I am in Thailand, otherwise known as the Land of Smiles. So why am I frowning?
After arising earlier than usual this morning, I headed for the cafe, where a wonderful breakfast buffet awaited. There were fresh and dried fruits. There were freshly squeezed fruit juices – some to order. There was Chinese dim sum and Thai dishes that I’ve never heard of.
Following a leisurely meal, I headed to the swimming pool and did laps for one full hour. I was in an absolutely euphoric state. There is something about swimming in an infinity pool that you’ve got all to yourself that does that to me.
After gliding through the water thinking about the wonderful four-week adventure that lay ahead, I emerged to check the time. I was thrilled that I had been swimming one full hour already and didn’t even feel tired.
I emerged dripping wet from the pool. Well, my Shanghai Tang Watch was there. My earplug container was there. My blue with white trim Puma tank top was there …
Nothing seemed to be missing. Hey, wait a minute! Where are my glasses? I’m not talking about expensive designer shades. I’m talking about a pair of rickety old wire rim glasses that I’ve been meaning to have replaced for several years now. They are nowhere to be found!
I checked under the lounge chair. I asked the French couple nearby if they had seen them. I checked the outdoor shower where I had rinsed off. I asked the pool attendants. I returned to my room – an unlikely spot as I never leave home without my glasses – but just in case . . .
I don’t know why anyone would steal an old pair of prescription glasses. Did someone attempt to straighten my things out, accidentally break them, and quickly get rid of the evidence? Did someone step on them? Were some kids playing a practical joke? I have know way of knowing.
I’ve often left my glasses at public swimming pools in Hong Kong and never worried that they might be stolen. Not an auspicious start to my four weeks in Thailand . . .
3 hours later …
I just lunched on possibly the best tom yum goong I’ve ever had, followed stir fried rice noodles with king prawns, tamarind juice, chives, and bean sprouts. Sitting next to the pool where I had been doing laps just a couple of hours earlier, I’m starting to succumb to the tasteful surroundings, the tasty dishes, and the enthusiasm of the staff. A smile starts to return to my face.
The Frenchman I had spoken with earlier stopped by my table to ask if I had found my glasses. He looked very disappointed when I told him no. His wife stopped by a few moments later, but unlike her husband she couldn’t speak English.
She tried using gestures and body language to determine if my glasses had been found. Frustrated, she uttered in an exasperated tone of voice, “I don’t speak English.”
I had dabbled in French a few years back. I didn’t get very far and thought that I had forgotten all that I had learned. As I watched the French woman struggling to communicate her concern, I suddenly heard myself uttering that all important phrase, “Je ne parle pas francais!”
The French woman’s face lit up. She clasped her hands together and tilted her head. She seemed genuinely pleased that I was attempting to speak her beautiful language.
“Et moi, je ne parle pas anglais.” She expressed her concern and sympathy and her hope that my glasses would turn up. She then apologized and joined her husband.
I have no idea what really happened to my glasses, but I really did need new ones. I’m being philosophical. I’ll have my eyes checked and a new pair made at my next stop.
And when I return to Hong Kong in one month’s time, it looks like I’ll be sporting more than a spectacular suntan. I’ll also have a new pair of specs.
8 hours later . . .
After doing more laps, I’m sitting once again by the pool, squinting my way through the menu. The soup course is easy. I quickly settle on the fresh clear tomato with Thai barley soup, which the menu promises will soon be one of my favourites.
The main course is more difficult. My brain keep directing me toward the roast duck breast with prune jus, the teriyaki salmon, or the rolling snow fish fillet.
But I start my detox programme in a couple of days, and my heart keeps pleading for the tender Angus beef tenderloin with baked pastry sealed mash stuffed with blue cheese and dressed with anchovy mushroom sauce. “It’s your last chance!,” my heart moans.
But my head reminds me that I like neither blue cheese nor anchovy. My heart wins. I settle on the Angus beef. There’s no law saying I have to each the potatoes if I don’t like them. (I forget about the anchovy sauce that goes with the beef.)
As I’m dipping bread into the yummiest pesto sauce I’ve ever tasted, the woman at the table in front of me points at the swimming pool. She then summons the waiter. There’s a brief conversation, and he fetches the net that is used to skim leaves from the surface of the pool.
Everyone is speculating on what it might be. I’m figuring that perhaps a live fish has found its way from the kitchen to the water.
Within moments, he has extracted something. A waitress walks over, and extracts a pair of glasses, holding them in the air with a confused look on her face..
I wave at her. “My glasses!” I say. “They’re my glasses!” With my glasses in place, my beef arrives. No meal has ever looked more appetizing. I take one bite of the beef. It is impossibly tender, and the sauce is to die for.
The potatoes are just this side of paradise. By now I have already forgotten about those two ingredients that I thought I didn’t like.
On my way back to my room, I run into the French couple, who are all gussied up and waiting for the shuttle to take them into town. They look at me, then they look at each other. There is a brief conversation in French. They look at me again, carefully examining my face.
“You found your glasses?” the man asks finally in halting English. “Where were they?” I tell him, expecting him to laugh. But he doesn’t, and neither does his wife. With Gallic passion, he points to his own glasses, and says, “Without them I cannot see!”
The woman, who wears glasses too, has tears in her eyes. She hugs me, and I shake hands with her husband. And my first day in The Land of Smiles comes to a dramatic close.
Copyright: Michael Taylor
Pictured: Rest Scene at the Rest Detail in Hua Hin, Thailand, serves yummy Thai and Mediterranean inspired cuisine.