The next evening we were doing a home stay in a local village. We’d assist in the preparation of an authentic Thai meal (those of us jealously guarding their few remaining taste buds trembled slightly) and be taken on a walking tour around the village by our host. We would sleep in two rooms divided by gender. We had two married couples in our group and news of the sleeping arrangements roused outraged and tearful protests in precisely none of them.
According to our team leader there’s been a fair amount of development in the area around the village since he first started coming here. That would help to explain the major road which bisects the village. After introductions our host did indeed take us on a tour of the village which rapidly degenerated into a game of “what fruit tree is that?” With the added advantage that we got to eat the fruit. I say it was a village walk but basically we just wandered around pinching fruit from people’s front yards. The presence of our host made it OK or at least dissuaded irate locals from pursuing us with shotguns.
Along the way we stopped in at a stand of rubber trees to see a demonstration of rubber tapping. Our host managed to prevent us from eating the results. He also informed us that most Thai rubber is exported to Japan which promptly exports a chunk of it back with words like Yokohama and Bridgestone stamped on it. The expression on his face showed he was well aware that he was at the wrong end of the value added chain but a farmer has to make a living somehow.
Roaming the countryside gorging ourselves on fruit worked up a nice appetite for dinner. Which was handy because our tour leader had used the time granted by our absence to source half the food in Thailand and all the chillies in the world. We were each assigned a task; I was on garlic crushing duty. I grabbed the mortar and pestle and drove down manfully. Garlic flew in all directions so I proceeded more circumspectly. After a while the tour leader examined my progress and opined that the garlic might be ready in a fortnight. I should be more vigorous he suggested. I attacked the garlic in a murderous frenzy. People ducked for cover as bits of garlic howled over their heads (halfway through dinner I found a random garlic clove in my pocket). Eventually another guest who knew how to cook relieved me of the garlic crushing duties before anyone lost an eye. Then I was given the task of whisking eggs, our hosts sister took that away from me before the place looked like a scene from Ghostbusters.
The meal was delicious and when we were finished I offered to help with the dishes. Our host and his sister declined with polite smiles and genuine panic in their eyes.