. Sorry Dad - they giggled at your hair!!) and a couple of scenic shots of Scotland (including one of me by the sea). It was at this point in the evening that Dad of the house decided to come out of his shell - blimey that man can talk!! He asked so many questions it was unbelievable - I did roar with laughter at one point......we was staring at the picture of me by the sea.....he looked at it....frowned.....looked at it some more then asked 'Where is the blue sky?' which was rapidly followed by 'Why would you want to live there?'. 'A' had some fab photo's of when she had stayed at the Ice Hotel in Sweden......he just couldn't get his head around that at all and kept asking 'But why would you want to do that?'. Then they showed us loads of photo's of their family at various celebrations and it was our turn to ask them loads of questions about their culture. It was just amazing!!!
We were then told that we were going to make the dough for out roti in the morning. For those of you not in the know, Roti are a kind of flat bread made from flour, salt, sugar, egg, water, butter and oil - in Thailand you have them fried in the morning with condensed milk and sugar (very healthy but OMG they are good!!). You mix all the ingredients together with your hand and you do it for about 10 to 15 minutes - it's bloody hard work!!! Once it's mixed you leave it covered for an hour then shape it into balls - we were not very good at this.....the mixture was supposed to make 50 - we made 26!!!
That evening as we crawled under our mosquito net (Sorry 'C' but I have to share this) - 'C' and I had a conversation that went along the lines of
C - 'When you use the squat what direction do you face in?'
Me (Slightly baffled) - 'What do you mean what direction? Erm......I face the door.......what direction do you face?'
C - 'I've tried both ways......does it depend on where you aim?'
Me (giggling like a loon) - 'I have no idea!!!'
'After sitting on the floor all evening my legs were sore.....there was no way I was going to be able to squat.....so I just sat on it' (In my defence I did clean it first)
C (giggling too) - 'OMG that's a great idea!!'
at this point 'A' and 'A' & 'C' all burst out laughing too - kept waiting for 'Mum' to come in and tell us to shut up!!! (and all of us in our 30's and 40's too!!)