Koh Chang: "Where is Barry?"
18 December 2010
Please click on the image for photos of Koh Chang
Dear Family and Friends,
My trip to the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand last week raised two questions:
1. On the island of Koh Chang: “Where is Barry?”
2. In the city of Chanthaburi: “Why are there rabbits everywhere?”
Six years ago I made my first trip to Koh Chang, the second largest island in Thailand (after Phuket) and a lovely, popular beach resort.
On one of my patented afternoon strolls on the main street of Koh Chang near the “entertainment area” I saw a man seated on a stool at one of the dozen outdoor bars. I didn’t know him but he had that look of someone familiar – perhaps from “the city” or a member of my own small, but ubiquitous tribe.
Sure enough, Barry was from a town in New Jersey, close to New York City and sure enough, his father was a member of my tribe. Barry had bought a one-way ticket to Thailand (sound familiar?) and opened a bar. That was more than six years ago.
So when I returned to Koh Chang last week, I looked for Barry, but all the girls in several of the bars either didn’t know him or thought they knew him and said he had left town. I was disappointed, but life goes on.
Once again, on a stroll in the very same area I noticed the sign “Mankeyto.” That’s the way Thai people pronounce “mosquito” and I instantly remembered that that was the name of Barry’s bar. And sure enough, Barry is still here!
Compared to six years ago, Barry seems happier, more at ease and more confident about his bar business prospects, despite the recent downturn. He even opened a bakery and supplies local hotels and restaurants with assorted rolls and Western and French breads.
Barry (40+) and I spent several hours together, chatting about what American expats and Thai resident men talk about. I am sure we will cross paths again, either in Koh Chang or in Bangkok.
And speaking of crossing paths, by chance I met Tu, another old friend.
I first met Tu in Nang Rong, a small town in Buriram Province in Isan in the Northeast of Thailand. She was working at a Top Charoen optical shop. From Nang Rong she was transferred to Surin and then to Koh Chang where she is now the manager of one of the shops. Top Charoen has about 2000 branches throughout Thailand. (That’s not a typo…it really is 2000.)
When I first met Tu she was a sweet, innocent and very professional twenty-four year old girl. Now, at thirty, she is wiser, yet still sweet and innocent. At thirty, Thai girls start to think of themselves as “old” (can you imagine?) yet Tu is satisfied with her career and happy to remain “single” and enjoy her freedom.
Tu took a day off and we spent time together at Ban Bang Bao beach and had dinner a couple of times.
So, the first question is answered: Barry is still here, and as it turns out, so is Tu.
Now for the second question: "Why is the city emblem of Chanthaburi a rabbit?" (My next stop.)
If you familiar with the Pali language roots of many Thai words, you may be able to answer the question. (Look to the heavens for the solution.)
Always crossing paths somewhere,