On Saturday mornings, I generally arise by 6:00, as I haven’t figured out a way to get the message through to our cat Guido that there is a difference between the weekend and every other day when we get up by 5:00. Six o’clock is a luxury that I manage by ignoring his persistent cries outside the house until the garbage truck rolls by. The two together are just too much for me to sleep through. I do not need an alarm clock.
But, I have found that this is the best time to experience life in this Thai “village” of 10,000 souls (and who knows how many ancestral spirits). While Kat enjoys the opportunity to sleep in, I feed the pets and throw in a load of laundry, then hop on my bicycle and pedal a half-mile or so to the newspaper vendor to buy an English language daily, either the Bangkok Post or The Nation. I ride through layers of different flower blossom fragrances that float on the heavy humid air, their sweetness enhanced by the lingering effects of the rain that came a few hours before dawn.
As I leave my “soi” and approach the main street through the moobaan, few human sounds are heard—the birds are stirring, and the morning dog ritual of howls, snarls and yips can be heard. An occasional cigarette cough or scuffling of flip-flops float through from behind the hedges, but otherwise it has the sleepy feel of the weekend. As I ride toward the village center, I see sidewalk vendors readying their grills, smoke wafting above the street as patrons wait patiently for their breakfast. A few cars pass me as I silently sail by closed shop fronts.
Nearing the newspaper vendor, I see saffron-robed monks walking barefoot along the street, following their daily path to receive alms and give blessings. A man kneels on the sidewalk in prayer with his gift for the monk, who stands before him chanting. A toddler standing on the rear passenger pad of a bike, her arms around her father’s neck, instinctively presses her palms together in the “wai,” a sign of respect as they pass a monk. The heady smell of incense curls from spirit houses as offerings are left for ancestors.
I pay for the paper and ride on to the main shopping street, and as I approach, the sights and sounds intensify until I am in the center where there is a bustling as people hurry to buy the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs and breads from sidewalk vendors or open air grocery stores. I finally arrive at my ultimate destination, the center of modern Thai society: 7 Eleven, the 24 hour convenience store. Known by Thais simply as “seVEN,” (emphasis on syllable two) it is the most common store in Thailand; one sees them virtually everywhere. To illustrate the ubiquitous nature of the store chain, there are two within a block of each other on the street. I withdraw money from the ATM outside the store, then go inside to get milk, pay the utility bill, and buy a phone card (I have learned that one may also pay for plane tickets here). This early weekend ritual adds to my enjoyment of living in the “moobahn,” and I linger just a bit to take it all in before retuning home to sit under the tree, sip coffee, and read about what’s going on in the rest of the world.