On a Friday morning in May, we headed north from U-Thong for Lampang Province and the family home. By lunch time we're heading north on Highway 340 between Suphanburi and Chainat. A bit south of Sam Chuk, Paula turns left into a parking lot and parks the truck. "Hungry!" she says. She's never been here before, but somehow she knows this is just the place for our lunch.
Of course she was right. The food was hot, delicious, cheap and mine was not too spicy. Hers was a lot more spicy, as usual. And they had Namthip, my favorite bottled water. You drink the water and then the plastic bottle easily crushes down to the size of a hocky puck. Screw the lid back on and it stays that way.
Like many (most?) restaurants in Thailand this place was completely open to the outside along its longest dimension. There's a roof overhead in case of rain, but in America we would say we're eating outside. But the Thai people don't have the same clear distinction between inside and outside that we have. In the traditional Thai pole house, the entire ground floor is completely open and much of everyday living is done there.
As we eat, I look further inside to my left. And then I realize the restaurant may have been a recent after thought, a way to make some current income. Besides the two rows of restaurant tables closest to the parking lot, the rest of this place appears to be an old general store. Old, as in 1940's and 1950's. There are row after long row of teakwood cabinets with glass doors holding all manner of household goods for sale.
After we finish eating, I get up and begin wandering these aisles. I begin to feel like Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, having come unstuck in time. Only not thrown back into my own past, like Billy, but somehow transported to much earlier times in Thailand. I begin to click picture after picture. We need to get on the road again, so there's no time to really take it all in. I decide to capture as much as I can with the camera, so that we can be on our way.
Paula is wandering the aisles too. And as we pass each other I say to her, "This place is an amaaaaazing museum!" She frowns and corrects me, "No . . . store!" I acknowledge that she has it right, but it's also like a museum where everything is for sale. I'm pretty sure most of this stuff is no longer sold in stores throughout Thailand.
My thoughts go to Melrose Ave in Hollywood, near the Thai Consulate where I went to get my Thai visa. The antique stores/junk shops along there had signs in their windows encouraging set decorators for films to stop in and see their wares. I'm thinking they'll find a lot more stuff here, if they're working on a film set in the 1940's or 50's, especially one set in Asia.
We get back in the truck and begin to head toward the highway. As we back out of our parking spot, I see the two women in the cooking area watching us, as I go on about this amazing place to Paula. I give them a thumbs up and they break into big smiles and nod. Their pride in their business enterprise shines through.
Closest to the road is the most modern thing in this store. Their sign by the highway gives the URL for their website! Google translates the welcome on the home page as, "Welcome to the excavation." As with many translations from Thai to English by Translate, I'm not sure that's totally accurate. Ha ha.